Lights, tracing their way from rooftops, flickering silently as the world around them burns with sound. I focus on the lights, my eyes looping and flowing with the shining blues, reds, yellows, their tranquility infecting my gaze and sinking into my skin. I forget the street noise as I walk past, watching the colors until I’m almost walking backwards.
Tehar is the festival of lights in Nepal. Yesterday the street dogs had red tikas on their foreheads, their necks decorated in marigold chains and their backs showing signs of marigold petals tossed upon them. As I walked around the stupa with Anna and Izac, I noticed one so bedecked dog curled beneath a bench. I crouched down, opening my palms, and she pushed herself to her feet, walking over cautiously. Anna and Izac moved on while I scratched her ears.
She had flipped onto her back for a belly massage when I heard someone walk up. A middle-aged woman smiled at me, and took a photo of the dog. She spoke a dialect of English reminiscent of somewhere in Europe. She cooed to the dog, murmuring hellos, and then walked away. “I’ll be back,” she promised and I watched, curious, as she joined a larger group of people feeding a pack of street dogs. She picked up a bowl from the ground and brought it over, placing it in front of my canine friend’s nose. The dog’s eyes grew wide, and she hopped up and began quickly downing the rice and chicken.
The woman I met was part of a local NGO, Street Dog Care, which takes care of injured or sick street dogs. I met two other people volunteering with the NGO ~ both of them said they weren’t members, but were in Nepal and decided to give some of their time to working with the street dogs. Tyler, who is originally from Nepal but has been living in D.C. for a while, took this picture before we met:
And I took a few pictures:
I found the lights last night, when a few of us went to Thamel for a night in the city. Anna and I walked a few minutes outside of the intensity of Thamel to meet a young tattoo artist we’d heard of named Isabelle.
It took us a while to actually find Isabelle’s tattoo shop; Thamel’s streets are comprised of layers upon layers of businesses and shops, each with a sign demanding your attention. We dodged motorbikes and taxis and avoided groups of adolescent boys (all wearing Chicago Bulls jerseys for some reason) until we found Isabelle waving from a rooftop. We walked up the narrow staircase of her building.
Anna and I spent hours with Isabelle, listening to her tell stories of her time in Nepal. She’s from the UK and began tattooing in Pokhara, Nepal then moved back to Kathmandu because she’d met so many friends here and loved the culture. Isabelle walked us around her studio and showed us her art ~ dot and line drawings. We chatted about tattoos and politics and everything else as the night grew darker, until finally Anna and I had to leave or definitely become lost in the busyness of the night.
Two days ago we all had our final exams for Tibetan language. It was a bit bittersweet because although Tibetan has been a difficult language to learn, I’ve grown to appreciate being able to sound of the Tibetan script I see on buildings and in books, and to sometimes even understand the meaning. The exam was short and relatively easy, but since we all took turns with Tenchoe-la for our oral exams, I spent much of the morning lounging at Yantra House. Pala (the older man who runs the household at Yantra) walked in with a tiny girl who could barely walk ~ his granddaughter, Sonam. Pala saw me watching and called out to Sonam, “Nose!” Her finger hesitantly reached toward her face. “Fingers!” She wiggled her fingers at him. I laughed and Pala told her, in Tibetan, to say hello to me. She stumbled toward me, her eyes wide and her hand outstretched. I shook her hand, laughing, and she shyly moved away.
These stories are random and perhaps may have no punch line, but often, I think, that’s the way life is. Maybe we expect punch lines and logic too often. Maybe they don’t exist. Personally, I prefer nonsense.