never goodbye, Nepal

Nepal, we rendezvoused yet again, and this time I brought my daughter to you. You tested me with your customs, your sentiments, your pathogens, and your wild ways. You made me question my sanity in coming here, and yet I cannot bear to leave you again. With your towering white peaks you lure me, again and again, into your clutches, only to double me over with pain. But when i stand again, oh god, I can barely breathe for love of you.

Nepal, on this fifth visit of mine, you showed me what it means to be a bideshi (foreigner), and you taught me to love my foreign ideas, my innate feminism, and my own power. You threatened my notions of motherhood, and then reaffirmed them. You gave me bliss and laughter, a glimpse of my younger self, and then ripped it away. I sat overlooking your sprawling city with my happiest self, I poured over your Himalayan crown with all the longing of my heart, and I ache with desire when I think of being far from you again.

Nepal, every time I come to you I am ripped to shreds, and then I offer the blood of my wounds to your gods. I kneel before you and you push me flat onto my face. You are cruel and mysterious. You nurture my craving for wonder, you ease my wanderlust, you soothe my soul. Your temples sing my lullabies, your people fuel my smile, your mountains lift me to new heights. the whisper of your prayer flags, the rustle of your kurtaas, the ringing of your bells at dusk… they create me anew.

Nepal, you give me more love than I can hold, and then you take more of me than I have to spare. You consume me and then spit me out. So much of me is left behind each time I go that I can hardly call myself the same person.

Nepal, our love is deep and complicated. You are my two-faced god. I am your hungry ghost.

ok a little positivity now

I’ve been using my blog to vent about the trip’s low points, but it has been equally as amazing as it has been disturbing. I’m sitting on my hotel balcony right now, looking at the Langtang Himalayan range and the terraced hills. This view cannot be beat, even by the ocean. The Himalayas call to me and have done so ever since I first laid eyes on them in 2004. Like the Redwoods, they raise my energy to a deeper, calmer frequency. I’m counting down the months or, god forbid, years until I can go trekking!

Also, M and I needed a little Western world living, stat. Everything feels better with hot running water, soft bedding, and brand new shiny appliances. Yes, we’ve been living without running (or hot, unless you heat it on the stove) water and sleeping in wooden beds with mats! I’m no 19-year-old anymore, my bones ache on wood platforms now! For $105 we spent the night in an amazing hotel with a jacuzzi, delicious food (both international and local cuisines), the best views, excellent service, and all the fresh air and greenery of nature. 

Honestly we haven’t even gone much further than our room and the dining room. Having our own space with familiar accoutrements has breathed new life into us. We’ve cuddled and laughed together and reconnected as mommy and daughter. We’ve lounged around in bed and on the balcony, taken long hot showers using all the soap, and fell asleep together by candlelight. Pure magic.

Honestly we wouldn’t mind staying a few more days in this awesome place. But we leave for Hong Kong tomorrow, so that’s not possible. But boy, has coming here really helped me plan how to go about our next trip here! We need our own space, nature and countryside, and from time to time hot showers and soft beds. These things help us stay sane, and allow us to be kinder to one another. Amazing how self care can create such harmony and, after some truly awful acting out, has turned my daughter back into her sweet and wonderful self.

We need the mountains. We need privacy. We need each other. And we need the freedom to decide on the flow of the days and weeks. We’ve battled injuries, hurt feelings, homesickness, and illness. We’ve looked upon the crown of the world, and we’ve discovered what makes us work and what doesn’t. It’s been unbelievable. 

Now how the heck do we drag ourselves away from this paradise???

why is this pissing me off so much?

I tried talking to an American friend of mine online about what happened the other night and she basically told me that I was overreacting and it seemed like maybe I was upset about more than just what I was saying. Sometimes you just need a friend (or a blog) to vent to but that response didn’t help at all. Look, minorities and women experience racism, sexism, and other types of discrimination in their every day lives. I’m coming from a place of total privilege, being so disturbed by a cultural misunderstanding in which I was perceived as lesser in status than a male. It’s not so unusual in most of the world, I guess, so excuse me while I feel outraged for a moment over it. 

