Nepal 2014: every dog has it’s day

IMG_1538Kathmandu: as dusty and hectic as expected but even more crowded during the beginning of the biggest Hindu festival of the the year: Diwali, the Festival of Lights, celebrating the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair. What better to experience a brand new land. Five days of gift giving, storytelling and connection with all beings that are connected to all things. Deep. Thought provoking. Day two every thing goes to the dogs. Then the cow, then the bull, then brothers and sisters. And maybe a little moonshine gets drunk and people dance until the early morning. Family, love, joy. Letting the light dispel the darkness is a powerful message from this powerful land. Kathmandu seems ancient and modern and really trying to move from the dark days of the early 2000s when extremists ruled the day and unless one wanted to climb the highest mountain the tourists stayed away. Surely the travelers still came, they always do but to push the economy on when tourism is so so important so too are the rest are needed. More later when I have fully recovered from my short trek that seemed maybe like climbing my own highest mountain. In the meantime, Happy Diwali my readers, family and friends.IMG_1529IMG_1500IMG_1499

 

Dubai 2014: the getting to before the arriving

Airport hotel bars, flashback to 1985 on the radio, bizarre snacks yet kind of delicious. Having hurtled through space on a packed crying baby kind of flight, here I am in Dubai.

It won’t be the gold plated, shiny Dubai of some of my fellow travelers. No, my time here feels more like Cleveland before the rust belt bust, except there’s Aljazeera on the TV and not CNN and the world looks mighty scary out there in TV Land, all of a sudden so much closer to me than my cow town. The men are in non-western wear (including one with some spectacular Elvis sideburns and pompadour) and right now there are no nice women in sight. This is not the USA.

Some times the getting to is part of the arriving. When was the last time I heard the song The Lady in Red? Foreigner? So many trips backwards in time, with music. Just when I am at the middle part of getting somewhere is when I clear out the cobwebs. What happened last weekend seems less important, work begins to fade, space is made in my mind for the next weeks new sights, and a small tunnel to those old thoughts is opened up.

Nepal, this time tomorrow.

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Nepal 2014: Just 3 days…leaving home

IMG_1444Home. Is it a place? Is it people? For me, it’s a term that contracts as much as it expands. My house, filled with my family things, that’s my home. My cow town filled with faces and places, home. I live in the USA – America is my home and even if I wander, this land is indeed my land. No matter the world view, I know culturally I am of this place I have lived the longest.

Makes me remember what I always joke is my most red, white and blue moment overseas. There I was, in the middle of the Moroccan Sahara desert, under the unforgiving blazing sun, the moonscape portion of the desert, not the amber sands of Lawrence of Arabia, this part was rocky, endlessly flat, with the ribbons of wavy heat blurring the horizon. I was to visit to a Bedouin family – to see how they carved out and fought for existence in their piece of this endless plain and it was decided we would walk from camp. And walk we did, and walk, and walk, a bit further than expected. I didn’t bring hat of course (please see every single post for some mention of my clumsiness, drinking the water/eating street food for reference – thank goodness I’ve made it this far – bless me as I head into the unknown again), I didn’t have any water, poisonous or other, nada, none and on we walked. Then, a mirage, an outpost appeared in the far distance, blurry but definitely a place – maybe even a tree and a camel or twelve, a tired donkey. Hope.

Finally, we get there and the most handsome man in all of the world, with kohl eyeliner, looking like some version of Adam Ant from the 1980’s but maybe just your normal Berber guy (heat stroke, clearly) – it’s hard to remember, sold me the the coldest, icy coca cola I have every had the pleasure to drink. And I got it. Every single commercial that tried to sell me that business about a smile and such, well, it worked. In times of trouble, apparently, a garden variety coca cola is going to do the trick. Thanks childhood. A piece of carmel colored home in a bottle.

As I get older, though, more than a coca cola or a place, it’s really my people,  they are my home – the vessels of shared memories, the many many hours logged together all these many years, may there be many more.  My family, the crazy sweet people I am connected to by birth. My friends, the crazy sweet people I choose to be connected with by life.

