Tag Archives: travel

Christen ~ Continuing the Journey ~ Changunarayan

©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb

It has been explained to me that the large bells outside of the temples are to be rung to say, “I am here.” Ringing the bell to let God know you are present and are ready to share this moment.

I kind of love this idea, that God is not sitting around waiting for our every whim and whisper, but that we must make our presence known. The idea that God has other things to be doing and does not simply spend time waiting around for us to have a thought, but is available if you ring the bell. (There has been no implication that the bell ever goes unanswered.) Active participation in the relationship, rather than the passive assumption that a relationship with God is happening, just because you think about it. If you want a relationship, you must “show up”.

I am here.

A lot like any other relationship we have, or life itself. Life does not just happen. You must participate. You must take action. You must show up.

Life is about showing up.

I am here.

©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb

And, where is here…

At this moment, after trekking high into the Himalaya for a few weeks, and a few days in Kathmandu to catch our breath (which was impossible, really, because it is so polluted that it was harder for me to breath in Kathmandu than at 16,500 feet), I am sitting in the little village of Changunarayan. It sits up in the hills, overlooking Kathmandu Valley, and I can, once again, breathe.

©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb

A week to marinate in the zen-like calm of a village that has gone about their way of life for hundreds of years, before my country was even a concept.

I do not, yet, know what comes after this journey (just as I did not know this journey was coming), but in this moment, I ring the bell.

I am here.

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

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Luke Mislinski Photography

14821 SE 181st Street
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Christen ~ While they summit

Bit from the letters ~

“Remember that the “summit” is merely the halfway point and that there is plenty more adventure to be had on the “return” portion of the trip.”

~

Before this trek, if you had asked me for a definition of a crampon, I would have guessed it had something to do with a menstrual cycle, and self-arrest may have been a citizen’s arrest you perform on yourself.

[Maybe there should be a mountaineering version of Balderdash for those of us not in the know.]

This, among many other reasons, pretty much disqualifies me from making the summit climb, as I would be roped to other climbers who would need me to respond like a functionally trained climber while crossing glaciers, avoiding crevasses, and repelling down mountain faces. (I think all of that is lingo-ly correct?)

As the rest of our team attempted the summit on Mera Peak, Luke and I descended roughly 5,000 feet to counter Luke’s altitude sickness, which meant I got to take my first hot shower in about ten days.

[By ‘hot shower’, I mean standing in a shed with an old, large, plastic paint bucket affixed with a plastic spigot and filled with boiling water sitting on a shelf above my head, with another paint bucket on the floor, filled with ice cold glacier creek water and a small pitcher, to temper the boiling water.]

Then, on to having some clean clothes, because we got to do our laundry.

[By ‘do our laundry’, I mean taking a large basin, filling it with cold creek water, scrubbing down our clothes with bar soap, and then hanging them out to dry.]

With the waterfalls in the background and the playlist Ange made me for this trip playing on Luke’s phone while we scrub, it is not a bad way to pass a relaxing, sunny afternoon in Khote, a mountain village at roughly 12,000 feet.

Khote - boy in waterfalls

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Christen ~ Onward and upward…and downward and upward again

The Everest avalanche did not belong to me. It belongs to the people in front of me. But, then, part of why I am here is because what happens to any of us is happening to all of us so, it is not mine, but it is ours…if that makes any sense.

No matter. We still have mountains to climb, and death happens, more often in some places than others, and we cannot help from here, unless the story we are trying to tell here, somehow, in some way, helps someone in the future. So, we focus on that and the next steps in front of us and we keep working our way up.

But, it is not just up. It is up and down and up again. Then, repeat. Sometimes, the ups and downs end with you higher than you started. Sometimes, they end with you lower. Sometimes, you feel like you did not get anywhere at all.

Nepali Flats - descending to go higher

Nepali Flats - inclines

As it is with trying to get through anything, I suppose. Whether it is grieving a loss, or trying to create something that did not exist before, or raising people, or hiking the Himalayas, or just trying to get through the day-to-day, in whatever way that looks right now.

