Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pardon Me, A Little Luxury

At 6:30 in the morning in Kathmandu, Nima, his daughter, Jeeba the agent, Karen and Brad joined us for early papaya and roti at the Yak & Yeti Hotel to say goodbye. We were ringed with kata (scarves) and Nima presented me with too many gifts - lovely wool blankets, banners of Buddhist images, and a white kata. To leave the care of the Sherpa people is tough. For a deacon, it was the extraordinary part of the past month.
Kathmandu airport is still old style: get on a bus, rolling out to the plane, lug the carryons up wobbly stairs. But Jet Air, a private Indian airlines, is quite swift and clean, although we spent an hour sitting on a non-busy runway and we could smell an amazing breakfast waiting to be served. I had ordered semolina and a sandwich of lentils and cheese or something similar. What Jim pointed out to me was those red and green things were chilli, which I found out the hard way. And there went breakfast. He said, don’t forget where you are now. India is the land of spicy foods.
New Delhi is a surprise. I had visions of beggars and legless people on the sidewalks, but it is way beyond that. The people are extremely cosmopolitan. The streets are wide, paved, smooth, and without potholes. Three-wheeled green and yellow taxis stop for passengers lined up at stops, but we wove our way through gorgeous trees - flame tree and frangipanis - and then gardens around huge pink and yellow estates to this tall and exotic Taj Hotel. Finally, a place I can brush my teeth without using bottled water. Yea. It’s a very India type of hotel. Huge red and gold panels of embroidered fabric on the wall, marble decor in the Mongol style. Employees like rich icing on a party cake, with impeccable manners, desire to serve you. None of the rudeness and hands out for tip thing that we get in the USA. I immediately headed for an afternoon at the spa to get my body back. My skin was dry, my face a wrinkled canyon, and I needed rejuvenation. The Spa was in the low flower of this tall hotel, and as I laid there being pummeled by the Indian masseuse, I began to wonder what would happen if the lights went out. You remember in Kathmandu, the lights went out three or four times a day or there were no lights at all. The last night in Kathmandu, we had gone in the rain (finally pollution-clearing rain) to the home of Jeta, one of our Sherpa leaders, for dinner. We met his daughters who were young, giggly and spoke English. Then Jeta and Suka (his cousin) placed on the table an endless meal of French fries, grilled corn kernals (delicious - they are taken off of horse-corn, then grilled in oil), potato chips, spicy chicken chunks, the famous Dahl, and homemade rice beer. We had brought a fruit torte for dessert, But the lights went out about half way through the dinner, and quickly Jeta came up with battery lights so we could see. I’m telling you when it is dark in Kathmandu, it’s dark. There is nothing but blackness to look at. Once again we were covered in "katas" when we loaded into a taxi willing to take us back to the hotel. We bid farewell to a strong and generous people.
So how do I feel now that I’m out of Nepal? First, I must be honest. I admire Hillary Clinton’s staying power. It’s hard when people let you think you have no chance to accomplish your goal. During the long days of my painful struggle to get to Base Camp, even some of the Sherpas didn’t think I would make it pass Namche Bazaar. They told me yesterday. I had moments when I didn’t want to make it myself. Too much agony. But Jim, the principle guide and encourager, saw that in the morning I had new energy even though in the afternoons I was close to death - and so each day we set out to see what could be done. He is the one who reaches down into your spirit and pulls out what he thinks you want to have pulled out. He knew how important hanging those flags was to me. So we didn’t stop, turn around, back down, or give up. And look, we were winners. When things are looking their darkest, there is always some light to cling to.
Today must be Pentecost Sunday since next Sunday is Trinity Sunday in the Episcopal Church. Today is a red day, next Sunday back to green. I’ve been asked what I think about the Trinity after these head-knocks with Buddhism and Hinduism. I must admit, I’ve always curious who I'm supposed to pray to - God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I think this is an interesting dilemma. Mostly I pray to God the Father because He Is. And if He is, He is not just ours but everybody’s and This I do believe. Whatever your faith, we are all seeking the Master, who is God, and some sort of heaven to which our souls/spirits transcend at death and some reason for having been here for a lifetime. After watching the Hindu cremations, I realized, although I already realized, how wasteful is the body and how powerful the spirit/soul. I love Jesus, wish I could be like Him, and believe that as deacons our calling is to do just that - Pass Jesus onto the poor, hungry, homeless, tragic, imprisoned, devastated people. We are to love those most difficult to love, even those who do not love us. We are the passer oners, Jesus being the light in our hearts and the hope of our souls. The Holy Spirit is in the Wind - thus I cottoned to the idea of prayer flags I so proudly hung from our Memphis folk. I know the Holy Spirit is our conscience and speaks to us.
It's odd how the charismatic version of Anglicanism-Episcopalian is so into the Holy Spirit - and the waving of hands and the getting slain in the spirit and falling out - all that rather dramatic stuff that turns me off. It was strong in my Uruguayan church, but not really brought up in the Memphis diocese. I love to stand in the wind and feel the Spirit blowing through. But neither Jesus nor the Holy Spirit stand alone because they are aspects of our God. It all works for me, the Trinity. It seems much more solid than the Buddhist waiting to find out who the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama is going to be, and there are lots of Lamas (teachers) one no more powerful than the other, as I understand, who sit crosslegged and wrap in maroon and golden robes and pray from their books and drink yak butter tea. It's fascinating. The blessings the Buddhist people share with us is amazing. You wouldn't believe all the gifts I was given - the "kata"s (the gold and white scarves - I must have 15 of them in my suitcase) for good luck and safe travel; the carpets given by the Lama, the blankets and yak tails and just anything that is of the Sherpa lifestyle. It was embarrassing to me, not a good one for receiving.
Hindus, I don't know. It's a lot wierder. After greeting everyone with Namaste in Nepal, here in Hinduist India, you don’t. It’s plain old English "hello". In some areas the word "jule" is used for hello, goodbye, thank you, etc. But that’s not particularly Hindu. All those strange figures with multi arms and multi legs, and bulls and elephants, and so forth aren’t very inviting. I don't mind the animals being smudged with red or yellow dots powders as are the people, and they do use prayer beads. I'm sure their Nirvana and Enlightenment (Buddhism) are on the same train as our hoping to get to Heaven. But I feel such comfort in our One Solid God and when I am exhausted and crying I just start in on the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary because they are on the tip of my tongue always. I don't have to remember anything but that and I pray and pray until I find a peace. When I was out there pushing the next foot up on the next scarey boulder, all I thought about was GOD. Please Help me, give me strength. Don’t let me let anyone down. And that was the same when I was in the radiation room fighting breast cancer, holding my prayer beads and feeling a strange peace around me.
Photos: 1) We're in India At Last. 2) Jeta's girls with the fruit torte. 3) Hindu holy bowls made of a kind of magnolia leaf.

No comments: