A journalist observes life in the far north.
DINGBOCHE–We arrived in this village yesterday after a five-hour slog as my lungs gasped for air. We are three quarters of the way to Base Camp and taking a day to adjust to the altitude, about 13,000 feet, I think. The thin air makes my thinking cloudy.
Yesterday was my hardest day as I fought the sensation of my eyes being pushed out of my skull. I had weened myself off of Tylenol. Somehow, my body has adjusted to the physical demands and I’m no longer sore. In fact, I feel great physically. But the thin air leaves much to be desired and I’m back popping pills to fight the headaches.
We have a new guide, Ang Nuru. He is much younger than Nuru, single and full of energy. For awhile, he was walking behind me and I felt like I was being herded like a yak. I scolded him and now he doesn’t do that anymore. Alec and Dawa walk far ahead and Ang Nuru is tasked with keeping an eye on slow old me.
Yesterday, we stopped at Ang Nuru’s sister’s house in the village of Shomare. There was a basket in the corner of her kitchen, covered with a blanket. I didn’t think much of it but then Ang Nuru’s sister removed the blanket and there was a sleeping baby inside. The baby was swaddled tightly with only her face showing. I wanted desparetly to get my camera out and take a picture but I feared that this moment of a mother showing off her baby to another mother would be altered to some anthropological project so I savored the moment instead.
There are many times that I stop myself from taking out my camera. A few nights ago in Khumjung, where we met Russell, the head of Alec’s expedition, there was a party at the lodge where we stayed. The lodge is owned by Poomba, the lead Sherpa on the expedition, which by the way is the largest on Everest this year. Needless to say, Poomba is very influential in his region. It was payday so the people were very lively and drinking warm rice beer. Alec too. A woman with a mischievous sparkle in her eye kept serving Alec more beer. I wanted to capture that moment, but again, I was a guest at this celebration. How would my role have changed had I began shooting pictures? I wasn’t sure but I know the Nepali woman are not crazy about being photographed. I would like to note here that the men turned over their piles of money to their wives.
We’re in high country, where it’s been snowing. I had a hot shower in a little shack and I could see the snow falling through the many cracks. The hot shower entailed hot water being poured into a tub, then piped to a nozzle. There was a pause in the middle when I ran out of the first batch of hot water and I stood there shivering, shampoo in my hair, as I waited for more hot water.
Dawa weighs heavy on my mind. He is the smallest and oldest of our group and yet he carries the heaviest load. I’ve never seen him eat. I made Alec buy him lunch the other day. He also has little by way of warm clothing. He has walked all of this way in socks and plastic sandals. He disappeared yesterday afternoon and Ang Nuru says he took a side job carrying produce to Shomare. I saw him this morning but he’s gone again. It’s cold today. I’m wearing my parka. If I see him, I’m going to insist that he put on my fleece jacket and some extra mittens I have laying around.
Oddly, I find I prefer walking up to walking down. I can get a rhythm with my breathing and get in a “zone.” Going down is hell on my knees and I have to take great care not to fall.
I finished my book, “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” and my goal today is to find someone to trade books with.