Everest and the Toenail

Life in Kathmandu, Nepal and Beyond

The Art of Leaving

with 12 comments


Saying goodbye to a place and its people is only part of leaving. The experiences and memories of a time and place travel onwards with you. Some places I have left with relief. Collapsing on a hotel bed with the family in Harare having left Nairobi physically unscathed. Some years ago sitting on a plane on the apron at Khartoum Airport waiting to leave, weeping uncontrollably. In two short weeks I had seen a man shot on the street outside my hotel and thrown into the back of a pick-up truck like a sack of potatoes. I had watched a Jane Fonda workout session in a club while on the other side of a high wall a queue of patients lay dying on the road waiting for admission to a hospital. The Famine Hilton, tables groaning with food while outside men, women and children starved to death. A child with a swollen belly and lifeless eyes covered in flies abandoned by the side of a road. A mass of humanity surviving in refugee camps in northern Uganda when every morning a plane circled over the camp and rolled a bomb out of the plane hoping to hit the dispossessed living in tents below. I have not said goodbye, not really, to those places. Physically I took off and flew home, emotionally such experiences tie me in ways that ensure I never leave.

Leaving Nepal is altogether a different matter. Even though I have a deep desire to return to familiarity, to our house with its open fire and backyard, to friends and family and my choir, to logistical paradise, yet the closer the day for departure comes, the deeper in go the hooks that locate me here. The purity and stark beauty of the white vertical deserts of the Himalaya, the trauma of two major earthquakes, the woman with the gangrenous leg, the peace and focus to write, the spiritual beauty of the daily rituals of faith, the cries of the beggars and hawkers in the street below my window shall keep me here, untouched by goodbyes. The art is in the way one takes leave, how one manages not the tearful goodbyes or keeping hidden the secret desire for smooth roads, but managing the enduring experiences that have defined me. Physically the gap between two worlds will open up, internally five years will remain influential and ever present. Part of me can never leave, the hooks are in too deep, the ephemeral binds me, the mystery ensures that I can never fully release the hooks that dig, unreleasable, into the flesh of my memory.

Written by jamesaeoglethorpe

December 2, 2016 at 9:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

12 Responses

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  1. This is a fitting valedictorian at the end of your time in a place that has evoked so many mixed experiences for you James. We will miss your blog from Nepal. We wish you and J a safe journey home and happiness on your return to the place you remember as home. xx

    Diana & Andy

    December 2, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    • Thanks, ducks 🙂 I shall miss writing about Nepal, but I will continue for a while when I first get back, at least! Jxxxxx


      December 2, 2016 at 2:52 pm

  2. Very nicely put. Some thoughts I’ll remember when leaving a place or people I don’t want to.


    December 2, 2016 at 2:55 pm

  3. Beautifully put James. Less than one week in, I am experiencing a mild concern that I am not remembering the sights and smells and sounds in more detail. Somewhat like a person who has lost a loved one, I find myself smelling items from our shipping boxes hoping for it to remind me of the many scents of home in Nepal. I have replaced it with beautiful London park-scapes in the frost, crisp clear days and blinding sunsets but a part of me wants to linger on Nepal instead. Thanks for writing. x


    December 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    • Hi Ryna, nicely put. I can identify! It is remarkable how quickly some memories disappear and how others remain. x


      December 2, 2016 at 5:08 pm

  4. What a beautifully expressed farewell message, James! It resonates in so many ways. Wishing you and J a smooth transition back to the States, and all the very best going forward.


    December 3, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    • Thanks Michele, it looks as though we will all be together as a family for New Year in our own home so that’s a bonus 🙂 Our best to you.


      December 4, 2016 at 7:46 am

  5. Seeing the Buddha in the niche reminds me that we have stood in the same place, James.


    December 4, 2016 at 3:28 am

    • Hi Doug, thanks! Being able to share this experience has been a pleasure and to make a new friend through the blog has been a bonus! See you on the other side.


      December 4, 2016 at 7:43 am

  6. I have enjoyed your blog tremendously! Safe travels, James.

    Donna K

    December 5, 2016 at 7:41 pm

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