Sunday, January 07, 2007


Nepal Research Project - Into the Khumbu

Photo: Assan Market in Kathmandu.
FYI - You can find photos from Nepal at:

5 January 2007

I am sitting on the roof of the domestic terminal of the Kathmandu Airport. Our flight was scheduled for 6am departure -- it is now almost noon. Initially the delay was due to fog in Kathmandu -- something is occurs almost daily. In fact, we did not even leave our hotel until about 9:30 because we knew all the flights had been delayed.

The sun is now out and a couple of jets have taken off. Now the delay is due to wind in Lukla, our destination. Wind is apparently not common this time of year. But due to the precarious location of the Lukla airport on the side of a large mountain, any winds that arise will cancel a flight. So far, our flight is not cancelled. If it is, we will return to the Hotel Tibet.

I mentioned briefly in my last blog that I had come down with a cold. I woke up yesterday with a sore throat. I felt like something was coming on, so I had taken a couple of Sudafed late in the day before. I did not feel that great for most of the day. I started taking cold medicines (Sudafed at first. And then Panadol cold and flu which I bought), including amoxicillin (after reading the dosage recommendations online), and sucking on lozenges. I also tried to rest, though we still did a couple more interviews, I let Kevin do most of the talking.

After one of the interviews, Dawa took us to the Assan district to look for yarn for me to buy. This district was a maze of narrow streets packed with people selling and buying a great variety of foods, household goods and crafts. Despite my cold, I took a lot of photos of the buildings and street scenes. It was actually hard for me to keep up with the others while taking photos. And we never did find any traditional yarn -- just more modern imports from India.

As exhilarating as the Assan market area was (my favorite part of Kathmandu, so far), I paid for the experience later as I was wiped out by the time we got back to our hotel. We ended up eating a late lunch and late dinner at the hotel, rather than go out, since we still had to pack for the next day.

We interviewed two people today. One was quite you -- 29 years old. The youngest person we interviewed so far was 22 years old. Although based on only two cases, it appears that age has a significant impact on historical perspective and depth of opinion on social conditions in Nepal. This is not a problem with the current research, as we want a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. However, in future years we also want to interview visitors to the Khumbu, and that is what I am concerned about. It is possible that most, if not all, of the visitors who we interview will have limited perspectives on historical change I the Khumbu. To explore this possibility, Kevin and I will interview some tourists on this trip, as well -- just to see how our current methodology works with them. I am guessing that we will need to adjust it to obtain useful information beyond the sorting of the photos.

Another issue that has arisen in our surveys is that a couple of respondents have not placed the photos in piles in the first part of the study, as we had requested. Instead, they spread all of the photos out on the table. The photos are generally grouped next to each other, though they sometimes change their minds during the discussion of them. I am not sure how to deal with this issue, or even if it is an issue at all. I think we need to discuss this with our Sherpa friends.


It is now 1pm and I just had bowl of 'chicken noodle soup' in the airport cafeteria. It cost 80 rupees (about US$1.15), and was really good -- a good-size bowl of thick soup broth filled with ramen noodles, large slices of chicken (in comparison to canned chicken noodle soup), and lots of sliced vegetables. I also has a 'hot lemon' drink, which is a very common drink here (25 rupees = about US$0.40). It comes unsweetened with a side container of either honey or sugar.

The worst part about having our flight canceled (if that happens) is that we would not be able to attend the Saturday market in Namche Bazaar tomorrow. This once-a-week event is supposed to be very colorful, with traders from all over the Himalaya region, including Tibetans who bring factory seconds and plastics and electronics from China.

Photo: View of the Himalayas from out small plane

Photo: Coming in to the Lukla Airport, which actually is an uphill climb -- planes take off going downhill.

It is now 8:50pm. I am in my -20 deg F sleeping bag in the Coffee Shop hotel in Lukla. Our flight left Kathmandu a little before 3pm. I sat in the front on the left side, giving me the best view of the mountains on the plane. All the seats on the twin propeller plane were window seats and the flight was full. I was busy taking videos and photos all the way on the 25 minute flight. Unfortunately, I did not get a good shot of our landing at Lukla. The runway is a relatively steep incline on the side of a mountain. The plane lands going up hill, and they take off by going down hill -- quite amazing.

