Being True in Kathmandu

I cannot tell where it all happened and how it began.

All I know is that talking about it has made the intangible dream a reality. In order to understand the end, we have to go back to the beginning.

Let me walk you through the journey to the heart…

“I needed to go to Nepal” .. that’s what I told my friends. I needed, I wanted but I couldn’t tell why. The signs were all around me, and recounting them would certainly be a blog post on it’s own. They range from an old friend who contacted me after three years to inform me of the path to non-resistance (she headed to Nepal), a Nepalese worker informing me I have to go randomly, a client at work who mistook me for someone else and told me she was constructing a resort in Nepal, having a random call to inform me about the weather in Nepal, power outage that prompted me to head to a barber shop which sells cream bottles from Nepal and countless other universal signs…

So I packed my bags and two days later, after submitting myself fully to the power of faith (and a blind eye to any consequences) I boarded the plane.. no phone, no watch, no plan..

I am now heading to Dubai on my way to Kathmandu. I arrive and finish off my visa in an old-fashioned non-technical way, already admiring the ancient techniques of writing rather than typing. Reaching the hotel, I was taken aback by the sheer handiwork of wood, brick & mortar and friendly staff. Stepping through the front gates was like stepping into an oasis of a lost time. I am greeted by the employees in a traditional Nepalese welcome, silken scarf wrapped around my neck (and the scarf got stuck in my bags zipper, ruined by the cataclysmic modern creation I have brought into this golden Shangri-La). Deciding to stay at the hotel that evening, I got to glimpse the Nepali dance and headed to Krishnarpan, the infamous Nepalese retstaurant, for an 11 course dinner. Stunning display of comfort and hospitality. The offering to their god was made and I started on this national cuising journey. It seemed never-ending and my appetite was fading. Nevertheless, it was satisfying and needed. I opened a can of ginger ale back in my humble abode, and dreamt the night away.

The second day in Kathmandu seemed to have lasted a week in its own self. Early morning, I met my friend Sou-zhen and took a motorbike tour of the city. We headed to Swayambounath (monkey temple) where I got to witness a rarity among tourists, monks chanting and got to conduct the prayer rituals to get a glimpse of the process:

The eye of Bhudda overlooking the entire city reminded me of my purpose, overlooking the multitude facets of my inner dogma and dimensions. We then headed to Durbar Square, Kathmandu and got to witness the last living goddess, Kumari, a pre-purberty child who is the incarnation of a goddess. She stares at me with penetrating eyes, and I allow myself to believe in that minute the myth which I know not to be true. Succumbing to that enables a person to feel and see things from another’s perspective (in this regard, others beliefs).

We headed to Old Freak Street (Jhhonchen), the old hippy street famous during the 60’s and 70’s. Sitting in a cafe, talking casually and humbly on topics that bridge cultures together I learned my first lesson: “Experience is the best teacher there is, the perseverance of spirit, kindness amidst adversity, and the power of laughter.” After visiting the temples and feeling like a history junkie, we went to King Tribhuvan Memorial and the Mahendra Museum in Durbar Square where I learned about the Nepali Monarchy and tragic culture that has befallen them. He was much loved the by people and peering through the eyes of the people, I got to see their pain and joy with regards to the political scene of the country. Furthermore, I decided to end the day’s activities by visiting Pashupatinath temple, one of the most sacred and holiest sites in Hinduism (Lord Shiva). Even though I couldn’t step inside the temple (only Hindu’s allowed – foreigners on the premises) I witnessed a ritual and dwelled in the moment of faith and the power it brings and unifies.

Durbar Square- Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple

King Tribhuvan and Mahendra Musuem

The very night, the constitution of Nepal was being disputed, and after a four year wait, the history of the country balanced on edge awaiting the results on the multi-ethnic states decision propagated by the Maoist party (same party as the Prime Minister). Everyone was on edge, staff workers wanting to go home and foreigners intrigued by the prospect of a similar Arab Spring taking effect in Nepal (riots were taking place 3km away from our hotel). I headed to the Fusion Bar  with my book, with the intent to write, when the universe bestowed upon me a gift. 2 U.S. citizens and a Filipina/Chinese woman along with a Kuwaiti, huddled together and engaged in conversation which became one of the most profound moments in Nepal. One was an author and about to publish his notorious book all over the world, coincidentally the inspiration I was seeking all along. The other was an adamant traveler with rich tales and story-telling experiences, and the third was a wealthy girl with strength and courage. We all bonded so well, played darts and spoke about books, philosophy and life. We stayed up to watch the Prime Ministers speech and the results were disappointing-  a re-election will take place in November (no action was taken).

The following morning, and by another twist of fate, I met a Filipino couple who were very refined and worldly. I felt at ease and open with their charm and stories. We decided to have breakfast together. This was the second universal gift in motion. The wife turned out to be a publicist and journalist who also inherited a media empire and worked with shaping careers of famous people (how ironic). She said when she heard me say I worked in Banking, she instantly knew I wanted to pursue a different path. What came after was nothing short of amazing advice. She instructed me how to move forward by talking about her experience, and how to shape my interests through social networking (hence, I owe it to her that I’m writing this blog). Let’s hope her advice that my sensibility and passion would be put to good use. They were heading to Bhutan the following day and I unfortunately haven’t seen them since. Lesson of the day “Everything happens for a reason.”

I decided to visit the famous arts & crafts center of Bkhaktapur (40min. drive from Kathmandu) to indulge and inspire my creative side, and it was a sensation in it’s own. Bhaktapur has a tranquil charm to it, unlike the different Durbar squares scattered throughout the city. I promised I would take a tour guide this time, and coincidentally, my tour guide’s name was Pramis (pronounced exactly the same as promise–coincidence?). He gave me the jist of the area and introduced me to the land of pottery and art schools. I got two beautiful tapestries for my mother. Talking with Pramis, a history student, enabled me to learn that life, wondering and being culturally exposed changes you at the core- especially in solitude. I headed back to the hotel and met the trio again.

dyes and colors- Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur

The trio and I headed to Thamel that night for our last night together. We ended up having dinner at a rooftop bar/restaurant with dangly lights and a magical aura to it. We started sharing our experiences together, laughed at the corny music and secretly hoped that we wouldn’t be poisoned from the food. We did the usual bartering and negotiating when buying souvenirs and decided to head back to the hotel for a calm night. Playing foosball and darts turned out to be much more entertaining after a settling down, and we strengthened the bond we had by playing chess and engaging in deeper subjects afterwards. Talking to the adamant traveller, I realized that the universe provided me with the third major sign and gift..the Monroe Institute. We talked about lucid dreaming, mind over matter, the philosophy of mind and what he encountered at this special institute which I have researched and wanted to visit many, many years ago. Lesson of the day “There are no coincidences.” We headed to their place again and we talked about myself, banking and careers. Funny enough, they said I should be a psychologist cause I had penetrating insight, sensibility and vision which is rare nowadays. It also shed light on the Master’s degree I was seeking, and gave clarity to an already clouded judgement call.

Finishing my breakfast with the Author, I learned a new quote that proved to be vital to my story.. “Not all who wander are lost”- Tolkien. I said my goodbyes and headed to the airport to go to Pokhara on Bhudda Air (35min.). The name suggested a peaceful flight, juxtaposing it’s entire meaning (the flight was a little scary). The tranquility in Pokhara was needed and Fishtail Lodge was the perfect setting of a luxury retreat. I arrived and went to explore the city.

Walking about Pokhara, I learned a different lesson “non-resistance to life’s challenges, patience and perseverance.” AM/PM Bakery (great for travelers and explorers) served some delicious pastries and coffee, so I sat down pondering along with the other foreigners venturing on their own adventures. Everyone here had a story, it’s not possible to just land here by coincidence or for the sake of it. Seeing this place got me to the conclusion that something about the atmosphere here of hard labor and relaxation brings out the creative and energizing self  into fruition. The walk towards the shops, nooks & crannies is worth it and great for serious weight loss fanatics. I walked about and had a chat with a taxi driver and went in search of Mike’s restaurant. Walking to the end of the city (2 hour walk) to find it without any map or idea (leap of faith), I almost immediately gave up when it showed up right in front my eyes. Life lesson of the day “your intuition, instinct and non-resistance can get you to the place you always desired..and sometimes you have to be pushed to the brink to get what you want… faith.”

Mike’s Restaurant – View

Two days left!

I feel like I’ve aged older and wiser already. Going to Davi’s fall (named after a Swiss woman who drowned in the waterfall during the 1960’s) was interesting and unique. The water plunges into a very deep gorge without any end, like an abyss of blackness without an end. I went shopping afterwards and had a Ginger ale at Once Upon a Time Restaurant/Bar. Life’s lesson “serenity and tranquility can only be achieved after hardship and labor.”

Once Upon a Time Restaurant/Bar

Flying back to Kathmandu, I felt a great sense of yearning as if heading home (to the hotel). I missed the staff, the people and the hotel which is a National UNESCO site and a spectacle by itself. I was still energized, and I earnestly placed my belongings and headed out to Boudhanath, a very Holy place for Bhuddists and a rich cultural hub for all practicers of the faith. The feeling at this place was different, however, it reminded me of certain times when we would visit our own temples, mosques, synagogues or pilgrimage. This was their own spiritual journey and this time I was the foreigner. I took 3 turns based on a feeling (which turned out to be the right number- always odd) and I brought a singing bowl and a couple of local scarves as souvenirs. What a day filled with adventures and activities.

Boudhanath Temple

Going back to the hotel, I met the two couples whom I came across my very first night in Krishnarpan Restuarant. The concierge was telling her about me, my adventures and she said that her words about fate and life came from this lady, who turned out to be a Professor from Washington D.C. (Indian heritage). She suggested I watch the Nepalese dance that was about to commence, and I’m glad I did. A stunning display of artistry and movement, and a great transition before dinner.

