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

OUR LAST DAYS IN BOUDHANATH

(December 17-24, 2018)

Nitu

Our final week in Boudhanath was full of last-minute shopping for shawls, tapestries, prayer flags, table cloths, knickknacks like small metal dragons and carved turtles (please don’t ask me why) and outrageous bloomer-like pants that cost about $4.00, so who could resist? We said our farewells to our favorite shopkeepers. and the beloved stupa, now fully recovered from the damaging earthquake of 2015.

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The last items on our shopping agenda were two tablecloths…one a plain color and the other an overlay with our favorite Nepalese pattern. You find this combination in most restaurants and cafes, and I’ve always wanted to duplicate it on my dining room table. After much research, we discovered that the store carrying these cloths was outside the stupa gates and across a road under construction that seemed almost unpassable. Thus began our most perilous shopping expedition of the year!

Here is a glimpse of the chaos we encountered. Happily, we lived to tell the tale!

On the way home to the Shechen Guesthouse we passed more building repairs, many of which were being done by women. This is not unusual in Asia.

We also passed the reconstruction of the Shechen Monastery from earthquake damage. After three years, it was in the final stages of repair.

It was a bit dicey along a narrow path past this stretch…

I was completely ragged out by the time we hit the courtyard of the guesthouse and could sit down.

But I bounced right back the minute the cappuccino and mo-mos arrived!

The next day we had a chance to visit Pasang and his family at their one-room apartment, where he lives with his wife and two daughters amidst books, notebooks, and art projects created in school by the children. I have never seen such meticulous and artistic organization of a small living space. Everything was stacked up, even blankets and mattresses; two narrow benches were covered with tasteful rugs; and a tiny kitchen was in one corner with one table and a cupboard. Bookcases took up any extra wall space.

I’ve written about Pasang, the former guard at the Sechen Guest House, and his family many times before, and find it wonderful to observe their progress each year. Aashika, the eldest of the two daughters, is now in the fourth grade and has a daunting curriculum: grammar, science, history, writing, ecology…and all in English with commensurate homework! She and her sister, Ashmika, enjoyed reading to me and meticulously went through their school notebooks. They even entertained me with school songs. My favorite was one composed to a story by Raold Dahl. The little one, Ashmika, wanted to get into the act, so read and sang as well. And then it was my turn. I’ll never forget the delight on their faces. I felt as if I were on the off-Broadway stage, and my audience was enthralled. I read with drama and authority. Needless to say, I did not sing! The spirit that prevails in this family is heartening. Cramped conditions have not diminished their interactions. Loving, cooperative, supportive. There is joy written all over their faces.

Since our two-year absence we have been keeping in contact through What’s App. I honestly don’t know how they survive with the present conditions in Nepal. They, as well as our other friends in and around Kathmandu, are often in my thoughts.

Later in the day we stopped by the small Tibetan restaurant owned by our friend Tenzin’s mother and enjoyed more thenthuk and momos with the two of them. You may remember that we bumped into Tenzin, unexpectedly, before we took our trek. He recognized us as his sponsors when he was attending the TCV school in Bir, India. How about that for a coincidence?

On our last day we were invited to the children’s Christmas show we had enjoyed last year, put on by the Mila Academy, a private Tibetan pre-school. What a gala occasion, with carols, dancing, and an enthusiastic crowd of parents and friends! And all done in English. Pretty good for four to six-year-olds, I’d say. It really tickles me to hear familiar songs like Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow. Made me a bit homesick.

The teacher would stand in front of the students and go through gestures and dance steps along with them. She would hold the microphone for each one to tell his or her name or give a Christmas message. It was quite a production and was received enthusiastically by the onlookers.

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Dr. Sonam Pelmo

Early in the morning on our final day, we made one more visit to see Dr. Sonam Pelmo at the Shechen Clinic, home to Tibetan medicine. We had gone once before our trek, because I was having a lot of trouble with the pollution, which greatly affected my level of energy once I was out of the mountains. Their medicine helped me a great deal. I also took advantage of very low cost ($16) tooth cleaning from the resident dentist.

After lunch we said goodbye to our favorite staff members at the guest house.

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Afterwards we sat in the garden, enjoying the peace and quiet and warm sun. Soon we were joined by several new acquaintances—a couple from Taiwan, an American woman living in Dehradun, and a Buddhist monk. We talked about a future trip to Bodgaya and possibilities for places to explore next year. Soon the conversation morphed into a discussion of Buddhist teachings, which fascinated me. To me it is such a complicated philosophy, so full of drama, folklore, and tradition. If it brings good works in its wake, more power to these people, who are its practitioners. I enjoyed watching and listening to Cary during these exchanges and realized how much I have to learn. There is so much I do not know about her, but isn’t that true of most people? We, too, are complicated and multi-layered.

 

In late afternoon Tenzin joined us for a farewell meal. What a great way to end our visit!

At dusk it was off to the airport and our night flight to Seoul, S. Korea. Gird your loins, folks, for it’s really cold there! You can read about our trip to South Korea here.

As our plane rose into the night and circled Kathmandu, my thoughts turned to the varied experiences of the past three weeks. When would we return? Is the “hardship quotient,” the cold, the pollution, the danger in the mountains no longer an adventure to me? Would there be another trek in my future?

These are questions I would ponder over the next year, ‘though I doubted very much they would keep me from my beloved Nepal. But no matter what the future brings, the vison of the Boudha stupa in moonlight will remain with me always.

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4 Comments

  1. Ann Norris

    What magnificent memories you have stored! You have been so gracious to share them with us all. Thanks , Megan.

  2. WHAT A GREAT TRAVELER YOU ARE. GOD WILL REWARD YOU

  3. Jerene

    oh my dear, Meg…..another epic journey with so many dear old and new relationships developed. I love the way you connect with the children!!!

  4. Oh, Meg, you and the adorable children! How I wish I could have been there to witness you effusively reading your off-Bradway show. You are a star where ever you are. It is such a joy of vicarious pleasure to travel with you as you so beautifully and honestly share your stories and adventures. I look forward to sitting at your newly dressed table soon! xoxo

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