What a marvelous journey to Kathmandu this year! Cary and I are singing the praises of Korean Air, having traveled the ten plus hours to Seoul on two ample coach seats with extra space. Because of a long layover, we were comped an overnight at the Grand Hyatt in Incheon (5 stars!), complete with sumptuous dinner and breakfast buffets, before continuing our flight to Kathmandu.
The Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath greeted us like family and we settled in for a week of kora around the stupa, shopping in our favorite shops, visiting old friends, and enjoying new acquaintances who flow through the gardens and restaurant from a plethora of countries.
The Boudha Stupa never fails to thrill, especially at night with a full moon, and the lights shimmering on the prayer flags.
Navigating the narrow alleys with motorcycles speeding by in all directions is no worse than other years, but takes getting used to each visit. One new experience for Cary and me, however, was the three cows coming our way on the sidewalk. Just as they were approaching, oops! one was a bull that decided to mount one of the cows, resulting in her suddenly running toward us at a great speed. Luckily no vehicles were on the road when we jumped into it, just in time to avoid the stampede. I’ll save sharing about other mishaps for a more detailed post when I return!
We spent a lovely day with Jwalant Guring of Crystal Mountain Treks, who has planned many of our recent adventures. It also gave us a chance to visit his parents in their newly built home, and Cary a chance to talk gardening with his mother, Anita. The next Friday we attended a lecture given by his sister, Jenny Gurung, with whom we had circumambulated Mt. Kailash in Tibet in 2004, going to the top of Drolma La (18,000 ft.). Jenny, who works for the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), spoke about “Reviving Cultural Links across the Mt. Kailash Sacred Region.” It was great to see her again and hear about the important work she is doing.
Here we also meet people who are giving their time unselfishly as volunteers, a welcome antidote to the negativity we are bombarded with these days. For example, we met a firefighter from Denver, CO, who is making his third trip to Sermathang to help rebuild a school after the earthquake. We visited Sermathang in 2015 and saw the devastation first hand. The non-profit he volunteers for is Team Rubicon, an organization that works with veterans and disaster relief.
One of my favorite visits of the past week was with B. P. Shrestha in Dhulikhel, an hour east of Kathmandu. I first met BP in 1987 when he ran a small guest house in the old city center. Since then he has been mayor, and initiated tremendous growth and change, including the addition of a regional hospital, university, and water treatment plant, all of which have greatly helped the health and prosperity of the community. BP also built a beautiful hotel with a view of the mountains, The Himalayan Horizon, where we stayed overnight. His grandson, Chhitiz, was a wonderful host, and it was great to all spend time together, as well as see some of BP’s new projects.
I will spare you photos of the unbelievable traffic, which I have written about ad nauseum before. It is amazing to me, as an impatient American, to see how calm and philosophical the Nepalese people are in traffic jams. There is no shouting, no gesturing, no honking. Just quiet acceptance of the situation, and waiting patiently for their time to move forward.
I can’t resist one photo of the power and telephone wires that line the road. How they figure out which wire goes where, I don’t know! One big improvement is that there is no longer “load-shedding”, the rationing of the hours of power each day. Kathmandu now has electricity 24/7, and there are also a lot of solar panels for power and hot water. Plus the wifi is terrific at the guest house and little cafes, making previously difficult endeavors, like this blog post, much easier.
Two days ago, as we were returning from the stupa, a young man followed us into a store where we were buying incense, and said “Cary, Meg!” Cary exclaimed, “Tenzin!” How marvelous to reconnect with this young man, whom we had met years ago when he was a student at the TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village) school is Suja, India, and had been sponsored by Adam Bixler, my youngest grandson. We had lunch at his mother’s small Tibetan restaurant… delicious momos. We look forward to returning after our trek for her thukpa.
Buddhi, our guide, came by this morning, full of his usual enthusiasm and buoyancy. We head out early in the morning for Pokhara and our trek in the Annapurna region.