Category Archives: Nepal

THE SUN IS SHINING, MT. BAKER IS SMILING…

…and all’s right with the world! I must say that I miss the snow from “back home,” but there are some who say it’s overkill, and admonish me to be happy with my 55 degrees and enjoy the early spring! It’s hard for me to believe that the flowering trees are already pink and white and the rhododendrons are out. But what amazes me even more is the grass, which has been green all winter, and is now being cut on a regular basis.

I walked along the beach last evening…two blocks down the hill from me…and here’s what my iPhone saw. It’s not a fancy camera so you’ll have to imagine the soft pinks and coral shadings on the mountains.

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Now to continue my trek in the Yolmo/Helambu region before I head out for a new hiking season in the Cascades. “Catch up” is my standing New Year’s resolution.

How exciting it was to wake up and see blue sky after all that rain! But there was still too much snow and ice on Ama Yangri to attempt a one-day climb, so down the strenuous path we headed to the river and ate lunch at the River View Lodge. In some of the villages we saw on our descent, Cary showed us where many small apple trees were being planted on the terraces, as part of a new agricultural program in Nepal. We also passed many very old mani walls and chortens nestled in the forest. There is a very strong Buddhist presence in this area, since the Yolmo people migrated from Tibet in the 18th century and intermarried with the local Tamang, Rei, and Sherpa people.

After lunch we climbed up a steep, rocky trail for three hours, reaching our guest house, the Himalaya Lama Lodge, in late afternoon. It was three hours of relentless scrambling through dense forest, with a few switchbacks over a newly constructed and very elemental road.

 

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During the night it rained, but there was a magical sunrise the next morning in time for our exploration of Upper Melamchi and its sacred caves. Next time: the end of the trip and our return to Boudhanath.

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HOLIDAY GREETINGS FROM SUNNY NEPAL!

In all the years I’ve been traveling to Asia I’ve never had a November and December like this one! Who needs Miami Beach or Mexico when you can leave the cold and rain and wind of the Northwest and bask in the midday sun of northern India (try 70 degrees for starters), followed by crisp nights in an environment of hospitality with new and old friends? Add to that the ever-present mountains beckoning,  and you  have a recipe for heaven on earth.

Daughter Cary and I arrived in Kathmandu and are staying in our favorite haunt, the Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath, until tomorrow, when we leave at dawn for a six-day trek in the Yolmo/Helambu area of the Nepalese Himalaya. Our guide will be the reliable Ram Rai, one of our favorite sirdars working for Jawalant Gurung, who is a long-time friend and owner of Crystal Mountain Treks. Jawalant also leads a climb up Mt. Rainier in Washington State every spring, which raises substantial funds for a school and orphanage in Kathmandu. In future blogs I will write about his work as well as that of several other individuals I’ve become acquainted with over the past three weeks.

The number of internet cafes has dwindled in India and Nepal, due to the rise in cell phone and iPad use. Since I travel with neither device and put my energy  into photography and journaling, I plan to write a lengthy report with a slide show when I return in late December. It will be my Christmas card to all of you! As always, I am asking for your patience. Be prepared for a whirlwind trip, starting on November 26th on Delta Airlines through Amsterdam to Delhi. From there we journeyed to Dharamsala for a three-day teaching by the Dalai Lama at the Namgyal Temple. A rather comic aside, now that I’ve had time to be compassionate about it, is that my new leather sneakers were stolen outside the teachings on the second day, leaving me in stocking feet with only heavy hiking boots for solace. Every year that I come, I laugh at the sign outside the main temple which declares: Be sure that your shoes are not stolen by someone! Well, when it happens it’s not so funny, especially when you can’t find that elusive “someone,” but I did get t0 know some pretty nice security personnel as I sat and looked at their surveillance video for an hour. Unfortunately, the only camera that didn’t work was the one trained on the room where I sat. Go figure.

