Author of Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy? An Intimate Journey through Africa and Asia

Author: Meg Noble Peterson Page 1 of 30

TIME TRAVEL

My pneumonia and subsequent hospitalization in January crushed any plans for travel adventures in the spring, so I decided to TIME TRAVEL instead!

Many of you know that I’ve been writing a book for quite a few years about raising children in the 50s, 60s and 70s, “I Love You to Death, But….” and I’d like to share it with you. Talk about traveling back in time…! It is not written in linear form, but as short essays or episodes. I picked this photo of me stepping out of the 17 ft. trailer I pulled behind our station wagon for 6,000 miles, in 1969, as I drove my children across the U.S. and back. It gave them a glimpse of our vast country and its spectacular National Parks. I especially like this picture, because it shows how alike in appearance my sister, Anne, and I were growing up. It was while I was going over pictures to accompany the announcement of the book that she died. She was close to my family and a big fan of my travels, so I think she will be glad that, finally, I am sharing these memories with you. (Here we are on Webster Cliff in the White Mountains, NH.)

I will add new material from time to time, especially about our two most exciting trips — the sojourn around America, and a two-month backpacking adventure in Germany, Italy and France. So you see, I don’t have to be traveling to think about it. And neither do you! Stay tuned….

To read these Family Memoirs, click HERE.

Click on these family photos to enlarge.

I bet most of you are experiencing a luscious spring blossoming. Since I’ve inundated you in years past with my colorful display of rhododendron, lilac, dogwood, flowering plum, and you-name-it-we-have-it, I’m giving you a respite this year. Besides, it seems to me to have been the wettest, coldest spring since I moved here, and I’m tired of being told that trees and plants need water…no kidding…duh! But it does afford me an intermittent chance to dance wildly whenever the sun shines and the sky turns blue behind the billowing clouds. Give it up for experiencing joy and gratitude whenever possible.

With Cary at Ebey’s Landing. Not exactly Nepal, but it’s a start and it’s local.

 

 

I LOVE YOU, ANNE

The three sisters at a family reunion.

Let’s hear it for the three Noble sisters…Anne, Cary, and Meg…an exciting piano trio back in the late ‘40’s, beloved for their famous renditions of Mozart minuets. They also did a great Christmas day performance for the Noble family every year until they graduated from college and got married. Thus began the proliferation of grandchildren numbering fourteen.

I hasten to add another sister speciality. All three of us took tap and ballet lessons as young girls. What endured, well into our seventies, was a lively tap version of In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree, danced with locked arms, high kicks and much laughter!

 

Here is Anne in her 90‘s, without a trace of gray hair (I swear, scout’s honor) with Frank, her adoring husband of 68 years…and with me, her adoring sister, outside their home in Peterborough, NH.

This was my beloved older sister, Anne Elizabeth Noble Magill, 97, who left us on April 26, for a freer, more peaceful space that none of us yet knows, but all of us will discover. Anne knew when to go, and she was ready. The whole family loved her intensely, as did a myriad of others who had known and worked with her. The memories are deep and will not go away. Nor will she. Ever…

I remember when I was about eight and I threatened to jump out a second-story window if Anne didn’t give me her new dress. She always got the new ones and I got the hand-me-downs. She shook her head ‘No,’ so I put one leg out the window. In an instant she handed the dress to me. Was she angry? No, she was so gentle to me and seemed only to be relieved that I was OK. I hope I was ashamed, but can’t remember that part. I also remember when she visited me in Germany just after I was married, and we went to magnificent Florence, after which I put her on a ship returning from Europe, and guess what? She met Frank.

Anne was always kind, always the peace-maker, until the time I tried to win over Bud LaFlash, a favorite college boyfriend. That was a tiff I lost big-time!

Years later, when I was living in New Jersey, we binged on New York Theater, using my $3.50 Audience Extra tickets. Hard to believe, eh? Those were the days when we bummed around the city, experimented with oddball restaurants, and even stayed for several nights at a midtown hotel after being given comp tickets. We walked and walked and walked….

We found adventure everywhere. We were each other’s foils. That was special.

And we had been walking places together as far back as I can remember, starting with kindergarten. Miles to school, with Anne protecting me, her younger sister, and making sure at one point that I didn’t get eaten by a cruel man I was told captured and ate children in his old garage on Ridgewood Street. I was not afraid when I was with her.

And then there were all those hiking trips in the White Mountains, not far from our cottage on Lake Winnipesaukee in Alton, NH. But the highlight for me was a weekend in Acadia National Park, Maine. Mountains, ocean, blue sky, sunsets, cricket serenades and a small tent anchored deep in the woods. We loved to swim together in the Maine lakes, but screamed with the cold, which was part of the fun. Yes, Anne was fun, a good companion, and eager to try new things.

Over the almost ten decades of our lives together, we played music, climbed mountains, fished, camped, went swimming morning, noon, and night, attended weddings, welcomed babies, raised children…It has been rich and it has never been dull. Nobody could have had a better sister with whom to share all of this. How lucky we were to have had each other for so many years.

Anne, I love you.

Anne, Cary and me with our mother, Grace Kepner Noble, on her 80th birthday.

HOW QUICKLY LIFE CAN CHANGE!

This was going to be a very different holiday season from past years when Cary and I had gone to Nepal for the better part of November and December. Instead, after visiting Nepal and South Korea, Cary headed to China to teach English to Tibetan monks and, in turn, study Tibetan, and I went off to visit my other daughter, Martha, in Colorado, and get some sunshine and mountain hiking. Whatever happened, we knew it would be an adventure. It was!

Kissing the Manitou Springs bear

For the first two weeks Martha and I visited some lovely places near her home in Manitou Springs, with 14,000 ft Pikes Peak rising above us. We went on interesting, relaxing walks in old Colorado City, and strolled among the red rocks of the Garden of the Gods. Glorious vistas! Then we enjoyed a joyous family Christmas with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Click on a photo to enlarge.

How quickly life can change! Was it the higher altitude and the dry climate and the extreme cold? No. I’d been here before and I was no stranger to winter. I began coughing uncontrollably and as the New Year approached, multifocal pneumonia exploded in my lungs. On January 2nd I found myself in the emergency room needing oxygen, gasping for breath. Happy New Year! Cary rushed back from China and after a week of skilled care from the doctors and nurses at the Grandview Hospital, she and Martha pulled me back from the brink, which is what it seemed to me. I learned first-hand what devotion and love look like. Credit also goes to Doug Hammond, Martha’s partner, whose sense of humor and endless stories, especially keeping things light after the pipes froze in the kitchen (no blame…it was minus 3 degrees), added a feeling of adventure to my personal almost-disaster.

The three musketeers leaving for the airport, oxygen and all.

Then we had the hurdle of flying back to Seattle with a portable oxygen concentrator that required lots of airline paper work. No small feat. God bless Cary for handling it all! I hope none of you ever has to deal with this. She got us back to Whidbey Island and dealt with all the deliveries, company visits and pick-ups, like a veteran. Now I’m almost back to normal and have one salient word of advice: Never let a cough get the best of you, and stay away from pneumonia!

 

On the bright side…spring is popping up all around me. Hailing from the frigid East Coast, it’s always a miracle to see flowers blooming in February.

 

Of course, Whidbey’s rain helps a lot. Cary has already started bok choy, lettuce, and peas for early spring planting. The earth is waking up. I’m so enjoying the radiance of the sun, and everything seems more vibrant. It’s great to be alive!

The one thing that our island children are missing, however, is our plethora of feral bunnies…the result of escaped 4-H domesticated rabbits from the Island County Fairgrounds. Some people loved them…gardeners and farmers called them pests. But children found them adorable and couldn’t get enough of feeding and chasing them. I spent lots of time photographing them. A catastrophic pandemic of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease suddenly wiped them all out last summer. Langley, the Northwest Rabbit Capital, just wasn’t the same.

But, just last week on my daily walk I spotted a small tan rabbit scurrying across the field. Hmmm, could it be? Take heart, children, they’ll be back. Yes, it made me very happy.

I was also very happy to welcome my old friend and theater buff Arpie Maros, whom I have known since the days when he and my children were in high school together. He’s a talented actor and singer and the owner of Ahrre’s Coffee Roastery with two locations in New Jersey (Westfield and Summit). He also combines his charm and talent hosting house concerts with touring singer-songwriters. Be sure to visit his website: www.ahrre.com

Arpie comes to the Northwest four times a year to visit his friends, and see if the sun is shining. Ha ha! I’m one of the lucky ones.

Oh Meg! What do you think is going to happen next?

Cary’s update from Nepal and South Korea!

Cary is in China now as you read this, and I am in Manitou Springs, Colorado! Both our last two weeks have been eventful, but I dare say that hers were more interesting. On the eve of her departure to Chengdu, we WhatsApp video called from our respective locations around the world…me with Martha, and Cary with Shawo Choeten, whom she was visiting in South Korea. (Cary and Shawo were wearing masks because Cary had a cold.)

Here is a little news from Cary…

I spent a very focused week at the Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath doing kora and studying Tibetan. Very focused! I visited Pasang Lama and his lovely family and gave them a gift from Mom. We’ve known them since the girls were toddlers and now they are very smart middle-schoolers.

Happy to have finally arrived at the Seoul airport!

Because of a flight cancellation, getting to Seoul from Kathmandu was as grueling as the week in Boudha was relaxing and restorative. What would have been simple turned into a 2 1/2 day ordeal, 3 flights, changing airports in Chengdu, and an overnight on a bench in the Beijing Airport for 9 hours. My immune system, great in Nepal, wasn’t up to the stress of hopscotching across China, and I caught a cold.

But that didn’t stop me from enjoying my visit with Shawo Choeten, whom I’ve known since his first days at the TCV School in Suja, back in 2008. Shawo just received his Masters from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, and is now taking a gap year before continuing on to get his Ph.D.

Besides working on a paper that he will be presenting at a conference in Oxford, England, this summer, Shawo also teaches Tibetan online to Korean students.

We have spent hours conversing about life, culture, language, and society and also enjoying many tea houses, coffee shops,, and restaurants along the way.

