Monday, January 9, 2012

open doors

About a month ago, I applied for a detail to help teach prescribed burning and fire suppression in Ethiopia. These international programs seem to be somewhat of a well-kept secret within the Forest Service. There doesn't appear to be a mailing list; you have to know someone to hear about opportunities. Can you blame them? If I got to go overseas for work, I wouldn't tell anyone about it either. I sent in my application and crossed my fingers. I had visions of finally getting a government passport, getting paid to travel, and setting the grasslands of Africa on fire.

Emails that contain the word "unfortunately..." rarely contain good news. I'm not going to Africa. However, every good firefighter has a backup plan. Taking advantage of my supervisor's relief that I wasn't fleeing at an inconvenient time, I quickly asked for some time off.

So in a few short months, I'll be headed to Bhutan. I won't be carrying a shovel or wearing Nomex clothes. Instead I'll be trekking in the clouds, in a country where Buddhist monasteries cling to the sides of cliffs and they measure the "Gross National Happiness" of the people. Now the fun part starts: looking at maps, buying new gear, and reading trip reports. This should offset the prospect of sketchy airlines and 12 hour layovers in places like Doha and Dubai.

Tiger's Nest Monastery, Bhutan

When I come back, my employees will be opening up the helibase. They'll be moving the pilot and mechanic lounge (our fancy name for a FEMA trailer) into place. Fire season may be starting in the southwest. And I won't have any regrets about not being chosen to go to Ethiopia. Because, as trite as it sounds, when one door closes, another one really does open. I'm ready to run through it!

Chomolhari Peak, Bhutan

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