He may have been in Nepal, but Lim Pisith, who died last week while attempting to scale Mount Everest, kept talking about home.
After touching down in Kathmandu on October 15 — according to an account from one of his four climbing companions — Pisith wondered aloud if he would run into Cambodians on the trek.
He posed for pictures at the beginning of the journey with the Cambodian flag. On October 17, on the way to a transit point called Namche Bazaar, he took pride in the idea he might be the first Cambodian to ever pass through the area.
Then he began asking around to see if any fellow citizens had beaten him to the spot.
Pisith died two days later at a hotel on the way to Everest’s base camp, felled by an apparent case of altitude sickness. He was 29.
Although Pisith’s country was never far from his mind, the exorbitant cost of repatriating his body complicated efforts to bring him home. Friends, family members and co-workers scrambled over the past few days to find a solution.
“My brother-in-law and a monk arrived in Kathmandu to bring the corpse back, but we are still having a discussion about the price of transportation,” his older brother, Lim Pisal, told the Post on Tuesday.
A quote of $10,000 was simply impossible to meet.
In the midst of tough choices, family members agreed to cremate Pisith, a rite the monk performed yesterday evening in Nepal, according to Pisith’s older brother. To pay tribute to Pisith’s love of the Himalayas, the monk will scatter some of his ashes in Nepal, and bring the rest of them home in an urn.
Finances, though, were not the only factor impeding the logistics of repatriation.
A Nepalese holiday had slowed communications with government offices and, because there is no Cambodian embassy in Nepal, co-ordination efforts were playing out through the embassy in neighbouring India.
“It’s been hard to process documents and access information,” said Michael Roberts, country director of International Development Enterprises Cambodia, where Pisith worked as an administration coordinator.
IDE Cambodia staffers had launched a repatriation fund-raising drive through Pisith’s Facebook page. Donation offers, which may not be necessary now, poured in.
“So I can ask one of my family [to go] to IDE office to contribute, right?” a visitor enquired.
The contributions make sense to Roberts, who said Pisith, by scrimping and saving on a modest salary and travelling to at least a dozen countries, had made friends everywhere. He was a morale-booster, the kind of guy who emailed inspirational quotes to co-workers.
“He was one of those exceptionally outgoing people: high energy, a super-positive attitude to life. It was his mission in life to make everybody positive and happy. He was one of those bright stars.”