Thu 7/28, day 43
It was not a good night for me. We had a flip flop in bowel health – Amy was now fine but I had slept very poorly, having tried to ignore the rumbling for a long time but unable to… by the time 2am came around it was an emergency… and it was raining hard. Not only is it uncomfortable pooping in a squatty potty – it hurts my knees, it’s hard to get up – but the added inertia of not wanting to get up and get shoes on and get through the rain made it worse. And I couldn’t fall back asleep. I was praying and thinking about earthquakes and landslides and the other hikers from the US who had to stop partway up because of the weather and the size of their group. I had to get up again at 5am. Somehow I slept a little bit after that. But I was not feeling well throughout the day, and felt disconnected because of that.
Before we left GP, our second ama/mum cooked us a special breakfast of nettle soup. It was vibrant green and goopy with lots of garlic and some special wild peppercorns, and it was supposed to be good for stomach issues and have tons of iron, so I accepted the second helping gladly. The wild peppercorns make your tongue tingle and then go numb when you chew on them. They chew on them for sore throats and stomach aches and to pass the time while they’re trekking. After asking Yogya if it would be ok, we asked our mum for some to take with us. Food is medicine.
It was time to say our goodbyes. Our two amas put silk scarves around our necks and we exchanged hugs and took a few group photos. We both started crying. It was really good and humbling. There’s so much negativity in the world; so much judgment; people disparage others in various situations and from various backgrounds other than their own; so much hatred and disdain. These villagers treated us like we were family. What I see in them: humility, joy, strength, determination, ingenuity, passion, gentleness, love; fruits of the spirit. I see the image of God reflected in them. We felt very full. And not just because they fed us all day.
Most of the day was spent coming down the mountain (hill) along the river from GP towards where we started. One of the men from GP, Ranjaman, needed to come down the hill and decided to join us on our journey. He is a bird expert, with knowledge of over 200 species of birds that live in the area – to the extent that he knows their calls and can imitate some of them well enough to have the birds come to him. He works with the World Wildlife Fund, which is partially responsible for protecting the flora and fauna in this national park area, much of which is closed off to any development.
We took it nice and easy in terms of pace… it took about the same amount of time even though it was downhill. We stopped a lot, took in the views, snapped funny photos making it look like we were drinking from the massive waterfalls, chatted with folks, and at one point had some more dried buff and a grainy type of local beer made from millet. Whenever we passed little kids they called out “hello!” or “namaste!” and were thrilled when we said it back and waved. Sometimes they would come down and walk along with us, sometimes they would just look as we passed by. A few times, Yogya spoke to them and asked us for our phone to take a picture of us with the children. We felt a little weird about this, not wanting to be exploitative in any way or perpetuate any false narratives about white westerners, but he insisted it was ok and that the kids love it, especially when you show them the photo you just took. So we trusted him and went with it. But still felt a bit weird about it.
As we continued to descend, we started saying “Namaste”, the Nepali greeting, instead of “Lasso popula”, which is the greeting among the Trisuli Tamang people group. The Gyangphedi villages are Trisuli Tamang. Nepal as a country is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. There are over 170 languages spoken, and the largest ethnic group comprises only 17% of the population. Contrast this to South Korea, where we had been the previous 3 weeks, which is one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world. (CIA World Factbook lists about 20 ethnic groups for Nepal, while South Korea says “homogeneous” with 20,000 Chinese).
As the day pressed on we made it close to the place where we had left the SUV, about half an hour’s walk away. Yogya suggested we not walk all the way down, but stay at this particular village where there was a nice guest house run by a Sherpa. By the way, Sherpa is another people group, not a profession. I always thought of it as a profession – the people who lead you on treks through the mountains. A lot of Sherpa do that. But other people do too. We settled in and rested for awhile in the room, which was basically a big garage with four beds in it. We opened the garage door and enjoyed the amazing view and sunshine and rested our legs. We played some ukulele and sang, which attracted some attention and a few kids came over and tried out our egg shaker.
Earlier as we had walked into this village, a young boy (we later found out he was 14) came up to Yogya. Yogya kind of put his arm around the boy and walked out in front of us away, chatting more intimately with him. We later heard a little bit of his story. He used to live in a cave in the mountains by himself, after some family tragedies. Yogya and some of the other people in various villages in the area have slowly befriended him over time. He’s still primarily focused on survival, and itinerant, moving between villages picking up odd jobs, often hauling heavy loads up and down the mountains. He’s incredibly strong. Hauling 60kg (about 132 pounds) bags up and down the mountain and trekking out in the wilderness, no problem. He likes this particular village the best because he has more relationships here and people take care of him. He joined us as we went up to meet the family of Min, another GP’er who heads up a lot of building projects among the villages. He had been spending a lot of time in the village we stayed in, but lived with his family in the village we had walked down to. He invited us all up to his house to meet his family – wife, grandparents, and three young kids. Once again there was more food and drink offered and received, and good conversation. The kids were adorable; his little girl just came up to me and kind of leaned against my legs, not saying anything just draping her arms over my knees and snuggling like I was her uncle. Amy had a chance to hold their new baby. We felt home, connected, emotional. The warm feeling of being welcomed, truly welcomed into a family… valuing each other as human beings and enjoying being together, sharing stories and learning about each other. Darkness fell and we made our way back down to the Sherpa’s guest house for dinner. We were stuffed with all of the food we had been eating at Min’s, but there was more to come – dal bhat, this time with goat.
I wonder if, looking back on this trip, we’ll see it as our crash course or education on kids and parenting. So far we have mostly stayed with families with young kids. I wonder if we’ll look back on this as a turning point in our life, in terms of where we live or what we do. I don’t feel so solidly planted in my current way of life or of making a living. I feel like we could end up anywhere, doing anything. I love Orlando. And there are plenty of people to serve in Orlando. There’s just so many distractions. Not just in Orlando. On my phone. On my computer. In virtual space. In the theater of the real, there are dishes to be done, meals to be cooked and eaten, friends to spend time with, kids to spend time with. It’s true that sometimes these feel like distractions, but more often they feel like the real thing. Eat, drink and enjoy the work put before you (Ecclesiastes 3:13).
I also find myself asking, What would I like to change about my life? I really like plants and animals. Plants especially. I don’t feel like I’m necessarily honoring or engaging that part of myself. It felt really good to chat with the villagers about plants and learn about them. What else do I want to change? I want to be strong. I want to walk, to do things that keep us physically fit. To find places to do that that are fun (where it’s nice to be outside). To not spend so much time on the computer / devices. I also want to learn another language. That’s a feeling that often comes up when I travel in a foreign country among people who speak many languages, and often speak my language.
Amy wants to come back to Nepal. We both do. We’ll have to train though. A lot of times when we travel, afterwards we’ll think: I’ve been to that country once; I don’t need to go again. At least not before I visit all the other places I haven’t been to. On this trip, all of the places we visited in the States, we want to go back to, and could see ourselves living in. South Korea, not so much. But Nepal has definitely captured us. There are some things that would be hard – the dampness during monsoon season, for example. But we want to come back.