I have decided to come home. It has been an amazing journey.I think that this last section of the journey has been the least rewarding though. Having to concentrate on self when I want to give to the children has been a tough one to swallow. There is so very much work to be done here. But, as I contemplate this, there is a lot of work to be done everywhere. People on every continent need people who have compassion for their plight in life. Compassion I have realized is so much different than “feeling sorrow for”…compassion has to do with deeply feeling what the other is feeling(for as much as we are capable)This journey in a funny way has opened my eyes to the needs in our own hometown ..as much as we in the west have..there are many who don’t. While I am in Santa Cruz I will find those people that need. I have discovered in self though that I do want to continue my life in service to my fellow human beings, my family on this planet.I have also discovered…though I really knew this…that my health is crucial to my living the life I want and have decided to live. I thought I prepared my body for this journey. I ate well, I supplemented well..and I worked on my mental health. But, it wasn’t enough. I think probably, it is a culmination of many things…first and foremost of course is the quality of the air I have been breathing, but equally important losing a friend is tough. It has affected me greatly. My heart was saddened. I understand impermanence and the ultimate dying and letting go…but it doesn’t lessen the sadness. It kind of brings up the sadness of the world…I guess it increased the intensity of this experience for me, here in Nepal. I read that your life will forever be altered after leaving this country. I can attest to this. You know, we read about orphans…we read about women and girls sold into the sex trade, we see movies and imagine in our own ways the extreme poverty in the world, but…until you see it..first hand…deep breathe…until you see it first hand..you can’t begin to comprehend it.It is the look in the eyes…the real pain, the real hunger, the real sense of abandonment. It touches your heart so deeply…so so deeply.
You know what is really hard. Spending time with these children…and then leaving. This happens all the time to them. First, their parents…then the volunteers, teachers, uncles in orphanages…we all leave them..it breaks my heart.We give them money, food, clothes…and we truly give it all with love..but then we go home…to our beautiful houses, our friends and family who love us….I will find a way…..if anyone wants to join me..and figure out a way..to help these children…lets do it…lets rise above our comfort levels and reach out to these innocent children, and women…that need us…I have 8 -10 days left here..I will write again…I will share my last days here with you..with love….I have decided…to come home….I can’t fight this cough here..I need the healing waters…
Once I got back to Kathmandu I realized…if I wanted to be well…I needed to leave the city.
I researched and discovered an Ayurvedic retreat of sorts. I left my friends at the volunteer house once again and boarded a bus for Pokhara. A few of my observations along the road…dogs eating garbage…dogs are considered the lowest of all breathing beings in Nepal…men cleaning newly severed goat heads…7 and 8 year old boys selling chips at stop lights…elder Nepali man walking aimlessly..barefoot …men jogging with face masks because of the fowl air..between garbage heaps, vegetable gardens are planted….goats waiting in line to have their lives ended on a table alongside the highway…children swinging in makeshift swing along busy roadway…women carrying 20,30,60 pound bags on their heads…brick factory that supposedly employs the youngest of children, earning cents a day…a very young mother..breast feeding her child, smoking a cigarette along the highway…such are the realities of life in a third world country.
It was raining really hard when I arrived in Pokhara six hours later…the taxi drove and drove and my heart started sinking…where were we going??? We arrived at what really looked like a sanitarium from the days of sanitariums…however, when I walked in the entryway..I knew I could get well here…the food…so healthy and prepared ayurvedically, seasoned….plentiful…I gained some of the weight back I had lost at the beginning of this journey…I have had healing massage, steams, and energy work done daily. I have released enormous amounts of toxins..and grief over my dear friend…I have also studied a lot….meditating on the fragility of life…on the importance of caring for each other with compassion…and equanimity..and also cultivating joy…and sharing that joy…the utmost importance of letting go of the self cherishing we all seem to do…and use that precious energy in loving others
This place pokhara has more westerners than anywhere I have been…a few too many for me really…I have met 2couples who have taken a year off and are traveling the world….how glorious..cows, chickens, motorcycles, buses, cars and an occasional camel are seen walking down the roadways..it is so funny…
The children and elders aren’t quite as welcoming as in other places I have been…and I find myself having a difficult time bargaining with them as they are so very poor…sitting at a roadside cafe..sipping my coffee…contemplating my life..it is good….so much gratitude and at times I kind of find myself in a state of surprise that I am so far away from home, alone…yet my life has been so rich, blessed by many spectacular individuals that I have been blessed to know….looking at all I meet as teachers along this journey of life….
Will journey to a Tibetan village today. A refugee camp…the plight of Tibetans breaks my heart….
