Yak Girl – Dorje Dolma

Growing up in Dolpo, Nepal, in the high Himalayas, herding yaks, goats, sheep and cows from age five to ten years old, I never imagined myself as an artist or an author. In fact, I did not know what they were.

However, I’ve always been creative. While watching the animals, I amused myself by collecting various stones and sticks and I built little toy houses for my rock dolls. Most children, like myself, did not have toys. If I had had toys, I wouldn’t have had time to play, as I was mostly busy tending the animals in the mountains or taking care of my younger siblings. Like all children, I longed to have something special, something that was mine.

I made a triangle-shaped rock into a doll and carried it on my back with a blanket wrapped around it. Of course, you can’t have a doll without a fancy wardrobe. No, I didn’t go to Target or to the toy store to buy the doll clothes. Dolpo has no stores. I had to make clothes by chipping thin rocks to fit the doll and most of them came in a triangle shape. I knew one thing about myself. I did not have the sculpting abilities of Michelangelo. My doll sculptures looked more like Stone Age sculptures. They were all misshapen and did not have facial features. In the summer I made flower necklaces and headbands and in the winter I built rock huts and snow tunnels.

I think life is both unexplainable and magical. How in the world does a girl from a 15,000-foot-high village with no schools–a girl who thought buses were giant cows–come to the U.S. and get into a university with 30,000 students so she can get her degree in Fine Arts? And how does she then go on to write a book about her life?

My book, Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal, includes many stories of my childhood, immersing the reader in a centuries-old way of life. It contrasts this with the chaotic bustle of Kathmandu, where my family brought me when I was ten to get me medical help. It’s the only memoir by a native of Dolpo, and I wrote it to tell the world about the beauties and challenges of my homeland. I will be donating part of the proceeds from sales of my book to organizations that are working to make life better for the people of Dolpo.

The magical things that have happened to me came about through the help of many kind people and by reaching for the stars! Thank you for being part of my journey.