roof of the world

“Silence is an answer too.”

We came back to Nepal with the sole purpose of spending a month back at the Kopan Monastery in a retreat known as the November Course. We arrived on the last night of Diwali and could see the city lit up from the dark sky. This was unusual in part due to routine electric outages and the fuel crisis which were pervading and further depressing the country. Add this to the devastation from the earthquake and you have a disaster. So it was surprising but lovely to see that Nepalis were still able to find a way to celebrate.


Arriving back in Nepal felt like a breath of fresh air. If you’ve ever been to Kathmandu, this is a funny statement because the air is thick with pollution. You can never escape the veil of dust and fumes. But immediately, I’m struck by how soft people talk and their calm and (no it’s not everyone) how peaceful people seem in their lives of faith and purpose and devotion. I felt self-conscious and brash and loud and over-anxious. I felt a little lost. When we were last here we’d been traveling for over a year and I had settled into a routine of living a simple life and I suppose a calm. What a juxtaposition – I hadn’t realized how much of that feeling I’d lost.


With one day before our class we walked around Boudha and gathered supplies and warm clothes to get us thru the month in the cooler climate and early mornings. That night as I was sharing a beer with Ez is occurred to me that maybe I should take a pregnancy test. We had just started trying and I assumed it would take some time, but little pieces of the last few weeks starting clicking in to place. The extra emotions, the tiredness, the nausea I felt at the fish market in Dubai. In a sort of disbelief I went into the bathroom, took the test and walked out with what looked like a positive result. But it wasn’t totally clear. The next morning I took it again with the same result, but this time feeling it was positive.


When we planned this recent trip we had discussed volunteering and trying to get pregnant before going to the monastery. I felt like we called this into being by simply speaking the wish aloud and in our hearts. It felt surreal and like an omen that the beginning of this new little life would be in the surrounds of such a peaceful setting. I had new inspiration to work on my myself – to align my mind with my heart and prepare for what changes lay ahead.


Our time at the monastery was deeply personal and I don’t wish to belittle it with quips or stories or try to make it or myself sound more grand and spiritual that it was. It was a month of tough work, reflection, boredom, tiredness and overall beauty. I took refuge at Kopan in every sense of the word. And I felt grateful for having my life intersect with so many new intentional people.


We often say this baby must have good karma to have been conceived in Malawi while we were doing work we loved and found meaningful. Then being in the presence and energy of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings. I feel so grateful that my baby spent some of it’s first weeks in such a powerful spiritual place. As LZR (what Ez and I call him for short) would say “wow wow wow wow, amazing amazing amazing.” Or something to that effect anyway.


A month passed quickly and as we said our goodbyes there was a sadness but also excitement as we headed to a clinic to finally confirm the pregnancy. When the results came back I cried, and I felt a closeness to Ezra as we hugged for what was one of the first times this past month. We were adjusting back to a life outside a monastery, reconnecting with each other and now connecting with this little being growing inside my belly.


We spent our last few days in Kathmandu with our dear friend Bill. We met him in the Philippines and now spent time with him here walking around and catching up on life and trying not to get run over or run down by all the traffic. And then we readied ourselves to go back home. The next step unknown.


dharma + the himalayas

“Whether one believes in religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.” – H.H. Dalai Lama

The joke goes that Nepal is the land of three religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Tourism.  Of the three, I know the least of the former, but we headed anyway to the Kopan monastery for a 10 day course on meditation and Tibetan Buddhism.  We had exemplary teachers who were very compassionate and funny.  I love the humor of monks and nuns.  One meditation on trying to see past the “self-grasping I,” our teacher had a hard time composing himself as he was explaining we are the only one who sees ourselves as “I.”  To everyone else we are just “another other.”   I’m not sure why this became so funny but it did as he kept choking down his chuckle. DSC04260 - CopyDSC04299 - CopyDSC04230 - CopyIMG_20140324_104443DSC04274 - CopyDSC04459 - CopyDSC04357 - CopyDSC04342 - CopyDSC04226 - CopyDSC04488 - Copy We were fortunate to have 21 year old Cherok Lama visiting from India and he gave us a few dharma (Law of the Universe) talks.  Similarly his humor was flawless.  He started by thanking us for all being his mother (according to reincarnation we have been in the cycle of rebirth for 3 eons, so we’ve all been each others’ mother at one point or another).  Ezra decided it would be funny to make a t-shirt with the front saying “another other” and the back “another mother.” I guarantee it would get a monastic stamp of approval.   When talking about depression Cherok Lama said you may become “emo” and paint your house black.  I wasn’t sure where he was getting his intel but any Tibetan monk who uses the word “emo” in a dharma talk is okay by me. Cherok Lama was wonderful and what I will always remember is his laugh.   He was young and so incredibly wise.

