The Nepal Chronicles, Chapter 7: Running with Buddha
Go around the yellow house and make a left, up the hill and make a right, through the crossroads, first left after that, followed by straight through at the big tree.
I don’t think I have gotten quality directions like this since I left Ireland as a young fellow.
So we ran, remembering quickly that this is Nepal and therefore incredibly hilly. How I managed to forget this I am not sure, but the confident long distance runner that left the driveway was quickly replaced by a voice in my head that repeated, “What were you thinking, what were you thinking, what were you thinking?”
Topping the hill at the big tree, we rolled over the other side gasping for breath and our eyes gasping to take it all in. Ahead stood a beautiful valley of rice fields, heaving with people. Down the hill we went recovering every stride, left asphalt and joined dirt and stone. We were welcomed by interested looks and “Namaste!”
Harvest time, and today was Saturday. A day off school and work, the fields full with families. All working and all laughing together. It brought me back to the days of bringing in the hay on a friend’s farm in Ireland. Starting early, working late, everyone there. Multiple stops for tea and sandwiches, a break for dinner. Riding on top of a load of bales on the way back to the shed, holding the ropes as the tractor pulled you like an Olympic water skier on the return trip.
Tired but happy at the end of the day, part of something bigger, us like our new Nepali friends drinking water from Coca Cola bottles.
We ran on, bouncing on the rocks, bobbing in the tire ruts, sliding to the side for the beep of the motorbikes. We wound our way around the valley deciding on ten more minutes out and we would turn around. Up Heartbreak Hill and to what looked like a Buddhist temple and a soccer match in progress.
So to set the scene, we are on the side of a mountain, one flattish field, grass to our knees, our back drop being an old Buddhist temple 30-yards away. There are six to seven young lads, between 12 and 14, playing soccer with a flattish well-worn football.
We got questioned on where we were from. A bit of back and forth in broken English and Nepali. Ireland and America and a response of, “yeah.” Finally a pass got kicked our way. Controlling it well, we passed the test and got invited to join the game.
My job: to provide the supply of crosses for the big men to head to the net. Normally not too difficult, but considering we were on the side of a mountain with grass up to my knees, I found it slightly more challenging.
We banged in a few good crosses; some on the ground and some snuffed out by the goalie with his cat-like reflexes. Finally, we hit the big man, and with a big leap to the air he struck a glancing header to the bottom left corner, evading the outstretched hand of the great goalie.
The crowd went crazy, or at least all seven of us playing soccer did. We started running around like airplanes, followed by high fives all around. We slid to our knees, hands in the air, a celebration that would rival any World Cup victory. Celebration over, we exchanged our names; hands to heart, we exchanged our good byes; smiles to eyes we left on our run, glancing over our shoulder, often not wanting to leave our new friends.
Back through the valley, up the big hill (walked here, some of the greatest walks I have ever been on have started out as runs) Passing the rice fields, “Namaste” being shouted from the hilltops from excited children seeing a strange sight.
Tired and happy, heart opened wider than it had ever been before we returned to Brooke’s for a cookout!