What a treat I had this afternoon. (Well, time will actually tell as to how much of a treat I had….). About 3:30 or 4:00, Lhakpa Nurbu, Lhakpa Dorje, Chhongba, Nyima Tsering, and I were sitting outside, enjoying some sunshine. Lhakpa Dorje was peeling carrots for dinner and the rest of us were relaxing. I began a discussion with Nyima regarding an exam site and set-up (still a week away but everything takes prep) when we heard a distant but firm voice calling to us. Karma Sherpa, the 83 yr old father of Lhakpa Dorje, was inviting us to his upstairs home for some “tea”. I’ve known Karma since 2008 but had never been invited into his home.
Karma is well known in the community, by KCC instructors, and even an international crowd as pictures of him have appeared in more than one National Geographic article including the most recent November edition. He’s still herding yaks on a daily basis, climbs up and down an incredibly rickety set of stairs, and appears to be one of the happiest people I’ve ever met laughing almost every time I see him.
So, Lhakpa Nurbu, Chhongba, Nyima, and I went up the non-OSHA approved stairway and entered Karma’s home. I think it’s safe to say that it is fairly spartan in it’s decor, but clearly Karma is comfortable in where he lives. Almost immediately after being seated, Karma came with a thermos of warm chang, the rice or millet fermented local brew. It’s a milky white color and tangy in flavor, quite enjoyable in my book.
We each sipped our chang and Karma was ready with the refills as is customary among the Sherpas. Actually, you are expected to drink your cup part way down THREE TIMES with refills immediately following. That’s the START of the drinking, not the totality. The thermos did not look like it had seen a dishwasher or even soap at any point during its usage, and Karma washed his hands last when I was in junior high, so I did have some misgivings as I imbibed. But, when in Rome…..
While we enjoyed our chang, Karma regaled us with a story. I have no idea what it was about as it was all in Sherpa, but he wandered around the room gesticulating and laughing as he proceeded. It must have been funny as everyone was laughing. Occasionally, Karma would pause to work on the small cook fire but the story lasted well over 30 minutes. He did return frequently with the chang thermos and despite our best efforts, refills were all too frequent.
At one point, Nyima decided he needed to leave. (I was envious.) However, when a Sherpa is serving chang in his home, leaving is no easy task. In reality, it’s more like a Greco-Roman wresting match. Nyima headed toward the door but Karma stopped him en route and the two actually grappled as Karma was trying to pour chang into the cup that Nyima was guarding behind his back. Chhongba, Lhakpa, and I were laughing pretty hard when Karma slid off of Nyima, moved incredibly nimbly for an old man, and was pouring my cup full before I had any idea what was happening. That’s when Lhakpa and Chhongba really started laughing and Karma added his high-pitched, marvelous laugh.
About 15 minutes later, my cup nearly empty, Karma stepped out his door to check on something. Lhakpa jumped to his feet and said, “let’s get out of here while we can”. I didn’t need to hear the invitation twice and we bolted for the door, shaking hands with Karma, thanking him profusely, and also thanking a merciful and compassionate Buddha or Khumbila for opening an escape hatch.
While I had a great time and will cherish the memories, only time will tell how much fun I had. I should know pretty well by morning…..
Oh yea, I think KCC went well today, too.
All the best,