The sixth sense. I saw dead people. No, really. Lining the banks of the river that flows through the acres of Pashupatinath, the world’s oldest and primary Hindu temple, family members embalm and burn their dead. The smell is unmistakable. According to the Hindu religion, cremation of the dead brings about a swifter, more complete transfer of the soul from the earthly plane to the astral plane, preserving the psychic connection. They believe that the soul is indestructible, and death but marks the beginning of a new adventure for the soul. I stood and watched this process from a distance, along with the principal and vice principal of Sunrise, who took the entire day off to take me and a few other volunteers on a more authentic tour of the city’s ancient religious history, all expenses paid. Pashupatinath overflows with monkeys, and if you are not careful, they will rob you of your possessions or if they are mad, deglove you in some manner.
Boudanath Stupa was the next destination. It towered over my expectations of “huge” and blew me away with its unique construction. Like most temples and historical sites in Nepal, it carries with it a very singular countenance that seems to betray its entire story in just one glance.
The last destination of the day was a town on the north side of Kathmandu called Buddhanilkantha, where a large floating statue of a sleeping god can be seen. The god, Vishnu, is sleeping on a gigantic snake, as snakes are also represented as gods themselves. This sculpture is impressively carved out of a single stone, and is well over 1400 years old. The water upon which it sits represents the cosmic sea.
Walking back to catch the bus back home, I talked with Anita about my home and that one day I’d like to build one of my own with my future wife. She told me it can be very expensive to do so in Nepal and that the cost of land is immense. Only wealthier families can afford to build homes, and even then, it can take up to a whole year or two to complete it. At this comment, I looked around again at my surroundings and I was reminded of the unique menagerie of colorful and dusty structures that spreads across Kathmandu Valley like a thick, uneven layer of butter. This was going to be my home for another 2 and a half months.