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As I try to balance myself in the washroom...(2006)

NEPAL | Wednesday, 5 November 2008 | Views [940]

As I tried to balance myself in the washroom while holding a roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and the bottom of my pants I heard several screeches. Ignoring it, thinking it is those damn dogs again, I continued with my own business. I succeed in the washroom and headed to my room, putting my trusty hand sanitizer in my pocket. On my way there I heard another type of screech. I froze. That’s not a dog, I thought to myself. Andrew and Jenny came out of their rooms and met me by the top of the staircase. “What the bloody hell is that?” Andrew asked as we all looked at each other in horror. I took a few steps towards my room and threw my toilet paper through my room door. I quickly went back to the staircase and looked at Andrew. We ‘rushed’ down the stairs as quickly as our bodies would let us move in the new altitude (Phakding, 2600m). We got out the front door to see a man standing over an object, hitting it with full force, with a metal pipe. My body went numb and my eyes widened. It’s a woman! I didn’t know what to do. This only happens in movies where I am safe at home, sitting on my couch nice and warm under a blanket, eating Lays chips and peanut butter M&Ms. Andrew immediately started yelling at the man “What are you doing!? Stop!” I snapped back into reality and I turned and ran…in the other direction. Oh heroic me. I ran upstairs to get the man that I respected so much, looked up to and trusted with my life. Hoping to get him to save the day, I loudly knocked on his door to hear a calm, “yes?” I nervously and somewhat excitedly yelled, “Ian! Some guy is beating the SHIT out of a woman!” only to have him open up the doors and say “Don’t interfere with the locals.” I say “Oh, ok. I’ll tell Andrew” and he shuts the door on my face. I turned and ‘ran’ to the stairs. I got half way down and then I stopped. Don’t interfere with the locals!? How can I not!? I thought to myself. This is wrong! I have to help! I quickly got outside and saw that Chris has now joined the party. I looked around and saw many people watching this man beating a woman who has a child holding her hand, screaming and crying, as she laid on the ground not moving, only screaming as tears ran down her face. By this time my heart was racing like I had just run a marathon and my breathing had quickened to an uncomfortable level.


         Finally, Andrew and Chris got him to stop. Jenny begged us to go back inside and we all agreed that it was probably a good idea. Everyone walked upstairs except me. I leaned back on the wall, which I was very thankful for, I took off my glasses and I rubbed my eyes. My world was spinning and I didn’t know if it was from the situation or the altitude. The team came back down realizing I didn’t follow and they forced me up the stairs. I felt my eyes fill up with tears and my body was shaking uncontrollably. I stood at the top of the stairs with Jenny and tried my best to slow down my breathing. I’m not too sure what I did in the next 5 minutes, but I remember my thoughts. How could those people just let that happen!? It’s wrong and disgusting. You could smell the alcohol on his breath. He isn’t THAT big. I can’t take him but lots of those people watching could have. Especially if they all went at him! Why did they just watch? Once I finally calmed down, it started again. A horrible cry followed by many more. Furious I ran down the stairs, cursing, I whipped the door open. Then my courage failed me, again. He was beating her for the second time. I heard Jenny and Andrew yelling at me, from the doorway, to get inside. I became nervous seeing real violence and my body froze once again. But then I looked at the woman, then the child. This feeling of rage filled me and I started to yell at the man. Andrew ran out and joined me. Jenny came out and started to beg us again to come back inside where it is safe. Safe? You expect me to run to safety when this woman and child can’t? Or can they? I have no idea, but they aren’t running so neither am I. I think to myself. I turned to see Jenny’s worried face but quickly turned back to the man who seemed to be backing off the woman. His friend put his hand on the other man’s chest and started to push him away from the woman. Good timing jerk!  But then I thought, at least he stepped in.


