Reunions

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This blog entry about the events of Sunday, October 24, 2004 was originally posted on October 26, 2004.

DAY 372:  I was awake in my room that morning, ready for another boring day of recuperation — until there was a knock on the door.

“Yeah?” I said, the way Seinfeld speaks into the intercom when his apartment gets buzzed.

“It’s Tilak.”

My former Everest trail guide was all freshened up with a new button-down shirt and fresh smile.  I hadn’t seen him in days, although it seemed like a lot longer.  I invited him in and we caught up on our recuperation days since our rescue from the Pheriche clinic in the mountains.  Tilak caught me with my laptop out and so, as promised, I burned him a CD of all the photos of our trip together, from the pictures at Kathmandu airport trying to get a flight to Lukla, to the shots back in Kathmandu after the helicopter rescue.

“What are you doing today?” Tilak asked me.

“I have to go to the American embassy.”

“And after?”

“Nothing.”

He offered to be my guide yet again, this time to see sights around the Kathmandu valley and I gladly accepted.  We made plans to meet at 12:30.


MY ENCOUNTER WITH TILAK wasn’t the only surprise reunion I had that day.  At the Northfield Cafe in town, I was sitting at a table by myself when I noticed two faces staring at me from across the way.

“Erik?” said the guy.  “It’s hard to recognized you without The North Face jacket on.”

“It’s the hair.  I got a haircut.”

“Right.”

Kenny and Julia, the English couple that helped save me on the Everest trail, had literally just landed back in Kathmandu from Lukla, checked into a nice hotel (to splurge after roughing it for weeks) and went to the Northfield Cafe (one of the more notable eateries in Thamel with its lovely garden setting) for a bite to eat.  I had forgotten that in the days I spend recuperating that there was time for people to proceed with the standard Everest tour as planned — hike back to Lukla via Namche Bazar and fly back to Kathmandu from Lukla.

“So what did I miss?” I asked the pair.

“A lot of groups are up there now,” Kenny informed me.  “Big Chinese and Japanese ones.  There’s this one guy at Lobouche walking around in circles telling everyone he’s okay.  Lots more helicopter traffic too.”

I was late to meet Tilak, so I grouped a quick photo with the life-saving couple.  Before departing, Julie reminded me that the whole experience would be “good material for [my] book.”


TILAK AND I WALKED OUT OF THAMEL on the nice sunny day for the half-hour walked to the American embassy — that’s the real one, not McDonald’s.  It was our first “trek” since the Everest one and it was still hard to breathe — this time not from the altitude but from the smog and air pollution of Kathmandu.  The embassy was finally open after having been closed for both American and Nepali holidays (Columbus Day, Dashami) and I walked into the tiny waiting room by the gate of the compound, toting my US passport like an FBI agent so there was no mistaking me from a Nepali.

My passport got me passed the next security checkpoint where I was led into a dim, semi-circle-shaped room that was a dreary as an empty DMV office.  I eventually made it passed there after they probably secretly ran a check on me, and was escorted by the female Nepali officer to the consulate services area.  On the way I saw that the embassy was actually nice-looking despite the bleak exterior, with a big central square with Old Glory proudly waving above.  It felt good to be reunited with U.S. soil again, even if there was no lingering scent of McDonald’s french fries around.

The purpose of my visit was to find out about overseas ballots and the woman there gave me a form and instructions, and told me I had until 8 p.m. of Election Day to get my vote in.  I was registered in New Jersey (What exit?), which I’d heard became a swing state and I wanted to do my part.  How awesome would it be if my vote actually did count and determined the next U.S. president?  The yak and horse that saved me would be hailed as heroes by the Democrats — or perhaps hailed as left-wing liberal scum by the Republicans.


WITH THE ONLY ERRAND I had for the day done, Tilak and I went to finally go sightseeing.  We hopped in a cab that took us on the outskirts of the eastern part of town, to the Pashupatinath, the holy area dedicated to Pashupati, one of the Hindu god Shiva’s many incarnations on earth — the “holiest Hindu site in Nepal” according to Let’s Go.  Leave it to our timing to be hit with another does of morbidity; we arrived just as a somber cremation funeral was underway, with a crowd of concerned, melancholy onlookers.  From what we saw, Tilak deduced it was the funeral for a parent (the body was covered in cloths and wood so we couldn’t tell the gender) who had passed away, leaving three sons behind.  The three sons, dressed down in loincloths, blessed themselves with the holy water of the nearby Bagmati RiverThe three men circled the body and blessed it, weeping and sobbing until each of them reached his threshold and really started bawling and wailing their eyes and lungs out in a sad, depressing and almost haunting way.  They were oblivious to the people all around watching, including the French tour group that, like me, respectfully only snuck in a couple of photos.  The more the men cried for their loss, the more sad the overall mood got; it was one of the more tender moments on The Trip thus far.  The three lit the body on fire, wept to the heavens and were escorted out.  The decoration of the body were thrown into the Bagmati while the scent of burning flesh and wood filled the air.

“You want to stay or go?” Tilak asked.

“Uh, let’s go.”

We walked passed the shrines of Shiva (picture above), up a hill and down to the Hindu-only Gujeshwari Temple, believed to be where the deity Sati was hacked into pieces by Lord Vishnu.  The somber mood of the funeral was lightened with the presence of the whimsical monkeys of all ages all over — except for when I tried to take a photo of one.  The monkeys, with fairly comprehensible brains and personalities, didn’t exactly like their idea of me pointing the camera at them, like this one that tried to jump me with its sharp monkey fangs.  Tilak pulled out his keychain and held it like it was a switchblade and the aggressive little bastard backed off.

“The Hindus respect the Buddhists and the Buddhists respect the Hindus,” Tilalk the Buddhist-respecting Hindu said.  It was the harmony of the two religions that gave Nepal its appeal to the spiritual traveler.  According to Tilak, a Hindu could pray at a Buddhist temple and vice-versa.


FROM THE HINDU PUSHPATINATH we took a cab across town to the west, weaving in and out of the sacred cows in the middle of the road, to the Buddhist Swayambhunath, the “holiest place on earth for Newari Buddhists” (Let’s Go), home of the big Swayambhunath stupa atop a hill with its Buddha’s omnipresent eyes overlooking the entire Kathmandu Valley.  Nearby was an area with many Buddhist prayer flags hung up, so much that (no offense here) it looked like the grand opening of a used car dealer.

Tilak and I took in the views and then walked down to see the Thousand Buddha Stupa and the Amideba Buddha, which Tilak called “the biggest buddha in the world.”  (Mind you, he didn’t get out of Nepal much.)  The sky got more and more overcast as the afternoon wore on and I even heard a thunder in the distance.  Soon it started to rain, so we just head back to Thamel.  On the way to the hotel, I saw another familiar face from the Everest trek, Canadian Greg, as we zipped by the narrow streets.  It looked like most of the people I had met in the Everest region were safe and sound now, back in the capital city. 

It pretty much rained that evening, leaving me to my hotel recuperation room once again.  It was good to finally get out there that day to get some fresh air, even if it was polluted with the smog of combustion and the smoke of burning flesh.






Next entry: On The Way To Delhi

Previous entry: Nepali Again




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Comments for “Reunions”

  • The last pick doesnt open in a new window.  also too much text is contained in the link

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  09:10 PM


  • The last pic doesn’t open in a new window, also too much text is contained in the reference and does not display properly.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/25  at  09:13 PM


  • Yeay for life-saving couples!!

    The monkeys pic has a very large-looking monkey in it… yeeks…

    Glad Tilak is better - and you too!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  09:35 AM


  • I for one have to say that I’m impressed by the effort you would go to while traveling around the world to vote in the election. Good for you!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  06:19 PM


  • ROBIN:  Easier said than done; I just tried to fax my absentee ballot application just minutes ago, but the Feds won’t pick up the call…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  06:32 PM


  • Any post with monkeys is A-OK…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/26  at  09:01 PM


  • ... A barrel of fun!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/27  at  07:29 PM


  • That’s b/c they know who your vote is for… damn them!

    This election stuff is scary. I’m curious as to what the rest of the world thinks about it. Especially with all the verified talk of: CIA, FBI AUTHENTICATE NEW QAEDA TERROR TAPE; ABC NEWS EXECUTIVES CONSIDER POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF AIRING: The CIA and FBI late Wednesday authenticated a disturbing new Al Qaeda videotape which warns the next terror attack will dwarf 9/11. “The streets will run with blood,” and “America will mourn in silence” because they will be unable to count the number of the dead, a man claims on the video. Further claims on the video: America has brought this on itself for electing George Bush who has made war on Islam by destroying the Taliban and making war on Al Qaeda.

    So, what do people think there??

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/28  at  02:09 AM


  • NOELLE - a lot of people think it is a bunch of media nonsense.  And, I think a lot of people overseas don’t really care about another terrorist attack in the States. I suspect many even think the US has it coming.

    Posted by Liz  on  10/28  at  06:32 AM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today, RickSteves.com, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.


Next entry:
On The Way To Delhi

Previous entry:
Nepali Again




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