I had planned to sleep in today. I awake to look at my watch. It’s 5 am. I lay in my warm sleeping bag. I cannot get up when it is still dark outside. I won’t do it. I fall back asleep.
At 10 til 7 I wake again. I check; the sun is up. I get up, there are fat green bugs on my sleeping bag. I flick at them and they go flying across the room. I think that probably wasn’t the best idea. Now I have angry green bugs in my small confinement of a room.
I have to use the toilet, but I don’t want to. If the rooms are this grungy, I don’t expect the toilet to be better. I walk out of my room and across the way to the combined shower/toilet. I step in a pool of standing water and cringe. I jump back. UGH! I walk around the edges of the concrete block, avoiding any standing water and step up to the squat toilet. I remind myself that I’m on vacation.
After getting dressed, I hear a knock on my door. It is Min. “New room. Not finished. Okay?” I’m ready to take my chances. “Yes. Okay.” He takes my backpack, I take my daypack and boots, and we walk to the guest house two houses over. We go up to the third floor, the top. He pushes open a door. There is a bare room with a wooden platform bed with no mattress. It’s clean, however. “Min, it’s perfect. Thank you.”
Sophie, Marlies and I decide to have breakfast at a local bakery, the first we’ve seen since leaving Kathmandu. I’m dubious. When traveling, I firmly believe it’s best to go local. We order mint tea and cheese and egg sandwiches. The sandwiches arrive on a freshly baked loaf of bread, just slightly sweet, as well as slightly warm. The egg is cooked to perfection, the cheese shredded and just starting to melt. The sun beams down on us as we enjoy this rare treat – a surprisingly delicious breakfast at a leisurely pace.
My first task of the day – laundry. I take a few shirts, a couple of pairs of pants, socks, and panties to the shower. I fill a basin with water, squat, and begin scrubbing piece by piece. After the third shirt I’m exhausted. I stand up to stretch. I’m very thankful for washing machines.
After laundry Marlies, Sophie, Ganga (their guide), Min and I set out for Braka, the next town. We wander through the town then cross a field and start up a series of steep steps towards the gompa, or monastery. When we reach the top, there is a huge padlock on the door. Ganga tells us to wait and he disappears into the maze of stone buildings. Minutes later, he returns with a man who holds the key to the enormous padlock.
We enter and see a huge prayer wheel, larger than any of us. Min spins it and a blue of red, orange, green and blue speeds by. We remove our shoes and enter a dark hallway. A moment later we are in a large room, packed with Buddhas and cloths and candles and masks and photos of Dali Lamas. A shaft of sunlight beams through a skylight, illuminating the dust particles in the air. Sweet incense burns, the smell permeating every nook and cranny of the packed room. We wander from item to item mesmerized by the beauty and the history contained here.
Min pulls a blue silk string out of a basket. “Didi. Here.” I walk towards him and he reaches up and ties the cord around my neck. “It’s been blessed. For good luck. For you.”
We leave the monastery and wander through the hillside village. We see women washing clothes, children running up and down paths, and workers bringing sheaths of wheat in from the fields. Once again I’m reminded how easy my life is.