Being sick is never fun. Being sick in a foreign country is especially not fun as the known cures and figuring out how to get better varies depending on culture and process.
I went to the Emergency Room in Nepal, after suffering from food poisoning, gastric then another bout of nausea, diarrhea and dehydration from not being able to keep sustenance in my body. Eventually my Mom called and convinced me to go and get at least an IV to jumpstart getting well again.
First of all, the Nepali people are very efficient. I walked into the Emergency Room and was shown a bed. A doctor came and spoke to me a few minutes later and treatment began immediately. Comparatively Nepalis do not have health insurance and costs are cheaper because the patient or family member get all the supplies in order for the hospital to keep supplies in stock.
Let me paint the scene. The Emergency Room is just that; a room with a reception and 6 beds with moveable curtains to obtain privacy at times. Each hospital bed is equipped with an IV pole and lined with a light blue fitted sheet, covered with a darker blue sheet that keeps it sanitary between patients. I rarely noticed them being changed unless some kind of body fluid made a stain.
My doctor asked me a variety of questions; what are my symptoms, how long have I had them and if I had taken anything for relief. I noticed he didn’t ask if I had any allergies, though I knew they wouldn’t be giving me any of them, so I didn’t offer the information. My blood pressure was taken and he listened to my chest and abdomen with his stethoscope. I was asked if I wanted a drip of saline and I agreed it would be helpful. He wrote up a list of supplies and Manish and Graham walked across the alley to pay and collect what was needed. The nurse came and drew blood, first asking if I had ever had an IV before. She allowed the fluid to drip onto the bed and floor until she knew there were no bubbles. Soon enough, I was hooked up and starting to feel a bit more hydrated. Manish and Graham arrived replenishing the supplies I was using; needles, tubes and a water bottle with fluid. They left again to grab food promising to check on me soon.
Conveniently, Manish’s girlfriend is the head nurse and she was calling to check on me and expedite my tests so I could get out of the hospital sooner. Finally the blood tests came back and the nurse handed me a small cup and an even smaller container to collect my urine and stool.
Here’s where I had to laugh, incredulously asking them, You want me to do WHAT.. in THAT?! They were indeed serious and pointed to the outside door, I traipsed out and around the corner where a small closet in the alley served as a bathroom, with no toilet paper or a place to wash hands. I did my duty, carefully and thankful for my days on a yoga mat while I balanced precariously as I peed in a tiny hole and used the small cup to collect a bit of whatever came out. I walked back into the hospital desperate to wash my hands.
I found a sink with no paper towels, or any towel and slinked back to bed #4 to wipe on the sheet, hoping whoever had been there previously wasn’t contagious.
I was hooked up to another IV and sent Manish and Graham back over to replace that fluid bag, this time it was only 100rs (about a dollar). We sped the drip up so I could leave sooner, but then waited for my doctor to return with the tests from my waste. As we waited, Graham walked over to the Orthopedic office to get an X-ray of his spine, sleeping meds and a variety of other pills the doctor didn’t hesitate to write him a script for. Twenty minutes later he arrived triumphant as I continued to wait. We waited for another hour before I got antsy and threatened to remove my own needle. Manish took my chart and walked to the doctor’s office across the alley demanding him to return and give prescriptions so I could leave.
About 10 minutes later, Manish returned leading my doctor who calmly and with a wonderful smile explained the medications and when to take them. He also suggested I only eat curd and bananas for a few days until my intestines could properly digest. I was finally released and walked up the block to the pharmacy where the pharmacist further explained my mystery drug, Cipro and probiotics, adding to my pile of electrolyte powder.
Once home, Graham made me a batch of powdered soup and boiling water, I took my meds and fell asleep. I now feel human again, able to eat and walk around without a terrible pain in my stomach. Manish jokes that I’m true Nepali now that I’ve survived Nepali Hospital and their medications.
There are many things that are expensive, strict rules and wait lines in the US, though I’m thankful for toilet paper, sterilized everything and a place to wash hands. In Nepal, everything must be paid for in the moment if you want treatment. It’s cheaper for me, but what if I hadn’t had the money, what if I had gotten even more sick from sitting next to a patient with a contagious disease?
I saw a man getting a blood transfusion while sitting in a chair, I witnessed a baby being shaken upside down in order to get him to quit coughing, a man threw up in a trash can while old men walking with their visible catheters to use the bathroom, not a single patient washed their hands upon the return. In fact I’m not even sure how often the nurses changed their gloves or the sheets on the beds and my curtains were constantly opened to remove any privacy I may have wanted. I watched as a nurse took the temperature of the violently coughing man in bed #5, afterward simply returning the thermometer to her pocket, nothing was sanitized.
In the paper I’m reading about how they have problems in hospitals outside the city where doctors will go on vacation leaving nobody to man the hospital and equipment too expensive to keep in working order. Dialysis is a common treatment while heart issues require expensive equipment. Miscarriages and pregnancies can be prevented easily by just making sure there is at least one doctor at each hospital. Ambulances are rare and can’t typically get through traffic, carrying many patients who die on their way for help.
I’m lucky as a foreigner who can afford the treatment, I had a translator and the head nurse on my side, luckily I wasn’t in a life threatening condition. I’m thankful to be healthy again and look forward to my next hospital experience, in the United States which is much more expensive though a lot more sanitary.
Do you ever wish you could freeze time and relive a moment over and over? I had a night like that recently where I found myself sitting with 4 other women talking about Feminism. It was a conversation that could have started as a joke; an Iranian, a Nepali, two South Koreans and an American, all women sitting around drinking beer and sharing cigarettes, comparing stories of what it was like to be a woman in today’s world.
The Iranian woman who described herself as an outspoken talker started, and one of the Koreans mostly posed questions for me to answer as the Nepali only interjected as she felt fit. They all passionately agreed they wanted to know what the American’s viewpoint is. We talked about sex, drinking and relationships, recognizing that we are probably not the stereotypical women from our respective countries.
