Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ten of fourteen

 I almost wish I had started this sooner...as we begin advent today I am still reviewing the rules of the spiritual exercises...but so it is...we prepare...sometimes too soon and sometimes too late.



[SPEX323] 
Tenth Rule. The tenth: Let him who is in consolation think how he will be in the desolation which will come after, taking new strength for then.


It goes both ways.  When we're down we can be uplifted by the hope that desolation is temporary and when we are up we can be tempered by the knowledge that desolation will come again.  This shouldn't detract from the joy and love that is pulling us toward Christ...rather we should commit to memory that in this very moment we are loved and carry that forward when the feelings fade.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ninth Rule: Is it my fault?



[SPEX322] 
Ninth Rule. The ninth: There are three principal reasons why we find ourselves desolate. The first is, because of our being tepid, lazy or negligent in our spiritual exercises; and so through our faults, spiritual consolation withdraws from us. The second, to try us and see how much we are and how much we let ourselves out in His service and praise without such great pay of consolation and great graces. The third, to give us true acquaintance and knowledge, that we may interiorly feel that it is not ours to get or keep great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is the gift and grace of God our Lord, and that we may not build a nest in a thing not ours, raising our intellect into some pride or vainglory, attributing to us devotion or the other things of the spiritual consolation.

I love the consolation this rule brings: is it my fault?  Then I need to do something about it...how do I know?  There is always that barometer that we talked about.  There are also a few more tips that St. Ignatius will talk about in the next couple exercises...but first of all it's good to realize that God permits desolation for many different reasons.  NOT just that we are failures (which is what desolation tries to convince us of) but sometimes because this very thing which seems to drive us from God is actually bringing us to him ("all is the gift and grace of God...we may not build a nest in a thing not ours") as it empties us of ourselves and makes room for Him.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Patience: Eighth rule



SPEX321] 
Eighth Rule. The eighth: Let him who is in desolation labor to be in patience, which is contrary to the vexations which come to him: and let him think that he will soon be consoled, employing against the desolation the devices, as is said in the sixth Rule.



I guess this rule speaks for itself.  Labor in patience.  We will soon be consoled.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Raw eggs: Seventh Rule

Love this rule!  Basically because it says that if God allows me to experience desolation, it's because He knows I can handle it and not only that: He is giving me the grace to handle it WHETHER I FEEL IT OR NOT.  And so that knowledge, even when I am not feeling his great fervor, love and grace, reassures me that I CAN PERSIST: in prayer, in good works, in loving my neighbor and letting them love me in turn.

[SPEX320] 
Seventh Rule. The seventh: Let him who is in desolation consider how the Lord has left him in trial in his natural powers, in order to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy; since he can with the Divine help, which always remains to him, though he does not clearly perceive it: because the Lord has taken from him his great fervor, great love and intense grace, leaving him, however, grace enough for eternal salvation.

I was cooking for a Thanksgiving bake sale the other day.  As I mixed the ingredients together I thought how gross, ugly and unappetizing the food in front of me looked...seriously how did anyone ever put this stuff together and think they could eat it in the first place?  



And that's how desolation works.  It robs life of it's purpose.  We can see the random gobs of raw eggs, lumps of fat and gloppy mashed pumpkin as they mix together but we don't understand why such unappetizing, ugly things are necessary.  Can't we just remove them?

Desolation also dampens our ability to trust and love the one throwing the ingredients into the bowl. When we taste the baking soda, we make a face...how can something that tastes so awful contribute to something delicious, yummy, filling?



And yet with time, it does.  My mess eventually turned into a delicious pumpkin soufflé (family recipe)...and so eventually will the trials and tribulations of life lead to something bigger and better than what we see right now.  

Don't let desolation pull you away from the big picture...God is the master baker.  He is giving you exactly what you need and the grace to bear it, whether or not you feel/see/think so.  Rest assured.  He will not leave you forsaken.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Back to business: Sixth Rule



We now return to our regularly scheduled programming: reviewing the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius (which I started in a moment of desolation when I realized I was forgetting what I knew and giving in to my pity party):


[SPEX319] 
Sixth Rule. The sixth: Although in desolation we ought not to change our first resolutions, it is very helpful intensely to change ourselves against the same desolation, as by insisting more on prayer, meditation, on much examination, and by giving ourselves more scope in some suitable way of doing penance.

When I first learned about St. Ignatius' rules I was going through a very confusing time in my life.  Practically speaking this rule was more helpful than the rest: it gave me something to do while discerning what in the world I was feeling, what God was asking of me and where, in the myriad of possibilities, God was directing me to go.  In moments of tumult, it became very clear that as long as I was saying my rosary, getting to Mass, confession and making the effort to put others first in my daily life (that was the year I adopted a local needy family for Christmas, sent money to the missions to pay for a seminarian in India, organized Christmas caroling at church and offered to babysit for all my friends and family...I needed to keep doing things that were within my scope when I felt like doing nothing but waiting in loneliness for God to "fix" my dilemma).

