Mt. Everest Base Camp Part III of III

When asked “what was the best part of the trip”, I don’t have to hesitate before answering “the people”. Our guide and porters made the trip for me. They put everything into making sure the trip was perfect for us.


Some trekkers are like us and prearrange their trip with a company who provides a guide and porters. Others trekkers arrange their guide and/or porter in Lukla upon arriving. Some trekkers do it on their own without a guide or porter. If I did it again, I would unquestionably go with a company again. To point out the obvious, I physically would struggle to carry my own bag. The trek was hard enough on its own and I am not sure I would be able to enjoy as much if I was struggling under the weight of my rucksack. Second, the amount I learned from our guide was well worth every penny we paid. Hiring guides and trekkers provides jobs to people who need jobs. We asked questions about anything we saw whether it was about the plants we saw, animals, people, religion, culture, etc. I would have missed out on a lot of details I didn’t know have our guide’s wealth of knowledge to lean on.

We loved our guide, Shyam. He was introduced as shy but we were told he would warm up with time. Continue reading

Mt. Everest Base Camp Part II of III

I must apologize in advance for the length of this blog. I typically try to keep my posts on the shorter side and didn’t realize how long this posts would be until it was done. I have tried to cut it down but just can’t. As much as I want to tell everyone all about the trip, it is impossible to do it justice.

Lukla is a large hub for the beginning of a lot of treks through the Everest Region. Lukla was lined with shops selling trekking gear and supplies. As we proceeded forward, I was amazed at the number of villages we passed through and how built up they were. They weren’t huge by NYC standards but I think Kansas might be more barren then the Himalayas. As we increased in elevation, the villages became further apart and you could tell their purpose was catering to the trekkers. Our guide informed us people in these areas move to lower elevations for the winter months.


Each morning, we trekked in the morning for 4-7 hours. The trail was busy with trekkers, porters, yak and donkeys. The porters immediately amazed me. Porters accompanying trekkers typically had two rucksacks on their back. The government limits the amount the porters can carry to 30 kg (66 lbs). However, I am not sure the limits are monitored beyond luggage restrictions on the flights. The other porters on the trail had loads of goods on their backs to take to the teahouses. I am not talking light stuff. We saw rice, bottled water, building materials, beer, lots of beer, and propane being carried up the mountains. Who would have thought beer was a necessity at 18,000 feet?


We frequently encountered small herds of yak (and cow like animals) loaded with goods on their backs headed up to the teahouses. They moved very slowly and seemed mellow tempered. Even with their mellow tempers, it didn’t take long to learn we should not stand on the edge of the mountain while letting them pass.


People from all over the world come to trek in the Everest region. Literally all over. We met Germans, Australians, New Zealanders, Israelis, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, British, and the list goes on. Along the way, we had the opportunity to chat with a lot of trekkers while trekking or in the evening at a teahouse. We would often run into the same trekkers multiple times during the trek even if our schedules were not identical.

The trekking part was tough physically (even with only a 3 kg or 6.6 lb backpack) but not impossible. Continue reading

Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek Part I of III

In January, it was brought to my attention I was going to lose a lot of my vacation time I had saved if I did not use it by the end of the year. I was not about to let that happen.  A few months earlier, my friend Micaela and Anne had invited me on a trek and I didn’t think it would be possible.  Given my new discovery of potentially losing vacation time,   I immediately contacted my friend Micaela to see if it was too late to join the trek. I didn’t ask for details about the trip or do any research.  I just blindly signed up in order to avoid losing the vacation days.  I knew we were trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp.  I had no idea I would go 14 days without showering.  I didn’t realize I would not be able to eat meat for 20 days.  I didn’t consider the fact I don’t tolerate cold weather.  I hadn’t thought about not having cell phone connection or internet connection.  I didn’t think about the physical expectations or the impact of altitude.  And most of all …. I had no idea I would fall in love with the Nepali people.


Our adventure started with three girls flying from NYC to Doha Qatar to Kathmandu Nepal. Twenty-four hours of traveling later we arrived in Kathmandu.  We were told we would be picked up from the airport by a guide who would have a sign with our names and would be wearing a red polo with the company’s “Experience the Himalayas” logo on it.  Upon arriving in Kathmandu, we were picked up from the airport by a man with our names on a sign but with a navy polo and no logo.  This didn’t seem like a big deal until about 15 Nepali men swarmed us with instructions on where to go, wanting to take our bags and demanding tips.  We immediately began to freak out and turned on our crisis mode instincts.  I began interrogating the gentleman with the navy blue polo about what company he was with and where we were going.  Anne immediately pulled out her GPS to verify we were in route to the hotel address previously provided.  Micaela turned on her phone to notify her husband of what was going on.  Come to find out, this is the common deceptive practice used at the airport on tourists.  Our guide was not able to say anything to the men because it could induce a fight coming from another Nepali.

After safely arriving at our hotel in Kathmandu, we spent the following day exploring. Walking around Kathmandu was an experience of its own.  I cannot even begin to describe the chaos on the streets of Kathmandu.  Sidewalks are not existent.  You walk on the same road as the cars, motorcycles, and bicycles all while getting swarmed with Nepalis trying to sell their goods.  I am still baffled by the madness and pollution.  People wore masks while walking around because the air quality was so poor.


We visited Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple, which is a Buddhist complex with temples and shrines and real live monkeys running around everywhere.


After our day of exploring, we were taken out to eat by the trekking company and introduced to our first taste of Nepalese cuisine. The most common dish is Dal Bhat, which is staple that consists of rice, a lentil soup, pickled vegetables, and curried potatoes.  Nepalis eat this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  A common saying is “Dal Bhat Power 24 Hour”.  I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the meal.


After dinner we returned to the hotel and prepped our bags for trekking. Each passenger’s luggage is limited to 15 kg (33 pounds) for domestic flights.  Our goal was to get our rucksacks to 12 kg and backs to 3 kg and leave the rest at the hotel in Kathmandu.  After getting our bags all prepped we weighed them on a scale right outside the hotel.  Of course, we had to make multiple trips upstairs to remove items and adjust and back down to the scale.  We had been given advice of wearing our heaviest clothes on the flight and wearing multiple pairs of pants if needed.  Luckily, we didn’t need to go to those extremes.  We did shove some small but heavy items in our pockets to shed the last couple of kgs.


The following morning we set out for our adventure. Almost all trekkers going to Everest Base Camp fly from Kathmandu to the infamous Lukla airport (it is worth a Google search).  October begins one of the two primary seasons for trekking.  However, this year the monsoon season had lasted longer than normal.  Our flight along with all others were delayed due to weather.  Our guide instructed us to sit and we did as we were told.  We had no information about which airline or flight we were on or what was happening in general.  The announcements weren’t helpful either as they were in Nepalese.  We just sat clueless and overwhelmed with anticipation while our guide stood near the various airline booths and lines.  The airport was a mad house with trekkers everywhere.   Many people had been waiting three days to get out.  Suddenly, our guide gestured to go over to him.  He was throwing our bags on a scale and handing us tickets.  He rushed us through security (if you can call it security) and the next thing you know we were waiting on the runway for our plane.  When we asked our guide if he bribed them to let us on the flight, he smiled his huge smile and said “yes”.  Luckily he did because we later learned it would be another three days before flights began routinely making it out.

The minute I stepped off of the plane in Lukla I took a deep breath of the mountain air and was in aww of the views. I walked to the baggage area where are rucksacks had been dumped in a pile and a Nepali man tried to help with my rucksack.  You can’t fool me twice!  I refused his help but he persisted and tried to get my bag off my back.  Finally, my guide came over and told me to give it to him.  Turns out he was one of our porters legitimately trying to help.  Whoops!


The only thing in between us and trekking through the Himalayas was breakfast.

Spain

In response to specific requests, I am resurrecting the blog to write about our recent trip to Spain and my upcoming trip to Nepal.

I really had no desire to visit Spain … and then I met Keith and he began talking nonstop about wanting to visit … and I gave in. After the trip, I can’t say I hate him for forcing me to go.


When planning the trip, we couldn’t decide which city we wanted to visit so we narrowed it down to Barcelona, Seville, Cordoba and Madrid. Each city had unique characteristics and will be remembered for specific things but our daily routine was relatively stable.  We walked until our feet hurt (averaged over 9 miles a day).  We ate A LOT of cured meet, cheese and tapas.  Manchego cheese happens to be my favorite cheese and coincidentally it’s a Spanish cheese so I was a happy camper.  Looking back I think we ate squid or octopus at every meal.  We also drank A LOT of sangria and wine.  I slept more than I recall ever sleeping in my life.  I slept in until about 10:00 am and took a nap from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm almost every day.  I was also forced to stay up later than my normal 9:00 pm bedtime.  Dinner in Spain is typically 9:00 pm to 12:00 am and I had no option but to oblige since restaurants (and everything else) close for siesta from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Continue reading

Ferry Life

NYC is all about commuting. When you meet someone for the first time they will often ask where you work, live and how the commute is.  The transportation options are endless depending on where you are coming from and where you are going.  Walk … drive … New Jersey Transit … Light Rail … Path … subway … bus … MetroNorth … Long Island Railroad … taxi … Uber.  Most likely it is a mixture of these options.

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I am different than most New Yorkers because I don’t commute to the same location every day. I spend several weeks at one place and then move on.

Since being in NYC, my longest commute was a little over 2 hours each way. I took the Path (NJ subway system) to the MetroNorth (train) and walked the remaining half a mile.  It was brutal but only one week and anything is doable for just one week.  Some people have similar commutes EVERY day!!!!

I am weird and almost enjoy riding the subway. I don’t like to drive so it automatically wins.  I enjoy watching (more like staring) people.  You will not see a more diverse group of people then on the L line.  Browse through the peopleofpennstation on Instagram sometime and you will quickly understand.

The subway is far from glamorous. Most likely the seats are taken and you will have to stand while be jolted around.  In the winter you get all bundled up for the cold weather and by the time you walk to the subway and climb the 5,192 stairs you are sweating to death.  Summer is just as bad when people are sweating outside and then enter the smoldering tunnels just to be packed into the train like sardines.  Trust me the feedlot smell in Southwest Kansas has nothing on the smell of the subway.

It is not uncommon for the train to come to a halt and be delayed due to “train traffic”. I sat on the train for 45 minutes last Friday due to problems on the tracks ahead.  As you can imagine people get a little cranky in these circumstances.  I haven’t even experienced the worst.  Just on Monday my coworker walked in late and said, “What a commute.  Someone got sick two people down from me.  It went everywhere and everyone went running.”  You can imagine the sanitary concerns I have.

During my most recent assignment I discovered a whole new way to commute. The best way to commute.  I have been taking the ferry.  I am moving up in life.  I walk 8 minutes to the ferry.  It takes 15 minutes to go down the Hudson River around the south side of Manhattan and up the East River to Wall Street.  I then walk down the pier and into work.  Total commute time of 20 minutes.  The ferry leaves every 15 minutes like clockwork.  It doesn’t stop in the middle of Hudson or East River due to “boat traffic”.  If it is too stuffy you can crack the door or windows.  If it is nice out you can sunbath on the roof deck while the wind blows in your hair (maybe a little melodramatic).  Although it doesn’t make for great people watching, the patrons on the ferry tend to be a bit classier.

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It wasn’t that long ago I thought ferries were only for getting cars across bodies of water. All this commuting is a bit different then throwing your bags in the car and driving anywhere you need to go in Kansas.

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Whole30

This post has been sitting in my draft folder partially written for over two months. I couldn’t decide if anyone would really care.  Then I received messages from multiple people asking for tips and recipes for completing the Whole30.  So here it is …

About 2 years ago, a friend introduced me to the Whole30. I am always leery of fad diets and quick to point out the flaws.  HOWEVER, this friend happens to be a dietician and clearly knows more than me so I listened.  She was specifically talking about how much more energy she has had and how her complexion has noticeably cleared up since changing her eating.  The Whole30 program has since blown up in popularity, which I believe is a testament to its effectiveness.

According the Whole30 website, the program is “a short-term nutritional reset designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system.” The idea is some foods groups could be wreaking havoc to your body and you don’t’ even realize it.  The program asks you to cut out legumes, grains, sugar (of any form), dairy and alcohol for 30 days.  Like Paleo but stricter.  During the 30 days your body will heal and recover from the harm caused by these food groups.  After your body is clean, you are supposed to reintroduce these foods one at a time to see which food groups affect you personally.

After learning about the program I went home, did some research and began. I had no hopes or desires to lose weight.  I just wanted to start from scratch and feel good.

