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American Sean Swarner takes on Everest: A Cancer's Survivors Journey to the World's highest Summit

Day 4, Friday, March 22nd: We arrive at the airport for our 10:30 am flight to wonder where Seth's Passport has gotten to, What we can surmise is that it fell out of his pocket while holding on for dear life in the back of a Tuk-Tuk the day before. A Tuk-Tuk is a tricycle type of motorcycle, that you see the city in for less than a dollar an hour. So we spent the whole day at the American Embassy getting a replacement Passport. Which we had gotten and changed our flight, and we will hopefully be in Nepal tomorrow, barring any other unforeseen mishaps. This process of receiving a new passport is not as simple as one would expect. I thought that upon receiving a copy of the old one at the American Embassy, they would type in the old number and see that I am who I say I am and that the number was a valid passport. After that a new photo is taken and a new passport is in my hand within the hour... sounds reasonable right? Mmm no. I had to fill out forms, which I did expect, then pay $60 which I also expected, but then they sent me to a local photo hut for pictures. This I did not expect, in our time of technology, I thought that the American Embassy would have a photo taking machine of some sort. This was no problem either. Things I did not expect were the "It will be ready tomorrow at 3 pm", you need to get a police report, and go to Thai Immigration. The police report was insane...after waiting at the police station for an hour to speak with someone, which was about a block away on the map the Embassy gave me, when in all actuality it was a good mile away, so I was asking EVERYONE on the street where the station was, and of course no one knew. Back and forth up and down the street, until I decided I was just going to walk until I found SOMETHING. I sat in a chair for an hour until I finally stood up and sat in front of an officer, he looked at me and said "what?" The whole time I was sitting waiting, I did not see one phone in the whole station, they all had cell phones and there were two or so being passed around to everyone there. Anyway, The officer I spoke with did not understand english, but he got across the idea that I had to go to tourist customs if I did not know where I lost my passport. So I told him I knew where. Then he told me that I had to go to the station in the area in which I lost it. Not wanting any more problem I told him I lost it on a Tuk-Tuk ride near the embassy the day before. He did not look happy at this response, but he agreed to fill out a form for me. Two other officers were called over and we proceeded to play guess that english as the form was filled out. Every 5 minutes or so we all would cheer as the three officers pieced what little english they knew together to answer one question. I felt like I was on a game show. I finally finished up and counted how much this whole thing had cost...230 Baht for the pictures, 10 Baht for the police report, 60 Dollars for the new passport, and I still had to wait until tomorrow to pick it up! When I get back to the Embassy (Don't think that the Embassy is like the movies or TV, like we did, it is not a running from the police dive through the gate be safe kind of place! No gates, just big walls and a door with security. Nothing more, nothing less. Also a ton of Thai people trying to get visas into the US.) Sean talked the incredibly nice guy that runs the office where we were into spitting out a passport that day, and he had booked a new flight for tomorrow. We wait another 3 hours and I finally go up to the window to see if it is ready, she writes my name on a card and tells me to sit. 1/2 hour later my names is called and they ask me more questions, and then spit out a passport from scratch in less than 5 minutes!!! Like I had originally though...Why the waits? Why the day later? Why the pains? Who knows. I am definitely not complaining, because we did not wait a day to get it, so I was extremely happy. Now it was onward to the Thai Immigration for a new visa so we could actually leave the country. The was pretty painless except for the running across the street for copies of things that they could not make for us. We then went to the airport and found a hotel to sleep the experience of the day off. Sean

