Everyone was a bit more upbeat since
our Deirdre’s laughing spell at my dad’s telling of his favorite part of our trip to India. After our long day spent mostly inside an airport the size of Chili’s, we headed home from the restaurant. As we passed through the hotel lobby, Morgan spotted some old-school PC’s in the corner where a few other young people were surfing the world wide web. So Morgan and I darted to the computers and told Deirdre she could have the first shower, which makes us sound nicer than we actually are, because a) the shower was stuck one temperature: scalding hot and b) Morgan and I didn’t feel like showering yet anyway. The two of us are the finest of procrastinators.
Deirdre was being the only smart one by getting a head start because [spoiler alert!] our flight to the Himalayas departed at 6 a.m. And God forbid we miss our appointment with death.
I know I already talked about Tenzig-Hillary Airport’s lethality, but I still think I’m downplaying it. Using U.S. flight information, the likelihood of your plane being in an accident is .00006674907. Add this to the somewhat surprising fact that 95.7 percent of passengers of plane accidents survive and the odds of you dying in a plane crash are around 1 in 28 billion.
But we weren’t in Kansas anymore, or any part of the U.S. for that matter. Nepal’s air safety statistics rank among the worst in the world. Plane crashes in Nepal about are as novel as the release of a bad Hugh Grant romantic comedy. You’re certain you heard about it coming out, maybe you even went to see it in theaters, but you don’t remember why you saw it and you definitely didn’t buy the DVD. After a while they all seem the same and the fanfare exponentially decreases. Just a few weeks after we were in Nepal, another plane taking off for Lukla crashed and left no survivors. It was the sixth fatal crash in Nepal in 2 years and the 55th since 1957. That’s right, this is something that has happened 55 times, and for some reason, people keep lining up to do it.
Believe it or not, only about 200 people have died climbing Mount Everest. 558 people have died doing what we were about to do, which wasn’t much beyond sitting down, buckling a seat belt that exists solely for feel-good purposes, and hoping for the best.
I think I just scared myself out of ever doing it again.
But we were too delirious to care about something so trivial like life and death. Morgan had larger priorities to worry about, like our self-image on the Internet. We waited like vultures for someone to give up their spot at one of the four stations.
We eventually snagged a computer next to this German girl, and typed in what any kid would after not having access to a computer for five days into the browser: Facebook. After listening to our deliberations over what to post as our status, I am sure the girl thought we were the dumbest blondes to grace Kathmandu. Morgan logged on first. We didn’t have to brainstorm very long to think of a funny status (or at least, what we found funny after being up for 22 hours):
stuck in the Himalayas please help me need food, money, and toilet paper.
Lotte, Bridget, Kathaleen and 4 others like this.
Amanda Leonard Anderson and soap
July 25 at 11:47am · Like
Amanda Leonard Anderson and a roof
July 25 at 11:47am · Like
Amanda Leonard Anderson and water and clean clothes
July 25 at 11:48am · Like
Mary sounds like a typical Anderson vacation, have a great time.
July 25 at 7:48pm · Like
Just to fact-check, we weren’t stuck in the Himalayas and we had soap and a roof and somewhat clean clothes (for now). Okay, her status was a stretch? But if all went according to plan (never guaranteed) we would be there in a few hours.
Go ahead, call us posers.
As you can see, I subsequently logged on to comment on Morgan’s status (three separate times, mind you) as I sat right next to her, making us even bigger tools. But we were too cracked-out to care what Morgan’s 1,376 non-friends thought of us on Facebook.
But then Morgan decided to post a follow-up status. Two Facebook statuses in five minutes means you are kind of pathetic and bored with your life, but for some reason I didn’t feel any need stop her. In fact, if Morgan was about to jump to her social suicide, I was holding her hand ready to make the leap with her.
Only four people liked it, and half came from Deirdre and me. Again, it was a bit of a stretch. We were still a plane ride away from Mount Everest, but still a heck of a lot closer than anyone else we knew. But still, when was she ever going to be able to check-in at Mount Everest again?
