Val writes: Happy to be home
My kitty loves that I'm back.
Of course. He watched me unpack the duffel bags of gear for over a week (or
so), curled up in my huge pile of clean laundry, and was happy to have someone
back who lets him sleep on the bed. Even if that someone is still walking
awkwardly on the outside edges of her feet as her big toes heal from
From the summit all the way
back to Boulder eight days later, we flew off the mountain and made our way
home. I learned that the process and pain of re-warming frozen toes will wake
you from sleep, even if you are extremely tired. I learned that if you don't
want to hike the long way from ABC to BC, you can pay for a nice (slow) horse
to take you down. I learned that even though I love most teas, I really,
really don't enjoy yak butter tea (with salt). Not on the fourth or fifth
refilling either. I learned that the best meal in Lhasa is had when Bemba
orders everything. I learned that if you are in Lhasa and want to change a
complicated airline ticket that includes four different airlines, neither your
Tibetan guide nor China Air can help. And there are no other airline ticket
offices. The best plan is to just fly to your next city and work it out from
Bit by bit I am adjusting to
being back in the first world. First, half a world away at base camp, there
were the four-wheel drive vehicles. Then, in Tingri, there was a small bed to
sleep in. And we were eating inside a building. Next there was the sound of
music playing as we bumped along the dirt road, first Chinese voices, then
English voices, both changing cadence as the engine speed varied. Shigatse
gave us our first showers, if mostly lukewarm, and warm, comfortable beds.
Lhasa had hot water and a modern airport. Chengdu had skyscrapers. Shanghai
had transport vans and short-stay lodging. Seoul had fast-access internet and
cappuccinos. San Francisco had quick airport security lines. And finally
Boulder had family and friends waiting with strong hugs.
It is winter in Tibet; it is
fall in Boulder. The doctors wonder where I could've gotten frostbite at this
time of year. Then I explain about being at 24,500 feet in Tibet without a
tent or sleeping bag and they understand, even if they can't empathize. And
some ask: when do you explain why this is fun, why you do this?
Because mountains inspire me.
I love the lessons of the mountains. Those that are personal and beautiful,
physical and mental. Those that are fun and those that are scary. Sometimes
hard, sometimes simple. Learning about my partners, sometimes supporting and
sometimes receiving help. There are aspects that have been there through my
entire life. Those of learning about a topic, about an activity, about myself,
about the world. Those of loving challenges. Having the clarity of a purpose,
with the malleability of how to get there. Finding life's limits. Living
there. Having enough reserve so that even when the going gets extremely tough,
I may need a minute to regroup (or a day at BC to re-formulate the plan to
attempt the summit again, or a half hour sitting on a billowing tent fly), but
when I need to survive, I will. Kiki soso ashe, lha gyalo. "If you knew you
could not fail, what would you attempt?"
Because it is the journey and
the destination, for the journey puts your life in context, and the
destination helps define who you are. And because once you see and experience
the Himalaya, you will always return. In part, you are always there.
"And what is good, Phaedrus,
and what is not good? Need we ask anyone to tell us this?"
"and here's to silent
certainly mountains; and to a disappearing poet of always, snow and to
morning; and to morning's beautiful friend twilight (and a first dream called
ocean) and "If I am to choose between staying on the hill, or flying as a
bird, I will fly." Resham firiri.
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