I feel like I’m not only walking down the hill that is the end of my trip, I am running and can’t slow down. The end of my time here will come far too soon. Of course, being in good company helps. After a month of being mostly alone, I’ve found a team.
My first impression of Nepal is “Why is everyone so nice? Are they trying to scam me out of money?” the answer is no, I’m just not in India anymore. While in India, one must really push their way through crowded areas or be swallowed alive by the rushing crowd and I got used to being impatient and shoving my way down sidewalks. In Nepal, there is a lot less pushing and the people are often very little, so it is important that I squelch that habit.
I’m volunteering for two weeks, teaching English to monks on a monastery here in Kathmandu. The monks are little kids, don’t you start imagining me chanting and exchanging cultural experiences with wise old monks. No, no it’s the same old “Teacher! Teacher! He Hitting!” “No pen Teacher!””Teacher! Toilette!?” And other things that are a lot more tolerable coming from these shaved-headed, beady-eyed monsters in monk clothing. They are really fun to teach, but a reminder of why I can’t go into the teaching profession and my disbelief that teaching isn’t the highest paid position on the planet.
I’ve met several other volunteers with the program here, but two of them have officially become my team.
It only takes a second to be drawn to Raluca. That isn’t exclusive to me, strangers we meet are captivated by her confidence and her majestic story. Meeting Raluca was like meeting a “what if?” She left her job one year ago and started traveling. She started off at a yoga ashram in Thailand and was there for 5 months. Then she traveled to a few more countries and went to India for three months where she met her baba. She spent time with the baba, learning the holy man lifestyle in India. He couldn’t understand why she was a project manager at a cosmetics company before “why you spend energies on a lipstick?”
I’ve seen the hippies that dare enter the babas’ tents and they were an anomaly to me, but Raluca has a good sense of humor and a healthy dose of skepticism. My kind of girl. It’s fun to think “What if I keep going? What if I be like her and go as long as I can?” We laugh at the westerners wearing name brand “dirty” clothes and finding enlightenment after they open their chakras.
And then there’s Siddarth. He’s from South India and probably freezing here in the reasonable temperatures. He’s a very smart kid. He’s 18 years old and taking a gap year before he starts his studies at Oxford. A gap year, I’ve learned, is something a lot of European kids do. They take a year off before they start college and travel, work or experience life before they dive back into the books. It sounds like a great idea. I feel some sort of older sister-like obligation to make sure he gets the most out of his gap year. We’ve talked him into traveling with us to Pokhara after our volunteering is over. He’s having a blast traveling with two hippies “We are not hippies! You have no idea!” “I just texted my friends and told them I’m traveling with two hippies. Look! They’re jealous!” He’s started buying “white people clothes” not western clothes like what you’re sitting at home and wearing, this kid is more American than I am “How do you not have What’s app!?” “Oh yeah, the baby boomers are all in Florida”. He bought tourist clothes, Buddhist prayer beads and a monk-style bag so he looks like a tourist. Like us. I’m choosing to take it as a compliment that someone would consider me a hippie, but any hippie swimming the the Ganges will tell you that I’m a Novice and not likely to find a clear path to enlightenment in this life. Maybe next life.
So I’m not alone, but I’m scared to think about the day when I fly home. I called the airline “How much to change my return flight?” “A lot. A fucking lot. Get a job.”
Photo credits go to Siddarth this week. Thanks kid!