30 June, 2003

All day people walk around and around. The path is slate and smooth and warn, maybe ten feet across. On the outside it is bordered by a six inch gutter, beyond that is a wider, broader path. Surrounding this is shops and storefronts, an occational alley or sidestreet, falling into shadow and obscurity, leading away from the center of things.

The center, the axis of the orbiting believers and pedants, inside the wall - the stupa. It has a three tiered base, octagonal, or many sided, low and flat, somewhat downward slanting. On top of the three bottom layers lifts a great dome, white, but stained yellow-brown in broad bands. The dome rises much higher than the tiers to a top where a square, squat steeple rests. It is thick. At its base, on each side, are a pair of eyes. Atop the steeple is a colorful cylinder, like a prayer wheel.

From this high point rains down a torrent of color and motion, prayer flags drooping into the wind and light with their alternating, reds, yellows, blues - fading and glittering, twisting, flapping, or waving in the sun, under the moon, with the rain - always casting the good will, compassion, and wishes of its people to the world. They run down to the wall and there meet more, circling the wall, statue to post, post to pillar, pillar to statue, endlessly circling the stupa, endlessly representing good will.

They hang also from the coves in the wall, the nooks that hide the prayer wheel wheels. The wheels hide behind dark wrought iron and the flags dangling from it. The chanters and walkers reach out and met the handles of the wheels, like paddles to push with their own enertia, spining them, sometimes smooth, sometimes grittily. The wheels themselves are wood, copper and brass covered, covered with mantras in Tibet script. They feel old under the hand if you feel them.

There are several entrances to the inner sanctum, where there are more shrines. At the doors are larger wheels, exposed and ornamented.

The stupa is large surely, but not decorative, Butter is poured over the top in ritual, turning rancid and yellow. The stucco is stained by rain and dirt. What is spectacular, special about this place is the force and impact it has, the place it holds in the lives of the locals and Buddhist around the world. People come to it daily; they walk circles like absolutions, counting prayerbeads in their left hand. There are plenty of monksl, garbed in maroon or red with saffron. But it is the commoners, devote or otherwise, they come and walk or pray or talk, but so many come. It is their place, their community.

At the start of evening when the heat breaks and the sun wanes, shadows start to huddle around the east, people bring out tables and ring them around the inner slate path. They tables they cover with hundreds of brass holders for candles. The candles are for prayers. The walkers, or any who wish, can pay three rupees to light a candle and have your blessings heard. As the light fades, the stupa is cast in a new glow. The candles shake and dance the shadows of Buddhists off the stupa walls and against the store fronts and building further beyond.

The feel is beyond ceremonious, almost surreal though have seen it daily. It moves and ebbs like an ocean. I can't become accostumed to it. I gaze at the candles, occationally light one, but it is too easy to fall into trance. So many people thinking so many things, from so many lands, some so close to home.

Scattered among the tables are the homeless, cripple, and destitude. They beg for alms and pity. Also monks sit in line and chant mantras, durgelike and solemn. I love the deep and gutteral sound - no words, no beginning or end. Dogs run about, the reputed guardians of Boudanath, the stupa.

29 June, 2003

I just experienced my first casualty. I tried to use a dictionary and I commited an error and lost my work. It was my time I guess, my turn. Computers are that way. I wasn't pleased, too pleased with it I will rewrite it again tomorrow. anyhow. I was describing the stupa as it is such a beautiful thing. I want to show it to you.

Life in Bouda continually gets busier and busier. I bought five more books to read. I am teaching two classes, but now I am going to teach my administrator as well. Also I am starting to teach Saturdays - not a holiday here. I didn't realize that. So all my free time has become an illusion. I am ceriously continplating what the best way to spend the month of August, my free month. There is so much I want to get done before next semester - I don't know how best to spend it. I am continplating sitting on a beach in Thailand for the month - studying and surfing or whatever. In Nepal it is the monsoon and not ideal for trekking or studying. I fly out of Bangkok anyhow.

If anyone sees Widge, give him a belly rub and tell him it came from his dad in Nepal. Addie - thank you so much.

28 June, 2003

My email address: freejonah@yahoo.com.
If anyone has any comments I would love to read them.
Actually, any news at all would be great.
The final installment at last. I have been ready to finish this story as the air and energy went out of it days ago. Incrimental writing is difficult to maintain. There are other more pressing matters at hand. But do I share them? The dilemma still lingers: what is appropriate for online writing? Who if anyone is reading what I write? I have been quite comfortable writing physical descriptions of people and places, all the sensory experience I can muster. But I have grown accostumed to this place, its spiritual enertia and its Oriental color and appeal. What is left for me, and very present, is my own growth and spiritual journey. The ideas I am encountering and assimilating are foundainheads, resurrections of hibernated intuitions and passions, goals and dreams - either put off or newly awakened within myself. So much is being laid bare.

But who are you? Do I know you? If I do, do you deserve my soul? If you do, do you care; would you want to read my nakedness? Could it possibly be grasped or appreciated? I don't know. If this interests you, whoever you are, pay attension to my shadows, the things that lie quietly implicit or implied, the secrets between the conspicuously dry characters of the page. If you notice - email me questions of it - whether you know me or not, and I will answer you in more depth of meaning.

In some sense this is where I have been now for some time. I wish to be reserved until approached. If approached I will bare all, unabashed and fearless. But, on the other hand, I am tired of entertaining uninterested or apathetic ears.

Perhaps I should take this interval of prose to thank a new friend, a man that has taken me by the ears and stretched my brain. Or perhaps he has let flow so much rhetoric and wisdom into my ears that my mind has swelled with the tide. Now I am holding my breath, trying to assimilate, hoping to minimalize the outdraft and lose such influence. I hope that our short time here together remains propitious, and that the future does not separate our minds and spirits as distance inevitable will come between our forms. I hope experience proves our intuitions of each other more true than we would have wagered. There is a great joy in knowing you. You renew my faith that there are people like you in the world. You also remind me that I too am real. Thank you.

Now I think I shall bring me story, perhaps long disinteresting, back to its conclusion (as I said it would). . . .

Where are we. . . yes, near Pokhara...

The van winded up and around low valley mountains. The air was thick and heavy with humidity, warm in the afternoon. But the road was still damp for the rain. Indeed it was concrete now. I didn't notice the change, but it was likely some time ago that the dirt and gravel and dust had given way. The trees started to open and we felt we were making our desent into Pokhara. When we had stopped to stretch, we had had an argument with the driver as to the location we would be let off. A girl in the group felt that if we were paying all this money we should be dropped where ever we pleased. I was more of the mind that we were damned lucky to have a ride anywhere. There was clearly a problem with transportation. None of us knew what it was, but no one was driving into Pokhara. But we were. The driver could drop me where ever he liked and I would praise him as some demi-god from the Aegeon.

So when he pulled over, still 45 minutes outside of town and said that this was the spot, this was the end; there were a few sour looks, doubts, and questions. Most even dropped their price down because he didn't drive us "to" Pokhara but outside it. I was pleased as hell and gave him the full amount. It was a huge amount of money and didn't seem to care that his price had been metered. 300 rupees.

It was lunchtime and I knew just where I would eat. I had met this man, brilliant smile, always pleased, fair english; the last time I was in Pokhara I had corrected the plenitude of grammatical and spelling errors in his menus. Over a small pot of tea he had told me about his various and long carreer as a cook. He had a vast menu for Nepal;. His wife had recommented the Manchurian and it was fantastic - as good as I have eaten in Nepal. It reminded me of marinated, seasoned fallafel over rice and sauce. I wanted to go back. There were no tourists about so his restaraunt seemed always empty and his prices were rock bottom. This seemed to me a misjustice.

We all split up, hiked different paces into town. Most went straight to a hotel to swim in a cold shower for a while before lunch. I suspected the buses where on strike here as well. We didn't see one coming into town. I walked alone up the stairs to the varanda of the restaraunt. There was no one else there. As he went off to cook my Mancherian, the man's wife confirmed the strike. That was it. No further options. I wasn't walking back to Kathmandu. I would have to fly. It was only one o'clock. I was sure there were many flights to the capital still. I drank a fanta.

My food came. I ate; it was delicious; I prepared to go. I was becoming anxious with the time. I was ready to be home after such a run of luck and survival. I still wanted to meet two friends before leaving town. They were at another restaraunt down the road. There, I said goodbye and drank the best strawberry-yogart shake I have ever had in my life. I had trouble actually drinking for my own awe of the thing.

The last remaining obstical was just getting to the airport. No cabs. It was still a ways off, maybe an hour's walk. I was full and not in the mood. There were plenty of motorbikes about. I figured I just needed to ask around. As I walked down the street, a boy walked up to me asking for money. I told him if he could get me a bike, he could have a commision. He understood and we turned and walked the otherway back down the street, quiet as a grave. We turned up a street and he pointed to a bunch of bikes for rent. I let out a deep breath before re-explaining to him that I needed a ride to the airport, not a rent-a-bike for the day. I ask him to ask around. He understood and had a man shortly. 300 rupees. This was normally a 90 rupee ride. I had expected a little hiest, but this was a bit much. I just paid 300 to go the last two and a half hours. We argued a bit and he explained that there literally was no gas in the town.

He explained the strike. It had nothing to do with the Maoists at all. The government was proposing a new tax on gasoline, with would significantly cut into the profits of all transportation companies, already having difficulties. When they decided to strike, all gas delivery had also halted. At this point the strike had been going on for about a week. No school buses. Nothing. At last I understood.

