(Yeah, songs again in the title.)
Sherpas are the culture of people who live in the high Himalaya, in the shadow of Mt Everest. The group I traveled with was predominantly Sherpa. They are a jovial, friendly, very social people and thrive on connecting in their own community and others. One of them from the trek lives in New York and I have kept in good contact with him since returning. About a month after I got back I recorded this:
Gambu called me today. He’s in New York so it’s not an international call. I sent him some raw video the other day and he was calling to thank me for it and catch up. He is typical Sherpa in that he actively pursues connecting with his friends and family through phone and Facebook and any means available. He does it just to say hi, or to chain the “news” of what’s going on in the Sherpa world. I love being an extended part of that.
We’ve had several exuberant conversations since we both arrived back in the US. Today was no exception, and the verbal gymnastics that goes on is sometimes entertaining enough in itself that I thought I’d try to capture the miscues and misunderstandings. I don’t think you need to know expressly who each of these characters is, but know that Sherpa families name their babies for the day of the week they were born. Which leaves a lot of re-used names, and a little bit of confusion. Oh, and ‘didi’ isn’t my actual name. It means ‘sister’ in Nepali, and that is how Gambu has always referred to me.
“I talked to Pemba and Dawa, you know, Mingma’s brothers?” Gambu began after our bubbly greeting in both English and Nepali.
“Yes I have spoken to Pemba on the phone for Mingma’s music video.” I’d been head-down working on a video for one of the other Sherpa musicians on the trek.
“Dawa’s wife just came here from Kathmandu to visit for a while. Pemba and Dawa, they both saw your video. Pemba, he is my neighbor, you know. Dawa, he writes the lyrics and some music for Mingma, you knew that right.”
“Yes, I did know that, so they saw my music video that I put together for Mingma?”
“Yes and they both say, ‘Oh, how clear and beautiful the video is!’ They like it very much!”
“Great, so they like it? I got the feeling from Mingma that he thought it needed more work.”
“Oh yes, they say ‘very nice, but keep going’..”
“I think I met Dawa at the airport on the way out of Kathmandu…Mingma introduced me to him as we were leaving….”
“No, Dawa has lived here 2 years, you meet a different Dawa… oh, you mean the other Mingma Sherpa, long-hair Mingma? I know that Dawa Sherpa, he is a different Dawa…”
“No, not long-hair Mingma, Music Mingma! He met us at the airport and gave me his CD for the video, and he introduced me to a Dawa… at least I think it was a Dawa… I might have misunderstood his name. He was very excited to meet me. He said he was with Mingma’s music company.”
“Okay, I know that Dawa, a short guy, right? Yes, he is another Dawa in Mingma’s music.”
“Oh, that was not his brother, Dawa Sherpa then?”
“No, different Dawa.”
“What’s his last name?”
“Another Dawa Sherpa and 2 Mingma Sherpas…?” I giggle.
“Didi, we are all last name Sherpa! Don’t you know??”