And so I, too, prepare to go, though I try hard to remain. That part of me that is bothered by the unopened letters in my rucksack, that longs to see my children, to drink wine, make love, be clean and comfortable again--that part of me is already facing south, over the mountains. This makes me sad, and so I stare about me, trying to etch into this journal the sense of Shey that is so precious, aware that all such effort is in vain; the beauty of this place must be cheerfully abandoned, like the wild rocks in the bright water of its streams. Frustration at the paltriness of words drives me to write, but there is more of Shey in a single sheep hair, in one withered sprig of everlasting, than in all these notes; to strive for permanence in what I think I have perceived is to miss the point.
Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
That morning none of us were motivated enough to walk to the Organic Cafe.
"Do you mind?" asked Ele.
"No, no! I only suggested it so you would have someone to go with. There is plenty of hippie food back home," I said.
We enjoyed the hotel buffet instead.
I still had extra rupees to spend and planned on some last-minute shopping to pick up a few more gifts. Amanda and Ele offered to go with me. I found a pair of the downy slippers I envied back in Dingboche (and promptly used two weeks later on Mt. Shasta). We were talked into a shop by a scarf that had been calling my name every time I passed it on the street the past couple days. It turned out that Ele loved scarves so we were given the royal treatment by the shopkeeper once inside.
Next stop was a textile shop to pick up more yak wool blankets for family. As I browsed, the shopkeeper prattled on in English, trying to be friendly and conversational. However, the clock was ticking. The longer I stayed the more distracted I became, as if California was already sucking my consciousness in that direction. He mistook my distraction for misunderstanding and told me his English must be bad.
"No, no! It's great," I assured him. "My mind is just somewhere else."
The hotel and inevitable trip home loomed ever closer. We passed DK on the street happily chatting away with a couple other guys.
"You've been replaced," he told us when we met back in the lobby. Those guys were on the Annapurna trek that would start the next day.
"Hello, goodbye. The story of my life," he said.
The story of all our lives
, I thought. If I didn't know he was miles away in Lukla, I may have suspected he overheard my conversation with Dovile on her last night. This wasn't the first time he would say something I had been thinking... or was it the other way around?
And still not one word had been spoken; only later did we discover that all thoughts, laughter, and emotions had been not similar but just the same, one mind, one Mind. - Mattheissen (43)
"Not always a bad thing," he continued.
Not always indeed. It didn't feel that way now, though.
The cab arrived on time at 10:30. DK tied a scarf around my neck that I would refuse to take off until I got home. It felt like a lifeline to Nepal. We hugged, he kissed my cheek and said "Keep in touch, okay?"
"Will do. Thank you for the awesome time." Somehow those words felt inadequate.
That was a great game.
Breathing got more difficult. I instinctively stepped outside as if more hot, humid air would help then turned around and said "Girls!" giving Amanda and Ele hugs.
"Maybe someday I'll get to visit you in Queenstown," I told them.
"Or we'll come to Calfornia," they said.
"Yeah, come visit me!" This was a great idea. "You'll even have your own room!"
I got into the cab and pushed aside a growing feeling of unfairness. These three people were now some of my favorite people on earth and I felt like I was just getting to know them. I wanted more time.
"Every person with whom you interact is a part of the person you are becoming."
This is good news. I'd been so inspired by the three of them it's good to think that even if we never see each other again, they will always be part of who I become. Amanda inspired me for her ability to create a new life in a new country. Ele and her dad inspired me to work on a naturopath certification. DK inspired me to just be my whole authentic self. I would begin to write, study astronomy/astrology, begin my naturopath certification and play music again when I returned.
The cab began to move forward and I looked out the back window to wave goodbye. First at Ele who looked contagiously tearful, then at DK. We locked eyes briefly, then I couldn't stand it anymore so I turned around and fiddled with my seat belt. I really didn't want to leave, yet was still so in love with life I didn't cry. Everything would be alright
. How could it not be? Love was in control.
I've heard it said that all the wisdom of the ages can be summed up in the following tune:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
The past three weeks were a beautiful, perfect dream. The cab and I floated to the airport, flowing merrily along with the traffic, dust and chaos, completely at peace with it all. When we arrived I let the men carry my bags and absentmindedly passed out my remaining rupees for tips.
Sleeping on the planes and in Changi was easy. I drifted to the rental car center in SFO and somehow remembered how to drive. Once at the empty house that I used to call home, I retrieved the key my sister was kind enough to hide for me and stepped into a shower fit for a goddess.
How wondrous this, how mysterious! - Layman P'ang Chu-Shih
I tried to make sense of the reverse culture shock. What was I doing here?
In California, all my material needs were satisfied in complete abundance. Yet I wondered if here I'd ever be able to feel the sense of warmth and community I did in Nepal. Somehow there must be a way to unite the two. What would it take?
I looked forward to finding out...