Little Hero

My youngest has been at camp for a solid week. It was at a YMCA camp, staffed the way they usually do the big summer camps – lots of imported students or fresh Uni grads, who agree to herd masses of rowdy kids through obstacle courses, swim tests and talent shows six days a week for an entire summer, in return for the “time abroad.” Sunday off, that’s it. This was the first week of camp, since school just quit last week, so the counselors were all green and expectant as we dropped kids off last Saturday.

This was the first time he’d be away from friends and family for so long. This particular camp week was for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s kids, to help them be a bit more self reliant and learn more about it in the safety of nurses and docs, with a group of similar kids. So after I prepped the nurse with all the injections, pills and regular other stuff that the other kids were also dealing with, I jumped in with his other “thing.”

My 9-year-old, besides being an ulcerative colitis patient, also has PKU (phenylketonuria) which means he is restricted from eating protein, and required to drink a special formula to provide amino acid replacement for the whole proteins he can’t ingest. He’s relatively easy for an afternoon playdate or even a sleepover (I send snacks and his formula and keep it really simple), but a whole week away from anyone who had managed him before had me a little nervous. Camp policy said no outside food is allowed. Rats, mice and peanut allergies out in the boonies, and I can see why.

I don’t prep people on PKU protocol very often because the learning curve is steep. I always follow, “Well, can he have…?” with, “he doesn’t eat: meat, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts, soy, whole grains, pasta, or anything that has lots of wheat flour in it.”

Yes, then they look at me sideways, white-faced, blankly (like you might be now) and ask what he CAN have. “All fruits, most veggies, except the ones I just named.” It’s the dance. We’ve done it for almost ten years. I often forget how much I had to learn before I could condense it down to that short list. But the nurse and I had gone back and forth for several emails and phone calls before camp. She was confident they could feed him and substitute from the kitchen when they ran into a meal item he couldn’t have. It ended up that every main course was something he couldn’t have.

Today I drove back to camp to fetch him after a week. I met with the nurse to see how the week went. She was in the middle of gushing over his effervescent personality when he appeared with one of this cabin counselors in tow. “Mama!!” He wrapped me in a waist-hug, beaming. I asked her how the foods went. She smiled and said he did very well except when they had to correct him a couple times. No bagels, no noodles. She motioned to the counselor who had followed saying that he had taken on my son’s extra food requirements personally. He nodded and stood silently behind my son. His name tag said Umear. I remembered meeting him at drop off. He was soft spoken, from England, with dark, gentle features and heavy glasses. I shook his hand and thanked him, then turned to leave.

“He’s an amazing kid,” he managed to say before pulling off his glasses and wiping his eyes. I was shocked. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a college guy tear up. Then he collected himself and said, “he has given me a greater appreciation for life. He has been so uplifting for me…” then he broke down completely. He’d wiped his face twice already and was presently fighting himself to follow protocol and let us go, or tell me more. I hugged him, told him it meant a lot to me to hear that, and asked him for more. He sobbed openly and wiped his eyes again.

“What he is doing is so hard. I mean, he couldn’t eat anything, but he was still so happy every day….”

“Yeah.” I teared up too.

“That is so hard! I mean, I am fasting right now, so I know how hard it is to watch everyone else have what you can’t have. And he is so good about it!”

“Ramadan?”

“Yeah.” I puzzled for a moment about how a 20-year-old guy could possibly wrangle camp kids all day without food or water during daylight hours, and whether Allah considered his followers above the 45th parallel when he decided Ramadan should ever fall in the month of summer solstice. Then I wondered if the camp was accommodating him by feeding him before 4 am and and after 10 pm. I didn’t ask. We walked together toward the pile of sleeping bags and gear as he continued.  “I had to take pasta away from him one dinnertime because he thought he could have it and then we found out he couldn’t. We saw it on the sheet you sent.” And this is when it occurred to me how much he had undertaken. My apprehension in the weeks before wasn’t in filling out piles of paperwork, sending refrigerated meds, or worrying that my bubbly, gregarious son would make friends. It was this. That someone else would have to take this on and succeed at it.

“You did my job this week. I know how hard that is, and I’ve been doing it for nine years. We’ve had a little practice. But it sounds like you did great!” I thanked him again and asked what he was studying in school.

“General nutrition medicine. But now, after this week, I think I want to work with special diet nutrition instead.” By this time we both had tears running down our faces. We exchanged information. I ask him to write to my son and began listing nutrition and special diet medical contacts, off the tip of my tongue, in case that might be of interest to him. He promised to write. My boy was standing between us, smiling and looking at both of us sideways, wondering what all the fuss was about. He hugged Umear, to which Umear said, “you keep drinking that shake of yours, okay?” then turned to me, “he was a leader all week. He was the front of the pack everywhere we went and helped the other kids all the time. He’s got great energy and enthusiasm… a great kid.” Then he turned to my son again, “you come back next year, okay, and I will try very hard to do the same.” They nodded at each other from across the parking lot.

All the way home I asked about camp, with Harry Potter Number Seven muffling answers and stories. My kid has inspired a college kid to be something special; something more than he would otherwise want to be, if he hadn’t spent a week with my kid. I think I was teary about the whole exchange until we were off the peninsula, over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and stuck in Tacoma traffic. And yes, he had a great time at camp.

Skills Rec 3 104-XL

Posted in Kids, parenting | Leave a comment

Twenty Four Hour Escape

Written Sunday morning at 5:40 am, after dawn, before the sun crawled out from behind Cascade ridges.

I had a mouse on my head last night. I had just faded to sleep with the white noise of an alpine cascade at my feet. Something brushed my hair. I flipped over to see a small dark shadow rocket silently under my rain fly. Fuzzy from new sleep, groggy from the evening hike in, I wondered if I imagined it. It was past midnight, one week from solstice. There was still twilight on the west horizon. Bellingham and Anacortes glowed orange below it. The entire Milk Way was streaming out of Mt Baker’s summit, just over my shoulder.

I’d dreamed a mouse. He climbed up the mesh screen of my tent door and brushed my head. I checked the tent for holes. Mice can chew right through tent material to get inside. Then they chew through your food bag and get to what they want. But there was none of that. No proof of any of this. It must have been the wind pushing the screen into my hair. It must have been a dream. I drifted back to sleep.

A while later, I woke to the screen brushing my hair again. I opened my eyes. Starlight off the glacier snow cut the silhouette of a mouse hanging from the outside of the screen, directly above my face.

-He’s back! I yelled, waking the next tent. I smacked the screen, sending the furry nuisance flying to the far side of the rain fly where he landed and scurried away.

Faint gray-blue light from the coming dawn illuminated my tent before 4 am. The nip and moisture in the air led me to believe we were fogged in. I unzipped to check. Clear blue. The magnificent Coleman glacier rests in its moraine just 100 feet away. Occasionally we could hear it groaning or cracking as it flowed slowly down the mountain. I crawled out and grabbed my camera to wait for sunrise.

We’re at 5600 feet. Climbers are ascending from Hogsback, which we passed last night before reaching the lookout at trail’s end and setting camp. The strong smell of sulfur wafts through camp. Baker is an active volcano, I’m even pretty sure there used to be a sulfur mine up there early last century.

-That’s pretty strong. All the way from the summit? I ask.

-Nah, probably from fumeroles further down. My resident volcanologist suggests. But the breeze is precise and after half an hour, it shifts, sending the smell elsewhere. We watch puffs of steam appear and rise from the northwest corner of the summit before vanishing moments later.

Snow is gone early from this area, bringing July and August wild flowers early. Penstamon, lupine, Indian paintbrush, yellow asters are all blooming now, surrounding my tent with color and luxury. Some are a full two months early. Vertical patches of snow cling to high meadows. Our drinking water comes from the waterfall creeks below them. I am sitting against the base of a huge solid basalt hill several steps from our tents. The side of the rock has been rubbed smooth by glaciers which have long since retreated. I run my hand over it again and again, imagining the massive ice that ground it like glass.

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Waterfalls along the path

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One of many creek crossings en route to the destination.

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Reached the Coleman glacier just before sunset

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Sunset

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Camp with Mt Baker and Coleman glacier

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Resident volcanologist, glacier enthusiast, sunset chaser

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View looking northwest (Am I seeing Canada?)