We all checked up on the woman making sure she was not seriously injured. I watched the man walk away, with a slight stumble and I felt a bit of relief. I heard Ian’s voice, I quickly turned to see him doing up his coat as he walked through the doorway and then he said “I hope you all aren’t silly enough to interfere with the locals”. Once I heard this I felt so much rage inside of me I thought I would have punched him in the face right there and then. But deciding against it I stomped inside, up the stairs, punched the wall (not a good idea), went into my room and slammed the doors. I sat on the edge of my bed and held my head in my hands, concentrating on my breathing and my hate for Ian at that time. After about three minutes passed I heard a knock on my door. Millions of thoughts rush through my head. Shit…Ian is going to want to give me a speech or check up on me. Just shut up and listen. You are mad and you will probably say something you will regret in the morning so don’t be witty or bitchy. He came in and I lifted my head from my hands. He saw the anger, shock, worry etc, and all the many other emotions I was feeling all at that time, in my eyes and his face fell. He explained to me why he acted the way he did and about how people in Nepal live. The best line I heard that night was “Now how would I explain to your mother that Katie got a knife stuck in her chest?” I then thought to myself, Oh…good to know your first thought wasn’t “Oh my! Katie has a knife in her chest! I’m so sad’ but more of a worry for saving your ass from my mother’s wrath. But I settled for saying “Yes Ian, I understand.” We said our goodnights and he left the room. Two minutes later I left my room to sit on the stairs, drinking water, to think about things.


I’ve had a lot of time to think about this whole episode. I still don’t know what I really think of it though. This is all so new to me. I find myself late at night lying on my bed, lights out, with my head torch on pointed at the ceiling. This is when I get real “Kate time.” I get to think about things bothering me and not surprisingly this is one of the things that come up. Why did those people just stand and watch? Is it entertainment for them? Is it the same as when I rent a violent movie and sit on the couch and watch people being blown away by rapid gun fire? Or when in the movie they have those five minutes, at least, dedicated to a big fight between two people where a pipe would really be nothing compared to the weapons some of these characters use on each other? Why is it that when I watch the movie I don’t give it a second thought but when I see it in real life I struggle with it? Why is it that I can punch someone on the ice during a hockey game but not in real life? This is something I know I will have a hard time with for my whole life. I’m seen as a very aggressive person and I would agree but then it comes down to it, am I really? Could I beat someone up? Could I kill someone? I can’t answer these questions unless I am put into a situation where I would or I wouldn’t. I can think about it and guess but I will never know until the moment I have to choose. Right after this situation unfolded, I was furious and disgusted with the ways that the Nepalese lived. But after the rest of that night to think about it, I changed my thoughts on it all together. Who am I to judge their way of life? Why is it wrong for that man to beat up, as I was later told, his wife?  If you asked me this question three weeks ago I would have said “It is wrong. And that’s how I feel.” With no thought about it. But now I find myself questioning my beliefs. What is wrong? Is it something you shouldn’t do? If I walked into Philosophy and hit Mr. Seggie in the face, is that wrong? Yes. But why? Well because he didn’t do anything to deserve it. Does this mean that if he did something to deserve it, then it is all right to hit him?So if the woman did something bad to the husband and he started to beat her up, is that ok? No. Why not? Because it is wrong. Well what is wrong?


This conversation in my head seems to always go around in circles and get no where. The definition of wrong at (www.dictionary.com) is: Not in conformity with fact or truth; incorrect or erroneous or Contrary to conscience, morality, or law; immoral or wicked. a) Unfair; unjust. b) Unacceptable or undesirable according to social convention. If there is any truth in this definition then it was right for him to beat her because the society didn’t seemed to think it was incorrect, immoral, wicked, undesirable etc.  So who was wrong? The man or me for interfering? Thinking that he should be locked away, was it really me who should have been put in jail for trying to make things…wrong? Who is wrong? Which could also be said as, who is not conforming to fact or truth? Who is incorrect or erroneous? Who is contrary to conscience, morality, and the law? Who is immoral and wicked? Unfair? Unjust? And who is unacceptable or undesirable according to social convention?


