Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pakistan

A year ago today I was on my way down the Baltoro glacier from my trek up to K2 basecamp in Baltistan, Pakistan. The trip was a pivotal moment in my slacker life. I am about 35 lbs lighter now than last year and much fitter. I have written about it at In The Know Traveler. The original trip was to climb the Gondogoro Pass but I got eliminated at Concordia(the main camp and crossroads of the Baltoro valley)because the guide, Jonathan, told me I was suffering from altitude sickness, I had racoon eyes. But that was somewhat of an excuse because I have had racoon eyes(my eyelids swelled) before and then they go away, it is part of my acclimatization routine. He eliminated me because the group was too big to get over the pass and I was one of the slowest. In someways I was happy to get eliminated because there were a couple of personalities on the trip that were really annoying. One guy was a personality polluter, he just could never stop talking and was somewhat of an alpha male, bulldog type. There are great alpha males who are interesting and attractive and annoying ones. He was the latter. There was a woman with her husband who had just graduated from medical school and had the "I am the smartest person in the world" complex and everyone else is stupid. She was one of those people who always had to be right and have the last word, her husband was sweet and somewhat of a "lap husband". And of course, she and the BullDog got along great. I was pissed at myself half the time and discouraged, I had become "That Person", "The Slacker" of the group, I am used to being one of the fit ones, the one who makes it to the summit, I actually had a moment on the trail where I broke down in tears, I couldn't believe, I had become "That Person!" I had underestimated the fitness level needed for the trip but I am pretty mentally tough so I was slow but "not that slow" and I am not a complainer, and I was so happy to be surrounded by this absolutely gorgeous scenery that I kept up in my own way,(part of slackerdom, you have an affinity for stopping and smelling the roses, we are very good at that), I didn't stop that much and I left earlier in the morning so I did not ever "slow down" the group. I learned a long time ago, when golfing, the key thing is to keep up the pace and when trekking, go at your own pace if you have to leave early and come in late but never "slow down" the group.  I had an epiphany at Concordia. I realized I could either go the route of doing less and less as I got older or I get myself in gear and get fitter and that it was totally possible to be very fit as I got older. And I realized there are a lot of people, particularly in the flatlands who say, I am too old, it is scary, it hurts too much, and there are people who say let's do it!!! I want to go down the path of doing rather than watching and making it work rather than coming up with reasons why it can't. I realized at Concordia that I had to focus from then on, on things that I really care about and not things that I felt I should do.
   However, now, I am really sad that I don't have a trip planned to the mountains. A friend who is a guide, Ade Summers is in Kazakhstan right now and he was just in Bolivia and before that Nepal. There are too many places to see in this world and too many, non-touristy mountain ranges to trek and climb in and I have to somehow figure out how to make it work so I can go back and do and see them.
    My top ten places I want to go:1) Simien Mountains, Ethiopia, 2)Rwenzori's ,The Mountains of the Moon and gorilla sighting, 3)Tien Shan, Kazakhstan, The Celestial Mountains,  4) volcanoes of Kamchatka, 5)ski to the North Pole, 6)Aconcagua(have heard it is a boring slog, but it would be nice to summit none the less, 7)see Angkor Wat in Cambodia, 8)go to Danny Paradise's yogaweek in thailand, 9)Trek in some of the less well known valleys in Nepal, 10)Finish the Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa and the go on safari to see the hippos in Kruger National Park...
  I am still looking for able to live-on compensation rather than college student pay even though I still feel like I am working and am perfectly tired at the end of an 8 hour shift an outdoor goods retailer on Michigan Avenue. I like helping people with "outerwear issues" and I love the windows of the store on the 2nd floor but I am very overqualified for the job and it is at that point where I am getting restless and really want to have more responsibility, more pay and most of importantly be challenged more and feel that I am using my talents which at this moment I am being completely underutilized.  During the summertime we don't get as many international customers, which for me is the best part of the job, it reminds me that there is a big world out there. So time for me to go on my run, of course I am going on the short run versus the long route, part of my slacker tendencies, but it is a beautiful day here, and I will bike to yoga later and I got to the Green City market and had my wheat grass this morning, so slacker life is good today and I am listening to Pandora(which is the greatest by the way) as I write this.......and I found out about a movement, Slow Bikes, which is all about seeing the world slowly on a bike, which is definitely me as I bike around Chicago.  So for today, it is okay being a Slacker and Slow biker.... Ciao....

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