When I first began writing about taking my dad to Asia, in a story titled “Why Kathmandu,” I came across this Wendell Berry quote that resonated:
[…w]hen you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place, there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. – Wendell Berry
Strap your seatbelt on and check out this photo essay of images that welcomed my dad and I into Kathmandu as well as a few arriving thoughts:
As the plane descended through the low-slung clouds, I leaned over and said, “Daddy, this is it. Kathmandu.”
After a year of planning for getting my father and his travel wheelchair to Nepal we were finally arriving at the destination of his dreams. The fabled Kathmandu.
I found myself gripping my seat, not because of the jagged peaks that broke the deceptive ceiling of monsoon clouds as we neared the much-talked of treacherous airstrip, but because I wanted to leap up and exalt about it all.
For once–after all the places and far-reaching ideas my dad had helped me visit, I would be the one making his dream come true. How often do we get that chance as children? Especially as our parents age. Some people only get a wistful backwards longing “I should’ve…” about this, because life had plans other than on what they’d counted.
Still jet lagging from our NY-Istanbul trip and jazzed up from falling in love with Istanbul, (the cuisine, music, exotic markets, Romani beggars, calls to prayer, women dressed to the nines or covered as their faith (then and again) and government (now) dictate–all but their mysteriously beautiful eyes,– we flew through the night on the elegant Turkish Air to arrive in the jungle climate of Kathmandu.
For all its first-world plus elegance and religious intrigue, Turkey gave us one extreme and Kathmandu, another. Which I cherished — as most world travelers would– in equal measure.
How can I explain to you, how I could fall in love with the following: The caved in mud-erupted roads, the sari-clad women clinging to their moped drivers–scarves trailing through diesel-gray air, children brushing their teeth at the side of the road, open air street markets consisting of heaps of goods laid over uneven ground and gravel next to a riverside lined with heaps of trash? How can I explain the delightful rush that buzzards circling above and dogs–may of which are lame or potentially rabid lounged or trotted along to an agenda only they knew, brought me?
In terms of traveler’s euphoria that arrival hit a new high. If this sounds foreign to you, I invite you to pack your bags. Give it a go!
The sounds of blaring and bleeping horns and hundreds of zinging cars, tuktuks and mopeds with children, women and elders hanging off or out.
How to explain the sudden lurch in my heart at the realization of the unknown and more unknowns to come? It likely goes back to my father.
On that plane descending into one of the more exotic places I’d been in a while, I looked over and got the best view: that of my dad smiling and nodding his head over the terraced rice fields and concrete tenements so indicative of this part of the world. The part where some of his first dreams in life were kindled, and where now I would have the chance to make his biggest one come true.
I like to look at it like my dad looks at his life. I got lucky. Just damn lucky.
Thank you daddy.