Forgive me. The last couple of days have been impossible to write about. Eventually, I will. I have a story for you today, but it is not from my trek yesterday…through the slums to the homes of the beautiful children we have spent the past week with. That story will have to wait. I can’t write that quite yet.
The view from just outside our room, and where I walked this evening.
Today I was sick much of the day. I slept for much of it, which was a stunning disappointment to me. I needed to see the kids. But, no matter how I protested, I was told to stay put. And this was the right call it turns out. I slept and ate rice all day. Late this afternoon, I awoke to the sound of music and festive voices from somewhere in the area. I went out on the balcony and could see, just barely through the houses, colorful banners and dancing blocks away. Renu came in to check on me and I asked her what it was. A festival. Would I like to go see it? As weak and dizzy as I was feeling, a street festival in Nepal, only two blocks or so away, is too juicy to pass up. She sent her housekeeper with me.
Her housekeeper is lovely. Kind and smiling. She speaks no English. And away we went toward the festival. Just the two of us. The streets were filled with people, mostly congregated around the decorated carts holding travelling shrines to various gods. Shimmering metallic strands stretched between buildings above the street. You can imagine how conspicuous I felt amongst all of this. I spend so much of my time here feeling like a bit of a voyeur in the lives of this culture. I asked Didi to take me home. At least, that is what I thought I asked her.
Instead, as we left the festival, she veered off the path and motioned for me to join her. A shortcut perhaps? More of the festival? She walked me through back alleyways until we were standing in front of a temple for Buddha. The gods have their own temples, I was about to find out. We followed more paths to another temple and then into a large field for soccer that had the most beautiful mountains framing it in the distance. What a luxury these mountains are to me…coming from the flat land of Houston.
We then took more back alleys until we were at her home, which she pointed out proudly. We walked right by, her dog, Kali, following us. (Yes, Tina, her dog’s name is Kali J). We walked through fields to the edge of a very steep hill climbing further down into the valley. Women were washing clothes on a ledge just below us. While standing on the ledge, Didi pointed out numerous temples of various gods. And before I knew it, we were again descending the steep ledge into the lower regions of the valley. We walked a narrow path, me with no idea about where we are headed.
We arrive at a temple, her temple I gather. It is a temple to Krishna. She motions for me to enter with her and we are alone there…her showing me the modest room with a shrine behind a locked gate. We sat down for a moment to peer into the shrine. It was clearly a place of warmth and love. I have been to many churches and temples around the world…and it always surprises me how clearly you can feel how infused with love the temples are in places that are the poorest. Nothing in America, that I have seen, can hold a candle to any of them.
As we were leaving an old woman came into the room and Didi whipped back around with a look of pure glee. Her face made it clear that something wonderful had happened and that she was thrilled that I, her guest in the temple, was about to be a part of something magic.
She introduced the woman as “grandmother” but I suspect it is not literal. She clearly belonged to this temple…lived in it, as it lived in her.
Grandmother invited me to sit down again in front of the shrine and she scurried around turning on lights and mixing something in small metal cups. I was blessed and painted on my forehead. I found out later, with the help of Renu’s translation, that amongst other things, Grandmother asked where I had come from and said “You have come such a long way. I hope you find what you are looking for.” She is also praying for me at 2am…her normal prayer time. I understood none of this at the time and kept nodding my head like an idiot saying “thank you” and “ok.”
Then she produced a handful of peanuts and a piece of rock candy from the pocket of her sweater to give to me to eat, which I did, of course, like it was communion in church. As we were leaving, she showed me her room and asked me to take a picture of her. I had not brought my camera (how insane was that?), but promised to return with it tomorrow. I will keep this promise, but I will bring someone with me who can translate back and forth. I appreciate the flow of just going without shared language, but I would prefer not to miss any more of what this woman is saying to me.
Tomorrow, I return to the school for my last day with the kids. I am still not well, but I will go tomorrow no matter how I am feeling. What I suffer from is not contagious…and I will not miss my last day with the kids of Koseli.
I am gathering stories from some of them…but these too must wait. I can’t write them just yet.