Tuesday, September 17, 2002

"Return to Nepal..."
Thursday, September 29th (more or less), 2002
Kathmandu, Nepal

Second trip to Nepal: Letter One

Namaste to you all!

We've arrived safely and happy in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal and are happy to report the Maoists haven't gotten us yet...

Mom and I are amazed after 36 hours of plane travel across Asia and the Pacific that we find ourselves in Nepal once again. As we landed, the steep terraced mountains were exploding in emerald green from the monsoon rains and the air as clear as ever. We've eaten our way through Kathmandu feasting on Indian, Middle Eastern, Nepali, and Italian food. My Nepali is slowly coming back to me; just enough words to make people think I understand what people are saying to me. An especially useful word being "hajur," meaning "sure" or "okay."
Hajur this, hajur that in between sentences and smiles and they think you're following the whole story.

The Maoists attacked a police post in the East but Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal seems largely unaffected. Many Nepalis we've spoken to feel quite complacent or conflicted about the attacks largely aimed towards the Nepali police. One Nepali man explained how "mean" the Police are towards the citizens and described frequent abuses of their power. Fortunately, tourists are not targets of the Maoists.

We've made immediate friends with several people from our flight and have enjoyed our time in the fast-paced city before heading out on our 18-day trek tomorrow. Today gave us an amazing opportunity to witness a "Woman's Festival" or "Teej" that took place at a temple complex along a river which flows into the Gangis. Thousands of women, largely Brahman, travel from throughout the region and descend on the river dressed in flowing blood red, tangerine, and golden-embroidered saris. These handsome women have hair as dark as black silk and gorgeous deep eyes. We walked amidst hundreds of these women waiting in a mile-long line to dip their legs and sprinkle water on their faces from the river. The purpose of this festival was to unite women through this ritual. These women, having fasted and sometimes not having had water, dip in the river and bless their husbands' long life. They gathered in circles and danced impromptu to drummers.

Just downstream of these bathing women were the crematorium shrines. Several funeral pyres with dead bodies burnt black and red, scattering ash and strong-smelling smoke into the air. The river which bathed these women and received the cremation remains also carried thousands of flower petals and fruits and vegetables given as an offering to the holy river. And further downstream a group of young boys were splashing and playing in the river under the sun.

We stopped and watched several women dancing. A small group of mothers and daughters surrounded us and made the motions with giggling that they wanted their photos taken with us. We must have been quite a site to them.

I'm smiling big right now thinking of the past couple of days and knowing that you'd have all been amazed at what we saw today.

We're finding on this trip that we're much more relaxed and happier and open to the nepali people than ever before. Most of the nepali people we've interacted with in the past several days have been incredible gracious and kind. They work hard to make an annual living which doesn't come close to what most of us make in a day or week. The economy is especially hurting as tourism has dropped in the past year. i encourage any of you interested in coming to do it! It's a magnificent and intoxicating place!

We have many more stories to share with you but i fear the computer will freeze before i'm able to send even this message.

I hope you all are well and savoring every day. I feel so blessed to be here with my mother and to be on this adventure. We'll be flying to a town called Lukla at about 9,000 feet and beginning an 18 day trek which, with good fortune, will lead us to 18,000 feet at the Everest Base Camp/Overlook and back. We'll be visiting Sherpa Monasteries and villages along way, and making sure to give the yaks lots of headway when we share the trail.

Be good to each other and Namaste-