I visited Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet with a group of photographers in the past three weeks.
Here are some photos and descriptions of the journey.
What I saw:
–In Kathmandu, men lowering the swaddled body of a dead policeman down a ramp to the river, where they uncovered his feet and washed them;
–His wife, standing in the crowd, looking anxious and grief-stricken;
–The policeman’s body resting on a carefully stacked pile of wood, while tenders lit kindling from below. The fire bloomed, a police band played funeral music, a family of monkeys watched from a roof.
–the crowd, including the wife, melting away and all that was left were the fire tenders and dogs, waiting for the bones.
–A strikingly beautiful woman in high heels walking across a square below our restaurant balcony bend slightly at the waist and spit on the cobblestones.
–Sixteen monks at the Tiger’s Nest monastery, high on a cliff in Bhutan, singing a prayer for the passing of the father of a woman in our small group of six. The monks sat cross-legged in a long line below an altar and chanted, rang bells, struck gongs, blew long horns and sang a haunting song that included repeated mournful sighs. I did not know my friend’s father, who had died in the U.S. the day before, but I know what it is to lose a parent and it was impossible not to be moved by the monks’ lovely, solemn prayer song.
–A gorgeous young mother, perfectly made up, turn her baby in my camera’s direction and urge the little girl to show us “Namaste.” The baby pressed her tiny hands together.
–A large male yak in the shadow of Mt. Everest approach a sleeping dog and flip it once, twice, into the air, just to make it clear who owned the territory. The dog got the message.
What I felt:
–Resentment and anxiety at each checkpoint (and there were many) along the Friendship Highway in the Tibet region of China, similar to what I felt in the sixties traveling through East Germany.
–Chagrin at photographing local people, as if they were objects of interest, even though I asked permission and paid them to let me take one or two photos. It reminded me of how resentful I felt in the 80’s when busloads of Japanese tourists were driven through our planned community, taking photos of “woman walking down street with a small child,” or “dog sleeping in the driveway.”
–Awe at the size of Mt. Everest and its adjacent peaks. I didn’t expect that.
–Cold as I’ve never been cold before. It’s not the temperature so much as the wind, which actually pushed me around.
–Altitude adjustment (more difficult than attitude adjustment). At 17,000 feet, as little exertion as walking across a room leaves one breathless. My head felt fuzzy, my balance was shaky and, most of all, I was tired all the time.
Next week: Homes of Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.