This is what our active baby boomer generation is all about: Denverite Jeff Pearson’s story of combining adventurism and volunteerism, and in a most exotic location: Nepal. He calls it, Good Touring, Good Trekking, Good Karma.
Here’s an idea for boomers who might be like my wife and me. We wanted to visit Nepal, one of the most beautiful but also one of the poorest countries in the world, while leaving more than just our dollars and footprints behind. So last October, we arranged a trip that combined sightseeing in Kathmandu and trekking on the Everest Trail with volunteering in a dental clinic for children.
My wife Jessica, 68, is a sociologist and still working. I am 70, a retired lawyer. We set up our trip, soup to nuts, through a nonprofit in Denver, where we live, called Global Dental Relief.
For the sightseeing and volunteering, we stayed in a guest house in Kathmandu on the grounds of a Buddhist monastery, a short walk from the spectacular Bodhnath Stupa, a large Buddhist shrine. Surrounded by restaurants and shops, the stupa teemed day and night with sightseers, monks, and worshippers. Our guest house was also a short walk from the Global Dental Relief clinic.
There were 13 clinic volunteers: seven dental professionals, six non-dentists including us. The age range was 26 to 76. We worked six long days — three on, one off, three more on — and treated more than 800 Nepalese children. Volunteers like Jessica and me donned smocks and masks and sterilized equipment, kept records, assisted the dentists, and did oral health instruction and fluoride treatment. It was hard work, but the kids were inspiring, and the energy level high.
Evenings after clinic, the volunteers decompressed in the guest house’s courtyard over beers or ginger tea. We shared quiet dinners and traded life stories. Before the clinic effort began, and on the one off-day, we explored the amazing Hindu temples, Buddhist religious sites, and ancient Nepalese royal palaces of Kathmandu and nearby Bhaktapur.
When the clinic ended, Jessica and I flew in a small plane from Kathmandu to Lukla in the Everest Valley, where we spent a week trekking. As reasonably fit Coloradans, we found the trekking only moderately difficult. The ever-changing panoramas of the Sagamartha peaks (including views of the top of Everest itself, always veiled in wispy clouds) were breathtaking. We reached the town of Tengboche in the first week of November, just as the monks at its upper-valley monastery were performing their amazing masked dances as part of an annual celebration of the introduction of Buddhism into the valley. The weather on the trail during early November was a lot like fall in the Colorado Rockies: mostly clear, cold at night and in the mornings, warming by ten or eleven as sun reached down into the valley.
At the end of the trek, we flew back to Kathmandu, where Global Dental Relief had set us up in the Radisson for our two final nights, where we reacquainted ourselves with hot water and clean sheets.
We like to think that the way we did our trip earned us some good karma as well as good memories, but who knows? And at our age, who’s counting?