I'm sure I've mentioned this before but in the midst of desolation, when you feel God doesn't hear your prayer and you have no desire to sludge through the work of meditating because your heart just doesn't lift up to him or feel his love in return, your barometer is the sacraments.  When you don't know if you're okay, because you feel so far from God, you can know you're okay when you stay close to the Church.  My pastor told this to me once and it has brought me comfort so many times!

And this rule is also good to remind ourselves that desolation does not last forever.  I think sometimes just practicing this rule can bring us out of it...not always...but sometimes.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

7 Quick Takes about credit card fraud, bikes, swype and coming off mountain high...


1. Coming down off my Himalayan mountain high...still stop every once in a while and think "WOW - I was really there!"

2.  One sign you know you might be home is to find that the car place you used while out of town has a criminal record and has now illegally charged you almost $1000...thank you to credit card companies who get right on that!

3. AMAZING but true!  Someone wanted to get rid of a road bike, a 2012 Bianchi via Nirone 7, for very little and IT FITS ME!  God is sooooo good...guess that half ironman next year isn't impossible!

4.  Swype.  It's awesome.

5. And I know this because I got a new iPhone last week!  The camera is phenomenal!  The phone is nice too.  :o)

6. I'm going to France.  Didn't see that coming.  Why does God keep sending me to such nice places??

7.  Happy Thanksgiving a week early!!  God bless you and your families!

Now please go back to this ain't the lyceum and find another link to check out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Himalayas DAY FOURTEEN




I guess it's a good sign that I am so teary now that my journey has reached its end.  I left beautiful Pokhara by tourist bus early this morning.  I arrived in Kathmandu and then hit my hotel a little after 3.  Said goodbye to my guide and tried to put into words my gratitude...sometimes words are so limiting!  My trek has finally come full circle and even though I look forward to the city tour tomorrow: my true purpose in coming is done.  



I loved every moment (in retrospect!) - even the cold and mountain sickness...I wonder if there is a word for "I don't want to go home, I want to keep hiking with breathtaking views and interesting people for another three weeks"?  Probably not.  Not in English and not in Nepali.

In my head I know I should be tired but physically I have felt so good that I probably could go a bit longer.  Strangely I wasn't even achey after our ten hour trek over the pass.  Once again a huge THANK YOU to my triathlon/marathon training partner because I'm sure that's a huge reason why: our training together!

I'm getting ready to shower (dusty day driving with open windows) before finishing Into Thin Air.  Only a few chapters left from when I originally started (both the book and this trek) but now that I've seen these mountains, hiked them and fallen in love with them I wonder if the experience will be different.  I rather think it will.  Namaste!



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Himalayas DAYS TWELVE & THIRTEEN


I've spent this entire journey living in the moment and enjoying the "now" so to speak.  This morning began the same - met my guide at 7am to hike up to the hindu-buddhist temple area in Muktinath (only 5 like it in the world, a holy site for both buddhists and hindus) before a leisurely breakfast and late start to our final hike.

Beautiful scenery, through a desert into a huge, dry riverbed: trekking flat or downhill for hours.  On the way I realized this was my final day of hiking and became sad.  I used to, in my younger years, look for life-changing or self-defining moments during my trips.  In latter years I've come to just trust that God will bring those moments whenever and not to expect them.



Although this trek has brought me a lot of time for introspection and maybe some growth in regards to trusting God/not being in control, when I go home nothing will really change, nothing will be different.  That's not a bad thing.  My life is pretty special.

I just wonder why the God who brings me to such amazing places (I've been thinking today how the awesome view before me is so different from say the Greek Isles or the wilds of Scotland but fills me with the same wonder at God's handiwork.  He is such an artist!) hasn't brought me a spouse and children yet certainly a desire?  But as I told Him today while I walked in the midst of hindu and buddhist holy places and people - I know He is the one true God and I trust Him.  So it is as simple as that.

NEXT DAY

I am staying in the nicest hotel situated  on a huge lake in Pokhara.  True to form my 6:30am flight was delayed until after 9 because of cloudiness - but eventually we took off and flew over Annapurna I (well, beside it) so I was able to snap a photo.

I talked my guide into going zip-lining.  He's never been before and quite frankly is scared to try.  Two guys I met from Israel recommended it and the hotel is able to facilitate everything.  I hope we both enjoy it but especially him since I pushed him into it...I think it will make a nice thank you if he does.  He has been an exceptional guide.

And if it's a flop...then God's Will.  :o)  It's so peaceful on this lake, I like Pokhara much better than Kathmandu.  Sorry I don't have any deep thoughts today.  I really just want to relax and my brain seems lazy.  I'm sitting on this private balcony over a garden that abuts the lake, enjoying perfectly cool weather, peace and quiet.  We leave in an hour to zip-line.  I am so blessed, so blessed.



