Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Totally New Year: India, Nepal & After

We spent New Years Day exploring Kathmandu and the surrounding area- concentrating much of our time in the area called Boudha where one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world exists.  The city was flowing in prayer flags. Tourists, monks & locals overwhelmed the center of the square- walking the stupa in prayer.  T.J. and I ate lunch on a rooftop and enjoyed birds-eye views of the magnificent structure.  Om Mani Padme Hum played everywhere, bringing a meditative quiet to the whole afternoon.  While T.J. took photos elsewhere, I enjoyed solitude on the stupa - wanting to give the new year space to come into existence while sitting with the one that had just past.

Our last tourist stop was a monkey temple over looking the entire city of Kathmandu. It was from our perch you could see the vast population below and really understand the density of the area.  There of course, were monkeys and they were of course, most adorable and curious. 

After freshening up, we met our fellow travelers-turned-friends for one final dinner.  We shared Tibetan bread and tried a fermented beer drink that tasted like hot yeasty bread - not bad but not good either.  It was just weird. There were of course, momos. What I remember most about the meal is just how good it felt to be with them all one more time and how perfect it felt to spend our last night with these people who we did not know existed three weeks prior, but now felt strange thinking that we wouldn't see them again anytime soon.   Our evening ended with hugs and promises to visit and to stay in touch. It was like summer camp.  
The smallest vendor

The next day, after indulging in a decadent day of hotel spa services and one more drink in the Kunti bar, we prepared to head to the airport to board a plane home to LA.  In the car, T.J. and I both noticed the same chant playing that we'd heard the previous day in Boudha. Om Mani Padme Hum- Nepal was guiding us out as softly as we entered.

Back in LA 
T.J.'s adventure stance
The trip home is a blur. Between jet lag and too many thoughts to fully piece together, it took days to come back to earth.  The disparity between our home and where we had been felt painfully obvious.

Driving felt weird. Los Angeles felt foreign. Brushing my teeth and showering was different. The lens in which I'd been viewing life had been altered in some way.  In between visits with friends, I began to feel our narrative come together and was able to finally start comprehending the vast impact our trip had on me.  We found themes and through lines.  Every night I went to bed dreaming about mustard fields and prayer flags.  Even now, those are the places my mind wanders to when I need relief.   It became commonplace to enter our home and hear the chant we'd heard in Nepal. The trip had changed me. It changed us.

The contrast between these two neighboring countries was amazing.  India, well, India made you work for it. It was unapologetic - You either coped or you didn't. Move in rhythm with the rest of the country or get hit by a rickshaw or stopped behind a cow. India didn't care.  Nepal had a more gentle hand. Nepal gave you space, guided you softly while still providing reminders of the wonder around you. Perhaps it was the mix of Hindu & Buddhist influences, the sweeping landscapes or more likely, the fact that Nepal depends on the tourism industry for much of the country's income.  In the end, like two vastly different best friends, I loved them both for entirely separate reasons and neither more than the other.

Back at home, T.J. got busy with grad school applications and I dove head-first into work.  Within a few weeks, I noticed my prized string that had hung around my neck since Lumbini had fallen off.   We were moving on with day to day life.  What we didn't know was that India was still working on us. We just didn't realize the full extent.   

While putting the final trinkets away from our trip, I moved the unopened prayer flags into our office.  As I set them on the shelf, I looked around and had vision of them hanging above a crib.  I mentioned this to T.J. and we laughed about how great it would be to tell our someday child about our adventures. For he or she to know that we had thought of them prior to even knowing they existed.  It turns out our someday baby would be sooner than we anticipated.

The universe had been giving us signs for weeks - the purchase of the red elephant in Pokhara, the banter about storks and stowaways, my obsession with bringing back multiple pairs of comfie pants for my someday pregnancy, the vision of prayer flags over a crib.  In the moments between exploring the world, pushing our limits and learning to give in, we were giving life to our family.

India taught me the beauty found in breathing in instead of resisting the things I don't understand. It taught me to let go of control and simply ride the experience.  In Nepal, I learned to be more still.  It energized my spirit and helped clear my vision.  The trip taught my husband and I how to be scared together and figure things out as a team when neither of us knew the answer.  The lessons have carried us through 9 months of intense change - physically and emotionally. Pregnancy really has been an extension of that trip - giving myself over to the moment, keeping humor as my guiding principle & never quite knowing if what I just ate will make me sick. 

7 months pregnant 
As I sit finishing this, I think about our son who will be born any day now. Will we ever be able to fully explain the gravity of our trip? Will it make sense when we tell him that although I didn't know why at the time, that I'm convinced that he was the one that pulled us on that journey?  Will he understand that his spirit was in every one of those memories for us and although we weren't aware he existed yet, that we felt him long before we knew who or what he was?  

I hope that some part of him will revel in knowing that he's not only made of me and his dad, but also the adventure which created him.  

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