Until later..be well
During my evening prayers here in Pokhara I realized I forgot to share with you my magical time at Kopan monastery….a Tibetan monastery above the harsh reality of Kathmandu…I applied for the retreat ….but to my dismay, I was ninth on the waiting list….I let it go. The day prior to the start date I got a message, a space had opened up. I have been studying but not consistently the
Tenants of Buddhism and living the Dharma(the Path) curiosity filled my senses along with the antibiotics I was on for my first weakening of mind and body due to respiratory illness. I packed my bag and went up the hill. Immediately within the gates I felt a calm presence. I felt lighter somehow….the days were rigorous, starting with meditation at 6 am and ending at 9:30 in the evening. We meditated and studied the Buddhist Path. There were over one hundred participants. I found myself isolating fully immersing in the experience. I felt as if I had been on this path most of my life, without realizing it. Truly, it is simply about living a good life, a compassionate life dedicating self to others and their peace and happiness. I have found what I was searching for, as far as a spiritual life….a path with meaning. I walked around the monastery daily, numerous times, counting with dedication the number of laps and finding myself obsessed…the beautiful thing was…I realized I was totally attached and I was able to let it go…and the walks had so much more significance. Many changes transpired….but we were truly blessed with a visit from the beautiful Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who is a very important man within Tibetan Buddhism. He was taking a hiatus from his travels , as he had suffered a stroke months before. We were told he would give a teaching. We filled the Gompa (sanctuary) along with people from Kathmandu. He was late. We sat patiently. When he arrived a sense of immense
Joy, actually filled my being. As he walked the aisle to his place of teaching I was suddenly struck with so much emotion…he was walking with the aide of others as his 75 year old body, maybe 80 was disabled due to the stroke. When he reached the altar, he began his prostrations…my body my heart filled with tears. To see his effort to praise Buddha regardless of his physical body was almost more than this woman could handle. He truly struggled, from my view. I am sure to him it was not a struggle at all. As he was helped to his chair, he began speaking. His voice was shaken….but he was filled with supreme joy and compassion and love….he would laugh as he tried to remember what he was trying to say(his stroke had affected his short term memory drastically) but he laughed, and we laughed…and I cried….a large photo of the Dalai Lama was at the altar also. As I gazed at the photo and listened to the Lama Zopa Rinpoche..I felt as if I were home. Joy and compassion filled me to the brim….everything looked different after this experience….I knew I was where I belonged…looking back at my posts I realize I touched a little on my experience…I hope you don’t find this repetitive, but something I wanted to share
I dreamt last night that someone gave me a lot of money as a birthday gift….I mean..a lot of money…two checks..one to be used for a life insurance policy….the other..hundreds of millions to use…on what I am not sure….I am contemplating the meaning of this dream as I sit overlooking the foothills of the Himalayas, children crying, chickens clucking…Nepali adults speaking in their normal very loud tone which always sounds angry…but I am coming to realize it is just their way…days go by slowly here…I stroll the two miles to town, taking in the extreme differences in lifestyle…funny, when I read there was an Internet cafe in town I mistakingly thought …..soy lattes and wireless access….hahaha…..I enjoy a milk coffee…for 30 cents and wander along the Main Street….goats, cows, cars, buses, and people all sharing the same narrow dirt street. I am …ingesting of course all the fumes from the non-smog checked buses…my lungs scream day in and day out….please bring me home…I get back to the orphanage and the boys are singing my name, we laugh, we play chess…every morning I struggle out of bed as I am feeling so poorly and lead them in an hour of working out, which they seem to love. They check on me, bring me tea, I say..just a little sugar…always more sugar than I ever take at home….actually here in Nepal for some reason they sugar everything..at home in Kathmandu I got them to stop adding it to oatmeal, pancakes and milk tea and suggested letting people add their own….I suggested to uncle that so much sugar is not good, he smiled….the one thing that is also hard to adjust to is the unsanitary conditions of …. Well everything…I had read that Buddhism believes you must not defecate in public…a road sign even proclaimed you would be fined….it doesn’t stop….the toilets are foul….the lack of cleanliness of most people is I am sure are cause for illness…every child has a runny nose, the dirty air, even here in the mountains is the culprit…I fear what is to become of their respiratory systems…I myself will be leaving early…call me weak….but I truly can not do this to my body after all it has done or me…missing home right now…realizing everyone is asleep….and upon awakening will wander to the lane for Wally’s paddle out…sadness overwhelms my senses …..shortly uncle will be slaughtering a goat…the children are entitled to a certain amount of meat a week..it is extremely scarce…I bought chicken for them a week ago….now today they will have fresh goat meat…life so mysterious and fragile…my time here suddenly comes to a screeching halt…I went to the visiting “specialist” from Kathmandu…the clinic was so amazingly unsanitary..I was so very hesitant…but the doctor spoke English, he listened to my Lungs..and proclaimed that I had an infection and needed X-ray….as I was waiting I asked him about the protective material they used for my body during X-ray..he said “not necessary! Only for pregnant women” we’ll…I accepted it for about six and one half minutes….I walked out and decided to go to Kathmandu to the western hospital..he proceeded to give me a list of ten drugs!!!!! Without a diagnosis…walking back to the house with on of my favorite boys, Bi…I told him I must leave…he was silent…he said”but who will teach us excercise????back at the home when I was explaining to uncle why i must leave I started crying……they have so little….I don’t know what will become of them…I gave them the remaining money I had from friends that donated and more of my own…..and began taking lots of pictures…this phase of my journey has impacted my life greatly..I have such deep connection to these boys….as uncle proclaimed one day…” Laura, you are like their mother.”