I’ve grown up a complete product of second and third wave feminism… To the point where I don’t even know what I have in my American life. That’s the beauty of travel, isn’t it? It reveals much more about one’s self than it does about the other culture. I bear no grudge toward my Nepali family because their intentions were good and they spoke from a place of love for me and my daughter. At the same time I can only view a situation from my own cultural experiences, so yes, an independent woman who politely informed a host that I’d be late and that we were at a hospital and received a reply can and will be outraged that her judgment, character, and ability to be responsible for herself were questioned so severely. And yes… being mom-shamed for something that happened outside of my control is unacceptable to me, too. And also, these are people I’ve been close to for so long that I think it’s normal for me to be upset that we had such a massive understanding.

I’m not here doing field work. I’m not a Nepali person, either. Nor do I want to be. I will do my utmost best to be a good guest, helpful and respectful, in the ways I know how. But I will always live outside the norm here, I will always fall prey to misunderstandings and blunders. Is it so much to ask a friend to just listen to my frustrations? 

Anyway. I guess I’m feeling totally on my own right now. I thought talking to a fellow independent female friend would help, but instead I was just made to feel ashamed of not getting over it or being more understanding. So maybe I’m the one who is completely crazy.

very personal post about our motorcycle incident

I’ve been grappling with so many thoughts since our motorcycle incident on Tuesday night. Few of them have to do with the actual accident, as we were all wearing helmets, going slowly, and no one was hurt past some bruises and scrapes. (A drunk man on a motorcycle passed is too closely and knocked us over.) I might be the most hurt, with a very sore shoulder and hugely bruised knee with a cut. We went to the hospital after where they x-rayed my knee, but it was working fine with no terrible pain in the joint so I knew it wasn’t broken. M and I were with my good friend on the bike and he felt so terrible even though it wasn’t his fault. The drunk driver’s bike was confiscated by the police and he was made to accompany us all to the hospital and pay out of pocket for the check up, x-rays, band aids, everything.

So it was fine. I had texted my Nepali sister before we left at 8:30 to tell her we were a little late. Then I messaged after the accident and told her what had happened but that we were fine. She responded and I thought it was all good.

It was almost midnight when my friend brought us to the house. Here’s where things got crazy. My Nepali sister came out of the house and literally flew off the handle at him. She was screaming at him that he was a terrible person and she was going to report him to the police. I started yelling that it wasn’t his fault. I was screaming, “oh my god, I’m an adult, why are you upset with him” and she was screaming that only a really bad man would have brought me back so late without calling them. 

I was completely dumbfounded and very upset. My friend left quickly as he could not get a word in anyway. I was mortified and confused and embarrassed. My sister then went on to rant and rave about how he must be after me (sexually) and he must be unfaithful to his wife. I kept interjecting that if she’s upset at me for being late and not calling her to come pick me up, then that’s on me and I’m an adult who is responsible for myself and my daughter, not my friend, who had done everything I asked of him. If I’d asked him to call them, he totally would have. But I said I’d messaged them so it was fine. My fault, not his! 

Herein lies the problem. In Nepali culture, men do not go around with women after dark no matter the circumstance. If he does, he’s suspect. Nepali people are extremely suspicious of one another’s intentions. I’m told all the time that Nepali people are not good, whereas I’ve never found this to be the case, not more than any other people for sure. Also in Nepal, if a man is out with a woman I guess she is considered his responsibility… I can’t help but find this incredibly insulting. I’m American and certainly no man is more responsible for me than I am for myself! Also, we’ve been friends for seven years now. I’ve never found him to do anything that I found aggressive or uncomfortable, obviously, or why would I keep hanging out with him? My Nepali family considers him a stranger but I don’t. 