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Glacier rubbed rock with remnant glacier below.

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Top of the basalt rock

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Backlit glacier ice.

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A marmot before heading home.

 

 

 

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Nation

Our group walked through a flat, red-rock area in Arizona. There was nothing for miles. We’d just come through Monument Valley and stopped our six-van caravan at a dirt pullout to let 23 kids stand on the freeway and do “the Forrest Gump running pose” all together. Most of them really wanted to do it, it didn’t mater that many of them had no idea what Forrest Gump was. But it was Route 66 (or darn near) and there were so few cars, we set up adult lookouts, then cleared the kids to “go play in traffic” (shhh, don’t tell the school district) so we could get a pic of them all running in that same spot ala the important plot point in the film. I haven’t seen the movie in 20 years and it’s a little foggy, so we shot a couple takes, clearing them off to let semi-trucks pass, chimp shots and repeat. “Can you get one a little wider?” “Let’s do it again.” “Yaaaaay!!!”

It’s pretty amazing to watch kids who grew up in mandatory car seats and seat belts, who’ve never been on a bike without a helmet, who’ve never heard of Jarts or played at a park without supervision, run free on an active highway. I highly recommend it.

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Shortly after that we pulled into another dirt flat of red rock. Two ladies emerged from a wooden shack (the only structure in view  all the way to the horizon) and greeted us warmly. Christine was smiley and round with a long braid down her back. Marie was smaller, older, quieter.

Moments later they were telling us stories in the style of Navajo legends as we walked over the fossilized footprints of velociraptor and dilophosaurus. Colorful stories rolled forth about chases, rubbing bones in the dirt, and a print of the mighty T-rex, who may or may not have wandered through a group of velociraptor nests, scattering the smaller bipeds and crushing eggs as he went, “See the crushed egg here, preserved forever in the red earth.” Peyote was missing as far as I know, but the stories were thick and deep and rich.

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As we were leaving, one of the girls in my van asked “What is that shape in the middle of the Navajo flag?” I explained the borders of the Navajo nation as we drove toward Mesa Verde. For the rest of the drive the kids discussed the idea of a nation. They wondered how it was formed, when it had grown in size beyond the original reservation boundaries, and then spent a long time pondering whether they had left their own nation when they visited this one.

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Outside a gas station, a Navajo girl entertains herself on the pay phone. No adults around.

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Sunset at the Grand Canyon

Let is be known that if you catch a 5:20 am flight out of Seattle, you can shoot sunset at the Grand Canyon that same day. Even when you have 23 teenagers in tow. That’s what I did last month. I chaperoned a school trip which toured the desert Southwest, including the South Rim.

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Airplane sunrises give such a neat range of color. I havent color touched any of these, really.

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Rest stop number 327… yeah, you try to coordinate 23 kid bladders. This one had cactuses in bloom and a nice vista, anyway.

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Elk showed up at the water spout next to our campground … because it’s the desert, and elk are pretty smart.

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And after we pitched tents (for 30 people) we scampered to this overlook and watched.

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As is the way with this school, the kids are keeping a journal which is graded at the end of the trip. The teacher asks them to use word descriptions to describe the feelings of sunset here, overlooking this Wonder of the World. It was made more effective (to teens who might be a tad distracted from their present moment, by the chattering of their peers) when a Muslim man knelt down right at the edge of the precipice in front of them and said 5 minutes of chanted prayers as the kids were writing. Then the teacher (being as awesome as he is) invited the man to come over and describe what he was doing for the kids. I’ll try to summarize his beautiful words: As a Muslim I am required to pray right as the sun does down, wherever I find myself, to be thankful for all the beauty in the world and realize how small I am, you are, as an individual, but how we are all the same, no matter where we come from, and even through our diversity we can work together. It takes work, trust and kindness, but working all together toward peaceful  lives is the way. And that is what I was saying when I prayed in this beautiful place.

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It was well taken.

Posted in Grand Canyon, sunset, travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Nepal Update

Still numb. Numb but doing something, and that helps.

