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Langtang Trek

To my mailing list, March 14, 2000

Subject: More Adventures in Nepal: Langtang


I am back and I feel completely out of touch with the greater world. What’s happening in politics today? I haven’t a clue. Perhaps this is a side benefit of trekking: To escape worldly affairs, to go to a primitive, more natural, dirty, carefree existence, surrounded by the forces of nature in the lovely great outdoors. My muscles are sore.


Yesterday, reality hit as the bus skirted the outlying Himalayas and drove into the Kathmandu pollution with Hindi “plim” (film in Nepali) tunes and a distinctive Asian honk. Here in Thamel, the tourists swarm, like a festival, an endless parade of sloppy fashion and sunglasses.


So a week ago the adventure began on a local bus to Syabru Bensi, the end of the road due North. My travel mates were Pemba, (Such a sweet young man!) and Fiona (“Piona” in Nepali), a 23 year old geologist from Canada. She was a welcome addition our party. She’s in her second month of a brave year traveling the world alone.


The three of us were late for the direct bus so we spent a night in Trisuli, halfway to our trekking point. Here we successfully invited ourselves to a traditional Nepali wedding. We thought it was a bar as music blared from behind our hotel and filled the streets of the village. When Fiona and I poked our heads in through the gate to their fun, the bride’s family welcomed us as honored guests.


Glasses of Rakshi (The local homemade brew) were soon in our hands. The smell alone was toxic. The men, many men, cheered as Fiona and I attempted to swing to the music. With so much attention, quickly, we were not too keen on dancing.


One of the bride’s brothers took us to a secluded room where two ornately decorated women sat. This was a double wedding. The many many men made us feel like pop-stars, insisting that we dance while the bride’s brother pleaded for our attendance at dinner. However, we were ready to sleep. There were too many eager men “possessed by rakish” (drunk! In Nepali.)


The next day, the bus ride was thrilling. The pavement ended in Tripoli, and the rest of the way, some sixty kilometers, was bumpy, dusty terrain along cliffs, gorges and raging rivers. The road was never dull, dotted by exotic children, villagers, banana trees, and a variety of commerce from butcher shops to fruit stands selling Rhino Biscuits.


Pemba, Fiona and I had to sit with 25 others on the roof of the loaded bus. There were no seats left inside. We were at the front above the driver in the forward portion of the luggage rack. Amazing how many humans clung to the wayward meandering bus on the thin mountain road.

Our seats were indeed the best. We sat on and extremely dirty, once blue, (now dark brown), tarp as dust from the vehicle swirled around into our winded hair, noses, and lungs.


At every checkpoint, the roof-top crowd had to cram ourselves inside the bus, trampling bags of rice, potatoes, and who knows what, laying in the aisle. As long as the checkpoint soldiers didn’t see passengers on the roof of the bus, it was Okay. (The danger they fail to prevent is what occurs when the bus goes over the edge: The people on top fare the worst.)


The sheer weight of so many bodies on the roof-side (Nepali term) seemed enough to topple the thing. But such accidents only happen in countries where lawsuits control who’s responsible.


Anyway, this local transport was an amazing tour of the rustic Himalaya. At one point Pemba even fell asleep mashed beside a few backpacks and a comfortable bag of tomatoes. Fiona and I were in awe, even blinking meant hanging on tighter! How could he fall asleep?!


Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Subject: Quotes from Nepal


“Mud lub china.” Is ‘I don’t care’ in Nepali.


“Take nothing but photos,

Leave nothing but footprints,

Kill nothing but time,” — on the wall at the entrance to Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park


“I’m just a man who eats.” — the words of a smooth talking sales man, trying to prove money is not the object of the game. Yeah, sure.


“I’m eight feet tall in spirit.” — Gena


“The rich must live more simply so that the poor can simply live.” — Gena heard this somewhere.


“Go to Nepal to find yourself, young man.”

“And what if I don’t like myself?”

“Well, then you’ll become bitter and twisted.” Gerrard an Australian traveler.


“The dishwashing rooster.” - Sue from Australia said this and it made me smile. I guess every Australian family has one.


“Rich, thick, wonderful classical music in the morning, mmmm.” — in my mind at a garden cafe at breakfast.


“Sauerkraut juice even looks better than the color of this towel.” — Gena


“The dejected room.”

“No, the dejected groom” — miscommunication between Heather and Gena one night.


“If the black stuff doesn’t come out of the bottom of the cup, it’s clean.” ??


The Nepalese say: “Welcome” meaning ‘You’re welcome’, and they often say “Welcome” before you say thank you, meaning, “Come on in.”


“The lingering smell of I’m-not-sure-what wafting from the bathroom somewhere.” — my thought at this very moment. Smells like ammonia.


“If there is no money involved, the tendency is not to care.” — Fiona, this one’s deep.

