I belong to a family where females are mostly house makers and they don’t do outdoor tasks and activities. My mother was a housewife and my father was a high school teacher. I was working at the university, where I graduated from, as a teaching assistant.
It was March 2007. My boss called me and another teaching assistant, who was a male, in his office. He told us that university was taking some students on a camping trip which involved mountain and glacier climbing as well. He further added to expect a temperature around -30 to -40 Celsius in glaciers. (In my home country, the lowest temperature I would see was around -1 Celsius.) The trip was due in April 2007 for 3 days. My boss had been asked by the university management to nominate someone from his staff to accompany the students as the team manager in the mountaineering. My colleague (the male assistant) instantly refused to go on a glacier where the temperature would be way down in negative, although, our boss preferred him to accompany the tour. In excitement, without any second thought, I said, “yes”. My boss asked me with a shock, “Are you sure?” As he would not have believed my thoughts and said that he would tell the management to find someone from other departments. He added, “there is no pressure on you to go. I understand that you are a female and it will not be easy for you to live for three weeks out there in camps.” It was a norm in my home country that ladies don’t do outdoor activities especially the tough ones.
That day, on my way home, I was thinking that how am I going to convince my parents and siblings. I broke the news to my mom, as soon as I reached home because I knew she would be the first one on my side. She didn’t say yes right away but assured me that she would be with me if that’s what I wanted. Next step was to convince my father and I gave that task to my mom. My happiness had no bounds when my mom told me the next morning that my father didn’t resist even for a second. Though, he mentioned what would our relatives say about it?
I didn’t know how quickly time passed, it was April already and we would be leaving in next two days. I was all set and prepared to take this bold step and show my worth and capabilities as a woman. There were two supervisors and 20 students from my university. There were a few other universities as well on that camping tour. The first day went by in setting up the camps. Next morning, we were given briefing and tips about mountaineering and glacier climbing by professional climbers. It didn’t sound very tough to me at all if it was not easy. That day we went for mountain climbing and came back to the camps before evening. I should admit that I was very tired and exhausted. I went to my camp to sleep immediately after supper. The 3rd day was the biggest and toughest day for me because we were going to climb on a glacier. Today I was scared too as our guide told us people do get frost bites and also get killed if they don’t follow the right instructions. We were given very warm jackets with mittens and glacier climbing shoes with nails under the soles. It was, for sure, very cold and wind made it colder. Everything was going fine until I got slipped from a small cliff while climbing on the glacier. Thankfully, I had only a few bruises. We came back to the camps near evening. I was tired the most as compared to the first two days after facing nearly -50 temperature with wind chill and climbing a glacier for the first time in my life. I was given first aid in the camp for my bruises and a pain killer so that I could sleep in the night and would not be fatigued next morning to go back home. I was feeling proud in myself when I reached home safe and sound with a great experience of my life.
I could see the pride in my mom’s eyes that you had done something which was not normal for a female to do. She advised me not to listen and give heed to “girls can’t do it” and keep rising up to achieve whatever you wish for. My mom’s golden words realized me that if we have the opportunities in life that seem to be gender-specific, and we are in a position to avail those opportunities, maybe we should hold on tight to them, and do the best that we can with them.