Hopefully by now you have an idea of the scale and scope of the destruction in Nepal. To tell you the truth, I’ve probably been revolving around it a bit too much. Yesterday I finally took a deep breath without stutter-catching through it. Lots of tears this week.

On Sunday I was asked to say a few words to my church congregation, about Nepal. You’ve heard most of what I told them here. But the part I’ll reiterate is this: After I heard from most of my friends in the affected area, when they reported sleeping on the ground outside their damaged homes, or in their potato fields to keep rocks and buildings from falling down on them in the aftershocks, they reminded me why I love the people of this tiny country so much. They immediately went to work to help those around them. Homeless or in safe houses by night, they carried supplies to rural villages by day, or unloaded trucks from India, so they could make a difference.

Many of my friends in Nepal are okay. Not only okay, but back online, and elbow-deep in helping the cause that the world seems to be rallying around right now. So rather than the dark photos of the front pages, I want to show you what I am seeing through my Nepal family. Not because it’s all rosey, but because rather than go into the politics of a giant aid project (which is pretty dismal from my view), I’d like to show you what Nepalis do when they’re knocked down this hard.

Many of the musicians (the ones I traveled with in 2011) are in or near their home villages, moving supplies.

Roj

Photo courtesy of Roj Moktan

Roj Moktan is in Sindhupalchowk, unloading a truck. This district had reported over 1000 causalties within 2 days of the quake, and it had not been fully assessed then. 95% of their schools were damaged.

DJ

Photo courtesy of Tenzing Sherpa

DJ Tenzing is doing the same on another truck in another place.

Milan

Photo courtesy of Milan Lama

Milan Lama is in Chitwan. He has been actively posting videos of where he’s been. He visited a hospital, rallied a village with a microphone, and helped unload supplies. He reported with levity that they nick-named him Tent-Lama (Lama, his last name, also roughly translates to ‘teacher’), and he liked it. They’re famous musicians, recognized and revered like Justin Timberlake, Vince Gill or Lady Gaga would be here. Their presence in these areas is uplifting and appreciated. They’re just hefting bags instead of singing. Making the work lighter for everyone.

Milan

Photo courtesy of Milan Lama

Krish, whom I’ve worked with on a couple of website projects, is a great communicator. He is using Facebook and other tools to organize supplies, communicate between distribution groups and districts most in need. He’s also unloading supplies.

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Photo courtesy of Krishna Sunwar

 

Tukti

Photo coursety of 7 Summits Foundation

Tukti (who was in New York with me in January) is on scene with a 7 Summits Foundation shirt.

Lhakpa

Photo courtesy of Lhapka Sherpa VJ

Lhakpa is reporting in areas of Kathmandu…

Including Swayambunath – the Monkey Temple – which sits high on a hill overlooking all of Kathmandu. It’s one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been at sunset.

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img_0978_std And the ancient buildings of Swayambunath took damage. They’ve stood there for centuries, through countless earthquakes, but this one sent them tumbling.

Swayambu before

Its damage hurts me to see. I sat with DJ and Mary Beth right there last time we were in Kathmandu. Note, the foreground in the photo below is where we were sitting in the photo above (2013). The temple and structures date to the 5th century. Yes, really.

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Photo courtesy of Lhakpa Sherpa VJ

But it will eventually be rebuilt. It wasn’t the only historic or UNESCO site to be damaged. Some were completely razed.

Some of you know that I curate a photo site called Everyday Nepal. Its purpose (along with photo sites from other countries) is to dispell the stereotypes of developing countries that front page news and mass media promote. We’d been posting photos several times a day. So think about that for a minute. Its purpose is to show daily life, office workers, weddings, family picnics, instead of war and famine and disaster. And then 7.8 at less than 2 km deep. So I let the photos site rest in the days following the earthquake. I didn’t really feel it was my place to put anything up at all. So without words, I waited and let the other contributors (all of whom are in Nepal) decide when it was time to post again, and what they would show. I thought the people who were living it should decide.  A few days ago, this is what went up.

#hope #workfornepal #helpnepal #staystrong #everydaynepal Picture: @aveenas.thokar

A photo posted by @everydaynepal on

Now to share a couple of my favorite mass media pieces. This one, by  Jonah Kessel, I could watch over and over. Beautifully done.

And I ran across this video today and thought I’d share it because the sentiment of the narrator matches mine so well. NEPAL EARTHQUAKE APPEAL FOR HELP – Australian Himalayan Foundation-HD. To paraphrase Peter Hillary, most people go to Nepal to see Everest and the mighty Himalaya, but leave in love with the people, thinking about the people, and want to come back to see the people.

The question I’ve been asked most is, am I going over there. It’s hard for me not to, but I am of more use here right now. The huge orgs are over there are doing their thing. Red Cross, USAID, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, UNICEF, CARE, Oxfam, World Vision et al won’t be helped by me taking up space on the one international airport that Nepal has. Once the initial emergency aid orgs have done what they can and most of the world is printing other things in their headlines, that’s when I’ll be more useful over there. Ask me again then.

Posted in Earthquake, Nepal | Leave a comment

Nepal Donation Avenues

I am truly humbled that so many of you have asked me for this advice. It’s important, if you’re going to send funds through an organization to a group in need, that you know the money will show up on the other side and do its intended job. There is no failsafe recipe for figuring out how best to donate, but the following are suggestions with reasons why I chose them. Thanks for caring enough to help the people of Nepal.

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Personal connections:

7 Summits Foundation – I have worked along side AC, the foundation CEO, for 4 years and find the organization honest, dedicated and very sensitive to reporting properly (501C3 paperwork is solid) and using funds through proper channels to its end. This organization is both a Seattle local org and a Nepal based org, run by a Nepali-American who is invested in improving Nepal. As of today, AC and his wife have donated $15,000 US of their own money to the foundation specifically for earthquake victims. They’ve also ordered all 100 of the tents from his trekking and climbing company (currently in Nepal) be sent to people for use now. 7SF will focus mostly on rebuilding and long-term solutions in the coming months. There is a button on the front page to donate directly to earthquake victims. Paypal or credit/debit card.

Crooked Trails – I have also done work for this org. One of the two founders has been working on human trafficking and other projects in Nepal for a decade. They are Seattle local, ear to the ground, in the trenches, and don’t mess around. Their current push is collecting supplies in the Seattle area to ship (in conjunction with Sherpa Adventure Gear) directly to Nepal this Monday. Chris MacKay loved Nepal like I do and is rallying everyone to send just $3, and hoping for 100,000 people to do so. So her goal is $300,000 in very small increments. Getting everyone involved is a great aim. #Give3Nepal. They’re also doing a Mt Si solidarity climb this Saturday May 2, and doing a 3 week rebuilding trip to Nepal. A sweet org to donate to.

Besides those, if you want to provide immediate assistance:

Matt Skousen is a friend of mine who runs a small hat shop in Missoula MT. His wife (Ang Choti Sherpa) is AC’s cousin. Their shop is supplied handmade hats by workers in Bhaktapur, Nepal, a historic district about 10 miles east of Kathmandu. It is one of the most quake-ravaged areas, so he is setting off himself to affect the area with his huge heart and whatever funds he can gather. He’s hoping for $10,000 US. Read the rest of his Go Fund Me campaign if you want to donate to a kind-hearted guy with a small Nepal-based business who just wants to help. He is on his way there now with hope that they’ll hit their funding mark, and will get it to an area very much in need.

 

Larger NGOs

If you’re more interested in a larger org, MSN has vetted these for you, which may or may not mean anything. But you’ll recognize the names, and that is a comfort to some.

Deep gratitude and thanks. Please ask if you have questions.

-Erika

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Posted in Earthquake, fundraiser, Nepal | Leave a comment

A Window In

-Have you heard?
-Yes, but I’m traveling without regular internet for one more day. Don’t know details until I get home. Thanks.

Arrive at SEA. Airport news I try to ignore with 23 kids I’m chaperoning…
Facebook notification:

Safety check graphic

 

27 of your friends are listed in the affected area.
Marked as safe when I got there: Lakpa, Krishna, Tsering, Sonam… 15 not marked as safe.
Read 3 articles on the devastation. Death toll at 1200.
~

-Namaste all, I am ok, but me and family are sleeping on the ground by our home because of aftershocks.
-Thank you for checking in. I am glad you are ok. Hug your family for me.

