Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Caring because you've been there

Traveling is to learn that other people in other places are as precious as people you see every day.   No, I've never climbed Mt. Everest, but I have trekked in Solo Kumbu, the Sherpa state in Nepal which includes Everest and the biggest mountains.  Thirteen Sherpas died last week preparing the mountain for rich people who want something to brag about and can afford the climb. Many, many Sherpas have died on Everest -as far back as the '30 when George Mallory was trying to climb the north (Chinese) face of the mountain. Eight Sherpas died on one of his attempts.  He had with him a truly kind and noble companion (and I'm very sorry I've forgotten his name) who said after that accident that he was sorry he hadn't died so that they would know that their lives are not cheaper than that of the men who employed them.  I don't think any of the potential climbers today have such feelings (not that I actually know; but I'm a cynic about very rich people -- and I've read a lot about the climbers).

By the way Sherpa is the name of the people who live in that area. They migrated from the Kham area of Tibet many, many generations ago.  They have adapted to the height with changes in their breathing and their blood's composition. They are very strong people who carry loads half again their own weight up mountain trails.  During the two treks I made in the Himalayas the Sherpas were good natured, very professional, thoughtful, kind.  I thought they were beautiful.  I remember, frivolously,  but sweetly, having a shampoo at our camp when a Sherpa poured heated water over my head as I stood near a washing bowl.  I did not ask him to, I could have wet and rinsed my own hair, but he did it with a smile.  A small thing, a kindness.

At Thengboche monastery, which was our goal, the oldest woman had a small stroke, not serious enough to need air evac. She was hearty woman who probably weight about 175.  Two young Sherpas carried her the next day, piggy-back, about six hours of walking, taking turns.  The young men probably weighted less than 120 themselves.  At day's end we reached Namche Bazzar where regular plane service was available to Kathmandu.  They did not complain, it was part of their job.

This was a heroic event I witnessed.  I know that the Sherpas who work on Mt. Everest do much more demanding and heroic work to make the trails safe for the pampered climbers.  When one has seen a group of people at close hand, recognized personal quirks and talked about families, disasters, be it the deaths on Everest, or stories of war in other countries, the pain is as deep as if it were people who lived in the same town as you.   Well, for some of us -- quite a few I think -- although, as said before, I am cynical about the rich who are accustomed to having others do the hard work and take the economic difference as their right. Sherpa  means hero to me.

7 comments:

Lynn Guardino said...

What a lovely tribute June. I wish your voice could be heard echoing through the mountains, getting to the people who need most to hear it but would never ask to be commended. When I was a nurse, working for one of the biggest companies in the world, my greatest pleasure came not in taking care of executives who earned millions, but in the people who worked in the kitchen, the mailroom, the lobby.....those who actually said,"thank you" and they thought that they were not as worthy as the people who held those high positions, the shallow ones,you know the type......

June Calender said...

Thanks, Lynn. So many people are unnoticed or taken for granted and their deaths very little noticed.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

A lovely tribute that can open a very libral minded discussion on my part. It is such a sad situation and senseless waste.

barbara cecelia said...

June -- such a wonderful compassionate post about the Sherpas. And money does contribute a shady touch to those personalities that have so much of it. Not all but many. Good post -- barbara

barbara cecelia said...

June -- In case you don't know who barbara cecelia is --- it's me FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK. I have been fooling with connecting G+ with my blog and am still trying to get it right with the connection. -- barbara

June Calender said...

Thank you, Carol. There are so many things we don't know about --that's why I'm a compulsive reader.

Barbara, thanks for your note and for giving me your last name. I don't know what G+ plus is -- many things I don't even know about blogspot.

Skyline Spirit said...

pretty nice blog, following :)