All of my Didi’s (Nepali sister’s) actions came from a place of love. I am her guest and she feels very responsible for M and I. In her culture what happened was unacceptable. In mine, it was completely fine. There’s no way to really reconcile the differences. If I could go back in time, I’d have called her to come to the hospital to set her mind at ease, but in America if something minor happened, and everything was fine, I probably wouldn’t have even told anyone til the next day. Now if someone is expecting me and I’m really late, as a guest I’d notify them and that’s what I did. I had no idea that Nepali people are so terrified of what can happen at night and so unaccepting of a man and woman (and kid, I guess) alone in the dark. Alone even on a bike just coming home!

Even understanding where they are coming from, eventually I just felt more upset. My Nepali family was laying on the shame, saying what if my daughter had a broken bone and the embassy found out? Ummm accidents happen. We’d taken every precaution and I have travel insurance. Children in Nepal almost never wear helmets and my friend still went and found M one and she was wearing it. The embassy would help us if we needed it but why would I be in trouble? I didn’t need anymore mommy guilt than I had already, and here my family was railing into me that I should feel guilty, and that if I was alone maybe that would be one thing, but with a baby I shouldn’t ever have been out after dark. (And I almost always am, in America, so maybe I was a bit ignorant of the perception, or the real dangers, but I was also with a person I knew well and trusted.) I didn’t appreciate the perception nor the feeling that somehow I am not ultimately responsible for my daughter.

In Nepal there is a community sense of obligation and responsibility for children. This can be a wonderful thing and something I was looking forward to experiencing with my own child, but in this case it created a problem for me. I choose where to take my daughter and who with, but my Nepali family sees my choices as a direct reflection of their hospitality. If something looks unseemly to them, then it is. I feel completely the opposite… Just because something looks unseemly doesn’t mean it is. And also, it’s nobody’s business if it is! But here? Everything is everyone’s business. If a woman hugs a man, people stare and whisper. They automatically assume you are lovers, even if that person is your relative.

Part of traveling in culturally different areas is learning to appreciate the good things about your own culture. I’ll appreciate more than ever the fact that in America when I take my daughter somewhere and don’t come home until late, no one questions me or assumes anything bad is happening. I’ll appreciate the fact that my mom taught me to be self-reliant and to trust my own judgment more than anyone else’s. There’s ups and downs to both ways of doing things, but from a distance I can finally appreciate what “home” means for me: freedom.

So, now my Nepali family says that if I’m staying with them I can’t see my friend or go out with him. Like I’m 16 or something. I’m 32 and a mother, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to decide who my friends are or who I expose my daughter to. He’s been nothing but kind and generous with us, and if it means something that he’s hanging out with us and not his wife, well, seriously none of my business. And I don’t think it’s strange at all that someone who has been married like 12 years wants to go out with friends or visit them when they’re in town. Again, completely opposing cultural perceptions, and there is no middle ground to be had. Luckily it won’t be an issue since my friend has gone trekking (he is a guide) and won’t be back before we leave. Out of respect I won’t have him come to their house or tell them about talking to him, but it feels quite ridiculous to me.

There is so much I love about Nepal and its people and culture. I don’t intend to stop coming here… I just know that for sure I will have my own apartment and that way no one can claim full responsibility over where I go or what I do, and my god-awful independent American ways won’t trouble my hosts. The older I get, the less I care about fitting in, and the more important I find it is to create a space all my own. I’ve learned the hard way that staying with other people, even people you love and who love you, can be tricky and ultimately problematic. To preserve my sanity I have to come from a place where no one can control me with their judgment, even if it’s well-intentioned. Making appointments with family and then visiting them, or spending the day or even night with them, is vastly different than staying long-term. I’m uncomfortable with this aspect of the culture so next time I will simply prevent the issues from occurring. Live and learn!

Now my body is aching everywhere from the accident. M seems totally unaffected, thank god, but I’m paying for it with my muscles. Ugh! We have three days left and I think I’ll be less reluctant to leave after these events. I need to reenter the Western world and collect myself and my thoughts.

first post from Nepal

I’m posting from my phone so forgive the formatting errors and typos… If you follow my Instagram then you’ll know that we had some sleeping issues, as in my child did not sleep at all, ever, for days. Knock on wood but we are finally on track as she has now slept all night twice!

