friends, family and TE'03 supporters! We are doing well and
the team has arrived safely in Namche Bazaar. We'll have a
couple of days of rest, exploration and acclimatization. As
we settle into camp, we're doing laundry, relaxing, playing
Being a part of this expedition is a blessing in so many
ways. The smiles as everyone sees and experiences this amazing
place lets me know that no one regardless of their disability
should be held back from achieving their dreams. We've had
a few SAT phone transmission difficulties, but we're up and
running now! Apologies for the delay in this posting. Cheers!
TE '03 and CTD needs your continued support.
Questions / comments
for the team
show by Erich Schlegel / The Dallas Morning News
forge friendships at 8,900 feet
Trekkers from America find common ground with Sherpa villagers
By Lee Hancock / The Dallas Morning News
Nepal The village teacher watched, amazed, as Mark
Gobble signed furiously to Pemba Dorjee Sherpa, the young
man everyone in the village knew couldn't hear or speak.
As Pemba Dorjee's hands flew in response, his face beaming,
the teacher turned, wide-eyed, to Christine Kane, Mr. Gobble's
translator and teaching colleague at the Texas State School
for the Deaf in Austin.
"He pointed to Mark and said, 'No talk! No talk!' "
Ms. Kane said. "He pointed to Pemba and said, 'No talk,
too! Same! Friends.' "
For both Austin residents, their unexpected encounter with
the 20-year-old Sherpa man was among the most remarkable moments
in a remarkable journey.
"It's funny because I did ask myself: Obviously, there
should be a deaf Sherpa. ... But the thought of meeting someone,
it's very doubtful," Mr. Gobble said. "Bottom line,
I'm so happy this happened."
Mr. Gobble and Ms. Kane are traveling with a Texas-based
group of people with disabilities, the Team Everest 03 Challenge
Trek, that is going to Mount Everest base camp to call attention
to the abilities and potential of people with physical limitations.
group camped Saturday, its third day in the Himalayas, at
the teahouse run by Pemba Dorjee's mother. When Mr. Gobble,
28, and Ms. Kane, 30, arrived, they were ushered into the
teahouse and began communicating by signing.
Pemba Dorjee quizzed Mr. Gobble and explained that he'd been
born deaf because his mother took medicine that damaged his
ears in utero. After years at a boarding school in Katmandu,
he said, he returned to his village to raise horses and marry
a woman from nearby who could sign.
Ms. Kane translated, at times baffled by Pemba Dorjee's Nepalese
sign language. But Mr. Gobble seemed to understand his Sherpa
counterpart perfectly, his hands dancing and eyes sparkling
as they conversed. At several points, he translated Nepalese
sign to Ms. Kane, so she could translate it into English for
a bilingual Sherpa to translate again into Sherpa speech.
"It feels good to be around someone who you can share
something in common with," he said.
Pemba Dorjee also seemed elated, explaining that he was only
one of three deaf Sherpas who could sign within several days'
walk of his village, and even his mother only knows about
10 words in Nepalese sign.
He added that he'd only seen deaf trekkers twice before.
"It makes me feel so warm," Pemba Dorjee said,
beaming. "It makes me smile that you're here."
Overwhelmed by visit
At mid-afternoon, he invited the two Austin teachers to
his village, a tiny settlement at 8,900 feet on the edge of
the Dudh Kosi river. He led them 15 minutes up a mountain
trail and into the dark, smoky interior of a Sherpa house,
explaining that one of its occupants was an elderly deaf Sherpa
who had never had the chance to learn how to sign.
Ms. Kane said the old man, who lived in the house with his
brother, sat smiling at the visitors, clearly unable to communicate
even with Pemba Dorjee.
"Pemba, Mark and the man were sitting there, and Pemba
was trying to explain that we're all deaf. We're the same,"
Mr. Gobble, whose parents and grandparents also are deaf,
said he was overwhelmed. He said he'd heard stories about
deaf people who were never taught any means of communication
but had never imagined he would actually meet one.
"It just hits my heart," he said. "If someone
had been able to sign with him when he was young, he would've
been a completely different person, had a completely different
In an afternoon, he said, he'd seen the two poles of the
deaf world: a young, competent man making a life for himself
in a remote village in Nepal, and an older one, isolated and
dependent with no means of communicating anything to the rest
of the world.
"What's more sad is to know that all over the world,
you can see that. If I see it here with one person, how many
situations are there that I never do?"
Challenge Trek members were settling into a lazy afternoon
on Saturday, taking in the mountains, playing Frisbee and
Village children gathered at the edge of the group's tent
camp, poking at dozing village dogs and giggling at the Westerners,
calling out namaste! and the mantra chanted to trekkers passing
through every village in the Himalayas: Pen? Candy? Bon-bon?
Then a boy watching the group's tent camp shrieked horribly.
One of the dogs had turned on the boy, 9-year-old Pasang Tensing
Sherpa, biting his lip in two and ripping a gash within an
inch of the boy's right eye.
"Doctor! Doctor!" group members called, summoning
Janis Tupesis, a Chicago physician who volunteered to provide
medical care for the Everest 03 trek.
A sunroom of a nearby teahouse was soon transformed into
an emergency room. Dozens of Sherpa men, women and children
crowded outside to watch as Dr. Tupesis comforted the boy
through a Sherpa translator. The doctor injected the boy with
lidocaine and began stitching him up.
Outside, the boy's mother wrapped a piece of cloth around
the dog's neck to strangle it and then wailed, "My only
boy! He's my only son!"
She calmed and let the dog go when someone asked her to come
see her son. The doctor repaired her son's lip and cheek with
10 stitches and the medical equivalent of super glue.
you, thank you," she said, draping silk scarves or katas
given by the region's Tibetan Buddhists as a sign of
respect and thanks around the necks of Dr. Tupesis
and other Westerners.
Dr. Tupesis grabbed one of his sterile gloves and blew it
up like a balloon, drawing a face on it and announcing, "See?
Looks like a chicken!" to coax a smile out of the frightened
Other Sherpas said the boy would've had to be carried at
least three hours to the nearest hospital if the group had
not set up camp in Monju that day. Traveling on foot on rough
mountain trails is the only means of travel in the region,
and Monju, like most villages in the high Himalayas, has no
electricity, telephones or even rudimentary medical care.
By the afternoon's end, word of what the doctor had done
for the boy had spread through Monju, and several more ailing
Sherpas had appeared at the camp, asking for the doctor to
take a look at bad teeth and injured eyes.
"We were in the right place at the right time,"
said trekker Chris Watkins. "Otherwise, what would they