१: It’s Thursday night and I’m standing on the third roof of my house, the highest one, pointing to lights in the distance with Rajman and Shriyan.
“See that one over there? That’s Swayambhunath.”
“And that one?”
“What about that one way over there?”
“I don’t know.”
“And that one? Tyo ke chha?”
“Ho. Tyo ke ho? You can’t say chha.”
“Oh, right. Tyo ke ho?”
“That’s Ai-la Lounge. Very fancy.”
“Have you been?”
“OK, let’s go eat. Khaanaa khaane.”
२: It’s Monday morning and I’m still in bed. I’ve been awake for a while now, reading. I don’t want to go downstairs yet. I know what awaits me. I’ll sit at the kitchen table and sip tea in awkward silence while Didi sits across from me, watching me eat and smiling. No, I’ll stay in bed a little longer to run the clock out.
There’s that sound again. Who’s ringing bells on the roof and why? They told us that Newari families have private shrines on the roof; maybe the bells are part of some religious ritual… or maybe it’s someone trying to tell me I’m sleeping too late. Maybe it’s considered rude to sleep in in Nepal but people are less direct than in America so they sent someone to go ring a bell outside my room to wake me up and I’m not taking the hint. That makes sense, right? No, that’s ridiculous. It’s not even that late. It’s perfectly reasonable to still be in bed. Besides, this family has hosted American students before; they wouldn’t be so easily offended. And if the sleeping in bell thing was real someone would have told us about it. Yeah, I’ll just stay here for fifteen more—
I jump out of bed, throw some clothes on, and head downstairs for tea.
३: It’s Tuesday at lunchtime and I’m walking from the program house to a restaurant just down the street for a plate of momo. Musings on Daoism bounce around in my head. As I approach the open air fish vendors of Sasto Bazaar, I instinctively hold my breath. But wait a second… have I learned nothing about The Way? Why am I resisting the natural rhythms of life? I need to think less, to stop trying to bend reality into shapes that make me feel Comfortable. The Fish Smell isn’t bad, it’s not gross. It just is. Once I recognize and internalize this truth, I will have a more harmonious relationship with the world and the Fish Smell will be sweet, just like the vinegar was sweet to the Daoist vinegar taster. I unblock my nostrils, inhale deeply, and almost puke in my mouth. Baby steps, Max, baby steps.