Friday, May 13, 2016
Our leader was Lhakpa Diki Sherpa pictured here. She was obviously a very esteemed athlete, the Nepalese women's mountain running champion. She had represented her country in several European races. We naturally gasped in her wake, though she simply led us carefully and competently. It was hard to suss out just what her relationship was to the porters and other guides (male) with the group. She was shy when speaking perfectly adequate English.
Her ambition, if something better didn't come along as a consequence of her athletic prowess, was to go to the capital in Kathmandu and study bookkeeping/accounting so she could always have a job. It seemed a small bore ambition for such an exceptional woman, but it was what she could see ahead.
Outside of the first Nepalese woman to summit Everest and make it down alive. Lhakpa Sherpa (Sherpa names are limited) went back and climbed the big rock five more times. Yet today, she's an obscure in-home health care worker and 7-Eleven cashier in Hartford, Connecticut, raising her two children as a single woman.
Notions about women's roles, the strange and often ugly conjunction between Sherpa talent for heights and Western mountaineers who depend on the Sherpas, the Nepalese culture, and global migration make Lhakpa Sherpa's story a window on our times. Highly recommended.
When I travel, I try to remember that I am not culturally equipped to see the whole of what is going on. My interaction with Lhakpa Diki was of that sort.