Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 17th, Random pictures that didn't get shared along the way

 The day I arrived, two monks and I get our picture taken

 First group picture, a few people missing, we were headed off to tour Kathmandu
 The lead sherpa team, there were others, but this is the lead team that directed our journey
 Standing on the Khumbu Ice fall, most likely got sunburned here.
 We went to the Monkey Temple, literally  Monkey's practically run the place. You need to hold onto your personal items because they will grap and run.
 I watched this guy carve out a stone for a few minutes, he was so focused he never looked up from his work.
 This child was with his parents at one of our stops on the tour of the city.
 This woman was praying and lighting a candle during her prayer ceremony
 A family was cremating a loved one outside, there's a certain section of the city where this takes place almost everyday with several bodies laid upon the pyre to be cremated.

 This woman was sitting near a prayer place watching something taking place while she had a bowl and   beads next to her praying.
 A child with their North Face Jacket on.
 One of the many swinging bridges crossed during the day. On a windy day, these bridges would swing over the rapids as violently as the wind so desired.
 Keeper of the temple, he showed us the "Yeti Skull" which was locked up.
 Rising early morning with the mood still out, the mountains are still art, ready to be painted.
 The Avalanche that I caught by accident, I happened to be wandering and noticed the sound and the Sherpas from another group pointing; then I saw and heard.
 Closer view of the Avalanche.
 At Base Camp, forgot what I was feeling and or doing, but I posed for this picture anyway.

The runway to the second most dangerous place in the world to takeoff and land
 Another view of the runway
 The runway is a hill, it points towards the mountains and valley below. Once at the end of the runway, there is a drop-off; you don't want to find out anymore than that about.
 Closer view of the end of the runway
I don't know the name of this flower, but it struck me as beautiful, worth taking a picture of.

Las Vegas April 17th, 2013 The final post, but not the last journey by a long shot

It's 8:46 PM right now, I've been up since 5PM today, I went to bed at 1:30 AM last night and finally got up at 5PM; I guess I needed that much sleep. When I arrived at the Airport in Las Vegas, Debbie was there to meet me at the baggage claim; I was worried because she had a lot on her mind with the passing of Jeff her brother, and not having seen me for almost a month, that's a lot. That sparkling smile lit up my heart just to see her; I think I heard music in the sky when I saw her.

She was there waiting, with a big smile, I can only imagine what it must be like to have a mix of emotions; glad on one hand to see you, and sad on the other to have lost someone close who you love dearly. We waited for my bag, the one large red North Face Duffel bag, but it never came, finally a representative from Virgin America came and ushered me into the small office to tell me that most likely the bag was seized by customs, this is normal. I filled out the paper work, didn't put up a fuss, I was too tired and just went with whatever she said was going to happen next. The agent noticed how agreeable I was and said, "you must be tired..." "most customers are annoyed at this point." I said yes, you can probably tell me anything and I would agree to it right now. She smiled, and after signing the paperwork, she said my bags will be delivered to my house in a couple of hours.

The bags arrived at almost midnight, again, I am too tired to be annoyed, though I was up watching a mindless TV program that really showed off how bad some TV programs can really get, I signed for my bag, and shoved the 50lb bundle through the door, and sat down to pretend to watch the rest of the TV program I was not watching.

Once I awakened at 5PM, I knew I had the task of unlocking my red duffel and begin the process of extracting the tightly packed items onto the tile floor and sorting things out. Ordinarily I would find this task frustrating, and unsatisfying, but at this moment I did not; it was something to do that didn't require a lot of decision making, just pull it out, look at it, smell it, and decide if it needed to be washed, or could it go back on the shelf. Theoretically, everything should be washed, but practically, if it doesn't smell like Yak, it needn't be washed and use up precious resources.

The door bell rang, but I didn't get to it until a couple of minutes after the ring, by the time I arrived no one was at the door, but a package had been left. A box, with the name "Shari's Berries" was written on it. I opened it and it was a box of special chocolates with a note from my friend Sallie Nostwhich in Ames, Iowa, it said, "Welcome home, Glen! You did it! Enjoy and indulge. Love, Sallie." Sallie and I go back a ways, she's like the sister I never had, and she has taught me a lot over the years, and if anyone can edit and comment on my writing, she's the one that can and has taught me the most about writing. I hope to get a reprieve here, since 99% of this Blog was written on an iPhone, with frozen hands too fat to hit just a single letter at times, and most often written on my back under the covers in 20-degree weather. She's a sweetheart, and can be a tiger if she needs to be; she's a special blend of love and kindness.

It's now 9:24 PM, the backpacks, the duffel bags, and boots are in the garage, and the kitchen counter is littered with lots of little items that are more confusing to put away than the larger items; medicine, paperwork, batteries, etc. I went out to get a coffee at Starbucks just to break up the decision making activity with the counter items, and to drive my own car just to be doing something different. Back at home I look at the Yak Bell I bought, and thought, I missed my opportunity to get the genuine Yak smell on it by putting it around a Yak's neck for a few minutes so I could say that it had actually been on a Yak, and not from some vendor who had dozens of them that smelled like new. My next best thing was to go find Buddy, one of our three cats and let Buddy wear it and take his picture. OK, so it doesn't have Yak smell to it, but it does have a four-legged creature smell to it now; I don't think Buddy was too happy, but he did let me get the picture below.

You know how I said in a previous post that I had no desire to do the 29,034 ft Summit of Everest; well, I'm not so sure now that I would say never. With a little bit of rest, and a little time to reflect today, my mind has changed; I could do it, but it would require some additional training, but I know I could accomplish it. I'm not saying that I just put it on the list, I'm just contradicting what I said before that I would not want to do it. With a little rest, the possibilites of what you can do become more clearly aligned. I'm not afraid of what I have not done, or what I wish I could do, in fact wishing has been taken out of the equation, it's not about wishing anymore, it's about doing. Like Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, "No try, just do." All wishes can be eliminated with "doing," then they no longer are wishes, they are accomplishments no matter how many times you must attempt them to reach the goal. Will I think about summiting Everest? I really don't know; but I'm not afraid now to try. This is what this adventure gifted me, the fearlessness to try, even when afraid if that makes sense. Fearlessness doesn't mean you don't get afraid, it means you won't let fear stop you.

I'm happy to be home, and I'm sad to be away from the experiences of distant journeys, but I'm more at home with me now. I started this journey at 4am on December 4th, 2011. I awakened in bed from a restless sleep thinking about being out of shape, and not feeling fully alive. I remember saying to myself, "I need something bigger than me to motivate me." It was right then and there lying in bed that I said the words, "Mt. Everest Base Camp," before I knew anything about it, before I knew it was possible to trek to such a place, before I knew what I was getting myself into. Debbie asked me in the middle of the night why I wasn't sleeping, and it was then and there that I told her what I was going to commit too. The response I got was normal from Debbie, "you've never hiked since I've known you, and really never done anything like this...," but she said it with support, and not criticism for I think she believed in me even if I didn't know what I was saying. I remember these events because I got up and wrote the date, time and the commitment down, then went back to bed satisfied that I found something so big, that it was going to require a lifestyle change which I had been seeking.

The last post is hard to write, the above ramblings cannot express all of the experience; the days ahead will have to open up new thought channels that will allow me to put some meaning to it. The people, the team, the Sherpas, and Porters, the Yaks, the physical body, memories and the climate, will have to be eventually stored away and accessed from time to time as a reminder that the goal has been accomplished, and that I'm more than my thoughts, more than my attitude, that I am potential unrealized, and that age, color, and any other label cannot define me if I so choose; I am potential.

To my Brother-in-law Jeff, again, I dedicate this experience to him with pleasure. Jeff may have left us in body, but I believe he's still with us in spirit, and he's OK now.

Thanks to all of you who have read the Blog along the way, I tried to share as much as I could when able too. I'm blessed with so many friends, so many relationships, I realize I have so much, much more than I could have ever imagined; for that realization, I realize how rich I really am.



Buddy and his "Yak Bell"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Never leave home without it?"

Okay, I thought the phrase "never leave home without it," really meant that! Well, after paying my hospital visit bill I needed to get some emergency cash. After being driven all over Kathmandu 4 days ago, I finally called AMEX and let them know my AMEX. Card would not work in any of the ATMs or at any of the banks Keshab drove me around to. I was told that AMEX does not have a presence in Nepal.

Thank goodness I had a backup card, I called my WF Visa and they were able to make a transaction happen at a local bank in Kathmandu. Keshab, one of the people from the trekking co, had to interpret everything at the bank because they only spoke Nepalese. I did get to observe Nepali banking, for we were there for over an hour and the place was packed with customers. Watching the different transactions compared to my own company gave me a perspective about customer service that I had not seen, but more importantly; customer service and culture at work. The tellers and Bankers move at a different pace, they move faster when they are influenced by the customer, no effort to influence, you wait until they get around to you if the place is busy. Secondly, customers can be pushy, but not rude if this makes sense. Thirdly, a smile goes a long way here.

I would have been fine if Visa had not come through, I had enough Nepali Rupees to make it, and Visa seemed to be the card to "not leave home without."

One other observation, every ATM I went to in the city had a guard outside it, and they would open the door to a small booth and let one person in at a time to conduct their transactions in private. You wait until the person comes out before you can go in and use the ATM, this was consistent throughout the city.

Speaking of armed guards, every day I went to the hospital to see Alena, right across the street is the British Embassy protected by military personnel; no smiling, not even a wave, just stern faces with the look if readiness on them.

April 15th

I've just awakened from a couple of hours of sleep at the Singapore Airport, my layover is 13 hours and some odd minutes. The airport here is the best I've been in the world, the sleeping lounges are free, comfortable, and safe. I was able to sleep from about 2:30 am to 5:30 am. The airport has free city tours if your layover is longer than 5 hours, showers for pay, and a micro hotel that you can pay by the hour inside the airport.

In addition, Singapore Airlines gave me $40 to spend on anything I wanted while in the airport for flying with them; you actually get the cash. The international airport is like a shopping mall open all night, they even have an Apple Store called "Resellers;" it's legit, you know I'm an Apple person I would know. The airport is so well put together that it is hard to believe why you would need to go out to get anything. There are free foot and calf machines for tired feet, Lord knows my these feet have had their fair share of wear and tear over the last three weeks, the massage machines feel great, I'm just sitting in the chair and letting the rollers on the machine do their thing.

I'm waiting for my next flight to South Korea, then I transfer to a plane bound for San Francisco, from there another plane to Las Vegas.

Life happens while you're doing...

I'm dedicating this accomplishment; Mt Everest Base Camp climb, to Jeffery Davis, my brother-in-law who passed away two days ago.

Life happens while we're doing..., sitting here at the Singapore Airport, I have time to reflect on the passing of a father, husband, brother, and son. I didn't try to make sense of it, how could I? But I know at times like this there's the pain of separation that has a life of its own, it never follows a predictable course, it is a part of the process, the protocol of losing a love one.

I've spent three weeks + on a mountain and thought it was so hard until I heard this evening about Jeff's passing; try leaving behind a son or daughter, a wife, sisters or brother, and a host of relationships you've made along the way, then maybe we can begin to talk about what's hard.

Yes, I climbed the mountain, but Jeff wrestled for years with an enemy that ravaged his young body and he continued to smile, and he continued to be the family man we're all glad to say we experienced and knew first hand. Jeff climbed a mountain, he summited life's highest peak, he lived a life that brought meaning and significance to his friends and family; Everest is suddenly not really that high.

Travel safely Jeff, the summit belongs to you buddy.


April 14th, the Airport

Sitting at the Kathmandu Airport, I'm sitting in the front row of black metal stationary chairs bottled to the floor. I've had to tell the fellow behind me three times to stop kicking the back of my chair. He's about 25 years old with about 10 of his buddies with him. He seems like a pleasant chap, but I'm getting annoyed with the kicking and telling him politely to stop. I think it's a nervous reflect, three times having to turn around and give him the "eye" and politely comment please stop, is getting to be a little frustrating. He has stopped for now; it's most likely not personal, I'm trying to rest before getting on a crowded flight to Singapore with 13 hours of layover time.

I'm also tired, didn't sleep well last night, ended up writing from about 2am until almost 5am, then had breakfast with clay at 7:30 am. We went to the hospital to see Alena to say goodbye, she seems to be Okay but you can tell that being alone for the next 7-days is going to take a toll on her, and she'll have to depend on the hospital and the trekking company to help her. They hope to evacuate her to Japan on the 21st of April.

I learned something new today, when we flew from Kathmandu to Lukla and back, I noticed that the tires on the 20 passenger plane looked flat. It wasn't my imagination, they take the air out of the tires because of the high altitude and high pressure at this elevation. When the plane landed in Lukla, the tires looked somewhat normal.

I'm on my flight from Kathmandu to Singapore, I have the aisle seat, the guy in the middle seat evidently has not ever flown, he didn't know how to fasten his seatbelt, so I reached over and showed him how to do it, he doesn't speak English, but he nodded thank you. There is nothing better in my opinion than a genuine smile, that's what caught my eye of the woman I'm married too, a bodacious smile. A smile is universal, it communicates friend or foe, it tells more about a person's "self," than anything, it may be the real window to the heart in my opinion.

It's 3:14 pm, they are serving lunch, it's chicken and rice, chocolate cake, rolls, red wine, and coffee. It's not too bad, a little different than the garlic soup, rice and potatoes we ate every day on the trail😳

Right now Nepal is somewhere in miles behind me, as we fly towards Singapore, I realize I miss it and I've only been in the air for about 3 hours. What a place, what an experience, and what a gift it gives to those who embrace its rich diverse culture in people and in geography. Pranav,
One of the doctors we dropped off at Base Camp for 3 months says Nepal has over 90 different religions. Being from Nepal, Pranav says there are mountain gods and there are gods of the earth, gods of the sky that are all worshipped within Nepal. The people are devout and they expect all foreigners to respect their ways. When you approach a Stupa, you walk to the left of it with the Stupa in your right, no matter how unaligned it is with the trail. Every time we had something significant take place like reaching Base Camp, the Sherpas would put around our necks a silken sash to represent good luck by the gods.

Every temple you entered you always take off your shoes no matter how hot or cold it is; one day it was one of those frost bite cold spells and we were to enter the temple, the floor in the temple was so cold I started walking in circles in the temple as if I were trying to see everything, truth be told, I wanted to warm my feat. Thank goodness we never entered the temple while prayer was going on, or else we would have ha to be still and our little toes would have frozen.

Because of the long layover in Singapore, I'll try to take advantage of the free city tours they offer to international passengers outside the airport; no need to sit inside for 13 hours sleeping with one eye open to protect my backpack while I try to rest.

I can tell now, miss Nepal, not the gasping for air trekking up the mountains, not the yak dung everywhere, or the cd frost bitten nights, but the rich culture of life and contrasts.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Evening of the 13th

The last night in Kathmandu, Pizza Hut is where I walk to dinner and order spicy pizza bites and a blast for about $6.00. The streets are busy, but not as busy as they were the day before because today is Saturday, a holy day of worship. People generally don't work on this day, but they are out on the streets hanging out by the hundreds; families, singles, etc. This is a day where people eat out in restaurants and just hang out in the streets if the weather is good; today is no exception.

The streets are dusty because of the constant construction, reconstruction, and destruction of this city's infrastructure; dust is an everyday existence here.

I just returned, and have started to pack, and the bags are tight and stuffed to capacity, but I managed to force everything into the red North Face bag, and the remainder of my items into my carry on backpack. I left Las Vegas on the 22nd of March with my bag weighing 47 pounds, who knows what it weighs now.

The lights in the city just went out ad i was typing this, it's 6:49 PM, pretty standard for Kathmandu, this time I'm not out wandering the neighborhood trying to find my street in the darkness of the power deficient night.

My friend Alena will now have to spend at least the next eight days on her back in a hospital bed before her insurance company can transport her from here to Osaka, Japan to have surgery on her broken back. The thought of spending eight more days on your back waiting for a plane to be sent to evacuate you so you can go home to have a needed surgery at over $600.00 a day, is so daunting. The fear of ambiguity has at times overwhelmed her, and has brought out the best of the hospital staff at the same time to try to help her. This afternoon, a trekker came in from the mountain with his hands all bandaged in white, as I watched the receiving staff unwrap the wrappings off the Trekker's hands, I see the black coloration of the skin as it has been burned by frost bite. The trekker is calm, but his face shows the concern of a person who is wondering if the hands can be saved. I turn away to not bring additional attention to the black frost bitten flesh that has enveloped his inoperable hands at the moment.

I'll start my leave of this country at 8:15 am, where I'll be picked up to go one last time to the hospital to see my friend and encourage her to stay strong and trust the staff, for they really want to help her get home. I will most likely say a prayer with her before I begin the two day journey home on Singapore Airlines.

Some might say the journey is ending, I don't actually feel that way, the journey feels like it's beginning. It's time to go home and see my wife, she's been missed from the day that I left. I'll leave lots of things in Kathmandu, and will also take many things away.

I'll post a few more times as I travel home, I'm sure if I keep my eyes open, life will show me many more interesting opportunities to write about and use my camera.