May 5, 2007 A Blessing from the Thame Rinpoche
In Thame we stayed at a lodge that is also the home of Dr. Kami Sherpa, the chief physician at the Khunde Hospital, a Himalayan Trust project that has operated for many years serving the Sherpa people, all other Nepalese in the Khumbu region as well as foreign visitors.
Kami of course was back at the hospital, and will only make the 5 mile walk back to his home on slow day where there are not too many patients (not often these days!) Kami's wife welcomed us graciously as she does every few months when we visit.
After we ate a great dinner of Pizza, fresh vegetables and potatoes prepared by our cook staff, an old friend of BAI's showed up. Pasang Sherpa is a painter who does beautiful Thanka painting in traditional Sherpa style. The fact that Pasang lost all his fingers to frostbite years ago in a climbing expedition does not stop him from doing marvelous work with his brushes. He paints scenes depicting the homeland of the Sherpas, showing the location of the monasteries, the high peaks, the sacred sites and villages of the Sherpas. He also does beautiful paintings and shows the Tibetan images that represent long life and good luck. Several of us bought some of Pasang's painting
Dennis Comfort, veteran many BAI adventures climbs and treks, had remembered Pasang well from his last visit to Thame with us a couple years back. Dennis had asked me to get a couple more of Pasang's thankas to bring back to him in Seattle. After we made our selections last night Pasang told me he would go back to work in his home and do a painting for Dennis. It takes him at least a week to do each painting, but he assured me that he would have a pair of long life thankas for Dennis when we return to Namche at the end of our trek!
This morning we awoke to blue skies with a few scattered puffy clouds over the high peaks all around us. The 45 minute walk up to Thame monastery was one we took slowly, partly in awe of the scenery all around us and partly due to the high thin air as we walked up hill past chortens and mani walls that were at 13,000 feet above sea level.
Thame monastery is at least 350 years old and the abbot at this remote Himalayan temple is a reincarnate - or reborn - lama who in each of his incarnations has served the people of the highest regions of the Himalaya. I've known the Thame Rinpoche for 20 years and consider him a friend - I know him for his joyous laugh, warm grasp of the hand and bright eyes. We found him alone at the monastery and he took us upstairs to his prayer room for a visit and for blessings, which consisted of each member of the team receiving a blessed silk Khata scarf, and piece of string, known as a Sunde, which is tied around the neck. You've probably seen the brightly colored strings around the necks of climbers, especially Sherpa in photos taken during expeditions.
Feeling blessed and relaxed after our visit to Thame monastery we walked back through this peaceful and remote sherpa village and headed back down the Bhote Khose River. We went down a different side if the river this time, passing the headquarters of the Thamo hydro project, which brings electricity for cooking, and lights to the Sherpa villages that are still accessible only by foot.
Before we left for Thame yesterday, Brad told me that an old problem that he had dealt with for more that 20 years was acting up, his Asthma. Asthmatics often do really well at high altitude because there are fewer contaminates in the air, but at the same time the cold dry air in the mountains, and the exertion of doing things like climbing the Namche Hill can prompt an attack. Brad was quite congested Friday morning and he and I agreed that the relaxing trip out to Thame was not a good idea.
Of course this meant that Brad got to stay at the Panorama Lodge, our home in Namche one more night. I knew that Lakpa Doma and Sherap would take great care of him and that Nuru Sherpa, the guide that we left behind with Brad would take care of anything that he needed. When we left Namche I looked back to see Brad sitting outside on the stone wall in front of the Panorama photographing children and the colorfully dressed Sherpas following their yaks along the trail into town. I knew that he was disappointed about not being able to continue with the group but also very happy with where he was - congested lungs and all.
This morning in Thame we received a call from Nuru saying that Brad was about the same and that he did not feel like attempting the 1200 foot ascent up the trail to Khumjung to meet us tonight. After I took lunch with our group in a green grassy meadow just outside Thamo, I took the low trail that lead back to Namche Bazaar to check on Brad. I found him reading a book on his large comfortable bed in room "D-5" at Panorama. We talked things over, and the Brad that I had gotten to know during the brief but intense days in Nepal was clear about what needed to happen. Brad is decisive. He regrets not being able to continue with the group all the way to Base Camp, but he is focused on the unforgettable, amazing experiences he has had these days.
So at about 2:30 in the afternoon, Nuru and a porter headed back down the Namche Hill to our favorite lodge in the village of Monjo. Tomorrow they will be at Panorama lodge in Lukla and the office in Kathmandu is already informed of the need to change his airline reservations for the return home, meet him at the airport in Kathmandu when he arrives and take him back to the Yak and Yeti. I will be checking with them each day to see how his departure from Nepal is going. When I saw Brad saying goodbye to his friends in Namche and starting down the trail with Nuru, I saw a man who was completely satisfied with his efforts and his adventures and who would enjoy the sights and experiences along the trail back the Kathmandu.
We'll miss you Brad!
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