May 19, 2006 - What an Amazing 24-Hours
So much has happened to us in the past 24 hours it is hard to comprehend. We fell asleep last night to a hard rain beating on the tin roof our hotel in Lukla, The La Villa Sherpani.
So who could have imagined our luck when the Sherpas woke us with coffee and tea at 4:30am this morning with the news that the sky was absolutely clear and that the plane that would be taking us back to Kathmandu would be landing very soon in the early morning light. We had fried eggs and hash browns Bal’s last meal for us while we waited for the plane.
Last night we had had a warm and lively time with our Sherpa staff. Bal cooked one more of his wonderful meals and it was served buffet style. We all enjoyed drinking Everest Beer while our staff enjoyed the Himalayan local home brew, chang. The smiles and heartfelt laughter were abundant during our meal and afterward. Soon after the table was cleared there was a fine session of “Sherpa dancing’ in celebration of a memorable trek and the friendships that were made on this adventure. We all know that we will remember one another fondly forever.
So when the plane dropped off the end of that spectacular runway bound for Kathmandu, we were all a bit sad, there were at least some misgivings about leaving our friends of the Khumbu behind.
But the showers of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kathmandu called. We touched down at the airport in Kathmandu at 7:20am. As always, Shital was waiting for us with her warm smile and calm demeanor. Her organization helped us greatly with the transition to city life. After weeks of only knowing yaks and our own legs as the means of transportation, the busy streets of Kathmandu were a shock to say the least.
I can report that the mornings second breakfast - the buffet at the Hyatt Hotel was being consumed by 8:30. Swimming pool time soon followed and it was quite early in the morning that I noticed that Jim Barr’s arms were quite red from sun exposure that was reaching parts of his skin that had remained covered during our trek in the cooler climate of the Everest region.
I also quickly noticed that today’s newspapers in Kathmandu would be worth saving. The headlines for Friday, May 19, 2006 will be remembered for a long time. Today, for the first time in history, the world is without a Theocracy, a state where the King is recognized legally to be a god:
As I went about town doing business while most of the team continued to relax at the hotel, I had several conversations with friends and acquaintances about the hope in the air now in Kathmandu. So many lessons have been learned, so much has changed since 1990 when the current kings brother allowed multi-party elections. The constitutional change that is occurring on this day was scarcely imaginable at that time. The Shah monarchs, who returned to Kathmandu after more than 100 years in exile in 1951 when the this King’s grandfather slipped back into the country, can be credited for giving those of us who came from the outside world the Nepal that we know and love. They opened Nepal’s borders and, as you all know, we quickly showed up to climb mountains, explore and to marvel the wonderful rich cultures that had been locked away in this Shangri La.
I know now that the changes that started in the 1950’s quickly and profoundly dispelled any true Shangri-La la that might have ever existed. The trekkers who loved Nepal in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s were not visiting a “different” Nepal that we visit today. They only choose to not see the struggles that were bringing this feudal, remarkably diverse county into the modern world.
For better or worse, Nepal has caught up with the world in 2006, or perhaps we are all just catching up with Nepal, beginning to understand that it is a state in its own right, with people who will exert a political will and identity that is apart from religious doctrine and just as importantly, one that is distinct from the two Asian superpowers that it is sandwiched between, India and China.
Did I say that Nepal is diverse? Remember that we left behind our Himalayan mountain friends, the Sherpas of Khumbu, only this morning. The amenities of a hotel were satisfying for a while, but by 2:00 in the afternoon a group of us were eager to go with an old very dear friend of mine, Tsering Dolkar to visit her families Carpet Factory near where we are staying. Tsering’s brother Dorje proudly showed us around as workers expertly worked at their looms. We visited the school that is on the premises for the children of the weavers. Jackie was eagerly greeted by dozens of children as she ran excitedly toward their playground. Recess was disrupted to say the least, but the smiles and joyous laugher that was shared all around was well worth it.
Now it is about 9:00 in the evening and Ang Temba just called me to confirm that he will meet us at 7:00am in the morning so that we can all go to visit Swayambhunath, the “Monkey Temple” together in the early morning light. We will have more adventures to report tomorrow.
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