————

Tomorrow’s adventures: Fiona and I will visit a public school and play games with the kids. What fun.


More stories from Langtang later.

Heather


Friday, March 17, 2000

Subject: Final Adventures in Nepal

To my mailing list:


Today is Friday and in three days, I’ll be back in the clean, pristine, QUIET streets of America. It’s hard to leave this magical place, yet I look forward to returning in September or October with more trekkers perhaps.

———

Langtang Trek: Ten days on the Dirt Path


Fiona, Pemba, and I climbed to 15, 655 feet in a last minute fit of spontaneity. We were headed toward a nearby glacier to study its geological spenders (Fiona bing a geologist) whence we soon were side tracked by what appeared to be an “easy way up” the west face of Kyagin Ri. We had a long debate whether to attempt this mountain or the glacier.

A landslide formed what looked like the perfect path to the summit. (I should have known better.) Later we equated our route to that of an optical illusion. As we climbed further toward the top, the mountain grew, the slide was steeper, the gravel and scree twisted like quicksand under us. Each step up slid into three steps back.


Pemba advised us not to continue on the vertical route so we shifted toward the shrubs and weeds. He studied the landscape and said it might give way. Such a speedy descent may have been fun on a sled but not on the butt. Meanwhile clouds were approaching and snow was inevitable.


The ridge top loomed SO close. We continued one breathless step at a time. It was exhausting. I had energy to charge four small steps straight up, holding on to the bushes before stopping to catch air, gasping as it fleeted thinly by.


Finally, over the last edge appeared a field, then the summit. And we made it. The snow whispered in the wind blocking the good views, but that didn’t matter. Soon we were back in the warm lodge, sipping milk tea, and dumping shrubbery out of our shoes.


The next morning we woke up to a winter wonderland. The snow was about five inches thick, covering everything, including the yaks. It was beautiful.


Our walk back to the bus stop in Dunche took three days, and that was at TOP speed. The dirt path took us through one village which made me think of a living museum. How can these people live at such heights? It’s a vertical world in these mountains.


After looking for garnets along the path and being inspired by the red red rhododendron forests, we finally reached the road. Tired and dirty, we hitched a ride on one of those big funny, highly decorated Indian trucks, which gladly cut an hour off our walk (but cost us 20 rupees - about 30 cents).

________

Two more quick adventures:


The day before yesterday, Fiona and I went and played games with the students at a local school. It was great fun. One student asked about the national dress of North America, and Fiona modeled our traditional costume: a t-shirt and jeans. We couldn’t figure out our national food and came back to the hotel feeling culture-less, boring and bare. The kids were great.


Yesterday Fiona and I ventured over to the Kathmandu prison. We walked into the office and asked to visit with a prisoner who spoke English. (I had done this before.). Usually these people are serving time for drugs or visa problems. One man from Iran had been arrested for “Man Power Supply”. We asked the attendant and he asked all his colleagues and they came up with nothing. Big mystery why this guy was locked up.


Anyhow, we chose Ronaldo from Switzerland serving time for counterfeiting Nepali rupees (?!) (somewhat similar to Monopoly money), a handsome man in his 50s maybe.


The conversation was a bit difficult as he had to stand on the other side of the door about 6 feet away. Meanwhile many people were entering and exiting the jail through a small door within this door, thus Ronaldo would occasionally disappear to make way.


I must end the stories here. Thanks for listening.


The last adventure: Tomorrow I’ll have a Dhal Bhat cooking lesson, the national food of Nepal. Dhal Bhat party at my house soon.

Then it’s 30+ hours on the airplane home…

Bye,

Heather


Friday, March 17, 2000

No subject

To mom


Hello,

Yes, I went crazy and bought lots-o-stuff. I’ll be bringing a third bag home for which I will pay an extra charge probably yet cheaper than shipping.


I am due to arrive at Detroit Metro Airport on Monday, March 20th at 4:19pm. Continental flight 310 from Newark.


(Before that: March 19, leave Kathmandu 12:45, Singapore Airlines, Fl: 413, arrive Singapore 5:50PM, leave Singapore 11:45 PM FL:24 Arrive Newark 10:35pm (March 20), leave Newark 2:25 PM Continental FL: 310.)


Can you pick me up? See you soon.

Heather


Saturday, March 18, 2000

Subject: Host Family

To mom.


Hello,

I’m at my host family’s house now. Reena just gave me a lesson on making dhal bhat, the traditional Nepali food. Sailie is here and tonight some friends of theirs from Denmark will visit for dinner. It should be fun. Gotta go. See you Tuesday…is it? The 20th.

Heather


Monday April 10, 2000

Subject: Re: Re: Hello

To Mom


Thank you so much for the e-mails.

I finally got paid for the Charter School article. Did I tell you?


