This is the start of a spiritual pilgrimage through Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet organized by the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC. We are currently 19 people from around the world, some born in one country/residing in another city: Cote D’Ivoire/Newark, Brazil/Coral Gables, New Orleans, two from San Antonio, two from Guyana, two from New Zealand, Barcelona/New York, Singapore/New York, Vietnam/New York, many from California, and me, from Oregon. Not all of us are Rosicrucians, but all are seeking something on this trip.
One woman is trying to deal with overwhelming emotional blocks, one man is dealing with depression. Four have been on the trip before and loved it so much they’re back. I’m along for the Tibetan Buddhism sites because I chose that religion decades ago. I’m also dealing with a “three-week” cold that is now in its fourth week, which causes me to dryly cough, and feel generally like a 75 watt light bulb in a 150 watt package.
There’s tons of paperwork to fill out, immigration to Nepal form, clip the 1×1 inch photo off the page of photos of myself that I printed, tape it to the form, fill out and pay for the 90 day visa form, because we’ll be in the Himalayas for 32 days. Then there’s getting in the right lines to submit the forms (I was not talented at this, and had to switch lines three times), but eventually it was done. THEN, let’s get the luggage. They are serious about security and will Not let you get luggage that doesn’t match your luggage tag. A Nepali airport worker takes my tags and squats by the baggage belt.
After close to two days of flying, starting with two pieces of luggage, a duffel bag and a carryon backpack and ending with a third rolling bag when Qatar Air said my duffel was too heavy, I was glad to see the the duffel arrive. But we waited 20 minutes. 25 minutes. Eventually the rolling bag arrived. I had thought all the time I spent filling out forms my luggage would have been waiting for me. Nope. My airport worker grabs it, puts them all on a trolley and is taking me to the parking lot when a Nepali airport official blocks us and asks: “what is your name?” I say Anjala, and he brightens, and guides us into the chaotic parking lot. I tip the airport assistant a $5. A tall African man I’ve seen on the flights is rolling his luggage beside me, turns out he is on the tour also.
I swear that many cars were parked half up on the curbs, the angles of parking were not being obeyed, and it was all rather bewildering. The sun is out, the air is smoggy and stings the eyes. Then the official hands me over to a man with an AMORC sign, and the sign bearer escorts me to a car. A local man says “Welcome to Kathmandu!”and places garlands of marigolds around my neck and the African man’s neck. We get seated in the back. Driver is on the right front. Local Nepali men are hustling my luggage into the trunk of the car, then one comes to the door where I am seated. “$20 dollars” he urgently suggests I pay for the luggage assistance. Heck no! I know the exchange rate. I show him my wallet which I had carefully stocked with ones and fives. “No 20.” say I, lying easily, having put the big bills elsewhere. I gave him a $5 which is dang good money for 3 minutes work anywhere, especially with the exchange rate.
Fellow traveler and I introduce ourselves, he by humorously accusing me of stalking him on the flights. I took a photo aboard Qatar Airlines economy class just to show the roominess. Also to show the pleasant ambient pink lighting. I did not know him at the time, but the black man directly across the plane from me was my fellow traveler.
Notice the airport worker wears a full face balaclava. Many did.
He is Abraham Sissiko, from the Ivory Coast, now residing and working in Newark, NJ, as a sanitarian. He’s a tall, quiet man who smiles a lot. He likes to quietly observe things. Neither of us find observing the traffic restful at all. Driving on the left, as opposed to the USA protocol, honking to pass on the right, swirls of motorbikes with drivers helmeted and passengers not, pedestrians crossing willy-nilly, quite the show.
We got to our hotel, checked in, and then our guides took the group of us out to dinner. More about that entertaining dinner tomorrow.