“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” Mary Shelley
According to a recent study, it takes fifty hours with someone before considering them a casual friend, ninety hours for the transition to good friends, and about two hundred hours to become best friends, the kind with emergency contact status.
The six of us gather for dinner at Hotel Harmika, to mark the official start of our group’s itinerary. We met only once prior, months ago in Austin, to review logistics and set our intentions for the trip.
There is some overlap in our Venn diagram of friendships. Each of us knows at least one other person at the table, and confusingly, there are three Sarahs. We are all friends with Erika and ended up in Kathmandu, in large part, because of her.
Erika and Sarah A, not to be confused with Sarah JB or Sarah B, recently co-founded Wild Rising Yoga Retreats. The trip to Nepal is their endeavor’s first-ever offering. We are subjects on the test run.
Sarah A lived and worked with a non-profit in Nepal for several years. During that time, she led service tours in the Everest region. Her contacts and knowledge of the country provide an invaluable scaffolding to our trip. I am relieved to let go of the logistical reins.
For the next ten days, we will travel and live together: first visiting sacred sites in Kathmandu; then flying to Pokhara, for a twenty-four-hour stop-over, before embarking on a five-day trek on the lower section of the Annapurna Circuit.
I calculate that by the trip’s end, we will spend almost two-hundred and forty hours in each other’s company. It promises to be a dynamic time for invention. The friendships, experiences, and insights from which do not exist yet, as we sit eating our first meal together in Nepal, sharing arrival stories.
The day and a half of sightseeing in Kathmandu is a staccato reel of images tattooed in my visual cortex. Unlike my experience on the first morning at the Boudhanath Stupa, I am very much in the observer role as we visit Kopan Monastery, earthquake-damaged Durbar Square, the Monkey Temple or Swayambhunath, and the Hindu temple Pashupatinath.
It is the only way I can handle the heady overstimulation, as I absorb as much of the frenzied, contrasting details as my brain can hold.
Our time in Nepal coincides with Tihar, the five-day Hindu festival of lights honoring the goddess Lakshmi, further amplifying the exotic with an added layer of color, ritual, and celebration.
The velocity of the experience creates a blur, and yet some moments remain frozen in my mind.
Noticing the pink glitter-sparkle cellphone case held to the Buddhist nun’s bald head, as she laughs exuberantly.
Witnessing the bodies prepared for cremation at Pashupatinath Temple, wrapped in ceremonial orange fabric.
Watching the sunset overlooking Kathmandu while surrounded by hundreds of monkeys.
Observing the unexplainable magic of the communal effort between our guides and strangers that parted the dense, pulsating crowd for our van to pass.