Monday, October 29, 2007

Travels with Joshua in Massachusetts on these Autumn Days

after the long miracle and discomfort of air travel, i've arrived in body, if not fully in spirit, on the native shores of north america. from the sky the world looks so peaceful, calm, soothing.

of course, sitting in steerage for 20+ hours from kathmandu to boston is a slightly different and aching experience. still, the travel is remarkable, astounding even, to slip so easily from one world to another w/in 36 hours, all the way around the globe, from my home outside kathmandu to my son in western massachusetts. magellan should have had it so good...

wondrous visions, as well, of a snow covered mount ranier, lake stahekin, where we vacationed with dave & lisa a decade ago when the boys were small, then the snake river. the soothing, fresh, warm welcome at minneapolis airport before flying into boston at dark, the lights of fenway on thursday night illuminating the skies while ribbons of red and white lights circled the city on rte 95. it's amazing to see such urban density and light after the hours of darkness in the night skies. the miracle of the modern world for those of still captured by the struggling reality of our third world countries. i'm awed in an ancient sense, both fearful and trembling while inspired by the power and majesty of the world around me.

now, a few days after arriving, josh & i are relaxing at bruce's comfortable home in newton. we drove in yesterday afternoon from nmh b/c josh's football/soccer game was cancelled, alas, due to the heavy rain all night & day. really sad, however, as i was excited to see he & his team play after reading so many game reports while in nepal on the school's sports log. knowing how much josh loves the game and his profound determination, i so much wanted to see him and his team-mates on the new england pitch together. after all, his love for this game was one of the reasons he travelled so far to go to school.

still, the day+ on the campus friday w/ josh was a pure delight. i went to all three of his classes (bible, us history and physics) & had private meetings w/ the professors. all his teachers seem quite pleased w/ joshua's performance so far. in fact, most of them commented on how 'seamlessly' josh has made the great transition to nmh and the states.

a few of the professors commented that joshua's performance is really impressive for his first term at nmh, given the profound transition from his world in nepal. they were all complimentary about josh's level of participation in the classes, his academic commitment and, particuarly his religion teacher, on the originality of his thought. great!!

my smith college friend, sheila, who has been at nmh for 20+ years and is head of the music department, also showed me the latest nmh newspaper which had an article by josh about the cross-cultural differences b/n being a nepali & american. very insightful. she said the teachers were talking about the article in the teachers lounge, saying, 'did you see that article by that kid from nepal?'. to which she would say, 'that's joshua leslie -- not just a kid from nepal.'

clearly, josh has made the passage to the states with aplomb. it helps, of course, that he really likes his roomate, dean, who seems a very sweet guy (great basketball player, i'm told), good mathematician and quite grounded. his other closest friends seem quite sincere and sensitive, as well. i met mohammed from alexandria, sergio from brazil, an american/thai kid from bangkok and a few others. i wish i had more time w/ them, as they are the world in which josh has found his niche here. i'm pleased as they all seem smart, eager and thoroughly enjoyable.

overall, i felt comfortable with the nmh world immediately. it's a caring, intimate and active world. one that is commited to the head, heart and hands of the whole person -- not just intelletual or academic achievement. although, after traveling for his soccer to other new england schools, josh says that the facilities at some of the other schools are even more amazing, i find nmh the right balance b/n the world of lincoln school in kathmandu and the colleges ahead of him. in fact, i'm not sure i'd want josh or ez at the best endowed, wealthiest private school in new england. as josh says, nmh is quite an upgrade over lincoln already. best, methinks, to appreciate the value of what he's found, rather than long for something more elite, aloof or distant from the reality in which we must live.

today (sunday) we're going in to cambridge, to see our friends, jerry & monique, then we booked tixs for the musical 'wicked', the story of the wizard of oz's wicked witch before dorthy showed up. it's gotten brilliant reviews and turns the tabel on our understanding of what truly is 'wicked', and why. it's $90/seat, but these are the remarkable opportunities that the west offers to the general public of seeing outstanding stage or musical performances that whirl the mind and uplift the spirit. take a good catholic liturgy in chartres from the 17th C. and then add all of the color, mystique, romance and humanity of the modern mind -- et voila -- there's broadway, the secular ceremony of the unbridled spirit.

last night, after resting a bit at bruce's, josh & i drove out to a framington mall (got lost looking for it...) and saw two new movies, 'dan in real life' and 'kingdom'. both good, but 'dan' was exceptionally fresh, honest and loving (with steve carrell et juliet binoche) while 'kingdom' was one more tale of endless terrorism and revenge-seeking americans hunting the 'bad guys' in saudia arabia. actually we only were supposed to see one movie, but the other started soon after ours finished, and the room was right next door, so since it was already $10 for a movie, we just invited ourselves in for a double feature. ;-)

of course, once again, i'm amazed how quickly we can make this transtiion from one brave new world to another. in our minds, and in distance, it's a long way away, but once the plane disgorges you and you quickly realize you need to drive on the opposite side of the road (duh... it's the opposite side of the world, space traveller...), it's all surprisingly good.

different. eye-opening. lush w/ autumn colors. wonderfully smooth roads. tons of traffic, but moving mostly. big cars. little cars. blue cars. red cars. food stores, furniture stores and shops for everything everywhere. too much junk food. clear skies. dark clouds. stunning architecture. boring architecture. more to do than one could fill a few lifetimes. tons of entertainment. move theaters in malls the size of cities. more malls. small urban parks with 200 year old trees. tons of trees. and trees. lots and lots of people. lots of over-weight people. well-dressed people. casual and perky people. all hues and hair styles. bag people. rich people. lost people. found people. people always on the move. ambition. desire. a new world, sans doubt...

we'll go back tomorrow (monday) to nmh. my brother bruce & his wife buff are out visiting their daughter liz at her college this w/end, so we'll only see them monday morning. then, we may see the basketball hall of fame on monday en route to nmh. tuesday i'm at amherst for lunch w/ some students, then my talk on the evening on human rights (wrongs) in nepal. i've got plenty of notes by now and some interesting leads into the talk (like 'the last time i was speaking here was the w/end that the royal family of nepal were murdered...'). i'm anxious, of course, speaking publicly and at my alma mater (another form of mother-complex, i suppose...), but when i let the nervousness fade away, i'm actually looking forward to speaking on something i've lived and experience at the core of my life the past couple of decades while hearing the curiosity and intelligence of the amherst students' thoughts. something about a school or college seems to fill a open part of my soul.

i'm sure limited time left with my pilgrim son, joshua, will speed past, particularly since i say goodbye to him when he must be back in his overtrun dorm by 7 pm on m onday. for now, as i've tried to say, it's simply so nice to be nearby him again. because, if anyone asks, being a parent is probably the most profound and satisfying joy that one can find in this brief and ever-passing lifetime. someone, somehow, a long time ago, sure figured that out.

as my buddy, rasan rolan kirk, wails on one of his inspired saxophone songs, "g-d must have a master plan". clearly, our love for our children was central to it.


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