As we struck a deal, a friend walked up, a trekking guide I had met weeks ago. We chatted and I ask him for a ride, knowing he would give me a little better deal. Unfortunately for me the guy was a friend of his so he didn't get involved. He did however call the airport for me to see when the next flight was leaving: 20 minutes.

Perfect. I enjoy a good race, and in Nepal this is perfectly doible. We raced along beautiful back roads of Pokhara, roads I had never seen. I enjoyed being back on a motorcycle again. He wasn't a particularly deft driver, but there wasn't much traffic; we almost hit a cow. They always have the right of way.

At the airport I had to explain to security that "no, I didn't have a ticket," but that I intended to buy one. I really hadn't understood why they wouldn't let anyone in the airport without a ticket. A security measure - very bold! They let me through. At the door I had to go through the process again. This time they walk me up to the counter and explain to the man there my request. I buy my ticket, go through security, and then sit for ten minutes before the flight actually departed.

My only remaining curiousity would be my arrival in Kathmandu. Would there be cabs? The thought of a strike in Kathmandu was unimaginable. I fell asleep on the flight, only awaking with the plane bouncing off the runway. Getting off the plane, I bipassed the airport all together and walked straignt out front. Cabs! At last, some vestige of normalcy. A good deep breath filled me lungs.

I told the cabby, "Bouda."
"Bouda, 250 rupees."
250! I couldn't believe it. I knew it was only a 150 rupees at the most. The next cabby quoted me the same price.
"Airport cabs, all the same," he said.
I thought airport cabs were supposed to help protect you from getting ripped off? Anyway, I got in the cab, paid the man, and went home.

That is the story of my trip to Anapurna. The hiking was probably the least eventful part of the story. I'm sorry it streamed on and on like that. It was a good trip; the adventure of it never seemed to end until I was in bed. The pictures came out nicely though.

27 June, 2003

I have noticed some sort of balance holding my life together: I am both teaching and being taught; I read and I write; I exercise and I meditate; and, of course, I drink lots of tea. And I only travel in circles around the stupa. I can spend a whole week without leaving a 200 meter radius. All this is quite fun and relaxing. Today I bought seven copies of "Siddhartha" for my class. How great! I get to teach "Siddhartha" to young Buddhist Monks. This is very rich I think.

I have met a man who I am now taking meals with. Our conversations range from jail breaks and survived assisination attempts to shamanism, quantum physics, homiopathy, fasting, solidarity, Sanskrit, translations, lamas, reincarnation, computer programming, Lennix, Solaris, Tibet, voodoo, relationships, nature of reality, multiple dimentions, native american culture and practices, - do I realy need to continue? I feel like a kid again, curious and ignorant. It is all so beyond me, but the asking of questions and listening have become an art for me. I am bold and often ask for clarification. I interject a pertanant story or two. But the whole experience is like being in a virtual reality simulation, at high speed, of all of the world disciplines, sciences and technologies - zooming across time, a little to fast to keep up, but incredibly enjoyable and vivid. The man is too mysterious to attempt to explain him personally, and too secretive. But to me he is brilliant, and the conversations keep me rapt. Time flies by. I say little, but do interject what I can and direct as my couriousities dictate. It is a sort of akward dance - but still beautiful by its sheer magnitude and ultimate beneficence and unspoken mutuality.

Perhaps it is a thing I should leave alone, but it is opening new portals of understanding and questions, it is reassuring in the least, also humbling. I can safely say I have never experienced a mind like this. None more strange; none more provocative.

So to the story; shall I continue? Indeed. . . .

No buses. Nothing is leaving Beni. Everything is parked. The group of us in advance had desided that if this was to happen, we would walk south to the next town. There was a rumor that buses - or something - was posisbly leaving from there. So we started. The start was staggered, nine of us in all, but a few stayed behind for breakfast. It was about 6:15 in a dry, bright morning. THe sun was already warming the rocks and boulders aside the road.

The road was a real road now, cars, trucks, and jeeps rutted the sides. Mud puddles and dust somehow co-mingled. I walked fast, feeling an advantage to being the first into town. The kilometers stretched on and little ground was made between me and my followers. In fact I stopped just shy of town and was the third to arrive, just behind a British couple who had been trekking in the Everest Region. There was nothing to be done. We sat and had a fruit drink. It was a little after eleven. Small talk was made with some curious locals, a little sympathetic to our dilema. There were people and trucks but no help. We sat almost ten minutes and reckoned on hiking south again to the next town, maybe three hours south. Casually I heard, "that jeep there, they go Pokhara."
"What, Pokhara? That jeep is going to Pokhara?" Forgetting the boiled eggs I was preparing to buy, hoping everything was stowed away, I grap my bag and move to tailgate, asking the same question to the busboy.

Yes, he said, then the dash for the seats. THe last four of our group came running up as we were all piling in - perfect timing. There was room - barely - for all. I looked at my comrades with disbelief. Was this for real? A jeep. I levitated off my seat. I didn't know what I was paying. I was uncertain as to where I was going. But I was surely moving south down the same dry abandoned road I was prepared to walk down. There was still seventy kilometers to Pokhara.

We moved south down the gravelly road scrunched in the parallel back seats of the old Land Cruiser - or something. We picked up all sorts of people. There were old men on the roofrack. Kids hanging on the bumper. It was all better then walking. We stopped a couple of times, people came and went, as well as the driver. At last everyone got out. We weren't at Pokha.

500 rupees a person we offered him. That was big money; there was nine of us. No deal. No jeeps were going to Pokhara. So we all unloaded and prepared to walk. I was one of the first in so I was also the last out. I checked the floor and got the money out to pay. 40 rupees.

As I was paying I saw everyone piling into an old van; it looked like a police car because of a siren looking thing on top. It certainly wasn't the police, put they must have heard the price we were willing to pay and had some space. But it wasn't much space. We sat on top of one another, legs intertwined and squashed. Another human could not have possibly have fit. But again we were moving, and this time with a little more hope of making it all the way.

The only question now was whether we could stand the pain. Legs were numb. Movement was not very feasible without causing someone else harm. It was a practice in meditation and patience. The driver let us out for a stretch about twenty minutes outside Pokhara. It was about 12 o'clock. Was I actually going to make Kathmandu on time? . . ..

26 June, 2003

The story. . .

A young boy, sixteen maybe, from eastern Nepal showed me to my room. In contradiction to the beauty of the stone buildings and dining patio, my room was concrete, smelled of mold, and had funny (not that funny) pellets on one of the pillows. I wasn't sure if mice inhabited the Himalaya. Either way, the room costed me about 100 rupees, or $1.50. I threw my things on the 'other' bed and went to the stone pavilion for a late dinner. I ate, turned on my hedlamp and wrote a bit, sipping on Nepali tea that kept cooling off. So I kept pouring more and more from the pot. It was almost a stress.

I have fully indulged myself in the Nepali pasttime and addiction of tea drinking. It is always tea time, there is no such expression as "afternoon tea" or "would you like to have some tea?" No, tea just is; it is always happening, and so it is with me. What it is is hot water, maybe a third or less milk, with normal black tea and sugar. At first I didn't much care for it. But I remembered my intense passion for Moroccan mint tea once I had adjusted to it. So I continued trying it. This tea is very much like chai - Nicole - but without the spices. Smooth and sweet - I drink it all day. Cafe, monastery, different cafe, internet cafe, back too cafe - this is the score of my daily ambulations. I walk a few laps around the stupa -

but now I have burnt my story to ashes. "Phoenix - rise!"

Naked, I crouched upon the wall of the hot spring. Maybe it was close to eleven. The rain and cloud dampened the air to an impermiable darkness, only broken by myriads of fireflies in the woods across the river. There was no reflection in the slate water running in the river just downslope. The air even seemed to numb the river's rolling thundering sound to a static background. Why was I alone enjoying this place? Where were everyone else? A blessing. The springs were large. Two, the first too hot, unregulated; but the second, still a bit scorching, but wonderful and empty. So I went naked.

Couched on an underwater step, arms spread across the wall, I breathed in amazing satisfaction. My eyes focused nowhere, nowhere to focus. The heat was too great for long submersion, so I would move up and sit upon the wall. The rain was coming down in a constant meter. I rolled a cigarette for the occation earlier after dinner. It smoked slow, dampened, just as it both dampened and envigorated my state. I could feel the orbit of electrons around their nuclei, my hairs vibrated with their motion, all together - chaos to rythmn. But my mind went quiet, as listening to the sonata of my body, relishing the exhaustion of exertion, the relief of nurishment, the atmosphere of heat and moisture, and the stimulous of tobacoo. A fine night. A fine end. The air was warm and didn't encourage me to walk back along the river, up the stairs to my concrete room to sleep. But I did. Tomorrow I would hike out of the valley, down into another to Beni to catch a bus to Pokhara.

I woke up at a reasonable, though not a respectable hour. I had a bowl of Muesli and hot milk and begin the walk downvalley. There were other hikers on the trail today. Egotistically, or self-competitorily, I didn't like that they could keep up with me. Although I was not feeling so strong I went without breaks and tried to make good time. By lunchtime I only had an hour to go; I was right on schedual.

Alone, enjoying a fine Dal bhat, my hostess came and joined me. She asked me the same sort of questions as always. "No bus, no bus in Beni," she said unexpectedly in response to my plans. I really didn't pay much attention. People were always saying the strangest things. Of course there were buses in Beni. Everyone knew there were buses in Beni. I told her many people had said to the contrary. I took a deep breath and realized that perhaps I should attempt to understand this woman. I was stubborn. So I start asking questions, trying to see what she meant. Deep down, out of somewhere I remembered the strikes.

