My alarm sounded at 4:45 am and my first thoughts were of frustration at past-SJ who promised she’d go running with Allie and Anna at 5:30. Well, it turned out to be at 5:30 but I thought it was 5 hence the eaaarrrlyyyy morning but trust (a theme I’ve been finding extremely relevant in life lately) … the time was perfect for 20 minutes of yoga facing the open window and the gradually lightening sky.
We met up at the junction between two roads a quick walk from my home, rubbing the sleep from our eyes and questioning the necessity of exercise. We made it to the Hyatt Hotel, through the gate (pretending we stay there) and into the gym quickly enough, ran a bit, showered, and left for home.
As I walked in, Amala called to me from the hallway. I closed the door, which drags across the top step each time (in an oddly satisfying way) and answered Shoppa delek, Good morning. I asked, embarrassed, if she’d gotten my note; I’d forgotten to ask if I could leave early in the morning and had unlocked both the wooden and screen doors of the apartment then taken the padlock off the main gate to get out. Amala laughed and said she’d found the note, and asked if I’d go ahead and eat breakfast. I walked into the kitchen and found my note propped up against the jar of cheese, which I’d been offered but been reluctant to try thus far. Amala quickly threw two slices of brown bread on my place, steaming with heat from having been on the stove moments before. She fried an egg while I looked at the bread curiously; do people eat toast in the same way in Nepal?
Of course they do, and when Amala set a plate with a fried egg down next to the bread, she looked at me quizzically, saying “You put the egg on the bread, make a sandwich.” Then she smiled and left me to my breakfast, herself retiring to the prayer room as she does each morning.
I feel like I should admit that I didn’t make a sandwich, instead using one of the pieces of toast for peanut butter. The comforts of home are sometimes too tempting, and who am I to refuse the siren call of peanut butter.
Class today was wonderful and interesting as always; I’ll try to only mention the things which stick out to me in my memory instead of giving a fully descriptive account of each moment of class but I think I forgot to mention that we sit on pillows in class!!! I adore it.
Anyways, during lunch I sat at a table with other students and one of our teachers, Kaleb-la, who is a student at the White Monastery in Kathmandu. I’d been curious to hear his story because of his obvious passion for the Tibetan language ~ he is constantly describing it as beautiful and giving us the linguistic history of words. It’s quite a wonderful way to learn Tibetan. When I asked him how he’d ended up here, he told us that he’d done a semester in Bodh Gaya, India, where the Buddha reportedly achieved enlightenment. His program had concentrated on different types of meditation: first Theravada then Zen and finally Tibetan Buddhism. What changed the course of his life occurred during the last third of the semester, when he met a Rinpoche, or someone who is highly valued for their teachings. I think the name translates to “precious jewel” or something like that.
I asked him what he did then and he told us that he’d returned to the US for his spring semester, come back to Nepal for a class in intensive Tibetan, then finished his degree in the US and finally returned to stay in Nepal. His reasoning for returning was in order to learn the language of his teacher, the Rinpoche, and other lamas and rinpoches.
His story is much for me to take in. His demeanor is different too; he is calm and speaks slowly, surely. He smiles freely.
Will I meet someone like the Rinpoche, who changes everything? The pressure is too great.
In the book I am reading now the Dalai Lama says that, as humans, our existence is “subject to change.” This statement struck me because of the use of the verb, subject. We are essentially powerless to resist change; whether we expect it or no, want it or no, fear it or no, it will happen. In this way I will calm my mind and try to be as open as possible.
I called a woman named Tsering today, who is an assistant director (I believe) at Roots to Fruits, a language school for young people in Boudha. I had been advised by Tenchoe, one of our language instructors and a beautiful soul, to reach out to Tsering for volunteer opportunities. I spoke with other students about it and three of us walked over to the Roots to Fruits office to meet Tsering.
It took us a while to find the office since it was in a nondescript building near the Stupa, and upstairs. We had walked into someone’s home and hastily walked out, then spent many more minutes asking people on the street to no avail when finally Tsering called me and we saw her, waving from a second-floor balcony. We made our way upstairs. The smell and feel of the language school was like a cloud; once we walked into it, it suffused my being with its sense of peace. We spoke to Tsering for a few minutes and she told us that the language school generally operates during the hours of our classes, but she’d ask her students if they’d want to take any extra lessons in the afternoon with us.
So, more on that tomorrow. But we found the place and met her, and it was lovely and satisfying and exciting and invigorating.
I feel like there’s so much to tell, and I don’t think I can write down each moment but I want to!!!
A balance will find itself somehow.
One last story to tell, and I’ll keep it short: As a larger group, a few students and myself made our way into Kathmandu to visit the Pashupatinah (I’m sure I’m spelling that wrong) Temple, a Hindu temple. After probably half an hour of walking through dusty streets and past many people, colorful in the garb of a salad bowl of cultures, we found ourselves at the bottom of a set of stone steps. We walked up and found ourselves among a spill of cows, children, people, and monkeys.
Monkeys, I learned today, can and will give you rabies if you don’t watch out. Just don’t look them in the eyes and you’ll be fine.
I realized if I think about that tidbit too much around the monkeys, I suddenly realize I’ve been staring into one poor fool’s eyes while I’ve been letting my mind wander. No rabies so far, though.
We walked down more steps to the sacred river and followed a path to a cave, accompanied by a few men siting and talking quietly. We took off our shoes and walked upwards, bending over to fit in the small space. Atop there were many stone deities, carved or naturally-arising from the stone, with red powder and gold flower petals adorning their bodies. I looked at each one, feeling oddly insignificant and somewhat awed, but also a bit embarrassed to be as interested as I was in shaped stone. But who am I to know what to believe?