Sunday, October 4, 2015


Jess and Claus

Claus Christensen, OSH Engineer.
by Dave Mauro

Over the course of some 23 hours, Karina and I stumbled through Dubai and arrived to a greeting of marigold necklaces at the Kathmandu airport. Jangbu's right hand man, Mohan, giggled in his characteristic fashion while driving us through the busy darkness of the city. He told me Greg Morgan will be arriving the day after we all fly to Lukla and will then catch up with us in Phortse. This was excellent news since the last I spoke with Greg he sounded ready to drop out, unable to find alternate flights after China Southern airlines suddenly cancelled operations to and from Nepal. Jess Shaffer was due to arrive the next morning, and Dr. Parrish was stranded in Taipei while Dragon Air waited out a typhoon. This is what it means to do relief work -- patience, persistence, and a belief that everything will work out.

By a stroke of luck, Mingma found an open seat on a helicopter leaving Pheriche and arrived in Kathmandu the same day I did. We met up the next morning. His already diminutive frame looked winnowed down by the climbing he had just finished on Manaslu, but his shy smile beamed brightly. We hugged, caught up on our families, then set out with Claus to buy the tools we will need to build Mingma's home.

The various departments of your typical Home Depot are clustered into districts, strewn about Kathmandu. We targeted the tools district, a two block area where tiny crammed stalls sold random inventories with an economy of merchandising. Most items, stacked haphazardly against walls,  where covered in a thin veneer of dust. The shop keeper would plug each tool in and demonstrate its function then commence the negotiation of price. We bought two Makita cordless drill sets, a Makita grinder, an electric chainsaw of unknown pedigree, and various hammers, tape measures, screws and tin snips. The three of us then returned to the hotel, where Jess joined our ranks. Fortified by a lunch of Indian Curry and beer, we spent three more hours shopping for supplies.

It's important to understand that Sherpa people avoid conflict the way airlines avoid water landings. Nothing good can come of it. So, when we would ask Mingma if a certain building materials is now in Phortse as planned, he would start by saying "yes", which sometimes turned to "maybe", then proceeded to "I don't know" and "no." The one thing he is clearly a "no" on is the rigid foam insulation we are suppose to build into each gabion. Mingma is quite sure this cannot be found in Namche, as well. This will be our mission-critical find when the four of us go shopping today.

Mingma has not been home in several weeks, so he is going by whatever messages he has been able to exchange with his wife and brothers, couched in a culture that does not value exactitude the way us uptight westerners do. But he is confident that lumber and plywood have arrived, that the wire gabions have been built, and that the remains of his prior home have been taken down and salvaged. Unfortunately, Mingma is also confident that the workers he selected for the rebuild have already started constructing the foundation for the new home and it is unclear if they are aware it will occupy a completely different foot print than the last home.


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