I sit on the second floor balcony of the Gangapurna hotel on my first full day in Besisahar. Nepali music, with its chiming rhythm, plays across the street. An afternoon pre-monsoon rainstorm has blown in and it sticks around. The wind blows through my hair. I’ve always liked the word tempestuous for these kinds of gusts. Tempting air hints at the greater power behind it. There is so much sound here. It is different than Kathmandu. There are the chirping birds, the calling kids, and the rolling wheels on wet pavement. The foot traffic is endless. I watch two teenage boys pass by in gym shorts—one’s arms on the other’s shoulders. I have friends on other balconies. All are peering down at the entertaining life of the afternoon. It seems everyone has a companion. You work with your family and travel with friends. Independence, or our version of it, does not exist. Plastic, worn prayer flags stretch across the rooftops—dancing against the pinkening sky. The last light has left thin, bright gaps that line the distant ridges against the grey-ed sky. Kids dash between storefronts—skipping over puddles and stray bricks. Potted plants border opened windows and colorful, patterned walls make up multi-storied homes. I think of the mountains, the Himalayas. I longed for them on the trek. They were ultimate. But here, on this thin, dry ledge, I am captivated by the Himalayas of people--each person full of a “mountain-worthy” life force. I hear bright giggles of children below me, just out of sight.
Today I slurped up my first Besisahar mango. I cut into it with my Opinel knife (thanks Ficklen!) and bit into the juicy sweetness. It was energizing to amble through town for lunch. I am quickly learning that the key to unlocking Besisahar magic is acting, and exploring, and engaging. It is humid here. We melted back towards the hotel.
I have discovered that I love learning language. I expected to be frustrated with Nepali as I am comfortable with Spanish. In the beginning, I somehow was thinking in Spanish as I attempted to translate meanings. Now, I enjoy our language lessons and crave more practice and vocabulary. As my homestay begins tonight, my acquistion is a matter of survival.
In the afternoon, Michael took me up to Maigum. It was a gift to be with him in his return after a year of distance. I love these moments—when sustaining memories return to life. We are fed by the visions and sounds of a place once loved, until again, we can return. We walked the path and he shared how many times he has dreamed of this path—of returning along the winding road. As we turned the first s-curve, we were greeted with excited shouts “Mike-uhl!” Two young boys, Sitaraam and Sunnil waved at their “dai” [older brother]. I looked at Michael, wide-eyed and wordless, as I marveled at how the little boys remembered this white man’s face for an entire year after only two weeks of knowing him.
It was wild walking up with this group. I walked alongside Michael, my skirt bunched in my hands. The little ones moved around us. I felt like an anthropologist! The boys spoke with Michael excitedly as I picked out familiar Nepali words and then Michael turned to catch me up in English. I think a lot of the conversation I was able to intuit even without understanding the verbal language. Just by the rhythm and expressions, I could follow the movement of the interaction.
We walked the path and found Michael’s aamaa [mother] carrying fodder back down to Besi. We crossed the swollen creek as two water buffalo poked their heads out from a deepened puddle. We climbed up impressive stone staircases and through terraced cornfields. I looked across the valley at the opposing ridge. A goat parade of whites, browns, and spotteds tramped along the thin trail. I followed behind Michael’s gingerly placed flip-flopped steps.
I couldn't get over how special it was to be with Michael as he encountered these familiar faces. So many excited “Namaste”’s. Just as we entered into the village, it began to pour. We were soaked. At one point, Michael turned and asked if I wanted to put on my jacket. We laughed as we both knew it was too late for this. And what a place, to know that here, it really does not matter.
The village is set in the hill and as we climbed through the many “front porches” of Pariaar families. We looked back down on Besi as the sky cleared. It was breath-taking. Not so much natural beauty but more so the vision of these people set in a wild place—together. As we made our way back down the hill, my eye caught a huge grasshopper right under my skirt. We paused to admire, before continuing our walk. Before long, I spotted a thick black linear movement along our path. I looked down to see thousands of ants following this obscure, winding line across the path. Hundreds of them, one after another, none breaking ranks as they made their way across to the other side. We made it back to Besisahar, still soggy, but drying and full of hopes for our next two weeks.
Home is in North Carolina. But, I take seriously Wendell Berry's imperative, "Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction."