Post 20: Nepal

_DSF0975

The brief time I spent in Nepal brought rest and healing.  After months of action-packed adventure, and three rewarding but particularly exhausting weeks in Myanmar, I was tired.  My body, my mind, my soul needed rest.

Nepal was on my original wish list, but to be honest, it was more of a fun idea than a primary destination.  While looking at flights from Myanmar to India, I kept noticing that a number of options led to Kathmandu, the mountainous capital of Nepal.  Poking around on Airbnb, I found a cozy, comfortable accommodations. The flights, scheduling and accommodations all just fell into place, and I’m happy they did.

The Kathmandu valley, situated at the base of the mighty Himalayan mountains, is home to some four million Nepalese.  The area is a geographic and cultural crossroads, connecting Tibet to the north with India to the south.  The religion is a unique mix of Buddhism and Hinduism, with stupas next to many-limbed statues around every turn.

Instead of staying in downtown, hectic Kathmandu, I chose an Airbnb in Patan, a similarly ancient, but smaller city center a few miles to the south.  The choice was a good one.  Patan has an entire history and character that you can feel in its bones.  I spent my first days in Patan drinking in the architecture, character and personality of the place.

IMG_3852
Durbar Square in Patan
_DSF0855
Traditional woodworking
_DSF0803
An old, quiet courtyard

I spent most of my days in Nepal resting, reading, and walking.  The valley is seeped with history and a distinct spirit of its own.  Every wooden doorway, narrow alley, or ornate courtyard yields a new charm or unexpected scene.  The entire place seems confused and refreshingly reluctant to find itself in the 21st century.

Ambling though the streets, at any given moment one might observe people going about their business, dressed in traditional Nepalese fashion, woodworkers chipping away at their latest project, silversmiths hammering silver, goldsmiths melting gold, painters depicting the life of Siddartha, children playing in a courtyard, dogs sleeping, or mororcycles weaving through the narrow webs of traffic.

In April of 2015, a massive earthquake shook the Kathmandu valley to the core, and evidence of this natural catastrophe is still alarmingly evident.  Piles of brick still lay haphazardly in every open part of the city, entire buildings still lean, broken and vacant, and rubble obstructs many of the smaller alleyways courtyards.

Many historical temples, buildings and museums, some five or six centuries old, fell victim to the violent quake or its aftershocks.  To make maters worse, the Nepalese government, along with countless individuals, do not yet have the means to rebuild.

Despite the tragedy, many of the people I spoke with were positive, with a take-one-step-at-a-time mentality.  “A thousand year of history cannot be rebuilt in a day.”

_DSF0788
Silversmith
_DSF0960
Buying fruit at the local market
_DSF0739
Rebuilding
IMG_3682
My friend

IMG_3824

On one of my last days in Patan, I wake early, slip out of my Airbnb, and pad my way to the nearby Durbar Square.  To my surprise, though the bells have yet to chime six, the ancient cobblestones are buzzing with activity.

People stride this way and that, vendors sell fruit and vegetables, old men sit, brightly dressed people chant at the nearby temple, and two old women sell bird food.  While I watch, at least two dozen people—tourists, locals, children, and businessmen alike—stop to pay a few pennies, take a plate full of bird food, and shyly step up to toss handfuls to the masses of grateful pigeons.

Psychologically, I’m not sure what causes the effect—the fun of tossing the seeds, the collective reaction of the hundreds of birds, the tiny beads of merit accumulated—but I notice that almost every person smiles after throwing each handful.

_DSF0873

_DSF0935
The morning paper

Back out of the main square, I wander through some of the smaller side streets.  I watch an old woman string bright orange flowers, and sell them to passing people on their way to the temples.  I buy a strand.

_DSF0950

Meandering through the narrow alleyways, I stumble my way into a temple.  I’m not quite sure if it is a Buddhist-Hindu temple, or a Hindu-Buddhist temple, or something else altogether.  “In Nepal, there are more festivals than days of the year, and more gods than people!” one enthusiastic Nepalese man tells me.

In any case, inside the temple I see dozens of people milling around, making donations, praying, and paying their respects to the gods.  Camera in hand, I’m wary of taking photos, as one never quite knows what is appropriate in religious spaces.

