I have traveled safely to the other side of the world. It is always nice to be on the other end of approximately 24 hours on a plane. On Friday September 19, Shelly Braun and I made our way from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. We both took different airlines and met up at the hotel by the airport. Our flight for Bangkok did not leave until late Saturday night, so we had a day to kill. The latest check out that the hotel offered was 2pm…so we had them store our bags and we took a trolley to Manhattan Beach. We wandered the beach and stores and had a great late lunch. We then made our way back to the hotel, had our last meal stateside in the lounge on the penthouse level, then caught the shuttle to the airport. Thus begins the on-going process of standing in lines and waiting…you stand in a line to check in at the Thai Air counter, you stand in a line to give your bags for screening, you stand in a line to go through security, you wait at the gate for the flight to board and then you stand in a line for that. It’s a quick reminder of things to come in Nepal. The flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok was about 17 hours. Then we had a four hour layover before catching the flight to Kathmandu. We wandered to airport, trying to wake our legs up after such a long flight. Shelly went for a foot massage. I found a chair and read. It’s a battle between being so exhausted, trying to adjust to the jet lag brought on by the 10 hour time difference and feeling a need to stretch our legs before another flight. Shelly and I had upgraded our seats on the longest leg to sit in the premium economy seats. What a difference! Much roomier seats…much more comfortable. Sadly, Thai air is discontinuing the use of the Airbus due to the rising cost of fuel….and maybe because our flight wasn’t even half full. I think another way they were trying to cut cost is that they did away with providing us with hot towels before each meal and instead handing us handiwipes. When we make our way back home, it will be back on a smaller plane with a stop in Osaka and economy seats. We breezed our way through the Kathmandu airport…we were one of the first in line for passport control and our bags came up right away. We were all checked in at the Tibet Guest House by 2 o’clock.
We had two days to do some exploring in the Kathmandu valley. We visited the Boudhanath Stupa…a sacred Buddhist shrine, Pashupatinath…the Hindu holy place where they cremate the bodies of the dead, and Swayambunath…another very holy Buddhist place known for its monkeys. We hung out with the Thanka Brothers in their shop, wandered the narrow streets of the Thamel area looking at all of the different shops and ate great food at my favorite restaurants. Wednesday there was a bandha. Bandha means to close or shut down and when one is called, all shops must not open, vehicles are not to run and people stay out of the streets. This one was called because the new government wants to pass a law that will make all bars and taverns close at 10 o’clock each evening….so the owners in the tourist area of Thamel called for the closures. It was a very effective strike in that not a single place was open in our area…but I don’t know how much impact it will have on the legislation. It also poured rain all day, making navigating outside challenging, so to hang out inside was not a hardship.
Yeshi traveled from Pokhara to meet us in Kathmandu and share the return trip. We hired a jeep and driver from the guest house and left the Kathmandu valley early Thursday morning. The trip can last as little as four hours or all day depending on if there are any landslides, over turned trucks or people along the way that decide to block the road for whatever reason. We had no obstacles and made the trip in five hours….stopping once along the way for breakfast. It is great to be back home. I settled into my room above Yeshi and Migmar’s shop and Shelly settled into her room at the Silver Oaks Inn. We made Tibetan momos (dumplings stuffed with either buffalo meat, vegetables…or in my case, tuna and parmesan cheese) for dinner and ate in the dark. Nepal is having electricity problems and is doing a lot of ‘load shedding’. Each location goes without power for hours each day. While in Kathmandu, the power was shut off twice a day for several hours at a stretch. The hotel listed the times in the lobby and had a generator for the restaurant.
Friday, we made our way to Bel’s home and were warmly greeted by the entire community. Shelly got her first taste of a Magar jhankri’s (shaman’s) healing work when a man came for treatment. He had come to Bel’s home earlier in the week with a sick friend. When Bel started his drumming, the man started moving and shaking and the goddess Kalika took over his body and spoke through him, so Bel told him to come back. When he arrived, we were all sitting in Bel’s main room making momos…so he sat down and joined in…then we ate because it was late…then Bel treated him. It turns out the man wanted to study to become a jhankri (shaman) and had gone to another guru (teacher) to start leaning mantras (sacred prayers the jhankri recite to invoke their gods and goddesses). But he wanted to do it in a fast way and did not learn the mantra correctly…then a family member was killed in an accident and that spirit was disturbing the man…so that was why he was having so many difficulties. I love watching these treatments as Bel’s god and the patient’s gods get into it with each other. It is so hot and humid here and the homes have tin roofs…so we were all sweating by the end of the treatment. The rest of the day we hung out, wandered down to Somendra’s home, stopped at different relatives places (which requires that you drink something) and returned to Lakeside that evening.
Saturday, was a day of rest. It is the only day of the week that schools, banks and offices are closed. Shelly and I both signed up to vote absentee and the ballet came by email. We had to print it out, fill out the ballet, then scan it back into the computer and send it back by email. We went to my favorite cyber café and both did our civic duty. While there, the owner invited us to go rafting. It was tourism day and two hour raft trips on the Seti River were free all day. Shelly decided to take them up on the offer so headed off to run the river.
Sunday was supposed to be our first trip to the Tibetan camp, but another bandha was called and no one was allowed on the roads...Sigh! Hopefully, I’ll be able to make my way out there tomorrow and reconnect with my old friends.
If you get this message, it means that I was able to get my laptop connected to the internet….between navigating the logistics of Migmar’s IP and how little electricity there is here these days, these might be fewer and far between this year.