Three weeks. It doesn’t sound like such a long time. Two little words. What’s the big deal? It certainly seems like one should be able to splice out the time and insert another experience and have it fit neatly into the same time slot. Why then are my three weeks spilling over into the rest of my life? They are popping up in unexpected places and unanticipated times, waking me at5 am, and stealing my concentration mid-afternoon. I seem unable to contain them in the photographs that I review or the words that decorate my journal.
I’m not complaining; I am trying to sort out the impact of my time inNepalandBhutan. Divided into three distinct and unequal time segments they are the ten days trekking to Annapurna Base Camp with my friend Lisa, the time inKathmanduand the three days inBhutanwith Kate, my 17 year old daughter.
I know that Kate, too, is sorting out her time, with her segments being her time studying Buddhism and meditation at Kopan Monastery, her time with the people she met there from different parts of the globe, and our time inKathmanduandBhutan. This experience has changed her, although it is difficult to describe. As I sort through my own experiences, I want to reflect first on my observations of hers. For some reason, these
thoughts are like the brightly colored fabric that feels light as air, and as soon as you pick it up, floats off your hands with the nearest breeze.
Leaving her at the monastery was easy in that I knew she would be safe, and make her way, but difficult in that I knew she would have some very uneasy moments before she found her feet. I could not dwell on the possibilities too much as packing for my own adventure and then being immersed in it consumed the frame of my perspective. When I returned 11 days later, would she be relieved to see me? Eager to leave the monastery? Wishing she had more time there?
In fact, she was none of these. I had no way of letting her know when I would arrive, as not only did I not know or have control over the timing, but I knew that she did not have an operating cell phone with her. I could only get a message to her in the case of emergency. I relaxed into the notion that I would just find her when I arrived.
It turned out that I wound my way up the steep, narrow and twisted route in the back of a car precariously dodging potholes in the mid-afternoon sun. The monk at the front desk pointed the way toward her room, and I set off with my backpack to find her. Past the smooth creamy yellow walls with the brick red trim. Near the Stupa he said, which I hoped I could identify. I spotted the room numbers, fitted my key in the lock and pushed open the door.
“Hey!!” Kate greeted me with a hug, relaxed and a bit sunburned, of all things. I could immediately feel the confidence that emanated from her. I couldn’t tell all that went into it, but I knew that she felt in her element, in charge, and that the overall experience was one from which she had grown.
I learned that it was not just the course, the formal learning which had shaped her experience. She described the people she met fromSwitzerland,Germany,India,Demark,Australia,Ireland. She had exploredKathmanduwith them, and Boudhanath. She had learned how to bargain for items she bought, and she knew how to flag a cab and negotiate the fare. She had sat on the floor for hours at a stretch, and watched monks debate in Tibetan. She had listened to the music of Nepali weddings celebrated in the streets below, and watched the lights being hung for the Prayer Festival. She had merged with the cars, cows, scooters and dogs who flow through the streets ofKathmandu, a swirling fishbowl of movement. And she felt at home. She could be in this faraway place, in the valley tucked in theHimalayas, more than three years younger than the next oldest person, and she was herself. She was respected for who she is, for her ideas, for how she expresses herself and listens to others. She was part of this international group of people and it fired her up.
As surely as I know that my world was stretched, hers was as well. It swelled to include these people, her view of what is possible, and the myriad of ways that people can and do live their lives. She seems quite pleased about the ways in which it does not fit into the same package as before. I realize that I am, too. It will take some time to absorb it, to fully appreciate what we have brought home from the Mountains, and from the streets ofKathmanduandBhutan. That is okay. There is not a deadline by which we must absorb it all. I can let it sift through in its own time, letting the light fall on each angle as it presents itself in the kaleidoscope of experience.