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Making memories with family in Nepal

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This past month, my wife and I were privileged to visit our daughter, her husband and two of our grandchildren in Nepal. They work with Human Services International to provide relief and services to the people there.

While the rest of the family took naps, my daughter and I decided that we would explore the gardens of a Buddhist monastery. The guidebook said that the gardens were surrounding a Stupa, or assembly hall, containing a golden Buddha. To describe the gardens, the guidebook used words such as magnificent, beautiful, flowing fountains and well-manicured. That was something we needed to see.

We took a taxi to the bottom of a steep hill. Craning our necks, we could see the white and golden dome of the Stupa, shining in the sun at the top. The taxi driver pointed to a trail and told us that if we followed it, we would find the gardens.

Surrounded by the dense Nepali forest, we slowly wound our way up the hill. Strings of Tibetan prayer flags decorated the openings in the forest.

Rounding the last corner, we stepped into an open courtyard. The odor hit us, and we realized we were standing in the latrine. The trail had taken us in the back door.

Along one wall were five stalls with Asian squat pots, and at a right angle was a wall with shower heads. The drainage system was not working well, so we stepped lightly through the puddles and quickly exited through the only door only to stumble, Lucy and Ethel-like, into a Buddhist service.

With friendly smiles we were beckoned into the service. On the opposite wall were several statues of their gods and candles and offerings. Along the other three sides of the room sat men and boys of all ages with shaved heads and maroon robes. Each was chanting a unique tune. One tiny boy, possibly five years old, was crying but was rewarded with pinches from the ancient monk sitting next to him.

A small boy, perhaps eight years old, took command of the incense sensor and blessed us all. He did such a good job that an older monk urged a second time around. On his second time past us, we got a double dose of blessing (or cleansing, I am not sure which).

In one corner, four older teenage boys tried to wake Buddha up by playing long monotone notes on wooden horns that were 6 to 8 feet long. The horns were quite like the Alpine horns of the Ricola commercials.

The cacophony of sights, sounds and smells created a distinct worshipful ambience.

We smiled and nodded our heads as we slipped out a side door.

Taking off in a different direction, we continued our search for the gardens. As we wandered through a maze of buildings containing classrooms and dormitories, we started to gather a following of Buddhist novices. Before long, we had a group of ten boys following us. When we asked them a question in English, they would consult among themselves and then respond with, “I do not know.” When my daughter spoke to them in Nepali the answer was the same.

Eventually, we found our way to the gardens and Stupa. They were damaged in the 2015 earthquake. We could see that there had been paths, flower beds and fountains. The assembly hall was not safe to enter and would be closed until the monastery could build a new Stupa for the golden Buddha.

Among the garden ruins, we found an open-air pavilion with three huge statues. The little boys fetched their teacher, and he explained that they were Buddha, a wife of one of the lesser gods and a Japanese Guru that visits them in their visions. Mourning the loss of their buildings and gardens, he said that the statues would be placed in the Stupa, once it is rebuilt.

We did not see magnificent gardens. We waded through a latrine, saw Buddhist monks of all ages and sizes, experienced a few minutes in a Buddhist worship service, saw fountains in need of repair and learned more about Buddhist thought.

Mostly, I made memories with my little girl.

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