26,545 feet above the sea the Annapurna Himal अन्नपूर्णा kiss the sun before most of the mountain kingdom wakes, exploding with dream-like visions of snow and sky. Hikers from across the world walk for days and climb thousands of stone steps to watch the spectacle. A panoramic view exposes the taunts of Machapuchare कतासुँ क्लिको to the east - antagonizing mountaineers with the reminder that certain places on this planet are still held by the gods, out of reach to men. Wildflowers break through crystals of ice and tattered prayer flags frame the giants in front of them. The land feels more sacred here. The scent of juniper and chai fill the air.
Less than 200 miles to the south, in the city of Birgunj, Nepal the sun is setting. A woman no more than 20 stands watch on the chaotic boarder of India and Nepal. She is watching for any sign of evil. She is a surviver. Drugged, stolen, and sold into sexual slavery in India, she was abused for months before she made a dangerous escape back to her country. Picked up by another survivor from the anti-trafficking organization Our Daughters International, she was given a home, counseling, training, and helped back to her feet. She now re-lives her trauma daily in order to save other women from the same fate she suffered. The land feels more sacred here. The scent of juniper and chai fill the air. The woman is thankful that some places, like the safe house she calls home, are still held by the gods, out of the reach of men. She has never seen the mountains.
This contrast is a reality that I experienced when traveling to Nepal in October 2019 to shoot a documentary about the invaluable work that Our Daughters is doing. But the stark differences between the two scenes do not undermine the consistencies experienced across the country. From the peaks to the border towns the Nepali people green strangers as sisters and live every day as a gift. As travelers we often overlook the people of a country in favor of its landmarks or accomplishments. We don’t stop to wonder where the scents are coming from or try to see if the local kids know any words in English. We don’t look at a smile and consider what trauma might be behind it. My intention for these photographs is to provide a window into another world, a country that touched my soul in more ways than I can express.