Since the Maoist revolt in Nepal, there have been surges of strikes for various reasons in various places. Many peole suppot the Maoist fight for renewed democracy. Was there a strike going on? "Yes, no buses. No taxi."
"No taxi? This is a problem. This is a big problem." It was now Saturday afternoon. I had to be at work Monday midday. There was no transport. This was a problem. "What about tomorrow, buses tomorrow?"
"No, three, four days. Maybe ten days," she said. "You stay?"
"No, I have to and solve my big problem."

I paid, threw my pack around my back and slouched off still a little too full to hike but unwanting to talk about these new challenging circumstances. But, "Nothing to be done," not until I could get to Beni. I tried solving it in my head. It was too far to walk. Maybe I could pay a local to drive me. But it was a three hour drive. Maybe I could hitch. Maybe the buses would go. Maybe a motorcycle. Maybe I would swim.

Nearing Beni, I saw some army men I had met earlier in the day. They had shown me the way to the good dal bhat, and I had explained Bush era politics. I asked them about the situation and they confirmed my problems for me. I kept on walking intensely until I reached Beni.

Nothing changed. "Nothing to be done." No hope; no one would offer any ideas that could get me out of Beni that afternoon. "Maybe tomorrow the buses run,' a few folks said. Maybe tomorrow. As I sat in continplation, a couple walked up I had met the night before. We walked to a hotel together. We met another couple on the way. We all dined in the hotel restaraunt together and lightly discussed our mutual predicament. The conversation turned to the arctic, Baffin Island, the new Canadian territory, the Krakauer / Boukreev (this is the proper spelling) debate, the book "Into the Wild," - it was a lively and pleasant conversation. I drank nearly two pots of tea and ate three plates of food. My tab was quite substantial. They ripped me off - $8 all together.

That afternoon, learning my way around so I could find the bus area in the morning, a six a.m. bus, I found a local track meet. I watched two 4x800 meter relays. The girls ran barefoot, not all too fast, but there was a great crowd. That night I slept soundly and woke up a little after five.

No buses.

24 June, 2003

I just completed a behemouth and undoubtedly scattered email to Bob Baker. Have mercy on him for it. I attempted to explain part of my mind, but holding back for brevity. In my notebook I am making good progress though and I will be ready for Bob and Linda's scrutiny when I return.

With this said, I am too tired to continue the story. Another day. Tomorrow.

Today I started my new class and was quite thrilled by it. It was large and quiet. I was forced to assume ignorence so I started from the beginning. I am in need of creativity, new ways of teaching. They are going to stretch my skill. This is all good.

I'll write a bit more anyway. . .

I will not go into Bourkrieve's book except to say that it is a truely harrowing tale, an amazing rescue by a couragous and passionate man. I came to adore his devotion to his passion, his one passion. He was so simple.

Before I read this book, I knew that Anatoli had been killed, like Alex Lowe, in an avalanch in the Himalaya. In the postscript, his coauthor described the accident. In 1998, he was attempting a winter assent of Annapurna I. That is where I was. I was now twenty miles from the basecamp at the moment I read these words. I smiled and put the book away.

The dry elevations had slowly, not unnoticably, given way to forested hillsides. The thick monsoon clouds were always overhead, luckily holding their loads until early evening as I made myself comfortable in a guesthouse of my choosing. Today it was the trekkers Lodge, and this should be my last. I was in Tatopani. Tomorrow would be Saturday, the last day of my trek, when I would head into Beni. There I could take a bus back to Pokhara and then to Kathmandu. Today I had seen the valley again narrow and steepen. Great suspension bridges crossed the expanse of the gorge as villages became slightly less seldom. Rice patties also became more regular. It was planting time and I enjoyed stopping in the shade to watch the men work the oxen, ploughing the mud and the woman planting the young shoots by hand. The planted fields took on the fresh light color of new leaves in spring. The atmosphere was almost festive, many people around watching and talking.

Reaching Tatopani was a joy. The day was longer than I had suspected, though certainly not long enough to complain about. My feet were a bit sore was all. As I came into town I recalled that there was a hot spring near by. I am a great lover of the ambiance of natural hot springs and it has been a very long time since I have indulged in one. This warmth doesn't suit them well, but I didn't have great expectations.

Walking into the Lodge, I was shocked to see several groups of trekkers sitting around for dinner. I had taken almost for granted how few people I had seen, only a hand few of westerners a day. I heard the rain start to echo off the tin rooves of the various building.

I must sign off. . . quickly.

23 June, 2003

So I am continuing the story I started yesterday. . .

After growling and frowning at the groggy doorman, I hopped in a cab and wizzed through the deserted and hauntingly quiet streets of Pokhara. When I arrived, the airport was still abandoned and locked by a gate at the street. I ate breakfast: a loaf of bread/cake and waited. All went to plan, and I boarded a small plane. We took off within three minutes of sitting down. Incredible.

This flight on a crisp morning like this, offered an overhead view of Daulagiri and Annapurna. It was breathtaking. I looked through the door to the cockpit (I could throw paper airplanes at the pilots if I'd liked). Daulagiri dominated the entire windshield. My photographic/tourist ethics would not allow me to take a picture from an airplane, but I regret it now. This time of year - those were the best looks I would get at the tall mountains.

The flight was only twenty minutes of eye-drowling scenery. I landed in Jomoson at, I forget, 7:30 let,s say. I stepped out of the airport, the size of a good Exxon station, into a street that seemed like it was perpetually abandoned, like a ghost town, a mix of old Mexico and the high-Andes. It was arid and cool, not yet windy, empty, and awaking it seemed. No one was too talkitive, or even moving around that much.

My luggage was on my back. I bought, for $7 a fake Lowe Alpine pack, small and flat. I couldn't fit a small watermelon in it, though, its orange color reminds me a little bit of a watermelon's color. So it was tiny, light, and orange. Here were it's contents: two pair of socks, windbreaker, first aid (thanks Anne) w/ toothbrush and paste, a superlight fleece sleeping bag, some snacks, glasses, hat, and my camera. One extra shirt too, I forgot. The point is that I was light, very. I was quite pleased with myself on this point. I love going light. I also had some sunscreen, iodine, a water bottle, and my Moroccan scarf, which I wear under my hat now adays to protect my neck and ears. This is my style and I imagine it is quite funny, to see an American wearing light sneakers with dirty black gators, long pants, long shirt, in the heat, with a hat, scarf underneath, and sun glasses. I don't care; actually, I like it - it is damn efficient.

The road out of town comprises the trail. They don't have cars this far in the mountains. The roads are used by the people carrying great loads in baskets on their backs, strapped around their foreheads. The Indians around the Great Lakes carried things this way, called them wannigans. Also, everyone has a horse, or a train of them. Small horses, unhappy horses. They are the UPS of the Himalaya. Some regions use Yaks. So I look south and start walking down the cobbles and out of town.

What first struck me was how much like the Atlas Moutains (Morocco) the landscape looked. The land was brown, more beige, arid, and vast. The river valley was broad, more than any I have ever seen. I walked on alone, not seeing many people, no tourists at all. The trail could not have been more easy to follow. Again, it was literally a road. It connected the various villages that ran along the river. I have no idea what the name of the river is unfortunately. Running south, it cuts between Annapurna and Daulagiri, eroding what they call, and what is likely true, the deepest gorge in the world. I walk on in tranquility. I let the landscape have its effect on me. I just took it in quietly, peacefully, not asking any more from it than what it would show me.

I appreciated the morning air, the lack of direct sunlight. Sunlight really wears on me. I prefer the shade and there was not going to be any. The land was without trees. This was the Mustang, the southern part of that land doesn't see the monsoon or much else. The permit to go north of here is $700 for ten days. So it is not regularly visited.

For the coming days, I would be walking down this valley, through its villages, eating its dal vat, and waving at its children. The miles passed quickly, easy downhill miles. The topography was mild here, still wide and barren. As the morning moved into the day, the sun rose up behind me, the valley narrowed and steepened. The river bottom remained wide, grey now with great gravel fields. The river was a braided stream, weaving in and out amongst itself. I've seen pictures of rivers in Alaska that resemble it, but I have never seen one like it. It felt old in a way that the Colorado or the Clark Fork don't. The water was milkshake grey, grey-brown. It spoke of turbulence, not pollution, also glaciers and snows.

As I glanced up at the encroaching peaks, the rock saddened me. It was the sort of rock that I have come to expect of arid lands - a crumbly, eroding sandstone; soft, flaking shales and silts; the mountains crumbling like drying sand castles on the beach in the sun. I would pull on it and it would fall away in my hands. No good for climbing; what a shame.

Light clouds whisped around and a breeze greeted my face. Every hour or so I would pass through a village or settlement. There were many guesthouses and restaraunts. I was making too much time, too fast. Today was Thursday. I had realized that it would not be too much to do the trek in three days. I then would be able to catch a bus Sunday morning and get into Kathmandu that night. I wouldn't have to fly. So over lunch I wrote the story about the man I met in the airport. We had talked about Milton, Shakespeare, Donne - it was the sort of conversation you would never, never expect from a Nepali. It was delightful. This would be the last of writing for most of the trip, a little philosophy maybe. The only book I carried was "The Myth of Sisiphus," a philosophy book by Albert Camus. I like it but I never read any on the trip. In a little village I saw a book shop. I was intriqued at what I might find way out here. To my supprise it was much of the same - and the prices were great. A book caught my eye that I have long wanted to read. It is the story of the Everest Tragety, but not told by Krakauer, but by Anatoli Bourkrieve. I don't know how to spell. He is a hero and was a great mountaineer. Krakauer made him out as some sort of villain, or so it has been said. But Anatoli is world renown for being what Krakauer is not - a great, one of the greatest, alpinist of his generation. In the tragedy, everyone, including Kraukauer, was so exhaused by the climb, that noone would attempt to rescue those who had been caught in the storm. That is, everyone but Bourkrieve. In all, he left base camp six times to go out on the mountain to rescue climbers; he saved three. His is the story I wanted to read.

Through these mountains as I walked I would stop and read. It was fast and captivating. I found that I share many of the same opinions about the mountains and modern day commersial mountaineering.

Again, I will have to stop here for the day. At least I have made some progress. Time here is flying by. At the request of students, I am starting to teach another class tomorrow. It is a little bigger than my class of six - it is thirty. Wow. What will I do? Tenzing has been more aggressive about getting me to spend time at the monastery. He offered for me to come and eat any or all of my meals with them. This is great, but the food isn't quite the sweet and sour chicken I have been enjoying for the past few weeks. Three weeks gone in a blink. Wendy I miss you. Have a safe trip home.

And as for post cards - I still have no idea were the post office is. I may not send any. I wrote Libby one. I will try to figure it all out, but I am not sure if I will go through to much effort on this.

22 June, 2003

I have been away, but at least I return with a story. It is long and it weaves around, here and there, and in the end it returns to where it started. I don't know how to tell it in a brief fashion - an hour can hardly do and my back is already sore. It has been a long weekend, but quite surprizing.

My students Tuesday informed me that I indeed did have the next three days off. Tenzing, my supervisor, had mentioned that he thought this was true. He was regretful, because my time here is so short that he feels I should spend as much time with the students as possible. But arrangements were set and class was canceled. That is five days, Wednesday through Sunday free. That is enougjh time, I thought, enough to get out somewhere to do a trek, a short one.

My energy was not yet flowing during or right after class. Part of me whispered that perhaps I should stick around and pursue further the thoughts and creative impulses that had characterized my last week. But I knew, deep down, that I had to jump, that this too was part of me, part of the reason I was here, part of my growth and part of my life. So I summoned the energy and excitement to create a plan. It was the eleventh hour already. After class I was free.

I knew I had time restraints. I knew I wanted to be alone - no guide. This meant I needed to do something relatively simple as I was still new to trekking in Nepal. I figured this all pointed to Annapurna. It is perhaps, if not definately, the most popular trek in the world (I could be wrong). The route is clear; there are villages all along the way to serve food and give shelter; it is right outside of Pokara, a major city nearby and easily accessible - and by ariplane.

Okay, I need to speed this up. . . .

So this is what I did. Thianks to some great Dutch folk that I met at dinner that night, I few to Pokhara and then to Jomoson, high in the northern Annapurna region. It is the lower Mustang region really. From Jomoson I would hike back and downhill through the deepest valley in the world, between Daulgiri and Annapurna, both 8000 meter peaks. I thought it sounded like a plan. I was energized with the realization that I would finally set my feet upon Himalayan rocks. This route (only a small part of the entire Annapurna circuit) normally takes five or six days maybe - I don't remember now. I wanted to do it in four.

I didn't fly out until seven the next morning. A brilliant flight - a small twin prop plane. The airport was so funny that I wrote a a lttle story about it later. They pretty much ignore the metal detector as it sounds at every person who went through. They ask you if you have anything dangerous; you say no, and then they wave you through. I thought it was great fun. $65 for the flight.

In Pokhara, I couldn't fly to Jomoson until the next morning at six. I thought this was a bummer - but nothing to done, "nothing to be done" - I love that line. It will forever remind me of "Waiting for Godot." So I planned my route with the time remaining. I wrote a fiction (again, is it really fiction?) story about this great guy I met in the airport. I found a hike right outside of town to do with my afternoon.

After waking up at five, I was more tired than I would admit to myself. I didn't want to believe that my fitness had dropped off so badly from the spring. This was a small mountain I was climbing. I had been quite uninterested about doing a hike right in the middle of these villages, right on the side of a city like Pokhara, the second biggest city in Nepal. I should say that it is quite the opposite of Kathmandu. It is quiet; it is calm. Everything is slow. You feel like you should be napping the whole time, which is exactly what I did on my way up Sargarkat. I am not sure if I ever reached the top. I was uninterested.

It was very lush, jungly. I thought how nice it was that this mountainous area of Nepal was not occupied by cobras like the lowlands. That would be a problem; I couldn't see past my nose. I proved this by twice nearly running into buffaloe before seeing them. How do you not see a buffalo? You know me, I guess. This thought was somewhere near the top. Then I napped; then I decended. At the bottom I was crossing some rice patties, looking at nothing I can remember. Out of the roof of my vision dropped a bird closely resembling a magpie in color and size, and it dove into the path before me. As it did, it clawed at something eluding its grasp. As my eyes focused, I recognized the sleek back half of a great snake - brown, long, and conspicuously flat. It slithered into some shubs on the side of the trail, leaving its tail exposed for another instant before retracting it into the cover. I had to think about what had just happened: could that have been a cobra? Everything I felt said it was. What if that bird had not dove? And why? It was much to small to have any chance at such a serpent, though I think it was small for a cobra if in fact it was. How beaufiul that I had thought of the snake earlier. I certainly don't normally think on finding snakes. I've been thinking about alchemy and how it fits into the spiritual/philosophical theories that haunt me. It had rained an hour ago. A villager later told me that cobras have been coming out into the patties recently, and especially after a rain.

On my way home, I came across some guys playing billiards. I was tired, but I can never resist. I went over to watch, and of course ended up playing the next game. The player was good, and I played cold. The next two games I found my game and won them both. I was pleased to beat a good shooter, though he didn't play his best pool. The next morning I left for Jomoson. Or I was supposed to.

This is Nepal. If you want something done, something important, you had better take care of it yourself. This could be the theme of this trip. So I have to be at the airport at six. I don't have any alarm. When I got my room I ask it he would wake me. He said of course. Great. When I got back, I went in the office to say I needed a 4:30 wake up. The man wasn't there and there was a woman who looked none to pleased. She said that that was awful early and that I didn't really need to get up for a trek that early, surely. I said that I had to catch a plane and I surely did need to wake up that early and she had been find this of importance because my flight was the only flight to Jomoson and I was not about to miss it. I was not incouraged, but again, "nothing to be done."

I went to bed at nine quite tired.. My thoughts went crazy. I thought things, I connected things and saw things I have never seen before. Every now and again I would think, "you need to sleep. You need to wake yourself up at 4:30," but then I thought, " No, this is more important than any flight." I refused to try and calm my mind. I was getting excited. This went on for hours.

I thought that if I didn't stay up too late, I would likely be able to wake up. Bouda comes to life at five. Most monasteries start their morning pujas, or prayers, then. The sun is also coming up and the compination of these (they blow great horns and beat drums with the pujas) conspire to wake me up.

I started to sleep some time late, but woke up again around 2:45. I slept some more and woke up again at 4:20. Close enough. I got up, brushed, clothed, and packed. 4:35 - no wake up call. I walk down stairs. The door man is asleep at the gate. I am not pleased.

I will end here for today. I will finish or proceed tomorrow. I need some sleep.

16 June, 2003

In the dusty evening, I thought juggling would be a nice active sort of way to meditate. The stupa was too full at this time of day, so I thought of the soccer field. There should be a lot of kids around and they always enjoy a little juggling. So maybe it wouldn't be all that meditative. Either way would be fine. The latter proved more true.

I dropped my bag (which I unfortunately felt I needed a constant eye on) and started tossing the old hackies. Two are old hemp balls from Loose Lucy's (in Columbia) and one I got in Merida Vna. As I juggled I became the pied piper; they gathered so quickly. They wanted to learn and I tried to teach them. But they were like a pack of wolves: one never had a chance. I thought that maybe a hack circle would be more social. But at first it was utter chaos. Again, a pack, no kicking room, but a hierarchic fight for the ball. It was such fun to watch. They put their feet on the ball so well. I kept spreading them and they slowly calmed into the game. The crowd dwindled to an appropriate sized circle. I initiated the "if you use your hands, you get beaned" rule by demonstration instead of explanation. It was figured out well and became a point of great fun. I should say that I only beaned the kids in the feet to get the idea. By this point there were elderly and some teenagers around, sitting on the concrete steps around the field. The field is essentially sand and dust and sits adjacent to a school.

So we played. We succeeded at a couple of hacks as well. I was mightily impressed. Perhaps I should add that these children were ten, twelve, thirteen years old; I am not sure. Dirty, sandle wearing, all cheerful laughing, a few shy, but talented; one overly domineering; one who really liked the spinning, karate style kick, even if it wasn't appropriate; one, the youngest I think, had a killer inside left foot. He I insidently beaned for using his hands when he had just come into the game. He didn't know any better and looked a bit shocked when I tried to pelt him with the ball. I missed; I always seem to miss.

This must be one of my finest experiences in Nepal. This is why I love the "third world." It is this sort of cultural experience that transcends Nepal or anywhere: I spent an hour playing ball with eight kids, beautiful and bright, and we couldn't say a word to each other. We just played. We all knew how to go after the ball. (I do know a little Nepali, but it didn't apply except to say "my name is Jonah") Actually, that was the sort 'a sweet part, hearing them saying "Jonah" in their little-kid Nepali voices, "Namaste, Jonah."

At once I felt self-conscious being a six-foot white American playing ball with a bunch of twelve year-olds in front of a bunch of old timers, and I also felt completely natural and relaxed. We all had such smiles on our faces. I thought, "who's going to try and knab my bag when I am bringing joy to people. That bag is like a limp, I don't part with it easily. Anyway, I will have to go back more regularly, without my bag.

On a different train of experience, I wrote a story today; a short one about San Fermin. It was a lot of fun, not that bad I don't think. Certainly it is not great, but it is something down on paper none the less. Also I had a beautiful dream about the future last night. The dreams are so lucid, fluid, and clear, unhinged, loose, unbriddled - this is not what I expected from these months here, nothing of what I expected. I didn't have expectations, dificulty sure, I felt that; but I refused to think of the experience that was coming, I was too busy, and I thought I knew too little to begin to imagine it.

Well this is deteriorationg. All I meant to get across was a little of the beauty of the day, of the experience. It was fine. Other things will wait for other days. Namaste -

15 June, 2003

Let me be brief, I hope. I am tired. I decided to fast for the weekend, interesting because it was the aniversary of the Buddha's enlightenment; I didn't know that. The stupa has been full of energy all weekend, thousands of candles lit and burning around the temple, so many belevers and ascetics walking clockwise, an endless train of them.

I ate my last meal Friday night. I had started writing my first story since I've been here. It came so naturally; I wanted to write it all in one sitting, but my eyes went cross, so I stopped. That was when I discovered the stupa and the sacredness of the time.

For as long as I can remember, I have known that one of the great challenges of my life would be learning to control my mind and body. Meditation has always been a battle, unsatisfying, not restfull and rejuvinating, not a focusing, strengthing activity I know that it can be. In years past I have had to let it go, too many more immediate pressing obligations to myself. But now I sense is the time. I have started reading on the value of breathing. I practiced as I walked around the stupa.

Saturday, Johan and I met to go to pujas at the White Temple at nine a.m. Pujas are prayer ceremonies held by the monks in the temples of their monasteries. This was my first time. Indian-style sitting is so difficult for me that I was nervous. I looked at as jumping into cold water: it simply had to be done. I knew that it would get easier in time. Actually, we didn't go for pujas, but to hear the Rimboche speak. A Rimboche is very simular to a Lama - a holy man. The pujas are mantras mostly, chants with horns and drums. I sat against a back wall and focused upon a drum and meditated as well as I could. It was very enjoyable and the hour and a half passed easily. Then the Rimboche came to us, the westerners against the wall, twenty or so I'd say, as the monks proceeded out of the temple. He was a beautiful, elegant man - small, soft smile, glasses. He was adorned no differently than the others, scarlet and gold. His english was respectable, at least by Nepali standards.

His talk was enjoyable, but not surprising. He talked about intellegent calmness, contentment, rejoicing - I agreed with it all, but I wasn't pushed or challenged in thought or theory. A girl, an Austrian, I have met several times sat with me afterward and we discussed the experience. She mentioned that for the occation of the Buddha's enlightenment at the nearby temple called Pashapanath, they were having a classical music festival. It would start at three.

I went home and finished writing my story This story has brought many troubling philosophical questions to my mind concerning the impossiblity, or absurdity, of the writing life. I will not get into that except to say that it was on my mind. I walked the quiet dirt path that connects the two great temples.

I ambled around too long. I encountered too many pestering people. One grows to hate hearing the word "hello" where you are a foreigner. The lack of food made me exhaused and impatient and anoyed. The music was beautiful and facinating: tablas and a sitar. Hearing a virtuoso on tablas is truly a miracle to ear and observe. I walked home near dark very spent.

The stupa was as energetic as I have ever seen it. I was too tired to participate. I walked a semicircle around to my road, up the road, up the stairs, sat for a moment staring at the full moon rising about the mountains; I walked into my room, took off my shoes and feel into bed.

This morning I could not get out of bed. The walking really wasted me. I could not read hardly. I simply laid there, focusing on my breathing. I got up twice. Once I sat at my desk and read. Another time I sat against the wall and meditated. Around four o'clock I gently strolled down the stairs, down the street to my restaraunt to break the fast. I felt I needed the time to recover before teaching the next day. I ate slowly, a plate of rice and sweet-n-sour chicken. I wrote in my notebook. I read "The GlassBead Game" by Hermann Hesse. It is revealing itself as a facinating and fabulous book. It has a particular pertanance to my life right now. The student is just learning the importance of meditation. Hesse has created a clear dichotomy between the ascetic, devout sort of scholarly life and the rest of the world. I have felt this sort of emotion myself in the last months. School has taken on such a role, something near religious. Study has a ritualistic nature for me. The novel has great promise I think. I also read Hemingway's "A clean well-lighted place" today.

After my meal I have slowly recovered a few of my wits and a little strength as well. I went to the White Temple in time to participate in the pujas. I watched a well played "soccer" game. I enjoyed the hell out of that. There were these giant mud puddles that caused immense trouble for the players. The rest of the field was dust. There were innumerous kids, all in school-uniform sitting around, and anytime the ball would get near either goal, they would scream excitedly. Along the street we all would line up around the brick wall that separated the field from the shops. Many would sit on the wall for the better view. Regularly the ball would be kicked wide and over the posts and would sail into a shop or oncoming motorcycle - that was pretty funny. There is no "futball" in Thamel. They don't know what they are missing.

And now I am here. I don't know what is next, up to the roof maybe. i want to read some more about Magister Ludi. This book won Hesse the Nobel Prize, but I think the translation has been very weak untill recently. What I have read has been impressively put down.

What I want to do is discover my next story. I want to write two or three more before the fall so I will have a lot of my work already done. And the one I have just written is likely one that noone, a side from Nicole (she is my fiction confidant) will ever read, at least for the next twenty years. I don't know; this is my problem that I refuse to get into. Fiction is not entirely fiction is it? We all know that. And that is a problem. It is also why I write, but there are problems.

12 June, 2003

How truth tends to hide in the impossible, as the unlikeliest teacher has the most to offer, and the people you judge are those who will surprise you - I always underestimate this dictum. I can say nothing of the validity of these truisms in other's lives, but in mine, they represent a playful subplot, a running joke between me and myself. I learned this lesson my second year at Sewanee; I was surprised by two of the least likely people, people I have judged adversely (which, even then was uncommon for me). Since then I have been wary to make the same mistakes. The joke is that I always come within a hairs width of doing so; I get to the very edge of disaster and then am saved, only later learning the proximety of my doom. I laugh at myself when I realize.

To make this more real, today I wrote a long, very long email, concernig my placement, changes I had made, and requests that I expected answered. I had been patient and was sure of what I believed to be the truth of the matter. It was clear that Satish had been dishonest and unconcerned with my situation in Thamel. So today I wrote this email but I didn't finish it. Also, as an afterthought, I wanted to give Satish a chance to retract his statements before I sent a rather scathing report back to the States. To me the facts seemed obvious and rather undisputable. So I met with Satish and a conversation insued and it went around in a way that I never could have expected. He was intently compassionate and welcoming. His explications of my concerns were clear and unmistakable. In short - he surprised the hell out of me. He is paying me for my new lodgings and giving my a stipend for my meals - he offered even before I asked. It was amazing and beautiful.

The whole time I was sitting, thinking of the email that was sitting in my inbox waiting to be sent. That I remembered to take that extra step, that I remembered not to be too sure, even when every shred of the possible lay on my side, supporting my case. Reason does not have the vision to see all ends; and sometimes, every now and then, we get surprised, we get blown away by what is possible. That was my day today, and I am so thankful that I didn't take that stubborn inadvertant step, hitting the "send" buttom without giving Satish his chance. That our meeting was almost an after-thought - that is the joke, that is what never ceases to make me laugh, that I think that I know something. This to me is very funny. It is a sort of sick joke, a cyclic encounter with the mystery of life and its absurdity. It is absurd and that makes it sick, or so to speak. Truly, I love it that way. I love being taken to the precipice, pushed to the edge, toes dangling as the wind relents just then, just as reality manifests itself into my comprehention. I don't know what else to call this feeling other than exaltation, maybe - sublimity. The chasm is failure. Having the fortune to live to the fullness, to the very bounds of the possible is spiritual and dramatic. Reason was no guide, it was the siren in the breakers. Only a whimsical adherence to instinict and experience held me.

I fear I have degenerated into jargon or doggeral. Forgive me. It is just that I am still reveling in it, so unexpected. It will be sad to leave Thamel. I love the people here so. But the peace of Bouda is what I am here for. There are spiritual men who stay in my hostel. As I read on the roof last night, a man came up and chanted mantras for some time. I have the sort of roof that you can sit on the ledge of, and dangle your toes five stories about the muddy road. There are no cabs, no horns, no rap songs. There are dogs, loud barking dogs - it is always something. In Missoula it was always the trains (but I love trains - barking dogs, I dream of various sneaky ways to eliminate them).

So I will end. Jamie Blyth climbed the Salathe Wall on El Capitan for her birthday. Not bad Jamie (Unbelievable!). Wendy. . . .

11 June, 2003

Kathmandu is surely a festival for the senses, all of them. Walking down the street can be nearly overwhelming, certainly more than I can take in or begin to understand. I work in Boudanath, an area of eastern Kathmandu named for the large stupa at its heart. The stupa is circled by some number of Buddhist monasteries. The Samtenling Monastery is a small one where I teach. Yesterday I rented a room in a hostel a couple hundred yards from the monastery. The room cost me thirty dollars for the month. It has a beautiful rooftop overlooking Bouda. The quiet is palpable to me coming from Thamel, the tourist center of the city.

Bouda offers a greater sensation, a wilder feel. Everywhere monks are walking, young and old, all the same dressed in there maroon and gold clocks, donning prayer beads in their hands, smiling. The beggers strike me - I stare and smile, but I don't give. I give if I take a picture which I am starting to force myself to practice. I took two pictures of leppers today, beautiful in their tragedy. There are so many, so many faces and dresses that I want to capture and save in my memory forever. I must shoot them. It must be worth the embarassment I feel in doing so.

