Monday, December 06, 2010

Disclaimer: on seeing while traveling

Norbu Lama at the Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath .

It's time for me to begin posting some (a few) of my 700 pictures from my trek to Nepal. But first, a necessary disclaimer.

I just spent almost two weeks in somebody else's country. I looked at monuments, mountains and people. I snapped away. I was fascinated and generally delighted by that place's strangeness and wonder. But I must acknowledge that I know nothing about Nepal.

I cannot even claim to know what I saw. Inevitably, I saw through the lens of my own knowing, not a particularly useful lens in a society so different from my own. Some caution about the limits of my understanding would be appropriate even in unfamiliar corners of my own country; how much more so in a place half a world away -- a place never conquered by the civilization that is mine, a place where the immanence of the Ultimate manifests so differently.

So what are my sources for the perspective I can offer? I got a lot out of a little book called: Nepal - Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs & culture. I listened to and learned from the Nepalese guides provided by the trip organizer, Call of the Wild, a woman-owned company specializing in adventure travel. All were superbly helpful to our little bevy of tourists. On the mountain trek, Lhakpa Diki Sherpa, Ram Gurung and Laxman Gurung kept us going, pointed out wildlife, and generally eased our way. In Kathmandu, Norbu Lama struggled to communicate Kathmandu's syncretist Hinduism and Buddhism in which he participates with both awe and harmonious delight.

Because I am still struggling with a pneumonia I brought home and my usual round of concerns, it will probably take me a week to lay out my Nepal photos in a series of posts, with interruptions to comment on doings here at home. But I hope folks will be interested in the results.

1 comment:

Civic Center said...

Good disclaimer, but there's something to be said for completely fresh views of a place, since most people don't notice the details of the world they live in every day because they are so familiar.

Love your first two mountain installments, though I'm puzzled why the Himalayas, alone among mountains, frighten you. They don't seem particularly threatening from the photos, and this is coming from somebody who's slightly frightened by ALL mountains.