I’ll be coming back through Seoul, again, after my month in Chengdu. I have no idea what the internet situation will be with Wifi access and blocked websites. I’ll let you know in January! Sending love to all of you!

 

I CAN’T WAIT FOR 2024, HOW ABOUT YOU?

No matter how bad things seem to get on the world stage or in our own dramatic corner of the globe, when the New Year rolls around we see a chance for improvement. You know the litany: Things can’t get much worse…the only way to go is up. Life is lived in a resisting medium…the only way we coast is downhill. In other words, don’t coast, keep climbing, keep striving. Knock yourself out. You can always do better. But by now you know that life isn’t perfect. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, yes, but it may turn out to be an oncoming train (for the jokers). So, try giving acceptance a chance. You may learn something…about yourself and about your life. Wake up or you’ll never know what’s just around the corner…

Yes, there’s something I truly love about January first of each year. I’ve given up on writing resolutions which I’m too old to complete, anyway, but I breathe the air of that chilly morn as I walk up and down the roads and woodland trails near my home…alone, except for the intermittent chirping of woodland creatures, and give thanks for all my blessings, putting the complaints and downers back in the box for another day. It’s a new start. That’s how I feel.

As I’ve written before, I’ve had a few downers since my birthday, which have caused me to cancel a much-looked-forward-to trip to the East to visit old friends and relatives in Jersey and New York over the holidays, returning by way of Manitou Springs to visit Martha, Doug, and grand and great grandchildren in the Denver area. Here’s where acceptance comes in. Had a recap of my earlier ear problems so flying was out of the question. But now, Buddha be praised, it looks as if the Colorado trip may be possible. Stay tuned and when Cary returns from China, Nepal, and S. Korea she’ll put up all my photos and stories. In the meantime, she is going on her fantastic trip to Asia from Nov. 26 to January 18…the first time in years that I’m not accompanying her (acceptance, again)…and hopes to write about her adventures, putting them up on MY blog…hot off the griddle…for all of you to enjoy. How great is that? Cary is a master blogger and will have you on the edge of your seat!

I end this holiday greeting with the announcement that I have started putting up my most recent book on my website/blog, delayed for several years due to my most skillful non-virtue, procrastination. It’s a work-in-progress and tells the story of the Peterson family escapades over the years, more in essay form than as a linear memoir. Title: I Love You To Death, But… It will be under the Family Memoir tab on my blog, and next to the Essays tab. They are now posted in a more clearly readable form than previously. Enjoy! And blessings on you all.

LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT IN VANCOUVER B.C.!

On August 29, Cary and I started out for Vancouver, British Columbia, a beautiful, bustling city in Western Canada surrounded by sea and mountains. The purpose was to pick up Martha, who was returning by seaplane from the well-known retreat center, Hollyhock, on Cortes Island, where she had been teaching a week-long workshop called “Free Your Movement.” She will teach the same workshop in Mexico in Jan. 2024.

Getting to Vancouver is a picturesque three-hour drive from Seattle and, fortunately for us, we had a quick stop at the border to check passports. We made our way through a city that was both elegant and unusual, modern and old world, with skyscrapers, boulevards, parks, and quaint buildings with artistic facades tucked among the modern clusters. Our destination was the Sylvia Hotel, an iconic old structure nestled on the coast and draped in a cloak of Virginia Creeper, looking out on a glorious beach on the dramatic inlet, English Bay, whose curve reached to faraway islands in the Salish Sea (Puget Sound).


An assortment of ships resided at a distance, making an artistic backdrop for the setting sun. How lucky we were! Rain had been predicted, but stayed away for two days, until we had gone. Before bedtime we walked on the beach, enjoying utter peace and tranquility.

After a delicious breakfast at the hotel restaurant, looking out on the bay, the morning was spent exploring the beach and luxuriating in the wild birds and the driftwood relics left at high tide.

 

Close to the hotel, and down the beach in Morton Park was a fascinating group of sculptures called A-maze-ing Laughter…bronze figures sculpted in 2009 by Yue Minjun. They depict the sculptor in various poses of boundless laughter. What a great way to start the day! You mustn’t miss it when you come to Vancouver.

By 2 PM we were at the seaplane landing area, watching like hawks for Martha’s plane. Perfect landing, right on time. Out came five happy passengers, four of whom were Martha’s students at the Hollyhock retreat.

After a glorious reunion, we headed back. Just after we crossed the border into Washington, we stopped at Que Onda, a Mexican restaurant in Blaine.

We had no idea how good it was and were told that the owners started out as a food truck, which, because of the excellence of the food, has now turned into a gustatory gem.

As we were leaving, who appeared but Jim and Sarah Mullally, our friend, Mully’s, brother and his wife, who live in the area. What a fun meeting!

It was still light as we wound our way through Deception Pass and across the spectacular bridge, following the winding road leading us back to Langley. The trip was a short, but delightful change of pace!

THE SHOCK OF TURNING 95

THE TRAVAILS OF A PREHISTORIC VALENTINE….

No, my friends, I haven’t died
I have just turned ninety-five;
It’s a sign that I am woke
And it’s better than a stroke!