I have a room to myself tonight. There is a neon light bulb in the room, but no electrical outlets. My computer is on as I downloaded audio and photo files on to it, and charged my PDA, which is what I am writing these blogs on.

We did one interview in Lukla. We walked to the other side of town, which was mostly downhill. I was pooped coming back, though, as it was uphill. We leave at 9am in the morning and may get another interview in before then.


6 January 2007

I walked about five miles today. We dropped about a thousand feet from Lukla, but climbed about the same to get to Jorsalle where we are spending the night. Not surprisingly, the straight and down parts of the trail were easy, while the climbs were a challenge. I think the combination of my cold, the altitude, and my general physical condition contributed to my difficulties going uphill. Tomorrow is the big challenge, as we will make a 2000 foot climb up Namche Hill to Namche Bazaar. If the weather is clear we should see Mt Everest, along with other peaks, on the way up.

I took lots of photos and some videos today of the mountains and river, of tourism, of villages and farmers, of tourism, of yaks and prayer stones and flags (always pass them on the left), and of tourism. There is an amazing amount of tourism here. This is the slow season, but we still saw quite a few groups of visitors -- mostly, but not exclusively, Japanese. We passed through a lot of villages today and all of them had guest houses, restaurants, and shops.

Photo: Yaks in front of a typical guest house.

The guest houses vary from the very basic ones that we are staying in, with minimal facilities, to upscale ones with attached bathrooms and hot showers, and occasionally internet access. Most all take MasterCard and Visa. Most are also built quite recently, perhaps within the past five years, and the communities look quite prosperous as a result. The standard of living for most of the people, however, is still quite poor by western standards.

The guest houses that we have stayed in, so far, are very basic. They are built of single pains of wood, which means you can hear everything in the rooms next to your own. There is a shared toilet in the hall way -- a western one the first and an Asian style squatting toilet tonight. The place tonight runs on solar power and so has no lights in the rooms, just a candle, which I did not use. The headlamp that I brought works just fine. Although we are indoors, it still feels very much like camping.

Photo: My room at the Everst Guest House in Jorsalle.

We got three interviews in today. The first was with an old Sherpa who has been on many Everest expeditions, which he told us about. In fact, we had a hard time getting him to group the photos because he just wanted to talk about them. With help from our guide, Pasang Lhamu (a very common female Sherpa name), we finally did get him to create the groups and discuss them. However, when it came to the second task, he abruptly said the he had to go and do some other things. He was quite a character.

The second interview was with the Rinpoche of Tengpoche Monastery, which is above Namche Bazaar. He was in the town of Ghat because at 72 years old he does not like the cold of the higher elevation. We offered him a Kata, which is a saffron scarf with some money (500 rupee, about US$7). He took the scarf, opened it so the money would fall out, then put the scarf on around our necks. During our interview a family with two daughters came in and did the same. We were later told that tomorrow he will start three months of meditation.

We did not do the cards with the Rinpoche, but instead just asked him questions that got to the same topics. For the first time, we had to use Pasang Lhamu to interpret his responses, which were quite lengthy -- we were there for an hour.

The Rimpoche gave us each a red string, which he blew on. We took the string and tied it around our necks for good luck. While crossing a bridge later I saw Pasang Lhamu tie her saffron scarf to the bridge rail (actually a wire), so I did the same, along with the many other scarves and prayer flags. Carl later told me that putting the scarf there means that

The third interview was with the young, 23 year old manager of the guest lodge that we are staying in tonight. This one is more remote and there not even a light in my room. We interviewed her in the restaurant area, where we had eaten dinner and had sat around a wood burning stove that gave off lots of heat when it had firewood.

At Kevin’s suggestion I started taking Dyamox to prevent altitude sickness. It makes your fingers and toes tingle, and I may just take them once a day instead of twice a day because of that.

Photo: Porters taking buffalo meat up to Namche Bazaar. Because of the Hindu religion, people eat buffalo instead of beef in Nepal.


7 January 2007


I just had a bowl of garlic soup for lunch at the Panorama Lodge on the hillside overlooking Namche Bazaar. We left Jorsalle at 9:20am and reached the high hang bridge at 9:50, which is where the switchbacks start up the Namche Hill. We arrived in Namche Bazaar at about 11:20am. The elevation here is 11,300 feet and I have a bit of a headache.

.. more to come …

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