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The second mural has come to an end. Ben and Livia left today and I’m spending one last night in this super fancy hotel with Chris before parting ways.

Today was bittersweet and felt a bit off. We stayed up late last night putting the final touches on the wall. We each have gotten a bit sick this last week, although Chris had it the worst with a fever and more than a day in bed with naps in the last few days. After lunch the last day I started feeling sick and though I really wanted to see it through to the end, I folded at about 1:30am. The boys finished shortly after arriving back at the hotel around 3am.

I didn’t feel much of a connection with the original sketch and the argument with Chris didn’t win me over, but all in all, we pulled through and I’m very happy with the result. Sick Chris ended up pushing me up the chain and Ben and I made most of the decisions together for any changes and design choices. Ultimately, I have amazed myself at how much I’ve grown as an artist and a person in the last 2 weeks. I have stretched my mind, pushed my body and remained open to any learning opportunities. To my astonishment, I whipped out the mural without even thinking and when I stepped back, it felt like I was looking at another’s work. I had a moment when I thought wow, I wish I was that good, then remind myself, that is me.

It’s hard to put into words the emotions I’m feeling, pride of all I’ve allowed myself to feel and learn and grow, my ability to stand by my thoughts, words and actions and gratitude to the universe of having this experience, all of the people I’ve encountered while here and especially gratitude to Chris and Ben for believing in me and allowing me to show them who I am as a person and artist.

What has struck me the most is seeing the vulnerability and a realization that we are all working on something, even the people we seem to hold to a higher standard. Growth doesn’t happen over night and it never ends, there is always room for more.

I am also so happy to have met Livia, she has become like a sister and I’m sad to see her go. We have a lot in common, through past experiences and relationships. We both agreed that it’s hard to befriend other women and dip below surface level. She made me promise to visit her in Brazil where she will take me around São Paulo and to her family’s farm about 45 minutes away. We both have similar quests of wanting to join the bigger world picture and getting rid of what holds us back.

Before our companions took off this afternoon, we made our rounds to the embassies and took pictures, then Ben requested we stop by Bouddhanath before he headed to the airport. We walked up onto the stupa and chanted for a second in a group hug, then he and Livia left for their own goodbyes at the airport. Chris and I stayed behind and did some shopping, where the coolest thing caught my eye. I have since learned it is a Kila or Phupa, a talisman for protection used in Tibetan Buddhism. It looks a bit like a dagger, but isn’t sharp, it’s used only in ceremonies by Shamans, pinning down negativity and evil. It’s funny because I mentioned to Chris immediately that I was transfixed by it and I wanted to thrust it into the soil outside of my tent at Moontribe. Come to find out, it is mainly used in Tibet as a ceremonial pinning down of space outside of a tent of nomadic tribes in order to protect against evil from entering your home or space. I can tell it is a powerful tool and handle it with the utmost respect.

As we were leaving, we found ourselves on a road that we recognized and wound our way down to Suresh’s house. We were met a block away with his son Bodal and soon after Komal joined. We were like celebrities walking into their housing community. We found out they shared their food with their neighbors and we were welcomed so warmly. They immediately made tea and insisted we eat a slice of bread which was what they had quickly in the moment. We showed them pictures of our murals and everyone excitedly huddled around to view the images and videos. There was this one video that Bene, the 2 year old boy couldn’t get enough of.. a video I accidentally took while I was trying to figure out Chris’s phone to take a panorama with him in it. It’s short and of a not flattering angle, but I scrunch up my face in a particular way most of the way through. I have to admit, it’s hilarious and Bene repeatedly played it for a good five minutes straight. It amazes me how laughter and humor translate beyond language.

As we accepted our tea, Chris and I made the same gesture, covering our hearts to thank Suresh and his wife for the tea and bread. I’ve continually noticed and been told how often I thank people in this country, I remember growing up, one of my friend’s mothers called me out on not saying thank you enough and since I’ve made a point to thank people for almost everything. Here, if you say thank you, it’s almost an annoyance. I am asked why I say thank you so much and am told it’s not necessary. I respond saying it’s my token of appreciation, that they have gone out of their way to serve, and so I feel a need to thank them for their actions. I am met with confusion. They don’t understand why they wouldn’t do wonderful things for another. Them giving is part of the culture, serving one another is a way of showing gratitude for life and one another. Accepting these gifts and gestures is the way to say thank you. Nothing is ever expected beyond offering and accepting. It is a beautiful way of life and I not only appreciate the soft beauty in this, but also hope to continue this practice and spread gratitude to each one of you when we meet again.

When the sun was setting, we headed back to the hotel and arrived as Livia was waiting for a taxi, we handed ours off and headed back to the room. Now, we have more space and a whole bedroom each. Luxury at its finest!

Today felt as though I have completed a circle, I still have a week and a half left, but tomorrow is my birthday and it feels as though a journey has been completed. Tomorrow brings not just a new day, but a new life and a new beginning. I plan to buy a cake and candles and maybe some fresh vegetables and sweets to share with Suresh and his family. Tonight he shared that he prays for us everyday, for good fortune and protection. He considers us family and tears up when he mentions the food and toys we bought for his children. In some cultures, birthdays are when we receive gifts from loved ones, in others, the birthday person buys gifts for who they love. Tomorrow I plan to practice the second one and I want to share with the family I have acquired on this side of the world. Suresh told me to love with my heart open, that by thanking him it is with guilt that I accept, but by receiving with an open heart, I can then shine with love and spread that love to more people.

Tonight, I sat with my Mala necklace, and meditated counting with my beads and repeating, I am love.

I have come a long way from the frustrated girl with tears on her cheeks screaming out what is love anyway? And I have begun to realize, at some level, I am love and love begins within me, I hope you can feel my love and you too will shine, if not today, one day.