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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I should be asleep, but it seems more like a chore than rest right now, so I decided to write.
This is departure day. We started out with 12, then three others joined us around the third day who were already here; then we became 15.
14 of us made it to Base Camp, one was 3hrs shy of reaching BaseCamp. Needless to say, the one person who didn't make it said he got so much more out of this trip than he came with, he considers it a personal and professional success.
All 15 of us experienced symptoms of Altitude Sickness, from headaches, stomach pains, diarrhea, mild frost bite to breathing problems. We had 3 people in the hospital, 2 people evacuated out by helicopter, one person broke their back , and lots of sunburn, and loss if appetite . With all of the things that occurred, it was worth it. To a person, even my friend laying in a hospital right now with a broken back because of this trek, all say it was worth it. Though a few have said they will hang up their hiking boots, most are hoping to keep thief feet in their boots and keep trekking; me included.
We saw a part of the world that is both beautiful and dangerous at the same time. I had the pleasure to interact with the Nepali people in the villages along the way that has taught me more about diversity than I could ever learn in a book. I learned that life is not fair, there is an imbalance in the world on what it means to live. What is existence in one part of the world, is so non-existent in others. Labor, a means or an exchange for basic rights is all over the scale of fairness. This land is harsh as I've said before, so are the conditions for so many people. And yet, the smiles I saw on people's faces in the villages positively made me believe there is still hope, to make things fair at home, and across the planet; maybe not perfect, but a lot better than it is.
I loved the negations for everything we had to buy; it seemed to be a better system than a fixed priced system because you get to play a role in what you're willing to pay for what you want.
I developed a reputation on the team as the negotiator, several times people would say to me, "can you get a better price?"
Once I was asked to negotiate with a vendor for a bracelet a teammate wanted to buy, I said, "this may get ugly, you might want to step outside and let the negotiations begin." I lost that negotiation, but I had a good time over the 15-20 minutes it took to come up with nothing on this deal. I believe me and the store merchant both enjoyed it, though he would have liked to have sold me the bracelet, I would have liked to have gotten it as well. I won more often than not with other merchants, but it was the relationships during the negotiations that really made it fun.
I've gone through lots of sunscreen on this trip, without showers for 3-days at a time, bandaged my toes every other day to keep the blisters from getting worse, taken Acetazolide, vitamins, cough drops, throat lozenges, gone through hand and toe warmers, 4-boxes of tissues, and still blowing my nose now, 3-bottles of hand sanitizer, Steri-penned gallons of water,1 1/2 tubes of tooth paste, 2-packages of Moist wipes, 3-roles of toilet paper, and a lot more items I can't account for at this moment.
Riding or walking in traffic when in the city has been both harrowing and fascinating. Everyone is practically blowing their horns because the congestion of motorcycles and cars is comparable to none, and yet I didn't see any sign of road rage, yet many times a car or motorcycle mirror would miss you by inches ad it passes by. Another Brownout just occurred as I am writing this, the whole city is cloaked in darkness; I won't forget this protocol that seems to occur twice a day at odd times.
The food has been good, I think I'm turning into a "rice sommelier" because we have had rice at least two times a day everyday unless you request otherwise. Rice is a main export of Nepal. We were told often, don't eat meat in the villages because refrigeration was most likely not available. We often passed by meat laying open in a big pan in front of a house; the warning was heeded by everyone. I've drank enough orange tea, black tea, and milk tea for a season; we had it for every meal.
The smell of yak is most likely to permeate my nostrils for a while, we practically lived with these animals on the trail; with their long draping fur, large Texas like pointed horns, and their slow steady and sure footed gate, they became family of sorts.
The lectures every night were absolutely informative, and to listen to the doctors debate the merits of a stated study or to demonstrate different techniques was fantastic. Though we did surprise simulations on the trail from time to time, they requested us "none-doctors" to participate, and asked us questions about what we would do next during a simulation. Who would of thought what we were doing during the simulations would become real days later?
