This blue marble

– and yet it spins

In Namche with no oxygen

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namcheWhat a day. 6.5 hours on the trail from Phakding. 3 hours of strenuous climbing, dodging half-yak-half-cow dzos and donkeys and sherpas. I had the heaviest packing (only 10 kg) and I was tired and light-headed. A little nauseous, too, from time to time. But my colleague went into sudden altitude sickness shock. Blue lips, chest pain, hyperventilation. After some mineral salts (that I originally bought for store in case of a stomach bug in Indonesia), we took 10 baby steps, counting them, and a break. And yet another 10 baby steps, and a break. The last 500 m to Namche Bazaar lasted 45 minutes.

Namche (elevation 3,400 m) is a gorgeous little Tibetan trading post, snuggling against a mountainside. Not that I saw much of it, as I was either watching over my sick colleague buried in down sleeping bags in our room, or down in the teahouse on a teleconference, donned in a down vest and a ski hat, trying to negotiate a deal with people on the line from Stockholm, London, and the USA (this was a work trip after all).

Later that night we debated for the need of supplemental oxygen. My colleague’s oxygen saturation was at 72% when she was already feeling a little better, so goodness knows how low it had been. As anything below 95% is alarming on sea level, I had to measure my own to believe it: 78% and I was not fainting or feeling sick. Thus, no oxygen and just sleep for her, and an alarm clock waking me up every 2 hours to check she was still breathing. How cumbersome, as the temp indoors dropped below zero at night, which meant sharing my down sleeping bag with both my iPhone AND the extra battery pack. All neatly wrapped in clothing so I wouldn’t crush them. What a fuss to unwrap every time the alarm went off.

As I lay there, cuddling my iPhone and charger, I could not help but think that, even including the cold, the quality of life here at the Tibetan border is probably better: no need to daily worry about iPhones, batteries, teleconferences, and wifi.namche-2(Namche Bazaar, Nepal; November 2016)

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