Oat Porridge and Tibetan Bread

In my grogginess, I rolled over in my sleeping bag to check on my girlfriend.

“Good morning, Amy.”

The reply from Amy’s sleeping bag was a barely perceptible “Good morning, John.” Then she rolled over to peek out at me.

After which, we both broke out in uncontrollable laughter—“HAHAHAHAHA!”

“You’re eyelids are swollen,” Amy exclaimed.

“Yours are too!”

We immediately sat erect in our sleeping bags.

“Eeeewww,” I said with a wince. “Amy, look at our fingers. They’re swollen too.”

With mouth agape, Amy examined the fattened fingers on both of her hands. “It must be because of the elevation,” she proffered.

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“And look,” Amy instructed. She exhaled, adding “You can see your breath in here.”

“For cryin’ out loud,” I exclaimed. “We’re in a hotel room!”

We momentarily sat there in the cold stillness of the Yak Hotel in Manang, Nepal.

Shaking my head, I broke the silence, asking “What kind of a date is this?”

“It’s one that I’ll always remember—that’s for sure.”

“Happy Saint Patrick’s Day,” I offered with a smile.

Amy returned the grin, stating “Same back at ya.”

Then we rolled out of our sleeping bags—noting that our feet were swollen too.

While scurrying to get dressed in the cold, Amy asked “What do you feel like for breakfast?”

“How about steak-n-eggs?”

“Sorry,” Amy replied, “but something tells me that the only item on the menu is oat porridge and Tibetan bread.”

“You mean, like it has been every morning for two straight weeks?”

Amy chuckled.

I sighed, and my exhalation condensed in the frigid air. During March in Nepal, you never really get warm—you just obtain varying levels of cold.

Amy and I had hiked into Manang at 2:30 pm yesterday afternoon. As a fresh snow began to fall, we had gotten a room at the Yak Hotel and then attended a lecture on altitude sickness given by volunteer British doctors. It was highly recommended that Himalayan trekkers see this presentation before pressing onward out of Manang, so Amy and I had played it safe. After the lecture and dinner, we took a “shower” using Baby Wipes and then crawled into our sleeping bags.

Yesterday morning had started with a breakfast of oat porridge and Tibetan bread in The New Tibetan Hotel of Lower Pisang, Nepal. Then the day commenced with an 8:30 step-off.

During the forty-eight hours prior to arriving into Lower Pisang, our Porters had abandoned us, we had broken our trekking poles, and I had developed a case of diarrhea.

Today—Monday, March seventeenth, 2003— would be a rest day for us on Nepal’s one hundred and twenty mile Annapurna Circuit. Looping around the entire Annapurna range—which contains six peaks over twenty-three thousand feet—the Annapurna Circuit also traverses the world’s highest crossable pass: Thorung La. This pass is close to eighteen thousand feet in elevation.

Today’s agenda included walking around Manang, doing an acclimatization hike to see a local monastery, and then spending another night in the frigid Yak Hotel.

Upon leaving Manang on the morning of March eighteenth, the next few days consisted of more oat porridge and Tibetan bread, continuing to climb with swollen eyes and extremities, scampering across the face of a potential avalanche, headaches due to the elevation, and more showers with Baby Wipes.

Despite it all, on Friday, March twenty-first, Amy and I crossed over Thorung La. I had intended to propose to Amy atop the pass, but decided against it due to the predominance of Yak poop. In the cargo pocket on my left thigh, I had been carrying the antique diamond ring that Amy’s fraternal Grandmother had passed down to her Father. He, in turn, had given it to Amy’s Mother. In a fleeting moment last year, Amy had admitted that she sooooo desired to someday wear that ring. In any case, I guessed that it would remain inside my cargo pocket for now.

Ten days later, Amy and I triumphantly returned to Kathmandu, Nepal, where we promptly got a warm room at the Kathmandu guest house. There, I took the best shower that I had taken in three weeks, and then we engulfed a pizza at The Roadhouse Café. Breakfast the next morning consisted of chocolate pastries at the Pumpernickel Café—instead of oat porridge and Tibetan bread.

The proposal would have to wait for some place with less Yak poop.

J Scanlan

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