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Train Dreams

Cumberland Steam Engine Photo by Caroline Blizzard
Cumberland Steam Engine
Photo by Caroline Blizzard

The ghostly whistle of a lonesome train floats into the thin night air and frees my restless heart from its cage.

Somewhere in the near distance, tracks laid on the land by the hard toil of men nestle themselves into the soft earth with the shimmy and shake of each passing giant, leading men to freedom and hope.

Brisk nights nip at the heals of days filled with toil and purpose, while visions of grandiose lives and forgotten tycoons tug at the corners of wandering minds.

The train’s whistle seeps into the night and into our dreams and into our hearts, at once embracing us as captives yet freeing us as dreamers.

Living in a Fog

June 7, Lukla, Nepal

As the sun rose this morning it was visible and so were the mountains, then minutes later, a thick fog rolled in. But, it’s not thick enough to drown out the chanting and horns from the monastery many blocks away. At 11,500 feet, these are actually clouds. When it rains here, it gets very cold, and last night I had on every piece of clothing I had brought for below freezing temps. Fortunately this morning, it’s back to two base layers and my alpaca sweatshirt.

At Pema Choling Monastery, there were three boys with spreading infections that worried us. With one lifeguard, one pre-med students, and of course I’m certified in blood-borne pathogens in 5 states, we decided it was probably staf. There were no appropriate antibiotics in the monastery’s first aid kit, so we talked to the head monk and explained that a hospital visit was necessary. So when I saw the three boys come trotting down the path yesterday, I was very pleased. They had made the 4 hour walk to Lukla and were on their way to the hospital. Several hours later, I collected them and brought them to the lodge for tea. Monks are very respected here in Nepal and it was fun to see the reactions they get from people out in public. Even the Sherpa who runs the restaurant was very excited to join us. Afterwards, I sent Lakpa, Lodon, and Jingme on their way with some Smarties chocolates and some money for soap and bandages. They were all very happy and took off running. So cute! I will miss them!

The other notable thing yesterday was a Starbucks! Right here in the Himalayas! It was super clean, which is something of a rarity here, AND they offer a shot of liquor in your coffee if you want it! Funny! I teated myself to a mocha which was wonderful and the first cup of coffee I’ve had since arriving in Nepal! I also got a slice of cheesecake which looked good, but had no sugar in it and just tasted weird. At the lodge I got the first hot shower I’ve had since arriving in Nepal. It only lasted a few minutes, but was absolutely wonderful! I figured I’ll be here several days, why not splurge and get a room with a bathroom attached. It’s costing me $21 a night and comes with anything I want for breakfast. This morning my stomach does not want to be adventurous so I’m going with the foreigner’s breakfast: milk tea, cornflakes served with hot milk, a fried egg, and toast with yak butter and jelly. Then on to the monastery for the festival!

Living Among the Clouds

Friday June 6th 2014 Lukla, Nepal

4:45am: the birds start chirping and light begins to move into the sky, comfortable like an old friend. The 1st recognizable image I see is the very top of a Himalaya covered in snow. I turn, and two minutes later, it’s gone. It’s huge magnificence totally hidden in a cloud as if it just disappeared, never existed. Then, in the distance a giant mass of white moves into the valley. I mistake it’s eery presence for smoke from a chimney, until I’m shocked into realization by the sheer size of this thick white mass. As my attention moves across my plane of perception, I’m almost startled and delighted at the same time, by the bright pink geraniums just feet infront of me. During the day, they are almost unnoticeable, but now, against this massive white and grey canvas, they jump out, almost scream out as if the whole picture was being seen through a lens with a color filter.

Now time for my Sherpa breakfast! A cup of better tea, chhampa porridge (kind of like cream of wheat with rice), Sherpa bread and jam, and two slices of yak cheese. Then shaky legs please carry me, to the morning puja (prayer) that will kick off today’s leg of the festival at the Lukla monastery.

note: there are several blogs prior to this that I need to type and post.

Solidarity…the beginning:

Monday June 2nd 2014

We are thick with volunteers now. Two women and one man at the monastery and a woman at the orphanage and school. We women are all staying at the lodge. I’ve been so cooped up with being sick I had not had the opportunity to do much talking or meeting for that matter, but today I woke up wonderfully rested with half a course of antibiotics in me and ready to go. Our new addition is from the US, but was born in Kathmandu, so to her benefit and disadvantage, there is no language barrier. The long and short of it is, we have all come across the same hurdle with being detained at the orphanage and school. The poor kind woman who is actually assigned to the orphanage and school has been working 14 hours a day and has now caught something from the kids as well. She was told, as I was, to eat some soup and come back to work. We girls had a little shoulder to shoulder and explained that one must really put their foot down around here. Our new addition was having a conversation with her mother, explaining that I was sick and she was unsure as to whether she would make it to the monastery because the solution offered was to stay here and work the guess what. Fortunately, her mother caught on right away, and asked to be put on the phone with the people in charge. In Nepali, her mother explained to our host, that she had paid for the monastery and that is what her daughter was going to experience. We seem to be straightening things out around here! But wait till I tell you about the marriage talk!

