Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Complete Loop

By Karina Gallant.
Our arrival at the work site in Phortse was a disappointment at first. We all had our reservations on the trek up; worries about materials, and about what we’d get done in the short time we had there, and many of our fears and more were realized. There were no new materials, no gabions being built, and no workers. Mingma spoke about a mysterious “carpenter” that was supposed to arrive, and about the new windows he was having built, even though the old windows had been salvaged. Our perusal of the half built climbing school was not reassuring. It had been worked on and reworked on many times over the years, and was still nowhere close to completion. Dave’s 3 am insight was the theory that Mingma’s carpenter was really a contractor, and that he had used the money One Sherpa Home collected to pay this contractor and his workers. The frustration was palpable, but spirits were kept high and we tried to make the best of the situation until we had a better understanding.

The next day, Dave and Dawa confirmed with Mingma that this was in fact the case. Mingma is such an agreeable person, and the cultural differences made communication so difficult that he did not want to disappoint Dave, which led to the miscommunication. I also suspect that a friendship built on Everest does not translate very well into other situations—especially something like this. Fortunately, the contractor was very open to suggestion and they agreed that the house was going to be built to the original design. There were still very few workers though, and we knew that there wasn’t much we could do, so we agreed to leave Phortse early to do further trekking and complete a loop back to Namche.

When we left, there was a trench built around the house, and a few of the gabions were in place. The house needs around 100 to be complete, and it will probably not be done by winter as hoped, but after the first night we were much happier with the way things were going and with our understanding. The lack of workers and slow movement left us with a lot of free time, and we were content to drink tea, read books, and explore the village in the sunny mornings. A few of us took a hike to catch a glimpse of Cho Oyo, weaving above the village and through Phortse’s summer village, which is a little fairytale mountain town with stone houses and pastures and used in the months where the sun hits that side of the mountain.

At night, we would gather in the dining tent to eat the delicious meals prepared to us by the cook crew, which made the expectation that we’d all lose 10 pounds completely unreasonable. They fed us soup, potatoes, pizza, and various meats three times a day, which we rarely were able to finish. We very quickly ran out of civilized conversation and resorted to making fun of each other and telling bad jokes in our post dinner delirium. We were tucked in bed with our hot Nalgene bottles by 730 each night, and up early the next morning to gather at the work site or relax in our tents.

The day we left, we were surprised with snow in the morning, offsetting the predictable pattern of clear mornings and cloudy afternoons. It was a short hike to the Trekkers Holiday Inn Lodge in Pangboche, and we were bombarded with views of Ama Dablam and surrounding mountains. We went to Lama Geshe’s house and he blessed us, placing a scarf and red cord around our necks and having us chant along with him. The warm accommodations made us feel rebellious, and we would stay up til a whopping 8:30 to play cards and drink Khukri rum.

 Next was Rivendell, a lodge in Deboche. Sadly, we were not greeted by elves. We proceeded to try to score a helicopter ride, failing when we were told it would be about $2000. It was for the best, because the hike to complete our loop to Namche proved to be one of the most beautiful so far. When we said goodbye to the Namche Bazar, it really sunk in that the trip was coming to a close. Tonight, we celebrated our last night in the Khumbu with whiskey and another game of Oh Hell, our group’s official card game. Tomorrow, we fly back to Kathmandu. Although we may not have completed as much on Mingma’s house as we all hoped, these past few weeks have been a beautiful and unforgettable experience, and I think we all deserve to feel good about what we did. Along with helping provide funds and insight on his home, we donated money to a few climbing schools and clinics, tipped our Sherpas graciously, and hopefully started a pattern by teaching the contractor more earthquake resistant methods. Not to mention the amazing time we had hiking and bonding with the group and the villagers.

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