Our brief time in Nepal was divided between Kathmandu -- the crowded, bustling capital -- and Pokhara, the beautiful lakeside city surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Pokhara is the jumping-off point for treks in the Annapurna mountains.
I maintained email contact with several people I met on that trip. One of them, Ramesh Pariyer, invited me to return to Nepal in the fall and accompany him to his mountainside village for the celebration of Dashain, the country's biggest, longest, and most auspicious festival.
That journey was the most memorable and enjoyable trip in a lifetime filled with travel adventures. I returned to Nepal at least once -- usually twice -- every year until 2008, when my Nepal connection began to shift into reverse as more and more of my Nepali friends relocated to the U.S.
I now have many Nepali friends here and back in Nepal. Two of those local relationships have become so close that I think of them as my Pokhara family and my Kathmandu family.
Here's the Pokhara family enjoying an outing with me on the island in Pokhara's Lake Fewa. Left to right are Laxmi, Rahil, Ramesh, and the aging "white monkey," a moniker given to Westerners by some Nepalis.
Here's a shot taken a few weeks ago in my home office. With me are Ramesh's parents, who -- in their first trip outside Nepal -- had spent several months visiting Ramesh and his family in Maryland.
A few days after this photo was taken, they flew back to Nepal. Their departure was sad; because of age and geography, we sensed we'd probably never see each other again.
I didn't know it then, but this would be the first of many tikas I'd receive through the next 15 years.
In the photo above where I'm sitting between Ramesh's parents, you can see a new acquisition on the wall -- a painting that shows several Pokhara homes against the background of Mt. Machhapuchhre, otherwise known as Fishtail for its shape. It's considered a sacred mountain, and climbing is restricted.
I really like the painting, because it's just like the view I'd see from my bedroom in the family's Pokhara house.
Here's the painting...
These days, Ramesh is a popular folk singer at Nepali gatherings in the Wshington area. Saru shares Ramesh's musical talents, as you can see in this video shot about two years ago back in Pokhara.
Saru is the lead singer-dancer in the gold sari. Ramesh is the seated male singer in the gray suit.