From Dharamsala we  went to the TCV (Tibetan Children’s Village) school in Suja, where our sponsored Tibetan refugee students greeted us eagerly, visited in neighboring Bir, then on the the holy city of Tso Pema (the India Rewalsar), where I got my initial baptism post surgery in steep scrambling by walking to the caves above the huge statue of Guru Rinpoche. As they love to say in Asia, “No problem.”

On our way back to Delhi, we stopped in the bustling town of Una to visit Sunny Farms, a company Cary had discovered online that specializes in organic soil amendments, using seaweed, cow manure, and vermicompost. Nobody beats the hospitality of the Dubey family. They shared their work with us, and acquainted us with the surrounding farms and an amazing shed where they house, feed and care for hundreds of stray cows picked up from the streets, and from which they obtain the useful fertilizer. Add to this an overnight at their beautiful home with wonderful Indian cuisine, and you’ll know why it was difficult to refuse their offer of a longer stay.

I’m writing this, laboriously, on the guest house internet, which, like so much of Nepal, has problems with electricity. Twice a day the current goes out for four hours, but supposedly it is on now. Even with saving as a draft, this is my fourth rewrite. Is it any wonder that I wait until I return home to continue my adventures?

You may be interested to know that we just enjoyed our first raw salad in Nepal. It has been a no-no for so many years that it’s wonderful to find a place like this guest house where they have clean fresh produce. In fact, there is lettuce growing like a decorative plant between the shrubbery around the border of the dining area.

Now it’s time to put on the sunscreen and wander to town for a last kora around the Boudha Stupa.

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HEY GUYS, I’M BACK! IT’S SPRING IN THE NORTHWEST AND WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE WINTER….

…at least not from the point of view of this transplanted Yankee, unless you call fog winter. I have to admit, however, that I envied all you happy skiers and shovelers your winter wonderland. But not my theater buddy, Paul Sharar, who wasn’t even shoveling when he fell on the black ice and broke his hip. He was just leaning over to pick up the New York Times. That’s what happens when you’re an intellectual elitist! Strong guy, though. He’s already back in action. But, then, he’s from Iowa and has those strong corn-bones (sorry about that, Paul). Perhaps next year, when I’m more settled, I’ll become better acquainted with this part of the world and can head for the hills of Snoqualmie or Stevens Pass, or do some cross-country skiing close by, at Granite Falls. I’ll get the beauty without the heavy lifting!

I have a lot of catching up to do since my return from Asia in January. I stopped by New Jersey to see family and friends, and catch a few New York shows. Was hard to say goodbye to my symphony of 55 years and some of my opera and theater pals.

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Terri, Bev, Phyllis, and M.P: the quadruple threat!

There’s a lot of adjusting to do when you pull up your roots after 56 years and immerse yourself in a whole new environment. For someone who gets lost going around the corner, this has been quite a challenge. But, as the old saying goes, “Change keeps you young.” It’s also the only thing you can really count on…right? Every time I take the Mukilteo ferry to the “other side” (sounds dire, doesn’t it?) I find that going 60 mph after winding around these country roads is traumatic and requires a total change of gears, figuratively speaking. There’s where all the big “box” stores are, but since I’m not a shopper, I mostly go to Seattle for cultural events, like opera and symphony. Theater you can get here on Whidbey in abundance, as well as superb music and more activities than one human being can absorb in a lifetime.

Many evenings at sunset I walk on the beach, reached by a series of stairs leading to the Sound below First Street, and watch the tide come in. I’ve never been an ocean person, so I’m loving the newness of it all.

Every day about ten emails arrive from Drew’s List, published by Drew Kampion, a beloved character around town. It’s exclusively for Whidbey Island folks. Drew sends out daily email blasts with everything from housing to entertainment,  art shows to health, music of all kinds to classes promoting every form of exercise imaginable, and lost pets to help wanted. There are gardens and farms in abundance and a population that really cares for its fellow humans. My daughter, Cary, is launching a program in all the schools so the students can grow, harvest, and eat their fresh vegetables in the cafeteria. She is volunteering until funding can be found, so if you’re interested in supporting her good work, you know where to reach me!  And there’s a movie theater where you get the best art films for $5.00 (if you’re old like me), and popcorn for a dollar a large bag regardless of age. Who could ask for anything more? I’ve never seen so much talent per square mile in my life, nor so many energetic, “Go-to” people. Hedgebrook Writer’s Colony for women writers is close by, but that, in itself, is too long a tale for today.

As you know from past blogs, I’m not a stranger to these parts. For years I’ve climbed every summer in the Olympic and Cascade mountains close by, and reveled in the fresh air, beauty, and peacefulness of the great Northwest. And now I’m surrounded by nature every day—a dream come true.  Below are some photos I took in early February…. P1040830 P1040828

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Puget Sound and the Cascade Range from Langley

…and here are a couple of shots I took today from my front deck. Flowering cherry and plum trees line the streets and paths where I walk down the hill to the post office for the mail. Yes, indeed, spring is finally here. P1040895

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There’s very little Lyme disease here on Whidbey Island, but I never pet the deer!

One of the many celebrations here on the island over the past two months has been Losar, the Tibetan New Year. There is a sizable sangha of practicing Buddhists in the community and here are a few photos from this recent celebration organized by the Kilung Foundation.

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As I said in my last blog eons ago, I will bring you up to date on my trip to India, Bhutan, and Nepal during the year. Here I’ve started with Nepal, with a slightly different twist. No big tourist spots, just a relaxed visit to the Buddhist holy site, Boudhanath, in a non-polluted part of Kathmandu. It’s a favorite of mine. I really need a video to do justice to the traffic in Nepal, but I had enough trouble limiting my photos and placing them in order without trying to upload video files. I was verging on computer-rage before it was over!

I really fell in love with the Shechen Guest House and its staff, and was glad I could stay there for two weeks to recuperate from my nasty fall in Bhutan. In the meantime  Cary went off to explore Himalayan caves in the Yolmo. Maybe I’ll get to do a trek in Mustang next year. Hope springs eternal!

I met all kinds of people in my three weeks in Nepal, and, while at the Ti-Se Guest House before going to Bhutan, spent quite a bit of time with two members of the Duggar family from Tontitown, Arkansas. I had  not heard of them or seen their reality show on the TLC learning channel  (don’t get me started on reality shows!). They gained fame as religious evangelists with 19 children, all of whom have been home-schooled and play a musical instrument. As a musician I really dig that! The father, Jim Bob, was here with his daughter, Jill, and a camera crew, sussing out a pen pal who turned out to be a possible suitor. The young man had been in Nepal for several year and was deep into missionary work. I asked, when I left, if they, too, were going to try to convert the Buddhists, and Jim Bob retorted, wryly, “First we have to convert you, Meg.”

I’m afraid I was rather difficult for them to figure out…a liberal minister’s daughter with a gay son and the belief that everyone is entitled to his or her beliefs, be they pantheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, or any other ism you can mention.  These were nice people, but we disagreed drastically. I didn’t push my points. I never do where religion is concerned. I did shock them a bit after they talked about the “choice” of homosexuality, and the need to reverse it. That’s a rallying cry for homophobes. I simply said, “Jim Bob, I wonder if Jesus would have said ‘suffer the little children to come unto me, except for the faggots.'” Shocking, to be sure, and he took it graciously, but it did take him aback. I always thought of Jesus as inclusive. Thus endeth the lesson for today.

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A UNIQUE MAN: A UNIQUE NGO

There’s a great deal of talk these days about the overbearing, albeit well-meaning, NGO that sweeps into a country, defines its needs, and prescribes a solution–usually what’s best for the country from the point of view of the West. A solution from the top down. In contrast, I’ve just discovered one that works from the bottom up…a real grass roots endeavor with plans and programs initiated by three Nepalese villages and administered by a Nepalese staff. I hardly dare interject the work done by its founder, Dr. Richard Keidan, an oncologist from Detroit, MI, who has not one, but two NGO’s to his credit. He was adamant that I understand that the initial ideas and planning come directly from the Nepalese people. I’ll let you fill in the blanks by going to his website:  www.Detroit2Nepal.org

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Keidan this week and he gave me an overview of  the public health needs in the vast majority of small towns and villages in Nepal, and the woeful lack of hospitals and qualified doctors to treat anything but minor ailments. But this hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm; it has only heightened his desire to help.

