Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Place We Will Never See

I’ve never been to Nepal and I may never go.

It seems as though people have certain places they have always dreamed of going. I know after having visited Colorado as a young boy, I wanted to go back, and I know Elise always dreamed of living in Paris. My mom tells me that I have a cousin who had always dreamed of going to Brazil.

I had never dreamed of going to Nepal. Mostly, because I never could have imagined it actually being a real possibility. But when I started my new job, Nepal became one of those places I wanted to visit. Kathmandu. It sounded about as foreign and exotic as you could imagine. That is had the world’s highest mountains didn’t hurt either.

When Elise and I were putting together our list for our second assignment, Kathmandu was on the list. “How about Kathmandu?” I asked her. Maybe not in those specific words, but I definitely wanted her to consider the possibility.

She shot me down. If not immediately, then pretty close to it. She nor I remember her exact words, but we both distinctly remember having the conversation about Nepal as we sat across from each other at our dining room table in Brazil. She didn’t want to go. She heard they were due for a major earthquake, and while she knew that natural disasters could strike anywhere at any time, she didn’t want to go. End of discussion.

Later, working in Chennai, there was an opportunity to work for a week in Kathmandu, I immediately threw my name in the hat and got it. I didn’t end up making the trip; Elise had an opportunity to travel for work, so I stayed home with the kids. It was the right thing to do. Considering how much she sacrifices for me, not going to Kathmandu was the least I could do. We are still far from even.

But I still wanted to go. I wanted the kids to see the Himalayas. I wanted Elise to have the opportunity to photograph the place, the people, the temples and prayer flags.

Last week, I emailed back and forth with a guide who was putting together a mini-trek for our family this fall. It included short hikes, between four and six hours. We would stay in teahouses at night and sleep in tents under the stars. We would get up early and glimpse the Himalayas in the dawn. The kids would run through the hills, walk, and tire quickly, no doubt. He arranged a porter for Clementine, and I imagined her toted in a basket on the back of a yak.

My own sense of loss is nothing compared with the loss of life and property. Livelihoods have been forever altered. The world—not just me—has suffered a monumental loss.

I have not heard back from the guide since the earthquake. I wonder if he is okay.

I still want to go, but don’t know if we will. I still want the kids to see the mountains, to breathe fresh air, to sleep on the floor of a teahouse, to have the mountain adventure. Maybe we’ll go to North India, maybe we’ll go to Bhutan, but it won’t quite be the same.

Last week, Elise had lunch with her friend Ed, before the quakes. She told me he said he was still in to do Everest Base Camp. I was a little shocked. I hadn’t even realized this was an option. When I told her it was a two-week trek costing $1,500 dollars, the possibility may have come off the table.

We will see Nepal. Some day. But it will never be the same as the place it was. I don’t have a bucket list, but when the kids are in their late teens or early twenties, I want us to all do Everest Base Camp. Elise, too. Someone has to document the trip for posterity. Maybe they will indulge me on my 60th birthday.

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