Three More Days

I’m back in Kathmandu, staying my friend Tukti’s family home near Boudhanath, in the area of the city called Boudha. I took a cab from Thamel, then called him and handed the phone to the driver so they could figure out directions between them. I don’t even try. Seattle road design has nuthin’ on Kathmandu. When we arrived in the general area of his home (there are no house numbers), I didn’t see him, so I called him again. A sweet lady approached the cab and handed me a phone. The caller’s name said “Prime Minister Office” so I knew that was probably Tukti (who works in government administration). He said, Erika, this is my wife, please follow her to my home. I will see you tonight. Funky, right? I love it! I Namaste’d her, paid the driver and hucked my 50 lb yak sack onto my back. (That thing’s been to Chitwan with everything I needed for hot, sticky weather, and Pokhara, with everything I needed for the mountains. It’s heavy!) Tukti’s wife, Chooki and I walked two blocks to her home, all the while, she was telling me in excellent English how her English wasn’t so good.

She showed me to my room and promptly asked if I needed tea or a nap. I accepted both. I didn’t sleep well last night. When I woke, her daughter was home from school. I asked if Boudhanath was close and if she could show me the way. She and her daughter were happy to accompany me.

Yep, I went to Boudhanath again. You (I) simply can’t do that too much, just like there’s no such thing as too many mountain photos when you’re in the Himalayas….

She said it was a five to ten-minute walk. But that’s dependent on how many people you know. We walked from her house, stopping about every four houses to talk to her next neighbor, friend, relative. She hollered greetings and thoughts into shop doorways, and an answer always came back. Once we emerged out of the maze of thin streets, and onto the main road, we wrestled Friday rush hour and made our way through the dirt and masses of people walking, driving, scooting. She ran into more people she knew. When I hear “Tashi Delek,” it queues me that she is talking to another Sherpa, as this is a greeting in the Sherpa language (not Nepali). She said Tashi Delek a lot. Her friends asked her where she was going, she said, Boudha, and pointed to me. I often got a nod and a smile, recognized as the tourist in tow. We stopped at the Sherpa Center once we were almost at Boudha, since I had never been, and because she invited me. She seems to know everyone, perhaps because Tukti is a government official in Solu, the lower hills below Khumbu, which is home and origin of the Sherpas.

We entered the dark, grand, elegantly decorated center, which looked to my eyes like a monastery. Don’t know how it was different, really. A giant gold Buddha sparkled out of the dark at the front of the red and gold, ornately decorated building. A dozen Sherpa women were sitting in the back of the huge, open building, sipping tea and catching up on the neighborhood news.  Salt tea was poured all around, and the sweet little four-year old did her three prostrations to Buddha, then drank a little tea and went over to beat gently on the monks’ drum. Me and the four-year old were the odd ones out.

Boudhanath is awe-inspiring at any time of day, but this time it was just before sunset. Tonight, as I write this, is Friday night, and as we entered Boudhanath, all the monks were gathering for a puja (ceremony). The light was low, and photos were pretty epic. Security kicked everyone out of the upper level so the monks could walk freely without being accosted by photographers and hoards of other folks. It’s really interesting, the interplay between the groups here. The monks are just trying to walk their circle and do their ceremonies; the worshippers are down below them spinning prayer wheels and doing the same; the tourists are all around them, trying to remember to walk clockwise, popping in and out of shops, and staring at the scene; and the photographers are pretty rude, really, shoving cameras in faces, with 400 mm lenses. I’m embarrassed when I am counted among them, I really do try to be acquiescent at the very least. I spent half my time spinning prayer wheels and watching the lungta (prayer flags) fly, and the other half watching people interact with the place and each other.

Oh, how I wish we could have stayed to watch the ceremony, but the four-year old was tired and dinner was waiting to be made. We had about a kilometer to walk home.

I still have dust in my teeth from that.  Tomorrow I meet with the Everyday Nepal photographers, maybe a couple musicians and their families, and then do two days on a dental volunteer project that AC is running near Boudhanath.  Next post might be teary. Just a warning.