Monday, April 23, 2012

24 hours in Kathmandu

"Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next—and disappear. That's why it's important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives."
 ~ Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

Jen and I took a painful overnight bus ride from Bir, in the Himalayas, to Delhi, in a rickety truck/bus contraption with blown shocks and broken seats. There was ample evidence in the ruins that was the interior of the bus that we were but the most recent of a very long line of people to have suffered similar fates. But at least we didn't have mice or bedbugs, like our friend who'd taken the same bus recently. Score!

After a day and night of sleep-deprivation-blur (imagine that) in Delhi, we flew to Kathmandu, Nepal. I've been to Nepal on six different trips, but not since 2003, and it was Jen's first trip. Another great wander today, and we're happy and tired. Photos, all from today, are below...


Ridiculously adorable.
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Adorable girl's adorable mom.
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This reminds me: I became a vegetarian in Kathmandu in 1999 when I accidentally said words that forced me to think about what I valued. With absolutely no prior intention of becoming a veggie, I became one, and never looked back. But you can read all about it in my book! (I'm kidding - I'm too lazy to write a book.)
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It was a school holiday, and this group of girls somehow got hold of a big shipment of fake nails and glue. They look so natural!
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I had to drag Jen away from this group of kids. "Do we have to leave?" she said, seriously.
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One of the nail crew.
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There are public squares all around Kathmandu surrounded by housing. We met the sweetest group of kids here.
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Entry #1 in the beautiful baby contest.
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That thrilled look is because she's watching Jen teach them how to play Hokey-Pokey!
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So cute!
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The 25 year-old mother of beautiful baby #1.
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This man may have been a beautiful baby at one time. Doesn't seem all that likely, but still.
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People in Nepal have such beautiful eyes.
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The famous street in Kathmandu that leads to Durbar Square. Google Maps tells me it's called Hanuman Dhoka.
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Housing surrounding a beautiful temple.
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Elaborate wood carvings in the overhangs of a temple.
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Dang, this woman made us some good momos today! Momos are a type of steamed dumpling.
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Unfortunately, we didn't see this poster until after we'd eaten the momos. Apparently they would have tasted great with Coke.
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Wiring on a street pole.
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We saw two girls fishing water out of a dirty hole. It sounds like the water table is dangerously low.
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These boys were playing cricket and were TOO happy to have their photos taken.
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This kid's getting a shower. Thanks, Mom, he means to say, but probably forgets.
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This river is a stagnant garbage dump. It's appalling. 
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More kids on the road.
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I'm not sure what she's eating, but she seems happy. I take posed photos and wait until they laugh when I'm done and then get the "real" photos.
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A Tibetan shopkeeper. You can see from the red headband that he's from the Kham area of Tibet.
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Contestant #2. How beautiful is this one?!
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I took this photo before we spent about an hour with this kid and his grimy compatriots. We told them we're their "no money friends" so they'd know we don't give them anything but love and attention. They kept following us and seemed genuinely happy just for the friendship.
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The eyes of the Buddha on the Swyambumath Stupa. The temple is famous for being sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, and they both pray here.
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The stupa.
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A Tibetan monk.
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Golden decoration at the top of the temple.
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Contestant #3. I can't pick!
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(The End)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Love, and its location.

"I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love."
 ~ Mother Teresa

I just took the first day of a 5-day writing class here in Bir, given by a talented American author, Janet Thomas. Since I could only take the first day of the course, I didn't [get to]/[have to] read my short essay to the class. I appoint you my audience:

The room is cool and quiet, with only the sound of soft, almost silent breathing. The walls are a non-offensive light brown color, and the carpet absorbs sound, adding to the quiet. No light comes through the windows, since it's late at night.

I'm just waking up, at midnight, after an exhausted nap. My brother says, "You might want to come - it's getting close." The breaths are getting shallower, and further apart. With the exhale of each breath, and then the long pause, we're wondering if it might be her last. And then, it is. 

My mother's body, now lifeless, apparently, lies still, in stark contrast to the unexpected animation and joking and love of the last nine days in hospice. I wonder: if she's not here, apparently - where is she? And if she's not here now, how do I know she was here before?

What I don't wonder about: love, and its location. We're swimming in it, before and now, in this hospice room, in the hospital stays, in the restaurants and hanging out, talking and non-talking and in-between. We're swimming in it.


p.s. I'm flying with Jen to Kathmandu, Nepal on Sunday, the first time I've been in nine years. 

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Our Romanian traveler friend, Catalina.
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What am I, some kind of frickin' donkey whisperer or something?! It's almost like they're not stubborn around me - but that's crazy talk.
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Two distinct groups of tourists come to Bir: meditation-types and paragliding-types. 
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Fun-scary. I didn't try it, but might on another trip.
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The beautiful shale roof of a small barn.
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We had the bad idea to hike down from the top of the paragliding take-off point. My knees regret that decision.
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We came across two women carrying large loads of wood down the hill. Yeah, but my knees! I'm on vacation and my knees hurt! 
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Just after she gets her bundle up and positioned on her back, her mobile phone rings, which you see in the last frame.
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Grand-daughter. Lovely!
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"One ringy-dingy! Two ringy-dingy! Is this the party to whom I am speaking?"
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Another delightful stroll through fields and villages today. People are SO friendly.
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I'm Dave Adair, and I approve of this picture.
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This beauty was walking with her grandfather. Adorable.
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We met a man, woman, and child riding a motorcycle, and they invited us into their home. They're both teachers and speak quite good English. They were happy to talk about both the benefits and challenges of their traditional Indian life. They wanted us to stay for dinner, and when we declined, they insisted that we come back next trip. OK!
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Lovelies on the road.
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This woman was part of an extended green-eyed family that were happy to chat with us.
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These sisters could not stop giggling.
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I'm loving her hairstyle.
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(The End)