Thursday, April 21, 2011


Dawa 1 and Dawa 2

Future guides

Before I totally leave Nepal, I would be amiss not to bring a bit of tribute to the Dawas that were our loyal assistants not only because of their obvious traits of strength, agility, and local knowledge but also their subtleties and endurance of my constant antics to communicate in a way only I know…comic absurdity.  Since Dawas had no last name that we could ever figure out, Sharon and I added a numeral suffix to each of their names so we could identify  them in our western way. Being oldest by a year, our porter, earned the title Dawa 1. Our guide defaulted to Dawa 2.

Dawa 2 spoke passable English so we knew a bit about his background and family and devotion to Buddhism, a strong point I could spoof on with him. We would enter a village for a tea break , I’d walk into the small restaurant and demand a beer for myself and whiskey for my Dawas, a demand that raised a huge smile on Dawa 2’s face while Dawa 1 stood deadpan until the joke was translated, then he would partially smile not totally understanding my brand of humor.

Transporting the first automobile to Kathmandu
Dawa 1 understood ten times more English than I understood Nepalese so for me to communicate with him I had to resort to absurdity to get a reaction from this lovely timid, observant, gentle young man (30 yr old). First I compiled a mental laundry list of his mannerisms and idiosyncrasies and began to carefully play on them by bending of the norm such as, the long succession of Nepalese stone stairs up the steep mountains always had wonderfully built rest walls every so often. The design of these 20’ long stonewalls allow you to back up to the wall and remove your pack, leaning to the small stem wall behind. A simple design that created much relief when finishing 1500 stairs at a snails pace. Once the weight of the pack is relieved from the shoulders, you can lean back and recover without slipping out from the straps. I found this mundane routine an opportunity to get a reaction from Dawa 1 who was usually first to the wall. He would lean back and I would lean back next to him leaving a comfortable universal space of 18 inches. No rule has ever been established but the topic was breached on a Seinfeld episode discussing the “close talker”.  The idea pertains to how close is normal and what happens when someone breaches that space.  This situation had the ingredients of language, cultural, and religious barriers, was the perfect reaction test. After holding back a chuckle and putting on my straight poker face,  I began to edge slowly closer to him moving slowly closer and closer. At first, no reaction but when I got within six inches he began to take notice using his periphery vision though still maintaining a stoic straight forward look. When I encroached into the red zone of two inches the uncertain uncomfortable  “too close” sensor alerted him and he couldn’t any longer maintain and gave way to a slight turn of the head towards me with his eyes reaching to the far corner but his stoic look now softened to bewildered. I didn’t want to take this any further because I didn’t want to think I was coming on to him, besides, my guts were beginning to burst trying to hold back my laughter. When I let go he quickly realized I was goofing on him and he let go a laugh and began to understand my brand of humor.  As for the experiment of universal space, I believe the hypotheses could state, if in a large space with no other person around and an unfamiliar human encroaches within 18”, posing a breach of normal behavior, warranting a concern of the unsuspecting bystander even if he is a Sherpa in the remote mountains of Nepal.

Another Dawa 1 idiosyncrasy I took note of was when he approached a chair he was about to sit upon, he would bend down with his head within a few inches and gently blow to remove any particles from the seat. This was more than a utilitarian routine, it was more like a ritual before being seated…like blowing away the evil butt gods reassuring yourself a comfortable sitting.

When we arrived in Pokhara after our six days trekking, we invited our Dawas out to dinner at a really nice restaurant in town that served great salads with fresh greens. Before sitting Dawa 1 blew off his seat.  When the waiter asked what we wanted to drink to start off with our Dawa 2 responded in his best cowboy draw, “Whiskey!”

As a tribute to our sherpas of the past and future mountain guides, we mention the three little boys that hired themselves to guide us through Devis Falls just outside of Pokhara. They may someday mature into responsible guides instead of little hustlers. Finally recognition is due to the sherpas that delivered the first automobile  on their shoulders through the mountain passes to the king in Kathmandu in the 1940’s.

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