Adventures on Eighth Street:

My computer monitor is on the fritz. I don’t know what I will do if it goes out. The screen turns blue and I can’t see anything. I called about having it looked at. The guy said the life span of a monitor is about 4-5 years… Yikes. It seems to be working now.


This morning and yesterday I woke and found Frederika (my cat) sleeping soundly in her canopy bed!! She is so cute.


Yesterday I went to the big climbing gym, Planet Rock, with MIKE. I met him at that WCC class on advertising and he came to my talk last Thursday. He’s starting a landscaping business. Don’t tell Andrew but he’s a certified Harley Davidson mechanic!, and an ex-Marine, and he has tattoos. He also throws a few grammatical mistakes into his speech, like “them flowers” instead of “those”. But I find him interesting, and I had fun climbing. We may go to a movie on Wednesday. (Don’t worry, I won’t marry him.)

Heather


Friday, September 1, 2000

To Madre

Subject: …

{events}

Open House at 4:00 Conversation Hour

Tour the Of Global Interest LLC Heatquarters: home of the Eighth Street Trekkers’ Lodge, The Himalayan Bazaar in my Garage, The Everything’s Art Gallery, and the elusive Hungarian cat, Frederika.

Friday, September 8, 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Rock sculpture marks the trail, yellow house at the corner.

*****

You Are Invited to a Party:

Of Global Interest LLC Open Air, Open Mind, Open Mike Night Celebration, a gathering of adventurous souls

The front porch is the stage. Bring a (<5 min) thought, story, science project, quote, show and tell, recipe, dance, artwork, adventure, joke, skit, talent, experiment, skill, poem, exercise, lesson, book, report, tip, philosophy, monologue, stunt, game, magic trick, song, tongue twister, remark, object of curiosity … to share. Or just trek over for a party.

Saturday, September 30, 2000

7:00 pm, 120 Eighth Street, Ann Arbor, MI

Rock sculpture marks the trail, yellow house on the corner

******

Youth and Family Classes at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Ages 8-12

Nepali Culture and Cuisine:

Heather O’Neal, a trekker and owner of Of Global Interest LLC, will share her experiences living in the Himalayas and demonstrate how the mountain environment determines how people live, what they eat, what their activities are and the kind of homes they create. You’ll learn about the foods, taste the unique vegetarian cuisine, listen to stories and try on the Nepali clothing. $15/person/date.

Saturday, November 25, 1-3pm

Saturday, December 2, 1-3pm

Contact the Gardens for a brochure:


Subject: Of Global Interest News

Monday 25 September 2000, 21:38 EDT

Hello Adventurers:

It’s fall, the best time to visit Nepal. I’m leaving on October 9. We will trek in the Everest region and hope to spend time in southern Nepal observing the rhino. Joanne will be there for three weeks and I will stay until November 19. Let me know if you would like anything special from Nepal and I will bring it home for you. I plan to research ideas for future trips so send any thoughts. Like last spring, I will e-mail my adventures to you.


The Of Global Interest Adventure for next spring will be in February and March 2001. Feb 10 to March 4 is one possibility and/or the three weeks before or after. I hope you will join me. If you are interested in a 2002 trip, we can start a payment plan. I appreciate your communication.


Saturday, September 30 at 7:00 pm, I am having a party at my house. I envision a gathering like in Africa where friends and family get together on a street corner and share stories, songs, drums, etc…. It is not a performance, it’s a sharing thing, a party.


The United States Peace Corps is celebrating its 40th Anniversary at the University of Michigan. (In 1960 President Kennedy announced plans for the Peace Corps while standing on the stairs in front of the UofM Union. There is a plaque there now.) One of many events will be an exhibit illustrating the experiences of local Peace Corps Volunteers. I have submitted photos describing my time in Hungary, 1990-92, in the Peace Corps. On Sunday, October 1 the exhibit will open at the UofM Art Museum across from the Union. After a few weeks it will become a traveling exhibit which will visit other universities.


Lastly, my artwork is on exhibit at Sweet Cravings, the bakery and coffee shop in the basement at Kerrytown where Brew Baker’s used to be. If you are there on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday at noon, come up and play the bells. There are about 50 songs written in numbers that are EASY and FUN for all ages!


I hope to see you soon. Take care.

Heather O’Neal

Of Global Interest LLC

The Eighth Street Trekkers’ Lodge B&B will be closed from October 9 to November 19


Sunday 15 October 2000, 9:42:14 EDT

To Trudy

Subject: Hello from Nepal

Will you tell my mother that all is well. Joanne and I fly to Lukla to begin our trekking tomorrow. We’re having. Great time. Joanne is only here for thirteen days so we are on the go. I may not have time to write again until she leaves, October 27. We’ll be trekking until the 21st then we’ll go to Chitwan in search of tigers. More later. I love my job.

Heather


Printed and handwritten by Trudy for my mom: “Special Delivery!”

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