Sometimes, you spend a day hiking here, where you go up and down thousands of feet, but you do not gain any elevation. They call these the Nepali flats.

In anything we are trying to do, it takes a lot of Nepali flats days to get to where we are going.

Nepali Flats - View 1

Bits from letters ~

“recently i ran the nyc half marathon with friends all in the name of cancer. i didn’t do all that much to prep and train. not nearly as much as most running sites encouraged me to do. i drank a lot and still had the occasional cigarette (bad). but i did it–i ran 13.1 miles, which is probably 10 miles more than i’ve ever run in my entire life. it’s a different story, but similar in many regards. the feeling i had upon completion was totally overwhelming and fantastic. i did something i didn’t think i could do. and i did it all for a really good cause. and more importantly, now i know what i can do when pushed to the limits. it’s made me want more challenges and adventures.”

“Thought of you during my spin class…When I thought I couldn’t go any longer I told myself, ‘Christen is hiking the Himalayas, I can do THIS.'”

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Christen ~ Sibuje and a school day

After a few days of hiking, Luke says to me (referring to our porters), “I think you are earning their respect.” As I am out of breath constantly and stop us often to catch it, I cannot see how this can possibly be true, but Luke says, “Yes, but they can see how hard this is for you and I have not once heard you complain and these have been full days of hard hiking. You just stop to catch your breath and, with a determined look on your face, you keep going. It’s impressive.”

I thought back through the last few days. He is right. I am not complaining, not even quietly inside my own head. It seems that my mind has dismissed the usefulness of complaining in lieu of just concentrating on the doing. A much more efficient use of brain power than before the trip when it would fill moments of silence with, “I have to hike a mountain.”

That does not make this easy, but I am still smiling. Laughing, actually, because I get silly when I am tired, and hiking makes me tired. I was very grateful to arrive in Karma’s home village of Sibuje where we were stopping for a couple days. (Although, “rest day” in the hiking world has little to do with rest, I have found. You still hike. You just return to sleep in the same place. Feeling a little tricked on that misnomer. Harrumph.)

We stayed in the home of Karma’s parents and attended a ceremony at the little, one teacher, through 3rd grade, school that they have, to celebrate the donation of school uniforms. This meant an all day affair, including endless cups of tea, being adorned repeatedly with scarves, and ending with an impromptu dance party. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The day was getting a little long for me.) Luckily, I got to spend the day behind one of Luke’s fancy fancy cameras, so I was completely content.

It is always the people who have the least that seem to give the most, and they just gave and gave to us. Warm, welcoming, affectionate people, who easily partake in my silly side. My kind of people.

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Bits from the letters ~

“I’m a bit jealous of all the adventure – I can’t even get away to go to the grocery store by myself, and when I do, I have the guilt to hurry up and get home (guilt I put on myself of course).”

“Christen, enjoy it.
Keep smiling.
Be resilient.
I can’t say it enough,
Appreciate the journey,
because you make an impact.”

“Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action.
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Nobel Peace Prize winner

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82513

Christen ~ From Zero to the Himalayas

After some weeks of transitioning my position at work into the next hands, trying to organize for this trip, and putting my physical home, once again, into storage, I was grateful when my normal inner calm returned as I sank into my seat on our flight out of Seattle.

Ooosah…

Seattle to Vancouver to Guangzhou to Kathmandu to…Nope, wait, the flight from Guangzhou, China to Kathmandu, Nepal is cancelled. There goes our one buffer day to pick up need supplies for the trek. (Thank you, Glen, for handling that for us.) A night in a hotel in Guangzhou with our fellow waylaid passengers meant we met a great group of people who were excited for their upcoming adventures. One of many great things about meeting other travelers-by-choice.

One of these was a fellow who is guiding a Discovery Channel film crew up Everest to film some dude base jumping off the summit in a squirrel suit…as you do.

We finally get to Kathmandu on Monday evening (having left Seattle on Saturday morning), in the middle of the Hindu new year celebration, hauling suitcases, backpacks, and gigantic duffel bags full of donation clothing, through the packed streets.

