Sunday, May 19, 2013

GOS - May 18 - A Partnership with Monks

He's the Michael Jordan of Nepal. People stop him on the street, in restaurants, wherever he goes.We stopped him too at the Yak and Yeti Hotel this morning in Kathmandu.

It was our honor to sit with Apa Sherpa, 53, because in all the world, this is the one man who knows the top of Everest best. Here he was back on home turf. Scott climbed with him in 1994,... but for me it was like meeting Elvis in Las Vegas.

Apa, a gentle man who resides in Salt Lake, holds the world record for most Everest summits: 21. But not for long - another Sherpa tagged the top for a 20th time on May 10 and plans to tie it up with an additional ascent before the start of monsoon season in June.

Apa received an honorary degree from the University of Utah and spends his retirement from climbing involved in environmental education in Nepal.

Then it was on to Pokhara, which lies in the shadow of Annapurna III in the foothills of the Himalaya.

We visited the Pema Ts'al Sakya Monastic Institute where we were presented with kata ceremonial scarves, (See photos below) and visited their Buddhist temple as guest of the Venerable Khenpo Kunga Dhondup, a friend of Scott's, who blessed us with holy water (we figured it couldn't hurt considering the challenges that lie ahead).

Sixteen Buddhists monks and four volunteers leave Sunday morning for Tukche to round up patients and help run the free eyecare clinics that start Monday.

I watch as Scott briefs some volunteers as three monkeys sit outside on a chainlink fence eyeing a bag of peanuts being eaten by four bald youngsters - monks in training in bright apricot vests and burgundy shorts.

The older monks, all refugees from Tibet, and our partners in this project, are helping impoverished Nepalese villagers of their host country lead better lives through the gift of sight. 

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