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Long ago, in a country far, far away: Guesthouse in Nepal

In Wednesday’s initial installment, Craig and his late wife, Beth, were on the last few days of a trek around the Anapurna Circuit, Nepal, in the spring of 1991, after spending a long winter running a hospital at 7,000 feet in the Indian Himalayas. The story left off as they arrived at the nicest guesthouse they had seen in over three weeks of non-stop trekking...

The Kalopani Guest House, Part 2

The guest house had a splendid dining area, with a heavy, 20-foot-long dining table that was built over a trench and covered with a heavy wool blanket that draped down over your lap. When it got cold, the owners shoveled small loads of glowing coals into the trench, the warmth kept beneath the table by the blanket, splendidly toasting your feet and legs. It was bliss!

Before we’d started the trek, we’d opted to carry our own packs, not feeling comfortable hiring someone else to do it for us. But it wasn’t uncommon for there to be several porters among the stream of trekkers circling the mountains.

At this particular guesthouse, a woman trekker had finally had enough of her porter, who, unlike the majority of the others, was an overt alcoholic who had caused her nothing but trouble from the start. She had fired the man, and still intoxicated, he had been wandering among the resting trekkers, obnoxiously trying to find someone else to hire him.

A sobering experience

He had approached Beth and I a couple of times, each time trying to ingratiate himself with us by getting a bit more into our faces than was the cultural norm. Each time we had politely but firmly refused.

Like all the other guesthouses on the circuit, the kitchen was distressingly slow. It was not uncommon for an order of top-ramen or “Swiss-potato-rusti” to take over an hour to be served. We didn’t mind, however, because we sat side-by-side on the long bench, our legs tucked under the table blanket, warm and resting.

We were enjoying conversation with a couple of Australian women we had slowly been getting to know. We were chatting, undoubtedly, about our long winter in India, running the hospital. The experience had been the most challenging, frustrating, and often most rewarding thing either of us had ever done, and we still amazed ourselves when we recalled some of the things that had happened. We’d been gone a long time, our friends and family feeling a long, long way away, and even with their funny Aussie accents, it was a pleasure to speak fluently in English.

Still a long way from home

We were relaxed and enjoying ourselves, thinking about the soft beds and hot showers waiting for us just a few more days away in Pokora. So it was a bit of a shock when suddenly we felt someone approach us from behind.

The Australians, facing us from across the table, looked slightly alarmed. Then both Beth and I felt a heavy arm drape over our shoulders, a head sliding into the space between our opposing ears. It was the drunken porter, I was sure, finally crossing the line from uncomfortably close to intolerably rude. I started to turn toward the intruder, preparing myself to defend our personal space. I’m glad I’m not the kind of guy who thinks with his fists, because it wasn’t who we thought it was.

“Hey guys! Fancy meeting you here!”

Instead of finding the rather small, pinched face of this particularly unsavory and unprofessional porter, we found someone quite different.

It was my brother David.

I hadn’t seen him in over four years.

Once the Australian women finally figured out who this was and what he had done, they both started crying.

“That is soooo sweet! He came all this way just to find you!”

Expecting the unexpected

Unbeknownst to Beth and me, my brother David had recently quit his job with a law firm in D.C., having gotten into a graduate program at the University of Washington. He had several months free before the program began, and he’d decided to do a little traveling. He thought he’d visit brother George in Japan, then visit brother Samhari in Indonesia. His time was his own and his plans were left open. He thought about visiting us in India, thinking we were still there, but didn’t know how to contact us. While in Indonesia, he’d called home and talked to Dad, and received the following information:

“Oh, yea. Craig called. I think he said they’re going to Nepal. Said something about Ana-something-or-other.”

Since there aren’t too many “Ana-something-or-other”s in Nepal, David decided he’d give finding us a try. Nepal is a cool place anyway, and looking for us would give him something to do.

Dragnet

Thinking like a detective, David figured that since Beth in particular was a no-nonsense kind of adventurer, then if Beth and I were indeed doing the Anapurna Circuit, then we undoubtedly would follow medical advice and go around counter clockwise. And he figured the best chance of running into us would be if he trekked in the opposite direction.

David said he had been asking about us at every tea shop and guesthouse he passed, asking if anyone had seen a couple of medical professionals stop in or pass through. We had proof of this, as once we joined forces and started retracing David’s steps, we were greeted everywhere we went with cries of delight:

“Hey, you found them!”



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