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Among Flowers : A Walk in the Himalaya by…

Among Flowers : A Walk in the Himalaya

by Jamaica Kincaid

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There is something about Nepal, something a little magical, a little mystical, completely absorbing and intriguing. Sometime during my university days, I joined a group of fellow students (from that other university in Singapore) who were going trekking in Nepal, specifically making the trip to the Annapurna base camp. It was an 18- day trip and as I had been a member of the Outdoor Activities Club in my junior college (that’s kinda like the last two years of high school) where we did plenty of hiking and camping, I thought it sounded great and hoped it wouldn’t be all that difficult.

Alas, it was. All that climbing and steps and steps and steps. Steps into the village and out of the village and in again. But it was also just amazing. The porters and their ability to carry most of our stuff around in gigantic towering packs were just astonishing and the food they managed to whip up in the middle of nowhere – they even made an apple pie and roast chicken once! And every morning, you were greeted by a friendly voice outside your tent and a steaming mug of tea. And at the end of the day as we headed into the day’s campsite (usually almost all set up by the time we arrived – I was usually at the tail end of the group) a refreshing drink of pineapple juice.

Food and steps aside, among my favourite memories of the trip is one as we were leaving one of these mountain-side villages, down a step, and another, and another… And as we treaded our careful way down (these steps, I should add, tend to be larger than your typical stairs – usually requiring both feet to be on the one step, unless I suppose you have really long legs or are just used to these kinda of steps), these two kids in greyish, worn school uniforms, a boy and an older girl, fly past us. They dash down these very steps and head off into the distance, off to school which seemed to be a mountain away. I could follow their journey a little way as they raced down and out of their village and across to the next set of mountains until they were such tiny figures I could hardly see them anymore.

“And it was brought home to me again, that while every moment I was experiencing had an exquisite uniqueness and made me feel that everything was unforgettable, I was also in the middle of someone else’s daily routine, someone captured by the ordinariness of his everyday life.”

Luckily Kincaid has managed to put those similar feelings into far more eloquent prose as she travels Nepal with botanists collecting seeds.

And there are many moments like these in her travelogue, Among Flowers, some pretty little gems that made me reminisce of that time not so long ago when I took was in Nepal. A time when I was younger and more carefree and more willing to put up with nights in a tent and bathing from a pail of water.

However, Kincaid’s voice is at times a bit whiny and the book reads quite like a diary, very personal, pretty honest, and has some mundane details – so it might put some readers off. But I could understand – even that 20-year-old me, so used to outdoorsy stuff, was just completely overwhelmed by Nepal, its beauty, its people, and its lack of plumbing.

Among Flowers is a short enjoyable read and it left me wanting to learn more about the Maoists and the tumultuous history of Nepal (which reminds me – a few days after we returned from Nepal, the royal massacre took place). The book is part of the National Geographic Directions series, which includes books by writers like Oliver Sacks and Francine Prose, definitely worth checking out!
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
I had kept this book for a good moment to savour reading it, and was then sourly disappointed. Among flowers. A walk in the Himalaya by Jamaica Kincaid was a very disappointing read. Fifty pages into the book, I leafed back to the Contents page to check whether I was still somehow reading an introduction, but discovered that there was no introduction. The loosely structured, plebeian style was what confused me. I was quite ready for a travelogue, expecting beautiful descriptions of landscapes in northern Nepal, and a lot about botany. Kincaid is known for her love of gardening, and the book is a report of a seed collecting expedition in Nepal. I was appalled by Kincaid’s constant complaining about the trip, focusing almost completely on herself and her (physical) discomforts as in I couldn’t fall asleep and so I went of our tent, just outside the entrance, and took a long piss. This was a violation of some kind: you cannot take a long piss just outside your tent; you are not to make your traveling companions aware of the actual workings of your body. (p.91) Instead of observations of the local populations, as one might expect in the tradition of National Geographic, the publisher who commissioned the book, Kincaid is stuck is the most incredibly amateurish and immature babble, secretly giving one of the porters, a Sherpa boy who looks like the people from Tibet, maybe only as old as her son, a one-thousand-rupee note (p.108). The photos included in the book are of the same low quality, mainly depicting the author or showing the most ordinary, sentimental pictures. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Feb 2, 2012 |
If you love gardening, read this book. This talks about selecting flowers for your garden, from the source itself. Great read during post gardening season. ( )
  seki | May 2, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0792265300, Hardcover)

In this delightful hybrid of a book—part memoir and part travel journal—the bestselling author takes us deep into the mountains of Nepal with a trio of botanist friends in search of native Himalayan plants that will grow in her Vermont garden. Alighting from a plane in the dramatic Annapurna Valley, the ominous signs of Nepal's Maoist guerrillas are all around—an alarming presence that accompanies the travelers throughout their trek. Undaunted, the group sets off into the mountains with Sherpas and bearers, entering an exotic world of spectacular landscapes, vertiginous slopes, isolated villages, herds of yaks, and giant rhododendron, thirty feet tall. The landscape and flora and so much else of what Kincaid finds in the Himalaya—including fruit bats, colorful Buddhist prayer flags, and the hated leeches that plague much of the trip—are new to her, and she approaches it all with an acute sense of wonder and a deft eye for detail. In beautiful, introspective prose, Kincaid intertwines the harrowing Maoist encounters with exciting botanical discoveries, fascinating daily details, and lyrical musings on gardens, nature, home, and family.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:37 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A combination memoir and travel journal details an adventure through the mountains of Nepal in search of native flowers and plants that could grow in Vermont.

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