Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Warm in Pheriche

I am now toasty warm, sitting next to a wood stove in the dining room of the Himalaya Hotel in Pheriche.  We are across the street from the Himalayan Rescue Association clinic, which we will visit tomorrow- and where I will drop off some airway supplies that the porters have toted thus far.

Right now, we are showered and warm- and looking forward to another "rest" day tomorrow.  At 13,800 ft, most of us are feeling some altitude- from headaches to breathing to sleep.  For some reason, we are still eating well- but the food has been much better than expected.  Noodle dishes and Rara soup (ramen), boiled vegetables, other soups, fried potatoes...carb loading is not a problem.  I've actually been eating boiled eggs each morning- a new concept for me-and even tried them for dinner.  Now that was not a good idea!  There was a different cook for dinner last night, and the eggs were so soft-boiled that my stomach rolled.  One of my goals here in the mountains is to avoid the "BR"s (bowel rumbles) for as long as possible.  I came close last night.  Breakfast has been great- porridge, omelets, french toast, apple pancakes.  Really much better than I'd hoped.

I had a bit more sleep last night- a couple of hours due to Ambien, but some actually on my own- and my brain seems to be functioning a bit better. (I did not, however, have the sleep of Renee- who spent quality time with George Clooney.) There has been so much to say here, but usually I'm so tired that I forget half of what I'd intended to mention.  Whether it's age, altitude, or Alzheimer's.. I've left some gaps:

1) The "Kathryn"- dropping any item into the squat toilets...for Kathryn, it was her sunglasses on the second day on the trail. Ew.

2) One of the rules of the trail:  No photos below the knee- for we are sporting too much "euro-trou" ( rolled up pant legs and pushed down thick socks.  Real sexy.)

3) Renee : "Life is about suffering"

4)  Another ROTT (rule of the trail):  Stay left.  As we pass chortens and mani walls, some of which are fairly subtle, stay left for good Karma.  Luckily for me, since I'm usually in the back of the team, Naga and Phura are helpful in keeping on the right (or left, in this case!) path.

5)  Cialis:  For me, a great thing. I've been able to breathe deeply and sigh and yawn without difficulty.  Unlike when I was in Ecuador- and that's a wonderful thing.

6) Electrical Showers:  In our tea house in Deboche (the previous two nights), the shower has an electrical box within the spray range of the shower. Good thing the box has a sign on it which reads, "Do Not Touch"!

7) Beware the Yak:  Linden was gored by a yak yesterday (minor abrasion), my German friend was rock-struck, and I had a near miss today as a yak took a sharp right turn toward me and missed me by a few inches- thanks to quick-thinking Uberoj who hit him with a stick to divert him. 

 I'm sure there are more... but for later...

These tea houses vary in their accommodations.  The Himalaya Hotel, where we currently are, has laundry service, hot showers (although in a questionable room), satellite tv, and wifi (although slow). Walls, however, are plywood thin.  So thin that last night, I called John from the room while Corell was sleeping, only to realize, after she tossed and turned a bit, that the snoring was coming through the wall on the other side of her! Ah, but life is good.

We had a great hike today- out of Deboche and up and down  toward Pangboche.  I tried to keep my heart rate below 140, and Renee joined the "heart rate study" and wore a monitor as well.  When she was 105, I was 130; when she was ~125 on hills, I was 145-150.  More data that shows how messed up I am!  At least I can now use the data and walk/climb at a pace where my heart rate stays below 145- or at least I can continue to do so.

We ended the morning in Pangboche, at the home of Lama Geshe- one of the two High Lamas in the Khumbu valley.  He has been in Pangboche for 42 years, 9 years before that at Tengboche, and has been a monk for much longer.  He is the one with whom all climbers visit and from whom all climbers ask for a blessing as they climb on Everest.  We wrapped our "donation" in scarves, and then lined up before Lama Geshe in his home.  He prayed over each of us, unwrapping the scarves, dropping the money beside him, then placing scarves around our necks.  He then continued praying for us and tied a red cord around our necks, and then pulled us toward him so that our foreheads touched.  He was a lovely man, laughing so freely and easily that we smiled along with him. His wife served us mint tea, and he held a long conversation with one of our Sherpa guides, Naga, who is a monk and spent 9 years at a monastery in India- a monastery of the same sect of Tibetan Buddhism as Lama Geshe.  Lama also gave Linden a signed card - as a reminder of his Everest summit last year?- and then he performed a blessing service over Yubaraj and Phura.  He gave them talismans, and blessed their backs, hearts, and legs.  Then he picked up a nearby urn with a peacock spout and a tail feather top, and sprinkled them with ?water?oil? They also received cards for the summit ( as a way to thank the mountain god), and then he sprinkled them, and all of us, with white rice.  All with incense burning at his feet.  Lots of similarity to Catholic ritual!  The ritual obviously meant a great deal to all three of our guides, and it was special to witness.

After Lama's house, we hiked for another couple of hours, then had a snack at a teahouse on the top of a ridge where two young children delighted us.  The trail followed the cliff wall, and at times I made certain to stay as far left as possible to avoid any possibility of an errant fall down the cliff! After a push up the last hill, we rounded a bend, and fought the wind down the ridge into the village of Pheriche.  We arrived around 3- and immediately headed up to the brand new sunroom at the hotel, and basked in the warmth while we waited for some food to be brought up.  That sunroom is wonderful- we are looking forward to a little time there tomorrow afternoon!

Our lenten meditation today was apt -especially for me as I struggle with so many things-but it rang so true for Corell and me:

"Surrender is for the mature.  That is less true of us during the first half of our lives, for we are still building, but it becomes the deepest truth of the second half of life.  After 40, understood religiously, life is not about claiming worthiness, or about building things, especially our own egos, but about getting in touch with helplessness.

Age brings us physically to our knees and more and more everything we have so painstakingly built up begins to mean less and less. That is the order of things.  Salvation is not about great achievements, but about a great embrace.  All we have to do is surrender."- Ronald Rolheiser

I'll close with a prayer from Lama Geshe:

"A request to all sentient beings on this planet...

Give up all intentions to harm others from your heart
And do your best to benefit them all.
If each and everyone feels the universal responsibility to do so,
We will all enjoy the feast of peace!"

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