What was most funny to Morgan and I was that she tagged Kevin in her status. Kevin hates Facebook and prides himself on the fact that he never goes on it. He’s been in Prague since August and he has been tagged in just two pictures, one of a duck and another one with his class. For all I know he’s not really there. He’s too cool to add a cover photo to his timeline, even though it was converted months ago. If you look at his wall, anything that involved him on Facebook was something either Morgan or I posted, which is one of two things:
a dumb picture of our dog
a dumb picture of our parents
We do this just to annoy the crap out of Kevin. Though I spared tagging him, my status was equally obnoxious as Morgan’s:
Meaghan have an amazing time! Take tons of pictures
What was most bothersome to me was not that only a few people liked it, but that only one person, my friend Jason, understood the editorial mission of my status. Everyone else seemed to have mistaken my dreading anxiety for eager anticipation, commenting as if it were one of those generic look-at-what-I’m-doing-and-be-jealous statuses. I’m sure my 995 Facebook compatriots were really worried about me, so I was simply informing all concerned parties (I’d estimate a maximum of three people) of my whereabouts and adding some color for their own enjoyment.
After obnoxiously laughing and complaining about our exotic trip to the Facebooksphere and indirectly to the judging fraulein next to us, Morgan and I walked over to the front desk and requested a wake-up call for 4 hours and forty minutes from that moment: 4:20 a.m. I was so tired that I had no idea what our room number was so the concierge had to look it up.
I’m not sure how Deirdre managed in the shower, but I mostly did a half-dry wipe down on the edge of the tub because the water was way too hot to actually stand underneath. Morgan went last. About two minutes after she hopped in, the hotel’s power went out.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Morgan’s scream echoed through the bathroom.
The power going out did not phase me in the least. Really nothing that happens does anymore. “Ha! That would happen to you, Morgan. Want me to come in there and get you?” I yelled from the comfort of my bed.
“Everyone remain calm! I have just the thing,” Deirdre dug through her backpack in the pitch black.
“Towwwwwwwweeeeelllllllllllllll!!” In stressful emergencies, Morgan reverts to a toddler vocabulary of one-word demands. I could barely see her as she came running out in this teeny towel that was clearly made for an Asian and not a tall American girl.
“Hold on, guys!” We heard a clicking noise coming from Deirdre and her backpack. Then, our room lit up.
“I knew this headlamp would come in handy!” Deirdre had her infamous Christmas present strapped on her head and began walking around the room to continue packing. The many benefits of adhering to my dad’s Official Guide to Packing For a Trip to India and Nepal.
I burst out laughing. She looked hilarious in her pajamas with a headlamp strapped over her forehead. Deirdre began surveying the room for the candle and matches the room provides, which may be telling of the regularity of the the power outages there.
The electricity eventually returned, but I don’t think Morgan ever finished her shower. Shortly after, we took to our cots and tried to sleep. I didn’t even bother sleeping under the single sheet provided for us on our bed. There were a few loud socialites outside our room, which was adjacent to a sort of communal balcony for hotel guests, which made it even harder to sleep. But as annoying as it was, it really didn’t matter. We were only going to sleep for 4 hours anyway.
It seemed to be a recurring incident on the trip that as soon as I closed my eyes an alarm would go off while it was still dark out.
I leapt up to silence the phone that was disturbing my slumber. Then I realized it was our wake-up call.
“Hello?” I answered the phone in a rough and scratchy morning voice with my eyes still closed.
“Good morning, madam, this is your wake-up call,” the voice said.
“Thanks,” I hung up before the voice could respond. Deirdre was up and looked at her phone.
“But it’s only 4 a.m.? I thought you told them to call us at 4:20?” Deirdre asked.
“I swore I told him 4:20 last night, didn’t I Morgan?” I called over to her bed.
No response. The sleeping beauty was still out. Then, it happened again.
I rushed up again to answer the phone. “For god’s sake, they just called! This place blows.”
This time I answered in my trademark pissed-off voice: “Helloooooo?”
“Oh Hi Amanda, you guys up?” My mom’s voice said on the line.
