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Mornings At Bouddhanath

October 13, 2010

in Nepal

All week I’ve been living in the center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal.

I don’t often stay at a hotel around Bouddhanath Stupa because the traffic is terrible, but it’s certainly magical here. At 5:30am a long, low gong sounds to wake the monks at the monastery next door. It tolls once, feet begin to stir. After a while, it resonates a second time, a multitude of feet scurry. After a while, a third time. Muffled voices, coming and going. The gaps between deep reverberations grow shorter until it’s beaten in quick succession. Then silence. The monks are at morning prayer.

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The view from my window: dawn at Bouddhanath stupa.

Early rising was an easy transition because jet lag had me awake at 3 am the first few days. Sleeping until 5:30 feels absolutely luxurious after that! Of course, by 9pm I’m ready to fall on my face, but no matter–all my Nepali friends are on the same schedule. Drinking at night with my foreign friends will wait until after the first trek. Meanwhile I exist in a grateful balance of work and pleasure.

I lay in bed about a half-hour. I could put in earplugs or move to a different guesthouse, but then I’d miss this sweetness of early morning. When I get up, I poke my head out the curtains. The eyes of the Buddha are looking back at me. My room directly faces the stupa, prayer flags utterly still in the dawn light. I meditate, or not, depending on the day. Then I head out for breakfast.

If it’s going to be brief, I sit with old Tibetan women and drink steaming milk tea. I eat nan bread with spicy soup, and chat up the women who quiz me about why I speak Nepali and what I’m doing here. (I only have that conversation 6 times a day.) If it’s a working breakfast, it’s American style: eggs, toast, and a wireless internet connection.

The day is long when it starts at 5:30am, and I’m able to accomplish a lot in the mornings before dropping into the tumult of Kathmandu streets for meetings and errands. Mornings at Bouddhanath reconnect me with the beauty of Nepal–hard to find in the dirt and din of the big city this has become.

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