My last day in Kathmandu feels serene, tranquil and indifferent. I cannot imagine leaving and heading back to a place that’s inherently quieter, yet seemingly more noisier and out of place. Considering how hectic and crowded it is here, my thoughts are channeled inwards. Yet back home with all it’s serenity seems much more congested. Back home, there is no room for introspective thinking and ideas of extremes are met with disagreements or disappointments. Yet here in Nepal, you are driven by those around you to reach your potential with smiles and amazement. The travelers you meet have similar ideals, which makes for the perfect combination of adventure and optimism. Even though Nepal is heavily polluted and the air smells of smoke and dust, you sigh the biggest sigh and breathe the most cleansing air since it’s all internal and comes from the soul.

I sit here sipping my coffee at Dwarika Hotel reading the quote of the day “The more you understand yourself, the easier it is to remain happy and peaceful.” Indeed it is..

Heading to Durbar Square one last time, I realized just how much I will miss Nepal. I went back to get some souvenirs for my co-workers and father. Going to Old freak street and the same cafe I visited with Sou-zhen earlier seemed nostalgiac, as if taking place many months ago (not days). A shop-keeper gave me a free Happy Bhudda, for listening to his story, and keeping a smile on my face (a rarity as shop-keepers are all about profit). I will treasure that gift as a reminder. Heading back, it rained for the first time, and it felt like a gift from the Serpent god in charge of the element water (their belief). Having lunch, I slowly encounter the staff again, and I sip my tea in solitude, feeling as though home really was where the heart is. I am sad and disappointed that this adventure which has aged me with wisdom was drawing to a close. Bless the staff, they recount and remind me that what happened was not a coincidence at all, and that I attract people like a moth to a flame, and have this energy that was riveting and captivating. One of the members informs he will miss my smile the most. The last sign I received at the hotel was from this charming and delightful concierge who informed me that she was an English teacher (it was never brought up before, despite our countless conversations!) for a year, what she endured and how she came to lover her work and she has this passion.

What an interesting turn of events, that I should be affected by the three work segments that I desired and needed clarity from ! An Author, News Columnist/Publicist Media Guru and Professors. Every encounter had a story and every hello left me with life lessons that are monumental to my character.

Dwarika Hotel – Courtyard

I am now flying over Nepal heading back to Dubai then Kuwait Friday morning. Once I reach back I will make it my mission to apply what I learned and not to dwell in limbo. I will do much to effect change and to interact substantially. I can’t wait to land, I’m bored now with nothing to do so I ordered pringles, 7up, and coffee. Oh my.. time is moving so slowly (2:57min) … the universe comes into play again and provides me with the ultimatum ..

An hour into the flight and a German, Bhuddist, Architect Grandmother sits besides me in the empty seat and we engage in the deepest conversations we could summon. She was the final major sign in my journey to the heart. She summarized and added much value to my entire trip. Following the teachings of Gurus and Lamas, she told me about the path of non-resistance (which I wrote prior) and importantly to COMBINE. “To combine both elements, creative and rigid while applying my creativity as an outlet to affect change in banking.” She said the lama said that “True freedom is letting things come your way and knowing how to face them.” That was the definition of true freedom. She summed up the history of Nepal and her time during the ’70’s, Tibet and that what happened to me was not a coincidence but meant to happen for a reason. It was beautifully summed up in one Tibetan word “Tendrel.” That word means that at a certain time, a certain point and certain events come together and fuse for a specific reason, or when certain conditions arise and everything is right (like our term coincidence but this was meant to be). The culmination of my entire trip encompassed in a single word..

She also told me that I can find passion in whatever profession I seek, it’s just the different approach you take that can align you with the heart. Non-resistance to life’s challenges, Financial nervous system of International economies, Carl Jung elements of synchronicity, and digital revolution vs consciousness were all part of the topics we have discussed. Furthermore, I was instructed to take a week and absorb what happened since a lot took place.. The funny thing is I almost prevented her from sitting there since a U.S. citizen has asked me to reserve the seat for him- I’m very glad I didn’t interfere, and that was the other lesson I learned “do not interfere for they may be things that were meant to be..lessons in disguise.”

No person will ever know the extent to which treasures I have uncovered during my trip. It’s as if the universe took pity on me and led me by the hand through a customized program meant only for me. Never a trip aged me so well, and provided me with a new kind of faith and wisdom.

I am and always will be grateful for all ..

“Being True in Kathmandu,

Not for all, but very few”…

Last but not least I shall leave you with a personal quote that I have created:

“The wandering soul, seeking to fulfill it’s own destiny, inadvertantly brings closure to others. Only through interaction with all races are we able to determine our own.” – Me

May you find your own purpose in life, and hope that you undergo your own journey to the heart to find your own personal truth ..

Namaste

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