July 10, 2008
I returned from Simi Gaun yesterday. I am going to sit here in this silly cubicle in an internet cafe and cry because I was so sad to leave and walking down the trail to the road (some 6 hour walk with long breaks for food/tea/conversation on the way) I just kept thinking what the hell am I doing leaving this place. Wry smile. I still know it’s right. But gosh, it’s hard. I am so at home here. Really and truly. It’s not perfect. Nor easy. There are things that I struggle with personally here that I know are much easier/different in the US. But none of that negates the fact that I can take a bus and then walk for a day and arrive somewhere where I feel loved and accepted for the silly old me that I am. Smile. And somewhere that I can love others deeply and truly. I had a wonderful time! Other than 6 days of working in the fields planting millet alongside much of the rest of the village, I also had two days of walking down to the road and then back again, to see a friend off. And there was a big puja (religious ceremony) that I got to help prepare for beforehand cutting potatoes, playing with small children and making chiang (an alcoholic beverage made of fermented millet and wheat). Delicious and just overall really fun! And finally, on my last day was the wedding of my friend Lakuma with whom I went to Simi gaun and stayed the last time I went. Sigh. So hard to say goodbye to people and not be sure when I’m going to see them again.
Smile. And then looking ahead to the United States. Thank you for your email – your thoughts on home, on friendship, on ways of being and communicating. I think of my love for my host family and friends here in Nepal and India. Smile. I know that I would like to be friends in with you for a long time.
You asked a little bit about preparing oneself before journeying…. I don’t know. For me what’s important is on the one hand having good closure with people that I’m leaving behind – seeing the people I need to see and connecting with the people with whom I want to connect. I think this helps me get grounded solidly in who I am and where I’m coming from. It’s like refamiliarizing myself with the best of me in the context of people who love and support me and who know me differently and deeply.
The other part for me is to be open. I usually do not read up on where I’m going. For some people this is very helpful (knowing about where they’re going and what to expect), but I tend not to do this. And the good part of this is that I have little to no expectations of what I’m going to be dealing with. I think probably finding a balance between the two would work best – to know about the history of a place, something about the people and topography, the weather and so forth. And at the same time to realize that no matter how much we “learn” ahead of time, we can never be prepared for what we will meet, for the challenges and joys, for the frustrations and delights. Try to go with as few expectations as possible. I think this is important.
And then take some things with you that can help you make the space you live in yours. For me this includes some pictures that I put on my wall, photographs, some favorite clothing. When I was young it included a stuffed animal. For some people music is very helpful. It can connect us powerfully to people and places we’ve left behind. I don’t know how much you write in a journal, but I think this is a good thing to have along as well. To be able to write and process what we are doing…. A favorite book (prose, poetry, novel, history, whatever) can also be a good thing to have along.
Those are some things that I do. Smile. You’re going to have an amazing time. Fun and exciting and hard.
I guess something else that makes somewhere really home or not for me (the difference between south India and either Kalimpong or Nepal) is the ability for me to share myself with people and to love people. I loved people in South India but I never felt able to share myself completely. And here I do. And this loving and this being loved is what makes me at home here. That’s what made it so hard for me to leave Simi Gaun — the tangibility of the love that I have for people there and that I received there is only for me WITH those people. The love’s not gone, but the ability to express it by sharing an extra pair of rubber gloves with the kids that I stayed with and watching them fill them with water and just be entertained for days. The ability to exchange a song with women with whom I was planting. The ability to work together in the fields and then share food in the afternoon. I cannot do these things from Kathmandu much less the US. Sigh. Do I sound sad? I feel sad. I am so terribly blessed. I hope that I can find the balance of which you speak in the US – the yin and yang of presence and love and generosity amidst the consumerism and rush and power. I continue to hope and believe that San Francisco will be a good place for me to wind up as I make this transition.
Oh! Before I wrap this novel up, a wonderful gift. I just received an email from my brother saying that he wants me to stay with him and spend time with him when I get back to the US. I’m hoping he’ll be able to pick me up at the airport and that it’ll be a bunch of me and him time. Smile. I hope I’m not a culture shocked wreck. Wry smile. I want to be present and share with him the joy of living here, the sadness of leaving as well as the excitement that I have of being back in the United States and close to him. Grin. Life is good, Jesse. And we are so blessed.
Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. Be well and sane as you prepare for your journey away from home.
Much love and peace, tapaaiko bahini (your sister),