Dirty People, Reusing Toilet Paper, and Life in Kathmandu, Nepal- Becoming the White Noise
I walked home today from the cardiologist. It was a long walk. Clearly more logical to take a taxi or bus but I wanted to feel Kathmandu. I wanted to become here. Also, I wanted to practice being, not thinking, and observing whatever came up without reacting. So much came up, which is probably why my dear friend and teacher Strong Wings suggests “meditate for releasing the pile of junk which has risen to surface of your heart…” He’s wise that way.
On the way, I saw a beautiful mom with a long jet-black braid hold her two-braided, delicate daughter’s hand on the way (I’m assuming by the girl’s uniform) to school. I saw a homeless man (not sure) brush and brush and brush his long hair, face down. I waited, watching those long brush strokes, noting the bags of stuff behind him, and wondering how personal hygiene fits in with homelessness, and probably, had he lifted his head up, how behind the layers of dirt I imagined I would see a man, courageous and none the less beautiful than Buddha the prince himself.
I saw a store with a stuffed animal of the Hindi elephant God which I thought was so beautiful and then wondered why no one ever came up with Jesus or Allah stuffed animals, for that would be a cool way for kids to connect to God, by hugging his God-doll at night and whispering all the patterings of his heart. I saw a young man, maybe 20, setting up his shop with unparalleled hop and pazzaz in his step. Every plant he places on the curb is accompanied by a huge leap/in-the-air twist/ballet flared leap backwards. He was literally dancing hip hop as he worked. He also released these joyful grunts which I imagined were a Nepalese ‘horray’ of sorts.
I saw the shriveled old lady hunched into a ball against the electricity pole. She had huge, kind eyes and smiled through them when I gave her 100 rupees (1 USD). I saw, no, I felt a school. Two of them actually. Like a buzz of a huge bee hive crossed with a minor earthquake, my body felt the vibrations of their energy way before my mind could register that this was the happy noise of children. I thought how I’d like to go and volunteer, to speak with them, play with them, and then thought I should wait for the film crew, and then, I didn’t want to volunteer anymore.
I love the stage and live TV, and radio, and newspapers. I’ve always loved performing, sharing, but I have fears that come up with the arrival of the film crew later this week. I don’t want us to appear fake. In past few weeks, I’ve caught myself observing us all cuddling in bed, a heap of five, talking, petting, and loving each other, and thought how our looks of affection and love will somehow seem artificial as soon as there is a camera in our faces. And though we were like this before it was documented, I feel a bit va-clemped with the idea that now, maybe, it won’t feel natural anymore, as if we’re doing it so that the world will see that we are so. Same goes for volunteering.
We’ve done it around the world and haven’t made a big hoop-dee-doo about it cuz then it feels wrong. I had a tab on the site called 10,000 Souls where I started to document the people we’ve help so that some organization would see that we do volunteer work. It felt so wrong, so not the spirit of who we want to be to flaunt it, so I’ve since removed it. i felt a huge relief when I clicked ‘delete’ on that page. I want to volunteer because my family and I want to touch others, be a part of their experience, and having the film crew there makes it hard to feel authentic. Even walking down the street, being white noise, will be quite impossible with bulky equipment and microphones three feet in front of us.
And what if they see us being ugly? Oh God, ugly is awful. I don’t mind breaking down from exhaustion, freaking out from fear, but ugly. Mommy ugly and Daddy ugly- oh no. I was yelling at my kids once (I do that about twice a year you know) and Raffy our dear angel friend from Panagsama Beach, Moalboal, Philippines was in the room.
“You dangerous?” he asks.
“Yes. Sometimes, Raffy, I’m ugly.”
“No, no, you children. You love. You be nice, not ugly.”
So, Raffy’s still there reminding me to be full of the light that is within me but sometimes, damn it, it gets dark. And we’ve been hanging out in the Kathmandu Chabad Center and I observe how Chani, the Rabbi’s wife, affectionately and enthusiastically receives her kids, even if it’s five minutes since the last time he walked passed our couch. “Hello gorgeous child! How I love you! You are so magical!” And she lightens up, her face shines with genuine God-love and maternal pride radiating, pulsating out and I think, I want too. And I came home last night and I didn’t find my God-light and they fought over something so stupid (again) and I thought I must have been doing something so very wrong. So very wrong.
