I sat in the peaceful garden of the Yak and Yeti Hotel, which was one of a handful of oases in an otherwise and chronically chaotic, Kathmandu. I had a good-tired going on; a tiredness that normally comes from a full day of progress, adventure, activity or hard work resulting in something resembling accomplishment. However, in this case, all I had done was show up on time to the airport, hand over my passport, pass through security without being molested, get on the plane when they announced “Now boarding: rows 35-50,” sit in my assigned seat, turn my electronics on-and-off (when appropriate) and repeat these steps for the next two connections in Hong Kong and Bangkok. Although the very nature of this exercise is routine and monotonous, it was, nonetheless, one step in the telos: getting up and down from Mount Everest – Advanced Base Camp.
How does one prepare oneself mentally for something they’ve never experience before? I’ve never been to the Himalayas, nor have I even been above 14,000 ft. How can anything from my past even remotely relate to this? Sitting in that garden with my notebook and pen, I strained to find something that could be considered an idea, but instead, I just watched the crows eat the peanuts left on the table next to me.
Not giving in so easily, I tried to find an idea: I’d been to the Sierras, but although they are incredibly beautiful and technically challenging, I can often climb to the top of them during the summer in shorts and t-shirt and then return home without missing a day of work. 14,500 feet is nothing to brush off, but as Jules from Pulp Fiction said, 21,500 feet in the Himalayas “ain’t the same &^$@in’ ballpark, it ain’t &^$@in’ the same league, it ain’t even the same &^$@in’ sport.” Although he was talking about foot-massages, it was still a bullseye in its application to me.
My mental abilities, which were clouded with dissociated uncertainty, needed an aid–the garden’s server, came to rescue and gave me my healing tonic. Everest beer is enormous and a very tasty Ale; the label slapped to it shows Tenzing Norgay high atop Everest as photographic proof of Sir Edmund Hillary and himself becoming the first humans to stand on the summit of the highest peak in the world.
Tenzing Norgay is Nepal’s greatest hero and instills them with tremendous pride, but in a different way than that of Neil Armstrong to Americans. Tenzing was able to sustain a rock star like status that is more Michael Jordan-like. However, although commercialism in Nepal hardly exists, I thought it was unique that the only item I saw which used their national icon’s image to move some product was a gigantic bottle of beer.
And I thought that was cool.
You know who else was cool? This guy to my left: the garden’s server, Bishnu (even though he might have stolen my chin while I took this picture). I introduced myself to him earlier and asked him about his family. Then, when things slowed down, he lingered a little longer. He showed me a picture of his family and told me about how proud he was of his teenage daughter who had done so well in school, that she was able to take her studies to Australia for a few months–although, he deeply misses their time they spend together around the dinner table every night.
“Life is good, sir,” he passionately said, “It is great to be alive, here in Nepal, which I think is the best.”
I smiled and couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t diminish what he had just told me. Normally, I say something smartass, but he was way too genuine and he wasn’t finished:
“There are no bad days, sir. Life is too good to have a bad day.”
It is odd coming to a country where people have so little and guys like Bishnu, who serve Westerners all day that probably make more in a week than he’d make in a lifetime (except for start-up guys), continue to smile from the inside-out. Not a care in the world; not because they’re ignorant of the sufferings in this world, but because they’ve suffered greatly and have overcome it not materially, but mentally and spiritually.
Everyday for the rest of my stay at the Yak and Yeti Hotel, I went downstairs for another Everest beer just so I could hear about how good life was. I’d need to bottle some of that and bring it with me into the unknown–still, I was a little uneasy.