When I go up to a roof of a cafe or my own roof for contenplation, I can see the prayer flags draped over antennas and railings. They wave in the wind, seemingly ambivalent to anything else. They have a timelessnes to them: none of them seem new, but the older ones seem unaffected. The wind and rain are not enough to concern them. Beneath them though is the bustle of venders and beggars, cabbies, monks, tourists, and craftsmen. Signs plaster the wall sides, all variations of color.

The aromas and stenches are always forefront in my attention. It is not too much to say that the city has a general reek about it, emanating from the gutters and puddles, refuse piles along buildings, cattle dung (as cows are anywhere they wish to be) - often I don't even know where the foulness comes from. It is greater in Bouda than it was in Thamel. It is impressive really. I wonder at the sanitation and the utter lack of hygene. Yesterday I saw a child, maybe two, on a bus chewing on the dirtiest oldest one-rupee bill in the country. We don't have bills this old in the States. Will he be ill? Today I saw a child sleeping face down of a concrete slab step. In Bangkok, I saw men bathing in a river essentially of sludge and waste, water you wouldn't wish to stick your finger into, nonetheless be splashed by lightly.

So the filth is oppressive and impressive. It amazes me. My nose no longer revolts. I no long revile against it. But again, I question how these people have come to such a pass? Why have they allowed it to become this way, to accept this as the status quo? In the same breath I know the answer: poverty. South and Central America are no different. I watched an old woman eat a candy bar and casually, unthinkingly, uncaringly toss it out the window of the bus. I looked out the window at the ghastly piles of other rappers and accumulations of decades of such abuse, and wonder why she would wish to contribute to such a travesty? Again, I saw a bus boy do it in town a couple of days ago. I think they lack the luxury to care and the education to understand the ramifications of such attitudes. Is it chance that the U.S., the richest nation is also the cleanest? Cleanliness a luxury? I hope or feel that it hasn't always been this way. It is the corruption of cultures by the development of a global economy. What does Bhutan look like I wonder? Or is it already to late there as well. I went into the Venezuelan bush along the Orinoco River, where tribal men knew no spanish. But they were corrupted even there. When poverty is corrupted it festers a horrible pollution. This sight in the Venezuellan jungle was one of the most painful and disallusioning of my life: coke bottles strewn in the mud, parrots tied barbarically to trees, outboard Yamahas on the back of dugout canoes - filth everywhere, and poverty. Where was the beauty I had hoped for, where was the miracle of the past? Gone and corrupted by the ushering of a new age. This is also the streets and alleys of Kathmandu. But it is different also.

There is beauty here everywhere my eyes gaze. The costumed women simply awe me; the faces wear such character - their lives can be read through their lines and scars and wrinkles. I stare unabashedly. Around the stupa there is always a chant. It emanates from the cd shops: Om Mani Padme Hum, a chant I read in Peter Matthison's Snow Leopard years back. It is beautiful and soft, and I hear it morning and night, day after day. When I think about the noice I tolerated in Thamel, the horns and party; more over, the noice and violence of modern american music, I smile a little and laugh. It is quite the change, the change that I came to Nepal seeking.

Everything seems now to be on track, organized, understood. I walked around today, my first day living in Bouda, with a perma-smile and glow. The hostess of the small restaraunt where I ate lunch laughed at my overzeallous thanks and praise of her cooking. I stayed up so late into the night lastnight, philosophy still haunting me. But last night all clues came together, everything intersected - my eyes and heart jumped, trying to follow my mind as it tore down this newly discovered, long yearned for track. I have (hopefully) solved the riddle of the next two years of my life, maybe, almost certainly more. I will not tell. It is for me, but it is no different than the last ten years really. It is an intensification, a bringing together, an explication, an unveiling, and for me - a validation of everything.

Indeed I am in good spirits. I have more to study, more interests I wish to pursue than I could accomplish in a lifetime. To me, they all seem so elegant in themselves - and yet I can not have them all, not now. But maybe the satisfaction comes in realizing that I am twenty-five; phycially, I am not at my end, but remain early in the game. To me, this is so exciting.

I crave days such as these when the world seems so ordered, and you have the code, the understanding. The world is benevolent, sharing her secrets long hidden. More, I would say, the ordering of secrets, the clues, the many peices of myself - always isolated and out of place, and now fitting together so smoothly. Today is a fine day.

09 June, 2003

I stepped into the hostel Sunday night tired. I walked from the bus station north of town, down through the dark and narrow muddy streets as the venders closed their shops. I had bused all day. On Saturday I left Kathmandu for Pokhara, the next largest city in Nepal, about six hours to the west. I wanted to get out of town; I wanted a long bus ride through the mountains; I wanted to see the Himalaya.

Saturday Jiveen and I set out. There were no tourist buses running so we chose the adventure of the local bus, slow and over-brimmingly packed - an ethnic experience. The drive through the mountains is a rural version of the inner city driving: slow buses passing great dump trucks around narrow, steep turns. The school of fish theory, a sort of esp, is the only way I can figure these people's survival on the roads of Nepal. Somehow, they just know. Some people, clearly, are blocked spiritually because we passed the fresh corpses of head-on collisions, one serious; rear-endings, and other roadside maladies. I never found any spots where buses had tumbled off the road into the deep ravines below, but I looked.

The visual drama was rejuvenating. The mountains rose from such depths and then faded into the falling clouds. The terraces, as if penned by a delicate artist, were everywhere in the misty distance, valley floor, up the hills, to the landslide riddled heights above the windows of the bus. It was difficult not to wonder at the possible centuries that have passed, the seasons of crops yeilded by that terrace, the sagging one across the valley - has it fallen into disuse, or is it only poorly kept? The one in the valley, how old might it be?

Jiveen and I arrived to Pokhara after a few mini-adventures not worth mentioning, a long, expensive chairlift ride to nowhere worth mentioning being the main. That night in Pokhara, I did meet the man who will likely be my guide if I choose to use one for a trek in August. We shared tea together and talked about the hills that he enjoys particularly. He wore a fine smile and was outgoing in the way that has made the Nepali people famous. It is people like him that make me feel almost ashamed for the disinterest a tourist must show to the outgoing people who approach you in the street. Everyone is out for my money, everyone. It is not only the venders, but it is also the people who try to help you; they give more than you ask of them - and then they want your money. It is disheartening for me. I walk down the street like a New Yorker, eyes forward; I answer noone; I don't stop; I don't look. I may send back a "hello" or a "fine thanks" with out a break in stride. This is the way of things, the way it is and must be. In this way it is easy to forget what the Nepali is capable of, who they really may be. Last night the cook at my hostel, Dupak, took me out to a place he likes - he wanted to introduce me to the Momo (a fried sort of appetizer, beef in a blanket sort of thing). He is a freind so I was comfortable with him and wanted to buy him something - he cooks for me everyday. But before I knew it he had paid for dinner and we were leaving. It brought the humanity back to the world, the humanity I love and need. I remember a man in Central America, I do not know where, nowhere really, I was busing; the man seeing I was hungry and trying to buy a burrito - but I didn't have the right amount - he paid the vender and was gone before I understood what he had done. I didn't even thank him; he was on a bus that vanished in front of me. There went a man, innumerably poorer than myself, that bought me food. It pleased him to give to me, a stranger, a gringo, a foriegner altering his world. This pleased him. The latino world is like that; it is wonderful. And so is Nepal. Dupak reminded me; this guide reminded me.

That was a classic "Bakerian" digression. To the point. So meeting the guide was the point. Pokhara was quiet - good. We woke up, ate breakfast, and I left. Jiveen stayed to play around a bit. I had to be at the monastery the next day, so I caught the eleven o'clock local bus; I like the adventure.

There was a boy sitting next to me that I knew wanted to talk to me. But I just wanted to be quiet, alone. I have felt this way often recently, wanting to get away from people. I don't know why, maybe the noice, maybe the aggressive vending, I don't know. I was thinking about philosophy. I have had this idea for awhile, an idea that I am not going to get deep into here, about graphing the three dimensions of reality or existence. It is a sort of combination of the wave funtion I use to describe the ups and downs of energy or karma over time, and the circular nature of experience over time. It becomes a spiral, broadening and retracting. To me it is a very interesting idea, graphing reality with x, y, z - three dimentions, though the dimentions are not the point at all. Actually, the point is the bus ride. I was thinking about this philosophy the whole time as I scanned the hills for landslides and the gulches for carnage. I was quite tired when I got home.

I came in a little before dinner. Dupak was upstairs cooking. I went in and sat down with a deep long exhale. He laughed at me (or should have). As dinner was served, dahl vat as always, Johan came in. He lives here as well and teachs a large class at another monastery. What should I tell of our conversation? It was meaningful in different ways. What is proper to write in a public site? What of my heart, what of my soul should I share? What are the limits of a thing like this?

There are many questions in Johan that remind me of my younger self. Note the name simularity. He is questing, craving, nearly drowning himself seeking self-knowledge. I understand each word he says with a familiarity, with a kinship, as if they were my own dusty words. We talked long about his questions. I quietly offered answers, my answers, and he understood, or tried to; he was interested, craving answers. But he was wise enough not to accept them. He was chewing them, regurgitating them over and over until they were fully palitable and could be absorbed. Or so I hope. Still he and I are very different. He suffers in a way that I haven't. I would say he didn't have my mom is all. I hope to help him; I look forward to many such conversations. I feel as though I have a pupil; I feel as though it has been a long time since I have had the opportunity to teach someone something that is so important to me, most important. But this point brings up a sensitive deep question within myself: what doest this admit about my attitude? I will end this here, hanging.