Day 5, Saturday, March 23rd: WE MAKE IT TO NEPAL!! We finally arrive in Nepal! As we are flying into Nepal I decide to get up and see if I can see any mountains. All the windows I look through, the wing blocks the view of the Himalayas to the front right side of the plane. I walk slowly up toward first class and look out the exit window near first class, but not actually in first class and get a wonderful first look at Everest way off in the distance. I run back to my seat and grab the camera. I guess people saw me, because I started a wave of people about 30 thick running to windows here and there, jumping into first class seats and snapping pictures and ogling. I snap some pictures from my emergency window, while people are given the go to your own class speech from the crew. I finish up just in time for the loudspeaker to say, "please be informed that taking pictures about the Kingdom of Nepal and at the airport are strictly forbidden." I converse with the woman next to me about this being announced after everyone had finished up, only to find her trying to take pictures of the plane after we disembarked the plane. I yell to her about the rule, and she looks confused, but puts the camera away for fear of confiscation. Only one word can describe the process of entering Nepal. CRAZY! There are lines everywhere, but none are labeled and they all have about 70 people waiting in them. One line for payment, one for pictures, one for the receipt, one for the actual visa, one for this one for that. We met a North Face Athlete whom had been to the country before and we followed him through the lines. A few hours, and one "Are you from Colorado? ... Seth?" question and we were out of the visa process. (The woman meeting us at the airport, Heather, had sent a local guy that works for them and that planned Sean's expedition, in to see if we actually made it. He just walked into the visa area and walked right out. She told him to go up and ask the tallest man in the room!) Upon arriving at the baggage claim, all the luggage was out due to the long tedious process of visas, and of course our bags were nowhere to be seen. Another thing about the local guy sent in to find me was that he spoke incredible english! He took our claim tickets and went through the whole process for us! It was determined that the bags were here, but no one knew where. We went to the storage closet to find a drunk man throwing new shoes at people... The English speaking guy with us brought a cart over to have it quickly snatched by the drunk man, so the english speaking man took the shoes that were thrown at him for compensation. The drunk man was giving shoes to everyone... I was told that he was being hassled by customs about the shoes, and he was extremely upset, so he was throwing the shoes at people. Back to the storage closet that doubled as an office for someone, and was about the size of a large postage stamp. Which means the bags were not there. We all sat around thinking, and someone had a brilliant idea that maybe there was another storage room after about 20 minutes. By this time Heather just walked right through customs the wrong way, and came up and said hi. We were the only people in the whole baggage claim area by this time as well. Needless to say we found our bags and walked through a vacant customs area to the awaiting vehicle.

I think I need a new paragraph about now... sorry. We now drive to our Hotel... The Tibet Guest House, get settled in, and go to see Wongchu Sherpa, the organizer of the Imax movie team in '96, the organizer of the '02 National Geo film team, and our organizer. He is a kind man with an office littered with posters and pictures on the wall. All about mountains and climbing. We proceed to meet the Sherpas that are climbing with Sean as well. One has summited 7 times from the Nepal side, which they think is the most of anyone from the one side, another has summited 3 from the South, or Nepal side as well. I really don't think he could be in any better hands. The two men are very humble and reserved about their work, regardless of being some of the best Everest climbers around. They told us later that they were fearing what a "cancer survivor" looked like. They were extremely happy to see that Sean is in excellent shape and to use their words, "very strong." I think at that meeting a lot of questions were answered and nerves relieved just from a mere glance from both sides. We spoke a bit about the expedition and what to expect and last minute things and headed out the door. We walked around the city a bit, and have a few pictures of what we encountered, they basically speak for themselves. Wongchu came to our room with the 7 time summiter and went though our gear to make sure that we have all the necessary equipment for the job later in the day. Everything was examined and questioned, but we came out mostly ok on everything we have, much to our relief. It was now about 9 pm, so we went to get some dinner. We ended up going to bed around midnight here, which is 1:15 pm EST.  Sean

Day 6, Sunday, March 24: I woke up at 5:30 and did all the above! Went to the "Monkey Temple" or Syambu Nath. From the pictures you might be able to see why they call it the monkey temple. On to Wonchu's office (the man that got everything together for us, to have a meeting about gear. It was decided by Gombu, 7 time summiter, and Wonchu that Sean needed different lighter boots for the Summit day. We spent about 4 hours hitting every climbing shop in Kathmandu. We found one pair that was really old and falling apart, but Wonchu assured us that after he fixes them up they will be fine. Back to his office to meet the Assistant Producer of the new National Geographic movie this year. Quickly moving from one place to the next we had to move to the Bhaktapur Cancer Care Center outside Kathmandu. Heather O'Neal, the woman in America that we went through has a "Random Acts of Kindness Fund" that she wanted to tie into what we are doing, so we went to the Cancer Center in Kathmandu. While there we toured the facility and met all the patients, of whom Heather gave money for medical supplies to all the children. Sean also wanted to make it a special day, so he decided to give a shirt that his father had given him when Sean was sick. It reads on the front, "I don't always look like this" and on the back..."I'm on Chemo" Sean chose one boy and gave him this shirt thinking that it helped it get him well, why not pass it on. And when this boy gets well, he has to pass it on to another patient. Smiles abound and lots of hugs later we left for another temple and back to the hotel.



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