A word that comes to mind when I think about this experience: confronting. I realized how vastly my cultural norms effected the way I felt when witnessing something different than anything I’ve seen before. Funeral traditions are deeply ingrained in our cultures. An average funeral in the US goes something like this: Everyone arrives to a church in all black. They take their seats in the pews to listen to a ceremony of prayers and share memories and tears together. Then they go to a graveyard and solemnly watch the casket lowered into the ground. Afterwards everyone gathers at home surrounded by loved ones to console the immediate family and commemorate the life of the deceased.
The social norms I have unconsciously constructed surrounding death, both in the way of dealing with people I love passing and dying myself, has been uprooted. If the Hindu people can gather and watch bodies burn and dance and chant in the smoke without breaking down or acting morbid why should I feel so scared of death? While looking on at the festival, my Hindu guide said, “If all goes to plan, this is exactly where I will go when I die”. The Nepali people seem so much more open to conversations about death than my people in the US. The pyres in Pashupatinath have seen more death than is comprehendible. Apparently fires raged here nonstop throughout the day and night after the earthquake in 2015 as hundreds of families mourned their loses from the disaster…
I felt immense guilt traveling to the country I’ve always dreamed of without making the legendary trek to Everest Base Camp. Short on both money and time, I have resolved that I will be back one day to check that off my bucket list. My final experience in Nepal was a flight to see the infamous Mount Everest. If I wasn’t able to trek on this trip, I had to at least lay my eyes on the tallest mountain in the world.
I booked the mountain flight one day in advance with Buddha Airlines. Keep in mind this was in January/February so availability may vary and you might want to consider booking ahead of time. Flights start everyday at 6 am, everyone is guaranteed a window seat and they fly about 20 miles away from the summit. The fare is around $200USD and is worth every penny. I chose to go on the earliest flight possible (arriving at the airport at 5 am) because I was leaving the country the same day and didn’t want to risk missing my flight. Thankfully my international flight wasn’t until the late afternoon because the mountain flight was delayed over 5 1/2 hours due to weather conditions. This is apparently very common in the winter months. Waiting patiently in the freezing steel chairs of the domestic terminal with no wifi I reached new levels of exhaustion and boredom. I watched the terminal slowly fill with tourists sporting their new knockoff Northface gear and shiny hiking boots. Finally the fog lifted and we were cleared for takeoff.
Winter in the Himalayas
Climate Change Awareness
I visited Nepal in the middle of winter (end of January, beginning of February). Since I was coming from South East Asia, I anticipated the coldest weather transition possible but this was not what I found in Kathmandu… It was sunny and 75°F (24°C) all day with no storms on the forecast for the upcoming month. I traveled throughout Asia during the rainy season and didn’t use my rain jacket once. I didn’t think much of this until the mountain flight. As you can see in these photos, there was only light, dirty layers of snow on the mountaintops. To all the climate change skeptics out there: Take a look at the tallest mountain range in the world during the winter of 2017-18. Where’s the snow? You can’t see these mountains and not ask this question. There is a serious problem arising when the tallest mountains in the world aren’t covered in snow during the winter. The face of Everest is bare this year and we should all be more concerned about it. Our world’s temperatures are changing at a rapid rate and learning about the causes of these problems and their impacts on both the environment and the millions of people that live here is the first step to finding a solution. Click here to learn more about climate change in the Himalayas and what is being done to fight it.
I feel immensely privileged to have seen this much of the world and it has become my goal to always show the beauty of nations otherwise negatively perceived. Our minds are capable of comprehending the complexity of all the issues in the world. Nothing is one sided, especially when it comes to our humanity and our fight to protect the environment. It isn’t too late if we don’t give up. We must push away from the things we don’t understand by educating ourselves. Through these stories and realizations I hope we can move towards a more conscious, interconnected world. ⠀⠀⠀⠀