If I tell you what’s transpired
You will think that I am mired
In a fantasy phantasm
An illusionary spasm.

Nepali guava juice

Ninety-four was quite a ball,
I went trav’ling in Nepal.
Soldiered through our winter weather,
Kept my weary brain together.

But the world is too chaotic
And the populace neurotic;
I can stand just so much stress
How to cope with such a mess?

One dark day I started wheezing
As I climbed a woodland hill
Want a life that’s wild and bold,
But, let’s face it, Meg, you’re OLD!

Then the Docs began exploring
Which, to me, was more than boring,
I was always in good health
I preferred it more than wealth!

Soon they’re checking blood and pressure
Pills for every kind of measure;
Side effects that make you crazy,
Dizzy, tired, depressed, and lazy!

Next they try a diuretic
And I’m feeling so pathetic
Used to be a pill-less wonder
Now my dreams are put asunder.

Well, for now the problem’s solved
Only one pill is involved;
But, there’s one last note, draconian,
Yeah, my diet is low sodium.

Winter fades, for spring we’re pining…
Things look up, the sun is shining!
Soon my birthday loomed ahead
I got nervous…what’s to dread?

June the third, a noble date,
Friends and fam’ly…will be great! ….from
Jersey, Texas, New York, too.
Perfect weather, dream come true!

 

But the day before the fest
As I welcomed one more guest
Suddenly one ear drum burst,
Sending pain that was the worst….

Dare I mention something simple
Also, there had formed a pimple
Underneath my nose, a sight
Like a headlight in the night.

So, I sat with one ear, hearing
Lovely songs and poems endearing,
Put my vanity in check
Take heart, you’re not a total wreck!

There’s no reason for complaint;
Now I know I’m not a saint,
And for all that day who gathered
Gratitude is all that mattered….and love.

THANK YOU, WORLD!

What a blast!

This may be the last of my doggerel-style, Ogden Nashian creations, except, of course, for birthday salvos. During the long winter months I began experimenting with different types of poetry, such as some modern-day stream-of-consciousness bloviation that can be serious as well as very funny. It seems that anything goes, today, and I will have to move beyond favorites like Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and William Wordsworth to reach and understand poetry buffs of the 21st century.

I was overjoyed to discover, while re-reading the above poem, that its 7-beat rhythm perfectly coincided with a Tibetan chant I had heard at the Yeshe Long Buddhist Temple nearby in Clinton. Try reading the poem, slowly, and see how much fun it is to superimpose the words over the chant melody HERE.

Like many of you I have been ecstatic during this lovely spring and summer, and photographing the plethora of trees, shrubs, and exotic house plants that greet us each year. On past blogs I have posted photos of the spectacular landscape of the Langley Cemetery opposite Upper Langley, and it flourished as usual this year. But the house plants were especially striking, thanks to the care of son Tom, my plant whisperer. The orchids bloomed for four months, the geraniums flourished throughout the winter on the upstairs porch next to the cedar trees, and the succulents and hanging fuchsia had a heyday!

Lastly, a farewell to our sweet, but destructive, Langley rabbits, who perished this summer, cut down by a virulent virus, rabbit hemorrhagic disease. Many people, especially gardeners, were happy, but children were definitely sad! And it was, indeed, a terrible way to go. R.I.P.

It is with sadness that I see the end of summer approaching, but I have some exciting plans on the horizon which help the transition. First, I have another few weeks of recovering from a corneal membrane transplant. This is happy news and I couldn’t believe the good fortune of being able to correct an eye problem that has been with me for many decades. Modern medicine is amazing! I am also incredibly grateful to the person who donated the corneal membrane that I received.

Daughter Martha and I had planned to take a few weeks in Ireland in late October, but think it’s a bit too early for me to fly, so we’ll schedule that for another time. I will probably visit friends and relatives in Colorado around Thanksgiving and Christmas and hope to go to Spain (the Basque Country where our friend, Itzy, whom I wrote about in Nepal, lives) with my two daughters around February or March.

Planning is not easy these days, with plane fares through the roof and the global weather patterns unpredictable. But the desire to explore new places and keep in contact with friends and family is something that not even Covid could eliminate. It sure made it hard and has been a challenge for all of us to try to return to normal. However, there are certain positive effects I notice about living during this chaotic time. The attributes of gratitude and acceptance have taken on new meaning, at least in my life, and are closely tied to compassion, a virtue sorely needed that motivates us to help those who are suffering, however we can.

In spite of all that seems wrong with the world, I choose to be optimistic. There’s a lot of work to be done and Godspeed to all of us as we take up the challenge in our own way!

TAKE 2 – DISCOVERING NEW MAGIC IN AND AROUND OUR BELOVED BOUDHA….

We continue our adventures in and around Boudha! See HERE for the beginning of this post that we inadvertently published!

A highlight of our stay at the Pema Boutique Hotel was meeting Nyekap Lama’s sister, Thinley Wangmo, who had just returned from the United States where she was one of two Nepalis selected to participate in the IREX Community Solutions Program, “a professional leadership development program for the best and brightest community leaders worldwide.” Community Solutions Fellows complete a four-month fellowship with a U.S. nonprofit organization or local government agency. The participants then bring back the skills and experience they gained to their home country.

