Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nepal . . . at a Loss for Words

I remember sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunset with a good friend. He was a poet . . . actually a song writer. The warm air blowing up over the edge gave us an emotional chill crawling up our spines as did the brilliant red hues of the sedimentary pillars. I was snapping photos left and right. Finally Ken said to me, "Why don't you just sit down and enjoy it for yourself. There is no way you can share this experience with someone who wasn't here . . . so why pretend you can."

I have to agree with him now. After having several phenomenal overseas experiences, like sitting around a campfire with a group of Bedouins eating a roasted goat and the boiled heart of a palm tree in the middle of the Sahara, it is useless trying to share that with someone who was not there. These experiences transcend words or even memories.

This trip to Nepal may have been the most phenomenal of my life. From the start, I didn't take a lot of photos. I bought virtually no souvenirs. I have a trunk of souvenirs in the basement from Oman, Egypt and Pakistan. Why buy something that would just add to the clutter?

Someone back home asked me if I was going to blog from Nepal. I knew that I could not describe the experience in real time because of the lack of technology. Even in Kathmandu you have intermittent access to the WWW. Where we were going was so remote that no only there was no Internet access, there was no electricity or telephones.

I am glad that I've been through this before so I will not meet the disappointment this time. I remember how I returned from my first trip overseas (back in 82) with a carousel of slides in my back pack hoping to convince someone to look at them . . . to no avail. I know better now. It is part of being human that you have these life-changing experiences, experiences that can only be savored alone. There is simply no metaphysical way to bring someone else into you universe. Maybe poets have an advantage in this task, but my poet friend Ken didn't even bother to try to put it in verse.

So I doubt if I will try. I will keep it to myself, only mentioning a few of the facts when asked.

I will talk briefly about my unrealized anxieties about this trip. In the weeks leading up to the trip, twice I awakened in the middle of the night with intense fears. I had fears about the heights, the swinging bridges and the Maoist rebels.

In retrospect, of course those fears were not realized. The trails were actually more precarious than my worst fears (see the photo above). We walked for miles on 16-inch-wide trails, which if stepped off, you would fall into the bottomless abyss. However, when I was hiking them, I had no fear. I felt safe on the solid 16 inches given me.

We crossed longer, higher and more swinging bridges than I had imagined. However, again my confidence did no wavier as I actually crossed them. While you could look through the metal planks to the crashing river hundreds of feet below, the cables were very strong and too gave a great feeling of confidence. However, I was with one physician climbing down a bluff and he fell off, fracturing a few ribs and having to air-lifted out of the remote location.

The Maoist did cause us some trouble. They had control of the main highway back to Kathmandu and called for a road block on the very day (a week ago yesterday) when we were making our way back to the city. However, they let us pass.

Maybe I will try to write more about Nepal . . . or maybe not. I feel too overwhelmed right now to even know where to start.


Anonymous said...

This was awesome.

Teresa said...

very glad you made it back safely. and i'll be glad to continue reading whatever you choose to write about. love your stuff.

i can identify with your dilemma, too -- i returned to the states after four months in ghana and was utterly overwhelmed by my inability to properly communicate what i had seen/learned. as much as i WANTED to share that experience, it got to the point where i was avoiding people for fear of being expected to "tell them all about it" - usually in five minutes or less. i was hardly in a position to talk at all - i felt like i hadn't had enough time to process things, and everything i said ended up sounding trite. (of course i'm an irrational creature... i also remember being annoyed when certain people failed to show "proper interest", even after i'd stonewalled them for days and weeks!)

Fred said...

Thanks for your words. Very insightful.