Richard’s love affair with Nepal began in the ’80’s as a trekker, and really flourished after he met Namgyal Sherpa, the sirdar (lead guide) on the Kangchenjunga trip he took in 2009. The following summer Namgyal took him to his home area of Khotang and he observed the compromised state of public health, health care, and education in the villages. This is when D2N was born! Namgyal, himself, had been instrumental in starting educational projects and working with underprivileged children in his village.  He introduced D2N to the traditions in the area and was on the ground floor of its organization. Tragically, Namgyal was killed on one of his many descents from the summit of Mt. Everest last May, a tremendous loss to the people of Khotang and to the NGO he helped to inspire.

Richard spends a total of three months a year in Khotang, which he reaches by a one-hour plane ride, followed by three days of hiking to reach the first of three villages. He spoke glowingly of standing on a hillside on his last visit, looking down at the houses, each with a new cement outhouse (a sustainable toilet with septic system),  its metal roof sparkling in the sun. “Can you imagine how great that makes you feel” he said, “to see what these people have done for themselves in such a short time?” This was the Dipsung toilet project, planned and executed by the Nepalese, themselves. They realized that until they had a safe sanitation system they would never have clean water, and most of their diseases stemmed from this pervasive problem. You can read on the website about the many other  health and educational initiatives planned and carried out by the villagers and supported and funded by the dedicated work of this unique, caring man, Richard Keidan. Here is a case where there is no overhead and every dollar given by individuals or organizations goes directly to the projects that improve the health and well-being of Nepalese families. And an added advantage of this kind of community endeavor is the jobs it creates for the many people involved in the planning and executing of each project.

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TRUE LIFE ADVENTURE–HORRIFIC, ENTHRALLING, UNBELIEVABLE….

This is the antidote to sitting around, waiting for a knee to heal. I’m sorely challenged by prolonged inactivity, as many of you may know, but have found excitement and inspiration in several amazing stories I’ve been carrying around waiting to read. Now’s the time and let me share two of the books with you.  The Unsung Hero; Tom Crean, Antarctic Survivor by Michael Smith. I saw a one-man show at the Irish Repertory Theater in New York City a few years ago about this intrepid Irishman, who was a key figure in both Scott and Shackelton’s polar expeditions in the early 20th century. I was held captive throughout this story of immense strength, dedication, and uncanny endurance.

Now I’m involved in another daring adventure by Ian Baker, The Heart of the World, A Journey To Tibet’s Lost Paradise. It’s an exploration into the heart of Tibetan Buddhism as well as a journey to find what James Hilton wrote in Lost Horizon…the Shangri La hidden deep within the Himalayas. But this is not a fantasy. This is a search for the much-rumored waterfall in the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet, which has mystified and eluded explorers for hundreds of years. This story dovetails with several other books I’m reading about Tibetan Buddhism as it relates to other philosophies and great religions of the world. It is also especially relevant since the author began his odyssey in the caves of the Yolmo,  where daughter Cary is trekking. I’ve been in touch with her, and she finds this area rugged and beautiful, but won’t be able to go to her highest destination in Guru Rinpoche’s cave because of the extreme weather. I can’t wait to hear more about it!

I walked to the Boudhanath Stupa today and was not run down by a motorcycle. I bargained for fruit, immersed myself in Saturday crowds (this is the only day of the week that school is out), burned incense, and lit butter lamps for loved ones. I’m looking at this time alone as my special retreat, away from the phone, TV, family, work, and computer, except for those times when the power allows me half-an-hour on the internet. I’m paying $10/night for my room and another ten for marvelous vegetarian meals served in a charming garden full of exotic trees and flowers. Wonderful as it is, I would  not have chosen this over a trek, but I shall make the most of it. I’m even catching up on The New Yorker magazine!

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THE BEST LAID PLANS….