Things are a bit different for me in Nepal, as I have a little one and I’m older. Still, I feel closer to my pre-kid self than I have before. Of course I love being a parent, I’m not saying my pre-kid self was necessarily better or more enjoyable or more real, but parts of who I was seven or ten or 15 years ago was a bit more authentic, obviously, since I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I feel much closer to those parts of myself here, but I also find that that feeling grinds up against the obligations of motherhood. It’s harder to be patient here… She’s not being very well-behaved here (understandably, there’s been a ton of changes in a short time) but feeling more in touch withy pre-kid self somehow means feeling less capable of dealing with a very demanding, whiny, needy little person who never sleeps.

On the flip side, I feel that parenting here is so much easier because M loves Nepali uncles, aunts, didi and dai (older children) and Nepali people are way more patient and accepting of an active little kid than Americans are. Life seems more real here… Things are dirty and out in the open but also raw and interesting. The western world (including places like Hong Kong) seem almost oppressively sterile in comparison, children expected to be perfect little robots. Don’t get me wrong, I love clean hot showers with every dirt and dust-covered inch of me, but the sacrifice is worth it for the sense of community and interconnectedness I feel here.

Part of me wishes I could sell everything I own and just never go back. If I didn’t have such deep roots, identity and family-wise, in my Michigan property I’d do it in a heartbeat. The entire time I’m here I just think, I want an apartment and a scooty here and I don’t want to go home. I miss my mom and my lake but the rest of it, the isolation the sterile grocery stores the long commutes the consumerism the politics my job in the hospital… I don’t think I can stand those things, even if there is no alternative. 

I want to stay. I want to stay so bad. Someone tell me how to work this out. Sell my car? Rent my house? Those are my thoughts here. I forget everything, I live in the moment. It’s very zen. 

travel eve

Well, it’s our last night in the states! What do I have done? Well I got the trip insurance… and that’s it. I also started packing but I’m far from done. (Packing with M around has turned out to be akin to Sisyphus pushing his boulder. Shit goes in the suitcase and ends up outside of it again as soon as I turn my back.) Thankfully we have all day tomorrow, because our flight is at 8pm. Therefore I’m drinking wine and watching the presidential debate… because I want to truly appreciate the hilarious tweets and memes that will follow.

Just found out that my family in Nepal has wi-fi in their house. This is a total game-changer, folks. The other four times I’ve been to Nepal I had to wait for these small internet shops to open, and then sit forever on slow dial-up just to send some emails. Now I’m going to have internet on my phone as usual, which means I can follow the US election on election night and stay in contact by phone, email, facebook, and instagram. That’s pretty cool, but I’m also a little wistful already for the days when going to Nepal meant a forced separation from technology!

I met up with my dad, who is in town from Tennessee. He is, of course, terrified of me traveling to Nepal, and made me promise to “keep my eye” on M over and over, as if I’m some kind of half-negligent parent taking my child into a crowd of terrorists. He thinks that traveling with a child makes me a perfect candidate for becoming a hostage. He also thinks that if anyone overseas finds out I’m gay, I’ll be murdered where I stand. (I think he’s confusing Asia with Tennessee.) Of course I’ve traveled the world and the most dangerous situations I’ve ever been in were in the US: a bank robbery in my own home town, and a creepy guy who followed me to my car but scurried away when I confronted him in a parking lot in Dallas. Also, he’s somewhat correct in that Nepali society is not as accepting of gay relationships as the area in which I live, but the Nepali people I know, the ones I call my friends and family, totally support LGBT rights. I’m not in a relationship, seeking a relationship, or traveling with a partner so really it’s not even going to come up. But in general, I do not advertise my sexuality when I travel anywhere, because my priority is avoiding conflict when I’m in an unfamiliar place.

