Tag Archives: Everest Region

Christen ~ Nepal, after the earthquakes, working towards short term needs and long term recovery.

To the Side-2

Have any of you been feeling like “Okay! We get it! You hiked some [censored] mountains! Can we move on now?!!” Because I have been feeling that way for a long while. I am so ready for the next adventure, you have no idea.

I am not accustomed to talking about what I am doing in public. Even after a year of doing this, I still do not like it. I like my privacy. A lot. I prefer that the only part of my personal life that surfaces in public is the photography I decide to share. There have been many times over the course of this last year that I have reminded myself of the people of Nepal for whom I am doing this. Most often, it is the children that run through my mind.

©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb

Photo from Ayusha Swar 1

I have lived with the people we met in Nepal in my heart and in my head for over a year now. With approximately 200 hours of footage and all of the photography captured, they are living breathing people in front of me every day. They make me smile and laugh and they pull me through when I get worn out from the long hours and no pay. Yes, okay, maybe we let our hearts get ahead of our finances when we agreed to do this film project. (There have been so many meals of cheap tacos or food made in the toaster this year.) Who knew it cost so much to do this?! Certainly not I. But, then, I did not even know I could not hike in jeans. (I know, I know, thank goodness I did not die.)

Nepal is one of the poorest nations in the world. The goal of the Karma Documentary was to move beyond empathy for their struggles and to support them in their desire to empower themselves, so they can work towards providing for their own communities with their own profits. I have never regretted starting on this project, not even when I was hanging upside down in a rabbit trap [chuckle], and where I grew up you finish what you start. We were just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when…

On April 25th, 2015, the earthquakes began, the worst natural disaster to hit Nepal in over 80 years. Thousands of people died, and hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless. It was centered around where we stayed for my time after the trek. Most of the homes and businesses of the people we came to know in that village (as well as throughout Kathmandu Valley and beyond), were destroyed. The aftershocks continued to hit them for days to come.

We had no idea what to do. My first thought was, “How can I get there?” (I know, but when I know people that are hurting, it is always my first thought.) It quickly sank in that my going there would do nothing to help and only take away from their resources. Besides, knowing the people we know there, they would turn around and be trying to take care of me, rather than the other way around. Instead, we just sat here feeling helpless, watched the death toll climb, and held our breaths while we waited for the people we know to check in as safe. 4,000 dead. Now over 5,000 dead. Believed to be over 6,000 dead. They finally settled on over 8,000 dead and more than 19,000 injured.

©Josh Saam
©Josh Saam

It never occurred to me during those first days that we would continue making the film. I just kept seeing the people I knew in my mind and picturing them now living on the streets outside of their collapsed homes, and feeling lost as to how to help them. It was not until it was made very clear to us from many different directions that, not only did we need to finish the film, but that now it was even more important to their long term recovery that we finish it. It was not until this was pounded into my head repeatedly, that I could even bring myself to watch actual footage from the earthquake.

Just when I had finally gotten my head wrapped around the importance of continuing with the film, because they still want and need their stories to be told, May 12th, 2015 arrived. Another earthquake, almost as big as the first, hit Nepal. This time its center was where we had been trekking. There is no one that I met during my time in Nepal that has not been affected by the earthquakes.

We have started a campaign to raise 125K to accomplish both the completion of the film and immediate relief for people in the communities we know, because we know how to get the money directly into the hands of those communities. We do not have to wonder if we gave it to the right organization. (Seriously, how do companies working in disaster relief profit so greatly? Nevermind. That is a rant for another day. Focusing on what is important right now.)

Nepali Relief and Karma Documentary from Luke Mislinski on Vimeo.

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Christen ~ 16,500 feet

Bits from letters ~

“It took me a while to digest this news. My first thoughts were are you out of your mind.”

“this is not about you dying, because you are not going to and that is really going to [censored] up the rest of my letter if you think you are”

“Hiking the Himalayas…Are you nuts? :)”

“You make incredibly bad choices, but have incredibly good stories!
I know you will survive! It’s what you do!
GO – Bring joy to the world!”