LATER

So ironically I finished with comments about the weather being perfect and now have just returned from the rain.  Zip-lining turned out to be fun and my guide got over his fear and admitted he really liked it.  I forget the stats but it was long and fast.  Afterwards we had to wait for a jeep at this bar-like place.   I sat on the patio overlooking a river and a cliff where 5 or 6 eagles flew around, picking up and dropping things.  A group of 6 or so kids swam in the river far below.  I stayed until the eagles disappeared and then walked around until I found the security guy and my guide fixing a ladder together.  For some reason this seemed more real than the american music and inane conversation I could over hear from the bar while I had sat on the patio.  I really enjoyed watching them work together as they fixed the thing.  Afterwards my guide and I talked (his English isn't that great so it's not always easy) until the jeep came back.  

After being dropped in Pokhara again we walked down to the lake and rented a canoe with an oarsman.  Our plan was to go to another shore and hike WAY up to a buddhist temple but after a quick stop at the hindu temple in the middle of the lake (on an island) the sky opened up and rain began to fall.  We made it to the opposite shore with just a few drops and then crowded into a lean-to which happened to be at the site of a recent landslide that killed four people just as it became a heavy downpour.  



The boat driver spoke excellent English and I enjoyed talking with him for the next hour and a half as we waited the rain out...honestly I enjoyed it way more than if I had gone on the hike.  He told me about his family, farm, politics, "America," arranged marriages, boat driving and I don't know what else...probably best part of my day.  As we paddled back on this huge, calm lake I was struck with another "wow-God" moment: how did I end up in the middle of a lake in Nepal, rowed about with two Nepali men sitting behind me and in the middle of a rainstorm?  God is so weird sometimes...in a good way.

Afterwards my guide and I walked back along the path by the lake until we reached the hotel.  I ordered room service and feasted on yummy indian food and tried the Everest beer.  I think I like its taste better but it's not as strong as Ghorka (sp?).

Tomorrow we take a tourist bus to Kathmandu.  As I tried to explain earlier, this trip has been filled with one amazing thing after the next.  I don't know why I've been so blessed but I am resolved not to take it for granted.

I'm pretty sure if I lived in Nepal it would be in Pokhara.  I might even try to learn the language...so far I have mastered three words and that with much practice.  Jit, the boat driver, assured me that I could learn if I just stayed here one month.  If only!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Himalayas DAY ELEVEN


 OK wow OK wow OK wow!!  Where do I start??  What a day!!  So maybe with 3:30am breakfast and 4am start time.  I forgot my headlamp in Kathmandu so a very nice, unknown person looked back, saw me with a penlight and left a high-powered flashlight on a rock, passing the word back along a line of 15 or so people for me to take it.  So kind and thoughtful!  Not sure how to return it since I'm not sure who it belongs to...so I told my guide to keep it.

I pushed my body harder today than I think I ever have before, even when I've done marathons or triathlons.  About a half hour into our ascent (we climbed 1000m to go through the pass from base camp then descended 1700m to Muktinath).  I began to feel nervous and like my breakfast didn't agree with me (such slow digestion in high altitude) which drove me crazy and by the time we had been hiking for 1 1/2 hours I couldn't go more than 2 steps without stopping or I knew I'd puke.  I finally told my guide who was like, "Don't we have medicine for that?  Why didn't you say something sooner?"  

I then spent the next hour asking God to bless my co-worker (back home) who insisted on calling in a script for zofran the day before I left...I had almost instantaneous relief.  At one point I wasn't sure I could finish the trek through the pass, I just felt so sick...climbing upwards when my body felt like the earth was pulling it down by 10x its normal gravitational force and when one step left me breathing hard...add nausea to that and I wasn't doing so well.



Reaching the pass was such a great feeling, like I had won a race of some sort!  I was so happy - everyone who came through when I did was shouting congrats - it was an awesome feeling.

The descent brought me to what felt like a new country, a total change in scenery but beautiful in its own way.  I just showered (hot!) and now am shivering while my hair dries.  I'll write more later.



LATER

Ok, I feel better.  What a headache I had after my shower!  I took a nap.  And discovered the owner of the flashlight (Russian guys) so I guess my guide is losing his new light.

Anyway - today was amazing (did I mention that??!!?)...even with mountain sickness I felt like I was in a movie - one of the ones like IMAX Everest: walking in the dark under the most stars I've ever seen, watching little headlights slowly moving forward through the dark, trekking through snow on narrow paths beside precipitate drops, crossing the sweeping slopes of the pass (biggest in the world), and waiting for the sun to rise...taking each step, one at a time, willing myself up steep inclines and icy paths, across bridges and rocky knolls - barely able to think at times, just going forward.  