I told them I had a hard time interacting with many Nepali men and described scenarios where I have been forcibly touched or groped. The Nepali woman interjected because she had been witness to one of these a few days ago; she explained the difference in how I had acted vs how a Nepali girl may have behaved though agreeing the boys were wrong. I had been dancing while approached from both sides and unaware that it’s improper to dance with a man just for fun. They misjudged my playful behavior and after placing his hand on my hip, underneath one of my shirts, I broke away toward the other end of the club. We all agreed that non-American men are much more aggressive with the opposite sex. Even still, the Korean spoke up that she is sexually driven and she doesn’t understand why when 2 people “want the sex” as she put it, why it is construed as bad for a female. She asked me if people have problems with alcohol in the States, an excuse that is readily used here if a man crosses a boundary.
So the Iranian dug in again, comparing scenarios of 2 couples; in one the man is having an affair, in the other the woman is having an affair. If the person cheating comes back to their spouse and says I am sorry I will never do it again; I love you. Why is it that the man with the cheating wife will most likely say no and leave, while the woman with the cheating husband will stay. She argues it’s about security. Many times the woman has the responsibility of the children and needs a husband to help her provide for them. The Korean pursisted, but what about in a club scenario? Even in a casual setting, women are in want of more than just a bit of pleasure, whether it be behavior or conversation. It’s what makes sex complicated. Even more, this is what society has bestowed upon us; women should want security, children and a man to provide for her. It doesn’t seem acceptable for a woman to seek out pleasure for pleasure’s sake.
We then launched into an even more tender topic of what is Feminism? International Women’s Day is a holiday here, many people get the day off, there are parades and speeches, awards given and recognition to strong females. There are laws around the world which aim to protect women from being mistreated, though sometimes they backfire. For example, in Nepal the first row on the bus is reserved for women, but say an elderly man who cannot stand well is sitting and a young girl gets on. The man will be forced to stand in accordance of the law. Now the question is: does the law favor the one who needs it most?
We all agreed, it goes further than this. We are all humans and that is the underlying issue. Men are not better, just as women are not “just as good”. We are equal. Varying as humans do in talents, abilities and strengths though gender doesn’t constitute these. Equality means having the same opportunites, being given the same respect, being talked about in the same way, comparatively speaking on intelligence, vitality and character.
In Nepal, 33% of Parliament is reserved for females, which on paper looks nice, but when you look deeper and realize that many of those women are illiterate and are holding titles for political families that want the prestige. Can this really be the best thing for women? Maybe it’s time to focus on getting more girls in school so that they can grow up to naturally take office and make real world progress.
And although she didn’t need to say it, the Iranian woman told me that the Korean woman is one of the smartest humans she knows though with a language barrier it’s never easy to completely understand one another. I agreed and admitted my own English has changed while traveling, I have to think about the words I use and the sentence structure I speak to clearly and concisely get my point across in a way that is easily understood. It’s the same when I started to learn any other language, the most basic sentence structure is the only thing I can understand and any variation of prepositions or slang is confusing.
Instead, I focus on the topic of conversation and the ideas brought forth. Considering English, Farsi, Nepali and Korean were all our mother tongues, all five of us must be well educated and intelligent to be able to have a passionate conversation on Feminism. The way we all spoke, we agreed, high fived and smiled when we found out– none of us are Feminists, we are believers in Love, in humans and hopeful of an inclusive world where gender doesn’t dictate where you sit on a bus, your education level or your ability to dance when you want to dance.
And the Iranian woman later told me, Kathmandu is the place where I will meet many more freethinking women and men of the world. We are all drawn here for one reason or another and we all have made it here because we have open minds enough to want to be here, regardless of what we may or may not have heard. And that’s when I told them all with a big smile on my face: Thank you for being my People. I feel more at home in Kathmandu than I have in the US because of these strong women I’m inspired and surrounded by.
Thank you Neda, Nistha, Asha and Sylvia.
I have settled into a routine here at MCUBE Gallery in Patan. I awake naturally every morning around 7am, drink 2 cups of hot water and follow Manish in Yog; a very much not western version of Yoga where we loosen each joint from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet, use breathing exercises and end with meditation and OMs. Then I cook 2 soft boiled eggs and make toast with honey while I enjoy juice or tea and read The Himalayan, a local newspaper which prints both an English version as well as a Nepali version. By the time this routine is finished, it’s about 11am and I’m free to go about my day.
I have started to meet many artists here and I’m fascinated by how similar our minds work. Women’s rights are different in this part of the world and the political statements that are made intrigue me. Compared to what is happening in the United States, where the political climate of issues circles around environmental, immigration and females; it’s obvious we have moved mountains already. Here they are conflicted with the modern existence; struggles with traditions and accepting women to have minds of their own, understanding the complexities of science and how to better their world. Life is much harder here and the general idea has been surrounding community where everyone plays their part, one life may only be a cog in the wheel, humility is readily practiced to the point of not being able to accept each as an individual.
This has created a dissonance within my mind of art in this world. While each artist works in their own studio and own works, there is a great overlap of ideas that are displayed in unique styles, representing their own imaginings of how their world is vs how they want it to be. The other day, I visited a studio nearby called Kasthamandap Studio where I met, conversed and viewed works by 5 Nepali artists who show throughout the world. Erina Tamrakar who has evolved through being a woman, Bhairaj Maharjan who enjoys landscapes and explores the idea behind Buddha and peace, Binod Pradhan who has an impressive array of landscapes melted together using a watercolor technique, Pramila Bajracharya who uses oil to convey simple and emotional landscapes and Asha Dangol who focuses on juxaposing new with old ideas and his own body to evoke thought on violence, peace and new beginnings. All of their work is visually stunning and each studio represents their artistic perspective and their influence through ideas even while they are all striving collectively through the Nepal art community. I learned that after the big earthquake almost 3 years ago, there was an upswing of creativity while they struggled with petrol shortages, a divergence into the modern world as many historical temples were destroyed and a coming to terms with environmental damage and global warming.
Afterward, we stopped off at Beautiful Coffee in Sanepa. Beautiful Coffee is run by a South Korean woman, who is passionate about Fair Trade Coffee and produces the best cafe latte I’ve had in Nepal. She explained the process where they get beans, and shows off the spacious and open front courtyard filled with signs about love and coffee, then the inside which houses a coffee museum and more punny signs intended to leave you with a laugh. We spoke about possibilities of creating a Breakfast at Bethany type party with spoken word, live art and music to transform your soul, all with the assist of tasty coffee and the main ingredient of love. We left after deciding to throw a BBQ on Friday inviting all of the Koreans and others who we’ve met thus far, so we can get to know each other even better and explore further possibilities of promoting love, our common language.
As Graham and I have gotten to know our host, Manish, we have discovered his many pursuits, one of which we are in talks to help promote in the United States. His non-profit Get Well Soon Nepal, an organization using art therapy to help children and families after the big earthquake. We want to use pashmina, which is woven and created into scarves, ponchos, blankets and other items in his textiles factory started by his late mother Urmi to promote and sell, reserving a portion of profits toward earthquake relief. In starting this path, we have needed to create content and we spend a portion of yesterday modeling, taking photos and deciding what would sell best in the United States. This is an exciting venture as we’ve been talking about starting a company of this kind and I even made moves to do this type of project last year with another organization, unfortunately ending with a lack of communication.
Last night, Graham and I attended a play by Anton Chekov and Adapted by Rose Schwietz, an american who directed and acted in the piece alongside Nepalis. The play was in english and the easiest to follow Chekov adaptation I’d witnessed. It was entertaining to hear the Nepali accents speak about wanting to go to Moscow, though it reminded me of not only my own desire to return to Nepal but the sentiment expressed to me from many Nepalis of wanting to go anywhere else. It was clear this production didn’t have a lot of money for set and costume design though the use of the space and elements played to their ingenuity and capacity to create something from nothing. Rose played the general which normally is a male role, turning a light on LGBT issues which is just starting to come out in this country. It was evident that many students had never been subject to lesbians as a simple kiss at the end led to gasps and shocking photos.
I feel protected and separated from the streets in this residency, which I’m sure my parents are happy with, though it removes a layer of being with the people. I’m seeing a different side of Nepal, the side of people who have luxury to travel and portray their world, the side that has a bed and meals every day, the side of business and commerce that helps and promotes the people who need it, and there are so many people who are in need. Interesting that the people I have met look down upon beggars, they want to protect me from seeing the dark side because they are afraid that is how I will view their country. I see the beauty within the struggle, maybe because I have struggled too. I understand that struggle leads to enlightenment, that to suffer is to live.
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In the last few days, I’ve kept busy; feeling like myself again after recovering from food poisoning which turned into gastric, basically a bubble in my stomach from too much acidity in my diet due to the spiciness of food. I’m having to keep a special eye on my diet, enforcing more alkaline foods and drinking a special fizzy artificial lemony powder in my water to prevent a new bubble from forming. I went to a grocery store to buy food I can make in the kitchen and I gotta say, I’ve perfected a soft boiled egg which I eat in the morning along with a cup of Ensure with full cream milk to force myself into gaining more weight. We also stocked up on pasta and bread for PB&J sandwiches. It’s interesting to look at prices here, dairy is astronomically high in price along with meat, nuts and candy, while coca-cola, eggs and pasta are about the same. Honey is cheap, ghee comes in large amounts and tomato sauce is basically ketchup. Produce is cheaper on the street, though much of it is imported from India, it all still tastes much more fresh than what I’ve had in the US.
The other day we took a trip to Thamel, I showed Graham the “touristy” area where I started my last trip. We took a big bus over the Bagmati River and after a couple miles we decided walking would be better and wrestled our way through the packed vehicle, paid our 15 Rs and walked for another hour before arriving tired and hungry to a surprisingly calm and empty area. We opted for pizza to set the mood and took our time to enjoying the empty rooftop and service. Afterward, we landed back on the streets which had filled in the meantime and carefully made our way over the uneven gravel and dirt to bargain and purchase items easier found in this compact area of Kathmandu. Graham loved the bargaining and immediately fell in with the locals, joking at the expense and tough deals they claim to make. We sneakily found some hash then continued on for handcrafted paper, a water bottle and somehow managed to run right into a dusty old crystal shop filled with some of the biggest and most beautifully cut rocks I’d ever seen. Our jaws dropped at the prices and we snuck away feeling like royalty.
Yesterday, Manish took us to a couple of gallery openings in honor of International Woman’s Day, a holiday in Nepal where many get a day off. The first gallery was very pretentious, a sales person for each of us followed us offering tea or coffee and making sure we knew the process and that everything was for sale, boasting of big named artists and anticipating our complements on their space. The next gallery was located at the ground floor of a hotel, opening out to a beautiful open courtyard where they hosted a ceremony to honor their artists and one of the longest programs I’d seen. We ended up leaving before it ended mostly because it was entirely in Nepali and we didn’t understand the speeches. A woman sang a couple of Nepali songs and Manish introduced me to a few of the painters while Graham snuck out for a beer and a smoke. Soon we were on our way and we all agreed that we wouldn’t be doing a program to that extent for our own opening.