DSC04511 - CopyDSC04580 - CopyIMG_5732 - CopyIMG_5660 - CopyDSC04571 - CopyDSC04594 - CopyDSC04589 - CopyDSC04661 - CopyDSC04647 - CopyDSC04673 - CopyDSC04732 - CopyDSC05631 - CopyDSC05015 - CopyDSC05004 - CopyDSC04950 - CopyDSC04936 - CopyDSC04928 - CopyDSC05130 - CopyDSC05040 - Copy We spent the next couple weeks on the Annapurna circuit with sweeping views of the Himalayas.  There is something about being next to these great giants that help you grasp how small you really are.  The trek itself was not difficult, save getting used to the altitude and lugging around a backpack for weeks.  The Thorong La pass over the mountains was the challenging part.  Take off a few thousand feet of elevation, the wind and snow and it would have been a breeze.  I had a few symptoms of altitude sickness but Ezra and our new friend Al were great encouraging me up those last 3000 feet and at the top with a bird’s eye view of the Himalayas I thought I might cry, partly in relief that we now got to go down 5000 feet.  We hung some prayer flags, snapped a few pics and said goodbye to my friend the Annapurnas.  We had a few more days of trekking to go but this was the highlight.  It may not have been summiting Everest but it made me feel as close to heaven and the ether as I may get in this life.

IMG_5906 - CopyDSC05141 - Copy DSC05181 - CopyDSC05201 - CopyDSC05220 - CopyDSC05228 - CopyDSC05251 - Copy DSC05420 - Copy DSC05447 - CopyDSC05397 - Copy DSC05533 - CopyDSC05372 - CopyDSC05576 - CopyDSC05559 - CopyDSC05331 - Copy DSC05266 - CopyDSC05257 - Copy   Just some funny stuff… IMG_5663 - Copy DSC05508 - CopyDSC05593 - Copy I apologize for the obnoxious number of pictures.  I just couldn’t help myself.


“As you move through this life…you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life and travel- leaves marks on you.”  – Anthony Bourdain

We met up with our dear friend Lidia in the noisy, bustling and otherwise chaotic town of Kathmandu.  Which was a pleasant surprise for us all, considering we booked the flight 12 hours before departure time.  It was much colder than we were used to (you could grab a beer out of an unplugged fridge and it was icy) and with no heat we found wearing all our clothes – while greatly reducing the size of our backpacks, was not very practical.  We were in the land of knock off adventure gear after all, and so decided to suit up.

DSC03207 - Copy DSC03206 - Copy DSC03203 - CopyDSC03163 - Copy DSC03111 - Copy DSC03018 - Copy DSC02976 - Copy DSC02870 - CopyDSC02897 - Copy

Our friend Bill gave us a lead on volunteering and so the next two weeks we spent at Little Angel’s, a home for 18 children.  (A five hour bus ride from town, although only 30km as the crow flies. Longer if your driver pulls over half way through to wash his hair on the side of the road.  True story.) We helped with chores while the kids were at school – picking coffee, digging up turmeric and clearing new plots of farm land.  Otherwise we just spent time with the kids helping with homework, playing games or having my hair braided (covered in sesame oil and picked through for lice – thank god none were found!).  Living was modest and hard work.  Gathering firewood was a 30 minute walk up hill.

DSC03350 - CopyDSC03493 - CopyDSC03483 - CopyDSC03475 - CopyDSC03527 - CopyDSC03530 - CopyIMG_5412 - CopyIMG_5322 - CopyIMG_5340 - CopyDSC03413 - Copy

If you asked the kids their favorite food they’d say “everything” or “rice” or “spinach.”  They’d get a dreamy look on their face when they talked about fruit or eggs or meat.  Egg day was Saturday and meat was twice a month.  The kids were sweet and after we all warmed to each other, they really just wanted affection and would stroke and kiss your hands or take your arm and put it around them.  All the boys loved Ezra and flocked to him. The three women who ran the home were wonderful with the kids and sweet to us.  They had fun teaching me how to make egg curry and dal, and had advice on how to wash my clothes and painted my nails. Everyone was very curious if we had an arranged marriage or love marriage (we always just say we’re married-it makes it easier).  One of the boys and the house mom Gita gifted me with bangles and the kids taught us Nepali and laughed at our horrible pronunciations.   Some of their stories broke our hearts and we’re so happy we had the opportunity to know them and grateful for organizations like Team Nepal who are really making a difference.  The kids sent us off with a warm parting and will remain in our hearts.

DSC03403 - CopyDSC03539 - CopyDSC03568 - Copy DSC03578 - Copy DSC03651 - Copy DSC03614 - Copy DSC03655 - Copy IMG_5351 - Copy IMG_5349 - Copy IMG_5346 - Copy IMG_5420 - CopyIMG_5421 - CopyDSC03686 - CopyDSC03689 - Copy

After volunteering we spent a few days in the lakeside town of Pokhara.  Had beautiful views of the Himalayas and hiked up to the Peace Pagoda.  Another neck jarring bus ride down to Lumbini, near the Indian border, to check out where the main man Buddha was born.  We spent a day biking around temples and had one of the most peaceful moments of my life – sitting under a tree, listening to the wind whirl through leaves and prayers flags, while monks meditate and chant in the background.  It’s a moment that will long stay with me.

DSC03827 - CopyDSC03749 - CopyDSC03791 - Copy DSC04159 - CopyDSC03977 - CopyDSC03961 - CopyDSC03924 - CopyDSC03960 - Copy

If you’d like to sponsor a child, donate, or volunteer with Team Nepal: