Some pictures maybe….

 

This is a common scene.  

One of the new metal homes which are commonly replacing destroyed stone buildings.

    
This is the new house the man I spoke with is building for his parents. Their fallen down home in the foreground.

 
And just for fun…….You really don’t want to meet a yak going in the opposite direction on a suspension bridge. 

Thoughts about Nepal’s earthquake 11 months on

This is just a random collection of thoughts I’ve had about the earthquake’s aftermath.

I’ve told you already about my dismay when I saw some of the damage done by the earthquake to the various world heritage sites in Kathmandu. These are historical and culturally important monuments which are receiving justifiable attention. As a result, assistance is being given to enable their careful reconstruction. The world at large cares enough. The Nepali government realizes also that thousands of visitors come each year expecting to see these places in all their glory. There is national and international motivation to get these treasures up and beautiful again so we can come and take our pictures and be awed by the loveliness.

I’ve also told you about the large tent city we drove past on our way out of town. Think refugee camp and you might get a reasonablely clear picture. These tents are pretty ragged though. Poles covered by tattered layers of tarp and plastic, open at one or both ends to the elements. I have no idea of what the status is of the inhabitants of this camp. How long will they continue to live there? What is the sanitation like? Can they still get to school or employment? Where do they get their cooking and drinking water? Are they dry when it rains? It looked pretty grim.

The first big tremor happened at around noon on Saturday 25 April. Tendi and his cousin Dawa were leaving their apartment building and their wives were coming back from the market. All four grabbed each other for stability as the ground rolled and buildings around and above them shook and rumbled. After the initial shock subsided they mobilized, got a two person tent and set off to find safe haven. Part of the wall of the palace had fallen down so they entered this sanctuary through the gap into a beautiful clean and peaceful garden where they set up camp. Twelve of them in a two person tent. Dawa showed me a picture he’d taken with his cell phone. Nima and Phulu were collected from school the next day and in the picture they both look truly dispondant and in shock. It’s disturbing. Today Tendi tells the story with his habitual good natured laugh. “We lived in the King’s palace gardens for 10 days. It was a very nice quiet clean place.” That is very close to an exact quote. They were lucky. They were able to move back into their apartments which were relatively unscathed.

I’ve told you about the relief I felt each time I met one of my friends around Thamal. I plan to catch up with them all when I get back to Kathmandu. They may or may not share with me their personal experiences. Most people I’ve met seem willing to talk about how the quake was for them. This holds for complete strangers. Walking through Kharkikhola the other day I saw a new house being built next to a destroyed one. I took a picture. When I went around the corner I saw a man painting the window sill of the new house. So I stopped and talked to him. He happily told me that the tumbled down house was where his parents lived and this is the new house he’s built for them. I asked him how his parents were and was told they were out in the field working when the house fell down so they are just fine. The new house is small and beautifully designed. I said this to him and he seemed really pleased as it is quite different from the prevailing style – he explained that it’s construction is such that it won’t fall down.

Our guest house owner (Pemba) for the night we stayed in Bubsa is an experienced high altitude mountain guide. He’s climbed many of Nepal’s tallest and most challenging peaks. Everest is just one of them. On the day of the earthquake he was resting in his tent at base camp having just returned from camp II. The Avalanche came with such swiftness  he and several others in the tent were simply lifted up and tossed around in a bundle of soon to be torn tent material and ruptured sleeping bags. He sustained serious head injuries and remembers little of what happened other than being airlifted the next day to hospital in Kathmandu. This is now the peak of the climbing season for the guides and porters preparing the routes and ladders of the foreign climbers to follow and cross. Pemba is not there this year. He’s home managing his guest house and making momos for hungry Trekkers like me. I asked him if he’d go back next season and he looked thoughtful for several moments, quietly touched his forehead, shook his head, leaned down and picked up his cute chubby baby boy, “I don’t know if this is possible. More tea?”