In telling of my exciting trip to Bhutan, I decided not to spoil the trip by relating an unfortunate episode at the Punakha Dzong two days before I left. All the challenging obstacles of the week had been surmounted and I was gleefully walking down a dark corridor with a groups of monks familiar with the lay of the land. Suddenly, they moved over to avoid a tall stone threshold, but I was not quick enough and took a dive head first onto the stones, injuring my right knee–that same poor knee that had suffered from the train accident near Udipi, India, two years ago. I did a dramatic flip, but this time my Guardian Angel was napping and I suffered a soft tissue injury, which made it impossible to go trekking. Yes, it could have been much worse…I could have knocked myself out or torn a meniscus or broken my patella. So maybe my Angel was just giving me a severe warning. I’m thankful for small blessings.

Needless to say, we tried to find a hospital, but nothing was available, except for a small clinic in the country, with no orthopedic doctor and a broken X-ray machine. But I did get a freezer pack to help me out until we returned to  Thimpu the next day and went to the emergency room.

Nothing was broken, but I did consult an orthopedic surgeon at the well-known CIWEC clinic in Kathmandu when I returned, and was told to wear a leg brace, do a minimum of walking, and for God’s sake, don’t go trekking. You can imagine my disappointment!

Daughter Cary arrived last Thursday and we mulled over alternatives. The upshot is that she left alone, yesterday (with a guide and porters, of course), for a two-week trek  in the Yolmo region of the Helambu-Gosinkunde area of Langtang, starting at Melamchi and climbing to Dhukpa, the site of Guru Rinpoche’s cave. She can decide as she goes along just how many places to visit and how long to stay in each one. She will have a ball, for this is a very sacred area for Buddhists, with meditation caves used by such revered monks as the legendary Milarepa. She will also do some reconnoitering around the area for a possible return for the two of us next year. We never give up!

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the varied clientele here at the Shechen Guest House in Boudha…a melange of world travelers, trekkers, and NGO workers. It is NOT dull and I’ll keep you posted. Oh, yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving back home. A happy day to you all. I shall think of you devouring your turkey as I sit and eat my vegetarian meal laced with a warm ginger lemon honey tea here at the Rabsel Garden Cafe.

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THANKSGIVING DAY IN THE HIMALAYAS. AM I BEHIND OR WOT?

Let this be a lesson to all you writers and photographers. Digital cameras are heavenly and they are horrible. You just keep clicking until you have 2,000 pictures from a four-week trek and now have to decide which ones to post. Erasing them seems an equally draconian option. If you were born indecisive (yes, that is possible), the problem becomes almost insurmountable. Stay with me, folks. I’m leaping back into Langtang and hope to finish the trek before spring. Considering the capriciousness of the weather, I may just succeed!

November 22nd arrived bright, sunny, and chilly. We knew we weren’t going to get near a turkey, so settled for exquisite pancakes for breakfast. That’s about as good as it would get, unless we plucked cabbages from one of the many high-altitude farms we passed.

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Leaving our guest house early,

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we said goodbye to our hostess, working next to her homemade greenhouse, and our friendly, ubiquitous bird.

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Anyone for cabbages? High altitude gardens abound as do water-powered prayer wheels, but beware of the yak curd (above at wayside hut) if you have a dicey stomach….

ImageImageYaks and Dzos graze

as we go in and out of rocky fields and ever-steeper terrain. Here are more scenes along the way.

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No matter how rocky the terrain, we can always find a rest stop decked with flowers. Ask Cary and Christy…

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and a waterfall over a rushing stream. The beauty overwhelms….

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And you guessed it! Christine and Erwin again!

ImageIt’s all yours, Christy. One of the challenges of the Himalaya….

ImageUp and down dale….or is it down and up?

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ImageThis was NOT fun!

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ImageWaiting for permission to enter Langtang Park

ImageThe Hotel Tibetan Guest House, our home for the night….

ImagePema and Buddhi are waiting for us,

ImageAs is our hostess.ImageAnd, lest you think we had forgotten…here is our vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner…including pie for dessert

ImageImageAnd another glorious sunset

ImageNot a bad Thanksgiviing, eh? And there’s more to come. Stay tuned….

Just one final note on the cultural agenda, which I know you, my readers, are eager to hear, but not as eager as I am to share: There have been two Plainfield Symphony concerts, the first featuring Prokofiev and the final composed of excerpts from Verdi’s operas. If any of you saw the movie, Quartet, you know how great that can be. I highly recommend it.

Speaking of opera, I enjoyed over four hours of Handel in the Metropolitan Opera’s great production of Giulio Cesare starring Natalie Dessay. You can’t get any better, even though I am not wild over countertenors. Handel sure knows how to write music for them. As for theater, I highly recommend the new musical Hands on a Hardbody with one of my favorites, Hunter FosterHit The Wall about the 1969 gay uprising at the Stonewall Bar (the theater was right across the street); and The Testament of Mary, superbly acted by Fiona Shaw. Rather disappointing was the revival of Clifford Odet’s The Big Knife, with Bobby Cannavale. I also was thrilled to spend an evening with the Wyman-Kelly family in West Hartford and go to a concert at the Bushnell Theater put on by 8th graders. It was  outstanding! I remember the days when to go to a concert of elementary children necessitated earplugs. Not so this one. A band, orchestra and chorus of high quality. Leah Kelly was the lead trumpet.

My final musical adventure took place in Harlem last week, where my musician friend from England, Mike Fenton was putting the finishing touches on an article for an English Record  Collecting magazine about Maxine Brown, one of the original soul divas of the 1960’s. Look her up online. She sang with many of the greats and had her own singles as well. She’s beautiful, talented, and still going strong with a new group. Next week she’ll be traveling with Ben E. King and others to Germany for the Baltic Soul Weekend.

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The inimitable Mike Fenton and Maxine Brown

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LANGTANG PARADISE…HERE WE COME!

Dzum, Dzum…let’s go! Dzam, Dzam…any time! These were the impatient admonitions of Buddhi, our intrepid guide as we headed into our two-week trek from the little town of Syabru Besi at 4500ft., reached by a perilous journey over a circuitous route of winding roads, many washed out by avalanches and heavy rains. The road was one lane most of the way, defined by tight hairpin turns and endless switchbacks overlooking a lush valley below. Guard rails were non-existent.

Ride, anyone?

Ride, anyone?

Sometimes a bus would get ahead of us...but not for long!

Sometimes a bus would get ahead of us…but not for long!

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We stopped for veggies in a small town

We stopped for veggies in a small town…

We finally arrived in Syabru Besi

And finally arrived in Syabru Besi in mid-afternoon

And settled for a night at the Yala Peak Guest House...Meg-Cary-Christy

The intrepid trekkers, Meg, Cary, and Christy settled for a night at the Yala Peak Guest House…

Lots of children playing games in the road

Lots of children playing games in the road as we took an evening stroll around town….

Chicken, anyone?

Chicken, anyone?

Our first day was very strenuous, reminiscent of the rocky trail in Sikkim two years ago. We climbed for seven hours with 3,500 ft. of gain. There were numerous long skinny swinging bridges and several stops for tea.

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Take your pick!

Take your pick!

I'll take the swinging ones, thank you....

I’ll take the swinging ones, thank you….

typical lunch break


Typical lunch break

Way on a distant cliff were hanging beehives

Way on a distant cliff were hanging beehives

We were never far from a river....

We were never far from the Langtang River….

The mountains are getting closer and closer

The mountains are getting closer and closer

Approaching Lower Rimche

Approaching Lower Rimche

We made it!

We made it!

Erwin and Christine, German friends we met our first and last night in Langtang.

Erwin and Christine, German friends we met our first and last night in Langtang.

A most unusual stove and was the food good!

Our hostess used a most unusual stove, and was the food good!

Day is Dying in the West

Day is Dying in the West

And now for a long winter's nap....

And now for a long winter’s nap….

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SWAYAMBHUNATH REVISITED….

Majestic Swayambhunath, the monkey temple....

Majestic Swayambhunath, the monkey temple….

See, I promised to give you a fast trip around ye olde Kathmandu as I revisited the student quarters in Thamel, my favorite guest house, The Potala, and the temples of Durbar Marg. You’ve heard the statement, “You can never go back,” and I’ve been defying that for twenty-five years. But this year I finally am convinced that my lungs and my nerves have grown fragile enough to warrant moving down the road apiece and leaving the pollution and the center of town to the crazies. Hate to give up, but down the road apiece isn’t exactly dullsville. There’s a whole separate culture in Boudhanath and I loved being a part of it!

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Monkeys, monkeys everywhere!

Monkeys, monkeys everywhere!

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Top of the world...Kathmandu Valley spread out below

Top of the world…Kathmandu Valley spread out below

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Temples, chapels, prayer wheels, worshippers....

Temples, chapels, prayer wheels, worshippers….

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Exotic carving...a blend of Hindu and Buddhist

Exotic carving…typical Newari architecture

Leaving the main temple complex

Heading up the other side….

Three giant Buddhas
Three giant Buddhas
Their heads are a favorite perch for the monkeys!

Their heads are a favorite perch for the monkeys!

Anyone for woodcarvings and singing bowls? Christy and I could not resist....
Anyone for woodcarvings and singing bowls? Christy and I could not resist….
Heading back to Kathmandu

Heading back to Kathmandu

The Potala, my former not so fancy digs....

The Potala, my former not so fancy digs….

Christy went wild over the wandering cows

Christy went wild over the wandering cows

Durbar Marg, a feast of temples
Durbar Marg, a feast of temples

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Classic Hindu temples

Classic Hindu temples filled with erotic paintings and sculpture

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Be sure to park your vehicle outside the square....

Be sure to park your vehicle outside the square….

Raj Kumar, who makes the best espresso coffee in Kathmandu....

Raj Kumar, who makes the best espresso coffee in Kathmandu….

If you don't believe me, just ask Christy!

If you don’t believe me, just ask Christy!

So there you have it, folks. We’re un-jetlagged, we’ve found a good cup of coffee, and we’re ready to head for the hills. Next episode…discovering Langtang.

In closing I have a few words for the people who have ruined my life. Those who have put electronics in the hands of children so they can make the old and the wise seem stupid and useless. When a five-year-old has to explain why your screen is moving from side to side with no help from you, and the words and lines just keep bopping around senselessly, and then begs you to calm down and tell him the problem (just tell me where it hurts?), you know you’re ready for the ice floe. In fact, before very long you’re yearning for it.

My children and grandchildren tell me that I’m the only person they know who becomes violent when using an Apple computer. They’re “user friendly,” they say. Perhaps so, but WordPress isn’t. Uploading photos takes about as much time as waiting for someone from Verizon or the Bank of America to answer the phone. Is it any wonder that being a nervous wreck is becoming a way of life in these h’yer United States? So, you ask, why do you keep going back for more, Meg? Are you so imbued with the old-time Protestant work ethic that says that all life is a struggle, and the only way  you coast is downhill, that you can’t let go? Why not invest in a hatchet and let these blamed devices know who’s boss?

In the meantime, I do have my diversions or activities that feed my soul between bouts of computer depression and sun deprivation (it’s been a dreary winter). Have had a couple of neat symphony concerts, one of which was led by Sabin Pautza, our former conductor at the Plainfield Symphony. Along with his compositions, we played the Brahms 4th Symphony. That kept me out of trouble for some time.

Opera season is in full sway and, of course, Broadway is forever beckoning. Outstanding plays I’ve seen so far this year are the hilarious and unusual The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Heiress, with the superb David Strathairn, Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame, and Judith Ivey, The Other Place, with an outstanding performance by Laurie Metcalf, and the stunning Steppenwolf revival of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton.

I’m still waiting for imaginative suggestions about where I can live, but none have been forthcoming. Is everybody frozen? Surely not my friends in L.A. or the Caribbean (I hate them, anyway). Hey, I could just sit tight and wait for Global Warming to do its job and wake up some morning with Miami Beach in my backyard. Who knows?

 

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I’M BACK! AND I’M RUNNING TO CATCH UP….

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Blogs are supposed to be short and sweet, with pictures for those who are tired of the onslaught of verbiage in their daily diet. Pictures I have by the thousands with words to match! But suffice it to say that since my last entry on November 19, 2012, I have trekked to around 17,000 ft., sold my house in Maplewood, NJ, moved to temporary digs at daughter Martha’s, with the aid of my second son, Tom, who journeyed from California to keep me sane and on target, and managed to rid myself of sixty years of accumulated “stuff,” more, even, than the legendary George Carlin could imagine. And all of that in one sentence! The remainder of my memorabilia that I couldn’t bear to throw away is in a storage facility near Kean University just waiting for me to decide what to do when I grow up. I might add that the announcement of the sale of my house came as I was trekking in the Langtang region of the Nepalese Himalayas with daughter, Cary Peterson, and Christy Korrow, a writer and editor who, like Cary, lives on Whidbey Island, WA.  The message came in on Christy’s cell phone. We’ve come a long way since my first climb to Everest Base Camp in 1987! In those days, when you were away, you were definitely AWAY! I know, that’s a split infinitive, but who cares about grammar today, when half the newscasters on TV are throwing fig leaves to the enemy in lieu of olive branches? Things are just plain going to hell, aren’t they?

For those of you who read the dedication in the front of my book, you know that one of my mantras is: Never fear walking into the unknown. I’ve tried to live my life accordingly, but now am being tested big time to put my money where my mouth is. The next few months will be exciting and a bit scary. Any suggestions, no matter how crazy, will be welcomed. I feel very fortunate to have so many choices, but also am torn between my love for my town, my symphony, my friends, the opera, and Broadway to name a few of the advantages of the New York Metropolitan area, and the wild Northwest with its open spaces, its rugged mountains, and the delightful town of Langley, WA, where my daughter, Cary, lives…a stone’s throw from Seattle.

Let’s start from where I left off and take you, first, to the picturesque Tibetan enclave of Boudhanath, not far from the center of Kathmandu. When you take a cab from the airport, however, over unimaginably pot-holed and semi-paved roads, you think it’s far. This is unfortunately true of most of Nepal. The traffic has gotten worse along with the roads, but for some reason the tempers seem to be stable. I had to park my western impatience on the tarmac when I arrived.Image

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It gets  worse the closer you come, and is positively treacherous if you’re trying to walk at night. No streetlights…just your wits and good humor!

Boudhanath is famous for its immense stupa with eyes that look out over the pilgrims who come there. Every morning and evening throngs of the faithful, of all ages, walk around the outside and the second tier, saying mantras and meditating. The stupa is 118 ft. high and if you want to see the action you can look it up on line. I found it a glorious place to be, especially at dusk when the candles were lit and the stores lining the route were filled with music. It was magical.

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Notice the pigeons…they’re everywhere!

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Hundreds of people light candles for their loved ones

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And burn special incense

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This little lady sat there all day blessing the faithful

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This little lady captivated me with her saucy eyes….

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And her father, too….

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Boudha Gate

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Stupa entrance

Scenes around the temple….people doing Kora; some buying and selling; others just watching

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Public washing outside stupa complex

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It’s almost impossible to convey the excitement and camaraderie surrounding this sacred place. We were so lucky to have found a guest house nearby, affiliated with the Shechan Monastery (pron. Say-chen), which I will show you in detail in a future post.  People from many countries enjoyed the courtyard…those involved in NGO’s, monks, and trekkers  like us…making our stay ever-changing and always interesting. Having been in Nepal several times over the last twenty-five years, it was especially amusing for me to see this quiet, meditative space invaded by iPads and iPods. Imagine monks in the old days sitting around communicating with these modern devices. Cell phones have long been the phone of choice in Asia, but the iPad blew me away!

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Shechen Monastery

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