~

Yards of friends posting on Facebook. God forbid that tool ever go away. Or the friends.

~

-Have you heard?
-Yes, thanks.

~

-Heart’s with you. Hope you’re ok.
-Hanging in there. Thanks for checking in.

~
2000 death toll.

-Erika, I’m sure you’ve seen this but, I am thinking of you…
-Thanks, yeah. Still waiting for some to report in that they are safe. Appreciate you checking with me.

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More articles.
Death toll at 2500.
Eight left to check in of 27.

~
Facebook message: I am ok. Family is ok. We sleep on ground because home is bad.

~
-Hello dear, I am so happy you are safe. Thanks for checking in.
-Yap, my family is too.
-Good!
-But now I am at the airport in Qatar and I want to go home to see my family. Plane is delayed.
-Aw, sorry. because of unsafe landing in KTM?
-Maybe. I don’t know.
-Please be safe. I am sorry for all the losses.
-Ya ya.
-Did you have good concerts in Qatar and Swiss?
-Qatar is nice Swiss is ok.
-That is great perspective. Most Americans would like Swiss more than Qatar.
-Yes I know. Nepali too.
-Do you like Qatar better?
-I like dollor and petrol both ha ha.
-Lala. Ha! you are funny.

Leave it to Nepalis to make me laugh when I need it most. And when they do.

~
-Namaste brother, I hope you are ok from Earthquake. Please let me know, ok.
No reply.

~
Hi AC, are you ok?
Yeah, but I have not heard from my sister.
The one in Tapting?
No, she is ok, but wounded. Her house is destroyed. My younger sister I have not heard from. But my brother is there. I hope he is finding things out.
-Oh no, your family house in Tapting? The one we stayed in?
-Yeah, and the house my parents were staying in as well. Now my parents are staying elsewhere.

That’s the house where we stayed with all the musicians the night before our largest concert in 2011. The house we revisited in 2013. It’s where Little Mingma lived. Devastating.

~

List of places to get food and shelter in and around KTM, Kupondole Gurudwar/Mohinder Singh-9851069570 Bhaisipati, (Relief Chaudhary Group) Free noodles distribution/Bhushab Gurung-9851077802, Watet distribution whole KTM/Samir Poudel-9802065311, Around Chakrapth/Ambulance/Anish Shakya-9851090730, 9841024771, Around KTM/World Food Programme for Food and Water-5260607, Around KTM/Prasist Kandel-9851133822, Sailesh Sharma-9851017553 Dasharath Stadium Botteled Water, Around KTM/Food Water-97715260607, Free medicine delivery-9851017553, 9851133822 If blood needed contact/Youth For Blood numbers: KTM-9843552882, Biratnagar-9862005225, Chitwan-9855065135, Jhapa-9817976211, Butwal-9812900905 #prayfornepal #nepalearthquake #nepal #staystrong #hope #helpnepal

A photo posted by Aveenas Thokar (@aveenas.thokar) on

~
Meanwhile, on Everest…
A film team I have been following was poised to make a movie about a US climber who planned to climb 6 of the world’s highest peaks to raise awareness for global child trafficking. The film maker, Elia Saikaly ended up with this footage instead.

~

Lakpa Rita spends a second climbing season rescuing victims instead of climbing Mt Everest for his clients.

Lakpa Rita spends a second climbing season rescuing victims instead of climbing Mt Everest for his clients.

The number dead on Everest this year surpasses last year’s Sherpa avalanche disaster. Most are Sherpas.

~

Hi Erika,

I know it’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I’ve been thinking about you all weekend while reading through the newspaper articles about this tragic earthquake in Nepal. I’ll never forget the awesome presentations you and AC gave to us about Nepal and its amazing people and places.

A few of us have been talking about organizing some sort of benefit project – a concert, an art project, etc. We’ve got an army of empathetic kids who want to do something to help.

Are you still in contact with the 7 Summits Foundtion? Do you have any ideas regarding people or organizations we could get in contact with to make sure our efforts are helpful and not a hindrance?

Thank you for any direction you can point us in.

