When I wrote my first bits about Chitwan, the south-central tropical region in Nepal, it was raw and painful to consider sharing with you. I did it anyway because I knew then I would have something to go back and begin with once I could face it fully. After a couple months of internalizing, I wrote about the dichotomy of the place.
Chitwan, to me, is a tumultous, emotional place. All in the span of three days, I touched and talked with a baby elephant, I rode on on the back of the largest land animal accompanied by an amazing cacauphony of bug chorus, through the tropical jungle of the Gangetic plain, then witnessed the mistreatment of the elephants. I saw tourist mobs being bathed by elephant snouts at the commands of their handlers. It was like a real life scene out of Dumbo and an accident waiting to happen in the same sort of way. I saw rinoceros in the wild, a mother and baby grazing, a species which has succeeded in returning from the brink of extinction, then I found their grasslands burned to the ground by local people in the name of ‘management.’ I watched the local tribes living in harmony with the forest, subsisting from the bounty it gives them, but also the grave mistakes of the government in handling both the people (as well as tourism) and the wildlife.
I stood close to the India border, and listened to the locals talk about the girls they lose, stolen over the border each year to human trafficking. I sat still in a shallow, thin boat as a red sun rose, and watched crocodiles breathe the thick, smoke-laden air.
Through the tourist signs and the vendor shops, marvelous flowers and birds mingled above and round us. The air was so thick with sounds of cicadas that we couldn’t hear each other sometimes. Flocks of cranes glided silently over us along the shallow, winding river. Kingfishers and swallows and a tiny variety of deer. And more than anything, while I was there and since then, I have wanted to do something for Chitwan.
I set it down for over a year, at a loss for what to do, where to start. Now it’s time to pick it back up again. Let me know if you want to help.