as some of you know i have been doing a lot of thinking and meditating on issues of poverty, (in)justice, inequality, and my responsibility in engaging such issues. well, all this reminded me of an experience had a few weeks ago.

while wandering the back lanes of a small indian town, orchha, i met a middle aged man that started walking beside me as i strolled along. in india this can mean two things; either the person is genuinely friendly or they want to ask you for money after they have 'guided' you around. this man was genuinely friendly. i was just walking around watching people, taking photos of children and trying to converse with people. he was my silent companion. after a while of walking i asked, via hand signals, whether i could take his picture. he smiled and shook his head yes. i then snapped a photo of him standing in front a washing line and thanked him. in return he bowed to me and touched my feet and then his chest. not wanting him to think he was below me, as his gesture indicated, i bowed and did the same. this startled him and he began motioning to me like he was eating and then pointed at me and shook his head no. i realized then that he was an 'untouchable'. for the indians these people are the lowest of all people and if you touch them you must be ritually cleaned in order to eat again. as i realized his meaning i shook my head and said it's okay and i reached out and touched his shoulder. in retrospect i don't know if my attempt to treat him as a normal human worthy of touching was right, because his face never showed me a smile, just strait lips hiding discomfort.

now i think back and wonder if i am the only person beyond his family that has ever touched him. if so, then i am glad of my gesture, culturally inappropriate or not. almost daily, as i read of caste violence in india, i find anger rise up in me at the idea that someone is outside social bounds to the extent that they are impure or polluting. my heart rises up against that. my heart was to communicate brotherly love to that man, to let him know that he is human and worth knowing, touching. i think if Jesus had lived in india he would have spoken of the untouchables, the dalits, instead of the lepers. i think these people occupy a large potion of God's heart. and therefore, they should occupy mine. that is what i am working on, giving my heart to the emotions and desires of the Father, so that the people of the world can encounter Him. often i fail. but i continue to try.


merry christmas from exile

i've been thinking the last few days of what i could write to get my blog running again. you see, certain peoples have been on my case, so consider yourselves relieved of duty all you pesterers and naggers, albeit friendly ones.

so there i was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden i realized we were under attack.

see, dharamsala is in the mountains, but only at about 7000ft. monkeys patrol the forest around the town, but also the town itself. too much easy food. and too many dogs to provoke. so, i was standing on my balcony when i noticed a monkey of some sort tucking into a bowl of sugar on a just vacated table. handful after handful; from fist to mouth. being a good tenant i picked up an empty tissue paper role, i wanted to scare it, not hurt it, and launched it. i did scare it. but it sat back down to a mean of sugar.

resigning myself to the poor monkeys impending upset stomach i stepped into my room to grab my camera. i thought there might be some close-ups of a monkey shoveling sugar into it's mouth. before i could step back outside i heard a woman scream and surprisingly violent monkey chatter. it's unmistakable when violence enters any language. not fully aware of what what taking place outside i opened my door to find a troop--yes, a troop--of monkey marching along the railing of my balcony, descending upon the dining patio below. there were at least 50 of them, some looking like they really were in a war, with dirty matted hair.

what ensued i am not sure. i can only describe what i saw from my window. pushing the lace curtains aside i only see the steady arrival of new monkeys, and then with a start, they began running. and screeching. they arrived in numbers to overtake the hotel grounds, but it appears that the hotel owners, knowing the rules of war, that it's a numbers game, rallied his family plus many faces i had yet to see. maybe 15-20 people. apparently that, plus a kids slingshot--colored baby pink--and a few well aimed bottle caps, does the job of scattering a monkey army. the tibetan hotel owner and his family had won the day. they troop scampered across roofs to terrorize another home, but this one had eager dogs to protect it.


i believe in the yeti

that is what a young bhutanese man told me the other day. out of nowhere he says, "i believe in the yeti." i couldn't help but smile. he smiled too and said he was being honest. i think this is the first time i've ever met someone who thinks the yeti, or sasquatch as it is called in the states, is real. he gave me evidence from a recent discovery channel documentary he watched. i added that many of the world's best mountain climbers also believe in the yeti (true). but i didn't tell him that they also are know to hallucinate much of the time because of lack of oxygen and sleep. meaning they are not reliable witnesses. oh well, to each his own right.

oh, one final thing. why are pictures of the yeti (actually, all paranormal things) blurry? can each witness actually be that bad of a photographer?


darjeeling limited

it's been a while since i put anything up on here. sorry. here are a few photos of a recent trek i did along the sikkim/nepalese border.

sunset in sandakpu.

rays of sunlight break through the morning clouds.

sunset in sandakphu.

the kangchenjunga mastif. i see this view out my living room window every day.

everest and friends in the morning light.

mitai, mitai. these kids asked us for candy (mitai) for hours on end.

a waterfall in gorkey.


miscellaneous photos from the last few weeks

enjoy these photos. the first 5 are ones i digitally developed, and last ones i took around pokhara.

man and boy from marpha in sepia tone.

annapurna IV in black and white.

girl in sepia tone.

sepia tone of nepali boy.

sepai tone of man in jagat.

annapurna I, 10th tallest mountain in the world.


lamjung himal.

early morning view over pokhara.

the annapurna mastif, with machapuchare on the left and
lamjung himal on the right, view from a mountain outside pokhara. these
are the mountains i spent two weeks walking around.


the rest of the circuit

after the pass my interest in photography dropped considerably. it was hot, extremely windy, and at times i was just trying to stay out of the sun. so there are very few pictures from the last week. these are the best. most represent the people and towns i walked through and past.

the residents of marpha going about their business.

seeing this woman left me speachless.

marpha was one of the most picturesque little towns i've been to.

the courtyard of a tibetan style home in marpha.

kids playing along the trail.

my kiwi friend crossing a river of glacier melt. cold.

a nepali man who, when i asked if i could photograph him pointed to his hat. like an old western gentleman, he was not to be recorded in time without his hat.

one of the countless monsoon rivers along the trail.

dhaulagiri and tukuche peaks.

day 7 & 8

up and over. i didn't take many pictures these 2 days. as the scottish guy i trekked with said, it was a brutal slog. these 2 days we climbed over 6000ft. from manang to thorong phedi (base camp of the pass) wasn't too bad, but i hardly slept because of the altitude. that made the next morning all the more difficult. the first hour from thorung phedi to the pass almost knocked me out. literally. my heart was pounding, and my head was aching, though i was hardly moving at all. so you can get an idea of my pace, stand up and take one step every 2-3 seconds and suck in a lung full of air. that's what i did for 5 hours straight up to the pass.

the one good thing about this all was that i was the 2nd to last person to set off for the pass, but i was by no means the last person up. i passed at least 30 people going up, and more coming down. most left before sunrise, hoping for good views and plenty of time. the earliest people left at 2am. not smart. i waited to about 6:30, about 2 hours after originally planned. sometime during the night it began to snow, so for me there was no hope of a good view. most of the way it was a near white out. man was it cold at the top (17,769ft). the wind blew hard, snow fell steady and my hands and feet felt it brutality. but i did it, marking my highest point ever reached while on land.

thorung phedi (14,599ft) with 2 of the 3 kiwis and the scotsman i trekked with.

me at the highest point of the trek (17,769ft). it was cold.


days 5 & 6

this as the last of the shortish walking days i had. we set off in a slight drizzle and walked a mostly level path. though we gained a full 1000ft on the day. the scenery grew sparser as the day wore on. by lunchtime i was in manang, the site of the one and only scheduled rest day, in order to acclimatize before ascending the 17,000ft in crossing the throng-la pass 2 days later.

in manang i mostly ate well, rested, and scampered around the surrounding mountains flirting with landslides and seeking out wildlife. i nearly reached the 12,000ft gangapurna glacier before having to turn back, and i saw a herd of blue sheep bounding up the surrounding cliffs of the glacier like it was a flat road. they were amazing to watch as they easily scaled distances and heights it took us hours to cover.

from manang the trail grew steeper and certainly higher.

waking up at 6am this was the first view i had from my balcony.

me in front of the annapuranas.

making use of the macro setting on my camera to show the local flora.

a sparkling white stupa in manang.

a traditional ladder in manang.

the tibetans in manang were growing wheat at 11,614ft.

evidence of the massive erosion in the himalayas. it seemed
the mountains were falling apart under our feet.

annapurna IV and II, standing at 24,688ft and 26,040ft respectively.

the gangapurna, standing at 24,455ft.

the gangapurna glacier. i didn't get close enough to touch it,
but i nearly caused a landslide trying.


more photos from day 4

here are a few more pictures from day 4. i hope you all enjoy them, because they take forever to upload here in nepal.

an avalanche on annapurna II

a mani stone along the trail. the carvings are prayers to assist in a better reincarnation.

i can't remember which peak this is right now.


the rapids of a monsoon river with a sheer granite wall in the background.

what a face. this little girl had the world to herself, playing with pens,
chickens, and a water pot till i walked by.

the dry trans-himalaya landscape

one of the annapurna peaks poking through the clouds

a confused looking kid in lower pisang.