So over and out! I’m so excited to do this, but also know it’s going to be exhausting and there’s going to be times that I wish I could just go home for the night and sleep in my own bed. M is going to cry at night that she wants her Da Da (grandma) and her home, and one or both of us will likely get sick in some way at some point. But it’s so worth it to get out there and see the world!!!


counting down

We just celebrated Halloween with trick-or-treating at the zoo and pumpkin carving with my sister and niece (see blog post: Autumn in the Midwest on my other blog). The one single thing I will really miss about our life in Michigan? Having my sister nearby. Not only is she my best friend these days, but M and my niece are obsessed with being together, and oh the crying and wailing and carrying on when we force them to part! I hope they can visit us and we can stay with them often throughout the year, to make up for less regular visits.

Ok can you believe it… in four days we are off to Kathmandu! I’ve had a few ‘am-I -crazy-for-taking-a-3-year-old-to-Nepal-and-ohmygod-it’s-a-16-hour flight-I’m-seriously-crazy” moments, I’ll admit. My grandmother would’ve been packed 2 weeks ago, but I’m more of a last-minute packer myself. So far I’ve done the following prep:

  1. Bought our tickets in May and bought day rooms in the Hong Kong airport hotel
  2. Adjusted day room reservation to all night reservation in the Hong Kong airport hotel because our flight was changed to one day earlier
  3. Purchased little surprise goodies for M on the flight, a charger for the portable DVD player, new kid headphones, and a portable charger for devices
  4. Bought almost everything on the list my friends in Nepal have given me… backpacks, clothes, make-up, baby wipes, baby food, and tylenol were some of the requested (hard-to-find in Nepal) items
  5. Bought gifts for everyone’s kids
  6. Procured two new (to me) suitcases… one from a thrift shop and one from my grandma’s house. My old ones are officially busted up.
  7. Tried to prepare M for the trip by talking about foreign languages, showing her pictures of our family there (she hasn’t seen them since she was 5 months old), and getting her excited for the airplane

What’s left to do?

  1. Buy snacks and drinks (they always let me through security with small children’s drinks as long as they are still sealed)
  2. Still have some items to buy for our friends there, from their list
  3. Figure out how to use the portable charger before using it
  4. Find the charger I bought for the dvd player cause I lost it and it has to be somewhere
  5. Pack two suitcases and two backpacks, and do it without M seeing the surprise toys for the airplane
  6. Get out cash for the trip
  7. Buy trip insurance
  8. Put our money and passports in a separate carrier (I keep it under my clothes)
  9. Notify embassy and credit card companies of impending travel

Did I mention I’m working three more shifts in a row and have just one day off before we leave? Also, my dad will be in town so we’ll be trying to get some visiting in there, too.


back for a minute

We got back from the east coast the day before yesterday… I learned a lot on this adventure (get a portable charger, campgrounds are often more like trailer parks), got my Manhattan fix (actually I needed a lot more), and hit the beach. It was good to be with family, the kids even got along a lot of the time. Of course, it’s also stressful to be in someone else’s house and not have your own space!

You can look for my new blog posts at Across the Never Sky or follow the facebook page if you like your updates that way.

I came home to a to-do list a mile long: take cat to vet, fix paycheck error that resulted in not getting paid on time, go to various banks, M’s swim lesson, clean car, a million phone calls… I’m maybe halfway through it three days later.

Good news on the money saving front: I got my home and car insurance switched and that saved me $50 per month and got me better coverage. Switching my phone service saves me $100/month. So I’m making progress there. Unfortunately I had more set backs. My foot pain has returned with a vengeance so I had to invest in new Dansko shoes (I guess they wear out after a year and I’ve had mine nearly two). Last time I got new Dansko’s my foot pain completely disappeared… so I needed that. Also the portable charger, cause my phone dies all the time using camera and maps, the two things I need most when traveling. And the iPad charger pulled apart… so had to get a new one of those. The cat continues to need adjustments to her thyroid medication, and now her eye infection. Bah.