After the zofran my trek improved immensely: I enjoyed the view, people around me and cool words written in the snow with walking sticks: "Good job!"  "Good jorney!" "Keep going!" "30 minutes!" plus all the words in languages I couldn't read.  But even before, while I was sick...it was pretty special.

Thankfully the sky was clear, not a cloud visible.  Some porters pointed out where the recent blizzard took the lives of fellow hikers.  I offered my rosary last night for them and today prayed as we passed.



There's a solidarity on the trail.  Last night at dinner I sat with a Tibetan from Nepal who now lives in Canada, so talkative, and a group of friendly Polish people.  It's so easy to strike up a conversation on the trail and especially today (as we passed each other after the pass) to exchange congratulations.



Now that the pass has been crossed I feel ready to head for home.  I'm still looking forward to tomorrow's hike into Jomsom and the flight to Pokhara, but its not pressing to get there.  I rather think the best of this trip has occurred but who knows what God has in store!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Himalayas DAY TEN


It came to my attention that I am not only missing Sundays but also All Saints Day Masses on this trip.  Last night I found a litany to the saints in my Magnificat book so at least I was able to say that.  

I believe it snowed last night in the mountains.  This morning it is crystal clear with a blue sky and gleaming white mountain tops in the distance.



Last night a cardiologist at the lodge pulled out a pulse-oximeter and we all checked our oxygen levels.  Mine was only 86%!  Then it went up to 88% (should be above 90%).  And we still have another 1500m to climb!  Kind of intimidating.  Two girls I met at breakfast told me they had a member of their group flown out by helicopter after he developed HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) and another two after they came down with food poisoning.  Guess this altitude things is real!  And nothing to disregard.  Very grateful to still feel excellent.  I'm sleeping a little less but since I was averaging 10 hours a night my first few days here I believe I'm doing fine.



LATER

Finally reached Thorong Phedi, base camp of Thorong La Pass (La means pass in Nepali but they say both in English), 4450m above sea level.  We then proceeded to hike another 400m upwards to high camp to help acclimatize after lunch.  Turns out the Russian guys are pretty funny...we sat and had tea together at the top.  Lesson in not judging!  One of them even gave me his hiking stick (he had two) to help get back down to base camp.  This was super helpful since we returned through snow, then mud, then gravel and finally dirt.  Even my guide was slipping.



Tomorrow morning we will be up and gone by 4am.  To make it though the pass with good weather, the guides recommend this early start.  I have my parka, gloves, etc. all ready to go.

Oddly enough I have a private toilet but no electricity in this room.  And not that this needs to be shared but I FINALLY learned to squat correctly.  After trekking in Peru and however many days here it's such a relief to go without making a mess!  This is definitely a life skill, up there with being able to swim and start a fire, I'm sure of it!



This has been an awesome, amazing trip.  I keep feeling like God has fulfilled a dream I didn't know I had.  Today at lunch I ate a piece of apple pie and listened to a recording by Bob Dylan playing in the background.  "How crazy!" I thought, "I'm on the other side of the world in the remotest region where there is no contact with the outside world, staying in a tiny little lodge run by a German lady and her Nepali husband, surrounded by people from all over the world except the US and I'm eating apple pie and hearing Bob Dylan played aloud."  So funny.  God must smile sometimes when He plans my life.

LATER

My room ended up being too cold to sleep in...it was outmost on the mountain and no one realized the lights were broken.  They moved me inward after I requested to sleep in the dining room and I now have a private toilet, working lights, and a relatively warm bed (my nose probably won't fall off from frostbite by morning!).  I've been told to go to sleep.  4 am comes soon!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Himalayas DAY NINE



Dinosaurs.  That's what three little old Nepali men told me the noise from the yaks was caused by.  Definitely agree it could be!

I'm sitting on the side of a mountain on the roof of a tea house overlooking a panorama of the Annapurna range: Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna IV (7525m), Annapurna III (7575m) and Gangapurna (7454m) while I sip lemon tea in the sun.  There is a table of Russian guys behind me.  Our guides are friends so for several days we have hiked beside each other.  Today is the first day they have talked to me directly.

I LOVE not having any decisions to make!  I realize that not having control or responsibility (or maybe relinquishing it completely to someone I trust) brings me much peace.  I am pretty sure that this is something God has been showing me again and again on this trip.  It starts with "don't worry!" and ends in peace.  

My guide will be surprised - this is the longest break I've ever taken but also the loveliest place we've stopped while hiking.  Random thought but I can see why so many people have worshipped the sun in the past...with its warmth, light and cheer!  How it transforms the earth!  So glad that instead of worshipping it I know the God who created it!



