familiar changes

while long, the rest of my travel from Abu Dhabi went fine. shortly after arriving to the airport in Delhi, i found myself in a small waiting area with an even smaller transfer desk, staffed with one person. the time was 3:30am. remember, i had booked a ticket to India with the intent of staying there for about a week, then flying to Kathmandu on a separate ticket booked with a regional airline. while i was able to change my ticket and flight date, i still arrived to the airport without a boarding pass for the flight and without a visa should i need to go through customs to get to the ticketing counter. so when i approached the sole worker and asked about my ticket, he simply said ‘Indigo? No.’ he motioned for me to have a seat, and having literally no other options, i joined the half dozen other weary travelers who looked about as tired and clueless as i must have.

side note: i’m always intrigued by other travelers, and find myself writing a narrative about them in my mind. the couple from Russia, the gal traveling back to Nepal from Colorado, the surly guy from the UK. i try to guess their career, the purpose of their travel, or the interests they have back home, and while i’ll never know 99.9% of their actual stories, it’s still a fun way to pass the time.

it must have been around 8:00am that someone from IndiGo arrived and started working on my ticket request. about an hour later, and with the help of a security worker who studied in Boston for the past three years, i got my boarding pass, got through security, and set out to find some breakfast. (turns out pancakes are just as good in India as they are back home.) and while the whole ticket process went fairly smoothly, i do have reservations about it going well on the way back home. i don’t know for sure of course, and there’s absolutely no way to tell with how things work over here, but something tells me going from a regional carrier to an international transfer without a visa in India isn’t going to be easy.

the flight at 11:00 went super fast, and before long i was rocking back and forth in the back of a small taxi fighting it’s way through the crowded streets of Kathmandu. it felt like i never left. i knew the turns before the car made them, recognized all the landmarks along the way, and felt the polluted, dust-filled air creep its way back into my lungs. later that afternoon, i was wondering the streets of Thamel, and again located all the shops i set out to find with ease. there is a comfort that comes with familiarity, even though it was more than two years since i was last here. a call home and a great chat with a good friend before bed, i closed my eyes around 8:00pm with the endless sounds of horns blaring, dogs barking, and workers building just outside my door.

while I wasn’t able to sleep through the night, i did make it for about five hours – guess a ten hour and 45 minute time change will do that to you. the good news is it was mid-afternoon back home, so i texted a friend to say hello and we chatted through most of my night. when the time came to say goodbye just after sunrise, i set out for a small run followed by an hour and a half yoga class downtown. both were just the thing i needed so shake off the dwindling wear and tear on my body from the previous two days of travel, and shortly after arriving back to the hotel, i caught a taxi and set out for the home.

like the drive from the airport, everything was familiar. everything except the road that is. it was horrible. large sections were broken up the entire way, with dirt and rock pretty much the whole way. there was a lot of new construction along the way which i’m sure was the culprit for the road’s condition, but despite the challenges, my driver got me to Budhanilkantha in record time. a walk north up the road on the right, a left turn at the fork in the road, a right through the pasture, over the creek, and around three new homes later, i found myself back at the home.

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although it looked the same, much has changed here, and while I’ll likely discuss the details in later posts, i’m glad to say nearly all the changes have been for the better. two greenhouse type structures for their huge garden, solar power on the roof, added security on the house itself, and constant hot water; all creature comforts we sometimes take for granted back home, yet things they lived without for so long.

i was greeted at the door by a few new children, all smiling of course. they are current on a holiday from school, and won’t be returning until this coming THU, so it was nice to have a chance to see them all right away. i dropped my bags, kicked off my shoes, and upon entering the house saw the familiar faces of BJ, Manoj, and Nabin. BJ busted out a heart melting smile, Manoj immediately grabbed at my beard (some things never change – last time i was here his hands were constantly in my face), and shy Nabin briefly smiled before hiding his face in the curtains. i introduced myself to the other children and had a short conversation with BJ. i was amazed at how open and relaxed he was. just two years ago, he rarely smiled or chatted with anyone. now, he seemed just like a regular 12 year old.

there were a group of children down the hill where everyone hangs out and plays soccer, so i walked down to say hello, two young boys leading the way and one holding my hand as we went. Shiva was there, along with three neighbor boys i recognized from last time. Anjil was also there, right arm in a full cast. he said he fell playing soccer and broke it last week which surprised me very little seeing their field is full of holes, rocks, and roots. and while the boys carried on chatting and doing their adolescent thing, i was able to ask Anjil about a few faces that were missing. Tul, Santa, Ashok, and much to my dismay – Bikash.

i learned Tul and Santa had both moved to live with relatives, that Ashok was living in town (who i later learned from Rabindra had graduated school and was now attending university in Kathmandu), and simply that Bikash was not here. the boys had no more information to share. worry set in immediately, and for only the second time in my life, i felt what i can only imagine a parent feels about their own child when fearing the worst. had something happened to him? was he still ok? where was he living if not here?

having called him when i arrived, one of the new caretakers informed me Rabindra would be to the house shortly, and no more than ten minutes later, i was shaking hands with him. he hadn’t changed a bit, although his Boston Red Socks had was now replaced with a simple black Nike one. his English, though improved a little, was still broken, but he told me to grab my things and that he would take me to where i would be staying.

along the ten minute walk, we were able to discuss our lives and the changes that had happened since i was last here. he informed me he had moved from his town to the house we were walking to, that an armed robbery to the home not long after i left in 2011 forced him to move closer and add security to the house. two volunteers were targeted, and most of their possessions taken. shocked, i asked if that type of crime was common here. ‘no’, her replied. ‘first time ten year.’ and for the second time in less than a half hour, my heart ached. i asked about the boys no longer at the home, and was happy to hear Tul and Santa were indeed placed with relatives to live with, and that Bikash was well, living with his Grandfather in Kathmandu. I asked Rabindra if he knew the location or the address, and was thrilled to hear he did and could share it with me. i’ll likely stop by to visit when i head beck into the town this next WED to meet up with a few friends.

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at the end of the walk, Rabindra lead me up a small path to a very pleasant home he later explained was a rental for Goma, the volunteers, and himself to live in. since the robbery, he explained, they housed the volunteers in a separate building out of concern for the safety of the children which makes perfect sense – most have things of value like ipod, computers, etc. we entered the house which was simple but clean, he showed me to my room, and shortly after Goma arrived home from her job down the road in a tailer shop. she set out straight away preparing a simple dinner of rice, potato, and lentil soup, and along with a new volunteer from Azerbaijan, the four of us shared a simple conversation while eating our dinner over candlelight. nothing romantic intended of course – the power was simply out until who knows when. oh to be back in Nepal.

tired, i slipped away to bed around 8 o’clock and slept through most of the night. currently, it’s 4:24am, a good hour or so before the sun will rise and i’ll be able to head out on a run. since i’m in need of supplies and the children will be at some to do most of the morning (one which for whatever reason i can’t attend), i’ll likely head down into town, check some emails, and post this. i’m planning to spend the next few days trying to figure out what type of aid or supplies they might need, and also plan to visit the clinic to see if they might need some help there as well. i’ll check back in once i get a bit more settled with some more updates then.

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