Pictures, pictures, pictures; I brought three cameras, spare batteries, SDHC memory cards, and was able to keep the pictures under 2,000 shots. I'm thinking that the fatigue factor cut down picture taking considerably. There were times at altitude, I didn't have the energy nor the will to take a much wanted picture. I tried to balance people with nature shots as much as I could.
The Sherpas who are from the Sherpa clan were fantastic, they encouraged and supported us everyday. There were tj Ed when people couldn't carry their bags, and the Sherpas gladly took that on. The Sherpas also drove the yak team that had our bags minis our backpacks. At Base Camp, porters prepared our meals and set up our tents, tried to make the eating tent as warm as possible; we still froze everyday. Every time a person got sick, a Sherpa would stay behind to help, even when some people had to stay behind overnight in a village, a Sherpa would be with that person the whole time.
I'll stop here and rest for a few hours before the steps of departure begin.
Everyone in the hotel is greeting others with "Happy New Year." Kind if nice to spend the New Year in Nepal.
I'm having breakfast with Clay, my roommate on the trek; he's one if the ones that had to stay over. Clay is headed to Australia for the Great Barrier Reef to dive, he's an ER. Doctor in New Zealand whose from Kansas, who plans to move to Chicago when his contract is up in New Zealand.
The hotel is a pretty international place, people from all over the world use this hotel as their lodging place while in Kathmandu. I would rate the hotel a 5 or 6 out of 10.
We've just been told, our flight from Lukla to Kathmandu is the 2nd most dangerous flight in the world; this is out of the top ten. This is not to brag, this is to establish the justification for being scared when inside that 20 passenger flying tube yesterday.
The days are starting to look alike, I'm at the hospital today again trying to help Alena get back to Japan, a representative from the Japanese Embassy is on the way here to talk with Alena about her situation.
I might get a little philosophical here, quality of life is so much more important than the status we wear or the status other people assign to us. I can't imagine what it must be like away from home and incapacitated due to an illness and not have someone close around to be with you through the many periods of doubt or the unknown. Today, 75% of our team starts their journey home; depending upon the booking that was made; those of us on CheapoAir, have to leave tomorrow; it is Cheapoair what should you expect☺
Years ago when I served in the capacity of Associate Pastor at First United Methodist church in Ankeny, Iowa, I learned a lesson about caring and qualify of support. I went to the hospital in Des Moines, to visit a church member who was terminally ill. During my visit with this person he mentioned that he was afraid of dying and that he didn't want to die. As a new minister fresh out of Seminary, I thought I should have an answer for this expression of fear and concern about dying, but I had nothing and began to feel that I was failing him. I recall leaving the hospital thinking I must not be cut out for this, and questioned if I should stay in the ministry.
As I shared my concern of not being able to help a dying patient with the senior pastor Jim Russell, he said something to me that changed my life; "you don't need to have the answers, your job
Is to just be present and let God work." Jim called it the "ministry of presence." He was right, a few days after the patient died, his wife called me and thanked me so much for what I had done; her husband said he was comforted by my visit; all I did was sit with him, I had no answers.
Sitting here in the Kathmandu hospital with a friend is about the connections we make along the way in life, and the hope that our status has nothing to do with how we serve or get served in times of need.
A representative from the Japanese Embassy just stepped in this morning, Mr. Seiji Takahashi, to talk with Alena on how to get her out of the country soon. They are speaking Japanese along with me in the room, and not having a clue what is being said. I'm able to read body language and intonation, and getting some meaning, but not much. I've actually been here the last few days listening to Alena switch back in forth from English, Japanese, to Russian seamlessly.
As I think about my time in Nepal over these three and half weeks almost, I have been inundated with some of the inner workings of hospitals and the doctors themselves. I've met some very compassionate professionals who are putting their best forward to take care of patients who need their skills to deal with illness and or misfortune.
Last night I left the hospital to attend the final farewell dinner at the Rum Noodle restaurant here in Kathmandu. All were in attendance of course accept Alena. We had a wonderful time at this well known established place hidden down one the many back alleys that make up the Kathmandu city artery. To get to this place you walk down back alleys where two people could barely walk side by side at the same time.
Lots of speeches, lots of lessons learned, and tears and expressions of leaving it behind were shown in faces; we bonded through struggle, adversity, and triumph together. our group had some severe issues it had to deal with, and it still performed exemplary on all accounts. Everyone of us on this trip says they have accomplished something beyond what they thought they could. After this experience, none of us want to summit Everest, though I did get asked by the leaders of IMG (International Mountain Guides) if I was interested; I just felt my frost bitten like hands now three days after coming off the mountain, and my answer is "no" as we'll, this has been an achievement that moves me to expand my horizons of what's possible. Forget your age, forget your past, forget your failures, you are more than the sum
of all the things that attempt to define you, especially the messages from others, our self talk, and our attempts that get labeled as failures.
A representative from the American Embassy just walked in; that makes two foreign Embassy representatives in the same day that has visited and is attempting to help with this situation.
The weather is beautiful outside the hospital doors; a contrast of what it's like inside the hospital doors. The breeze
Coming through the open front doors of the hospital is almost Caribbean îlike.
The hospital is less chaotic today, it's the Sabbath, most people are off, the Trekkers and climbers coming through the doors has been minimal compared to the other days I've been here.
Okay, this situation is really turning international right now, the American Embassy representative is here, and the Japanese Embassy representative just showed up again. We are trying to get Alena out of the hospital as soon as possible, the insurance company....is being an insurance company; will do this, but won't do that, then change their minds. Maybe with two Embassies helping, Alena may be able to get out of here soon, or else the costs continue to escalate and it's easy to see how a person could be emotionally and financially devastated with each passing day. The representative from the American Embassy is willing to take Alena home and hire a nurse to track her vitals until she can be evacuated; we're waiting for a doctor's consult.
I leave for the states tomorrow morning, this place called Nepal is beautiful and inviting, but it must be respected.
Today is the first day since March 26th, I didn't have to get up early, pack so the porters and Sherpas could collect our bags to strap to the yaks, have a quick breakfast, fill the water bottles for the day, steri pen the water so I could drink it, then hoist a heavy pack on my back to trek 6-8 hours mostly up hill.
I met 4 colleagues for breakfast at 9am, they talked about what they had done last night, for I was at the hospital, then finally got a shower, had all my "yak smelling clothes sent to the laundry because the airlines would probably arrest me for the smell of yak that was emanating from all my clothes and the bags as well; we smell bad!!!!!
I took a shower and took off into the streets of Kathmandu to see what I could find to eat on the streets of Kathmandu around 9pm. I found a Pizza Hut, and then a bakery. I think I mentioned in
previous posts, the power goes off in the city from time to time, it did while I was walking home, so now I'm walking the streets of Kathmandu in total darkness for only the approaching vehicles and their headlights are illuminating the streets, and I'm not able to find my street to go home because its a total brownout over the whole city.
I eventually made a reasonable guess on the street to turn on after walking by it several times, and was correct to do so. I wasn't really scared, but knew it was time to get back to the hotel.
After breakfast Wongchu Sherpa took us to the hospital to see Alena, she is doing as well as can be in this situation. I'm staying with her until dinner at 7pm with the group, it's out final dinner together before some People depart in the morning.
Getting ready to leave Lukla to go to Kathmandu. Again, this flight is a "white Knuckle flight," the plane taxis down hill, and literally off a cliff. In the video, you can hear almost everyone on the 20-passenger plane go "whooooooo!"
As the plane lifts off. Our team leader grabs my hand as she tries really hard to not act scared; we heard they have about six crashes a year, I too am scared, but I just pray silently that it's going to be Okay.
The final day off the mountain we arrive in Lukla. Nepal, the beginning and the completion portion of the mountain trek for all Trekkers and climbers.