I would be lying to you if I told you I noticed my acne had cleared up, I was sleeping better, my digestive system improved or I had more energy and focus. I most definitely did not find the program cured a disease I had.  Yes, people do claim all of these and some.

What I can say is I feel dramatically better. My cravings have decreased significantly.  In the past I have been told, “I can’t imagine what you will be like pregnant considering the cravings you have now”.  During the 30 days, I developed an appreciation for real food.  Somehow food just tasted better.  In fact, I did not miss the foods I had eliminated so I kept going.

Since doing my first Whole30, I am much more conscious of what is in food. I would say I eat Whole30 75% of the time.  Every once in a while I fall off a cliff just to remind myself how bad it feels.  I have fully completed the program at least one (maybe two) other time and partially a handful of times.  I have not yet completed the “reintroduction phase” but still intend to.

As requested here are my tips: Continue reading

Workout Evolution

After graduating college, I told myself I would form a habit of working out on a frequent basis. And almost 6 years later, I can say I have actually stuck with it … for the most part.  My work out habits have definitely evolved over time.

Post college, I immediately began a routine of running outside. At first I hated and dreaded running but I learned to enjoy it most of the time.  I refused to run on a treadmill.

Then in graduate school, my roommate introduced me to a Jillian Michaels DVD. I was sooo sore the next day, I knew I either got a crazy good workout or I was severely out of shape.  The videos were added to my regular routine as an alternative to running.

When I was training for my recently completed half marathon, I was working in a town that didn’t have sidewalks. Not wanting to kill my training, I broke down and began running on a treadmill.  There is something to be said for the reliability and consistency of a treadmill.

Recently I ran into a dilemma. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolutions

I was going to create the usual cliché post about the New Year but didn’t get around to it by the 1st and gave up on the entire idea. And then I saw a photo with the caption “it will still be 2016 tomorrow” and brought the idea back to life.

Typically, the New Year approaches and my life continues as it was before. I don’t resolve to lose weight, spend less, or read more.  This year is a little bit different.  I have recently spent a good amount of time reflecting back on the many major changes I made in the last year.  Some of the changes were easy, others not so easy, a few were hard as hell, and many more I am still adjusting to.

When reflecting, I recognize there are small things I can do to make the adjusting easier and life in general more enjoyable.

Stay busy and do more –  Most people know I can only sit on the couch for about 10 minutes before I find myself suddenly getting up to do something or finding something to read.  However, lately I find myself sitting and doing nothing more and more.  In addition, I regretfully must say I have not taken advantage of the many opportunities living in the city presents.  I am aware staying busy helps my attitude tremendously and let’s be honest my attitude can always use a little help.

Meet people – I might be the most introverted person ever.  I typically welcome the idea of being alone. But everyone needs a little bit of social activity in their life SOMETIMES.  Meeting people in New York has been one tough task for many reasons.  First, the typical “lets meet for drinks” does not attract me.  Second, between June and November I was traveling each and every week for work.  The travel restricted me from joining any weekday groups or activities.  Keith has done his part to “make friends for us” but when I am home for the weekend, I just want to enjoy being home when not preparing for hitting the road again Monday. I still don’t like bars but this year I no longer have the traveling excuse since I won’t be out of town as much.  I am not sure how yet but somehow someway I will make friends.  My not so introverted husband has big ideas for this … we will see how they work out.

Judge less – Attempting to judge less has been a continuous battle for me.  I am aware the dark negative cloud is lifted when you are not focused on how others dress, what others do, or what others say.  In addition, when I care less about others, I am not near as worried about what others think of me.  I have made strides on this since moving to New York.  Judging is much more difficult in a city where there is one of every kind.  However, I will probably always have room to improve in this category.

I can only hope 2016 is full of as many great memories as 2015.

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Spontaneous Toronto Trip

Mid-afternoon on Friday, Keith and I decided to head into NYC to shop for bedroom furniture. We were on the subway somewhere under the Hudson River when Keith turned to me and asked “Want to go to Toronto?” I am sure he expected me to come up with a gazillion reasons why I couldn’t or we shouldn’t go but I surprised him and said “sure”. I have never been to Toronto but it is Keith’s favorite city. He has been trying to finagle a trip for a while now. 

