When I moved to Seattle, the booming economy was on a downslide, and all of the jobs were taken. The housing, too. And a good portion of the food. I spent a week living in a hostel, scouring the classifieds, and eating only spiders, packages of sugar, and, occasionally, sugar-covered spiders served on a bed of empty sugar packages. In the second week, through a stroke of luck, a lavish one-bedroom place opened up. It sat high atop the city, on Queen Anne Hill. The view was breathtaking, with all of the bright buildings laid out in front of me, below me. It was a beautiful place. And did I mention the view? Breathtaking.
Anyway, shortly after moving in, I got a job, too. It was something involving the wonderful world of the Internet, and was downtown, at the bottom of my hill. It was sure to provide me with piles of money and, as a result, make me a hit with the ladies. In short, it was breathtaking, too. On my first day, I decided to take advantage of what I thought was perfect health and walk to work. “Hello, Seattle!” I shouted as I made my way to the office, everything getting bigger and bigger as I descended the hill.
After pretending to read a bunch of training manuals all day, I learned that the walk home, up that menacing hill, was not as pleasant as the sweet stroll down it. “Goodbye, Seattle,” I grumbled as I slowly made my way up, my lungs gripping frantically for air, sweat rooting itself in my clothes, and my backpack weighing heavy on my back, as if it were a much heavier backpack.
When I finally opened the door to my apartment and fell to the floor, I had a vision. My vision was a horrible one, a grotesque image of a huge softball-sized spider perched atop a bag of Domino’s sugar. Luckily, that image passed, and I then remembered that during my stay at the hostel, I had seen a movie about Mount Everest at the IMAX theater. What I remembered, aside from that creepy guy who lost his nose and hands to frostbite, was that all of the climbers who were successful on their journeys had Sherpas to carry their equipment. This is what I needed. A Sherpa.
I logged onto the Internet and, after getting sidetracked for a few moments while considering the purchase of a wireless spy camera, I placed a want ad on a popular message board. Just minutes later, my ad, and my prayers, were answered. I had received an email from a man named Lopsang. It turned out that he worked in a Himalayan restaurant in the University District of Seattle with his grandfather. The old man had moved there fifteen years earlier with a dream of serving his culture’s delicacies to rich college kids at high prices, and now he was doing it, with his grandson’s help.
In his email, the young man lamented not being back home carrying heavy things up hills for wealthy Westerners. The work at his grandfather’s restaurant was light, he was bored with it, and yes, he’d love to come and be my personal Sherpa.
Lopsang moved into the basement of my building with his donkey, Robbie the Donkey. They both slept on a bed of old newspapers and old shoe insoles that I put on the floor of my storage unit in anticipation of their arrival. On our first morning together, Lopsang carried my backpack both to and from work. During the workday, he stood outside my building, next to Robbie the Donkey, who was tied to a bike rack and given a pail full of crab apples to munch on. When I came from the door that night, there they were, both just as I had left them, eager to work.
I saddled up on the donkey and we made our way up the hill, Lopsang keeping pace by our side with an ear to ear grin, and wide eyes full of love. It was his dream, to be carrying heavy things up a steep incline and then down again, and he was doing it. Thanks to me.
I would soon begin to add books and even more bags to Lopsang’s load, just to test him. And to my surprise, the more I gave him, the brighter his face would light up. One day he squealed like a piggy when I bought a new set of lead bookends and stuffed them into one of his packs. And when I had him disassemble the snooker table at work, carry it up to my apartment for a dinner party, and then bring it back down a couple hours later, the man actually jumped off the ground and tapped his heels together. This, my friends, was what happiness looked like.
On the weekends, I invited Lopsang up to the apartment to show my appreciation for his hard work. When he came inside, wearing the colorful Hello Kitty poncho that I had bought for him, he would cook me savory Himalayan dishes with the groceries that I had him walk to the bottom of the hill to get and carry back up. And, as the ingredients simmered on the stove, he would dust and vacuum. “This is my life. This is how I am supposed to live,” he said at the dinner table one night as he put a spoonful of pomegranate seeds into my mouth. “Mmmmph,” I said, nodding in agreement.