A few days later, the weather was awesome and my legs felt pretty good. We had to walk nine hours that day so I kept my pace controlled and at a medium pace. I was walking along the side of a small mountain. There was about three meters of walking room from the side of the small mountain/big hill to where a small ridge/cliff was. No worries, it isn’t too busy today. I looked ahead of myself to see Jenny walking in front of me and further in the distance a bunch of people running around busy doing things that I couldn’t see yet. I saw a bright orange tent pitched on the side of the ridge. It was such an odd place for a tent to be, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. My curiosity grew as I walked closer. An older woman walked past me with her arms full of prayer flags. She wasn’t overly happy but seemed to be smiling. I was very interested in what everybody was up to but I didn’t think much of it. I kept walking and for some reason I looked to my left, down the ridge. To my surprise I saw a few men down a long ways, struggling up the ridge. I kept walking as I watched them. I saw one man with some object covered in a white blanket. I’ve always been amazed at the Nepalese people’s strength. He struggled with every step. I stopped to watch a bit more and figure out what he was doing. I took a better look at the white blanket and saw red. There were random blotches of blood all over the cloth. How did I miss that? I watched him struggle and he turned a bit, which made me see beneath the blanket two legs sticking straight up in the air. They had dark grey shoes on the feet.  My heart started beat a lot faster and I tried to get some words out to Jenny who also stopped not too far ahead of me to see what was going on. All I managed to get out was “Is that…?” and she said “Ya… I think so.” Immediately understanding the situation, Jenny said “let’s go.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t take my eyes off this man carrying someone up the hill. Stupidly I still didn’t accept that this man he was carrying was dead. I watched the other men try to help him, but it was useless. It was too steep for more than one person to take the body up. Some man with a thick accent to my left, who came from no-where, said “accident, accident” as he pointed to the man down the cliff with his hand that held a walking pole. No shit eh? Thanks for the update Captain obvious. I thought to myself as I looked back down the hill. It seemed like the man doing all of the carrying shifted the body a bit when I looked away. He continued up the ridge, and then the wind picked up. A side of the blanket lifted off the body and folded over to the other side. That’s how I saw his face. A face that will haunt me forever. I remember breathing in quickly and holding, for what seemed forever, my breath for as long as I could. I felt my body in pain, begging for the release of the old air and hoping for new air to come in. “Kate, come on.” Jenny said, but everything she said from then on was foggy and only background noise to me. The man’s face was pale, even though the Nepalese tend to have darker, tanned skin. His head was tilted back a bit and his mouth was open, not fully but quite a bit. His eyes were closed. My stomach turned and twisted trying to get rid of the knots that had just been created. I swallowed, turned and started walking again. I only got a few steps around the corner when I was faced with about five yaks wanting to get by. I wasn’t about to take on yaks so I went to the far right, stepped up on a mound of dirt and grabbed onto a bush that was growing right by my head on the side of the hill. The yaks finally went by but I couldn’t move my body to walk. Instead, my knees buckled and I slid down the side of the hill that I used to hold myself up with. I let everything go. I had no choice, it was coming out no matter what so I just let it. I sat down and held my head and cried. Jenny, Padam and Chris, who were a bit behind us, came up behind me and tried to take my bag away. I didn’t want to sit and think about it so I got up and started walking again. Luckily I had a hat and sunglasses so no one who passed me could really noticed anything was wrong with me. I would wipe away any tears that snuck down past my sunglasses and tried not to show any emotion. A straight face would be better than a sad one I thought. I trekked quite quickly and ended up catching up to Ian, Andy and Andrew who were pretty far ahead of us. They stopped at a shop, but waited for us before they went in to get anything. I stood with them, biting my lip and kicking the dirt, every-so-often to keep myself busy which was planned to help stop any close calls of me breaking down. But when Jenny caught up and said “Are you ok?” and hugged me, I couldn’t fight it. (It seems to be the right thing to do and question to ask an upset person when you want them to cry.)