We hopped off the subway at the first stop and hopped back on to head right back home. We each packed a small bag, grabbed our passports and hit the road. I booked the hotels while Keith drove. Thank gosh for our hotel point accumulating job. It sure makes trips a lot cheaper.

Our first stop Saturday morning was a Canadian furniture store we had visited in Montreal during a trip we made last year. We were more successful than planned and left the furniture store with bedroom furniture ordered. Not only did we accomplish our initial mission and reason we were heading into NYC but we also got the furniture at 50% off. Score! And if that wasn’t enough, we later realized the purchase price was in Canadian Dollars and thanks to the recent devalue of the Canadian Dollar we realized we got even more of a steal.

We then headed to downtown Toronto where we ate brunch at Momofuku Daisho.  We shared whitefish buns and hanger steak.  The hanger steak was amazing.  Typically, I like simple dishes and this was quite the opposite.  However, the number of flavors in this dish amazed me in a good way.

  
We spent the day walking around the city and popping in stores when we felt like it. It was a brisk day at 45⁰ but I managed. We found one art gallery and happened to find a piece we liked at a decent price. After debating, we decided to snap a picture and mull over the purchase while we continued to explore. On our way out of the store, we snapped a picture of another piece catching our eye.    We finished our day with dinner at DaiLo.  The restaurant puts a modern flair on “reimagined dim sum type” dishes.  I don’t think anything I write can do these creative dishes justice.

Sunday morning we explored the Ontario lakefront area of the city. Of course we had to walk by the CN tower.  I learned it is the tallest structure in the western hemisphere, which I find pretty impressive because I am continuously amazed by how massive the Freedom Tower stands.  You can’t even look up at the CN tower without getting dizzy.  Finally, we returned to the art gallery with plans to offer a lowball price for each piece in hopes they would meet in the middle. I let Keith do the negotiating while I stood back trying not to listen. I think Keith was okay with this only because he knows I am useless when it comes to decisions. I was pleased when he informed me we were purchasing both pieces at the price we planned to offer for one.

We clearly had a pretty successful trip. Without any intentions, we made a lot of progress on furnishing our home.

Currently

I have seen this survey on Carrot’s N’ Cake blog in the past, and I thought it would be a fun post.

Current Celebration: Weekends at home. I have been all over the place lately and really miss my couch. This past weekend both Keith and I spent the weekend at home and it was amazing. I only left the house for church and to run.

Current Confession: I went to bed before or at 8:30 p.m. each night last week. I just couldn’t stay up no matter how hard I tried.

Current Product Find: Coconut Banana Cashew Butter.  Keith saw me eyeing a little jar of this at Chelsea Market a couple weekends back and in typical Keith fashion surprised me with it.  I opened up the cabinet one day and there it sat with a note affixed to it.  I already ate the ENTIRE jar … and wish I had more.

Current Plan: I start a new position in the middle of November. I am not changing employers just the line of work. My life after beginning the position is in limbo because I don’t know many details about the position. With the change fast approaching, my planning mind can’t help but wonder and want answers.

Current Book: I’m not reading “books” right now. Instead, I have been studying for a test I have to take at work in the upcoming months. I am currently reading a lot of laws and regulations. Don’t worry; I won’t bore you with the details.    Current Purchase: I just purchased a new SPIbelt. My mom gave me this little gem several years ago for Christmas and I rarely run without it now. Mine went missing recently during a trip to Washington D.C. I called the hotel but of course they didn’t find it. After beating myself up, I finally purchased a new one. The new one is larger and fits my phone better. The old one also had a hole. Maybe it was for the best.

Current Drink: There is nothing current about anything I drink. I have always been a water girl and nothing is new. I supplement my water with coffee.

Current Holy Moly: Lamb. Up until a couple month ago I would have swore I didn’t like lamb and it smelt like wool. And then …. Keith bought lamp chomps when I wasn’t looking. He fixed them and I felt obligated to at least try them. I have definitely bought more lamb since.   Current Show: The Affair. A new season just started, and anytime Keith and I have a free moment together we indulge.

Current Want: If I must narrow it down to one item … this is tough …. I would say … winter boots. The cold weather is definitely here and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to convince myself if I have the appropriate attire it will be more bearable.

Current Obsession: Grapes! I have been eating multiple pounds of grapes for a couple months now. No I am not exaggerating.