Postcard from Kathmandu
Quick postcard from the Kathmandu valley in Nepal. After 5 days in Kathmandu, mostly in the very Buddhist community of Boudhanath and the very Hindu area of Pashupatinath, we’re moving on to the Newari town of Bhaktapur. The last week’s been a blur as we’ve settled into a routine with this place, and each other. Before leaving for Bhaktapur we went back to Pashupati for one last visit with old friends, some of the many saddhus, Hindu holy men that have renounced it all, that spend much of the year there on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. If you’ve read Within The Frame, you’ve seen photographs of some of them, and to be back there is always a thrill. Some new faces, and the absence of a couple that saddened me.
I’m always saddened, too, by tourists behaving without respect or kindness towards these fascinating men, avoiding eye contact, taking photographs and moving on without so much as a namaste or hello. Saddened mostly, I think, because these men deserve better than that, and the tourists with the cameras are missing the chance to meet them, sit with them, and learn their names. They go home with a snapshot and without the experience. So it goes, I suppose, but one seems a poor substitute for the other. And then on the flipside I see our students hanging out with these men, taking the time to ask their names or inquire about their lives, and it shows in their photographs, made stronger by the respect, curiosity, and patience they’re learning to make part of their process. A few more days here, and they pass far too quickly, and we’ll be heading in our divergent directions home. I head to Tierra del Fuego then to Antarctica in just over a week. Last year I said I’d be out of touch entirely and then blogged more often from Antarctic waters than I sometimes do from home, so I hope you’ll join me on this adventure. It’s nice to be remote and unplugged, but even nicer to share these astonishing places.