“Uhh yeah, our stupid concierge called us 20 minutes early and now you are waking us up anyway, so it doesn’t even matter now…”
“Oh, I told them to change your wakeup call to 4:00. See you down there!”
“What? Well thanks to you we are all awake and ready to go and its only 4:01.”
No response, my mom had already hung up.
“Ugh!” I slammed the phone back down into it’s cradle. “My mom changed our wake-up call,” I told Deirdre. “Such a Mom move.”
“Well, I guess we’re already up…” Deirdre sighed, clearly disappointed that we had been deprived of 20 precious minutes of sleep.
It didn’t take long to brush our teeth and put on our fleeces, so we (Morgan included) made it down to the lobby about five minutes later. I was even more ticked when I saw we were the first ones.
But we actually weren’t the first. Ramesh was already there waiting for us, hiking clothes on, backpack in hand, and his slight smile permanently on his face. Still half asleep, we exchanged “Namastes” and sat on the lobby chairs as we waited for the rest of the slackers.
A few minutes went by, and still no one else was downstairs. I apologized to Ramesh for my incompetent family. Then a tired and bored Morgan eyed the computers again, this time completely available (maybe because it was four in the morning?). She logged in again and see how much traffic she’d gotten from her post (minimal). Ramesh, Deirdre and I walked over to see what she was up to. My parents had come down, so now we were just waiting on Kevin and Tim.
“Are you on Facebook, Ramesh?” I asked.
“Actually yes,” he said.
“Perfect! Morgan will add you as a friend!” We looked him up and Morgan added him so the rest of us could find him when we got back.
Kevin and Tim finally made it down, so Morgan logged off and we got ready to head out. The hotel had prepared boxed breakfasts for us to take with to the airport. Again, I guess the concierge pitied us.
Minutes after the boys came down, Prem pulled up in his van to take us all to a place we were all-too-familiar with, Tribhuvan International Airport.
“Namaste!” Prem was pleasant and energetic as we piled into the van like zombies. “Today I know your plane will take off today, no problem,” he said assuredly.
“Sounds great!” My dad said, not one to be out-enthused, even at 4 in the morning.
Sitting between Morgan and Deirdre in the back row of the van, I closed my eyes to sleep but awoke suddenly.
“Crap, Morgan!” I whispered in an accusing voice.
“What?” She said, getting all defensive, clearly annoyed that I was about to yell at her so early in the morning.
“You just friended Ramesh on Facebook, and we’d just posted all that stuff complaining about the trek last night! He’s totally going to see it.”
Ramesh had a smartphone, so for all we knew he had already accepted Morgan’s friend request and seen that she had posted the night before essentially mocking the trip, the trek and their country. Because I tagged Morgan in my status, he would surely also see that I had also called this trek a “third world pain.”
“Ooooohh….crap,” Morgan said with a guilty smirk.
“Yup,” I said. “Well, maybe he’ll get the joking context of it all.”
Fat chance. It has been my experience that sarcasm does not translate well to other languages. For one, I do not think the people of any other continent are as sarcastic and cynical as Americans. I remember I once chided one of my french friends who had messed something up. In my fake spastic voice I asked her “Gosh, what the hell is your problem?” Then this absolutely terrified look came across her face, and I realized she did not realize at all that I was not serious. My french wasn’t good enough to explain that I was just kidding, either. I think I tried to use the French word for joke, blague, but what I ended up saying was “I am a joke” instead of “I am just joking.” Double fail.
Overhearing our panic in the backseat, Tim turned around to face us. “What did you idiots do now?” .
In a soft voice so that Ramesh wouldn’t hear, I told him what Morgan and I had posted on Facebook.
“You know what? You guys need to be a little more humble,” Tim said.
“What? It was just a joke, Tim. Lighten up!”.
Tim is a man of few words, and even fewer when it comes to criticizing people. But he’d had really gotten to me this time. I had taken everything too far, the blog, the statuses, the sarcasm. I felt like a huge jerk because my youngest brother was giving me a lesson in humility. Don’t tell him I said this, but I’ve always secretly admired Tim for stuff like that. Actually, Kevin Morgan and I all secretly want to be more like Tim–cool, independent, and most importantly– he doesn’t give a crap what you think of him. Nothing really excites Tim, but at the same time, nothing really makes him mad either. It’s a nice life balance.
“Between those statuses and your marathon shirts….” he didn’t finish his thought, but we all knew what he was suggesting. Tim had been mocking me, my mom, Morgan and Deirdre for our marathon shirts since yesterday. We wore them because, per the Official Anderson Trip Packing List, we were instructed to pack dri-fit attire in case of rain during the trek. It’s not my fault my only dri-fit shirts also happen to celebrate my accomplishments.
“Do you have a marathon shirt for every day of the week?” Tim asked.
“Well, Tim, while I do not have seven marathon shirts, I do have one for each day of this trek,” I still sassed back to him, even though I knew he was right to chide me.
“You guys must think you are really cool,” he said dryly. Shirts aside, Tim finds a marathon itself the most expensive waste of time and energy ever invented. Unless it involves a drum set, he doesn’t believe in exerting kinetic energy for enjoyment.
Even I know Tim is mostly just a lazy 16-year-old dud, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said. I felt stupid, guilty and immature. I wanted to delete my status. I wanted to change my shirt. I wanted a clean slate.
But if Ramesh had read it and judged us, he didn’t let on. Once at the airport, we said goodbye to Prem (again), and headed to our terminal. This time, we went straight to the gate and sat down. Ramesh distributed boarding passes handwritten in Nepali to our group. A little sketchy, but it was further than we got yesterday so I took this as a positive sign.
I had the bag of boxed breakfasts, so distributed them amongst us. There were four boxes, so we rationed, sharing the small apple, egg and 2 pieces of toast in each. I could have just been overly sensitive at this point, but I still felt like everyone at the airport was staring at our group–a disheveled mess poring over eggs and bread in a box as we waited for our plane.
Not sure how I missed this, but we later realized my dad had the other four, which meant we were sharing for no reason. But once we had gone through the trouble of splitting everything, no one was hungry anymore. Not one to waste anything, Ramesh held onto what we didn’t finish.
Besides, who knew when we would eat again?
I was nervous, not just over my anticipation of boarding the world’s most dangerous flight, but for the entire rest of the trip. Long before any of this was planned, we discussed our prospective trip one day over dinner. There is nothing my dad loves more than a healthy family debate over where and when to go on one of these “adventures.” When we were trying to figure out the time frame, my dad said we would need around nine or ten days to fit everything in.
“No, no and no,” Tim interrupted.
“What’s your problem, Tim?” My dad said, his interest piqued that Tim actually had an opinion. Again, he doesn’t talk much, so when he feels strongly enough about something to have an opinion, everyone listens.
“I will only be going on this trip for five days, max.”
“But Tim we can’t possibly…”
“Five days,” he repeated. “After five days things start getting goofy.” Tim has this high-pitched cartoon voice that he uses to mock people, but it’s usually my mom.
Goofy. Good choice of words.
Kevin, Morgan and I snickered because Tim did kind of have a point. After a standard business week spent exclusively together, you really do need a weekend off from each other. It’s typically around day six that a) we run out of things to do b) someone gets in a huge fight with someone else c) something goes horribly wrong d) we get attacked by monkeys
“Well, Tim you can’t go for just five days.”
Fueled by our smirks, Tim kept on:
“Then I’ll stay home. In fact, you guys go to India and I’ll stay here. When you get back, we’ll both compare notes and then see who has a better time.”
Kevin, Morgan and I couldn’t hold our laughs in any longer. Tim’s Tirade had reached a new level.
Dad had heard enough. He slammed his napkin down on the table. “You know what? You kids are a bunch of ingrates!” He was really pissed. “And..and…” his mind raced to threaten us, “no one is going on this trip unless they beg! Your mother and I don’t need to take you selfish kids anywhere! You hear me?!”
These thoughts flooded my mind as I walked on the runway to board the plane. It was day six.