The past 2 weeks since my return from Nepal have afforded me the opportunity to distance myself a little, from the havoc that my stay in that country wreaked on me and my body (though I seem to still be dealing with some after-effects). Yes, it was a challenge, yes it took a toll, yes it left me with a bitter-sad aftertaste.
But always, there are silver linings. Blessings in disguise. Slivers of hope. Gems of unexpected beauty. Memories that cannot be captured elsewhere or at any other time. Those too are worth recalling and recording.
It was fortuitous timing that brought my friend C and I together again. We had first met in Nepal in 2008; she, a native Brit living in the Spanish countryside, I an adventure-seeking escapee from Canada. We met up again when she joined me for the last leg of my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, a couple of years ago. I landed this time in Kathmandu knowing that C would be there – and there she was.
Another joyful reunion. A couple of days sharing a room, my first re-taste of veg-momos and a trip to Bhaktapur. When I left to Chitwan, C went off into the remote mountainside – without access to internet – to help reconstruct a school. We would reconnect at the end of April, perhaps making a sortie to Bhandipur before our respective departures.
But instead, there I was, heading back to Kathmandu, two weeks earlier than expected, with a ticket out of Nepal 2 days later. How would I let C know that we would not have a chance to meet again before I left? She was on my mind for much of the 9-hour bus trip from Pokhara to Kathmandu.
I dropped my bags off at the guesthouse and headed out for a bite. I turned the corner, and there she was. Oh gods of serendipity, I marvel at you once again!
C was also there on my first full day back in Kathmandu in 8 years. She was with me on the packed micro-bus that drove us to Patan, another ancient kingdom on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Home not only of UN headquarters in Nepal, but just around the corner, home also to an Ayurvedic pharmacy – and to the office of my astrologer. I say “my” with full knowledge of the weight and implications of that term; “my” because it is not just any astrologer that can urge me to be watchful of 2 health issues – which happen to be the only ones I currently struggle with; and it is not just any astrologer who could have offered a dire prediction as he did (consulting my birth chart, of course) – that I was heading into the path of danger and tried to warn me away from it. “My”, because I have faith in his lineage and guidance. In other words, though I broke it 8 years ago, I know that in deeper ways, Deep has my back.
And then, of course, there is the exquisite joy of being in the presence of… elephants. Oh, I beg you, don’t underestimate the entertainment factor of being in their presence. If you know not of what I speak, then you must not ever have seen an elephant cross one hind leg over the other, as if in a waiting stance. It’s puzzling and hilarious. What are you waiting for, dear pachyderm – to be unchained? Ahhhh, dear ‘hati’… the wait will be long..
So for a dose of sheer comic relief and hilarity (and for another escape route out of tourist- and traffic-choked Sauraha), I headed one early morning over to the elephant breeding center. There I stood for what seemed an eternity, watching a baby elephant slipping and sliding all over the mud, reaching out to its mother but not quite grasping the idea of staying put or far from the glop. A vaudevillian animal act that was both heart-breaking and priceless. Chaplin couldn’t have choreographed it any better.
Seeing still, the light in you, Nepal, and in the world.. even when darkness seems to envelop me.
* And that, my friends, in the photo on the left, is from a sighting of a rare, one-horned rhino!
More photos from Nepal uploaded to my Flickr site here!