LATER

"My Jesus, if you want me, cut the fetters that keep me from you."  St Philip Neri

Shorter hiked today but after lunch (yak chilly - very good! and apple pie) I headed up the mountain beside the village for a good 2 hour hike.  These extra hikes make for some sound sleep - not to mention the views!  As we climbed it became cold and dark clouds descended over some of the mountains - snow.  Needed to remind myself that snow and a blizzard are two different things.  My guide is not worried about the weather and I since I doubt he wants to die in a blizzard I'll just trust him and God.

I met a solo-female trekker from Italy today.  We talked over lunch.  It was lovely.  And I met an eclectic group of canadian, armenian, aussie and americans, first trekkers from the US that I've encountered.  I also met a lady from Slovenia.  Her country is near northern Italy/Croatia region...she said there are only 2 million people in her entire country!

I love meeting so many people from other countries.

Oh and the cutest show went on as we climbed the mountain.  Looking down in the valley we saw this little puffy black and white dog barking and coming head to head with a huge yak.  The yak would back off and leave only to return from another direction, restarting the battle.  I laughed every time.

Afterwards I took a bath from a bucket of hot water.  Its too cold to wash my hair but so nice to have everything else clean!  I guess there are only three days left of hiking.  I cannot fathom how the time has flown by so quickly except to say that each moment (well maybe not the freezing cold) has brought me the delight of living in the moment and how quickly these moments supersede each other!

Another random contribution: I keep stopping on the trail, turning in a circle taking in everything around me and thinking, "HOW am I even here?  How did I get into the middle of the Himalayas in the middle of Nepal surrounded by people from all over the world?"  Must be God.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Himalayas DAY EIGHT



I sat alone on the top of a mountain today with God.  I am still in dryness but what a beautiful consolation to feel free to speak to Him although I haven't heard Him speak back.  I recommitted to following His Will in my life and striving to keep His rules and precepts.  Then I went back down the mountain and stopped and sat alone next to a turquoise rushing river to have more alone time.  This time I just sang, an old Amy Grant song that has been in my head since I was probably age 6 or 7, about the Lord having a will and I having a need to be in that will.

From the top of the mountain we could see an ice lake, glacier, and flow of snow.  The lake is a beautiful blue, simply breathtaking.  I'm definitely feeling the altitude but I think because the ascent is more gradual than Macchu Pichu -not feeling it as much, well, so far.

My life is odd.  I am so blessed going from one wow-God moment to the next, one beautiful place to the next, one beautiful friendship to the next.  I was thinking about that as I hiked, as I had that wow-God moment, and yet how many wow-God moments marriage and family life must also afford.  I know there are difficult moments - as in travel (don't get me started on flight delays, holes for toilets or freezing at night!) but the excitement, enjoyment and awe of things outweigh that 100-fold.  I know those moments are peaks and there will be valleys in marriage but looking at the peaks around me, I think it must be worth it just like hiking to the top of these over-looks are.



Hence why I have recommitted to God's Will.  Because I don't know everything (I'm not even sure what we are doing after lunch) and I definitely don't know what's best (I'd be married to a temperamental Spaniard who was always gone if I had my way) but as my guide said today when we were talking about the future of our respective countries, "We don't know but God knows."

So altitude is a very real thing.  And oxygen is not over-rated.  After lunch we hiked up the opposite side of the valley to a bunch of shrines.  It took an hour with my stopping to catch my breath every 20 ft or so.  Views were worth it though!  On the way down I watched some men "sacrifice" a goat.  First they poured water over its head and then yelled and chopped off the head with an axe.  Violent.



Dinner was pizza.  Altitude has put a serious damper on my appetite.  The idea of spicy foods leads me to feel nauseous, so I'm succumbing to western style.  Another weird effect of the altitude, especially when I'm hiking, is tingly fingers.  

Today I went to the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic.  It looks like a mission site.  I looked in the exam room and they have O2 but didn't see anyone around...well except for some dogs.  Apparently there is a talk every day at 3pm but I missed it.  Not exactly disappointed.  In total we did about 4.5 hours of hiking today as part of the acclimatization process.  Not too shabby for a rest day.  I thoroughly enjoyed it as we were able to leave our packs behind.  Also my guide doesn't rush, is funny and disappears from sight whenever I reach the top so I have had as much alone time with God as I could desire.  

How am I so blessed?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Himalayas DAY SEVEN


Awake before dawn again, but it is nice to lay in a warm sleeping bag when its so cold out~  Staying in the busiest lodge yet - Russians are friends now that everyone else is a stranger.  Met a nice couple of Germans last night.  One went to the University of Arizona.  It is amazing to me how almost everyone speaks English here.  Makes my life very easy.  Not a morning person (even in the Himalayas)...will write more later.



LATER

I just finished writing to ask my parents if they would be very upset if I grew up to be a Himalayan trekking guide.  Today's hike was the most beautiful of all.  How my heart sang as I walked through to Manang this morning!  Now we are at the acclimatization point.  We are staying an extra day before heading towards the pass.

My guide swears he has never had a 'tourist' (as he calls us) get altitude sickness, but I guess there is always a first.  Tomorrow we'll do some easy local treks to prepare.  I've already walked around town.  Much fancier here - you can get yak burgers and there is a bakery and movie projector house.  So far I've had chocolate cake and a coconut cookie.  No I don't have a sweet tooth.  :o)

I had this great thought today while hiking but I can't for the life of me remember it.  Oh well.  There is laundry service and I can charge my phone!  Its the little luxuries, it really is.  Now for a toilet seat.




LATER

Ouch!  Feeling the sunburn tonight!  Face but especially the back of my neck.  I spent the last couple of hours resting and reading.  They are selling "Into Thin Air" (I left my copy in Kathmandu) but I don't really want to buy a second copy just so I can finish it.  Besides, I left at the crux of the story, just as the storm finished, so I kinda wanna read the end after the crux of my trip is over. 

There are 2 hikes planned for tomorrow...not sure if my enthusiasm is annoying or not but my guide is awesome about it.  I think if he (who happens to be carrying all my stuff) didn't tell me to rest then I wouldn't think to stop until I passed out.

There is a huge range of mountains spread out in front of me.  Looking backwards  we have passed Annapurna II and sit at the foot of Gangapurna.  Annapurna I, the 8000+ meter mountain we won't see until we fly from Jomsom to Pokhara.  See?  I'm learning my Himalayas!

For the record ginger-lemon tea is my new favorite.  Nepali take on european and mexican food?  Not so much.  I still need to try Daal Bhat which is pretty filling.  Maybe at a lower altitude?  I hope slower digestion doesn't result in greater caloric absorption!



I'm not even sure how many days are left of my trip.  My last day was supposed to be free but the agency proprietor assured me I could make up the Kathmandu city tour.  And supposedly I have a Nepali cooking class the day I fly out, but we'll see about that.  This trip is just flying by - like all good trips do.  Its good for me to be alone with God but I realize for all I value solitude: I really am not a loner.  Meaning I like people, what they think, have to say, how they tick, and what makes them who they are.  I makes me more cognizant of how blessed I am to have my friends and family.

There are some PRETTY GREAT PEOPLE in my life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Himalayas DAY SIX



I'm used to looking out at the ocean and seeing the power, vastness and beauty of God.  I find that same awareness here in the mountains: their height, beauty, and quickly changing faces all turn my heart towards their creator.

Today I ate one of the freshest apples I've ever had at an orchard randomly placed along the trail.  

Herds of yaks keep passing by as I sit in the sun awaiting my guide after a delicious potato curry and apple pie.

I love this place.  I've already decided which river to take home.  My guide tells me Nepal has over 6000 rivers so they shouldn't miss one.  Still figuring out which mountain.  There are a lot to choose from.  Off to an afternoon of trekking!



I realize I could sit and stare at the mountains for hours.  This was true in Greece when we went to Meteora.  My favorite part of that entire trip was sitting outside the hotel on my balcony watching the light play on the mountains.

Right now I am in Lower Pisang where we will stay the night.  It is at the foot of Annapurna II and on the opposite hill is Upper Pisang and a Buddhist monastery.  We trekked all the way to the top where there is a monastery to look around.  Surprisingly we arrived ahead of the crowds and had the place entirely to ourselves...well the monks were there.  Then I turned around and saw this beautiful vista of the mountains, not available from Lower Pisang.  Of course my lofty, meditative thoughts burst forth: "You do good work, Lord!"  But I think he knows how much deeper I was touched.

As I walked around the temple, shoeless, I felt a certain respect for people who truly believe their faith and can not know differently.  At the same time I felt an over-whelming love for who God is and my Catholic faith.  My guide is hindu and we talked on the way down about how the hindus do not eat cows (which they worship), yaks or pigs.  He hasn't asked anything about my faith.  I wonder how much a Nepali knows about Christ?



My lodging for the night is bigger than usual and full of french people.  Its also shared toilets and showers.  I realize how lucky I've been so far to have private toilets all along!  My room is cold but not like the last two nights.  Still no update on possible storms but tomorrow we should find out in Manang.  I did see some dark, ominous clouds come over the Annapurna range today but all is sunny (as of sundown this evening) here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Himalayas DAYS FOUR & FIVE



So as I mentioned - one thing after another!  I arrived in a small, one street town last night and stayed in a guest house.  I had my own room and shower but felt like a cheater...all the others at dinner were from England and Australia and shared a room full of bunks together.  I enjoyed their company.  I don't prefer solo-travel but I am enjoying myself.

This morning I was supposed to have breakfast at 6:30 and leave by 7.  My guide came around 6 for my passport size photos in order to get the TIMS pass (permit) - and of course I left them in my luggage in Kathmandu.  He went down and then came back to tell me "no problem."...so what could have been another crazy delay worked out.