In the area where I’m trekking most of the houses are made of stone with timber framed roofs covered with either slate, or wood shingles or metal. The door and window frames are wood. The construction looks solid but clearly that is not always the case when an eathequake such as this strikes. Many of these buildings were either unscathed or just sustained minor damage. Those that were damaged either collapsed completely into great mounds of stone and rubble, or became dangerously cracked with bowed out unstable walls and in some cases there were partial collapses. People whose homes were completely destroyed are actually better off than those whose homes are still sort of standing but too dangerous to live in. Those people need to go to the time and expense to tear down the dangerous structure before they can rebuild. Land is precious and is used to farm crops. Urban sprawl even at the village level isn’t really a viable option.

There are still people living in tents. I’ve seen German Red Cross tents and Canadian government tents in particular. But between the tents and the piles of rubble and destroyed homes there is a great deal of rebuilding. Some homes are being built in the traditional way of hand hewed stone and hand cut and chiseled frames but there is a new style as well. Wood framed homes covered with gray sheet metal.  Sounds ugly but these builders have pride and skill and the new dwellings are attractive, as well as being safer structures to live in. I wonder about insulation though.  Stone walls that are over a foot thick have a greater insulating quality than this new sheet metal construction. I have a sense that economics plays a role in this new method of construction as well as I’m pretty sure these houses go up much quicker and thus cheaper than the old stone variety.

Signs of the earthquake are evident every day everywhere. The natural environment took a beating too with massive land slides and trail upheavals. And I keep in mind that this area is much less affected than the Lang Tang region for instance where a whole large town was completely obliterated! Inhabitants and buildings buried beneath tones of rock and mud. The other lasting aftermath is the sharp reduction in tourist. Income. This country needs us to survive.

One last thought. I was thinking what it would be like if we on the west coast suffered such a devastating disaster. The simple response is that the rest of the province and the rest of the country would be able to come to our aid. We would not be mostly reliant on haphazard foreign assistance. We would be looked after by our own nation. We would have insurance and assurance that we’d be taken care of. That did not happen here because the entire country was affected by this quake.  So I leave you with this thought. Imagine for a moment our entire country being devastated in one moment of time by a massive natural disaster. Imagine a circumstance when not one of us had the resource to help ourselves or our neighbours beyond the most minimal immediate needs of survival. If you can fathom that eventuality, then perhaps you can understand what it must have been like here on 25 April 2015 and in the coming days and weeks and indeed during this past hard long year. I’m sad to say I lack the capacity to fully comprehend what the Nepali people have endured and continue to contend with.

On to Namche

Somehow posts got out of sequence. Read this before the post called cooling my jets in Namche….

I thought the trek from Junbesi to Nunthala was tough until the next day when we stumbled along to Bupsa. But that day wasn’t as bad as the next one to Surkey. This day now holds the all time record for my most frustrating – actually not having much fun at all – day of trekking.

It was horrendous for the reasons already mentioned – horrid trail conditions. I ended the day – the third long hard one – in Surkey actually seriously considering aborting this mission. It started to rain on the way to Surkey which didn’t help matters. The slippery mule dung coated, boulder ridden, water filled pot-holed “trail” became as miserable a trekking experience as I’ve ever had. We’d expected to walk further but simply ran out of time and frankly the will.

It rained and thundered violently during our night in Bupsa. High on a hillside, we were right up in the thunderous clouds and the entire building shook with the rage of the storm. I had been wearing my Sherpa dress up to this point but decided this was the day to adopt a western skirt. Thank goodness as the full length dress would have been soaked and dragged through miles of dung mud. 

The morning we left Surkey dawned clear and beautiful. I walked for a while with a young Polish woman who pointed out that had we gone further the day before, we would have missed the beauty of the area we were walking through. She was absolutely  right. Yesterday was a perfect trekking day. The trail was now much improved and the joy is back. As usual I seem to thrive at altitude. The fatigue is gone. My joints are painless. I’m energized.

However there is a problem. Tendi is ill. Of course he hid it for a day, but he’s got a significant gut upset and barely made it to Namche today as he’s becoming quite dehydrated. He finally accepted some cipro and electrolytes from me yesterday and has been escorted to the doctor by Puri – at my insistance. I pulled the didi (elder sister) card.  Yesterday Puri did double duty walking with me, then leaving me with is pack and jogging back to Tendi and taking his pack for a while. As I’m sure you can imagin Tenid was not pleased with this state of affairs but he really had no chioce.

It rained again today as we climbed into Namche. We’re staying in a pretty posh place. I think partly because Tendi just couldn’t climb any higher to get to the place he usually takes his clients. Any way I’m not complaining. There’s a western style toilet just down the hall. Bliss. Also there is a place to hang my wet poncho in the room – a rare and welcome occurrence. And there is a clean – clean being the key word here – extra blanket on the bed! 

My bliss has just been shattered. A large Explore group has just arrived. The peaceful dining room is no longer peaceful. There are three of us solo types – time to strike up a conversation with one of them….

Good night from Namche.

Cooling my jets in Namche – and a few anecdotes to relate

Well I’m still here in Namche. Tendi declares himself somewhat better….but clearly not up to a day of trekking. It really won’t hurt me to take a rest day either. I feel great but high altitude sickness can jump up and bight the unwary where it hurts. In fact the hotel owner is at this very moment organizing a chopper med evac for a Trekker with altitude sickness which is fast becoming really serious… Her headache from last night has become much worse and now her blood oximetry is falling 95 to 84 in an hour. Pulse rate climbing from 80 something to 110. Now vomiting, and blue lips and difficulty breathing, can’t stand up……. Good thing the weather is clearing. 

So ….. More blog time and a few anecdotes from our trek which I didn’t tell you yesterday.

At our lunch break on a high coll below Pikey Peak the owner of the tea shop was taking down his prayer flag pole. The long vertical flag on it was frayed to virtually nothing. Rupert and our porters helped in this endeavour and it was decided they would stay and help with the erecting of the pole once it had new flag was secured. The old flag was removed and tucked into the many wall of which this pole was the central point. The bright new flag was carefully nailed in place. A new evergreen branch was secured to the top with a blessed Khata. Two young monks came out of the smoky interior of the tea shop armed with rice, water and incense. There was a lot of water sprinkling, rice tossing, and incense wafting with the usual chanting. Duly blessed, the flag was ready to be elevated on its pole. Rupert was right in there and up the pole went. Rocks were tucked around the base to secure it and a long string of small prayer flags was stretched out from the top of the pole to a tree on the nearby hill side. Our lunch stop had taken rather longer than anticipated and we still had a long way to go, but it was worth while to have participated and witnessed in this ceremony.

The chanting of monks and the blowing of Tibetan horns in these high mountain Gompas is always a spiritually moving music to me. The other day I was standing outside the small Gompa in Bupsa when across the valley from the opposite mountainside drifted this beautiful, haunting, resonating sound. Carried by the wind from where we’d stopped for lunch in Kharikhola, the monks music drifted from a Gompa so far away it was hard to see. The sound however was as clear as if I’d been sitting within the Gompa itself. This moment of beauty more than made up for the agrivations of that day’s slog on a remarkably awful trail. 

T’is a wee small world. Karin this story is for you and it is almost unbelievable. In Bupasa I did a hand wash of a few clothes. (Just before I went to visit the Gompa) There was another trekker there doing the same thing. As we were hanging our clothes we got to talking. She and her husband are from Vermont. When I told them where I was from they said they had friends from the same place. – MJ and Niel Crouch. Well what are the chances? She simply could hardly fathom that I knew who her friends were. So Karin please let MJ and Niel know that Helen and Jake Hollenback send their greetings from Bupsa Nepal.

