Danielle Shapiro, WY

Critically Acclaimed Writer

A bit of a wanderer, Danielle blames her parents for taking her all over the world from the time she was little. Her curiosity has led to reporting trips as far away as the remote shores of Lake Tangyanika in Africa to the nearer-at-hand Atlanta suburbs. Her work, focusing on social justice and equality, has been published in The Daily Beast, The Christian Science Monitor, ESPN, Fusion and elsewhere. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s playing peek-a-boo with her daughter, or hiking up and skiing down a mountainside.

As a Story Terrace writer, Danielle interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

The Price of Rice

I was tired, frustrated, and ready to go. But an impromptu strike over the rising price of rice had gotten the better of my plans. I was not having a good day. I’d just finished a beautiful but treacherous five-day trek through the isolated mountains of rural western Nepal. I was there to write a story about the three Chhetri sisters, who founded one of the country’s first woman-owned hiking guide services.

I’d come with my guides, Fhulmaya and Bina, from the pristine shores of Rara Lake, the country’s largest. That last morning hike to the village of Talcha had been bitingly cold and my gloved hands ached as we cut threw a thick mist. I was ready to head back to the creature comforts of Pokhara, the tourist hub where the Chhetri sisters based their operation.

And then the strike. Thirty or so angry young men marched up the remote gravel airstrip from which I was supposed to depart, shutting it down. We were stranded in Talcha’s lone guesthouse for the night. The next morning, Bina came running: a helicopter was coming! I raced up the steep hill to our guesthouse, wheezing from the altitude, and grabbed my pack. Back to the airstrip. Expectant. Hopeful.

A hulking army-green helicopter landed — an old Russian machine that was now branded with World Food Program lettering. As men off-loaded bags of rice, the pilot deplaned, “Top Gun” sunglasses and all. He saw me and marched over. In the space of a short exchange, in that middle-of-nowhere hillside hamlet, I learned that my pilot was Col. Madan K.C., responsible for saving Beck Weathers and Makalu Gau from Everest during the disastrous 1996 climbing season. Ferrying them to safety had been among the world’s highest ever helicopter rescues. He invited me to join him in the cockpit after take-off.

Sitting on a small stool between Col. Madan and his co-pilot, I learned more. He told me of landing on a 20,000-foot-high slice of icy mountainside with space for just one side of the landing gear, the other swaying perilously in the void. The atmosphere had been so thin that he had to allow the helicopter to plunge precipitously for several seconds upon take-off before being able to regain control and elevation.

I stared in awe, alternately between him and the windshield, sweeping views of Nepal’s massive mountains rolling by below me. I had to chuckle. As annoyed as I’d been, as frustrated by my circumstance, wasn’t this why I traveled? Wasn’t this what would set me off on my next adventure? Wasn’t this moment, really, everything?

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