POKHARA AD FINITUM

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Sky over Pokhara, Nepal

I decide to go on another trek: the Anapurna circuit. I get the permits, buy some pecks, walking sticks and provisions. When the day comes that I'm supposed to leave, I stay where I am. I don't understand what holds me back. I meet a young American at breakfast and tell her about my hesitation to go on the trek. She did the Anapurna base camp trek and understood me immediately. She tells me about the near-death experiences on mountain slopes and about the two tourists who died on her way up. One because he ignored his symptoms, the other because the helicopter didn't fly in on time due to bad weather.

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HOLI

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Holi in Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal

Barely dismissed from the convent and it's Holi. Holi is known as the Indian Color festival around the world, but it's much more than just a celebration of the powder that people throw in the air that day. Spring is welcomed and every color brings a blessing. Here it's the first hot day. We only experience what is happening on the streets: a colourful powder and water battle. It's one of the oldest Hindu holidays and not unlike our carnival in some aspects. For the first time, we experience the Nepalese without the social restrictions of the caste system and full of exuberance, with a healthy dose of alcohol in their blood. The locals, who usually appear to be so peaceful, now show their playful and mischievous nature and chase us through the streets. Small children throw water bombs from the safety of the balconies and test the limits of the adults. It's no wonder that this feast is popular around the world. Only from women, I hear contrary opinions. Women of my age mostly don't participate. Younger girls crave the taste of freedom that this festival offers them. The result is drunkenness, but the girls always remain in groups. I feel very uncomfortable in the crowd, the stress and the feeling of being hunted don't leave me. I realise, once again, that I don't tolerate wanton men. Here too, the playful atmosphere is used to feel up asses and breasts and to rob unwanted kisses. It's the same everywhere. Once again it's shitty to be white and overly visible.

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TIBETAN NEW YEAR: LOSAR

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Pictures from the daily live of the young monks, here depicted during a singing lesson, Kopan Monaestery, Nepal

Over the walls and the floor, I feel the vibration of the gong more than I hear the sound. Together with bells, traditional oboes and the never-ending Tibetan laryngeal song, that echoes over the speakers like a rattling chainsaw, it provides a beautiful yet profoundly foreign soundscape. I'm in the back of the stupa, in the hierarchy behind the Lamas, the nuns and monks. They are between five and a hundred years old, sit in rows, separated by gender, not strictly, but sorted by age. At the rear end, near me, the youngest nuns sit in groups, separated by older sisters, who regularly call them to order, give them sweets or arrange their clothes. The young monks and nuns often come to the monastery school very early in their lives. They seem terribly young and fragile to me. I can hardly imagine how cruel it must have been to leave one's own family so early, yet they all look happy as they sit there in line with their older sisters and brothers.

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SPIRITUAL DETOURS

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Teacher, Kopan monastery, Nepal

Back in Pokhara, I'm in the shower for the first time in five days. I let the water fall over my shoulders, enjoy the warmth that brings my muscles long-awaited relief and the smell of shampoo. My legs hurt after the day's march downhill. Each step is a reminder of what I've just accomplished. After showering, I stretch out on my bed and promptly fall asleep. Eventually, S. wakes me up. While I did the Mardi Himal Trek, she did the Poonhill Trek and together we are planning to travel to Kathmandu. She is on a spiritual journey, was in an Ashram in India and wants to go to a Buddhist monastery here in Nepal. I am curious and join her.

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AT 4.500 METERS

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Close to the skye, Mardi Himal Trek, Nepal

When I leave my dorm at 4:30 am I don't hear a sound. I get dressed, get ready and step out of the hut. The starry sky is clear, the moon shines bright, but I'm the only one out. The others are probably still sleeping. I'm a little scared that if I lie down again, I will not go up the last bit of the trail. After all, I know now that it gets damn exhausting and I don't feel so fit. My headache has come back, but I don't think about it. This time I leave without luggage. Without breakfast and with a bottle of water in my backpack, I find my way with my headlamp. It's difficult to see the beginning because the path is marked only when it is steep. Down here in the meadows there are just a few well-trodden paths that either lead to the trail or into nothingness. Soon, however, I am standing in front of the first marker and keep pushing ahead.

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