As I carry my two duffels across the DIA parking lot, I look down and see one bag full of my own things and the other filled with donations that hopefully will be a blessing to the people of Nepal. First, however, I have to get there. I will bounce from Denver to New York, then to Abu Dhabi, and then Kathmandu. Total travel time: 36 hours.
Upon arrival in Nepal, I stick out like a sore thumb; I have pale skin, blond hair and stand a head taller than those around me. I go to the embassy to obtain my tourist visa. The visa asks for my place of residency, and I write Lakpa’s mother’s house. Lakpa Sherpa is the owner of Golden’s Sherpa House and organizer of our relief trip to Nepal. Communication has been sparse, and at this point I have little idea of where I will be resting my head tonight. Without a second thought, the Nepali man stamps my passport and I walk out into the smoggy streets of Kathmandu. There are no street lights and no taxis, just people. Out of the crowd pops a hand trying to catch my attention. I am greeted by Jangbu, Lakpa’s cousin. Jangbu’s English is very limited, but it is clear that I am supposed to get in his car to go to Lakpa’s family home. We weave through the crowds, potholes and alleys of Kathmandu and finally arrive. I find my room on the balcony of the house, and travel weary, my bones rest easy in this foreign place.
There is nothing quite like finding friends on the other side of the world.
We came not only to experience the wonders of Nepal, but also to give back in whatever way we can. After a short three hour walk, we arrive in Sengma. Lakpa worked, like so many here, as a porter. Nepalese porters can carry loads of up to 200 pounds through mountain passes to get supplies to some of the least accessible parts of the world. After a local Golden couple paid for his education at Red Rocks, Lakpa began his colorful entrepreneurship career. Today, he owns three companies: Sherpa House, Sherpa Landscaping and Sherpa Brewing Company. This week he will be our guide as he takes on another role.
Fast forward a few days, and we are on our way to the school. We take a roundabout route to get there, because many of us want to see Everest. I am truly on top of the world. We take the mountain trails slowly down and through the valley. The hours slip away in conversation and scenery. Before I know it, we again find ourselves sipping on chai and laughing into the night.
We wake up early and cross over a foot hill to arrive at the school. Here, Lakpa encourages the people. He tells them of the importance of education and of his life. Shortly after, we lay out our gifts. Lakpa chose this place and these people for a reason. They belong to the lowest caste in the region. He and local community leaders have chosen to break barriers that have stood for millennia. Slowly, Lakpa shows us the way to love on these people. Once each family has their care package, they wrap us in their ceremonial blessing scarfs, bringing closure to the experience.
I will never truly know if I made any lasting difference, but in this moment, I can rest in the silence of the mountains.