Paths Unfolding...

Here I sit in a surprisingly clean and comfortable 'Cyber Cafe' in the Thamel district of Kathmandu...watching a billing meter as its numbers run ever upwards, reflecting an overall jump in pricing that has me reeling. I suppose it's a good way to prepare myself for an eventual re-entry into the West. Still...hurts to be paying 100 rupees per hour for internet after the 15 to 20 I'd grown accustomed to. Since my last post, internet access has been spotty and slow, making me far less than inclined to update this space or upload photos. And, after so much time has passed, as so frequently seems to be the case, I find it difficult to convey the breadth of my journey through words that can only grasp at memories. So...once again, the best I can offer is a glimpse into my journal entries. After all...they provide my most candid expressions...


14 March:
On a Bangalore bound bus...bumpy ride...winding roads... hot air hitting me through an open window...feet still covered in Gokarna dust...heart still warm from friendly, goodbye embraces. A touch sad to be leaving, but happy to be on my way to new adventures. Goodbye sand...goodbye Arabian Sea...goodbye sweet Gokarna...until we meet again...

15 March:
Bangalore...so loud...so uninviting...so expensive! After the roughest bus ride (slept, or pretended to sleep, in the upper rear bunk...bad idea!) which left my nerves rattled, my body sore and a string on my guitar snapped, I arrived this morning feeling rather like an over-shaken martini. Tired and vulnerable, I was predictably duped by a rickshaw driver who convinced me that the hotel I wanted was 10km away, bringing me instead to a less than inspired 'luxury' hotel and a tiny room for rs500. Too tired to look elsewhere, I took it, dropping my pack and heading out straight away to find a government hospital. (note: while in Gokarna, I read a book called 'Hidden Journey' about one man's experience of an exceptional woman known as Mother Meera who just happened to be giving Darshan near Bangalore, beginning on the very day my visa was to expire. Acquiring an extension on a tourist visa is nearly impossible EXCEPT in cases of medical emergency. So, I played the 'back' card, claiming a difficulty in traveling due to problems carrying my pack. I know, I know...dishonesty is not respectable. What can I say...it seemed strangely warranted. Sorry Mom!) 5 hours later, even more energetically spent from the continuous retelling of half truths and exaggerated pained expressions, I hobbled back to my room...left hip sore from the injection of pain killers...morality bruised from guilt at my act and pretense of injury...only to discover the major infestation of cockroaches in my bathroom. BAM! Instant karma! What to do? Though disgusted and tempted to find another place, I had to rush back into the noisy Bangalore chaos to find the F.R.R.O office & plead my case. Lots of shuffling about...like my experience earlier with Indian medical politics, I was continuously redirected to different windows...counters...people...until I landed upon the right guy. So...perhaps it wasn't the extension I was hoping for...he simply told me it was not possible, but he did provide an answer/solution. He assured me that I can leave after my visa expires without being blacklisted as long as I pay the $30 US penalty and show proof of a confirmed air ticket, leaving India within 15 days of my visa expiry. Well...alright then! It's off to Darshan in Madanapalle I go! I was tempted to leave tonight, but I think a good night's sleep is necessary after such an active day. The bed, at least, is incredibly comfy...so I think I can make some temporary peace with my roommates in the bathroom! I might just sleep for 12 hours!

23 March:
Graceful, Divine silence...tonight, I will sit my 7th Darshan with Mother Meera. It's been sweet so far...though the effects will surely take time to reveal themselves. At the very least, I am reminded of the universal truths that speak through silence...of the myriad voices that never utter a word...of the stillness that fills the quiet space...of the tranquility to follows 'surrender'...

24 March:
Once again...bag packed...ready to be on my way...tomorrow I'll board a 5am bus back to Bangalore. My time in Madanapalle has been an interesting juxtaposition of brilliant and boring...beautiful, magic encounters with locals who are not yet jaded by tourism...perfect silence coupled with Mother Meera's gentle touch...personal challenges and growth...sweltering heat...frustrating technological snags...cockroaches the size of my thumb...and HBO...TV...so very odd. Though I'll miss Oliver and Joni and their familiar laughter, I'm looking forward to some deep solitude...

25 March:
Oh, India! I suppose one must embrace your darkness if your light is also to be enjoyed! Back and forth and around again...this guy sends me to that guy sends me to that office sends me to another office and back round, only to inform me, 7 hours and rs300 worth of rickshaw rides later, that I have to apply the day before I fly...in Varanasi. Nice. *sigh* What to do? Sleep....so...very...tired....