Closer to MCUBE, we arrived at a magical destination. Walking through the metal gates, the tables and chairs were made of motorcycle and bicycle parts, glass bottles hung from trees and the opening to the cafe was a concrete wall filled with recycled glass and a bicycle wheel for windows and an opening of clear plastic curtain to keep the dust out. We were immediately introduced to a multitude of artists, pulling up chairs, excited to talk with fellow foreigners. Mark Bechtel, a professor of product design at Parson’s in New York was doing a presentation on his work. Garreth, from Wales was showing his photography and shared he was extending his stay after three months while Flora shyly told us she is exploring art after living in Nepal for almost four years, not sure exactly what she wants to focus on. Rebecca is a dancer from Brazil, though she lives in London now and is only visiting Nepal for the first time, having traveled throughout Africa studying tribal dance. Matt is a hacker who works closely with the Burning Man community; he took the left over bikes from last year and is fixing them up to rent out and sell for future use. After a couple cigarettes and coffee and tea, we adjourned to the second level where Mark gave his lecture, explaining his life’s work and struggle of making ends meet while also fulfilling his desire to create art, ending with an invitation to return in a couple of weeks for an exhibit of his residency.
Mark’s lecture was intriguing, his focus has been on objects and figuring out meaning, reasoning and relationship within an anthropologic context and invited us to watch a documentary on Gregory Batesman outside following his presentation. I ordered a bowl of soup and cozied up in an arm chair under the stairs to munch on noodles and knowledge, happily stretching my mind and conversing long after the documentary ended. My mind was buzzing and this was the exact reason I wanted to come to Nepal in the first place, meeting other artists who are pushing their minds to understand and create more questions that cause our human race to move forward. Finally as Manish and Graham dragged me away from the cafe, all of us hugging and promising to see each other soon, Manish asked if we wanted to go out. Graham was tired, but I persisted that I finally was well and I wanted to make the most of the evening.
So, we ended up in Thamel again, this time the unpaved roads were packed with people. Shops were closed and everyone was dressed for a night on the town, Nepalis and foreigners mingled as people were celebrating the end of the week and earnestly spending their hard earned cash on food, cigarettes and booze. We followed our guide to the spot and somehow managed to sneak in without a cover and ascended a metal staircase to a dark bar packed with mostly young Nepali men who hooted and hollered with their hands stuck in the air sharing their love of Rock ‘n Roll. An impressive stage was set up above our entrance with enormous speakers, colored lights and a sound system many bars in LA would die for. A group of security guys next to stage ensured nobody smoked or drank on the dance floor though a mosh pit took over soon enough. The first few songs were in Nepali, though after each song the crowd joined together yelling out their requests for classic songs that would keep the energy going. COBWEB didn’t disappoint playing covers of some of the best Metallica, Linkin Park and Rage against the Machine I’d heard. Pink Floyd is some of my favorite and they blasted out Another Brick in the Wall perfectly rehearsed. The boys asked if I was ready to go and I begged to stay for one more song. Sweet Child O’ Mine came on in that moment and I pushed further into the crowd, thrusting my own hand up in rocker status. A Nepali boy wanted to dance which was fine until he bravely tried to place his hand under my shirt on my hip and I ran back to join my own friends, deciding maybe it was cool to leave before the crowd got too crass. We wove our way through the mosh pit as we found our exit, noticing a few drag queens or possible sex workers posing on the street as we found Manish’s car and laughed the whole way home.
Another wonderful week in Nepal has come to a close. Meetings and plans for the future took place today and I’m fascinated with stars in my eyes as I await the next. The adventures continue as I realize the difference in the Nepal I’m experiencing this trip and the humans who will help shape the focus of my work in the future.
I’ve hit the ground running since landing in Kathmandu, maybe going a little too hard as I’m now bound to my bed from having ice cubes in my drink. I forget the food and water are different, full of bacteria and different microscopic elements that they are all used to and my American body can’t handle. I went out the other night without Graham to see a friend play at the opening of a restaurant. I was the only white person in the place and received full attention from the array of business men, tech guys and musicians, even a member of the royal family. My friend was a StrawberryPropaganda sticker and after handing them out, I was asked if I could make some of a few other people. At the end of the night, they turned off the lights and we headed out; I rode back home on my friend’s motorcycle, getting in later than expected.
Being sick in a foreign country brings out suggestions that to me, seem a little backward. I’ve been told tea is the cure for everything, I was given a digestive advertised as pomegranate flavor (actually spicy in taste, nothing reminded me of pomegranate) and toast with honey and coffee. Stomach cramps and diarrhea and vomiting ensued for almost 24 hours, dizziness and headache from dehydration and finally I was told I might have to go to the hospital. Luckily I woke up this morning hungry and able to keep the electrolyte water down. I’m currently munching on plain white rice, hoping I’ll have the energy to get out of bed.
I’ve been a busy bee, walking around for Holi Festival, meeting the other artists in the residency program and meeting up with a few Nepalis I had connected with last year. I’m amazed at the progress I’ve seen, especially with paved roads and air quality. I no longer have to wear a face mask while walking the streets and the sky is blue in color.
At MCUBE, Manish is the curator and program director and his father also lives down the hall. We call him Ba. Ba is hard of hearing and he’s missing a few of his teeth, though he’s always smiling and laughs in his curious jolly way, we are slowly able to discern what he is saying. Manish tells us his mother died last year, evident in his short cut, a tradition where the eldest son shaves his head and burns the body of the deceased on the Bagmati River at Pashupatinath. We also have a woman who cooks and cleans, constantly bringing us tea loaded with sugar and sweet pastries. She doesn’t speak much and I’m not sure if she understands my words, I nod at her and she stares back.
Everyday people stop by the gallery to speak with Manish and he introduces us to his students, friends and patients. He has many talents, teaching yoga, crystal cleansing,painting, drawing and he even used to be a rock star playing guitar and singing. He teaches art at a local university and also has many young children who come for a couple hours each week. We are living in a good area of town, buildings are in good shape and most of the roads are paved. There are a good number of Europeans and Americans who walk the streets and a cafe around the corner which is extra safe for foreigners.