We get to our rooms, start organizing what needs to go where, and having Glen pare down our trekking items into necessities-only. By the time we are done with this (and a quick glance out on the streets at the tail end of the new year celebration), we have three hours left to sleep.

No, wait, scratch that. Luke and I are still a little wired from traveling. After giggling like 8 year olds at a sleep-away camp when we should be sleeping, we get about an hour and a half of sleep, before getting up at 5am to catch our flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, and begin our first day of hiking.

We would not want to make any of this easier on me, would we.

 

Lukla plane

Lukla: “The most treacherous airstrip in the world”

I had been looking forward to this flight all week, since I had learned of its reputation. I was pretty disappointed by the uneventful flight and the gentle gliding into the landing. (The flight from San Francisco to Medford to visit my brother, John, in Ashland, OR, was by far more exciting.) I resigned myself to the idea that not exciting was ultimately better than too exciting, and moved on to the rest of the day.

Lukla airport first day 1

As porters were being organized, Luke and I opted to add two personal porters for our packs. This was a decision for which we were grateful every single day for the rest of the trek, not only because of the weight of his camera gear and my inexperience, but because it meant we provided two more people with an income for those few weeks. $250 well spent.

16,500 feet, here I come

For the rest of our group, all avid trekkers/outdoorsy people, the attitude was, “What? It is just walking.” As we started hiking up the inclines soon after we began, I would have to disagree. It is more like endurance Tetris with your feet, stepping on or around rocks, that may or may not be stable, with each step. I am not the most graceful person on flat ground, so my “training” may have been improved by that dancing video game that lights up dance steps on the floor for you to follow. No matter.

I was pleased by the muscle memory of breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Less pleasing was the overpowering sound of my breathing seeming to have my eardrums in a wind tunnel.

The several hours of hiking on this first day (on an hour and a half of sleep, and two days of travel from the other side of the world) became a repetitive cycle of sucking wind until I could no longer listen to the sound of it, stopping to slow and recalibrate my breathing, and starting again, along with a fairly steady passing by people with hands pressed together in front of them, “Namaste.”

Biggest lesson learned on the first day of hiking: You cannot climb a mountain the way you climb a long flight of stairs, taking it two or three steps at a time, even if you are built, as my mom would say, “like a flamingo”. Hiking, it turns out, is much more of a trudging thing than a sprinting thing.

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Trekking 8

Namaste (You knew I would have to talk about it, didn’t you.)

Not having been a participant in yoga, Namaste is not a part of my vernacular, nor am I certain of the definition. Not having access to the inter webs here on the mountain, I am going with my vague recollection that it means, ‘The divinity within me greets the divinity within you’.  In a ‘God is in everything and everything is God’, Spinoza, sort of way. I can dig it.

It is an interesting perspective of respect in a culture that operates openly on a caste system. As I find my way up these mountains, I am met at every turn by someone greeting my inner divinity, most often by children who are too young to understand the implications of where they might stand or my being considered casteless.

Worn out, in need of sleep, and with several more hours of hiking scheduled for tomorrow (and the day after, and the day after, and the day after…), my inner divinity bids your inner divinity, Goodnight.

[Sidenote: So many wonderful people were kind enough to send along letters for me to read on the mountain, so I thought I would include bits from them with these entries…]

Bits from the letters ~

“In the army we had a tradition. When we rolled out of our bunks in the morning, we would say “X, and a wake up!” “X” being the number of full days we had left before that final wake up and getting the hell out of there.

Let this be your mantra when you wake up, and you feel you can’t go on, which will probably be days 2 through 20.”

[…]

“Remember, pain is weakness leaving the body. Next time I see you, you will be the strongest person I know.”

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Christen ~ Here we go, yo.

There are a lot of things about this trip about which I am not excited. I am focusing on that about which I am.

I am excited to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the views.

I am excited to have the people we meet, and the way they live, put my life into a new perspective.

I am excited to not be dealing with the tedium of the details of the trip anymore and to be just getting to it. Anything we do not have or did not do is just what it is.

Mostly, I am really excited for Luke to be pointing the camera at someone other than me.

They just started boarding our flight out of Seattle. Wish us luck!

Love you.

https://karmadocumentary.com/2014/03/26/christen-invest-in-karma/

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Christen ~ Counting crows

Luke wants me dead.

Or, at least, maybe his subconscious does.

Maybe he thinks it will make better footage.

We were supposed to go on a hike this morning…again. This is either the seventh or eighth time that he has made plans to pick me up for a hike in the last few weeks, where it has not worked out for it to happen. This means that I have exactly one hike under my belt. One.

He said, after that short hike the other day, “We will hit one with a view next time.”

Ha! Next time. Yes, well, since the next one is going to be in the Himalayas now, it better have more than just a view.

It is really too late anyway. One more hike was not going to save me.

I am laughing as I write this, as I am sitting here wishing I had the coffee he promised to bring me for the hike this morning, and I noticed that three crows have joined me on the patio. I seemed to remember something about three crows meaning something so, in looking, I found this:

“Crows are associated with the Celtic Goddess Morrigan. She is a Goddess of war, chaos, death and rebirth. She is also a triple Goddess (maiden, mother and crone). The 3 crows would signify that you are coming into a time of major change, whether you are prepared for it or not. There may be some major disruptions involved, but it will all be for the best, you will have a ‘rebirth’ and new paths on your journey will be opened to you. Go with the flow and all will be well.”

Whether you are prepared or not…seems fitting.

https://karmadocumentary.com/2014/03/26/christen-invest-in-karma/

Clouds
http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/3050639/

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Christen ~ We do not know what we do not know

Hey Mom and Dad, maybe skip this one. (I am going to bury the lead a bit to even give you more time to do just that.)

So, it has been established that I do not really have any idea what I am doing in all this. I knew it would be unlikely I could make this trek in my converse. I guessed I would need hiking boots, a backpack, maybe a new winter coat (since I have not lived in winter for a while), and probably some gloves and a hat. Apparently, there is a lot more that goes into a packing list than these.

For starters, you cannot just throw on a pair of comfy jeans for hiking in the Himalayas. (Okay, makes sense. Add hiking pants.)

In fact, you cannot wear anything that is made with cotton. (Okay. Add multiple layers of synthetic shirts for varying temperatures.)

ANYTHING made of cotton. (Okay, going against the well known mantra of women needing to wear 100% cotton underwear, add a couple pairs of wool men’s boxer briefs. Whoa, those are not cheap.)

And, then you need socks made for hiking. When I was trying on hiking boots, Trent, our helpful man at Second Ascent in Ballard, handed me a pair of socks and told me to make sure I put them on the correct feet. I thought he was messing with me. They are socks. Nope. There was a little R and L for right and left feet. (Add a couple pairs of expensive socks, so that you have socks to wear while you wash the others.)

You need different levels of coats for varying temperatures, long underwear for under those hiking pants, a pair of waterproof hiking pants to go over your hiking pants, a pair of gators for hiking in the snow to keep the snow out of said hiking pants, a headlamp for hiking in the dark, a pair of polarized sunglasses that can protect you from glacier blindness, face masks, goggles, lighter gloves, arctic gloves, and it all just keeps going…

All of this is fine and, of course, good (though expensive, which is inconvenient). It is good to be prepared.

Now, during all this this supply prepping, I have, also, been acquiring information prepping, as well. Not by my own choice. If I am going to do something, I do not really see how researching is helpful in cases where it is not going to change anything. In those cases, I am best when I focus on what I need to do now.

(On our hike the other day, I had to keep telling Luke to stop telling me the distance we had left to the top. It does not help me. I cannot climb the whole mountain at once. I can only climb what is front of me. If I continue to climb what is in front of me, I will get there, albeit slowly.)

(Mom and Dad, if you have not already, this is where you want to bow out of this. Truly.) With this in mind, I had not looked at the itinerary. It seems of little use to me. I cannot change it. It is what it is and I will deal with it as it comes. It, also, means that I had not looked into the various stops and had not been privy to this next little tidbit of information.

We land in Nepal in Kathmandu. After a couple days, we fly to Lukla, where we will begin the hiking bit. Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, happens to be (by many counts) the most treacherous airport in the world…

The most treacherous airport in the world…

When I was told this yesterday, I just started laughing…of course, it is. Why wouldn’t it be?

Oh, on a similar note, another thing I did not realize I would need. Evacuation Insurance. Again, makes sense, but…

There is a never ending list of things to get and to do (including, but not limited to, moving out of my place) and it does not feel like I am even making a dent in it, as much work as I am doing towards that every day. And, somewhere in all of this, I need to try to find time to go on some hikes at some point, which are just hours I do not have at the moment.

People plan for a year for these kinds of things. I have had a few weeks.

Oh, well. I know it will all work out. Things always do. However, if someone could, somehow, buy me just a couple more days, well…no matter. I am just going to take a couple deep breaths, and then get back to it, because I can only do what I can do.

https://karmadocumentary.com/2014/03/26/christen-invest-in-karma/

She Walks on Water 6

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Christen ~ All fun and games until you actually have to climb a mountain

I am under no delusions that I will be all ice cream toppings and cupcake frosting on this trip. I get crabby and when I get crabby I get snarky.

Lesson learned from my first real(ish) hike: Hiking makes me snarky.

I came on to this project with just enough time to put in my notice at work, get it organized to hand it over to my replacement, and to start getting my living arrangements put in order to move out. Attempts to go hiking have been for naught in these last few weeks. A full time job that runs on slightly off hours and limited daylight hours, in combination with coordinating with someone else’s schedule, has left little time to make it work.

Training - Roller Skating photo

In the meantime, the goal for training was to just start trying to use muscles that I have not been accustomed to using in a while. A few games of pool one night, an evening at the rollerskating rink (cardio, right?), some time at the driving range (I was wearing the hiking boots, so it counts), and a Pilates DVD that my friend, Janelle, gave me more than ten years ago that I never got around to using.

Training - Driving range (1)
Photo credit: Jeffrey L. Tenderbone

With finishing my last week of work, and going into the homestretch before we leave, Luke finally got me up on a bit of a mountain yesterday. Three miles up and three miles back, with an elevation of roughly 2100ft. Not exactly death defying, but I had to stop a lot and I was more than winded by the time we reached the top.

When we got to the top, I glanced around at the less than impressive view (Tiger Mountain, if you are curious), and attempted to recalibrate my breathing. Some guy, noticing my fatigue [understatement] and scoffed, “Um, ha, yeah, this is the easiest hike in the area.”

Oh yeah, Captain Wilderness? Well, you are spending your time standing on top of the easiest hike in the area pointing that out to people. Time well spent?

I just gave him the thumbs up and a tight smile, “First hike.”

As we made our way back down the mountain a few minutes later, Luke mused casually, “I think the hardest thing about all of this will be the three weeks of hiking.”

Fancy that, we have a scholar in our midst, ladies and gentlemen.

I was, also, informed on our hike yesterday that there is no real endgame on our hike through the Himalayas. Not sure why I thought there would be mostly up for the first two-thirds or so, and then mostly down for the remainder. Nope. It is up and down multiple thousands of feet of hiking, every day, for the entirety of the three weeks. So…there’s that.

I guess I should have looked up the definition of rugged terrain trekking…

It is Tuesday. We fly out on Saturday.

https://karmadocumentary.com/2014/03/26/christen-invest-in-karma/

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Dubois, WY
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Why Luke? Why Christen?

Luke and Christen

Brunch. It is the time when we all come together; it is the time when everyone can speak their mind. Most of all, it is the time that we let our guard down and tell each other how we really feel. Join Christen, Luke, and some of our friends as we philosophize about how to spend time in another geography in our shared world.

Food for Thought from Luke Mislinski on Vimeo.

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Luke Mislinski Photography

3563 US Highway 26
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82513