And so no matter how far I go and every year,  battling the terrible wonderful addiction of travel and even if I want to go farther, it be harder, I will always come back home (my sister just sighed a sigh of relief). I can leave and leave again (and maybe again?) but I’ll need my places, my faces, my home.

Nepal or bust people. 3 days.

India 2012: Varanasi

DSC_3929India, the most beautiful, most terrible place I have ever been and I ended those weeks in Varanasi. It’s taken me two years to even stop for a moment and write about being there, of all the spiritual places I have been, the one I felt the most from my feet to the top of my head. As I pack my bags this week for Nepal, my mind has wandered back.

Maybe because there’s a hum to Varanasi, that can be heard and felt, a thrum of life, of death, overlapped on each other – drum of a heart, sometimes brand new and as ancient as time. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities – all that swirling history of energy cannot disperse – it floats, it dances, it electrifies the air. That could explain the butterflies I saw everywhere that week – why so so many butterflies? Floating, dancing in the wind. India’s outstanding amount of humanity seems never seemed more present. I can see why people come to seek salvation at the end of their lives by dying on the shores of the Ganges, it just makes sense to me to want to be there at that moment, hopeful the next turn round will go well.

I went to to see the ghats, steps down to the Ganges by the dark of the chaotic night, by the light of a brand new dawn. What a juxtaposition. Life and Death, side by side.

IMGP0438By night, it was like being on drugs, absolutely overwhelming in it’s dimmed technicolor, endless beeping, shouting, the cows (always cows). Lepers, babies, beggars, shopkeepers, men, scooters, women, monkeys, pushcarts, giant vats of lentils, holy man, unholy people, bodies, widows, just everyone and everything, all in one tide of what looked like chaos but really flowing together like the holy river in front of us.IMGP0417

A race, on the bicycle rickshaw, through the crowd (please don’t get lost), down the slippery steps, to the boat, by the funeral pyres, stopping to listen to the evening service, off the boat (please don’t let me fall in), back through the crowd, find the rickshaw, get back to the electric light of the hotel, the hostel, the modern ordered world.

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And then by the light of a perfect morning. The streets almost empty and the way to the steps clear of crowds. Chants of early morning prayers. People coming to wash themselves clean and start another day over. Offerings made to relatives and family long since gone from the material earth. I thought of my father, of dear friends & family no longer here and I sent my marigolds and my flour & ghee to them – somewhere down the river, on another shore.

Nepal 2014: 8 days…

Lots of build up this time, but I know, I am setting myself up to deliver while overseas – however fleeting my wifi is in Nepal. It’s been a while since I’ve made myself write something every day and I am trying to be disciplined about this space I created, so my dear three readers, who are probably related to me by blood (just kidding, but hello my cousins), please stay with me. Time just seems to have sped up and it’s yet it’s been too long this year since I have been away, far far away, I feel out of practice at it.

I long for that burning rubber smell that tells me I couldn’t possibly be in America, I long for jet fuel wind of airports and the race down the runway, landing on dark tarmacs in the dead of night, rides through cities I don’t know, the honking, honking, honking, buzzing, honking of chaotic streets. I long for entire days listening to another language, for places I cannot possibly make sense of in a few weeks – maybe ever. Dust, dirt, grim, ugliness – beautiful terrible places that make me feel uncomfortable and make my eye snap open. I may even long for deadly water and stomach turning street food I should not, under any circumstances eat,  but maybe always manage to anyway. I’m a rebel.

All of it. Eight days… almost seven really.

Nepal 2014: Down to single digits

“It’s hard to go. It’s scary and lonely…and half the time you’ll be wondering why the hell you’re in Cincinnati or Austin or North Dakota or Mongolia or wherever your melodious little finger-plucking heinie takes you. There will be boondoggles and discombobulated days, freaked-out nights and metaphorical flat tires. But it will be soul-smashingly beautiful… It will open up your life.”

― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar