The boys declared Nepal the best country so far within an hour or two of landing in Kathmandu. When asked to specify what made it the best country, their answers varied from the vague “I don’t know, it’s really cool” “everybody’s really open and nice and stuff” to the more specific “the tea” “the colors, sounds and smells” “the sadhus”. I have to agree with them, but I am also hard pressed to put the “why” into words.
If only one word was allowed, it would be “texture”. That might be a stand in word for “what a place looks like when it is extremely poor”, but there are other extremely poor parts of the world that don’t have this feel. Nepal is an unthreatening place, even (apparently) for a nine year old boy. It is a place of stunning natural beauty (which we’ve so far only caught a glimpse of from the plane window). It is a place of vibrant culture, much of it intertwined with two of the most fascinating world religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. It is a place that seems totally chaotic, but in a good, exciting and energizing way. We’re all looking forward to our two months here.
It did not hurt the first impression of Kathmandu that we decided to stay in Bodhnath (or Boudha) on the good recommendation of our friends Kevin and Sarah. Boudha is the home of Asia’s largest Buddhist stupa and is inhabited primarily by Tibetan refugees. Our first afternoon in the country was spent circumambulating the Bodhnath Stupa with the maroon-robed monks and other devotees under fluttering prayer flags with the scent of yak butter candles in the air. Among the many people who took an interest in boys (but who could not care less about the boys’ parents) were two newly minted nursed who wanted to practice their English. The boys have enjoyed celebrity status throughout the trip, but Nepal has brought it to a new level.