Letter 37: Yak Cheese, Rice Wine, Mount Everest and a Knife

Dear Elizabeth,
           Back to Nepal--our first night there we could hear music playing from an open area nearby.  We followed the sound and found an outdoor restaurant that sold “wedding supper,” whatever that was.  We went into the open yard, sat down at the table, and a man offered April a tiny glass of something that looked like tea.  It wasn’t tea.  It was rice wine!  I declined.
            That week I also got to eat yak cheese, which tasted hard and heavy, but most of the rest of our food there was delightfully “normal.”
            People told us about a street named “freak street,” which formerly had a more commonplace name, but was renamed such after the 70s hippie rush.  Apparently during those years, multitudes flocked to places like Nepal to “find themselves.”  For some reason they thought they could find themselves by losing themselves in drugs and mysticism. 
            One thing that was disconcerting there was the “eye,” the religious symbol of one eye staring.  There were pictures of it and souvenirs with it in nearly every store.  Wherever we went, it felt like that eye was watching us. 

            The eye wasn’t the only disconcerting thing.  We went on a tour, and the guide seemed to think all of us wanted to visit different religious sites, and see a host of statues of different gods and goddesses.  He even showed us a spot once used for human sacrifices.  The guide seemed very proud to show us the blood stains that still remained.

            In one spot, he pointed out that the Nepalese worship many gods, like the Christians, he said, who worship God, Jesus and Mary.
            I was so stunned I didn’t even reply. 
            Later, April and I climbed hundreds of steps to get a famous temple at the top.  Once there, we found monks in the usual orange wraparound outfit, but wearing socks with their sandals because of the cold.  We also saw lots of monkeys, who apparently are sacred to this religion. (I never realized the monkeys in the movie Jungle Book are there for cultural reasons, not just an addition to the story.)
            We were instructed to go around the temple clockwise.  That’s the way it had to be done, but I don’t remember why.  I do remember being very burdened, seeing the faith and devotion of so many people and knowing they were following a lie.  It was easy to see that lives revolved around superstitions and trying to appease or manipulate any of the thousands of gods and goddesses.

            One cool day we went trekking in the mountains with a couple from Croatia and a guy from Germany.  We hiked through fields and I personally found it rather difficult to breathe the cold air the longer we walked.  (Found out later that I have asthma, but at the time I thought it just showed how out of shape I was, which probably was really the main cause of my trouble.)
            We saw Nepalese women climbing incredibly steep mountainside trails, carrying heavy loads in large baskets.  The baskets were balanced on their backs, with a rope connected to each side of the basket, curving upward and around the women’s foreheads.  These tiny women put me to shame, scurrying up the mountainside faster than I could, while carrying heavy weights with their foreheads.

            I got to ride an elephant, which was really cool but not really comfortable.  I even have a picture of it.  I asked a stranger to take a picture for me and he did—of the elephant.  So I have a photo of an elephant and my leg.
            After a day or two, believe it or not, we got so used to those rickshaw drivers following us around and asking us if we wanted a ride or drugs, that by the last couple of days we’d just say no thank you and move on.
            Finally our short trip was over.  That last morning, as April was checking around the hotel room to make sure we hadn’t left anything, she looked under a bed and found—a space heater!  It had been there the entire time.  I laughed so hard.
            Life Lesson:  Assumptions can make for some really cold nights.  If you need something, ask!
            So we returned to beloved Bangladesh, where our flight to the capital city was delayed two hours.  Not a big surprise.  Then we got to the capital just as our flight to our city was leaving. Without us, that is.
            So we got bus tickets for the next morning, but the next morning the buses would not run because of a 72-hour strike.  We went to the train station, but it looked like Casablanca, with people packed in every space possible, trying to leave.  There was no room left for us.
            Back to the airport, where we did actually find a flight that we could get if we rushed.  We rushed, but I had forgotten to pack the knife I’d bought in Nepal in my luggage.  It was in my carry-on.  (Yes, this was the knife I took around with me to poke robbers.)  That was a fiasco.  They unpacked it and wanted to keep it, but then had mercy on the dumb white girl and a nice man personally ran to the airplane to give it to a stewardess or the captain or someone who seemed safer than myself.
            Thus our trip ended.  I have mixed feelings about Nepal.  I’d love to go back again someday.
            But I was glad to leave after 4 days.  The spiritual darkness there was palatable, and I was ready to leave it behind.  How I have rejoiced since then to hear of missionaries serving in Nepal, making a difference in that hard, lost land.  Perhaps in the future, Nepal will be known not for its drugs and mysticism, but for the Light that can penetrate both and set people free.
            My one regret about our Nepal visit was not flying to the top of Mt. Everest.  It was advertised that for one hundred dollars, a tiny plane would fly tourists up to circle the top of that famous mountain.  I really wanted to do that, but living in a country where one hundred dollars would feed an entire family for three months, I just couldn’t get myself to do it.
            Now I wish I had, though I try to tell myself that the top of that particular mountain would probably look the same as the top of any other mountain.  And I get motion sick anyway, so perhaps I spared myself a miserable waste of money.
            I mean, I like adventures, but who wants to be known as “the American who threw up on Mt. Everest”?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.