S-21

Photographs of the inmates of S-21/Toul Sleng
Photographs of the inmates of S-21/Toul Sleng

Flowers grow over graves,

Winds whisper over the place

Where thousands were murdered by tens,

Where men tortured, abused, destroyed men

/

Empty rooms, empty yards, empty stairs

Will remember as long as they stand

The names of those, who half-slept and half-died

In iron beds on Rouge’s hot, scream-filled nights

/

Now it’s quiet here under the sun;

The locks from the doors and the windows are gone;

Blood’s been washed off the walls and the floors,

But the watchful eyes of the still-suffering ghosts

/

Of Toul Sleng follow into the future the steps

Of the guests who have come to converse with the dead

The Art of Letting Go

It is my absences you love the most about me,
The fact that, like the moon, I will not stay the day;
It’s my departures that you miss the most about me,
The way my hands will never linger in your hands
/
You are the master of the art of letting go;
I am the perfect canvas for your work

Everest 2013

Looking 'a little' tired on the summit of Everest
Looking ‘a little’ tired on the summit of Everest

It has been almost a year since the day I posted an article here called Everest 2012. I still remember typing it up, smiling nervously, happily and incredulously at the title. I’d climbed and trekked like a maniac and worked days and nights, earning the nickname ‘Red Bull Didi’, to pay the astronomical expedition invoice. Once I clicked ‘Publish’, my impossible dream to scale the world’s highest mountain became a daily struggle not to get crushed by the experience.

I lived and breathed Chomolungma for a year – all for 20 minutes on the summit. When the expedition was over, and I returned to Kathmandu, the colorful photo from the top of the world and many beautifully rich memories were all I had left. It felt like all my happiness, everything I could ever accomplish, all the love and passion I had in my heart – all stayed there, on Everest, in the past. One of the most heartbreaking thoughts of my life was the one that crossed my mind when I sat by the summit prayer flags, touching The Dream with my hands of flesh and blood: ‘this is the one place I will never come back to; I will never want anything as much as I wanted this – and have it, and hold it, and have to let it go. This is it!’

In spite of coming close to dying on descent, a week after my return to Kathmandu, I wished for nothing more than a chance to be on Chomolungma again. Training for the climb and subsequently being on the mountain had made me a different person – a person I liked. If my newly-developed qualities were to survive, I had to continue challenging myself even more, if possible. There is no greater challenge on this planet that I can think of than climbing Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen, and so I return to The Mountain this spring. I wish to give Mother-Goddess of the World what I keenly feel I owe Her: my gratitude, but also my life, – for her to give back to me, ever more worth living, or to keep on her airless, icy slopes.

According to this article (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/everest/blog/2012-05-18/to-os-or-not-to-os)from last year, over 3500 people have climbed Everest, 5% of them – without the use of supplemental oxygen. Another article (http://www.mounteverest.net/story/Everest2005WomenonTopMar232005.shtml) from 2005 says that ‘about 90 women have summited Everest so far, but only three of them did it without oxygen. They were New Zealander Lydia Bradey in 1988, British Alison Hargreaves in 1995, and American Francys Arsentiev in 1998. Sadly, Francys died on descent.’ I imagine, by now there must have been over 100 ascents of Chomolungma by female climbers, and definitely a third successful climb without O2 by Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner in 2010.

Do I stand a chance? No. However, I can and will try my absolute best, as always. If there’s any life left in me after the attempt, whether failed or successful, I will return to Everest base camp, rest for a few days, and, weather and health permitting, climb back up – to Lhotse, the world’s fourth highest mountain at 8516 meters. Is there so much as a remote possibility of me pulling this off – any part of it, not to mention the whole undertaking? Hardly. This is a very unrealistic plan, with, perhaps, only a 5% chance of success, and even survival being… rather uncertain. These are not great odds, but they are good enough for me – an average person with dreams not fit for such. Cursed as I am with my unbridled imagination like Albert Camus’ Sisyphus is with his rock, I can’t help climbing and falling back, and climbing, and falling, over and over again.

Drop by if you would like to follow my preparation for the climb, which will undoubtedly be by far the hardest I have ever attempted, or simply the last.

Love,

Mila

Count to Nine

Don’t close your eyes – you’ll never wake up,

Don’t drop your head, don’t let your knees bend

Under the weight of what has been done

To you, nor of the guilt for the harm you did;

/

Wait! Do not fall asleep on me now!

There may be something out there that will

Yet touch your heart – perhaps, another wild dream

For which you’ll need your strength, love and grit;

/

Do not let go, although you’re so are tired!

Chase out the ghost of death from your eyes!

I dare you to survive in spite of all,

I know you’re all but gone… Turn around!

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Fight for yourself, like I know you can!

No, not because you want to but just

Because it is your nature – you must,

Until you’re swallowed by the hungry ground

/

I will not judge when you learn to walk

Again; I will not look when you have to cry,

You know you have been given nine lives:

Nine agonizing births, and nine deaths,

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So count to nine, and rise one more time