The morning we were leaving, Aamaa’s brother and mother come over and we ate together. Aidan and Pascal were looking unacceptably dapper in their school ties. I can barely stand it when they look like this and it shouldn’t be allowed on these mornings when I’m leaving the country and won’t get to see them for five or six months.
Didi accompanied Aamaa and me to the airport, and while we were waiting for the flight to arrive, we made our first stop in a public bathroom. I showed Aamaa how to use the faucet at the sink (actually, the entire bathroom is a mystery), and what I hadn’t realized yet was how many different kinds of faucets there are between Pokhara and Hartford. Finally it was time to say goodbye to Didi. We went through security, and now it was just us, on the road.
We climbed in to a small commuter plane for Aamaa’s first airplane ride.
Aamaa had only been to Kathmandu once before, when she picked up her visa a few months ago. We arrived at my friend Aparna’s house and Aamaa said wanted to accompany me to my meetings. I was afraid she’ll be bored. Why should she sit around, she wanted to know, while I go do things in Kathmandu? Let’s see the city! Let’s see what I do when I’m here, doing all these meetings, she said.
My first meeting was with a Berkeley professor in a coffee shop. I ordered Aamaa a salad. She poked at it suspiciously.
“Uncooked spinach,” she pointed out.
“It’s a salad,” I offered.
“Raw leaves,” she sighed, and switched over to helping me with my French fries instead.
My second meeting was on a fancy rooftop restaurant in a mall. On the way there, in the cab, Aamaa craned her neck at the window. “These buildings,” she said. “So tall! My goodness! Look at them, Laura!”
We arrived in the mall lobby to find, to my great satisfaction, AN ESCALATOR. I convinced Aamaa to ride it, leading to one of my favorite pieces of Nepal footage in fifteen years.
The escalator, I am pleased to say, is followed by a ride on a glass elevator.
We stay on the rooftop as dusk settles, eating appetizers and gazing out over the city, which stretches off smoggy and hazily lit. The next day, we will do some shopping in Assan Bazaar. Aamaa needs a few pieces of clothing, and I need a container to burn the incense from Solukhumbu that Sonam sir gifted me when I bought his tea yesterday. Prem Binaju is in Kathmandu with a client, and he’ll guide us through the crush and throng of shoppers and vegetables and piles of Himalayan rock salt.
We only have one night in Kathmandu. I wake up in Aparna didi’s house to early morning light filtering through the sheer curtain as street sounds muffle their way in to our room. Aamaa is lying on the other bed, a place I never ever find her in the morning, because she gets up hours before I do to milk the buffalo, start the fire, heat water, and prepare for the day head.
“Get up Laura,” Aamaa says, lounging on her arm in an exaggerated display of leisure. “Let’s get to work.”