Wangmo is making a difference in women’s health and education in her local community of Humla, Limi, northwestern Nepal. Her first successful project was with EcoPads (reusable sanitary pads). When she asked what other ways the women needed support, a majority expressed a strong desire to learn how to read and write. Less than 10% of the women in the village are literate, and now Wangmo has a 5 year goal of 80% literacy in Nepali and Tibetan. Her work is very inspiring and you can read more about it in this Limi Female Literacy Program Proposal.

After two days at the Pema Boutique, we returned to the Shechen Guest House and continued our routine of early morning Kora, after which we often visited our friend and favorite pashmina shawl lady, Nitu. Her store was always interesting, and full of people from a plethora of ethnic backgrounds. Nitu was very versatile. She could put together combinations of traditional Tibetan or Nepalese dresses and floral scarves, or knit a special hat for any occasion or head size in the blink of an eye. No matter how many times we perused her domain, we couldn’t resist buying just a few more of the colorful shawls for our friends back home. And even when we weren’t buying, we had fun!

As you know. traveling is a wonderful way to meet new people and the Shechen Guest House is one of the places that attracts interesting people from around the world. On our 2018 visit we spent a lot of time with Ani Choetso (Maria Montenego), a nun from the Midwest, who, before the pandemic, spent much of her time in India and Nepal. A particular highlight was our visit to Pashupatinath. She is now in the U.S. caring for her mother, and we decided to WhatsApp her and send greetings. She was overjoyed, and when we told her we were going to Patan, asked us to buy her a bumpa (ritual vase with a spout) from a shopkeeper friend, and have it sent.

Patan, also known as Lalitpur, is one of the oldest cities in Nepal, and has been all but swallowed up by Kathmandu. I had been there on my first visit to Nepal in 1987, and, again, in 1999 after the Annapurna trek, exploring its ancient temples and hand-lain stone walkways. Alas, it is no longer the place of peace and tranquility I had remembered so fondly. The ancient structures are still being repaired after the 2015 earthquake, and many side roads have been dug up to install water and sewer lines. This has made the narrow roads in front of many small stores selling religious objects and traditional specialties almost impossible to navigate. Walking is hazardous. And the motorcycles are now crammed on the side streets…those that are still passable!

Thankfully, Sujan, owner of the thangka shop where Ani Choetso was buying the bumpa, met us at the entrance of Patan, and guided us through the convoluted streets to his shop. It was obvious to us that his business had suffered a great deal during the last years of the earthquake and then Covid, but his attitude was positive and his shop, Classic Tibetan Thangkas, beautifully appointed.

The one redeeming feature for me was the Golden Temple (a Newari Buddhist monastery), its carvings and statues still preserved, and its atmosphere calm and reflective, the direct opposite of the outside world. We spent a good deal of time walking around its indoor courtyard and balcony before returning to the fray.

This will give you an idea of some other temples and buildings around town….

 

To conclude our adventure in Patan, I must give a shout out to the Nepali cab drivers, who remain unflustered in the midst of chaos! For an American who gets nervous on a one-way street, to see cab drivers sharing the street with oncoming traffic, pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicyclists and weaving in and out, sometimes even making a u-turn on an impossibly busy main street, is mind-boggling, and, frankly, nerve-wracking as well. The drivers even tried several short-cuts in the hope of avoiding the crush of traffic, but they didn’t pan out. Getting to Patan and back by cab took an inordinately long time, which killed our desire to go anywhere else in the vicinity. This is why Sujan wisely had acquired an electric scooter!

That evening, after our favorite dinner of Swiss Rosti at the Rabsel Garden Cafe at the Shechen Guest House, we bumped into a beautiful dark-haired woman from the Basque country. Multi-lingual and with energy to burn, we saw, immediately, a kindred soul, ready for adventure, and undaunted by those who warned, “It can’t be done at this time of year…it’s too dangerous.” Itzy, short for Itziar Insausti Mujica, had arrived at the guest house, and was impressively calm, even ‘though the airline had lost all her luggage. Unfortunately, all we could offer her at the moment was a toothbrush given to us at one of our hotels, and a lot of sympathy, having been in the same situation more than once.

She was headed for the Dolpo, a formidable climb at any time of the year, especially in the winter. She was also making this pilgrimage to honor her father who, she feared, was in the last days of his life. A professor with many talents, she has always had a close relationship in her work between art and nature, which is spiritual as well as intellectual. This year she was taking time out to volunteer as a substitute teacher in the high regions of the Himalaya, to relieve Nepalese government teachers, who found the climate too cold and forbidding. She was the second person we met who had volunteered to help in this way. And spoiler alert, she made it!

Our next interlude was at the brightly decorated Mandala Hotel with its Tibetan decor. It was located at the end of a short alley off the main kora. The hotel and Shangri-La Restaurant staff were cheerful and welcoming, and excited to share with us stories about their late-night parties where eager football (soccer) fans, all men, gathered.

