I was in 7th grade when I attended Murree Christian School (MCS) in hills outside of Islamabad, Pakistan. It was a British boarding school, and the boy’s boarding facility was located a short drive away from the school itself. Every morning we would load up on a bus and head over to the school compound, to return back after school. The boarding facility was located on top of a large, steep hill surrounded by a forest. A lot of us kids would run out and explore the woods in our free time — we’d play capture the flag, make forts or find other ways to pass the time.

Murree in winter.| By Maha murtaza [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
One day, we were no longer allowed to play out in those woods. The adults said that a snow leopard had moved in, and the forest was no longer safe. I had seen pictures of snow leopards in my large, three-ring binder wildlife factbook, but beyond that I didn’t know much about them. Some of us would still sneak outside when we could and explore some more, but nothing ever came of it.

One morning, we loaded the bus with backpacks on our backs, chattering away as 7th grade boys do. I’m not sure what we were talking about, but I’m sure it had something to do with soccer teams (excuse me, football) or local school drama.

I remember the bus pulling to a stop at the base of the hill, just as it was beginning to accelerate. I looked forward, and there it was: a snow leopard crossing the street.