The View From Here…Part 3


Our six-hour bus ride to a mountain town from K-town turned into 12 when a rock and mudslide had to be cleared from the winding mountain road that is the only way through the Pamir mountains. After watching tractors scoop and scrape a few tons of rubble from the road (and about 25 games of Uno, impromptu swing dancing lessons, and several short hikes around the place our bus stopped), we were on our way.

Our bus was full to capacity, so I had the front seat in the bus. And when I say front, I don’t mean the front seat in the front row. I mean the extra pull-down seat in the doorway that places your nose about 24 inches from the front windshield. I was seated closer to the front of the bus than the driver. So, my big window view was wonderful for snapping pictures but perhaps more enlightening about Chinese road rules than I cared to experience.

In China, the lines marked for lanes and the shoulder are really just suggestions. Everyone weaves around on the road with some set of bewildering guidelines that confound the Western mind. Most notably, passing on blind turns is considered safe as long as the driver is honking the horn while doing it. Seeing and experiencing this in the city is one thing, but on a winding mountain road with washed out sections and gigantic boulders teetering overhead is quite another. However, by the time we got to the 12,000 foot pass, I was convinced that our bus driver was a driving genius; he knew how to navigate the system, both the human element and the natural one.

But what we got to see on this journey was just astounding. It was like driving through red mountains in Arizona, desert mountains in Mongolia, the blueness of Lake Tahoe and the snow covered peaks of British Columbia all in one day. And all of it so untouched! When the extreme rock climbers discover this place, there will be people ballaying down the sides of these mountains, but they aren’t there now. When the ski developers get permission to create resorts, there will be a whole new landscape on the snowy peaks, but those things aren’t there now. Along the way on the side of the highway, you see people living in homes made of mud and straw stationed here and there to tend the road, watch their goats or camels, or, well…..I don’t know what they may do for a living in those mountains. But they are hanging laundry and calling after their children just like any of us would. The look of the place is spare in a way that pulls the imagination to those travelers from Central Asia who traveled this very highway to get into China and buy precious silk in K-town. Driving the traditional Silk Road was a once in a lifetime joy.

The trip began with a 6-hour delay that made us wonder if we ought to turn back. The harrowing drive made me feel we were half crazy to embark on the journey. But now to imagine if we had turned back! I would have missed what I think may have been the biggest visual pleasure of my life. This snapshot is just one of so many breath-taking views! I didn’t even know to put seeing this place on my bucket list, but it definitely belonged there.

Perhaps that makes it a more extraordinary gift…that I only vaguely knew it existed and I never even asked to see it.

What unexpected pleasures have come your way lately?


  1. janice, Happy Birthday first of all! Also, we miss you here in Baltimore and back at Wellspring Counseling. I can see how enriching and powerful the trip to China has been. What a wonderful experience to take in the unexpected pleasures that God has created for all to enjoy. See you soon!

  2. Amidst your joy, you have also communicated, poignantly, the losses that come with progress and higher standard of living. Thank you for the vicarious travel you bring us and the wider perspective that comes with it .
    Your birthday July 26? Mine, too!
    Happy, happy birthday, Janice.

  3. Happy birthday Janice!

    Your paragraph recounting how you nearly turned back but then what you would have missed gave me the chills and brought me to tears. How many difficult or scary things might we opt out of… ? You encourage me to press through on the journey.

    Jen E

  4. I just caught up on your blog, and am excited to read about your trip! I was there in 98 and 99 and remember well the sites you’re writing about! Part of my heart is still there! We taught lean on me to our friends there, and I hi kbof them whenever I hear the song 🙂

  5. Happy Birthday Janice. Thanks for sharing all of this. It’s a joy to read your writing. Looking forward to more.

  6. Hello Janice, I am Dan’s cousin in Spokane, and Uncle Dick forwarded your link.

    Your description reminds me of the unexpected wonder each day holds if only we will peer past the mudslides that strive to dominate our vision.

    Thanks for the trip!

  7. Happy Birthday Janice. Thanks for sharing all of your wounderful experiences. It’s a great joy to read your writings. Looking forward to more.
    May the Lord bless you and keep you, and give you peace all the way….

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