Curiosity Conversations

One of my writer friends recently remarked, “you’re such a social person,” which I guess is true. I love to engage people, looking for connection, learning about how people live and what they think, and what makes them interesting. So here are some vignettes of people I’ve met during this trip.

On my first day trekking I met Kate, an English solo traveler. She was on a group trek, but the other English folk (who knew it was a group trek, but didn’t know her) insisted that no one else come along on their trek. So the guide company set her up with her own guide and porter, but she was sad not to have travel companions. We chatted over lunch. She was headed to the same place I was, then further on to part of the Round Annapurna trail. She was happy to have a native English speaker to talk to, as her guide didn’t speak a lot of English. They were having trouble communicating. If I can impress anything on people who want to trek in Nepal, it’s this: You need to be able to communicate clearly with your guide. Please ask who your guide will be and ask that they speak your native language at least enough to explain things like bad food, elevation sickness, full lodges, breakfast choices and trek lengths. This is all really imperative stuff for an enjoyable trip. I know a few if you need recommendations.

Me and Kate heading to Ghoripani

I met two ladies from New York, one was exploring her roots (Mongolian, Sherpa), one just came along for the adventure. Neither were hikers, and they were headed to Annapurna Base Camp. They loved hearing details about food, and that I had been to Nepal more than once “If people come back – it must be worth all this hiking, right?”

Me and the NY gals (they both had cool, unique names, but I for get them) and their guide, who was Brahmin (high Hindu caste, unusual that he would be a guide) who grew up in a Gurung (Buddhist caste) community.

I met the Canadian lawyer I told you about. Later I asked Tukti (my government admin friend) what that guy was probably working on. He said they ask other countries for input on how they configured their own constitutions, for better results.

My friend Milan has travelled to the US several times to perform for Nepali communities in the US. He was in Houston right after the hurricane doing a show and staying with a friend there. During our talks he asked me about Texas culture. He’s very astute and wanted to know why the gun culture was so prevalent there, but didn’t seem to be in San Francisco (Sidepoint: he is probably better-traveled inside the US than most Americans). I explained the wide range of philosophies in the US, how our Constitution plays in, and that we don’t all agree, but it’s usually ok. Not much later, we were sitting in a coffee shop next to a super-sized American, who’s visited to Nepal since 2006, “To do those treks, you know, I got friends up in Naaymchie (he meant Namche, which rhymes with Tom Shay) …but this is my last time because I’ve seen everything.” He doesn’t like the change. “Soon they’ll have a road to Lukla and that will ruin it all.” Then he went on to complain about how his mill town in central Oregon “used to be a great place, ‘til it filled up with all them Mexicans on welfare.” Yeah, one of those guys. I was polite and we talked until there was a break then I turned to Milan. He had an uncomfortable look on his face. I whispered, “He has friends there for 10 years, but can’t say it.” We laughed. I shrugged… another American in paradise, complaining and missing the point.

In the same coffee shop, I talked to a yoga workshop teacher from New Zealand, with Filipino roots. She works four jobs during the 6 months she’s in NZ, and then lives in Nepal, doing volunteer yoga workshops (I saw her workshop poster in Pokhara) while she lives here for 5-6 months.

I’ve met people I already knew online. I run Everyday Nepal, an Instagram collective of photographers who are working to show real, everyday life in Nepal (rather than front page news). I met Pratik in Pokhara where he owns/manages a construction firm. He brought a friend who is running a grass roots program to remove and reduce human trafficking in Nepal through education and awareness. I met the other photographers from Everyday Nepal this evening in Kathmandu. It was great to connect with these folks in person after only communicating by email for the last 3 years.

Me and Pratik, one of the Everyday Nepal photographers from Pokhara.

Today Tukti, my current host, who is also lead organizer for the 7 Summits Foundation (AC’s organization where I serve on the board) took me to the volunteer project that the 7SF is about to kick off. I met a New York University dean in the dentistry program. He’s here with about 30 dental students and doctors from NYU, and he sat with me for a 15 minute conversation about the future of health care, dental school teaching methods (“We’re teaching them to make widgets, we need to teach them how to affect a whole person with preventative care instead”). He teaches dentistry, but has degrees in neurology and biochem as well. The part that got me was when he mentioned that newest findings show that microflora is basically the key to everything. I mentioned my son with ulcerative colitis, and told him I agreed. He thinks diabetes, autism, and a host of autoimmune issues are all microbiome related.
-So, are the students here to learn technique or bedside manner or methods? What is their focus?
-They aren’t learning anything in dentistry, they’re here to find their souls.
I almost kissed him. Dude! I love this guy! Some doctors treat the symptoms, work in their specialty and hyperfocus, others really, really want to make people less reliant on medical care, and make them more healthy. He’s one of the rare, intelligent folks in the second category. And he has come to Nepal for the last 5 years to do this project – free dental care for 5 days.

I will spend some of my last two days here with the NYU team as a member of the 7 Summits Foundation (AC’s organization) in volunteer service with them. It’s their fifth year of NYU and 7SF partnering to do this dental service in Kathmandu. They may serve as many as 2000 patients free of charge this week (Nov 5-10). Damn, I’m proud of you for this AC. Glad I can help, if only for a couple days.

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