DARIEN—If her teachers on the opening day of school ask students how they spent their summer vacations, some of Erika Osherow’s classmates will no doubt have interesting tales to share.
None however are likely to top Osherow’s.
The All-State pitcher for the Darien High School softball team spent a month in Nepal as part of the Where There Be Dragons program, which bills itself as “combining the best in experiential education, travel, service learning, and physically and intellectually challenging experiences.”
So, why Nepal?
“I love traveling, going abroad; my goal for after college and life is exploring,” Osherow said. “I expressed interest to my dad that I wanted to go away this summer, it’s the one summer I felt I could do that. Nepal, most people thought it was random, but I was looking for something different. Everybody I spoke with who has gone to the Himalayas said the people were amazing, down to earth and very loving. I got that feeling.”
There were 11 students and three instructors on the trip, none of whom Osherow knew at the start.
Osherow, a senior and one of the state’s best softball players, who has already committed to Virginia, said she had two weeks of home stays, with two families, one in an urban and another in a rural setting.
“Those were the biggest things that affected me,” Osherow said. “The rural village affected me the most. They knew no English. The first night I was speaking in English figuring they would pick up a few words, and they knew absolutely nothing. I spent the whole night playing charades and them laughing. I felt it was the most fulfilling sense of love, like nothing compared with what we have here.”
Osherow had to make due without many of the basic comforts of home. Lunch and dinner consisted of rice, lentils, potatoes and a vegetable. There were no utensils, so meals were consumed by hand. There was no toilet paper the entire trip.
“That was interesting,” Osherow said with a smile. “There was an adjustment period.”
There were classes that consisted of cultural and language lessons in which Osherow said she learned enough Nepali to help navigate the city during free travel time and take care of basic needs.
There were three days of trekking, which Osherow said was another unique experience.
“It was monsoon season and one day there was a downpour,” Osherow said. “The size of the trail was about the same as putting your two feet together. It was complete dirt. The trail turned into a river, and we were hiking with umbrellas with all our packs on, and leeches were biting you. I was the only one that didn’t get bitten by a leech. It was an experience of complete ruggedness in a complete natural setting. Nobody cared how they looked or where they were.”
Osherow said this is the first summer she did not play softball since starting with the sport.
Not that she didn’t get to demonstrate her athletic prowess overseas.
“One day I came across some boys playing cricket,” she said. “I always wanted to try cricket. I was thinking of my softball. I asked if I could try and they were like, yes. Only boys play sports there so they thought it was a little weird. They gave me a bat and gave me a pitch and I hit the ball almost into the river. They were saying “home run, home run,” laughing. I said that I played baseball. They gave me a few more pitches and I felt bad because I had to keep chasing the ball. They asked me if I wanted to pitch but I told them I could only pitch underhand.”
Osherow also worked planting in the rice paddies in complete mud and helped build a trail for some families that lived up in a mountain.
Osherow has been home for a few weeks, preparing for the start of cross country season and looking ahead to trying to lead the Darien softball team to postseason titles.
Her summer memories, she said, will long endure.
“Sometimes it’s hard to put into words what I went through because you had to be there,” Osherow said. “You strip it down and there were the emotions of love and sadness and hope. Basic feelings and being in the raw elements with them.”