I spot an old woman begging for money, and I’m consumed by an urge to take a photo of her.  But, I’m also extremely self-conscious about doing so, especially in such a private, obviously non-touristic place.

I always prefer to ask people’s permission before taking their photo.  Though I’ve gotten bolder about this process, for some reason I’m having trouble working up the nerve.

Finally, after, 15 minutes or so, I walk over to her and kneel down.  She looks up at me, I gulp, pull out a few small Nepalese notes, and hand them over.  Then I choke.  She accepts the notes with a grateful nod, and I stand up and walk away.

For the next 20 minutes I debate leaving the temple, but I still really want to take this woman’s picture.  I don’t know why, but in my mind I’m convinced she will disapprove, angrily wave her hands at me, say no, or otherwise reject my polite but somewhat offensive request to take her photograph.

Why do I care so much what this old woman will think?  Why can’t I just ask, and get it over with, one way or another?

Finally, I man up, walk over to her a second time, kneel down, and pull my camera out with a hesitant “can I take your picture?” gesture.  A look of surprise lights up her face, followed by the ghost of a smile, finished with an austere nod.

Here is the photo.  I’m including it twice, because it cost me a great deal to obtain.

_DSF0957

_DSF0957

Nepal may be a small country, but it is filled with rich culture, unique character and many, many ancient spirits.

11 thoughts on “Post 20: Nepal

  1. Nick, Thanks for keeping me up on your adventures and experiences.

    Photos — In Nepal, along the Kali Ghandaki, 1976.

    The maps are still great — will be a key to your book’s success, in tandem with your writing.

    Lance Mason Email: lmason@silcom.com 1212 Calle Cerrito Santa Barbara, CA 93101 Phone: (805) 910-5491

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dearest Nick,
    BRAVO and thank you for sharing all your adventures with all of us. We all love and miss you, as you know, and it seems your words always bring you closer in mind and thought to me. Comforting.

    The map you drew is another masterpiece Honey….oh my. The details are certainly more intense than your first maps, you drew as a kid, LOL, but, they are evolving and not only informative, but beautifully done, so artistic. I love that you added the cute black cat in the map, your “Friend”, sweet. The picture of the Bella, older Lady, is perfect. Your sweet story leading up to her picture is even more perfect. Her face, her lines, her life story/history seems to jump out of the picture . You captured a sweet person who truly was possibly flattered that you, a gorgeous young man, wanted her picture….lol, made her day, Darling!

    The picture of the pretty strand of orange, strung together necklace is sweet, too. I am happy you purchased one, it added pretty flowers to keep in your room. A quick story similar….I left a store, and an older, very old Lady walked up to me begging….well…usually, I do not like to stop for them as you hear all the terribly stories. I glanced around, and she seemed alone, so I dug out a bit of cash and she started digging in her pocket….oh noooo, a weapon, lol, I thought. No, it was the sweetest handmade, crochet (PINK) cross, bookmark which was sweet as can be! She tried to give me a handful, but I said no TY, may I pls have 2….I still have them, and I send her warm, loving thoughts when I see it. Silly me….but she moved me as all the people you meet on this amazing journey which touch your soul. I am proud you always take the time to be respectful, kind and basically yourself Nicky Dear!

    I also looooove the picture of all the pidgeons. They are everywhere all the time. Hungry, cute birds. Ok, one more story….when your Dad took me to Italy and we were in Venice, the famous Piazza San Marco, the pigeons were everywhere. Of course, I wanted to feed them, and by the time I finished, they were all around me, even on my head, LOL! People were taking pics and laughing and I was laughing, too! Fun!

    Well Nick Dear, stay the course, stay safe, healthy and well. Ha, poor you, you will miss our CA State Fair this year. We are going next Weds as this weekend is too damn hot….nearly unbearably hot here. It should be a cool 94 this Weds, ha! Better than today at 106, bah!

    With all my LOVE Honey,
    Mom

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nick, it has been a while since I have read your blog posts. I am so happy I took the time to read them. Your writing is beautiful, your photography is exquisite. Thank you for allowing us to experience these things through you. We look forward to the next installment. Maybe you will write a book someday? We miss you here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another masterful piece of writing and photos, I know you made that old woman’s day and she will continue to think of you as you continue to think of her. Spirits always thinking, always connected. So enjoying your journey, thanks for sharing. Stay safe, miss and love you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s