Monday, February 4, 2013

Culture Shock/Roles of Women

Blum does a fantastic job of outlining not only the terrain shock, but the culture shock her and her fellow Westerners face. She comments quite frequently on the different values her team and the Sherpas and porters have. Many passages describing the endless supply of materials needed to undertake this expedition underline the dichotomy between East and West. The porters and Sherpas are often clothed quite lightly, in ragged shorts and shirts, while the the team of climbers is perfectly outfitted with all the gear they need for the trip. Blum notes at certain intervals how the native people value tradition, family, and heritage as she ponders her materialism.  She says, "An American woman married to a Nepalese once told me, 'I want my children to grow up in Asia where they will have a strong sense of family and a connection with the past.'" (Blum 38) The porters are shocked that these women have left husbands, lovers, and children so far away. They are not familiar with the Western affluence that theys climbers bring. Furthermore, this materialism is overstated when the natives/porters are the ones carrying the climbers' 60+pound bags of supplies up rocky terrain.

The perceptions of gender were also very fascinating to observe. Blum notes that compared to the Nepalese, she is a very tall person, being 5'10. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that the women on the climbing expedition are perceived as more masculine than the Nepalese women. Women  in Nepal were also expected to bear children. It was interesting hearing the perceptions of childbirth being played out. Blum writes, "The thirties are said to be the optimum age for high-altitude climbing, but that's also the time when most women are raising families." (Blum 45) However, this analysis of women roles doesn't extend solely between the Nepalese and the climbing team. Blum looks at her own friends for comparison. She says, "I had always suspected that Vera was raised in an environment where women weren't supposed to appear competent." (Blum 63) These different perceptions of womanhood and gender seem to fuel Blum and strengthen her resolve to complete the expedition to the summit.  Still, the differences in culture don't come without shock. She notes the hardship that comes with the Sherpani and the rock throwing incident. Blum notes, "We had probably been naive to bringing such changes into their lives. Knowing what resistance the idea of an all-women's climb had generated in our own society, we were dreamers to think we could make changes for women in another culture." (Blum 80) Not only is the physical strain significant, but so is the emotional strain brought around by the differences in culture.

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