It has been a while since I’ve been in touch. I’m sitting in an internet cafe in the heart of Kathmandu, listening to people saw, hammer and sand wood as they renovate the cafe. The city is in the midst of a transportation strike – the last I heard was that there were talks being held between the government, transportation industry leaders and students. The trouble is that gas prices have soared, so transport folks have had to raise the fares on buses, taxis, and share vans, and students are demanding a greater percentage discount on travel. So the city’s public transportation is simply closed down until things are worked out. This morning, my friend Emily and I were part of a river of people flowing towards the post office and banks. Private cars (of which there are not many), motorbikes and bicycles have been the only vehicles out and about. It is certainly an interesting time to be in this country.
As soon as the strike ends, I head up to the hills to visit the home town of colleagues of mine, Simi Gaun. I was able to visit their homes during our December/January holiday, and I promised to return again before I return to the United States. I’m looking forward to the time walking – it’s a beautiful part of the country – and also to being able to attend my friend Lakuma’s wedding, which will take place during the two weeks that I am there.
It is hard to believe that I return to the United States in under a month, but this too is exciting. I am looking forward to visiting Chicago and Disciples Divinity House, and also meeting you. My mum mentioned that perhaps the best time for me to come would be sometime in October. I will begin my seminary applications in earnest upon my return to the United States. Part of me would like to get started sooner, but more than that, I want to be fully present here in the time that I have. I know that leaving will be hard, and that I have made some friendships that, however well I maintain, will be with me for the rest of my life. One of the greatest lessons I have learned during my time here is that of generosity – that giving and receiving are powerful ways of demonstrating love and of connecting with others. I know that I cannot calculate the value of the gifts I have received – both material gifts as well as gifts of love, companionship, friendship, wisdom. I feel indebted to people in a way that empowers me to be more generous with my own time, energy, love and material wealth. Smile. It’s probably the single thing that has affected me the most during my last two years. And I think a big question that I will be dealing with in the coming years, as well as for the rest of my life, is how I can best share my gifts with others; how I can share with other people the generosity that I have experienced in my time here.
Sometimes I wonder about my return to the United States – I feel, sometimes, that I have forgotten what it is like, the US that is. Whether people smile at the cashier, say hello and ask about his/her day. Whether we stop to help a confused-looking person find their way. Whether a conversation begun on a bus ride extends to an invitation to stop somewhere and share a pot of tea. These are details of life in the United States that I cannot remember. I also must remember that it is different in different places and with different people within the United States. One of my students this last semester was very good at reminding his fellow students and the rest of us that there is no such thing as “American Culture.” That so often, the culture that would be discussed and labeled as such was not the culture from which he came, nor the American culture with which he identified. It will be interesting for me to return to the United States and deal with questions of culture, identity, right action, and integrity in an environment that is familiar but yet in which I, as the person I am today, am new. Smile. Many thoughts. I look forward to sharing more with you in person and in hearing about you – some of the places, events and people who are part of who you are.