This program is filled with four of us artists; I was very flattered to find out I was the first accepted and many people were turned down before Graham was accepted late. Manish thought it would be good to have the two of us who already know each other paired up with two Nepalis who work in the same area. On Friday we all met, taking turns to explain where our interests are and why we are artists. It’s exciting to be starting this journey, we all want to collaborate and explore, everyone is an incredible artist and all of us have received acclaim in our areas. I’m very surprised to learn how much they all respect and admire me returning and the regard in which they hold me as an American painter.
Unfortunately being sick the last couple days has alienated myself, though given Graham a chance to get to know them all better. Yesterday I attempted to rally and we drove an hour to see a gallery opening, only once there I vomited in the bathroom and couldn’t force myself to walk through the exhibit. They cancelled our dinner plans and allowed me to sleep in the back of the car. I hope to be able to revisit once I’m feeling better.
Last night as I was recovering, they made “Pasta Bagetti” or spagetti with onions, peppers, tomatoes, beans and carrots, of course adding some spice to make it more nepali and Ba gave us a sampling of his homemade saffron wine. As the sunset, Manish brought out his guitar and we all sang classic rock ‘n roll songs of Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. This morning I’m feeling much better and I’m off again to explore more of this wonderful magical city called Kathmandu.
Singapore is a strange city. At first, it seems nice; it’s very clean and I found it easy to get around and english is the main language. I forgot I was even in a foreign country. After a bit of a wrong way detour, I arrived for the evening in Clarke Quay, having left my travel partner at the airport on account of him ignoring me and walking away. As I settled in, I received a facebook message “help”. He was so distraught he was still at the airport lost and upset I had left him. I gave him my address and told him to hop in a taxi.
It was my birthday and I wanted to go out, however by the time we got settled and had figured out how to be civil, it was 3:30 in the morning and everything was shut down. We walked down the street until we found a 24 hour McDonalds, shared a delicious McSpicy with a CocaCola then found a open area where we got a Pork Bun and a couple of Tiger beers. We cheered and made a truce: If we can be friends, this trip will be much more smooth, the past must be let go and we have to move forward working together. Eventually we went back to our closet of a hotel, where we fell asleep.
The next morning we ate a bit of breakfast, checked out and ventured outside: It was hot and humid. We opted to carry our bags as we didn’t want to return to the hotel before the flight and set off to see certain sites I had researched. The more we walked, the less happy we became. My bag was heavy and I had my big jacket. Graham was continually confused as to where we were and miserable in the heat.
Singapore is a city full of fines. Everywhere you look, there is a law telling you not to do things and a corresponding fine; Don’t throw your cigarette butts on the ground, don’t chew gum, don’t fish, don’t make annoying sounds, don’t block someone’s path, no eating or drinking or smoking in certain areas, flush the toilet, no singing on the street, don’t feed the pigeons, no drugs of any kind and don’t urinate in the elevators. Punishments include money fines, imprisonment and caning. No wonder it’s so clean!
We got to the airport a couple hours early, happy to be back in air conditioning and really glad to be leaving this sterile expensive world. At the airport, I received a call from a Nepali girl who sang me happy birthday and we made plans to meet for Holi.
The arrival to Kathmandu was a mess, welcome to third world country status. It was dark, lines were long and I used my card to buy our visas, which they gave me a hard time about. Graham was upset with me again and refused to stand close by. Confusion reigned in the air as we were waived through metal detectors with things in our pockets and crowded around the belts to pick up our bags. Graham’s bottle of Jameson bought in Singapore duty free broke open spilling whiskey everywhere as we discovered someone had removed our bags and set them to the side. Frustrated, Graham booked it to the sidewalk for a smoke and I looked for a sign from our driver. We were immediately surrounded by Nepali men yelling out “Taxi! Taxi!” and they loaded our bags into the car, then separated us to demand $20 each for their efforts. Our driver told us not to give them money and we were off to the gallery.
As we drove from the airport, even with difficult interactions, I had the biggest smile on my face. I had been here before and it felt like coming home. Am I really here? Did I really make it? The road is bumpy below the tires, lights pass us on the right side, dust and construction force our driver to maneuver through the streets as I fear his car might break down at any moment. Then we arrive to our destination faster than I anticipate.
The car pulls up to the driveway and honks a few times, flashing his lights to no answer. We open the metal gate, ducking inside the dark front stoop. We ring the bell, our driver calls the phone, still no answer. Graham tries the door which easily pushes open and we say farewell to the driver and bring our bags inside. It’s dark and we try the lights, finding the kitchen, bathroom and our rooms upstairs. The other 2 rooms are emanating strong snores, assuring us that we are in the right place. I venture onto the roof where we see the almost full moon illuminating the buildings, which look like boxes chaotically stacked. We aren’t tired and I start to unpack. I let Graham pick his room first and he opts for the smaller room with a bigger desk and large windows which look out over the street and the second floor porch. My room has much more space for painting and the walls have space to tack up canvas. My desk is smaller but I have more closet space and 2 small windows looking out over the back yard and the gallery space up front. As we are unpacking, the gallery owner pops his head in, apologizing for falling asleep and offers to give us the tour. He surprises us with chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles for my birthday
Manish, the program director and gallery owner has had this house in his family for 5 generations, he built the gallery out front and is working on adding a bathroom adjacent. Half the walls are glass, the other half white filled with beautiful colorful pieces from Manish and other artists. He walks us around to the side with a garden and guava trees and grass, though it’s the beginning of spring and nothing is really growing yet. He takes us inside where he shows us his office and communal areas, explaining which water is drinkable, and how to wash dishes. We ascend to the roof where he shows us a laundry machine and points in the direction of Patan Dhoka and Durbar Square.
Around 4 am we finally fall asleep, making plans to walk over to a Holi celebration in the afternoon. Being back in Nepal is a dream come true, walking the familiar streets, knowing that this time, I’m able to move at a much more leisurely pace and explore in depth what catches my interest. First, my body must adjust to the food and sleep. Tomorrow I will tell you all about Holi and our first gallery meeting.
I spent an entire day packing up everything I had allowed to spill out over the last few months. I organized, threw away and packed up everything except for my screen printing supplies. I even packed up my wallet, which I dug out along with clothes to wear for the last few days. As I got ready for this trip of a lifetime, I was feeling like something wasn’t right.
The next morning I hopped out of bed, feeling light, chock full of inspiration. I’ve reset my intentions, packed up the stuff that has weighed me down, wrapped up any final pressing issues and said farewell to friends I’ll miss. It’s a big transition and one I’ve contemplated, dreamed of and anticipated through each moment of the last year. At times, I’ve allowed this goal to cloud perspective, and affect judgement. Recently in desperation, I unleased catty anger and vicious gossip to a human who unknowingly intercepted a wrath which afterwards I couldn’t admit was my own. It’s forced my right foot to step back and sit down for a second as I re-evaluate the intention behind actions and words I’ve given to my surroundings. Clearly stated, It’s been hard to show and share love.
I’ve been struggling against life, attempting to force what isn’t natural to be. I’m stubborn and kept reaching.. for this moment, for people to understand love, unconditional love that can never be empty because it flows from me to you to her to him and back to me and then to another. A cycle that can for nevermore be broken because it’s been started, not by I, not by you, by the power of the earth for which we stand, by the power of the sun which gives us light and by the power of our human existence and whatever you or I may believe about any kind of power beyond our realm of comprehension. That is why we have love, that is why we may pass it on, and it can only be given graciously.
In an unexpected twist in my life, realizations and culminations of missed connections collided earlier this week. I ran into an old love, a man who betrayed me by walking away with no notice, only texting that I was extra, an unneeded parasite who could be scraped off at a moment’s notice. It hurt differently than any other previous breakup and sent me on a creative spark which brought about my big Strawberry Lady painting and the beginning of StrawberryPropaganda. Him leaving caused me to reach for a greater range, allowed me to explore a wider world and gave me the guts to say Fuck All, I’m an artist. As he sat in the back of the truck I had found and negotiated, he apologized giving me a glimpse into his past anger that I was never allowed to see before. It’s a cycle of remembrances, a reminder that life and gossip and tears fade; karma does it’s job well as long as we keep to the high road and intently follow our own path.
I will be thirty two tomorrow. Two years into my third decade on the last day of the month of February. I bought a second ticket for my beloved partner to experience my other love: Nepal, then broke his heart days before we left as my past came back with a vengeance. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t kind and I know it hurt him beyond measure. I’m trying to make the best of the situation and I left his ticket open on the chance he still wanted to come. He decided to board the flight, though it’s been tension, fighting and overall nastiness from both sides. We keep apologizing as if it’s enough and it’s left us both broken hearted, each apology leading to the next outburst of deep seated hurt.
This experience though not positive has led me to change seats and led to a conversation with a man who owns an housing company. Apparently he’s looking for artists. I’m looking to be hired. I’m looking to leave the US. I’m looking to explore the world, I’m trying to make the world smaller, to create conversation, to create change, to expose love and all that it has to offer. Positivity and the opportunity to share in a greater vision has kept me going. I only want to learn and grow. I’m curious of other viewpoints, I love perspectives and the education that comes with it.
Nepal has been on my mind, in my dreams and carefully held within my heart. It isn’t just a country to me, it stands for freedom, questioning the truth and accepting the ebb and flow of life. The people, the language, the humble reverence of acknowledging that we are all humans with a brilliant light to share has driven me to return; this time armed with a plan to learn and soak in even more beauty and culture. I’m working as an Artist in Residence at a gallery in Patan Dhoka, older than the rest of Kathmandu. Durbar Square is around the corner filled with temples and stupas of respected deities, unfortunately it was effected by a terrible earthquake about 3 years ago, leaving it with damage. Earthquake damage that has shaken the physical spiritual atmosphere, though as I get to know this country, they seem to be determined to continue and rebuild; even without wealth or resources. Determination that can change the world. That is what inspires me. That is what keeps me going through the rough and tumble of the art world that can be very cut throat.
Art doesn’t have to be competitive. Art comes from within, which is why it is unique to each person. Why do we copy each other? Why do we obsess over details that come naturally to others when we are thinking in a different direction. Is it the insecurity, the fear that we are not the best human we can be? Maybe it’s the desire to be better, to be the inspiration instead of the inspired. Let us not forget, each experience we have leads to the next and leads to inspiration and leads to growth and understanding if we allow it.
What am I allowing from this experience that I’ve just started? I’m determined to have fun, to be positive and let life take the lead for a bit. I’m allowing my heart to be open and light, even through the pain of knowing how much I hurt my travel companion. I’m hoping he’ll decide to grow too and we can share in this trip of a lifetime. Nepal, my love, I’ll see you soon. First, let’s see what Singapore has to offer.
If you’ve seen me recently, you might think I’ve gone off the deep end. In fact, I have decided to throw one hundred percent of myself into what I claim to do: Spread Love. In order to accept that challenge, I have set goals for myself.
This is February, the second month of the year. February is about Love. Love can grow like wildfire. I’m starting a fire, one that I hope catches in the breeze, which means, this might be the only explanation you get. A year ago I embarked on a journey with no possible expectation. It was a leap. I stayed present and open to anything that came my way. It’s been a hard journey, as many read in my last post, sometimes I have no idea why I’m doing it or how I can move one more step. I still move. I’ve moved beyond mountains, deserts that stretch as far as the eye can see. I have become that which I couldn’t imagine, which means I have yet to see anything. If one year can yield the growth, love and dynamic knowledge, what could the rest of my life contain? Before I get ahead of myself, as I often do in side swept tangents, I’m starting in February. Let’s take a look thus far:
On February 1st, I awoke in California. I biked in the dark to the center of MarsVista and opened the yoga studio. I was able to take the class because it was so early and it felt good to stretch my muscles after the whirlwind of my weekend. I stayed to watch over the shop before the next person came to take over and wrote love letters all over the sidewalk intently spreading love to anyone walking past. I walked through my old and new ‘hood, taking in all the changes and the new faces. I ran into a human who has drawn my eye for over 2 years. The excitement within me when I saw her for the first time jumped again as I saw her walking towards the same corner. I approached her not knowing exactly what to say, and so I began by explaining I had first noticed her while I cut hair at Floyds. She always has the biggest smile on her face, as if this moment is the greatest. She wears a brightly colored skirt and jacket, tailored as if she is going to a Southern Baptist Church on Sunday morning. Her entire persona is framed with a matching hat, the wide straw brim filled with pink flowers, frozen in full bloom. I told her that while I didn’t even know her name; I loved her and she had brought me joy from watching her walk through this town I call MarsVista. I told her I had painted Janis down the block and I wanted to paint her too. I definitely overwhelmed her, and realizing this, I backed off to let her speak. She told me her name and that she had taken a picture of Janis, that she loved the colors. She asked me what I do besides paint and I replied, I only try my best to spread love. We parted ways as her smile became ever bigger, even though she had imparted her wisdom, and it forced my teeth to show and feel the warmth of love from a stranger.
After a few meetings and haircuts in the afternoon, I was plucked out of the westside pocket and transferred to a downtown warehouse where a friend was holding an art show. This friend hasn’t been my best friend, though knowing him has led me to a new community. I agreed to work the door, knowing it would most likely not yield any financial wealth, although there had been a promise. In my fierce and forceful way of spreading love, I refused to have a list of free people, instead I asked each person who claimed no money to make their case. If they were playing music or adding anything to the ambiance, they were welcome to slip inside. Flippantly, those who attempted to sneak by me or to argue over the price, I smiled and forced them to pay double, suggesting maybe they could impart a few words of love.
February 2nd started with sunrise and a dozen fresh donuts from Krispy Kreme, some of them pink sprinkled hearts, filled with a cool creme inside. A couple of Beths, driving back to the westside. She let me pick the music and the crystal clear notes from a piano serenaded the car as the sun rose to our backs.
After a nap and a few errands around the house, I trekked to the Santa Monica REI and purchased my brand new Blue backpack for Nepal. Traffic was horrendous and my travel companion was less than thrilled to be on the road. I could only think of my love for Nepal and all the things my backpack and I were going to experience. I never imagined I would have a blue backpack, though when I received my red one almost 4 years ago, it changed my life. Blue is the color of communication and it seems appropriate that I’ll be traversing the world, with communication on my back, filled with all my belongings.
A few hours of traffic later, and I arrive back at home to join my partner in a bike ride up to MarsVista. The GrandView Market is hosting a music night and people are sitting and standing around to listen and dance to a group of energetic musicians. The drummer is wearing a red and gold mask, the lead singer jumps around in a beachy tank and I keep catching the eyes of fellow MarsVistans whom I haven’t seen in around a year. Many people exclaim that I’m back, while I have to explain I’m about to leave again. Over and over I’m exclaiming today is February 2nd 2018 and there are so many 2s, it’s inevitably a wonderful day.
February 3rd brought many difficulties. I was worn down, feeling the extertion of so much love emptied and not refilled. I was hungry and frustrated and filled with despair. I tried reminding myself it was February 3rd, the third day of the second month of the year, a month of love. I was left hanging, fearing as though maybe after 2 days I had reached empty. I was hurt, feeling broken and pain erupted within my frame, causing me to become lightheaded, cramping and the need to sit down. Fighting and that empty void where love had been, exploded out of me and as it took me by surprise, I also couldn’t stop. I had anticipated nourishment would happen from those who surrounded me because I was giving haircuts and working. Instead I remained hungry, attempting to hold space for love, which proved more difficult than I could single-handedly express. At the same time I hurt the human who thought he was helpful. I biked to the grocery store, spending my last remaining $20 in cash on food for my fellow housemates, venturing in on guessing that they too might have hunger. I returned home, fed my people and myself and collapsed with exhaustion; emotionally, mentally and physically.
When I awoke this morning, refreshed and feeling energized again, I echoed my sentiment: Today is February 4th, 2018. What do I love? Today I cleaned and helped my partner organize. Today I expressed my love for everything that surrounded me. Today I chose to remember what love is. I refuse to back down, I refuse to stay in a place that is not loving. I refuse to have pain in my body any longer. February 4th, I’m relaxing again into love. It hurts when things don’t go my way, and I also can’t allow my love to go unreplenished. The only way I see for my love to spread is by sharing it with everyone, even if they aren’t ready to feel it. I’m spreading love with a force, even when it isn’t reciprocated, even when it hurts, even when I’m angry. I will take a step back, remember what it’s like to be free, painless and living in love. My body feels lighter, my heart feels more open and I have more energy.
I invite you to join me this month. Each day, commit to recognizing at least one thing you love, and let’s see how much our love can evolve. Today is the Fourth of February.. So let’s start with 4 things you love.
While living in Minnesota last Fall, I wandering into a yoga and healing center, immediately met the owner and within days had 3 paintings of mudras displayed on their walls. It was serendipitous and I started taking classes, meeting other amazing creative souls and feeling the healing powers of Love and Light meld within my own soul as I released and came to terms with my adventures through the summer.
These last few months have been difficult as I’ve swam through my anger and frustration at the state of my life and why when I’d worked so hard, nothing seemed to be falling in place. I’ve kept going on my leap of faith not knowing where I’ll land and recently it feels like maybe I never will. I’ve blinded my own eyes in the process and become afraid of my own power, hiding in fear that maybe all of this is for naught, maybe I made a wrong choice and I should have listened when my parents and my grandma told me to stop all this nonsense and get a “real” job. In the last few weeks, I’ve succumbed to my despair, beating myself endlessly for following my passion above what a normally sane human might have chosen. I remind myself daily that I’ve made my life and the pressure I’m placing on myself has finally revealed that I’ve stretched my body past a level of healthy tolerance and I’ve become a tied up knot, unable to remember what it was like to be free. Each step has been encumbered by fear and I’ve started losing the faith that enabled me to jump in the first place.
Wrecked with all these emotions and pressure and at my wits end, I flew back to Minnesota a couple of days ago, in hopes of finding the answers to release the physical pain that has hindered my body and spirit within these last few weeks. I arrived in Minnesota with a sharp pain in my right side, extending down through my hip and up into my right lung, shoulder, neck and even my right sinus, leading to fits of painful coughing and a terrible headache. My mother immediately made plans to take me to the ER where I found out I have pneumonia.
In an effort to rid myself of these chains of negativity that have manifested, I walked back into Healing Elements. It was like coming home, I instantly felt my stress fade away as I received a hug from a woman I met months ago. Welcoming me with a warm smile, she gave me a stone to hold and she lit some palo santo as she asked why I had come. Life has gotten the best of me and in order to have a semblance of control, I’ve blocked my creativity and surrendered to the breeze, a tumultuous tumble that has overcome my positive passion and the intention to heal myself and others. I told her of my fear of flight within this leap of faith and my concern that I’ve chosen incorrectly what I hoped my life would become.
She smiled again, assuring me that if I wish to be healed, it’s already happened. She slyly suggested that time doesn’t move like I think and to my surprise, it will all happen faster than I anticipate. She guaranteed me that my good intentions have been noticed by the universe and as long as I follow through, things will become easier. She told me all it takes is a mustard seed sized amount of faith and big things will come. I then laid face up on the massage table as she moved my energy, using Reiki to tell me where my energy is stuck and to help release my pain, my trauma and my fears of what that feels like. She asked if I could feel the energy moving and if I always felt pain in specific places, I told her it might not be pain, but there is a constant awareness and anticipation of pain even when it might not be felt.
She offered me breath, release and she encouraged me to feel fresh air flowing inside and outside, and she reminded me to remember what it’s like to feel free.
What is it like to feel free? I remember the bubble up of happiness, my outstretched arms and a sparkling future. I couldn’t wait to move forward, my body always buzzing from excitement and each night as I happily closed my eyes, I couldn’t wait until they opened again with the bright sun. Free and the living is easy because I knew every second of my day was filled with the passion that gives me life, a passion born from the intention of making sure that each human in this world knows without a doubt that they are loved and they are love.
I have rediscovered my power, I have remembered my freedom and strangely (or not!) I have no pain within my body.
This blog started on February 1st 2017, the day I left my country for the first time. I flew across the world and wrote to a small group of family and friends as I viewed and experienced a different world. When I returned, I only wanted to explore this new perspective, this paradigm shift, which brought me into a whirlwind of searching for truth, real universal truths that I could exploit and share with everyone. I’ve used myself as a social experiment, something I’ve unknowingly done for most of my life.
I’m fascinated by Beauty, by the appearance of concepts versus what they actually are. Growing up, I colored, cut and styled my hair, my makeup, and my clothes, not necessarily to appear as my best self, more so to integrate into a group. I studied what others wore, what others spoke, what others did and I assimilated to fit in. I’m a chameleon and have done this more times than I can count, changing my appearance or my actions or my words in order to understand those I interact with. My understanding of Beauty and Truth has evolved beyond what I could have anticipated; which leads me to believe I have only just scratched the surface of what I can experience, explore and learn.
Remaining present was one of the biggest feats of this year. So much happened. I went from working a full-time salon job and painting every night to traveling halfway across the world and working with artists. Four years ago I wrote in my journal my perfect day; wake up with a coffee, paint and learn from a new culture, ending the day with a fire and dancing. This year my perfect day happened, more than once. Next year, I strive to expand to the perfect year; wake up with the sun, study human existence and the beauty that resides within, showcasing individual stories of love, ending with an appreciation and a wider perspective that I’m able to pass on.
My most valuable growth this year has been in line with my Ganesh tattoo, a reminder that whenever I forget why I’m doing what I am, all I need to do is look down at my arm. Ganesh may not be the most powerful, but he is the most respected, the first to be worshipped. Ganesh has taught me that most obstacles are within my own mind, culminating around fear. The dots remind me of intentions and the importance in details which make up the whole. I am living with a purpose, I vibrate with a passion; that is how I know I am alive. When I feel that passion, that purpose flow through me, I know I am in an honorable place.
Knowing this passion and purpose is only part of it, utilizing these gifts I have developed while staying in that honorable place is the balance. My mission is to influence the global perspective with love, authenticity and grace. As a human, I am flawed and it has taken more than willpower to achieve this life I’ve created thus far, even as I continue to fall in hidden holes, climb out and shake off the dirt. This growth despite the darkness, this pain and suffering and shame I’ve lit up in order to understand and move through can only help. Our day to day lives may be different, though our thoughts and feelings and emotions draw parallel, as we walk with struggles; proving that we are human.
Last year I invited the unfathomable in, wishing for adventure and excitement. This year I’m inviting in wisdom from my ancestors, transforming it through creativity into a manifestation of love. How exciting that we all get to continue rotating around this earth, to have another opportunity to evolve into something greater that we cannot yet fathom? Let’s get to work with the sun, let’s ground into Mother Earth, and let’s spread joy and love through the air. I’m grateful for the newness January brings and for all of your encouragement to delve deeper. I’m sending out rays of sunshine to all of you with the hope you accomplish something great this calendar year.