Project director, conservation
I think this is an interesting and sometimes provocative article covering issues such as the commercialiation of climbing as well as some of the drivers of climbing clients. I think that issue of the commercial climber's identity (that is why do they do it? Because it's there? Or because they can?) is something that is a good topic for discussion too.
Sorry - just noticed this had already been uploaded...
I've loaded this article because I think it has something to say about Everest Spotlight's focus. The article was published last year in response to tensions which overflowed between climbers and Sherpas. It puts into a much broader perspective and framework the kinds of changes in relationships that have occurred between Sherpas and climbers along with incredibly important shifts in Sherpa identity. I know these things aren't necessarily generalisable but I think there is some interesting things said. And personally I think that focus on identify - Sherpa, climber etc - is an important one.
Health and Safety or exploitation? Probably both. Ive just loaded up an article from last year which I think is really interesting (Forget the Everest Brawl Ed Douglas, The Guardian). Even though it discusses the conflict between some Sherpas and some climbers last season, its underlying focus is on Sherpa identity and the ways its shaped some of the relationships with clients/climbers, and their role in the industry. That issue of identity is probably an important one because it allows us to look at some of the factors shaping the actors in the whole industry (and also some of inequalities in it all). It also reminds us that all Sherpas arent the same (and clients/climbers too) there are lots of complex motivations for why people are doing what theyre doing in the industry.If you look at the structure of the industry wealthy, often privileged clients, commercial companies in a poor country creating enormous economic dependencies on their activities (presumably one of the reasons the Government was so keen to see the climbing season remain open) - to my mind, youve got the basis for potential exploitation. Obviously some of this exploitation is found in the ways global economics works, some of it is found in the ways poverty in the region works and as a result the ways local people work with/in the industry. But it is also found in the ways some people in the west see Everest part of the global playground and, in the case of Everest, something to add to the list of achievements. Its not always because its there, but because I can.However, this look at structure can assume a passive role of Sherpas in the industry. At least some are active in shaping their engagement with, and the structure of, the industry. That is, there is a degree of negotiation over rights, status and so on.If there is this shaping occurring, then this perhaps gives a different perspective. In an industry which is/can be exploitative, some Sherpas are actively shaping reputations, careers etc that is, there is more to it than doing work for clients and getting exploited. This isnt to suggest that the relations are equal, just that there is some negotiation or pushback going on (and some evidence to suggest this has been occurring for quite some time). And then there is the added complexity that, if reports are correct, there is a generational shift in Sherpa identity and what some younger Sherpas will accept in terms of health and safety and in terms of what they see as exploitation, as fair and as equity.So I think the extent of the pushback against some aspects of the industry by some Sherpas is an important thing to think about and understand more. Itll give us a bit more of an understanding of the extent thing are being renegotiated and some of the articles pick up on this I see.And yet, the Sherpas are still the ones who are disproportionately exposed to the dangers of route setting and being on Everest so often comparative to climbers/clients. It is their families who grieve, who lose loved ones, fathers, sons, livelihoods. Its their villages and communities who lose members, friends. The industry needs restructuring and I hope the fact that there is pushback is the beginning of some serious thinking. And I hope that this happens sooner rather than later, for all concerned.Regarding the information at least in my experience its difficult to track at one or two sites/locations. Having said that, ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) has a library with various reports. I just did a quick search on tourism an Mt Everest as key words and got some interesting reports - http://lib.icimod.org/search?ln=en&p=Everest+tourism&sf=year&f=keyword
Interesting thoughts and experiences in this. This idea of place and belonging is incredibly important and incredibly powerful I think, and not only to the expat experience - it's about the travel experience as well and how we connect to place, experiences, colours, smells etc. Of course the expat experience has some particular complexities and difference due to the length of engagement etc. But as travelers we are still are engaging with place and how we belong in that place at that time.
Let me unpack that all a bit.
First some background. I'm Australian, currently living in Delhi (and 'co-located' in Bangladesh). I'm an 'expat'. I work in international conservation and prior to living in Delhi, I'd been coming to India, and other parts of Asia, working in what we call 'the field', which is essentially the places where our projects hit 'the ground', for about 24 years. So I have a long connection to the place, the people, the landscapes, the cultures etc. But up until now, these connections were relatively short-term - weeks and months rather than years. I was the outside expert, rather than the internal expert.
So my role, and also my sense of identity attached to my role, has shifted. And that expat identity has been mediated very much by the forms of communications that are discussed in the article. But they are also mediated by our histories and our personal stories and experiences.
To give a couple of examples. First one - it used to be that when I was in the field (mostly in the Himalayas) I was gone for weeks/months and nobody knew where I was. I'd send letters to be run down to remote post-offices which would finally, with luck, get to a central PO and then the international post department. With further luck that would then be sent to Australia (not Austria) and end up at my home. Now I'm on Skype most weekends. If I'm in the mountains, I still have access to mobile phone coverage (and often Skype) in the main. And from Delhi (and elsewhere) I've been able to plot the renovations in my home that my partner is looking after, and I've still been able to share in my adult son's and daughter's lives and the things they're doing.
Now for the second example. Because I'm here permanently, I find that I get transported back to Australia and specifically to my own area (and my history) at all kinds of times. This is the reverse of being in Australia and opening a book that I've bought here in India and being transported back via the smell of its pages and my memory of where I bought it. That is more a conscious act because I am seeking the book.
But now, for me, I get the sense of Australia from seeing eucalyptus, hearing parrots, sitting on the terrace of my apartment on a warm summer evening and getting a breeze. I don't go looking for it - it comes to me. These are much more intangible than looking at a book - and I think they're much more about how our connections to landscapes and places, both at home and away, are these multi-layered things. And you can understand that, given how much these things are a part of our lives, our histories.
The last time, I was sitting out on the terrace and I was transported back to a particular valley in northeast Victoria close to where I usually live, by two parrots in the tree across the road. Not the same species, just parrots. But it was the sound and the colours that took me back (plus plenty of other things I'm sure!).
All this is probably the long way of saying that I think the whole story about expat life is a story of engagement with our own histories and our current lives as well as those of the places we live.
For me, I'm not sure you can describe them as 'divided'. Would the experience be any more immersive without the technology. I'm not sure you can say it would be or wouldn't be. Technology is a fundamental part of the society that we are part of. So in a sense, we are immersing with the actual society as it is, not as it was. And I was reminded of this a couple of trips ago - coming back to Delhi from Australia. There were a young couple near me coming to India and they were talking about what they were going to do and where they were going to go. Me, feeling somewhat old, started thinking that they wouldn't know what India used to be like, my 'real' India, harking back to my years coming to the place. Then I smiled and realised, the India I came to all those year's ago was very different to the India of my previous generation.
Societies aren't static, the bigger question is how we engage with, and learn from, our experiences in them.
Totally agree Ellen - unexpected angles and stories that are a pleasure to read.
This is perhaps not so specifically travel-related. Having said that, however, I think it's a very interesting exploration of the changes occurring in one of my favourite cities. Next time I travel to San Francisco, I will be part of a very different urban milieu. Just how much this will change the pace and the rhythm of the city will, I guess, play out in due course. I'd like to think that, as another writer said when looking at similar themes, the place has always been changing...