~

If my grandma had been around for me to tell her about this trip, she would have casually said, “Give ’em hell, babe.” That thought made me smile at Khare Lodge at about 16,500 feet.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 8.56.35 PM

[Side note: 16,500 feet is higher than anything in the continental U.S. and the trek up here is more difficult than that to Everest base camp. Yeah…these were not things I knew before coming up here. Also, had I read the suggested training information packets, I would, apparently, have been informed that trekkers should be in “marathon plus” shape, as in, you should be able to run a marathon and still have something left in the reserve tank. Since running a block about does me in, we can add that to the list of advice not taken…]

It is the morning after we arrived here. I am walking around to take it in and feeling good. Surprisingly good. Better than I deserve to feel good. And, as you can imagine, I am feeling a little bit tough at this point. Okay, maybe a little more than a little.

Then, I look over and see one of the Russians, shirtless, standing in the snow, casually using handfuls of it to scrub himself down.

Ahh, yes, I am still soft…

Reality Check, I tip my hat to you.

What can you do, but laugh?

Oh, and recruit the Russians and a Ukrainian to help build a human-sized snow demon with the new snow we got last night. Building snowmen is a great equalizer, because it wears everyone out. However, I wore gloves and a hat for some of it, and they did not. I am okay with being a little soft.

Photo credit: Yuriy Taranovych
Photo credit: Yuriy Taranovych

Bits from the letters ~

“It is your compassion that brought you on this journey, and it is your determination that will see you through to the end.

“Hold your chin high, we are all so proud of you, base camp or not.”

“Of course it’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great. – A League of Their Own”

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Donate to the film. Any and all contributions make a difference.

 

***You can donate through the GoFundMe campaign, as well as share the link and encourage others to donate:

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82513

Christen ~ Figuring it out, slowly, slowly, slowly

I cannot climb a mountain all at once. I can only climb what is in front of me.

This has been clear to me from the beginning, but that clarity is crystalized as I look up at the steep inclines or long declines in front of me. So, I just pull down the brim of the hat and just keep my eyes on the next few steps. It is surprising how much easier this all seems, how much faster I get where I am going, and how manageable it is when I keep it that simple. I am not sure why I find it surprising. That is how I approach everything else in my life and it makes sense there, so I am not sure why it had not occurred to me that it would be the best approach to this, as well.

It has, also, come to my attention that I cannot have the rest of the group in my eyesight. With the rest being avid mountaineers, the natural inclination to ‘keep up’ is not wise. That is how I will make mistakes. I am much better served if I drift back a bit and just focus on my own pace. ‘Slowly, slowly, slowly’ is the mantra our personal porters, Pasang and Chongsba, keep chanting beside me, whenever I start to go too fast for my own good.

The slower pace, also, gives us the feeling of more freedom to stop and film as we go, without the visual pressure of seeing people wait for us.

Trekking 6

[Sidenote: When I say avid mountaineers…we each brought one book with us to read on the hike, with the idea that we could pass them around as we finished each. When I asked which book each of them brought, every single one was a mountaineering book.]

It meant that when we met people along the way, we could stop and have conversations, learn new words in Sherpa or Nepali, or have tea with the locals (as long as the water was boiled properly).

When we met a fun-sized, stylish woman in her eighties, I asked her (with Karma translating) if she had any unfulfilled wants or any regrets in her years. She chuckled and said, “No.” Then, she paused and amended her, No, with, “Well, maybe a couple more pretty things to wear.”

May we all be so lucky.

%22A couple more pretty things...%22 2

%22A couple more pretty things...%22 1

Bits from the letters ~

“I pray that you are able to use your talents and gifts to serve the people you meet along the way.”

“You chose this because your heart is huge and your care for the world is infinite. You chose this because love makes us courageous as much as it makes us kind, makes us humble as much as it makes us limitless. You chose to do this because you love, and that is your strength, your clarity, your comfort, and your sustenance.”

“Friend, you are a divine mingle-mangle of guts and stardust.
-Frank Capra”

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Donate to the film. Any and all contributions make a difference.

 

***You can donate through the GoFundMe campaign, as well as share the link and encourage others to donate:

http://www.gofundme.com/karmadocumentary

 

***You can donate through PayPal here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

 

***You can send a check to:

Luke Mislinski Photography

3563 US Highway 26
Dubois, WY
82513