We walked over to the side so we wouldn’t be in the way of other trekkers and I sat on a step. This time I held the back of my head, pulling it to my knees. I wanted to curl up and just fade away. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I’m guessing Jenny explained things to the guys, so they buggered off. Ian, Jenny and Padam stayed with me though. Padam came over and put his hand on my shoulder. He then stood up straight, as I looked at his shoes, and said “why you crying?” My first thoughts were Why the frigen hell do you think I’m crying! If anything why AREN’T you crying!? Or at least a bit upset!  But I would never yell at Padam, he has always taken care of me and yet again I was upset so I tried to say as little as possible knowing that emotions can control what you say and you usually end up regretting it later. Ian seemed to see, some how, my anger towards Padam’s question and he started to explain why Padam said that and he talked about Buddhism and re-incarnation. “You would have noticed that the family didn’t seem too upset about this…?” Ian said and I quietly answered yes. He then talked about their beliefs and how it differs from his and mine. (As we talked about each other’s beliefs earlier on in the trip) and that, “they are probably, if anything, mad that he won’t be there tomorrow to work on the fields.” I couldn’t help but laugh a bit to this and shake my head because it was so absurd to me. Ian handed me a Coke and walked away. Jenny stayed and tried to comfort me a bit more but eventually left to use the ‘loo’. I soon realized I had no idea where my bag was, I was so distracted I didn’t even know someone took it off of me. But I didn’t care too much so I stayed where I was sitting down and looked around me. There were huge stones with prayers carved into them, prayer flags, small temple like buildings, etc. I still felt very upset but a little bit stupid too. I didn’t even know him and I was the only one overly upset/crying. I stood up, found my bag and started walking again. Still much faster than usual because all I wanted was to be at the next lodge, in my room, in my sleeping bag, curled up to think about things.


I never thought I would smile and really mean it ever again until we got to the next rest stop and Ian said “How” (and doing the stereotypical “Native American hello” with his right hand) He asked me how I was and I said ok. He then said jokingly trying his hardest to make me feel better, “So no sweet love making tonight?” I grinned, laughed a bit and then said “I don’t think so. Not tonight.” I knew then, that things would be ok. Different, but ok.


As I sit here, safe, in my home…I can’t help but wonder. Could I ever believe in re-incarnation? It amazes me how dedicated Buddhists are to their religion. They believe in it so much that death is not a scary ending for them. If anything death is another beginning to them. Christains believe in heaven and that it is an amazing place, but they still tend to fear death. Does this mean that maybe they don’t really believe in heaven? If you asked a Buddhist if he/she feared death they would probably look at you funny and say “why would I fear death? I will be back” and if you asked someone who was Christain if they feared death, most (not all) would say yes. But if heaven is such an amazing place why do people fear going there? Do they fear that they won’t get in and will be sent to the depths of hell? The Ten Commandments don’t ask for too much. It seems like basically to be a good person, which is how you supposedly get into heaven, you have to treat others how you want to be treated, don’t kill etc. And if you ask for forgiveness you are in! Because all of your sins will be forgiven. So what’s to worry about? I felt scared, sad and confused when I saw the porter who had died. Why? I don’t necessarily fear death because it doesn’t really make sense to fear something that is inevitable.

 Why did I grieve for a man I don’t know? Why did I worry for him? Why was I scared? I wasn’t the one who was dead, he was. So maybe I wasn’t scared at all for him, maybe death became a reality to me and I am actually terrified of death. We fear the unknown but I don’t fear history or law and I know absolutely nothing about it. Maybe there is something deeper to our problem with death and it isn’t religion. Was I wrong to cry? No, I don’t think so, but the main thing is to try and realize why I cried. Was I being greedy as it was probably seen by some of the Nepalese or was I being compassionate? As it was probably seen by the group who are all from Britain. Who is right? The definition of right (from www.dictionary.com) is conforming with or conformable to justice, law, or morality: do the right thing and confess. In accordance with fact, reason, or truth; correct: the right answer. Fitting, proper, or appropriate: It is not right to leave the party without saying goodbye. Most favorable, desirable, or convenient: the right time to act. This puts us in the same situation as who is wrong? Who is being appropriate? Who is correct? Who is conforming to morality? I guess the only answer to “who is right?” is “Who is on the right side of the world?”…and that depends on where you’re looking at it from.








Tags: basecamp, everest, humor, nepal, nepal, travel, trekking

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