Emails from Nepal

by Bob Sparrow

buildings crumbling


Yes, I had heard from the travel agent that both Dom and Kiran were OK after the initial earthquake, but my three emails to Dom continued to go unanswered. All kinds of scenarios were running through my head as I wondered if the travel agency in New York really knew what was going on in Nepal and specifically with Dom and Kiran? I certainly wanted to believe they were OK, but wanted confirmation from Dom. I realized that responding to my emails had to be fairly low on Dom’s priority list at a time like this, but none-the-less I had hoped to hear from him to first, confirm that he and his family and Kiran were truly OK and secondly to try to get a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ perspective of how the nation of Nepal, and Dom specifically, was coping with this disaster.

I checked my email day and night, several times. Six anxious days passed and finally an email arrives from Dom. It reads as follows (I’ve edited it for easier reading – I think we’d all probably have difficulty writing in Nepalese if the situation were reversed):


Namaste, (nom-ess-tay – a traditional Hindu salutation meaning “I bow to the divine in you”)

2014-06-05 18.27.35

Kiran – the mighty porter

     Thank you for your email … yes there was big earthquake. Sorry for late reply, my phone was destroyed so I’m using a friends – the Internet and electricity have been out for many days. Kiran is fine and I am fine with my family as well although we lost everything. Our home was flatted along with everything in it. We now live in a tent in an open field away from buildings, along with most of the people from our village. Because I know the Himalayas well, I have been in the mountains trying to help some of the more remote villages where help cannot reach. Thanks for your thoughts and all the blogs about our trekking.  I am so happy to keep in touch with you.


 His email brought to life for me the nightmare that he and many of his countrymen must be going through . . . his home is now a tent in an open field! It was so like Dom, insuring that his family was safe, then setting out into the mountains that he knows so well to help others.

I wrote him back, thanking him for his email and telling him that Patrick and I would like to send him some money and asked how to do that. He replied . . .

2014-06-05 19.09.59

Dom in the Himalayas

Thank you very much for your email. It will be big support for me. I have a bank account but for a long time not using so better send by Western Union money transfer.

Name: Dom Bahadur Tamang             Address: Okhaldhunga – Shreechaur -7, Nepal

 I am very grateful for you and Patrick. It’s not easy even to write email. I am using friend’s mobile. Sorry for late reply. Thanks and best regards. Dom from Kathmandu 

With all the scam charities out there, Patrick and I gave money with the satisfaction of knowing that our donation was not only going directly to someone who actually needed it, but someone who we actually knew and admired.

I asked Dom to let me know when he received the money, as I didn’t want it to end up in the pocket of some Western Union clerk.  I had confirmed that it was picked up last Thursday, but had not heard from Dom, so I wasn’t sure he was the one that picked it up.  Finally, this past Sunday I received an email from Dom saying he was sorry for the delay, but he was helping in the village and yes, he had picked up the money and returned to his village to help with the reconstruction process. He was very thankful.


Nepal ‘tent city’

The second earthquake, which fortunately was centered in a more remote region of Nepal, still killed over 90 people at last count and injured over 1,200, bringing the death toll for both earthquakes to well over 8,000, injuries to over 20,000 and physical damage to over half a million homes.

‘Tent cities’ have sprung up throughout the area and are filled with people who have lost their homes as well as those afraid to go back to their homes for fear of another earthquake.

The losses from these two quakes will be felt for many years to come. As a trekking guide, Dom will have less opportunity to earn a living, as tourism to the Himalayas will certainly drop off dramatically in the near term.

To Dom, Kiran and all Nepalese – “Namaste, our thoughts and prayers are with you.”



Shakespeare By Any Other Name . . .

by Bob Sparrow

S birthday

The Birthday Boy . . . or is he?

While I was busy either hiking or trying to track down my friends in Nepal and Suzanne was selecting the menu for her ‘Last Supper’, we missed an important date last month on April 23, the birthday of William Shakespeare – he turned 451.  Don’t worry if you didn’t get him anything or even send a card, he’s used to being ignored. To wit:

Only four of the nation’s 52 highest-ranked universities require that an English major take at least one, yes one, Shakespeare class – those schools: Harvard, Cal, Wellesley College (Massachusetts) and the U.S. Navel Academy. Go Navy!

Dr. Chapman

Dr. Viola Chapman

Fortunately, my curriculum at Westminster College in Utah did include the study of several Shakespeare plays and sonnets.  I remember my first day walking into class and sizing up the professor, Dr. Chapman.  She was a elderly, diminutive woman with a stern continence, of course elderly to a college student in those days was anyone over 40.  She wore her hair in a bun and I thought she could have played the part of Norman Bate’s mother in Psycho.  I was petrified.  I was afraid not to pay attention, but once she opened her mouth, she had me. She was brilliant and quirky – she’d sit on her desk, swinging her feet to and fro, reciting, by heart and with an Elizabethan accent, long passages from Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.  By the end of the first week, I was all in.  She brought the literature to life, she made me want to know more.  There is no question in my mind that my interest in and ultimate love of Shakespeare was a result of one person, Dr. Viola Chapman.  By the time I had graduated, I’d taken every class she taught and ended up with a minor in English.  She not only instilled in me a love of Shakespeare, but influenced my decision to become a teacher and ultimately try to turn high school students on to the ‘The Bard’.   She taught at Westminster from 1948 until 1972 and was the first professor to be honored as ‘Faculty Emeriti’ by the college.  She is without question, my favorite teacher of all time.

C Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

If you haven’t really thought much about Shakespeare since you flunked that Merchant of Venice test in high school (like I did), then you may not be aware of the fact that there has been a long-standing debate as to whether William Shakespeare actually wrote all or any of the plays and sonnets attributed to him. Such luminaries as Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud and even Helen Keller have opined that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare.  So who was?  Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Derby and several others have been debated ‘to be or not to be’ the ‘real’ Shakespeare.  The debate will not be settled anytime soon, and it probably doesn’t matter because if Shakespeare didn’t write those plays and sonnets, the real author or authors are also about 450 years old and probably dead.

A line from Captain ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce, of the old TV series M.A.S.H., even references the debate when he complained about a bad tasting breakfast, saying,  “This bacon tastes as old as the Bacon that wrote Shakespeare’s plays.” 

Whoever he was, Shakespeare continues to influence our lives today.

West Side Story

West Side Story

Some plays/movies that you may be familiar with . . .

     West Side Story – based on Romeo & Juliet

     Kiss Me Kate – based on Taming of the Shrew

     The Lion King based on Hamlet

You’ve also probably quoted Shakespeare, maybe without even knowing it, as he coined too many phases to be listed here, but a few of the more familiar ones are:

     Love is blind

     Neither a borrower or lender be

     The world’s mine oyster

     He will give the devil his due

     This above all to thine own self be true

And a favorite of mine . . .

     The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers

So a belated happy birthday to whoever wrote all that wonderful literature and a tip of the cap to Dr. Viola Chapman for bringing it into my life.

There’s probably a Shakespeare play being performed somewhere close to you this summer – I say go see it; at 451 years old, he may not be around much longer and you just might enjoy it.

Class dismissed!


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

My typical daydream

My typical daydream

While my brother spends his time fantasizing about travel and hiking, I can generally be found thinking about my next meal.  He has a lot more “get up and go” than I do.  In fact over the years several people have wished that he’d get up and go – but I think that was mainly in his college days.  I’m more of a sit-down and snuggle-in person and consequently, I have way too much time to think about things – like food.  My preoccupation with eating was pointed out to me the other day (at lunch, naturally) when I mentioned something in passing about my “Last Meal” wishes.  My table mates assumed, given my near-Senior Citizen status, that I was referring to what gourmet delights the nursing home might bring my way before I pass on to my great reward.  Unfortunately, I’m not that sane.  Nope – for about the past 30 years or so I’ve thought about what my last meal might consist of should I ever be strapped in to the electric chair.

Cause for intense psychoanalysis?  Perhaps.  But I chalk it up to growing up so close to San Quentin, where every detail of a prisoner’s last requests were publicized in great detail.  Of course, that included what the person wanted as his last meal.  I was always intrigued by the food choices – and never understood it when someone requested a Big Mac.  Since then, I’ve given more thought than it deserves to what my final requests might be.  I think my obsession thought process stems from constant dieting.  How liberating to think that one could eat an entire meal without one shred of guilt about calories or a subsequent need to hit the gym!  I’m hoping that the odds are slim that I’ll actually be arrested, convicted and jailed for a major felony, so here (for entertainment purposes only)  are my requests.  Requests, by the way, that have basically stayed the same over the past 30 years.  The only change has been changing from white to red wine – for health purposes, of course.


Warm…it has to be warm.

First, I’d start with a big bowl of clam chowder from Fisherman’s Grotto in San Francisco.  I used to go there a lot as a kid and it is still considered one of the best places in The City to get chowder.  I would accompany that with a whole round of their best Sourdough bread, warm and slathered in real butter.  I know that you can get the clam chowder served in the sourdough round, but I’d rather just break off some huge hunks and dip them in the soup myself.  After all, at this point I don’t think I’d be concerned with table manners.  I’d clear my palate with a bit of fresh cracked crab.  We used to buy some almost every Saturday in season when I grew up in Novato, a luxury I didn’t appreciate until I moved to Arizona where scorpions are the closest thing we have to crabs.  Next, I’d get a crisp Caesar salad, replete with anchovies and TONS of dressing.  Next up, a filet mignon, charred on the outside and medium rare of the inside, served with a loaded baked potato.  No vegetables.  I’m not a big fan in the first place and heck, if I’m going to “the chair”, why would I bother at that point?

I could bathe in this.

I could bathe in this.

To complete this wonderful repast (and assuming I hadn’t keeled over in a food coma), I would complete my meal with an entire “All American Chocolate Cake” from Costco.  If you aren’t familiar with this delicacy I’d suggest that you hightail it down to your local Costco immediately.  It is always baked in-store, so it is fresh and moist every time.  It weighs an astounding SEVEN pounds and is about 8 inches tall.  It consists of four layers, each surrounded by the creamiest chocolate frosting and then whole thing is covered in chocolate shavings.  At one time the cake was so popular that it had its own Facebook page and followers.  Let’s just put it this way – it’s more than a dessert, it’s a conversation piece.


So, that’s it. I got to thinking the other day that since the probability of me going to jail is so slim, why don’t I just have my “Last Meal” and enjoy myself?  I’m considering it.  Perhaps I’ll take the plunge next time we visit San Francisco.  But since I don’t know when that will be, I’ll just start with the cake.  After which I’ll check myself into the local “diet farm” which, when you think about it, actually is like going to jail.  I could start my own reality show, “Chocolate is the New Black”.