News / USA

    New York Sherpas Grieve for Everest Victims

    Dawa Tashi Sherpa in the Intensive Care Unit of Grandi International Hospital, Dhapasi, Kathmandu, April 18, 2014.
    Dawa Tashi Sherpa in the Intensive Care Unit of Grandi International Hospital, Dhapasi, Kathmandu, April 18, 2014.
    Adam Phillips
    New York is home to the largest number of Sherpas anywhere outside Nepal, and that community has been plunged into mourning for 16 mountain guides killed by an avalanche on Mount Everest.

    The Sherpas had been moving across an icefield, preparing a route for a group of Western climbers who were to ascend the world's tallest peak in the days and weeks to come.
    Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
    x
    Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
    Ang Geljen Sherpa, president of the United Sherpa Association (USA), says education and opportunity can provide a surer and a safer path for Sherpa livelihood than guiding Westerners up Mount Everest. (Adam Phillips/VOA)
    Late Friday afternoon, many of the estimated 3,500 Sherpa residents of Elmhurst, Queens, were still at work. In the colorful Buddhist temple at the United Sherpa Association headquarters, a monk was busy washing ritual brass lamps to prepare for a community-wide memorial service on Sunday.

    “New York is like a busy life,” said Ang Geljen Sherpa, the Nepalese-American who leads the organization. “Yet we keep in touch with our community back home.

    "We are all connected through emails or phone, so people [here] knew these people" who died on Everest, he said. "Most of them were brought up around the Everest region. So definitely, the feeling is sorrow.”

    A proud and dangerous job

    An estimated 16 people died in the April 18 avalanche; thirteen bodies were recovered, but another three remain missing, likely entombed somewhere in Everest's permanent ice and snow cover.

    Ang Geljen Sherpa is proud of his people’s tradition of safely guiding intrepid mountain climbers, usually Westerners. Everest is usually scaled in stages of increasing treachery, leading to the summit nearly 9,000 meters above sea level. Sherpas work as the foreign climbers' guides and assistants, also carrying supplies up the mountain.

    “The Sherpa climbers, they know these risks and they are willing to take these risks because they have to put food on the table,” he said. “Of course, the safety concern is very important. But you can’t do [anything] about the avalanches.” 

    A sister’s warning unheeded

    In Nepal, one can find safer jobs, but they tend to far less lucrative than guiding groups up the mountain. Pasang Kanchee Sherpa advised her brother to stay safe, but he died in the accident, some 22 years after another brother met the same fate.

    “Every week I talked to him on the phone and said, '[Do] not go on the mountain!’ I was so worried about him, but ... he won’t listen to me," she told VOA. "Now I have no brother. 

    "I am very heartbroken," she said. "My brother, he was so kind, careful and always a happy person. I loved my brother. I miss him.”

    Ngawang Dhondup, a Buddhist monk, saw Pasang Kanchee Sherpa weeping constantly during an earlier funeral ceremony — a traditional rite, eight hours long — for her brother. The monk said it was an emotional moment, but he also had a spiritual explanation.

    “It’s really sad it happened there [on Everest]," he said. "People have to die because of their karma. According to Buddhism, when people die they are born again ... in a good place. And we just have to pray for them.”

    Karma, desperation and opportunity

    United Sherpa Association President Ang Geljen Sherpa says it was not only karma that brought death to those Sherpas on the mountain. It was economic necessity, and the lack of other options for them.

    “That’s why we are in America," the Sherpa community leader said. "We have to tell our kids ... to focus on education. So we have to break this cycle of climbing.” 

    He said he hopes his people will learn to strike a balance between the proud traditions of the past and present-day safety concerns on the world’s highest peak, where the number of adventure-seeking Western tourists grows every year.

    Meanwhile, Sherpas everywhere continue to grieve.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora