Well, I have been getting some periodic requests to post an update as now some friends and followers know I am traveling abroad again. To me though, it’s just living. I have this dance with life, and the floor I dance on isn’t limited to the corner~
There has been a whirlwind of movement this past month, and it’s not normally how I have moved in the past. These years, I enjoy finding a special beautiful place and setting up shop there for a month, where I can enjoy community, do my work and eat new exotic foods. Well, for the Month of May, my travel has been~ USA-Netherlands-Belgium-Qatar-India and now Nepal. Tomorrow it’s Jordan and Israel.
I’m used to it, and can manage and adapt myself at the drop of a mango. Yet, it does take some energy. Currently, I am writing from the town of Nagarkot, Nepal. From this mountain village, one can see 360 degrees of Himalayas. I am in the “Ganesh Cottage,” my little house for a few days. It has nice views from the cottage, and has some prayer flags sprinkled through it along with fabrics. My hotel is called “Hotel at the End of The Universe.” With a name as such, I had to stay there ~ It’s owned by a Nepali / Dutch couple and it’s a tranquil place.
Some friends have asked me, “Why India?” And, the simple answer is, I felt the pull of my spirit to go there again. I had gone there ten years ago in 2004 serving with as a volunteer for 3 months. That time was life changing for me, and I was curious to see how this vibrant and massive country called India has changed and continue my experience with it.
As an American citizen, I was able to obtain a 5 year multiple entry visa, and so I can move in and out of this vast and rich land as much as I want for the next few years, so this trip was not about “seeing it all.” I sort of used to move that way when I was 18-20, but now I just like picking a few spots and “soaking” it. So I flew to Mumbai, stayed a few days there. Flew to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and stayed there a couple days too. Then it a train up to Siliguri, there I caught a land rover to Darjeeling, the mountainous town famous the world over for its tea.
It was a diverse town, with a mix of Tibetans, Gorkhas, Nepalis and Indians. The entire town is built on a steep incline of a mountain, and my guesthouse sat right on the top. I worked on my writings there, and took a 5 day trek through the Singalila National Park/Ridge. I hired a Sherpa named Tsering and together we hiked about 10-11 miles a day, stopping in very little Himalayan villages for tea and meals. The highlight for me was the opportunity to see with my own eyes the highest mountain in the world: Mount Everest.
Another highlight so far for me has been to reconnect in person with a friend I made ten years ago in Calcutta. His name is Brother Francois, and he is a Franciscan priest serving the poor in the city. Most of his work revolves around addressing the needs of orphans living in the train station and also visiting those in the hospital who need support of any kind.
When I volunteered with him ten years ago, it became the most intense day of my life as I saw the reality of a broken hospital system. I saw people who could have survived with available care, die and witnessed also the reality of young boys living on their own in a harsh environment.
Since then, Brother Francois has been doing this work EVERYDAY. To me, he is one of the most courageous and kindest humans I have met on this planet. When I surprised him, he was overjoyed to see me. And I came to a realization that I had not been aware of. As I talked with Francois, he made it clear to me that one of the main reasons he continued with his work in Calcutta in 2004, was because of my willingness to go volunteer with him when he asked me in the Mother House (Where the sisters of Mother Teresas order, Missionaries of Charity, live). At that time, he was still exploring the idea, since he was from France. The funny thing is, is on that particular day in 2004, I felt a strong pull in my spirit to go the Mother House. I was serving in an orphanage far away, and even though all the international volunteers met there each morning for breakfast before volunteering, I would not go because I needed to ride the bus for 45 minutes to get to the orphanage I was serving at. Nonetheless, I felt a pull early that morning to go. And that morning I met Brother Francois.
I knew then I would have a friend for life, and through these past ten years my family and I have sent clothes to the children he serves. And, for the short couple days I had to spend with him in Hot Calcutta a couple weeks ago, I was blessed and also reminded of realities. I was reminded, because I went back to a hospital with him where he serves. There, I had flashbacks of the lack of cleanliness and care available. The elevator had dried blood in all the corners, the casualty ward had used gauze, urine and dust on the floors. The beds were simple and each patient, was just sitting up, basically getting what care they could from their family members, and an occasional checkup from a physician. I actually didn’t see any there, but it was towards the evening. What I did see, was a young man named Sambath. He was extremely thin and only had his Mother to offer what little care she could. Sambath had rectal cancer, and it was terminal. For a man who was 22 years old and was just in med school the year before, it was a difficult site to see. This is something a normal citizen of my home country just doesn’t get to see. Untreated cancer in your face.
I was stronger to accept the reality than my last time ten years ago, but it reminded me of the fragility of life and how life is valued in other places. I gave Sambath a postcard from Hawaii that had a couple Hibiscus flowers on it. I hoped he would find peace until he moves on..
While the hospital visits were still melancholy, the next day Francois invited me to speak to the boys from the station. He gathered them together and for a couple hours I shared with them lessons of geography, and showed them photos of my travels around the world on my laptop. They were fascinated to see images of massive Redwood trees, European architecture and scenes from the movie “Samsara,” a movie that travels around the world. My intention was to expand their horizons a bit, and by all the smiles and affection after, I think I succeeded.
There of course, are other highlights, such as traveling in the Netherlands with my Mom, who is Dutch and had not been back for 39 years, and visiting a tea factory in Darjeeling but for now I will sign off. A new adventure awaits, and another dream will be fulfilled: To pilgrimage to Israel.