Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Weepy and weary in Kathmandu

Dave and I are in Kathmandu, Nepal now. I came without reading any guide book first… and was a little surprised by my presuppositions regarding what I would find. I imagined a small city surrounding a large Buddhist stupa with a view of the 22 - 29,000 ft peaks in a distance from any direction. The city is quite large, a bit dirtier than I expected and often too hazy to even spot the nearby rolling hills. None-the-less I love the beautiful and friendly people and the striking architecture.  

There are small alleys that lead to Alice in Wonderland like miniature doors which then lead to hidden courtyards with temples, shrines and living quarters inside. Many of the inhabited  buildings are ornate with beautiful wood carvings on the doors and windows but are dilapidated to the point of near crumbling. Walking down some of the streets can  make you feel like you are on a miniature set design of a historic city. Even I have to duck to go through some doors and to stand inside some of the rooms. You can imagine my delight when I bump my head on a door jam in that it is so rare that I feel averaged height, let alone “too tall” to make it through a door way!!!!!

Regarding weepy and weary…. Prior to arriving we spoke with a woman that has done some volunteer work with sex workers in Asia and she recommended the photography book, Fallen Angels. Dave and I found it on our first day in a local gallery and were engrossed in the tragic stories of current trafficking, child prostitution and abuse, which frequently occur throughout Nepal and India.

That same day we befriended four children begging at the local Monkey Temple and played with them for several hours until they followed us down the path towards their home in the evening. It reminded me of our friend Corrina, also a child with dirty clothes and poor hygiene who commonly begged in the streets of Bir, (See previous blog with photo subtitled “the most animated kid I know”). It wrenched my heart to say good-bye after establishing a sweet playful connection over the 3 weeks we were there. I was left with the uncomfortable feelings of… should I have tried to learn more about her situation, could I have done more, could I have caused harm or pain by loving and leaving? Similar thoughts to my time at the leprosy community of what does it mean to be helpful arose.

The next night walking the streets in Kathmandu we saw many street kids, an increasing problem in Nepal, wandering the streets. Most of them were stumbling or slumped over and high as a kite. The common drug of choice on the streets is inhaling dendrite, glue used for sticking rubber. It is used frequently because it is not illegal, it is commonly available, and it is cheap. It also slows down the body’s function and in part kids use it to decrease their appetite. At high doses it can severely affect your nervous system and cause death.

Dave noticed a group of kids that were obviously intoxicated exchanging money and inquired what they were doing. They pointed to two boys, the oldest appearing maybe 20 years old and the youngest the size of an 8 or 9 year old, but probably 12… with lacerations on their head and face. They were requesting money for medication and food. When questioned, they said that there was a fight and the other people had knives. Dave refused to give them money, but offered to get them to a doctor. The one wound, really looked horrible and needed stitches. They were reluctant but then hesitantly agreed. We walked down the street in the direction of the hospital, with them stumbling, veering off and eventually finding us again multiple times.  In the end, the youngest one already dodged off for good and the older one, who needed stitches, spoke to the most sober boy and walked off in the opposite direction… leaving the sober boy to shake his head and say good bye.

And as if that wasn’t sad enough, shortly after, a very skinny meek, boy wearing makeup approached Dave begging, but in a proposition like mannerism. We spoke with him for a little while and left feeling a bit drained and overwhelmed by the magnitude of suffering we witnessed in just one night.

After waking up weepy and weary I spoke to Dave about my reactions. And we discussed the difference between experiencing overwhelm and wanting a situation to be different with the desire to fix it, verses having an acceptance of the reality of the painful experience, while maintaining just pure compassion. This does not mean you are saying what is happening is alright, and that you don’t need to try to take action. But it actually encourages you to stay present with the reality of the sufferings that are happening in front of you and all over the world, allowing them to burst open your heart, which as I mentioned is not always pleasant, and let it motivate you to do whatever you can. While remaining  fully aware you may not be able to make a dent or a difference but choosing to do it anyway. A very rewarding, but challenging process for me to say the least!!!

May be a little long for some of you to get through… so if you did, thanks for listening and enjoy the photos!  We will be heading into the mountains soon! Much love! Jen

May be the most beautiful kid in Kathmandu!

But then again, I would never want to be the judge of that contest! 

Mah-valous fake nails

Porters carry unbelievably heavy loads throughout the city

Pagoda style temple in Durbar Square

Have you got your wires crossed?

Our friends at the monkey temple

Kathmandu from above

Prayer wheels at Swayambhunath, the monkey temple of Kathmandu

Butter candles for sale at the temple

The famous Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest in the world.

A woman circling the entire stupa three times performing prostrations (a Buddhist prayer practice which includes a pattern of movements from standing to lying on the ground in reverence to their teacher and the teachings).

Jumbo Dave reaching up to the second story window

There are still political tensions with many rallies and strikes that happen frequently in Kathmandu.

Pasupatinath, burning ghats in kathmandu-

Peering curiosity

This hard working elder is wearing a typical Nepalese hat. 

More hard working elders! 

Sona, an incredibly clever and witty friend who invited us into her home to discuss Nepalese culture.

The carnival is in town and Dave is the one and only roadside attraction.


  1. Such beautiful people, but what you write makes me sad.--Gwen

  2. Have tried 3 times to write so this time I'm just sending lots of love and big hugs and we can discuss another time.
    Important reflections and synchronistic again with my retreat discussion this weekend on raw heart, neutrality of heart and emotional resilience!

  3. I love these pictures and your commentary, Jenn! Thank you for giving us some insight and perspective. I've always wanted to go to Kathmandu, and now I've made the journey vicariously, through you...

  4. Thanks for your comments! And not sure what it is about this blog site that makes it consistently difficult for folks to comment!!!! Always comforting to share in our vulnerabilities when discussing heart issues. Much love to you all!

  5. Jen! Your writing is so beautiful & descriptive. It really gives me such a keen sense of your experience in India. I love seeing all the beautiful pictures, too. The children melt my heart. I'm so sorry I've been out of touch. I look forward to getting caught up with your blogs, and reading all your updates! What an amazing thing technology is to be able to follow your travels through both stories & pictures, all the way across the world. If you ever plan to take a group over there in the future, count me in!

    I'll be in Colorado this summer, Aug 4th-19th. Hope to see you soon. Sounds like you're having an incredible experience. You almost can't put words on it.

    I send you much love xo