Tears fall now, they will fall tomorrow as I board the bus out of their lives…I hope for a connection..I pray I can find a way to help them…..
Never in my entire life have I felt as frightened on a bus as I did on the journey to Charikot. Six grueling hours later on a bus that climbed mountains and charged down as if it were a sports car, I arrived in this mountainside village…..a young girl befriended me on the bus. She moved in right next to me and my backpack….it was a crowded six hours…not only that, but she got sick and needed to sit by the window….proceeding to throw up for about an hour. Then she told me a story about how her and her mama lived alone and her father left them. She was going to a boarding school, but father stopped sending money so now she had to go to a Nepali government school and her education was going to be really bad….on top of that her mother had problems with her lungs and couldn’t work anymore…..she..the young girl really liked badminton , but didn’t have any money and she didn’t have money for a bus and had to walk an hour to her village. I told her I would give her some money…..not until we were getting off the bus and I saw her showing the money to someone that I realized I had been swindled by a twelve year old!!!!
Oh well…..I am certain she needed the money more than I did.
I was met at the bus station by four young boys eagerly awaiting my arrival. They carried my backpacks and talked non stop down the unpaved mountain road to their home. We walked about two miles and came to their home. It was a government run orphanage. It is now run by an NGO out of the Netherlands. Funding has diminished over the past five years, and where they used to house fifty boys, now there are only twelve. They have money only for two meals a day, which consist of the same thing…rice and dahl(a bean soup)….today I went to town and bought fruits and vegetables, chicken, spices and chocolate to hold them over for a few days….they were very grateful.
A first I was very hesitant. Uncle, the man who runs the home does so by himself as his wife moved to town to get another job to help support their family. I was feeling a bit nervous, down this mountain road with twelve boys and their Uncle.But theirs sweet generosity and beautiful smiles have made me feel so welcome. I am able to bathe with hot water and a bucket…..I have my own room…but it is very bare.
The boys are amazing. I have grown quite fond of them in only one and a half days. We went to an assembly type thing at the younger boys school today.I was introduced as the special guest and had to sit on the stage with the dignitaries of the town….boy was I embarrassed.
Tomorrow we travel back towards Kathmandu…..for a soccer tournament….they really want me to go…I don’t relish the idea…..but they want me to go…I actually have to play in the tournament..I don’t even play soccer!!!!!!
I am so happy to be here. The air is clean. I can see the Himalayan mountain range. It is absolutely phenomenal. The children are on holiday for the whole time I am here…..it should be so much fun. I feel blessed to be here. The children’s lives have been so harsh. Some of them have come from awful, awful circumstances. Enough to make me weep. But, as in Kathmandu, these children smile…and are grateful for what little they have…
Is has been awhile since my last post….I spent ten peaceful, magical days at Kopan, a Buddhist Monastery above the harsh reality of Kathmandu. The retreat gave me so much insight into the way of life of a Buddhist which I embraced as it resonated so much with my outlook on life. I found myself isolating to give more deep thought and contemplation and it proved to be a very enriching experience. I feel blessed I was in the shadow of the Buddha when I received the news of Wally as I had been studying about life, death and the beautiful impermanence which is the reality we must face to have a life of bliss and not one of suffering. That is not to say I didn’t grieve, just that having to be in a foreign land hearing news such as this…I didn’t feel so alone, and I felt the presence of something much bigger than I and I found some peace.
I spent one day with a small orphanage that I had visited many times and decided to spend some of the money my friends gave. We took first the boys and then the girls on a shopping outing. Most of them, if not all of them had never been to a store to buy things for themselves. At first they were quite shy, then as it is with children, they wanted it all….we bought shoes, ice cream and an item of clothing. They were quite happy.
Another day I traveled by bus out of the city to a Buddhist pilgrimage site where I hiked the hills following in the steps of some young monks, they took me to a mountain covered in prayer flags and then to visit some important sites. It was a lovely day.