I climbed into a jeep and went up and down the one-street of the town half a dozen times loading, unloading over and over until finally in true Nepali fashion we went to a market and auto parts store before departing, jam-packed full of people.  I've decided I'm clueless here and that's just the way its going to be.  I'm good with that.

I sat squished against an Israeli couple in the jeep, very nice, who asked where I was getting off - I didn't know.  Where my lodging was tonight - didn't know.  "You at least know what trek you're hiking, right?"  Other couple in  the jeep are from Russia.  The woman told me how she hiked Kilimanjaro last year.  Guess that's on my "when I get back from Honduras" list.

Can't help it - keep wishing for a husband to travel with.  Trusting God with that - I'd hate to marry someone like my grandma did thinking he loved to travel only to find he'd done so much already he never wanted to go anywhere ever again!

I couldn't finish lunch - I found a beetle in my noodles.  Oh well, watcha gonna do?  Started the hike! OH MY WORD!  AMAZING! Gorgeous, like I've stepped into a movie.  Huge mountains with ginormous waterfalls everywhere, all going down to this light blue (oddest color) raging river that is so powerful at times you can see how its just carved the rock right out of the mountain.  My pics will never do it justice.  Speaking of which I wish I had a better camera!  My phone battery won't last long enough to get to the end of this trek.

I won't lie, I'm exhausted after just the first day of hiking.  Hope I'm better with a good nights sleep and early start.  Right now I'm in a little room surrounded by the mountains which I can see all around me as three walls are just huge windows.  I can also hear the river.

Dinner soon - but honestly after lunch I'm not hungry.

A DAY LATER




Oh the merits of a hot shower!  We just finished our first full day trekking and I have to say, except for being tired and beginning to feel the altitude: I feel great!  The mountains and rivers are AMAZING and the people of Nepal and their villages beautiful to look at as we walk through.  We left this morning at 7:30am and headed toward Annapurna II.  Apparently there isn't just one mountain in this trek, its a range of the Himalayas and includes Annapurna I,II,III,IV as well as Gangapurna and I don't know what else.  Then there are the peaks, mountains not tall enough to be mountains even though some have snow on them!  

Check me for accuracy as this is me remembering my guide's instructions:  There are 8 mountains over 8000 meters in the Himalayas.  We are planning to go through a pass that is over 5400 meters (5.4km, yah that's over 3 miles above sea level).  And 8 of the 10 tallest mountains in the world are here.

However today I met a lovely group of ladies from Vancouver who told me another typhoon is predicted in India which may send another blizzard our way.  My guide says he's on top of it.  One of the women has a daughter who works for the Himalayan Rescue Association in Manang.  We'll be there in a couple more days.

I realize how glad I am to trek alone!  I go at my own pace and my guide just stays behind me and sometimes beside me.  There is no rush.  Today we made a stop at a little outdoor kitchen and the woman was making sweet fried dough rings.  My guide bought and ate 2.  He said they are special and only made during religious festivals (Nepal just celebrated Desalami or something like that!) 2 days ago.  We talked a bit about Hinduism.  I saw a real buddhist monk today too.  They tell me the mountain people are mostly buddhist and the valley people (lowlands) are hindu.  The hindus have shrines to their gods in their homes.  We passed several buddhist shrines.

I find Nepal so interesting.  Even the people of the same country appear so different.  Some with asian eyes and dark skin, others with light skin and indian features.  God has created such an amazing world.  Wishing today I had another 2 weeks to hike more.  Several people have told me about the Everest Base Camp trek.  Its definitely on my list now.  These mountains are beautiful!

Oh and I stepped on the proprietor of this lodgings buckwheat spread out to dry on the floor.  I felt AWFUL!  But she was so nice.  This really is a lovely country.

Oh and a nice thing that happened at lunch: the owner asked my guide if I was American.  When he said yes, the owner said he was so happy to have an American in his restaurant.  I can understand.  I haven't seen any americans yet either.

My hair is drying.  Hope it dries quickly before the sun goes down because brrrr!!  It will be suddenly, ghastly cold!



Monday, November 10, 2014

Himalayas DAYS TWO & THREE


Wow Nepal is unlike anywhere I've ever been.  I managed to arrive on a holiday without my luggage.  Which means no trek tomorrow.  It is what it is.  The guide I will be having met me at the airport.  A nice kid.  Another young guy drove us through a city reminiscent of the Philippines only full of people in indian garb with colored powdered-dots on their foreheads (the guide and driver both have them "because of the holiday") and loads of facial jewelry.

The owner of the agency met me at the hotel.  A very nice-seeming gentleman.  He said tomorrow he and I would go to look for the luggage at the airport.  Trusting God because this seriously throws a loop in our plans.  I was supposed to head out early tomorrow morning.  Not super keen on being in the city but God put me here for whatever reason.  Just have to take one day at a time.