Fortunately for me, I’m wearing a ring and am out of the question…thought that might come in handy. Well, I had a warning. I read the blog of a girl who spent 3 or 4 months here and said towards the end, they insisted she wear the traditional clothing. Well, once she had that on, she was paraded around and offered as available! She said simply that it was very awkward. Well, our poor kind young woman with the school and orphanage assignment was given traditional clothing her 3rd day! It is now being insisted she wear it every day, so we hipped her to the meaning behind that. The girl who speaks Nepali was told in no uncertain terms that she was to take a Nepali husband and take him back to the US. Now mind you, we’re in a very isolated part of the country. Anyway, we were talking with the male volunteer at the monastery today, and he said they were fixing him up with a specific girl, but when he told them he’d want to stay here in this beautiful place and live, they became uninterested. Very funny considering the one girl who actually did run away with a Nepalese…monk, is the reason us girls can’t stay at the monastery anymore!

If you want to come here, I certainly wouldn’t let it stop you, but for me, it did help to have a warning of the things I might encounter. Now to bed as I’m not fully recovered yet. Oh, and they apparently turned the internet off for the rest of the year! So, I can only post simple things through the cell network. All pictures will be through Instagram and writings will be here…when they will go through!

Friday May 30th 2014 Ghat, Khumbu Region, Nepal

It is an absolutely gorgeous day here high in the Himalayas! The peaks of the mountains are revealed as clouds slowly drift away, and the sun shines bright. From the yard of the lodge where I’m staying I can see snow capped summits while listening to the single bells of wandering cows, or the multiple bells of yaks or donkeys carrying supplies.

I’m pretty sick with some sinus thing I picked up from the kids and have been in bed for over 48 hours, so I’ve come out for a moment, to enjoy the sun, and revel in the beauty of this place. I sit haggard on a bench in the back, hair blowing in the breeze. Ha! That should be in a song. Maybe is. Maybe even a Haggard song! The clothes are drying on the line and the bees are buzzing happily around my aching head. I can’t smell it now, but I know from before that it smells of fresh cut wood, rich soil & earth, and pine trees. In this corner of the world it is unbearably beautiful. A beauty that takes the breath of all, and moves grown men to tears. If I weren’t a being whose sheer existence depends on utter freedom right down to the soul, I would’ve been able to write like this for you days ago. Speaking of, I am very pleased that so many of you are interested in following my adventures, and I thank each of you for your intrigue.

Here in the Everest Region of Nepal, one does not stray far from the beaten path. I suppose it’s due to the rapidly changing weather and harsh environment. There is but one path to Everest Base Camp, and I’m living in the first quarter of it. All towns are built around this steep rocky path that at times is no wider than a goat trail, and all people and animals travel it. From my window, I watch trekkers from all over the world with their Sherpa guides. I watch lines of yaks or donkeys, school children headed to or from school, monks down from the monasteries, travelers, explorers, climbers, and many many Sherpas carrying impossible loads, traversing boulders, sand, mud, and the ubiquitous stone steps that occur regularly. It is not a tale or legend, these people are some of the sturdiest in the world. And the place is gorgeous beyond imagination. You need only open your eyes to be awed!

Big Trouble in Little China

You know, the movie from the 80’s…

To post or not to post…
Well, I promised to bring you the whole experience…the truth and nothing but, so here goes:
Sometimes it seems nothing in life is without issue, but I guess we humans would become complacent if everything ran smoothly. For the past 4 days, I’ve been fighting for my assignment; the one I payed for and traveled half way across the world for. During our hike into the mountains, my host family father informed me I would not be going to the monastery at all, but instead teaching at the orphanage and school he owns…for 14 hours a day! My assignment says I’m to teach English to monks in a monastery for 2-4 hours a day and have the evenings and Saturdays to myself. I was given many different reason as to why this change was necessary. Now mind you, I’ve gone through four months of gyrations putting this whole trip together because I wanted to spend time with monks in a monastery and learn about Buddhism. This whole trip is inspired and sponsored by the religious studies department of my school. My scholarship dictates that I do exactly what I came for. AND, I definitely don’t need practice babysitting!

I guess I didn’t expect to find this sort of thing in a country where everyone is so bent on being polite and making sure everyone is ‘happy’…Nothing like a good battle of the wills with a healthy language barrier! Somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered the other volunteers mentioning the last two girls on this specific assignment had some sort of problem, so after four days of trying to work it out on my own, I wrote the Kathmandu office. Then I called. It seems as though I will be allowed to start my assignment tomorrow, the 5th day after arriving. Perhaps I will no longer feel like a prisoner in this gorgeous land, having my every move watched and having to escape to brush my teeth. It has been morally difficult for me to challenge the people who are “taking care” of me, but they were also trying to take advantage of me. Now don’t get me wrong, the kids are very cute and somewhere behind all the strings, it’s a noble cause, but I didn’t pay to work 14 hours a day watching children. I have my own purpose I worked very hard for. I guess the moral is, don’t let others deter you from your purpose, and don’t be afraid to speak up and get what you came for.

 

Rawan Sadhu

I went to Pashipatinath again, this time with my Nepali class, and it was awesome again! This time I got a picture with a Sadhu that is a devotee of Rawan (Hindu satan). So there are different Sadhus (Hindu Holy Men), who are devotees of different Hindu gods. Rawan, was a Hindu god who is a devotee of Shiva, one of the main gods. Rawan has magical powers and many weapons. He is extremley knowledgable and is therefore depicted with either 9 or 10 heads and 2 ears that represent his knowledge of the 4 Vedas (Hindu Holy texts) and the 6 Shastra. He is an antagonist and wanted power over the gods so is sometimes depicted with 9 heads, because he had to sacrifice one to Shiva. Apparently, every time he

Rawan Sadhu
Rawan Sadhu

cut it off, it would grow back.