The World Cup was still in full swing and the enthusiasm was palpable. One Tibetan waiter, Tenzin, regaled us with minute details of each game, appearing at our table at every meal to give us the latest update.

And along with the entertainment, the food was great! Not too spicy. Our favorite was a kind of sweet and sour tofu with vegetables, that we keep trying to duplicate here at home. We’re almost there!

We stayed on the top floor in the Mandala Suite, which was bright and sunny, but did not have the suave elegance of the Pema Boutique. And there was no elevator. Who needs trekking when it’s 78 steps up to your room, done several times a day? Looking down into the staircase well was terrifying. God help you if you have an imagination and poor balance.

The space was huge and included a living room, kitchen, and bedroom. From the bedroom you looked out onto a beautiful balcony, which was shaped somewhat like the prow of a ship surrounded by a white picket fence. Directly ahead of you were the eyes of the Stupa, and, to the north, a view of snow-capped mountains. Early one morning Cary was able to zoom with her temple on Whidbey Island, while watching the sun rise above the Stupa. How special is that!

During our evening meals Itzy joined us. Her luggage had been found and she had arranged for a guide to cover most of her climb. We eagerly followed her adventures, as well as her time with the school children, in the texts she sent us.

Sadly, Itzy had to leave early due to the death of her father. The night she returned to Boudha, however, she was able to book the same Mandala suite where we had stayed. It was comforting for us to know she was in a familiar place during this time of grief.

We moved back to the Shechen Guest House for our final few days, and to say our farewells to our Boudha “family.”

We couldn’t resist a few more visits to our favorite coffee shop, the Himalayan Java, where every time we went we paired up with another interesting person or persons and spent at least a couple hours getting acquainted. And this year we found a coffee shop new to us, The Caravan. It had great artwork and Tibetan and Nepalese handmade articles I couldn’t resist! It also had great coffee, and the best carrot cake!

We were lucky to connect one last time with Tenzin, who joined us for lunch and, later, took us to an interesting Farmer’s Market tucked away off the main drag. It was similar to summer markets here on the island, where people sell their fresh produce, handcrafts, and homemade jams and jellies. There were places to sit and sip a cup of tea or coffee, or enjoy special treats while catching up with friends. It was fun to get a feel for the community as a neighbor and a friend.

It was difficult to say goodbye to Tenzin. We have always had a special bond and wish him a successful and productive future as we would a member of our own family.

In late morning on Christmas Day, we gathered in the garden to welcome Pasang and his family, about whom I’ve written several times over the years. The weather was perfect for an outdoor party! There was no Christmas tree this year, but we celebrated with a sumptuous chocolate cake for our guest house friends, and a tasty lunch with Aashika, Asmika, and their parents, Ranjita and Pasang.

 

The conversation was lively and the girls really enjoyed the stockings we filled with nut bars and fruit. Aashika is now almost a teenager and arrived looking very glamorous with her thick, wavy black hair hanging down and not in its customary pony tail. That would come later when the games began. We had our usual interesting conversation about her schooling and her future dreams. She is increasingly fluent in English and acts as the family interpreter. I am sure she is the reason that Pasang’s English is so improved!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen more perfect table manners or decorum from children of any age, and even after the kids started running around in the garden, great respect was always shown toward the adults.

Our old friend, and the previous receptionist at the guest house, Tenzing, joined us with her four-year-old niece, Yi-meon, who was clutching her favorite toy, a small ceramic unicorn, that soon was featured in a spontaneous game of hide-and-seek, started by Aashika. Everyone, including some of the guests, soon got into the act and took turns covering their eyes and counting. You wouldn’t believe the imaginative places the children discovered to hide the little critter. It was a memorable Christmas, indeed, full of fun, joy, and love.

Our Christmas was made complete later that day, when we had dinner at a gorgeous indoor-outdoor restaurant as guests of our favorite trekking guru, Jwalant Gurung, Crystal Mountain Treks, and his lovely wife, Banda. We were joined by two of their friends, whom we had met on our last trip. Our farewell celebration went on until late in the evening…so late that we had that peaceful, moonlight cab ride we had been yearning for our entire trip. What a perfect ending. How we will miss our friends and our Nepal!

DISCOVERING NEW MAGIC IN AND AROUND OUR BELOVED BOUDHA….

The Boudhanath Stupa, where Cary’s heart lies

I cannot count the number of times I have posted photos of the Shechen Guest House and the Boudha Stupa, our home-away-from-home in Nepal. And you probably can’t, either. But it’s a place that never remains static. This hub of Buddhist culture in Kathmandu weaves its magic, giving us daily discoveries and insights as we circle the stupa, push the large prayer wheels, and wander the streets and alleys. It was our base camp during this two-month adventure, to which we returned after exploring Prakriti, Lumbini, Swayambhu, Thamel, and Namo Buddha. Now we want to share our new friends and new experiences in this small area we have come to know even better this time around.

As I mentioned, previously, we decided, just for fun, to stay at other hotels in the area this year. Our first choice came as a result of trying to find Tenzin, an old friend and former Tibetan student we knew from the TCV school in Suja, and whom we had connected with in 2018. His mother had opened a small restaurant on Phulbari Rd. and Cary walked up and down, trying to find it, but to no avail. However, she discovered the luxurious Pema Boutique Hotel, owned by a Tibetan, and just ten minutes from the stupa. It seemed like a perfect choice. Perhaps they would know Tenzin’s whereabouts. Bingo! The first person we asked, Nyekap Lama, the owner, knew Tenzin, personally, and even bought homemade tsampa from his mom for the hotel restaurant. He called him on his cell phone and within 30 minutes we were having coffee together in the lounge. Later that night we had dinner together and caught up on the last four years.

The Pema Boutique Hotel was luxury incarnate. Soft beds, soft pillows (not the usual hard neck-breakers prevalent in Nepal), a shower that made you feel as if you were standing under a steaming waterfall, and an elevator, which was a great help transporting our heavy bags.

 

We will not keep you hanging on the ledge for the rest of our adventures, but we accidentally published this before it was finished! So we will temporarily leave you luxuriating at the Pema Boutique while we finish the rest of this post! Stay tuned!

 

IN AND AROUND NAMO BUDDHA RESORT

Part 2 of our visit to Namo Buddha Resort, Dec. 13 – 22.

There is a lot to see around Namo Buddha! Ingrid put us in touch with her favorite guide, Binod, a delightful young man who took us on two challenging hikes out of the resort. The first was down a steep trail through the woods. We passed a simple rock stupa in honor of Rudi, Ingrid’s husband, that overlooked the hills and valleys. A moving memorial to a man who loved this land and culture so deeply.

As we continued down the hill, Binod pointed out numerous native plants as well as invasive pine trees introduced into Nepal by Australia years ago for reforestation. But they have created fire hazards and negatively impacted the water supply. There were native trees covered in epiphytic orchids which would be spectacular to see blooming in the spring. Cary enjoyed sharing observations and ideas with Binod, since she, like him, was an organic farmer.

Click on photos to see full-size.

Soon we headed up a hill overlooking a small village dotted with houses, gardens, and a plethora of farms animals.

Binod showed us a native fruit that was used as soap up until modern commercial soap was available.

The people we met while going through town were cordial and always wanted to know where we were from. At one point we sat down for a rest, and a man at the house nearby brought us a plate of fruit. When Cary offered some rupees, he declined to accept them. It was a very friendly atmosphere, all the more because of its spontaneity.

In the village, we passed two elderly women sitting by the side of the road. Binod laughed when one of them pointed to me and said in Nepali, ”Look at her. She is old, but she is walking.” I realized how much I take for granted: my good health and the fact that I am, indeed, walking!

We climbed up the other side of town and stopped in a small restaurant overlooking the valley. We ordered tea and chow mein (“no spicy”). Our repast was eminently peaceful and relaxing, fulfilling our highest expectations.

The next day we ventured further afield. This time we left the resort through the main entrance and turned into a narrow dirt road we had not yet explored. After some ups and downs, we passed an almost-completed huge luxury hotel & time-share complex, which has caused a great deal of consternation among the locals and the ecologists. The concern is about the impact that this resource-intensive operation will have on the groundwater supply for the whole area. Next to the hotel was farmland that had been bought by an urban Nepali, and fenced off for their residence. We had never seen such an imposing chainlink fence, and it showed the stark difference between the rural community and urban newcomers.

We wandered up and down hills and enjoyed the views of the terraced farmland, so typical of Nepal.

One of the interesting stops along the way was an area with a small stupa and one-story school. We arrived as some students were heading home shortly after noon. Binod told us that they were third-graders who had just finished their exams for the day. Exams in the third grade? I don’t remember that!

Along the road we noticed more and more colorful stucco houses.

At last we reached Binod’s family home, nestled with a small group of houses (owned by many of his relatives), and surrounded by beautiful flowers and an extensive organic farm. Getting there was probably our most strenuous hike of the trip!

Upon our arrival, Binod ushered us onto his rooftop.

Binod then proceeded to climb up a passion fruit tree, pick the fruit, and make us a delicious drink. It was, indeed, special and had a most unusual taste.

He also cooked us potatoes and onions from the garden, seasoned with tumeric and cumin, and topped with churro rice (rice that has been rolled out like oats). So simple, and so delicious!

After lunch, Cary and Binod spent a lot of time checking out the wonderful diversity of plants…sugar cane, turmeric, ginger, yams, passion fruit, and tree tomatoes to name a few.

While Cary and Binod were exploring the garden further, I spent my time getting acquainted with Anju, Binod’s lovely 22-year-old niece. We talked while she washed our dishes at the outdoor pump. Having just graduated from college, she was taking exams in the hopes of winning a scholarship to graduate school. Her interests were in the field of language, literature, and general liberal arts, and, eventually, she hoped to become a teacher. I have no doubt that she will succeed.

Our conversation was shortened when Binod realized how late it was and said that needed to head back so we could be home before dark. He called a taxi, but the price was ridiculous and we chose to head to the road to see what came our way. Off we started…just maybe we’d be lucky.

On the way, we visited Binod’s father, who lived close by. We had fun interacting with the school children hanging out at the brightly colored community mill, and then walked through the village on our way down to the main road.

Suddenly, Binod, ahead of us, spotted the school bus that carried his youngest son home from school. It was stopped lower down on the hill, letting children out. Since he knew the driver and felt he could intercept the vehicle, he started running, and was able to flag him just in time. Cary and I began to run, too. Whew! We could not believe our incredible good fortune! As we stepped into the bus, a gaggle of excited children surrounded us enthusiastically. It was total cacophony. Never had I felt so welcomed!

Two teachers sat near me and were eager to hear about our time in Nepal, and one said his mother was my age but couldn’t walk. My age seemed to be a focal point wherever I went. Each time we stopped, the children who left waved at us and some even shook my hand. We were finally left with two little boys who enjoyed practicing their English with us.

I felt exhilarated and peaceful at the same time as I trudged up the steps to the resort. This was a day of surprises and great joy!

We enjoyed occasional interludes with the World Cup during our trip. I have never been a dedicated fan who can sit for hours watching any sport on TV, but I have to say that the excitement and energy produced by this particular passion for football (soccer) was catching and I couldn’t help getting a bit carried away when certain countries were matching with others. History played a role in loyalties and the rivalries were particularly riveting…especially the run that Morocco had against its former colonial invaders. After triumphing against Spain and Portugal, alas, it was beaten by France.

The final was during our stay, and evening festivities were held in Lasho Hall (the conference meeting hall) where an enormous screen had been set up. The fun was watching the reaction of the Nepalis, who were divided in their loyalties and gave a rousing show as the game progressed. They were almost more fun than the game! The dance celebration after Argentina won went on a long time!

Some of our most relaxed times were while we were sitting at a long table on the porch off the upstairs library above the dining hall, reading and writing.

The sky was blue, the clouds stunning, and the sun soothing, I just sat there and feasted my eyes on the lush forest surrounding us. No noise, just a few birds flitting about. I must say that the birds fascinated me, especially the blue-throated barbet that lived in the fig tree.  It had a big yellow beak, brownish chest and back, greenish-yellow underparts, and blue-blackish head. Just imagine its piercing call, lasting more than a minute, at which time it often elicited an answer of the same duration from another barbet a short distance away. We had fun timing the birds and wondered if this was a mating call or just joy at eating a delicious fig! What a treat to find such peace and humor in this chaotic world.

Ingrid did not forget her promise to teach us how to make the pumpkin soup we so enjoyed. On our last day, we were invited to the kitchen to watch the chefs expertly chop, saute and make the soup. Secret ingredient? Cashews added to the garlic, onions, celery and ginger, which was sauteed before the pumpkin was added. We left it simmering on the stove to enjoy later. Cary is now on the search for the lighter-colored, firm variety of winter squash they used (which they call a pumpkin). Here are the steps…

 

One of the absolute highlights of our stay was meeting the other guests, who came from all over the world.

We met several Nepalis who lived abroad, but came home regularly to visit family, especially so their young children could visit their grandparents. Suman and Prativa lived in Jersey City, New Jersey.

 

 

Breakfast was extensive and a great time to get to know people.

Cheryl and Gillie, two jovial women from Brisbane, Australia, each had two sons ages 17-20. They were very excited over the fact that the boys were climbing together in the Khopra Ridge area of the Annapurna Circuit while they were at the resort. It was so much fun to show them our photos from 2018 when we did the same trek, and share where their sons were.

Two young German women, Anna and Katye with whom we spent several hours talking…at dinner and by the fire…are both involved in peace programs in their professional lives, and aware of the dangers inherent in the rise of right-wing parties in their country, as are we in our own country. They were also extremely interested in hearing about why I went to Germany in 1949 with Quaker workcamps to help rebuild after the war, and the people I worked with during that difficult time. It is admirable, I think, the way Germany has faced its past and the years of the Third Reich, rather than pretending it didn’t happen or wasn’t as bad as it was, as we have done with some of our egregious mistakes going back to slavery. But with all the serious conversation and expression of deep shame over the past, both women displayed a spontaneous sense of humor, and filled the atmosphere with joyousness and optimism wherever they were.

Anna and Joe, from England, are an energetic couple who cycled to the resort from Kathmandu (yikes!) in all that traffic, followed by steep climbs. Joe feared he was going to die. Anna, who is determined, and a bit of a daredevil, like Gillie from Australia, had to admit that it was a rather perilous experience so agreed to go back in a jeep. Anna has taught in a private international school in Kathmandu for seven years, and Joe is a teacher in Dorset. Our conversations ranged from politics in the world today to the making of gingerbread houses at Christmas, a specialty of Cary’s years ago. It’s as if we had known each other for years!

These relationships were brief, but not superficial, which made them that more meaningful. We hope to keep in touch over the years.

Thus ends our epic stay at the Namo Buddha Resort. We close with a photo of us with Ingrid, who we so enjoyed getting to know, and look forward to seeing again on a visit in the future!

The final blog post of our travels in Nepal will be about more of our adventures in and around Kathmandu. Namo Buddha will always be in our hearts!

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© 2024 Meg Noble Peterson