Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Waiting for Lukla

Tuesday, October 17
5:45 - We say goodbye to Nobel Peace. Kamal, our driver, was "busy" so he sent a friend to pick us up. James met us to pick up our extra bag for safe keeping during the next few weeks. 

6:05 - Arrive at Kathmandu airport. It's raining. We stand under a tin shed waiting to get inside to go through "security". Success. 

6:30 - Make our way to the Makalu Air counter. It's in a corner and it is not clear if they are any lines. We begin to look for our guide, Indra. Phone calls end with a busy tone. Other groups happily meet their guides. I'm beginning to be concerned. 

7:00 - Our new friends from Austrailia check their bags for the 6:30 flight. If their flight makes it out, that's a good sign for us. 

7:10 - I make it to the counter. Man looks at my ticket (see below) and explains I'm on the 7:30 flight and that I should wait. They are only checking in the 6:30 flight. 

7:30 - Desk agent at Tara air flips over the laminated "Lukla" sign to read...
P.S. I trust the pilots' (whom I've never met) judgment as Lukla is the most dangerous airport to land in in the world. I have no problem waiting. 

7:45 - Purchase my first cup of coffee with milk. 

8:00 - We meet Indra!  Sigh of relief. I had seen a few guides milling around and had struck up conversations with a few, hoping they would be looking for us. Indra had been one I had seen, but had not talked to. Initial greetings seem somewhat tense. I think he had been stressed looking for us. Apparently he was not told that we were a female duo as we are the only female duo I have seen in the Kathmandu Airport. I was assuming we would be easy to spot. I was wrong. But that is in the past and we are now together at last.  Conversation quickly jumps to what services we have paid for. One would think that this would have been arranged with our guide through the tour company we have consulted with. We inform him that we have paid for a guide, porter, lodging and three meals a day. Basically, this is an all-inclusive trip. Immediately after this exchange, Indra wants the number of our Nepali contact who has put us in touch with this tour group and thus, Indra. I turn to Annette and share with her my feeling that we might be in the market for a new guide. Her suggestion is that we meet up with the Australians (who are probably sitting on the runway as we speak) and join in with their group.  Once Indra hangs up the phone, he cracks his first smile. Ah... Another sigh of relief. Indra will be our guide, and possibly our friend, by the end on the next 2 weeks. All is well. 

9:00 - I debate between reading on my phone (and needing to save batteries as apparently you have to pay to charge anything at the lodges along the way) or starting my new book I purchased in Thamel the other day. "The Good Earth" is cracked open. I'm captivated after reading one paragraph of Pearl Buck's brief bio. 

9:20 - I purchase my second coffee with milk. 

9:30 - Annette and I begin to discuss the conditions of the Kathmandu airport. Walls are pink and blue. 

People seem to ignore signs such as these. 

I've concluded this airport reminds me of the gymnasium of a Catholic School that was built in 1910 and has never been remodeled. Annette suggests a 1950's carnival. I begin to envision an off-track betting parlor like the one's from the movie "The Sting."  We also conclude the male to femael ratio stands at somewhere around 4:1 to 9:1.  This seems to be a trend. You would think at least one of us might have a chance...

9:40 - We discuss possible airport games. I want to play 2 degrees of separation... trying to find someone who knows someone we know. I suggest a game of bowling our bodies into the giant mounds of trekking bags. 

10:00 - I realize that this experience is great blog material. Blogging commences. 

10:30 - My attention turns back to making more observations. Indra tells us we will wait until about 2 before we determine that waiting for a flight today is futile and we will try again tomorrow. 

10:50 - Indra tells us the flight is cancelled. We will try again tomorrow. And the day after that if we need to. 

11:30 - We end up back at the Nobel Peace Prize. We get our old room back... just as we left it 6 hours ago. 

11:40 - We head back to the Way Cafe and spend the rest of the day there... Checking email, waiting for friends and family to wake up back home to connect with, attempting to download TED talks, blogging and chatting with fellow cafe patrons. 

One of them was a man from the States who has spent half of his last 40 years in Nepal. When Bobby walked in, he seemed like he would be someone we would like to chat with. After he met with a few friends and was leaving, he stopped at our table to note we had been sitting there awhile. We struck up a great conversation as we asked him his perspective on various observations and things we had learned in our first two weeks in Nepal. He has a great love for the Tibetan people and even though he doesn't know the language, he has been able to share the love of Christ with many. I think we could have talked much longer. 

Later in the afternoon I had an opportunity to chat with Landuk, part owner of The Way and lifelong friend of James. He shares his testimony with me, which although quite miraculous, does not seem to be that uncommon here. The Lord has been doing some amazing works in the villages and among various people groups in Nepal and many are believing as a result. Landuk explained that at age 12 he had a serious illness that lasted over a year. His brother and father were both lamas.  He and his family practiced all of the Buddhist healing rituals but nothing seemed to work. Many believed that Landuk did not have long to live in this world. In the Buddhist faith, when people die, others come to speak words to the dead as they pass into the next life. Before Landuk was even dead, people began to speak these words to him, including his brother and dad. And then a friend from the village who had moved to Kathmandu, and become a Christian, came to visit Landuk. In Landuk's words he explains that this man, Simon, "spoke words of life to me."  This was a new thing to Landuk and he prayed to this new God he was hearing about that if he would be healed, he would believe. Almost immediately he was able to stand and walk for the first time in a long time. He went on to explain that both he and James became believers on the same day.  They began to meet with Simon and learn more about the Christian faith. Today all three of them fellowship at the same church here in Boudha, that is a vibrant church filled with joyful Tibetan believers. Landuk has a beautiful wife, Keshang, and two lively boys named Zoell and Kyle. Zoell's English is remarkable for a 4 year old, and this is the 4th language that he knows in addition to the native village language, Nepali and the Hindi cartoons he watches. They live behind the children's home. I was thankful for this time to be encouraged by Landuk and his story. 

I ate buff momo's one more time and we headed back to sleep. 

Wednesday, October 18
5:45: We leave again. Same taxi driver. No rain. 

6:15: We arrive back at the airport. Everything is strangely calmer. Annette jokes that maybe everyone else got the text message that all flights were cancelled. But things seem hopeful. 

7:15: I'm sitting here blogging, still not checked in for the flight that supposedly leaves at 7:30.  

10:00: We have boarding passes. We get through security. I sweet talk them to let me keep my tiny scissors. The first pair got taken in Istanbul. We sit. We wait. People leave. People come back, not able to land in Lukla. I get the password for wifi from a different airline. The gate agent, my new friend, asks me for it. I say I'll tell him if he gets me on a flight to Lukla. He said "deal"!  So far he has not held up on his end of the bargain. 

11:30: I take a lap around the terminal and spot this book at the store...

That's "Touch the Top of the World" by Erik Weihenmeyer... the first blind man to summit Everest. My friend Eric Alexander, helped to get him there. Eric ... I've been thinking of you and your experience here. Thanks for encouraging me to go for it!  Give my love to Amy and the girls!!

12:30: My new friend delivered. Or so it seems. My view has changed from the terminal to this...

Pilot has told us we will wait 15 minutes as the international flights take precedence in using the runway. 

1:00: On the runway. 

1:10: Take off

1:40: We land!  We are waiting for Lukla no more!

Thanks for waiting with me!  The journey to Everest Base Camp begins. Keep the prayers coming!

1 comment:

  1. Ashley, you continue to amaze and inspire me!!!! I love you adventuresome spirit and "can do" attitude. I will be praying for you and Annette and your fellow trekkers as you head to Everest Base Camp. Love, Clair