I left the table, got my tobacco from the fridge and went out onto the dark veranda. I absorbed the horns and club music; it was the doors and ccr I think. I rolled a cigarette (NO, I am not a smoker in the general way, so don't even start. I have been smoking roughly one cigarette a week or month for years.) I sat in the relative darkness - darkness doesn't feel so dark when it is noisy - thinking about what would have followed from the end of the last paragraph. I thought about who I am, what I believe, and where I am going. Am I for real? Have I made a small mistake somewhere in the proof that tells me who I am? I thought about other things as well. Johan and I had discussed being comfortable with himself. We talked about destroying fears and the consequent building of self-understanding and self-esteem. On the veranda I remembered all the teachers and others who had given me, lessoned me, and brought me to higher levels: social confidence, courting confidence, physical confidence, scholastic confidence, a manly confidence, and sexual confidence. I remember so many transitions and eruptions, and I can see, or feel, the difference in myself. . . . . Perhaps I have passed the mark where I wished to censure myself. Indeed.

I will end. There is much on my mind, all curious and pleasurable to consider. I am happy where I am; I am happy again. I may or may not move to Bouda. I am being patient. I hope any who read this are well. Please think, remember, or pray for Lauren Smith, Lorie, Libby, Stu, Genny, Heathy, and Bob, and anyone else you love - for me.

06 June, 2003

I am unexplainably tired. The computer is unexplainably slow. All is well and my bed, though firm and sweat-provoking, is calling me forward at an unreasonably early hour of the night.

I have stories to tell but they will wait: the flashing headlights of the "absurd," the talk with Tenzing, the trip (forthcoming) to Pokhara. I feel I am forgetting already. I forgot already to write an email to Kara Bale; now it will wait as well. I want really to call my dad. If anyone nearby reads this, though unlikely, please call him and tell him all is well. I have waited for Mary Locke, but now I am unsure where she is. I don't even have Charles email, and Will doesn't check. I am alone and my father may not know I am well. THis is not good, but alas I am tired. My calling card doesn't work from this country and I don't even know the country code. Rot!

05 June, 2003

The week has snook by; I didn't believe myself when I deduced it was indeed Thursday. Tomorrow is then Friday and the harbinger of free time, my first time off in Nepal. What to do? I haven't made a plan. How the weekend has a way of slipping up on you when you are distracted by other more pressing things - like lesson plans for instance.

Today we talked futball. All the old soccer terms I could muster, we went through them all. I discovered yesterday that this is what they like to play on the weekends. The class passed like one of those small snicker's bars I love, two bits and they're gone. Lots of words - they knew many of them. As my time waned, I got out the J.D. Salinger for them to read. I enjoy hearing them. I love the bashful, shy look on there faces as each of them takes up the book from the last to read. They each stand to read; it must be the way of the monastery. I find them hansome, wearing slightly uncempt red robes of the monastic life. They are all so warm. They make my job easy and meaningful. Also they have a healthy respect for authority. Today, after I dismissed them, one stayed to ask a question. His name is Sangpo and he is one of my early favorites - especially now. He was curious about a few of my comments I made on his homework. I was so happy. I felt like Bob Baker, so anxious to have someone care about their work and to take advantage of what I might offer him.

I took my camera with me to work today. I want to start making the attempt to capture the picture of the poor, the beggar, the lepper, the cripple - the elderly lady next to the stupa, I caught her today. I gave her two rupees. I think that is the way it must be done. I am uncomfortable photographing people, but they are so beautiful that I must. The women, I can hardly tell the rich from the poor. They dress so beautifully, so traditionally in their saries. Their faces are always elegant, smooth, and thin. Their lips always defined, distinguished from all else. They never share more than a half smile - not unless you stare at them or make them laugh or blush. I love the red Hindu spot in the middle of the forehead. Today I saw a woman who had a petite ring though hers, as some actually are humped like a mole. I am still unsure if it was really a ring it was so small, but it had a glimmering quality about it. The nature of their dress, the saries and gowns, does not allow men to appreciate the bodies of the woman. But obessity is not a problem for the Nepalese. Sometimes I get to see bellies, but nothing more. Their skin is enough to see, their faces, hands, neck. I love the shadowy color. I can feel it simply by seeing it - it is soft, maybe cool and smooth, water would run smoothly over it without beading or stuggling for a path downward. They are quite mesmerizing, but the culture is still an ancient one. They do not talk to tourists, do not shake hands with men, I am ginger about even sitting next to them on the bus without necessity. That seems to be the way of it.

The men no longer dress in the the traditional way, the western style in now more popular and proper. I am not going to waste my time in describing them. Who wants to hear about men - a boring sex.

My weekend though, this interests me - what to do? I may take a bus to Pokara, a place about six hours away. It should be a fun journey through the mountains. I was a fool yesterday when I said that I could not see the mountains from the cafes. They are all around, everywhere. Living in Missoula I have become too accustomed to them that I hadn't noticed that my Rockies had become the Himalaya. I am now aware and correct myself before someone does it for me.

I have a friend now, the chap I met in the cafe and shared a ruckous of a bus ride with. He is a Kiwi, a good guy. He told me about this site to write my words. He may go out with me one of these weekends. We played a hell of some fun pool in a dive down in the shadows of nowhere Kathmandu on our walk back to Thamel. THe quality of the tables was something out of a fairy tale - perfect new felt, lively rails, flat and fast slate, large - but with the smallest pockets I have ever seen. The sides were the wider, so the stratagy changed toward the middle of the table as opposed to the ends. I never really adjusted, but my shooting improved in the corners. I won, and had a a little run that felt awfully good. But this was days ago - I digress (as Bob would say. I miss Bob. Where is Bob? Bob is my professor that has given me so much. I need to say a prayer for Bob, as well as for Libby, Stu, Genny, Lorie,and my brother Heathy - god bless them all, in whatever means this means to you. It means somethng quite different to me. Thank you Bob. Thank you Bob. Thank you. I miss Hegel.)

04 June, 2003

I saw a small round car do a u-turn today. It was magnificent. I also saw my first stoplight. There was a certain amount of comfort in it, like finding a cairn when you least expected to be on a trail, but would have hoped to be. Well it is not really the same, but I smiled about the thing. The drive has become enjoyable. Everyone is casual in what seems to me to be a wild blizzard. Perhaps that is not the right word in such heat. I am always sweating, wet all the time. The moisture of the increasing rains never allows a man to be completely dry. This is likely only true when I am in doors or on the bus. The sun blazes and bakes. Walking the streets is hot business and I drink constantly.

I am enjoying the cafe's. Perhaps it is reading the Hemingway that has helped me to relax in them. Now I will walk in and order a drink without a thought. If it is early I go to the bakery and eat a pastery and have some Nepali tea. I made up my mind that I would enjoy it and I am starting too. Very milky, sweet. I have so much time I need to be able to enjoy the cafes and teas.

I sit and think about my class. What do they need? What can I give them? What would be fun? What do I need to learn to be effective? How can I thrive and be comfortable? It is dreadful speaking and teaching something, anything which is the least unfamiliar, anything less than real understanding. The more I understand something, even my questions become more crisp, guided, and insightful.

But Karma has come back to me today. I remain ambivelant as to what tomorrow might be, I must be ambivelant, but the last two days have been rather comfortable and propitious. A girl I met here named Jo left a bag of things, random things which she didn't want to carry with here to Johannesburg. In the bag, which she left in my possesion, was the very grammer book I have been looking for, with wavering intensity, for months. I am pleased.

Class was great. The kids were involved. We read Hemingway, which may or may not have been appropriate. The end of class may have been the most enjoyable. I had nothing left so I just started asking them questions, what ever I liked: What is the biggest monastery? How many monasteries are in Kathmandu (37)? What do y'all do on the weekends? We had a nice talk that spilled into their freetime.

As I was leaving the monastery, I met Satish coming down the street. Satish is my coordinator here in Kathmandu. He is a stubborn man, proud and self-rightous. He fancies himself a fine businessman. I spoke my mind about some of my concerns with i-to-i and his work in particular. He defended himself with his same self-rightous swagger. So naturally I had to show him that I have my own swagger; he did not get the last word. I have a strong Socratic-streak in me. I have a certain disdain for people who think they know more than they do. He didn't win much. We parted with a smile but mine was bigger, deeper. It was good fun really. I went to the cafe for lunch.

I like this place called View the Himalaya. It is a rooftop cafe overlooking the Stupa. I don't know what they are talking about; I haven't seen a mountain since I got off the airplane. Perhaps it is the smog. But it is nice being up high looking down on all the venders, shops, monks, tourists, beggers, motorbikes - most of which are traveling clockwise around the stupa as is proper. And there are never people up here. I have met only one man. The waiter I like very much. He is a young kid, curious. He is a horrible waiter. He and the cooks are always sitting behind the desk playing cards. As a customer I have to be very proactive. I find it so amusing. Today I couldn't even find them. They must have been in the back somewhere. The waiter likes my Nepali phrasebook and he helps me with pronunciation. I teach him some english. Mostly I am comfortable to crack jokes that I know he doesn't get and we both laugh. The food is good. I have had chopsuey, egg rolls, today it was a good chow-mein. I spent about two bucks.

As the clouds started to arrive and I finished another chapter I headed back down the stairs and out to met the buses. I sweeped away all the cabbies and venders and made a dash across the street. I caught the number 2. Eleven rupees, or about eight cents.

