As I’ve gotten older, my motivation to travel and what I notice have shifted a bit. Instead of seeking out the deepest, wildest jungle with all its complexity and menace, I look for the complicated relationships between people, culture and economics. Instead of climbing mountains, I settle in more deeply to see how people live their lives. Of course, I have always done these "new" things, but they have taken on a deeper resonance now that I am a husband and a father, creating a home and family of my own. The rhythms of work and food in the house, the gentle touch of a mother to her son, a whispered word by a father, the little girl running to catch her brother; there seem to be a whole class of experiences that I can understand and relate to more deeply.
As we settle into our homestays here in Patan, I feel blessed to sit and talk with my family about their lives in a changing Nepal. The father of the family is a metalworker, like generations of men in his family before him. His eldest son, though, is about to finish school and wants to go to college for computer science. As we sat this morning in his workshop, talking about Buddhism, handicrafts and community, I asked him what he thought about his son’s desires. He said he would do whatever he could to support what his son wanted, and if the day ever came that he tired of computer science, he would teach him to work metal. Every morning, the father gets up to make his offerings and meditate. He said that his son used to join him but no longer does. It seemed a beautiful and poignant illustration of the challenges of cultural survival in a developing economy. Will there be enough sons to maintain these traditional skills and beliefs? Is there the market to keep these old things from dying out?
We hope for our children freedom and choices that we cannot imagine, and in that, we have to acknowledge, I guess, that their paths might lead them away from us and our way of life. In that, there is loss of different kinds. At the same time, though, it creates a new world of possibility and opportunity. It is in that balance that many Nepalese families seem to find themselves, and I’m thankful to be here to witness and share in that powerful transition.