My hotel is on a busy street full of shops and tourists.  I've no desire to venture out tonight.  Honestly - I don't want to shop or people watch.  I just want to get out in the open and hike.  But God knows best.  Going to be well rested for this trip - that's for sure!

Grateful for hot showers as I'm sure that won't be a luxury until I return to Kathmadu.

As I was being driven through the city I thought how crazy it was to be on the other side of the world in a poor country, driven by strangers (who didn't introduce themselves) to a strange hotel with no luggage and be able to laugh about it.  That is grace.

I do have wifi here but its funny how that brings me too close to home for now so I don't want to use it.

And definitely the theme of this trip is "don't worry."



NEXT DAY



This trip gets stranger and stranger.  I feel like I'm along for the ride.  The agency owner called last night and said my luggage arrived on a late flight and he would bring it at 9 this morning.  I awoke at 5am with my not so friendly, monthly visitor (ugh) and read "Into Thin Air" until 6:30 - effectively giving myself plenty of thoughts to freak out over!  So glad not to be heading to Everest!

Breakfast was gorgeous - on the roof of the hotel with the tail end of the sunrise climbing over the surrounding mountains.  I sat in a window on pads on the ground, cross-legged, while enjoying the beautiful view and a ginormous breakfast.  The feeling of awe accompanying the moment psyched me up for this trip!

A lovely family with two small boys ate nearby.  British accents, I loved the interchange - that is my dream, to travel with a family some day.  They are off to India today after trekking with my company.  They gave me a 5 star review of the company and its owner for which I am very grateful!

I met with the owner after breakfast.  He informed me the luggage office doesn't open until 10am and he will be back to the hotel with my stuff by 11:30 at the latest.  Apparently the guide is carrying all my stuff in his rucksack - just the 2 of us hiking.  He seems like a nice, respectful boy.  Not worried at all which I've mentioned before is a grace.  We are going to continue the trek as planned and for this I am exited.  Everything is so unexpected - I feel like I'm riding the whim of God but I know it is the will.

Going to read the Mass readings and prayers before going out to see the shops.  Everything is supposed to be closed today for the festival but it will be good to stretch and look around.  Everyone is so friendly here - I begin to feel like one of the the single mid-30s heroines Agatha Christie so often described in her mysteries.  Nice to be old!  But still young.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Himalayas DAY ONE

We interrupt this review of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius to bring you: TADA!  My trip to Nepal...I promise to finish the exercises afterwards!



I think the theme of this trip is "Don't worry." I followed an impulsive desire to hike in the Himalayas a couple months ago and booked the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  Supposed to be one of the most beautiful treks in the world but losing to modern roads, etc...so basically won't ever be the same in the next 10-20-100 years.  

Three weeks ago a freak blizzard killed upwards of 40 people during the busiest time of the hiking season: right on the trail where I'm planning to hike.  Mr G, at the agency I booked through, assured me everything is safe and a go.  I am trusting him.  The news report says that those killed were hiking without guides- hence why they didn't know or listen to reports of the weather.  I know of one guided group that was caught in it though...but I'm guessing the guides are now hyper vigilant.

  I do feel strange however hiking in the footsteps of the dead.  I wish there was a tribute or something I could make.

So I made it to the airport 3 hours ahead of departure -  which is unheard of for me.  I've missed flights from arriving too late before.  Alas the original flight was one hour late taking off due to mechanical problems with the wings so I missed my connecting flight.  This put me in the airport for 10 hours before the next plane left for Abu Dhabi.  Now I am about to land -> and have a 14 hour layover before I take off for Kathmandu.

I have been nervous thus far but now I am committing to not worrying.  God made this trip happen from His inspiration to carrying it out.  I'm going to trust Him which means I'm not going to expect or set my heart on anything.  Detaching from things is the best way not to worry.

Later: Lying in a huge suite in a lovely hotel in downtown Abu Dhabi.  I ate a huge dinner with a lovely woman from Sudan.  The airline was AWESOME and provided transportation, hotel, meals free of charge.  Glad I decided not to worry -> made it easier and me more grateful instead of a M.E. (millennium edition) brat ("I demand my rights!").

Did I mention the elderly Sri Lankan couple I met in the airport during my 10 hour layover?  They also were on the delayed flight that made them miss the connection to Abu Dhabi.  We spent the layover together and had a lovely day.  They were so sweet and their son called to thank me for helping them get to their plane. I lost them when I arrived in Abu Dhabi but I have their email.  I'll have to write to make sure they arrived home.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll arrive 24 hours late to Kathmandu.  I missed the city tour but I assume we'll keep the original itinerary and I will head to the mountains the next day.  It's all good.