I had not eaten all day on the 10th because as I said before, high altitudes affect appetite. Alena had her accident, and we ended up helicoptering her out to Lukla then to Kathmandu of which I flew with her the first leg of the trip; missed lunch. Spent all day at the hospital in Lukla, no food for me still, and I'm getting cold at the hospital because I'm in a tee shirt and pants without the bottom leggings; I got into the helicopter with only what I had on while trekking. The first part of the morning I trekked with the team three hours over some very tough terrain, then had to trek back where the accident took place. Needless to say I was exhausted and hungry.
When I left the hospital to go shower, the hot water wasn't working so I took a cold shower at night and went out to celebrate with what was left of our team. Here it comes, they had to take me to the hospital in Lukla, because I apparently passed out. When I woke up, I had six doctors looking at me, they said I just passed out in the chair, and they laid me down. They all knew what was going on, but they wanted me to go to the hospital because my pulse was low. I yuwalked to the hospital in the middle of the night uphill, without a coat; note, no lights and up hill. They said they didn't want me to over heat, that's why they didn't put a coat on me while walking me to the hospital. I get to the hospital and the French doctor smiles and says, "weren't you just here earlier with your friend?"
They hook me up to an EKG machine, draw blood, and take my blood pressure while there are literally 9 people in the room all doctors except me. Of course they are joking, I have my shirt off with these electrode connections on my chest while watching my doctor colleagues taking pictures of me, weighing themselves on the scale to see how much weight they have lost, and one telling jokes and the nurses laughing along with the French doctor. I leave after two hours, Jim says, "your heart is as strong as an athletes, but you're dehydrated and your glucose is low." They give me some rehydration fluids and send me 30 minutes down the hill. If you're sick In this part of the world, be prepared to walk, And walk far up hill.
I'm doing fine, I was back on my feet the next morning for the day's event. It's definite now, my friend Alena has broken her back in the fall, we along with the hospital are trying to get her evacuated to Osaka, Japan by special plane from Kathmandu. She has been on her back since the accident on the 10th of April. I spend my day with her at the hospital, it has become complicated in terms of working with insurance companies trying to get them to Med-vac her to Japan. She of course is devastated and we all are concerned for her. What really is terrible about this situation, this happened in the last day down the mountain, the day we were to celebrate our accomplishment.
Like some on our team, I have a sunburned nose that has darkened because that was the most exposed part of me even though I put on sunscreen everyday, sometime three times a day. Because you're so high up, sunburn is a strong possibility. Also, because it's so cold at Base Camp, my finger tips have frozen, not frost bite, but since I've been off the mountain, the skin of my finger tips in both hands is tight, almost numb. The doctors on our team say that happens and it goes away with time, one doctor says she's had it since January. All in all, I'm doing great!, and know this is more than worth it to take on something bigger than myself. I hope I will become more of who I really am because of this, and will continue to grow, and going forward in living an authentic life.
The pictures below are me of me of course getting hooked up to electrodes by the nurse, please notice that she's wearing an 800 fill Down jacket while I have no shirt on, then the other shot is one of our team, the orthopedic surgeon who was exhausted himself and decided to lay down in the lobby, he too has his down jacket on!☀⛄
We were able to sleep in late, didn't hit the road until 9am. In less than twenty five yards it started up hill again; this is the new normal; this lasted a complete hour of climbing rock strewn steps to the top where the first resting place took place near a Stupa. I always say within an hour, all that we've eaten for breakfast has been burned off. Some of the doctors jokingly say they have not been regular because there is nothing to get rid of; it's been all burned up climbing these "bloody Hills" as our Scottish doctors say.
My good friend Chris says to me the first thing this morning while I was putting my pack on, "Glen, you look like shit!." I thought I looked pretty good because I felt great . Chris is a doctor from New York, so I blew him off and chalked it up to that stereotypical New York style😊 about an hour later he comes up to me and says, "Glen you don't look like shit, I'm just looking through shitty glasses." It's this kind of bonding that has made this a special bond between the twelve of us; the other three doctors we left at base camp, they are going to be there for a minimum of three months; we'll miss them, they were fun to be with. The thee doctors that we left at base camp will run the ER (emergency tent) at Mt. Everest Base Camp. Their job is to tend to all the injured and sick climbers at Base Camp, or summiting Everest, they have volunteered their time for this assignment.
Nothing unusual happened today which is unusual. People are still sick, one person's Khumbu cough has gotten worse, one person has a heel problem their nursing because of the up and down sliding of their feet in the boots their wearing, another person is still having headaches, and another continues to experience flue like symptoms. This is a trek I would not advise unless you're fully prepared for some of the harsher extremes. Every single person now on our team has had some challenge with climbing this high.
When you're away, things can happen that you can't control. My roommate made a call that didn't turn out too well, he's been the life of the group, quick with the jokes, athletically fit, smart, talented, the kind of doctor you would want. It appears like girl trouble from the conjecture people were making. It was obvious, he was so quiet that the group could tell something had happened after the phone call the night before; he walked alone this day; introspective and pensive in thought. I let him know that i respected his space, but that i was still thinking about him; I could see on his face that he was grateful that I didn't pry Into what was bothering him. Turns out its not what we thought, it's a private matter that I'll respect.
I too had received some sad news while on this trip, I found out my brother-in-law is now in a Hospice facility with a cancer that is eating his young life away, and that he's barely recognizable. I've known this for at least five days now, and have kept him in my prayers daily as I hike. I'm dedicating this trek to Major Jeffery Davis, a young man with a beautiful wife and two great kids. I've not shared this with the group, but it's on my mind daily.
For the first time, I had a Sherpa behind me pushing me up the steep incline of the steps on a hill. It has taken everything out of each of us, we are really tired and have two more days to go to come down the mountain.
The lecture this evening was on ocular (eye) injuries in the wild. There were discussions about using a safety pin, or using whatever to stabilize these types of injuries; some of it grossed the three of us non-docs out. One person said they were going to bed with nightmares about eyes now. I sat next to Jim who kept teasing me about what you could do with a safety pin to someone's eye to save their eye, I'll get him back:)
The pictures below are of the cook for our dinner tonight, I asked would she pose for me in her kitchen, she seem so happy to do so. The other picture is of me standing above a rapid of raging water below, and the next picture is a group of women washing clothes outside as we passed by, this community washing ritual is hundreds of years old. in the hill country there are no washing machines or dryers, it's hands, rocks, and a rushing stream of water. Needless to say, you often saw a trail of rainbow colored fabric strewed out down stream; items that got away and swam down stream like wild salmon. None of the women seemed to mind one way or another that a couple of items disappeared. The community wash is full if conversation and animated gesturing, it truly is a hub where the women were solving and entertaining the issues of the day. I imagined as I watched what was going on that they were talking about us trekkers that passed by...
We have only been able to have our own clothes washed twice on this trip unless you did it yourself with whatever available sources you had available; that means we all are starting to smell like Yaks, and not recognize the smell because we've been around each other so much. I had my clothes washed once on this trip, I submitted 10 items, they were ready just before departure, as I was putting the new clothes in my pack, I said to my roommate, "looks like I got more than I put in, I now have extra shirts,two panties, and one thong."
My roommate suggested I go into the breakfast area and announce while holding in my hand the thong , "is anyone missing this thong?" We laughed. I did mention it at breakfast in a more dignified way than he suggested, no one claimed the thong, but I did have one person's favorite running shirts and panties, and some other items; she was quite embarrassed coming to claim the panties when she caught up with me on the trail. The teasing began at breakfast about whose thong it was, even some of the guys got teased that it belonged to them, it made for a great way to start the day with lots of laughter. Most likely the item belonged to someone else, another trekker who had had their clothes washed, I left the thong at the next place we stopped, in the room and just let the "thong gods" take it from there.
I bought my own Yak in the first picture.
Laying out in the sun taking a rest before continuing up the mountain to Kalapattar; while taking a break, I asked Liz our leader to sing me a lullaby, which she did in a lovely way.