I head out today to a smaller city in the mountains. A gateway to the Himalayas. I will be living in an orphanage with twenty or so young boys, and their auntie, and uncle. I brought badminton, soccer and volleyball for them and I plan to play and enjoy the youth of Nepal. I will also be teaching English at the local school and gardening in the local garden……this being said it could easily change as life seems to do…..until I arrive in Charikot…with love to you
Once again words fail to describe what I want to share…I will try my best. Yesterday I helped at a small orphanage near where I am staying. There are ten children, ranging in ages from 2-14. One child was rescued from a trash bin. Another was found in the river. Others witnessed their father killing their mother and then himself. And still, the children smile. I spent my 3 hours with a young girl, 5 years of age. She was the size of a 2 year old, maybe. She was so trusting and was constantly smiling. She fell asleep on my lap while practicing the abc’s. I was in heaven.This little angel at peace with the world.We sat this way for about 15 minutes until I felt a warm sensation on my legs. She, in a deep slumber peed on me!!!!!!The other child I worked with was a 12 year old…we were working on her English skills as this week is testing week.We had so much fun. The problem of course is that though they are learning to spell words, they don’t know what they mean…..we played and studied on the floor. The orphanage is run by a couple who out of the kindness of their heart decided they wanted to help the children of Nepal. The need is immense. There are so many orphans….so so many. And still, the children smile.
I awoke early to travel to the Home for the elderly which Mother Teresa started about 60 years ago. It is a government run facility. I was to massage gently and have conversation with the people. The home holds 250 Elderly.The Sisters who run the place take care of 35 who are unable to care for selves. I was a little apprehensive, but I figured I had spent time with elderly before….walking through the front gate which borders Pashaputi whereby they hold cremation ceremonies I thought to self, all will be good. The people in the front courtyard were all smiles and everyone I addressed with Namaste and held their hands. This is good. Well, the sisters disappeared behind another wall and beckoned me forward. I don’t understand how someone can leave their parent in a place such as this. My duties were to clean beds, wash dirty clothes, wash floors and feed the people. None of them were able to converse, many needed assistance to move, some never left their beds. They were all outcasts from their families. They were literally dumped off. The place smelled horrifically. I was screaming to self that I would not be able to handle the situation. The flies were in the thousands. But I stayed. I fed them. I held their hands, and they too smiled………..Blessed be these people
the prayer flags surrounding Bodinath
Like a slow moving river, my thoughts meander through my awareness.This city so vast and varied. Garbage lies everywhere. We fed the homeless last night.It was truly one of the most intense things I have ever done. These people mainly children and men were so hungry they were pushing and shoving to reach the food. Their hunger radiated from the depths of their being. They were so very dirty. They were so very sad. The men reeked of alcohol. The children…some of them had white substance surrounding their mouth and nose, remnants of glue sniffing they do to mask the hunger pains.A little girl around 7 or 8 (hard to tell their ages as their growth seems to be slightly stunted because of the hunger) whose hair is totally matted, I couldn’t tell the color as it could have just been dirty. Her red dress tattered and torn. Her smile cautious and angry. I saw a group of the children that seemed to run around together. There were 3 or 4 older boys, 2 girls and a very young boy of 3 or 4. The older boys had large plastic bags full of garbage ( they were going to sell it) the youngest boy wanted to go with them…it was night time, Durbar Square was packed with people. The older boys didn’t want the younger to join them..they sent him back but they wouldn’t leave until they made sure he reached the girls…then they went on their way.The love they felt for each other was so evident. They were family and they watched out for each other. It absolutely broke my heart. The children were allowed to be at the front of the line for food. A young girl who walked on her elbows because she had no legs was at the front. A street child, with no legs, in the line to get food. It makes my heartbreak to relive this as I write it.
We traveled to see Bodnath, the largest Stupa in Nepal. It is a Buddhist site, a World Unesco Site. Walking into the entrance a feeling of grounding and supreme lightness of being entered my consciousness. I was able to be there and connect with this place in me that is enabling me to be here..in this place…and not come running home.
I helped some new friends in an orphanage today. There are 10 children. All outcasts. One young boy was found in a river. Another child age 5 looked like she was 2, so severely malnourished, yet….a smile on her face every time I glanced her way, dressed in a beautiful pink dress fit for the princess she was.Their need for something as simple as touch reminded me what life was truly about.
I will be leaving Kathmandu in a few days. I got a severe infection from the air quality. I can’t even run. I am going to a placement 10 hours from here. I will keep you posted. For now though, I will work in an orphanage helping with homework, reading, playing and loving these beautiful children of God.