Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Old Friend and Past Guest Star

I'd started nosing around online a few days ago in my Kathmandu hotel room and had a bit of a panic.

Seat61.com—a fabulous site that has been explaining the world's trains to us since the early part of MariesWorldTour 2001—had showed me how to buy the India sleeper train tickets I needed for part of my overland journey from Nepal to Bhutan. The best way, it seemed, was to book them here, at Cleartrip.com. This way they were confirmed, final, easy, authentic.

But there sure weren't many left.

I found myself scrambling for any A/C sleeper I could get. Ah, that's the key. A website called IndiaMike.com pointed out to me that while only a few trains went through Varanasi en route to New Jalpaiguri (the jumping-off point I needed near Bhutan), lots of trains went through Mughal Sari, some 20 kilometers from Varanasi.

I grabbed what I could get. August 22, from Mughal Sari to New Jalpaiguri. I added a an overnight trip from near the Nepal border to Varanasi. Now I had a schedule, a reason to leave Kathmandu. And soon.

But first, I went to see my friend Sareena.


A band had been playing at a bar near my hotel a few days ago when I'd mused that I used to know a woman in a band in Kathmandu.

I wonder if she still lives here, I'd thought. I'd last seen her ten years ago in Bangkok, when I'd heard someone call my name on Khao San Road during my first trip around the world. I'd looked around wildly, thinking I must be mistaken since I didn't know anyone in Bangkok. And there she was, the woman I'd met in 1998 in Kathmandu, when she'd been married to a friend's brother. (The friend—who now has a journalist job heavy enough that I shouldn't name him—had asked me to carry dried cricket snack souvenirs to his brother in Nepal. I did. His brother and Sareena were a little befuddled by this choice of items for me to courier.)

I sent an email to Sareena's old address, but it bounced back.

Then I thought to use our pal Google. She's in a band. How hard can it be?

Voila. That took like two seconds. I was a little embarrassed to not have thought of it sooner.

Sareena wrote right back and I'd caught a taxi to the outskirts of town, where she'd met me on her motorbike to take me back to her home with her husband, kids, and anarchist bookstore.

Which still had my self-published comic book in it, one I'd given her on a New York visit in 1999.

The day was delightful, though the rain slowed us down a bit. She and her son walked me through the mud of their small town—"those are two girls we teach music to"—down to the bus stop, where we said our good-byes again. I hadn't ever expected to see her again when we said our farewells in 2001. I didn't know if I'd see her again this time either.

But I think I'll try.

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