I was nervous about leaving the 1 million person, metropolitan Kathmandu for the 40,000 person, country living Tansen. Having the city experience of Kathmandu was a good buffer for me as I transitioned from one culture to another. I love the restaurants and coffee shops of the city. Oh the coffee. I love the live music and the art and the shopping. Oh the shopping. There is nothing better than the discovery of a hole-in-the-wall boutique or bookstore. I love the people and all the goings on in a city. I did grow up as a country kid but developed more of a ‘live close and visit often’ mentality later in life. I wasn’t too optimistic that I’d be able to make the jump back into country living, at least not with out brining some good coffee with me.
I remember going to one of those prospective student weekends at a college with my mom. The school was really, really out in the edges of nowhere and somebody asked the question, “What do you do here for fun?”. The student leading our tour responded, without embarrassment or irony, for the benefit of the parents in the group, “Well, we hang out, build forts, that kind of thing.” Build forts! My mom and I laughed about that most of the way home. Story Outtake: I later on spent four years there, hanging out, building forts and that kind of thing. Who would have thought?
When we arrived in Tansen I felt an approaching boredom and wondered to myself exactly what people did around here for fun. Maybe building forts? There are a total of 3 restaurants in Tansen and the surrounding area. They don’t serve coffee in the numerous chia pasels (tea shops) around, so that’s out. There is shopping, but it entails more like hitting up 6 different little shops to find everything on your list, rather than finding cute throw pillow. I stalked around the house for a while trying to stay out of the way of our didi (house help), before ventured outdoors for more than the necessities and I slowly began to remember how to appreciate the charm and excitement of ‘discovering’ things that have grown or just are, as opposed to things built in cities.
Tansen has an overgrown, unkempt but still lovely, Miss Havisham vibe to it. We took a trip with a bunch of the ex-pat kids to a place known locally as ‘the vines’. The Vines is a totally unimaginative name for a lovely old tree. What is special about this old tree is that the roots grow long and thick from the branches creating the most perfect swinging vines to launch kids atmospheric-ward. I was completely unsatisfied with the name ‘the vines’ and asked the kids to come up with a new one which prompted, ‘The Acrobats lair’, ‘Swing station’, or my favorite ‘Shiva’s beard’. The afternoon at The Vines made me feel as if I had ‘discovered’ one of the special places of Tansen. It brought back the “Bridge to Terabithia” magic of being a kid and having a special place where you could be yourself and think your thoughts. The place where magic existed away from the adults who don’t believe in it anyway.
The White Lake is another of Tansen’s particular charms, thought it didn’t grow, it just is. It is some what of a tourist attraction (a local hotel is named The White Lake) and an atmospheric phenomenon. It only happens in certain conditions and certain times of year at a certain altitude and certain temperature or, blah, blah, whatever. I don’t really understand the all the science which is just as well as it kind of ruins the whole romance of it for me. The White Lake is beautiful, “all silvery, shimmery and things unseen”. I get a fun, lost-city, feeling when I think about the people living under the White Lake. Going about their daily lives under the cloud of the lake while we look down on them from above, as the tops of the mountain float like islands.
I walked out of the house early one morning with a cup of my imported Kathmandu coffee and greeted all the neighbors who were also sleepily making their way into the day. After greeting each other we all turned, seemingly in unison, to greet the day and the deep, think, churning White Lake just below our homes. It was one of those small town, country living moments that wouldn’t happen in the city, where we were all to busy with our own busyness. So I’m glad to be here in Tansen and not in Kathmandu, even without the shopping. And I’m glad to have had that particular country living moment. I don’t think I could have enjoyed it more if I’d discovered a thousand hole-in-the-wall bookstores.