1.29.2004

memories of nepal
several years ago, while lisa and I were just boyfriend and girlfriend, not the owners of two dogs, not the parents of a little boy named Dean; these were freer times as youth can often be. we were off in asia on a bit of a "walk about." we jumped from one country to the next like frogs leaping from lily pad to lily pad. in our haphazardly planned travels we found ourselves in Nepal for nearly a month. Just over three weeks of that time was spent trekking the Annapurna circuit. In the 18 days of trekking we were to covering all sorts of altitude, often encountering a different season and a different climate on each day. Along with the different climate came different environmental niches and often slightly different cultures. Some points of the trek offered little towns or villages, while other nights were spent in teahouse built to house the passing travelers, each house packed tightly in an agrarian world. There were long stretches of wide open mountains, always glaciers and hymalayan peaks surrounding us, and an occassional waterfall dropping into the icey cold blue glacial fed river in the gulley bellow. The wildlife was astounding, long tailed monkeys in a quasi-tropical area one day, then long haired yaks maneuvering the steep rocky mountain walls on the next. The route of the trek was not for the sole use of trekking, this was also the route of villagers heading to town to buy or sell vegtables, there were long trains of mules, donkeys, and massive SUV sized water buffalo. At times it was a tight path, I set a rule to myself, always be on the hillside of any passing animal train, To stand cliffside could send a person falling to a very painful death. (enough of the macabe) The trek was a joy. We were out in the world, much of the trip was more of a trekking experience than a Nepali experience, but I tried to get a taste of Nepal. In my own way I tried to politely encounter Nepali culture, in each of the various towns. if we arrived early enough I would stroll through the town and survey the area. Stand aside and take in the sights and sounds of the village, often chancing on a gathering of men or boys playing games. Whether it were game or sport after a short time I was invited into the action. In the backyard of a police station the standerbys got great pleasure as a young boy beat the tall bearded american in ping pong, or the older gentlemen drinking tea and playing Karem, which was often a more delicate situation. Karem was new to me, it was clear that I played more like a child than a man. It was fun to try and make combinations, and to evoke laughter, I cheered myself on in Nepali phrases that I now forget and congratulations my opponents on especially good shots with words I now can not remember. There were soccer games in one village and volleyball in the next, volleyball was a real treat, each of the stronger hitters slammed the ball as hard as they could alternating between Kumer and myself as we waited in the service recieve position, I was in the moment. There were no winners and there were no losers, no score was kept, just good play and good fun. The day of trekking and the hiking boots on my feet did not slow me down a bit. The trek was long and hard. I had carried my own pack and carried too much stuff. Many of the nights were spent playing chess with austrailians or drinking with the fins, sleep came, but was often short and cold. many mornings were early and many days were long. there was time to smell the roses and the yak, but there was some serious trekking to do. our pace and our timing were such that I had recommended that lisa's hire porter, Ravi (a story in itself), Ravi was the cook in a restaurant in a village that was our starting point, just miles from where the school bus had dropped us off. Ravi had never hiked the circuit was having a great time learning about the world from Kumer, a porter/guide for two british boys. Kumer told Ravi about the world and life, not that Ravi had not traveled, as a matter of fact he was in the routine of spending several months a year in india sewing clothes. Kumer was a Gurka, a village of Nepalis that have a long history of being mercenaries. Kumer had become my Nepali friend and my link to understanding a good deal of Nepali culture. We played cards once, we each held 7 cards, we were each playing a different game. I tried to explain my rules, he tried to explain his. I tried to play my game, he continued to play his. We exchanged stories about our lives and our homes. His english was not good, and my Nepali phrases were few. there were many points were were were not sure what the other was saying, this even came to simple things like direction or how far to hike. we could always tell when he was confused, his reply was always, "I think so, yes" Always with the same rhythm and pause just before the yes. This phrase to this day brings great joy to lisa and myself as it was so confusing for us. Because sometimes he meant it yes, other times he just did not know. Kumer and I had a friendly competitive relationship, he was very skilled at many things, great balance and dexterity, with strength I could not match. He carried a pack with a tumpline that I could barely carry across the room he carried all day. One day towards the end of this trekking circuit Kumer ran into an old friend. He let us walk ahead, the two me laughed, embraced, and caught up. On this day there was a long set of stairs, hard stone stairs, the longest set of stairs I had ever seen. the stairs winded and turned between a network of terraced fields with a sparse small structure from time to time. Long after Kumer was out of sight lisa and I heard some noise behind us, not quite a stampede, but fast footsteps rapidly approaching. We turned back to see Kumar and his old friend were running down this endless staircase, both carrying a load twice mine, in flip flops. it was quite a site. Both men were glowing with smiles and laughter, these men were having the time of their lives, what a moment. with a few more days and a few more different changes in seasons we were finally at the end. ravi had met kumer, hiked the annapurna circuit for his first time, got paid well, and got drunk for his first time on apple brandy in a small village that was famous for its apple orchards and their local alcohol. we were towards the end of the last day. the elevation had dropped significantly. rapid change in elevation gives me gas. dahl bat, the mainstay of our trekking lunches gave me gas. well, lots of things give me gas. we had finished the trek, there were may long days behind us and less than a mile or two to the bus station. we stopped to rest, as their was no rush to get to the station and spend our time there, when there was one last little tea stand to get a snack and take in the view. we gathered. and waited for a few lisa and the brits to catch up. kumer and ravi by my side and a nepali women with her small child and a women running the tea and snack stand, not really a tea house, but there were benches and some wonderful stone walls to lean upon, I rested my pack on the stone wall, lifting the weight off my back, and let my sweaty back breath, while resting my back without removing my pack I felt a gas pocket in my belly, it increase rapidly and was giving me a tad bit of discomfort. I thought that it would be slight and discrete if I used the wall to lift one of my butt cheeks and let this gas pass. I pivoted side to side, spread my cheeks, and let is sneak out. It snuck out alright, with a loud voicestruss rumble. The baby cried, the men and women laughed, and another laughing woman made a gesture with her fingers to the side of the head like horns and some words in Nepali. with her statement and gesture they all laughed harder. I turned to Kumer and asked, what did she say. Kumer said, "She thinks maybe that you are the Yeti." I laughed, we all laughed.

I tried to be an ambassador.
There had been no time for an "excuse me"...."pardon me" in english or Nepali. We were all too busy laughing.

hopefully they did not judge me and my gas as an american
but as a human
a human male or maybe the yeti with his mystical roar

Annapurna Circuit

Lonely Planet: Nepal

Gurkhas

Dahl Bat Recipe

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