On top of the world

A wise, unidentified and refreshingly foulmouthed (wo)man once said, “Shit happens.” To which I’d like to add, “Even while hanging with monks. Even on top of the world.”

And now, let the wild rumpus of an explanation to this statement begin!

My amazing hosts and I journeyed to Nepal this past weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving and simultaneously avoid the ceremonial sacrifice of a few neighborhood cows, as it also happened to be Eid Ul-Azha in Bangladesh.

The dearly departed

Our hotel in Kathmandu was just down the street from Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal, where we were able to walk among a host of Tibetan monks offering prayers and tourists seeking peace. Even for those just looking to find a good momo at the home of the world’s highest peaks, it’s hard not to end up delightfully swallowed whole by this place and its quiet energy. (A momo, by the way, is a tasty Nepalese dumpling. Not me.)

Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu

Spiritual scene now sufficiently set, enter “shit” of the comedic incident variety.

After enjoying a dinner of previously mentioned momos, we decided to take a nighttime stroll around the stupa. Most of the crowd from the day was gone, save a few locals lighting candles and children playing in the street. Though it is customary to walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction while also spinning prayer wheels embedded in the wall as a form of meditation, there’s a section where you can enter the interior of the sacred site for further contemplation. And so we did. At the exact moment I was feeling the silence of the space and thinking about my role in the grand scheme of things, my brother, vigorously spinning prayer wheels like a contestant on “The Price Is Right,” jammed his finger between two of them and yelled out “Shit!”


Prayer wheels

A day later, we put our lives in the small hands of a young Nepali taxi driver who promised to deliver us to Nagarkot, a village east of Kathmandu that is renowned for its sunrise view of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest. We left for the journey at 4:30 a.m. and sat in silence as he whipped us around dark, skinny, undeveloped mountain roads in a car that had some working seatbelts and few endearing features. After parking and breathlessly making our way up a trail of steps at an unforgiving altitude, we were welcomed at the final point of our destination with the utterance of one word from our driver, who until then had spoken nothing. The word, as you might have guessed, was “Shit!”

As it turns out, even the top of the world has its cloudy days. We couldn’t make out the range or the sunrise, but we sipped tea and shivered among other hopeful tourists from England, who sang Christmas carols and occasionally threw out the word “bloody” in swoon-worthy British accents.

A chilly morning in Nagarkot

I suspect that if you’ve made it this far into the blog post, you’re wondering what the point to this slightly immoral story might be. Keep in mind that I come from a family whose members jam their fingers in Buddhist prayer wheels, but for me these moments served as reminders that shit does happen, but so does grace and hilarity. You can’t fully experience or appreciate one without the others, so try to take life as it comes, trust the sun is rising even if you can’t see it and when the light eventually arrives (most often when you least expect it)… shit, enjoy the view:

A surprise view of the Himalayas on the plane ride home

6 responses to “On top of the world

  1. i really do love you.

  2. Wonderful story!! Thank you for sharing your experiences in such a colorful way.

  3. I can TOTALLY see your brother doing this. I laughed so hard because I could truly hear him and see him doing this.

    I so wish I could have been there.

  4. As Zeb said tonight, I am so glad that you are here to document our lives for us. I’m so honored that we get to share this time in your life with you. Can’t wait for the next post!

  5. you are my hero.

  6. LOVE it! That is so travel/life/reality. Sounds like your patience paid off and – just think of it – now you have this priceless story to tell at all your family functions forevermore. 😉

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