Tendi has emerged from his room and is looking much more his usual happy self. So I’m signing off now to have chea with him. Back soon.

Pikey Peak II 4065 m

Well that last missive posted so here comes another.

Why am I not in Namche when the itinerary said I’d be?

Simple – Tendi had one of his ideas. Instead of doing a low altitude trek with Rupert, Wai Ling and the kids, we’d take them somewhere fun and exciting. Somewhere where they would see marvellous views of Everest. So off we set. Five of us plus two guides, Tendi and Dawa and three porters. A grand party of 10!

We did a couple of short days. First to Bhulbhule where we stayed in a rough mountain hut – five little beds in a row. We shared this stellar accommodation with a number of loud nocturnal rats. The overnight temperature dropped to -5. Chilly. It was a lovely spot. A water source was close by down in a meadow. Rupert went there to shave and got head butted by a cow who wanted to drink. Despite being sat on his rear by the butt he got no sympathy from anyone – we all just thought it was hilarious.

Our second day brought us to Dairy. So called because yak cheese is made there during the yak cheese making season – which isn’t now. There’s not a whole lot there. Basic shelter – us three “girls” shared a room, the “boys” another. Dairy is about 3700m and is on the flank of Pikey Peak II.  That is its attraction – from a Trekkers point of view.

On day three we climbed Pikey Peak II. It was a glorious walk. Short cropped meadow, rocky outcrops, views that went on and on, all the way across to the Lang Tang Range in the west to Everest and her entourage to our north. Incredible. Of course there were all the peak photo ops and at some point I’ll try to send you a picture or two. After our fun on the peak we had a really long downward walk into Junbesi. It seemed to take for ever. I was carrying too heavy a pack for going down so my knees suffered painfully.  It was a relief to pop out onto the familiar trail that Fly and I had trekked on our first time here in 2011. The lodge we stayed in for the next two nights was absolutely palatial in comparison to the past two nights. Heat in the dining room. Being able to eat dinner without our down jackets zipped up to our chins.

We spent the next day in Junbesi and  day walked up to Thupten Chholing Gompa. We listened to the monks chanting and were served tea while doing so. This is a big monastery supporting 200 monks. Here in Junbesi there is a lot of destruction from the earthquake. Several buildings collapsed completely and others are very badly damaged. Seeing the damage first hand is quite shocking. I’ve taken pictures – with mixed feelings – but I feel it’s important for us to realize that Nepal has a long way to go before the country is recovered. I hope my pictures will help in some small way to keep this in our minds.

The next day we got an unfortunately late start but the idea was for me to walk with Rupert, Wai Ling and kids for the first bit until we parted ways. They were headed south to Salleri – the end of their introduction to trekking in Nepal. I was headed north. I can say with certainty that Rupert, Wai Ling and young Emma (who is a very wise, mature 13 year old) loved the adventure. Ethan suffered. He had a couple of fierce headaches and found the lack of Internet and mysterious bits in his drinking water hard to deal with.

After saying good bye, Tendi, Puri (my porter) and I continued on to Nunthala. It was a really long hard day. I was pretty done in when we arrived. Got the same room as during my last visit. Met a couple of Canadian architects who are building a community centre in one of the near by villages. Makes me proud to be Canadian.  Hope to see them in a couple of weeks on our way back through. The main reason for such a tough day was the terrible condition of the trail. That and the fact that it is either steep up or steep down. Up is OK as a free range sort of scramble over random boulders of various sizes. Down is a different matter. I really don’t do well with downs and when there is not one flat surface and there are constant slippery mule dung rocks to clamber over – – hard work and slow slow progress.

On that note I’m going to send this – will try another post shortly but first need to charge.

Our visit to Khamding – which was over a week ago….

There is very slow wifi here (Namche) so a quick message from the intrepid, not lost, but off schedule trekker.

As usual, the plan has been loose and ever changing. One of the joys of travelling here is the spontaneous nature of things. 