Also, M did NOT miss school. She didn’t ask about it once, even when her cousin playmate went off to his first day of school on Tuesday. This morning she asked where we were going, and when I told her she was going to school, she looked shocked: “I don’t wanna go to school, mom!” I felt icky about sending her. She will be fine there of course, and I had to work a short shift this afternoon so she did need to go, but it made me feel better about her not going after we leave this state. She honestly doesn’t love it. She doesn’t miss it. And she doesn’t need it to learn. She needs a safe place that provides lots of creative and learning opportunities when I work, though, rather than just staying home with a screen and grandma, so she still goes for now.

I enjoyed being with her every day, though. I actually hated being apart from her today while she went to school. It’s nice to know that the more I’m with her, the more I want to be with her, rather than the opposite!

blog posts on Across the Never Sky

Some people asked me for either an email list or facebook page to notify them when I post to my travel blog, so I made one: Feel free to hit like and then maybe I won’t even have to post links to it here. I just wrote a new blog post there called Ten Reasons I’m Leaving My Regular Life for Full-Time Travel. But if you’re a reader of this more personal blog then you already know the reasons.

I’m still trying to decide where to put my nursing posts, or if I should just tweet them. (No patient information, obvy.) Still deciding, but to keep things simple I may just do away with the nursing blog I never post at anymore and do my “travel nurse” blogging on the travel site.

Two more days til our family road trip to the East Coast!

there will always be doubts

Leaving my employer of eight years is sort of like jumping off a cliff into an abyss. I don’t know what to expect, really. Will being a nurse in another hospital be really hard? Unpleasant? Miserable? Will I feel stupid, overwhelmed, scared? Will I still be a good nurse? Will other nurses help me?

Then there’s taking my daughter out of a really excellent Montessori program, where she has grown to love her teachers and classmates like family. Will she be super lonely and bored if she doesn’t go to school every day? Will she somehow be traumatized by her lack of friends? Will she have as much opportunity for learning as she gets now?

I think anytime we change our lives, even in pursuit of our dreams, it’s easy to let the doubt and fear paralyze you. You start to say, this isn’t so bad here. Or think, I can scrape by where I am. But that’s how dreams die a slow and ugly death, I think. You’re too afraid of change, so you just sit around for a lifetime until it truly is too late.

Plus, I already have the answers to all of the above questions. Yes, it will be hard and uncomfortable to work in another facility. Sometimes I will not have enough help, sometimes I will. Sometimes I’ll love the people I work with, often I won’t. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, or have a bad day, but I will use my skills and experience and resources to figure it out.

M will not be traumatized. Honestly she prefers to stay with me over going to school anyway. Also, she makes friends easily and will probably have friends at the playground she enjoys within days of arriving. Let’s be honest- she won’t remember preschool. Yes it’s a great program and I love the teachers, and I wish I could bring them with us, but if I can’t pay the bills, and I can’t afford to do anything fun ever, then a cranky unhappy mom will be way worse for her than missing her teachers. And the world is a wonderful learning environment. We will visit forests, mountains, oceans, children’s museums, botanical gardens, festivals, playgrounds, and pools. The opportunity to “learn” will be everywhere.

I’m going to be making a vision board to keep me focused on why I’m doing what I’m doing, whenever the fears creep up. The board will feature:

  1. Places I want to go, like San Francisco, New York City, beaches, redwoods, mountains, and desert.
  2. Places I want to go overseas once I’m debt-free and saving up lots of money and don’t have to work contracts back to back: Thailand beaches, Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, Nepal’s Himalayas, Mexico’s cenotes…
  3. Things I want for my cottage that I’d never be able to save up enough for if I didn’t do this: new seawall, new siding, lovely stone work for patios, patio furniture, etc., a new pontoon, a little speed boat, paddle boat, etc.
  4. Investments, like after things are paid off how I’ll invest and hopefully be able to retire earlier… and M can go to college or a training program or whatever, but money for her to use in her life. Pics of her choosing a college or buying a car or moving for an internship, as well as pics of me relaxing by my beautifully renovated cottage in retirement, long before I would have been able to otherwise.

So those are my dreams, and I want to make them happen!