Thamel, the hoarse door-boy slurred, and I climbed out of the 23 bus and tried to catch my bearings. Nothing looked right but I knew it is. All the shops looked the same, are the same. I walked down hill gazing around. A barber shop. I wanted to shave my beard. How much, I asked? Fifty rupees. Fine. I have never had anyone give me a shave. When I noticed I was nerous I decided to relax and did. I was pleased by the meticulous lathering of my beard and face, the ease with which the straight-edge blade carved my beard from my face. Hadn't Cohn just gotten a shave in Pamplona in the last chapter I read? The barber, an Indian, shaved me twice. He used all kinds of lotions and oils on my face and neck. He massaged my head. It was quite exquisite really. He then asked me if I would like a massage, a back massage, everyone in Kathmandu gives massages. At this point I could hardly say no. I've never had a barber give me a massage either. I walked out a bit wobbly and altogether pleased with myself.

03 June, 2003

Did I mention the cows before? There are cows, and they sit in the road. They are oblivious. I can't imagine how they do it. They walk along the sidewalk and graze on the garbage that piles in the gutters. They are all around town. I saw a herd of monkeys today for the first time as well.

I rather enjoyed the ride to the monastery today. I love listening to the young boys who work the buses: "Boeda,boeda,boeda. . . Boeda,boeda,boeda,boeda" None of them are over thirteen years old, most of them going hoarse. They hang out the door of the buses scanning for needy commuters. They have some aura of pride about their work, a sort of professionalism. They all have it; they share an intensity of their eyes. Sometimes it is only comical to see in a child.

I arrived to the monastery only by luck - I got off at the wrong spot, mistaking a landmark. But the stupa was only a block away. I laughed at the rare bit of good fortune. I ate a bowl of rice quickly before walking into the monastery. Tenzing, an admimistrator of the monastery, took me to my classroom. As we arrived, five young monks scuddled quickly into the room, filing behind the wooden benches. The room can only fit three, or is it two? I think is only two benches. My sixth student was absent, but Tenzing said he would surely be present tomorrow. This was my first class. I liked the look of my students. There was no resentment, or even aloofness, but a curiousity and awareness. They comforted my confidence and encouraged me. In some sense, they restored a portion of my dream - they were, or they seemed to be, the sort of pupals I had hoped for.

And for the hour, they proved to be so. They smiled and were courteous. They spoke well. Some were shy and other less so. All but two were from Tibet. The word of the day was 'repression.' We talked mostly. I hoped to hear tense shifts or faults and then work with their own sentenses on the board. This worked to pass the time and then it was over. All to soon for me.

I went back to the cafe where I had had the rice. It was a rooftop cafe overlooking the great stupa. I ordered a coke and felt very much like one of the characters in the Hemingway novel I am reading. They were always eating out. I doubt Hemingway ever cooked a meal in his life - except maybe while in a hunting lodge in the woods. Maybe I doubt that as well. I sat, drank, and read the novel, The Sun Also Rises. As the rain came I put my book in my bag and headed down to the street with all of its excitment. I catch a bus and headed home.

My problems still remain. The new one is that the monastery only wants me to teach one class one hour a day. THis is hardly work. I was told I would get at least four, maybe six hours. Last night I stayed up thinking how, if I wasn't able to get the monastery to give me a room there, I would not take the job at all and simply travel for the three months. Everything is so cheap. But then I thought how I really want to teach, and I how shouldn't worry about the commute so much. Now, with so few hours to work, I should consider my own proposal more strrongly. But having now taught a class, having started, it is much less acceptable to quit. Tomorrow I will talk to Tenzing and try to work something out. It would cost me little to pay for my own lodging nearby, and I can also look for other teaching positions in the area. But I am interested in pursuing other opportunities if I can find any. I am not excited about living in such a big city. i had not counted on it. Even the monastery is surrounded by tourists. Is this the challenge I came for? Is this what I need to experience? Maybe. I certainly won't run from it if it is. I'm not sure.

So now I am home and the sun has fallen. I read nearly half of my book today. I drank some Nepali tea. I rolled a cigarette. The horns outside never cease. I am ready for my dahl vat dinner, or rice and curry. The Nepalis are such a beautiful people. I am growing comfortable with them and this place. They love to smile and laugh; they are open and curious. They are a kind people.

02 June, 2003


PHONE: 00 + 977 + 14 + 251 + 551
- ask for room 405
- there is approximately 12 hours time difference (to SC)

ADRESS: Jonah Manning
Student GuestHouse
GPO Box 5555
Kathmandu, Nepal

EMAIL: freejonah@yahoo.com
So I have found a remedy to one more problem: microsoft word has strangely become uninstalled, at least partially on my computer. It has something to do with these foreign plugs/outlets I'm sure. Nothing has come easily in the last month. But this may be a nice remedy, this online journal that is. Using the internet is about fifty-cents an hour here - and it is right down stairs.

Kathmandu is the craziest place. Unless you have been somewhere like northern Africa or India (so I am told), you can scarcely imagine the traffic. South and Central American traffic pales, pales in comparison. Truly, it is shocking. There are no lanes, no traffic signs, no traffic laws to speak of - nothing, no police to repeal such anarchy. Bicycles, tuk-tuks (three-wheeled taxis), rick-shaws, motoribikes, cabs, buses, and pedestrians, no sidewalks, all in an old-Spain style narrow street. It is chaos! And what adds extra challenge is that, for unknown reason, the pedestrians chose to walk with the traffic as opposed to against it as we do in the U.S. So the oncoming traffic is coming up behind you, not in front where you can dodge or jump. A result is that cars, bikes, everything that has a horn is honking it continuously to give them a sense of place. Chaos. I met a girl who has been hit three times. The traffic never gets going very fast. Crossing the road is the real trick. It is like being a boulder out in a swift stream. I see old women who simply walk out and the traffic moves around them until they miraculously makes the other shore to safty. These people are brilliant. At round-abouts and unmarked crossroads I can only compare the movement to a school of fish moving together - there is no seeming sense or logic to it, but somehow everyone converges, compensates, and moves on. In a way, the chaos is sort of beautiful. (Though, it also makes me feel inadaquate as I have no idea of how I could drive in such conditions.)
However, as it stands right now, I have to commute for forty-five minutes through it to the monastery where I will start working tomorrow on the other side of town. Kathmandu is a sprawling, L.A. like, three-million people. It is very geared for tourism and the venders are aggressive like the north-africans. However, unlike many other places, these merchants have really nice wares, really beautiful things - brass work, old carved wood peices, rugs, statues. I may buy a few things to bring home. I love the brass bowls (Tibetan singing bowls).
I have met some nice people already, other volunteers mostly. I met a traveler while at lunch today who told me about this website. I hope someone besides me reads this thing.

I think the food here is very good. The restaurants are cheap: I've been spending about two dollars, two-fifty for a lot of food. Curries, Dahl, Chineses, Thai - anything wih rice or noodles. I have liked it all thus far. My included breakfast is only served at eight-thirty and consists of toast and tea - so I may be eating out for breakfast as well as lunch. I think I will be able to get my lunches at the monastery before work.
I don't know much about my teaching yet; tomorrow I will start to learn. I feel like I am starting from zero and I really don't know what they expect of me. I don't think they have pens or paper. I feel they are a bit unpleased that I am not staying longer - but they don't have anyone else. THey actually do - someone teaches the children and I will teached the more advanced class. It will be very small as the room is not much bigger than the closet I used to live in on Front St.

So I am not yet comfortable; my mind is not yet right. Everything remains a challenge, difficult, my cards are not coming up. I still think about Libby, Stu, and Genny - all have lost so gravely. I am always thinking about you. Also I am hyperconscious of these omens as they come to bare on my own life- the markers which they set for my karma. I have to be aware all the time; I can't gamble and win; I can't take the risks that so characterize my happiness - even my computer has left me, everything. Nothing is easy anymore; I am on the downswing. I feel tired. I want that good luck, the good karma, but it is no longer the time for me. This is the time where I earn it through hard work and perseverance. Anne - it is the jumping into ice-cold, ice-covered water because I know I must.
But success remains the same. All I have to do is simple: I have to read; I have to write; I have to teach. If I do these things - and I do not stop, I do not give in to resentment or anguish or frustration - my time here will reward me. Any other successes I find only augment those primaries - trekking, friendship, religious learning. This makes me smile. I know I can persevere if that is what it comes to. Honestly, this how it feels right now. THings change but this stage is new in my life. Everything has been so good for so long. School has been such a gem, such ease and beauty. I have been riding a high happy wave for a long time, longer than I can remember being on top for so long, my wave length has grown as I have grown. I hope the down stretch does not last for a simular duration. Even if it does, the wave is rising. The downcycle feels as the upcycle once did.

I am so excited for the fall. I miss Wendy and I have so much in school I want to get back to. I have new friends that are exciting; I love my house; I love the opportunities that are coming my way in Missoula right now.

I think I am more in the present than I may sound. A new friend and I got lost on buses trying to get back to Thamel (where I live) and had an excellent adventure. We wound up on the opposite side of town playing billiards in an alleyway saloon on the nicest table I have seen in years. It was great. That is what I love about traveling. Strangeness. I haven't laughed so much in three months probably. I think the bus enjoyed our laughter.

Since I don't know how to work this site, I am going to stop and figure it all out. I have been rambling but it has been fun. I really haven't written since I left LA. I haven't even said a think about Bangkok - I got bit by a fuckin dog - the bastard! I saw some sad things and then lost all of those pictures. Nothing is easy, you see. THere is only one, that only now, I realize I will miss: a baby a sleep, alone, in the rain on the side of a street in the night.