~

-Hi K, I hope you are doing ok. I am thinking of you all over there.
-Hi Erika, thanks for reaching. I am safe, all my families and relatives also safe. We living in safe house.
-Wow! Please share that the whole world is rallying to help Nepal right now. So many have reached out to me and asked how they can help.
-Yup this is something Nepal need. People are living in street.
-Did Boudhanath fall down?
-Nope
-Swayambhu cracked… A lot lot places…
-I saw a photo of Boudha’s gold top on the ground in rubble?
-Yeah.

~
6am this morning
Death toll 5000+ over 8 million affected (one fourth of Nepal’s population).
My phone dings just before my alarm:

-I’m ok sister. Thanks.
-Oh, that is good! I am glad you are ok.
-Thanks, sis.
-Is your family ok?
-Yes
-S is only one I have not heard from. Do you know of he is ok?
-No contact sis
-Ok, thank you. Where are you?

Chat Conversation End

Posted in Earthquake, Nepal | Tagged | Leave a comment

Nepal New Year

I visited Nepal in 2011, just before their New Year celebrations in April. The signs said they were celebrating 2068. If you think back to 2011, that’s when small bands of creative cyber maniacs were threatening us with the Mayan calendar exploding… the world ending. Remember those memes? The Mayans only planned the calendar to 2011, so after 2011, the whole world was going to end. But Nepal was celebrating 2068. They’d been over it for half a century already, right? No worries there.

The Sherpa New Year happened over a month ago (it rolls for 2-4 weeks, depending on  your village). But today is the Nepali New Year. And as it happens, this is when crops begin reaching toward the sun, the land wakes up, and things really come alive. When I was there two years ago in April, we walked through forests of wild rhododendron trees the size of oaks in New England. It felt like a new beginning. Not just because a number flipped over from 99 to 00, but because the world was beginning anew.

Happy New Year, my Nepali friends and family. Happy 2072.

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Location, Location, Size

I am fascinated with a little Asian country. Most of you know which one by now. Consider that Nepal is about the size and shape of Tennessee. It contains the population of California (33 million) and is sandwiched between the two largest countries in the world: India on three sides and China (Tibet) on the north. Nepal’s borders with India are open, allowing floods of Indians into the tiny country where they scrape out an existence only slightly less meager than the one they had in India. Much to the chagrin of the Nepalis, who are left to wrestle them for jobs, resources, space. They’d rather the border be closed, or regulated much the way Bhutan and India have done.

The China-Nepal relationship is insteresting as well, from the 1700s when Nepal was forced to sign agreements of neutrality towart Tibet. Which carried into 1955 when China held Nepal to that neutrality. Which takes me to this article, reporting that Beijing has announced plans to build a train and tunnel under Mt Everest, through to Nepal. You might have to take that news with a grain of Himalayan rock salt about this size…

Him Salt

 

Because apparently (according the the same article) Beijing also announced that is was building a rail to the US across Siberia and Canada. Ahem. At least that’s what they’re reporting to their people.

But the thing I return to is the idea of being a tiny, neutral country in the midst of all the gigantic nationalism they’re surrounded by. That’s an interesting thing to think about. Because it’s easy to be the biggest, to assert your might and force those you’ve defeated to do things. It’s quite another to be able to live between those mighty behemoths and cut your own unique path.Map

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Traveling with Record Holders

Occasionally I stop and marvel at the turns I’ve traveled on life’s path, at the amazing people I have run across and worked with. Two years ago today I was in a car with five other people for eight hours on a thin and curvy Nepal road. The company wasn’t unremarkable. In 2012 Chhurim Sherpa became the first woman to summit Mt Everest twice in a single season. There was an Indian woman on her heels going for the same record, but, with a little support, in the way of supplies, Chhurim pulled it off and stood on the summit of Everest twice inside of a week. When I returned to Nepal I not only met her, but traveled with her for several days. We did some NGO work together at a school in rural Chitwan. And we had some fun, too. The combination of Diamox and malaria meds made us a little loopy. Thanks to Mary Beth for being my trusty travel partner and comedian all along the way.

Happy birthday, Chhurim! Climb on!

IMG_7450

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