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Umbrella Foundation (UPDATE)

Umbrella Foundation has just published a newsletter about their activities and progress.  Now that the civil war has given way to a period of peace, the push is on to reunite conflict-displaced children with their rural families. 

Umbrella is very active and continue to need both volunteers and financial support.  Learn more about them and their work by downloading the newsletter at this site.


-20°C is cold, right?

One of the fun parts about a trip -- at least for guys -- is gearing up when there's technical stuff involved.  Things like °C are always a big hit!  On this trip, °C is going to matter.  No matter how you cut it, life at 18,000' can be downright chilly.

While our trek will not be particularly technical, weather is always a factor in the mountains.  According to the weather guidance, the average overnight temperature at Everest Base Camp in late October is -10°C.  That's 14°F for we yanks.  In a word, cold.

The one thing worse that being freezing is being frozen!  And both are possibilities at high altitude. That's why I bit the bullet and invested in a new sleeping bag.  I had two concerns: weight and, of course, temperature rating.  To make sure I had enough margin for emergency situations, I set my sites at -20°C.

After some research, the clear choice for me was the Marmot Col EQ.  Overall, the Col EQ is warm, light and, perhaps most important, comes highly recommended by many posters on a number of Himalayan trekking sites.

While marketed at -20°C, the bag is actually rated at -29°C according to Marmot's Site.   Beyond the insulation factor, the 800+ Goose Down fill makes the bag a mere 4 lb 4 ozs  (1.928 kgs), amazing when you figure there are bags 50% heavier with lesser ability to keep you warm.

Got the bag just a few days ago and I'm extremely pleased with the fit and finish.  I'll have to wait until the Trek, however, to give the most important report.



Umbrella Foundation

One of the most exciting aspects of this trip for me is the opportunity to visit and volunteer with the Umbrella foundation.  Ten years of civil war in Nepal has displaced tens of thousands of children.  With countless children orphaned and even more trafficked and/or abandoned, Umbrella Foundation was established to rescue destitute children and give them access to education.  The Umbrella Foundation provides care for more conflict-displaced and trafficked children in the Kathmandu Valley than any other NGO.

Since 2005, Umbrella has focused on rescuing, housing, and educating trafficked and destitute Nepali children, serving over 350+ children to date.  Now that the civil war is over, Umbrella is focused on reuniting children with their families when conditions permit or, when reunification is not possible, providing them the education and vocational skills they need to ensure they can find gainful employment when they become adults.

I'm greatly looking forward to meeting the founders, other volunteers and, most important, the children of Nepal's Umbrella Foundation on this trip.  If you're traveling to Nepal in the future, give serious consideration to visiting and assisting Umbrella in their important work. 

If you have no immediate travel plans, then at least consider sending some of your resources to visit.  Tax-deductible donations can be made from the United States by visiting Umbrella Foundation USA.


Ned's In

Following the synchronicity theme, I used the availability of one more open spot on the trip to lure a good friend out of retirement.  Ned and I climbed Mt. Ranier back in 19-err-while-ago and always said we'd get back out there.  Well, better late than never!

Upon hearing about the trip, Ned took the same approach as me: jump on it.  His understanding wife approved as well given the fact she has family in India.  She gets to visit home, while Ned goes off into the wild with his guy friends.  It's a perfect fit.

More on and from Ned as travel plans progress.


Big Bang

So, it's worth sharing how, exactly, this trip to Nepal came to be.  It's a remarkable story, really.  The trip comes from a veritable confluence of many disconnected tributaries which have no business intersecting.  Except, they all do on one particular day. 

Here's how it materialized.

First.  During the past year, I've worked with colleague Chris Coyne to develop and expand Heart+Passion, our voluntourism group.  During our many discussions, include those on the most recent H+P trip to Mali, we outlined journeys we felt would create the most opportunity for personal growth.  High on the list is Nepal.  We both felt a trip to Nepal would be magical and penciled one in for October of this year.  Despite our enthusiasm, however, work on other businesses and projects overran the plan and we decided to shelve the idea indefinitely until more time became available.

Second.  In our efforts to expand the work of H+P, both Chris and I have intersected with interesting people that share the same interests.  Chris, for example, encountered the Umbrella Foundation -- a grass-roots NGO based in Kathmandu that works with conflict-displaced children -- through his charitable giving.  The US director of that organization is Bryan Van Vranken.  Cut to my world.  As I'm exploring folks that can advise me on another business venture, I learn of a sharp young guy from a friend in the web development business.  The referral I receive: Bryan Van Vranken!  When Chris introduces me to Bryan, revealing that Bryan had been guided to him through completely independent channels, I see the importance of this synchronistic connection immediately.

Third.  Being as busy as we all are, it's hard to stay in touch with everyone we love and care for.  Eventually, however, a little voice surfaces to remind us of them and to prompt us to get in touch.  As far as this story goes, that little voice said "I wonder how Adrian's doing?"  Adrian is a fellow veteran of the Dot.conomy with whom I've shared too many experiences to count.  As things cooled down in the internet space and family developments presented themselves, Adrian moved back to his native Australia.  Despite Skype and email, geography and busy lives conspired to choke our communications down to a trickle.  I was shocked to notice that it had been many months since our last exchange.  To rectify the situation, I decided one evening to put "Find Adrian" on my GTD list on Vitalist.com (a great service everyone should try, by the way!).

The Big Bang.  In the same week, (a) Chris and I decide to table the H+P Nepal journey, (b) Chris, Bryan and I merge, and (c) I put "Find Adrian" on my To-do list.   Then, the very morning after I post "Find Adrian", this email arrives in my Inbox.

From:Adrian on behalf of Adrian
Sent:Tue 2/5/2008 2:07 AM
To: Scott
Subject: everest

My friend Marc has asked if I want to do this with him, his brother and some friends (Marc is one of my best friends from med school).

Everest Base Camp Trek

What do you think?


The answer, of course, was self evident.  Some greater order preordained it before the email was ever sent!

As Jung pointed out, the world is filled with incredible synchronicities.  The trick is to twig them when they materialize.  Undeniably, this was one of them, I realized, and jumped on the chance to join the group, as well as infuse it with a volunteer experience from Umbrella.