We had a lovely visit to Tendi’s village Khamding. Wai Ling’s gifts to the medical clinic were well received. Karin’s my and Wai Ling’s contribution to the school’s teachers loan fund went down well too. Ethan and Emma – Rupert and Wai Ling’s kids – were also able to give every child at the school either a tooth brush or pencil. They enjoyed the giving as much as the kids enjoyed the interaction from young people. The ceremony that ensued was a couple of short speeches and some local dancing by some of the older kids. Of course there was a veritable drowning in Khatas. As there were the five of us from Canada plus Tendi and Lhamu there were ample necks to go round so we each were slightly less over whelmed than the time Karin and I were there. Also merigolds aren’t in season so the garlands were fewer and made from red rhododendron blooms.

We introduced an invention of a local Courtenay man – George’s Uni Trekker. The theory is that it is supposed to replace carrying loads on one’s back. It will have a useful application for women and older or very young people in villages but needs a bit of work before it is scookum enough to meet the demands.

Tendi and I squeezed in a special visit with his parents, but our time was pretty busy with our “official” engagements. Tendi and Dawa (who was guiding Wai Ling and family) took us up to an ancient cave above the village. It was inhabited by a Lama about three generations ago. Not much remains of the Lama’s past habitation but it was a beautiful hike. Magnolia trees are in bloom as well as the rhododendrons. The young wheat is bright green. The pastures are filled with purple, yellow and blue wild flowers – the day sunny and warm. The distant mountains clear and glistening white! A perfect start to a trek.

It was a lovely return to Khamding. And amazingly we got there in just one day. There were some adventures on the way. Black market fuel caused a couple of fuel line blockages in remote places. There was a minor accident up the road from us which held up traffic for a while – but it was otherwise an uneventful trip in a pretty battered jeep!

I’m in Namche at the moment. May stay here again tomorrow. If I do, I’ll try to catch you up a little on my adventures to date. There have been a couple of very challenging days. The earthquake has left some parts of the trail in abysmal condition so the going has been difficult some of the time. There is a lot of reconstruction going on. There are people still living in tents. This little nation was brought to its knees 11 months ago, but it is rising up – smiling, strong and determined.

Will try to post this and see what happens.

No pictures coming anytime soon and a slight change of plan

 Despite numerous tries in the middle of the night – the Internet is too slow to upload even one picture. I have three bars so a good connection – but it just isn’t going to happen.

I realize that I haven’t introduced you to the “we” of this trip – a change from the normal “I” of my travels. Friends are traveling with me for the first part of the journey. Rupert (who Mike and I bought West Coast Expeditions from), Wai Ling and their children Ethan aged 15  and Emma aged 13 are with me for this first week. They are seasoned travelers so are embracing Kathmandu with understanding hearts and open arms. It’s been a joy showing them some of the highlights. Seeing the damaged sites, and blank spaces, and neet piles of rubble beside neet piles of new bricks is difficult and not overly picturesque, but it is the reality of  this point in the city’s history. Like me, they realize that tourists are part of the recovery process. Our spending and bearing witness is needed to help get this place back up on its feet. 

I’m so much looking forward to the nine hour road trip beginning in a few short hours, the village of Khamding where we are headed, then the trek…. Into clean, hopefully clear, air and grand Himalayan peaks.

The trek…. Tendi has a plan. Where have you heard that before! We are going to deviate somewhat from the itinerary I sent you….. Going on a higher route – about 4000m – and into a more remote area. But we’ll end up in Junbeshi on the same day as previously scheduled…… Let the adventure begin. Now just a bit more sleep I hope. 3am is just way too early to be wide awake.

  

  

           

The sorrow and the joy

After a solid six hours sleep I awoke this morning to the sound of roasters crowing, crows cawing, pidgins cooing, and dogs barking. Ah – morning in Kathmandu. I’d left my curtains open so lay in my bed on the top floor of the hotel and watched the dark shift to gray then orange then light. Time to rise and meet the day. My first back in this city I have such a complex relationship with. The filth that mixes with the divine, the tranquil gardens and temples juxtaposed against the grinding toil and racket of an over populated crumbling shambles of a glorious place. The stink. The smog. The grime. Temples bells making music in the breeze, the rich scent of marigolds, gold domes glinting in the sun, chanting monks and honking of vehicle horns.

Holman from the  Lions Kathmandu eye hospital arrived to pick up his 268 pairs of prescription eye glasses and a couple of personal gifts from friends in Canada. Then the brother of a Nepali friend of mine in Courtenay came to pick up five bottles of salad dressing we’d brought for their mother. Who knew….? Of course both came with gifts for me to return to folks in Canada. Yes Karin and Heather I return bearing a gift from Homan for each of us. Kamal I have something for you from your brother.

After breakfast in our hotel’s tranquil courtyard garden we headed off to exchange money. My friend the money changer was at his post. Alive and well. His house had tumbled down in the earthquake but he has bought and fixed up another. Tea was sent for. Stools were brought over from across the road and we crouched on them by the road while sipping and chatting. After the tea was finished we got down to the business of negotiating an exchange rate better than the one clearly posted.

Next stop, my friend the outdoor fitting guy down the street and around a couple of corners and up another street. Would I find him? Indeed there was his shop, also unscathed and although the owner was out, his staff seemed well enough informed that when didi comes shopping with four friends, a deal will be stuck. It was. A really good one. sleeping  bags, down jackets, and assorted other necessary gear were purchased in fairly short order. All accomplished in a space smaller than most people’s spare bedrooms.

Back at the hotel we met up with Binod and Tendi. Treks were paid for. A vehicle arrived and we set off with Tendi to tour around a few of Kathmandu’s highlights. Driving along we saw an enormous tent city. Eleven months post earthquake and there are a large number of people still living in tents. They’ve lived in these make shift shelters through the monsoons of last summer and the cold of this past winter. No end in sight yet for their dilemma of homelessness.

As we drove past the walled and private grounds of the palace, Tendi announced that he’d lived there for 10 days immediately after the quake in a tent with his family. He said it was a very nice place to live, clean and pretty. Trust a Nepali person to put a positive spin on that situation.

We drove past several areas with signs of extensive damage, but the majority of buildings seemed relatively unscathed. The van pulled up in front of my most loved spot in Kathmandu. And all thoughts about how healed the city seemed to be came crashing down. Boudhanath Stupa sustained significant damage. It was shocking to see the white dome now gray and uncrowned with no golden tower rising above. No Bouddha eyes looking down, no flags brightly sending their prayers into the wind. There  is instead Scaffolding and metal sheds and heaps  of red bricks. It is a place in ruins but being carefully rebuilt brick by brick – by hand. Pictures will follow in a separate post once I down load them. But be warned, if you know what a beautiful place this once was, the current scene is not for the faint of heart.

We bought some singing bowls then went to the temple to get them blessed. The usual tossing of rice and splashing of water with wafted smoke was accompanied by the chanted blessings of three attending monks. Always an interesting ceremony to witness and be included in. Of course the bowls sounded great before the blessing and now they sound even better.

We had lunch at the money changer’s roof top restaurant. He showed up and gave us all a 25% discount. The sun was hot enough we needed to shelter under the shade umbrellas. We ate while watching to steady one by one assent of the bricks up the scaffolding ramp to be carefully placed creating a new plinth for the stupa’s tower.

Next stop Swayambhunath. Here too there was much evidence of the earthquake’s destruction. I felt quite turned around until Tendi pointed out the  entire temple that used to stand up there among the stupa and towers is gone. Just gone. Nothing left except a few statues that used to be inside. Disappeared. Rubbleized. He also told us that numerous tourists (mostly Europeans) came right after the quake and robbed the place of bricks and bits of the temple. Obscene. The monkeys and stray dogs seem unconcerned and the views over Kathmandu remain as smoggy as ever. The steps down seem even steeper as some of the hand railings were destroyed.

We had time to head south to Patan Dubar square. I stealed myself. Good thing too. Several of the lovely temples are flattened, several others are held up with supporting buttresses. The guide touts are still there and just as annoying as ever. Even with Tendi in tow we were pestered. The dried buffalo intestines above one of the palace doors remains undisturbed by the destroyed temples across the square.

By now it was time to return to the hotel. After a quick change we headed off for dinner at Thamel house. What would I find? We walked in and it was old home week.  Most of my friend waiters were there. There were a couple of missing faces. A day off or……? I didn’t ask. Some things are best unknown. Binod joined us for dinner. We settled some last minute trek details and then called it a day. Walking back to the hotel we passed a shop owned by a pair of brothers I know. As we went by I wondered if they were still there……… And there was one of them calling out to me. Another happy ending.

I’m exhausted. Too tired to post pictures tonight and we leave at six in the morning so it may be a few days before you hear from me again. All in all it’s been a marvellous day but it is very difficult to see how dreadfully this city and the people of Nepal continue to suffer. Tourist numbers are way down. There are shortages of basics such as water. Binod’s family has been without for four days now. This isn’t just drinking water I’m talking about – just water. Fuel is in short supply. Food is very expensive. Life is pretty difficult. Even more so than normal.

Not a cheerful note to end on,  but a realistic one none the less.

Good night from Kim didi  in Kathmandu.

The generousity of a stranger 

There are so many reasons why I love to travel. Here is a story to warm the heart of the most jaded of people. So much bad news in this world. So much “them and us” mentality. So much distrust. Yet there are people who transcend that meanness, who this make this world a better place, and give hope to the human condition. These moments can be huge international efforts or smaller personal encounters, but all are meaningful.

After leaving the dim-lit quiet sanctuary of the rest lounge I went for a wonder. Still a little too soon for my departure gate to be on the board. Hong Kong airport has just about every expensive brand name store in existence. Most seem to sell purses of every size and colour and watches – some of which must weight several pounds they are so big and flashy. Tired of the window shopping, I drifted past a cafe with a nice view of the planes and gates. I sat and ordered a tea. Then realizing the steamed Chinese breakfast of mystery veggies had left me still feeling hungry I ordered some ham and eggs. Ah – the joy of a good fix of protein.  A fellow came and sat at the table next to mine. He too is travelling solo. I was writing in my journal. He asked me if I was a writer. I told him I was – unsung and unpublished….. He told me he was a mechanical engineer. Born in DRC, he got his university degree in Canada and is now a Canadian citizen. We continued chatting about this and that. He builds power generating plants in the Congo now. He loves his work. He’s been to Tofino and had sunny weather. We talked about my trip to Nepal. The subject of 260 pairs of prescription eye glasses (in a duffel bag weighing 39.8 lbs – which Central Mountain Air did not charge me for – Thank you CMA) I’m taking to the Lion’s Eye Hospital came up. As did the subject of the duffel bag of medical supplies Wai Ling has for donation to the medical clinic in Khamding.

This man’s name is Laddy. He opened his wallet, took out US$100.00 and gave it to me – “use this where you think it will do the most good.” He told me. He gave me his card, “Please send me an email and tell me how your trip goes.” We chatted for a few more minutes and he went off to catch his plane. Home to his wife and three children. Home to build more small power plants in villages that have no hydro yet.

So here I am with his generous gift – earmarked as a cash donation to Khamding’s medical clinic to supplement the supplies we are bringing. Needless to say it will be given in Laddy’s name. In Nepal, this kind of generous gift from a stranger will not seem strange – and it will be relieved with grace and thanks from people used to a generous spirit.

Laddy’s trust leaves me humble and his generosity simply gives me hope for the human condition.