Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On Our Way...Stalled in Doha...

Tuesday, March 13

"She wants to trek for 3 weeks no showers no chick fil a no Internet no cell phone service only so she can walk up a giant hill carrying her weight in a backpack.  Am I the only one who doesnt understand the appeal in this?!"

So asks my daughter, Blaise (in a text to my mom)...and even more frequently this past week as I sped around town trying to pack for a month in the hills.  Not an easy task.  This time, with even more "mountain medicine" under my belt, I felt compelled to put together a medical kit.  My biggest concerns are altitude, anaphylaxis, heart attacks/stroke, and that oh-too-frequent-trek-killer Traveler's Diarrhea.  We are, as it is, women of "a certain age" and we are also, as it is, stressing ourselves at extreme altitude.  Our guides tell me that on a few occasions we'll be a day and-a-half away from "medical care,"  and in wilderness medical terms, that's huge. Hence the kit.

It's not a comprehensive one, for I left the IV fluids, injectable meds, and kitchen sink at home, but a significant one, to be sure.  My friend Anne Mac once told me, years ago, as I struggled to decide between a potential music career in LA and the jailhouse of operating rooms and an Anesthesiology residency, "You are a completionist"- and I keep wishing that applied to my mountain summit attempts and not just to my preparation.  So only the yaks will know how much weight I packed- oh, and I guess the guides will know as well since they weigh the bags.  Unlike on Kilimanjaro, where porters toted, or rather, ran, our bags up the mountain, in the Khumbu valley yaks will bear the load.  So our bags have an increased weight limit...from 20 kgs on Kili to 30 kgs in Nepal.  Initially, that news brought huge relief as we contemplated packing for the trek- but my relief quickly vanished as I put all the gear together and began apportioning gear yesterday, mere hours before the flight. What I realized was this: I may need to rent my own yak herd.  Would that make me a Yak-herd, or perhaps a Yak-ess?

With me on the team are friends from Kilimanjaro/Rainier/Ecuador: Corell, Lucy, Renee, Sasha and Kathryn.  Renee and Lucy reeled in a couple more: Laura- long-time friend, and Jane-Renee's sister-in-law. Leading us is our friend Linden- Everest summiter, Dartmouth grad, and guide extraordinaire- and hopefully, Jeff- awesome guide, RMI boss, and Master of the "one-wipe-per-trek" fame.  Can't wait to hang with these guys again!
Although Jeff said he'd be caught up in Kathmandu prepping for the RMI summit team which follows us up the valley several days later, because "I can cover in several hours what'll take you a few days," we do expect to see him on trail.  So we are a team of ten- and while we don't have a team name yet, with this group I have no worries that we'll end up with several. So stay tuned...

We took the red-eye flight out of Dulles on Qatar Air.  I recommend that airline to everyone- hot towels, moist towelettes, delicious food (really!), good leg room, ICE CREAM!, and, wonder of wonders, courteous, efficient and helpful flight attendants. Certainly not what I'm used to in the air!  We were all able to snag our own rows, so we could stretch out.  I will admit to toting a compression-dry-sacked down pillow for my 31K ft enjoyment, and it was a total god-send because I was able to visit Ambien land for a few hours.

Landing in Doha, Qatar, the sun was setting a golden red, and I could almost hear the call of the Muezzin echoing through the sky.  Palm trees swaying, desert sands, and water.  Qatar is a sovereign Arab state, and it occupies a peninsula that juts out like a loose lace from the boot of the Arabian peninsula.  Bordered to the south by Saudi Arabia, the peninsula is en"gulf"ed by the Persian gulf, and is reportedly the only truly desert nation.

Our first stop after landing was...Diet Pepsi.  At least for Sasha and me. We stopped at the first coffee shop we saw, and here is one of the signs that greeted us-one whose sentiment I can whole-heartedly endorse:

 Apparently there is a shortage of aluminum here in Qatar, because the sodas are served in 150ml cans.  A juice glass.  Sasha and I just laugh.  While we enjoy our 11-hour layover here in Doha, we marvel at the various traditional Arab dress- from white robes with long, flowing colorful head scarves anchored by black head bands, to the white robes and white head-coverings the western-clothed with black head scarves to the fully hijabbed.  Corell, Lucy and I have a strong interest in the Muslim culture, so we hope to learn a little something during our brief "sojourn" in the airport, where, as Corell says, "Time is irrelevant."

A few interesting things to me:  Cleanliness seems to be very important- restrooms are clean, with personal sprayers next to each commode; Women's foot-washing room in the anteroom to the mosque, and the mosque itself.  Muslims practice foot-washing and cleansing prior to praying, and as Muslims pray five times daily- pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening- there are several mosques in the airport alone.

What was so interesting to me was the mosque itself.  By tradition and the teachings of Muhammad, the separation of the sexes during prayer is important to allow the faithful to remain focused on God alone.  In mosques, there are usually separate areas for the women to pray. So, after seeing no shoes in the anteroom suggesting someone praying within, I peeked into the mosque with great curiosity:

Directional carpeting with a red arrow on the wall pointing to Mecca, and... that's it.  It looks like a claustrophobic storage closet with mal-laid carpeting.  That did surprise me.  Given the separation of men and women, I have to wonder if the men's mosque differs.  I guess I just expected something...

With me on this flight path are Corell, Lucy and Sasha.  Our teammates- the "Two Mrs. Fains" (certain to become a sitcom) -Jane and Renee, Laura and Kathryn have been here for a couple of days.  From their texts and emails we've learned that they enjoy feeling like "second-class citizens" while "dune-bashing," dining-wherever-there's-wine, and lounging on the beaches.  They were too busy dancing to come visit us at the airport...

 And thus, our journey begins.

Love to all back home!

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