Joni and I enjoyed our first weekend “off” here at TGL Admittedly we have been pretty reserved in our movements around the neighborhood. We haven’t established tried and true methods of transportation or an understanding our surroundings. This weekend we began to learn about these things. We managed to “get our wheels” and see quite a bit while also having time to relax as well.
Our first outing on Saturday was a walk to Fionnuala’s house where Joni was treated to a hot shower. The water system here at the school has been compromised due to a well problem so we have been limited to 10 minutes of flowing water per day. This allows us time to fill 8 buckets and a large trashcan with water (we just got upgraded to 3 trashcans this evening). While this has been plenty of water for dousing ourselves for a cold shower, cleaning hands, teeth, dishes and clothes, a hot shower is a welcomed event. Fionnuala lives within a 15 minute walk through the village of Chobhar so this outing was very do-able. I had already doused myself on Saturday morning so while Joni enjoyed her shower I was treated to real brewed coffee and conversation with Fionnuala and her friend Bella. Ahhh… simple pleasures.
Walking back after our outing, we were a bit late for lunch but our friends from Malaysia who we share facilities with had set aside our portion. Immediately after we finished eating, they spread the table with treats of candy and cakes and invited the Anis of the Shedra to a short reception. The 3 Chinese Malaysians (2 women and a man) have been coming to TGL for retreat ever since it has been habitable for visitors. They are great supporters of TGL and have befriended the Anis over the years of visits. The gathering was filled with appreciative smiles and laughter. Joni and I were so thankful that we got to witness the event. These Anis are grown women, not part of the TGL school. They live very simple and disciplined lives here in the dorm where our rooms are. They rise at 4:30am for prayers and study the the traditional Tibetan Buddhist Dharma throughout the day. Despite the fact that the table was filled with treats, they limited themselves to a single sample of each item. While their eating was restrained their enthusiasm for seeing their friends, talking and looking at photos from past visits overflowed.
On Sunday Joni and I set out on our first solo journey into the city by bus. Fionnuala had invited us into Sanepa, a neighborhood in the city, for brunch at the “Yellow House”. In preparation for the trip we spent quite a bit of time talking with Fionnuala and mapping out the route to understand the roads and the bus connection to get there. Joni and I had even walked along the path to our bus stop to make sure it was where we expected. In addition we checked Google Maps to get a rough sketch of the roads. All of this may sound silly to someone who hasn’t been to Kathmandu. We ARE more conservative than we might have been when we were younger. But given the heat, the distance, the traffic and the elevations we have to climb, our preparations minimized our suffering in the end.
Our planning paid off and we made it to Chobhar Gate where we met the bus. A young man was kind enough to confirm our location for the bus stop. He told us that he was catching the same bus and welcomed us to follow him. The bus came and off we went, packed like sardines, standing room only, with a bus full of locals. The only hazard was the fact that my head touched the ceiling of the bus, so I had to crouch in anticipation of a likely bump in the road. 10 minutes later we climbed off and into the crowds at the end of the stop. Crossing the busy “Ring Road” we made our way toward the bridge into Sanepa. To our surprise, as we approached the bridge we bumped into one of the teachers from our school and enjoyed a quick hello. Amazing that among the millions we found a familiar face.
Past the cows, the people and the motorcycles on the unfinished side of the bridge, we walked the bridge into Sanepa. Guided by a screen shot of the streets on our phone, we wound our way to the Yellow House. Entering a gate we found a green courtyard full of white faces, English, German, French and Swiss language (among others) reflected the western diversity of the crowd. Below the restaurant sat vendors for a market of vegetables, fruits, cheese, honey, and to my surprise beer. A bigger surprise was to find that one of the beers (Yeti) was from Denver, Colorado.
After a time Fionnuala and her friends Bella and Helena arrived and we sat for a wonderful breakfast of brewed coffee and tea, eggs, potatoes and vegetables. It was a special treat to take the time to eat and chat. We share experiences for over an hour and a half in that little oasis. It was interesting to learn about their many years living in Nepal and their endeavors in writing and painting and travel.
After our meal the ladies took us to a local hotel and showed us a swimming pool. Once again, I was struck by a hidden corner of comfort and luxury tucked away from the intensity of the street. I expect that we will return to lounge in this oasis.
After the pool viewing, Bella pointed out a small shopping mart packed with a diversity of food and other necessities and then she showed us the studio where she is learning the art of Thanka painting. She introduced us to her teacher, showed us a painting he is currently working on and how the paint is mixed for the work. Her teacher showed us a painting of 1,000 Buddhas that took him 2 years to complete. It is hard to imagine the patience and skill that is required to complete a work that is so ornate and magnificent.
After the tour the ladies left us to go shopping at the Mustang Mart where we found a few comfort items to have at the school. After searching and wandering for a time, we stopped at a hardware store for a tub to do our wash and a pharmacy to get some vitamin C and hydrogen peroxide for cleaning.
Tired and ready to be home we decided to try a taxi for our return. After a miscommunication about where we were going, the driver made his way through the rush hour traffic and finally delivered back at the Chobar Gate. We’re guessing that we were overcharged for the fare since we didn’t ask for it to be metered but we had successfully made it home full circle.