Again, we flew on Burma Airways – this time to Kathmandu, Nepal. Sitting on the right side of the plane, we saw lots of white-capped mountains. All of them were high but none could be signaled out as Mt. Everest.
Upon arrival we were met by Peter Bodde of the American Embassy who took us to the Annapurna Hotel where we spent 3 nights.
That afternoon we were picked up and taken for cocktails with Ambassador Carlton S. Coon, Jr. Other guests included, among others, Richard Sorenson of the Smithsonian, Connie Mellon and Ellen Coon, the Ambassador’s daughter. As I recall the Ambassador’s wife was in Sri Lanka as its Ambassador.
At breakfast the next morning, an unkempt young man came to our table and asked if I were from the Library of Congress. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer who somehow found that I would be in Kathmandu and had walked from his assignment for 2 days in order to see me. He was from a mountainous rural village where he knew a man who was famous for being able to recite, in some obscure language, one of the sacred Buddhist texts from memory. Our young man was hoping to interest the Library of Congress in providing him with a recorder so that he could tape it for LC’s collection. I had to discourage him from thinking that LC would provide him with a recorder and tapes to do so. He was so nice and so eager that Pat and I thought about buying a recorder for him but I knew that LC would not be interested in having any such thing that was recorded on a cheap recorder. While he was disappointed, we were able to cheer him up by buying his breakfast. He seemed to relish the idea of taking the two-day trip back to his village.
The next morning Peter Bodde and Rakpa Dorji took us on a sightseeing trip around the Kathmandu valley.
That evening we were the guests of honor at the Ambassador’s residence. This was a particular honor showing the high esteem in which the Library of Congress was held. Later, Gene Smith said “very good turnout by Kathmandu standards.” The next morning, I made a courtesy call and met with Ambassador Coon and Jim Cheek, his deputy.
The next morning was spent making courtesy calls on several organizations including Tribhuvan University Library where I discussed with Shanti Misra and her staff, possible Library of Congress cooperation with the proposed Nepalese National Bibliography.
Boudhanath was our destination in the afternoon. It is an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists & local Nepalis. The Great Stupa of Boudhanath is the focal point of the district. It is here that I was able to purchase several pieces of jade from a vendor on the street. When I showed them to Pat, she asked about the bubbles that were in them. Never mind, they were very cheap and were a very pretty color, even if they were probably plastic. She doesn’t even know what she has done with my important gift!
We received an unexpected call from the Ambassador’s office inviting us for dinner and films that evening. The first film was Jyapu, Industrious Productivity as a Lifestyle, jointly produced by the Royal Nepal Academy and the Smithsonian. The filming of this was done by Rakpa Dorji, the gentleman whom we had met the previous day on our sightseeing tour. This film was followed by the classic film of the Dyrehenfurth Everest expedition, sponsored by the National Geographic Society. Other guests included Father John Locke, an eminent Jesuit scholar on Nepal and journalists covering the Canadian Everest attempt. At dinner, a call came saying that the attempt had just been completed successfully. Great excitement.
Before our 4:20 PM departure for Delhi we make a few other courtesy calls, including the Madan Puraskar Library, which was of interest to the Library of Congress for it attempts to collect every publication published in the Nepali language.
Because of the haze in the Katmandu valley, we did not have even a glimpse of Mt. Everest – nor any mountains at all.