Katie and I have returned to Kathmandu for a few weeks. After chronicling our five months here last year during the pandemic and lockdown with some consistency, I have not blogged at all since we returned to Michigan.
The school year was especially busy, so apart from a few poems and short stories I wrote (and which you will not see) in the creative writing classes I was teaching, I didn’t write much.
But travel makes me want to process what I am seeing and doing, so for five weeks at least you are likely to see more activity here at the Daysman. And here is one thing about travel: it makes you choose some things to take and some things to leave behind, judgments that almost always prove wrong.
I can not recount all the packing errors I made on this trip, since some of them I have not discovered yet, but I can say what I brought in my backpack. And what I wish had brought. I can’t say what Katie brought, since my mother taught me at a very young age not to even look in a woman’s purse. I was heavily fined for doing so, and have rarely if ever even looked in my wife’s purse.
But here is a list of what I carried on the plane, in no particular order, and with only minor commentary:
Journal, and refill. I’ll fill the journal before I leave here, and since I find it helps me remember things to write them down in a notebook and in my phone, I’ll work ahead for the coming school year organizing the calendar portion. (The filler will, of course, likely be empty when I return home in mid-June.)
Bose Sound link Mini speakers. We will set on the balcony (we’re in the same apartment building) and listen to some cello and piano music.
Naselli and Crowley’s book Conscience: What it is, how to train it, and loving those who differ. Loving those who differ seems especially important these days, when so often families and institutions are fractured by what seem to be matters of conscience, treated as though they were issues of life and death.
Joseph Williams’ out of print Style: the basics of clarity and grace. This is one of the best books on writing I know, and I’m doing a guest lecture here for graduate students who think in Nepali and have to write papers in English.
Hana Videen’s new book The Word Hord: Daily life in Old English. I’m interested in the history of words and took Old English as my foreign language credit in graduate school. Writing a sonnet someday using only words derived from Anglo-Saxon is on my bucket list. Strange but true.
My Bible because I am more likely to read it than the other books I brought.
My laptop. So I could write this blog, obviously. And I came to continue consulting with faculty here on a communication curriculum.
Binoculars. We are on the 6th floor, surrounded by mountains. And rooftops.
Clean underwear. Travel time, with a 3-hour layover, was 21 hours.
Glucometer and insulin. See 21 hours, above.
Battery charger. A cell phone only lasts so long.
What we pack says something about what we value, just as our library says something about who we are, or at least who we want people to think we are. It is, after all, comprised of books we read, books we wish we’d read, and books we want people to think we’ve read, all accumulated over a lifetime. (There is an old English word, hord-wynn, for the joy that comes from hoarding.
But what we carry on the plane says something more immediate about what’s top of mind. What do I wish I’d brought? A small roll-on, since my backpack turned out to be far too heavy for long airport terminals. I did, however, pack my priorities: my work, my faith, my health, my delights.
If you were getting on a plane tomorrow, what would be in your bag? And what’s your hord-wynn?
Photo: our first view of Nepal is always the Himalayan peaks above the clouds.