27 March:
Under the ever-watchful gaze of a ten year-old Indian girl who sits quietly across from me, curiously observing all that I do. Thus far, it's been a rather sweet journey. Traveling in AC 2 Tier this time, sharing a 'cabin' with a lovely family of four...the two young girls smiling at and laughing with me all the way, calling me 'Auntie'...Laxmi and Aditi, 4 & 2, respectively. This young beauty...the one who now studies the movement of my hand, belongs to a family in the next cabin over. Anjali...she speaks no English nor Hindi, but we're communicating in our own way. I've taken some beautiful shots of her. I must admit, though AC 2 costs four times that of Sleeper class, it's refreshing not to be in the cramped dirt and grime and suffocating heat of sleeper...and I seem to have gotten lucky, landing in the newest, cleanest coach on this train...The Bagmati Express...Bangalore to Mughal Sarai...2517km...48 hours. Yes...I've enjoyed this trip. The extra space above my head in my upper berth...temperature control...relatively clean floors and toilets. I like these things, though some part of me has resisted acknowledging as much. It sets me to thinking about how, generally speaking, we...the western world...have romanticized the poverty in India. I've heard so many travelers say they prefer Sleeper class because it feels more like 'real' India...as though those of the upper classes are less significant or substantial somehow...that they have less to offer in the way of meaningful cultural exchange. I, myself, have been guilty of such thinking...but I feel like I'm waking a bit from such narrow-sightedness. It's a gradual change that has been shifting something in me...a deepening of gratitude for my blessings...the subtle beginnings of a willingness to embrace my relative wealth...both inward and external...a clearer perspective...a new understanding of how much I've always had. A slowly unfolding acceptance...it's ok...I don't have to haggle over 5 rupees... I CAN afford to fly to Nepal rather than a day of trains and buses...and I don't have to feel like I'm missing some integral, Indian experience. Gaining much from this trip...

29 March:
Varanasi...damn hot...smelly...buzzing with mozzies and flies and other winged insects...yet it feels oddly like 'home'. It's been a busy, long two days, but I managed to acquire exit permission, send a heavy parcel home and repay Dada, my tailor, for his generous loan when my bank card was blocked. Nice to see some familiar faces...but excited to meet Nepal tomorrow. Hoping for more agreeable temperatures...42 degrees Celsius here...oppressive and tiring! Goodbye India...thanks for all you've given me....

30 March:
The automated map before me shows a splash of textured white nearly the size of India, in the shape of a blue whale, looming in the distance. 240km to our destination...Nepal...the Himalayas...sure to be beautiful. Beneath us, India lays hidden. A thick blanket of gray...mist?...haze?...smog?...stretches as far as the eye can see, meeting the blue of the sky with a brush of white that fades upwards. Feels strange to be flying...traveling at such accelerated speeds! How bizarre to lift off and land within the space of one hour! What an incredible luxury... *Warm candlelight...new city...new country...similar sounds...different energy. Feeling a touch unwell... surely the result of moving so rapidly between differing climates. It's raining here...so refreshingly lovely! Such a welcome respite. I'm turning in early...tired....drained...energetically bankrupt after my drawn out visa expiry debacle. I suspect this also played a significant role in the weakening of my immune system. Regardless...Kathmandu is charming at first glance...

31 March:
Feeling scattered...unsure...lacking clarity. Head and chest still stuffy...mind clouded...heart hazy. It's in these moments that 'home' sounds so heavenly...so welcoming...and so...very...far...away. Sometimes, I just miss my people...and the outward distance feels impossibly wide. I know I carry all of them with me...but I have these days...these little blips in my strength that feel like holes where my friends should be...these empty spaces that lack a certain warmth. They aren't very good conversationalists...they simply swallow up my words and leave me longing to hear a voice other than my own...some familiar, sarcastic quip and subsequent giggle...the casual banter that passes easily among companions. True...my guitar keeps me company...but it falls decidedly short when humor is needed. These fingers naturally strum melancholy tunes...haunting melodies. *Just a momentary weakness...this too shall pass.* Signed up for Vipassana beginning tomorrow. Not sure the timing is right. The silence beckons, drawing me towards its stillness...but I wonder if it's not some cleverly disguised attempt to escape this feeling of loneliness...somehow...as though turning even further inward will mask this vulnerability by giving it a valid reason for welling up in me. I wonder if it's wise to enter into such a challenging endeavor while my body and spirit are so depleted. Still, some other part of me keeps interrupting such lines of thinking by suggesting that ten days of silence and deep, spiritual excavation might be precisely what I need right now. Ugh...perhaps this fog will lift by morning. I can barely hold my head up...thinking in tangled scribbles that make little sense. May this eve's dreams gently unwind my thoughts...


And...that brings us to NOW. I decided against sitting a Vipassana right away...feeling it best to take some time to acclimate and settle in a bit. I've moved to another neighborhood, and after a bit of shuffling about, I've secured a sweet enough room at the Yellow House. I've resigned myself to a week of relaxation...reading and playing guitar, tinkering with the beginnings of a new song. Taking space to rejuvenate and make myself well. I've got 90 days to explore Nepal, so I'm in no hurry.

The path before me is slowly unfolding, though it's direction has yet to reveal itself...surrendering to the whims of the universe...