Since I studied and ate in the mall after school, I had time to roam around, do some window shopping, and take photos with my Ricoh Theta for Google Street View. That’s when I met Sabita Tamang who was working behind the Cricket wireless kiosk.
She was an international student from Nepal and applying for the nursing program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Her father, Hom Tamang is a renowned artist who owns a Buddhist Thangka Art School and art store down the road from the famed Boudha Stupa in Kathmandu.
“What does your father teach?”
“My father specializes in Thangka art which is a Buddhist painting that depicts a Buddhist god or a famous scene. A lama or teacher would travel giving talks on Buddha’s life and teachings by carrying with him painted scrolls to convey spiritually significant events and concepts,” she said.
“Who attends school there?”
“Local artists — we have created a space where they can work and earn their living as Thangka artists. This has been the only means of earning that support their living in Kathmandu because, since most of them have no modern education, it’s difficult for them to gain a government or private job.”
“How long has your father been a Thangka artist?”
“My father started at age 11 and was taught by his father. Thangka painting has very close relationship with the Tamang people, one of the ethnic groups of Nepal, whose culture, religion and social systems are developed on the basis of Buddhist Philosophical thoughts.”
“That’s fascinating — would love to hear stories from the Thangka artists on the streets of Boudha.
“My father is very big into meditation and the use of Chakra sound as a therapy bringing healing to the body, soul and spirit.”
“That’s amazing. Say what are the benefits of Himalayan salt rooms?”
“Himalayan salt helps to counterbalance the influx of positive ions from the electronic devices we use every day. This improves your overall mental and emotional health, helping you to relax and de-stress.”
“Then you should definitely visit Seoul Spa and try their Himalayan Salt Cave,” I said.
‘Will do, what’s your favorite Nepali dish BTW?”
“I love all Nepali dishes. But what I’m really craving for right now is a juicy, steamed momo.”
The next week, I picked up Sabita from her home on her day off and drove her to Towson, 13 miles away off I-695.
Sabita had never rode on a semi before and found the experience quite exciting. She also loves cats, so she quickly befriended Bobtail, my recently adopted Calico cat.
“Does she stay in the truck all day?”
“She does when I’m in school, and on the weekends when I return to DC, I bring her back with me.”
“What do you plan to do with the truck?”
“Once I graduate from Diesel Tech trade school in a couple of months, I plan to start my own authority and start hauling loads.”
“It’s a spacious truck and the cab looks comfy. I’m sure you have no problem spending the night here on school days.”
We arrived at Kathmandu Kitchen and ordered Lamb Korma and momos. The mutton was slow cooked, and the curry was made with cashew nuts and aromatic spices. The momos chicken filling was perfectly spiced, the wrapper hand made and the chili sauce just brought everything together.
“How did the earthquake affect your family?”
“It was completely devastating. The entire town of Boudha received lots of damage. A lot of our friends lost everything and some were injured or tragically killed.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that. It must have been a traumatic experience.”
“Yes, it was nerve wracking. We’ve finally just rebuilt, the Stupa has been reconstructed, and things have returned to normal. We’re hoping the tourists will return.”
“I hope so, too. Right after the Nepal earthquake, I organized a 13-mile run for Nepal and raised a couple thousand dollars for earthquake relief.”
“Is that right. I’m glad to hear.”
“Yes, it was a very moving experience for me. Through it all, I became friends with a lot of Nepalis. Would love to visit the country one day.”
“If you do, look up my father. He would be happy to show you around.”