The Alleys of Katmandu
And as I walked I saw a blind man in a yellow shirt. As I’m skirting my way between that mesh of Kathmandu- that vibrating madness of people, stores, rickshaws, bike vendors, cars, and motorbikes all in narrow alleyways filled with mud and dirt, I thought how is it he walks so calmly, so confidently navigating through it all. Dahnya first brought it to our attention that things don’t have neat places here- sidewalk, people, stores, cars, not they’re all globbed together. We’ve all be grazed by a motorbike, car mirror, and have been bumped into enough people when we weren’t attentive to the patterns that dictate pedestrian-ism here. We’re definitely a part of this white noise.
Cars ride on the left side of the road, sort of. It’s about as definitive as saying I consume a lot of water. Theoretically, I do. I carry my water bottle everywhere, but some days I just don’t barely drink a drop. And so it is here that the roads have rules but the drivers take it as general kind-hearted recommendations, not strict rules of engagement. So I closed my eyes today as my taxi whizzed me to the Japanese Embassy (across from the cardiologist’s office) and decided to be in my own skin, and allow him to do his job, which surely he knows how to do with great grace and craftiness, even if I think it’s pure madness.
I came home and hoped no one would notice me. I climbed up those stairs very quietly. I love Stupa House to death and Ram and Dorsi and their families are my family now. I just wanted to be invisible. To have some space also in our hostel to continue being in thought and reflection. To perpetuate the white-noised-ness that I had become. Also, I need some quiet time to reflect. Kobi and I are going through a sticky patch, which we all go through at times and I think the film crew’s arrival is exasperating my feelings of distress. What if they see that we are not the perfect couple? Or worse, what if I realize that all my criticisms towards him are simply reflections of what is going on within me and I’m conveniently throwing it off on him so that I don’t have to deal with the gnawing that is me?
Yeah, I know.
So, this is so Gabiklaf.com material and yet, again, I can’t separate the spiritual and the travel. I can’t. They’re as inter-meshed as the mud and the people in the street. And I think of the guy with the red shirt, matching his bright red painted forehead marking, washing his hand in the rain, and I realize how much I adore rain and all the insights and cleansing I have walking in it and watching it. And I realize, as I walk in the streets how dirty many people, including me, are. You walk in the rain, you get covered in mud. No point in cleaning it really. It will just be back there again the next time you walk out the door.
On more careful observation I note that most of the Nepalese people are clean. Their pant legs are not splattered like mine are. How do they do that?
I think it would be good to take a shower today. I haven’t done that in a while. Kobi brought it to my attention and I was deep puzzled listening to him run down the list of days that I have not bathed myself. Oh. I guess that’s on my to do list today. Yes, that would be nice.
Reusing Toilet Paper
And I realize this is TMI but why not? Kathmandu does not have a waste disposal system. That means everything you flush down the toilet or throw away ends up in the river. No fair. Some it of may be burned, all the rest is in the river. And I look at the trash bin in the bathroom, filled with once-used toilet paper and I know I don’t want to contribute to that pollution and I see a few pieces that only I have used and clearly were used last time for urine alone and I think, why not?
The kids and I have talked about how to create as little as trash as possible. When they ask for water in the street, if we don’t have our water bottle with us, we tell them to wait until we get back to our 20-liter jug in the room. We won’t be contributing to the devastation of this valley-city who has long-outgrown herself for our mere convenience. We said how great it would be if we could learn to use only water, and get rid of the use of toilet paper all together. We did without it in countries that had squat toilets and little vegetable sprayers next to the hole, but here. I don’t know. We’ll let you know how we advance in this arena.
Is there such a thing? Does a story ever fully end? Even after death, is there a conclusion? So, my last thoughts to share are that I do hope you leave a comment. Tell me you read it and share with my any thoughts it stirred in you? Was the reused toilet paper too much? Do you think a shower would be a good idea? Will we be able to be ourselves and feel a peace with it with the film crew? Would you be able to?
The power’s out, again. It’s quite the norm here. We’re delighted and tickled when it turns back on. It’s raining out, again. It’s quite normal here too. My guitar is out, again, and it is odd, but if she’s in her case, I play her half as much as when she’s just an arm-length away. My computer is almost out of battery, which I can’t recharge for the is no power. Any guesses what I’ll be doing in the next hour? Yes, guitar and water and meditating on what flop-sum and jetsam as risen to my heart.
White noise, live, from Kathmandu, Nepal,