About Coconino County

About Coconino County

Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.

Nepal Update: Back to Pokhara

Sometimes I find it hard to believe I'm halfway round the world. And then I wake up.

Sure, there are similarities everywhere you go, I suppose. Like, I don't know, people close their eyes when they sneeze. Dogs bark all night long if you let them. The moon looks the same. And poor people are often the most generous people.

But so much here is different than at home. The bathrooms. The food. (Even store-bought Nabisco cookies taste different.) The weather. The customs. (Yeah, that's a big generality, I know.) The way people drive. The way people shake their head to mean "yes." (Took me a while to figure that one out.) I admit that, as awesome as it is to be able to be here and experience Nepal and work on this book project, I've gotten a bit homesick from time to time.

Like today, when I was crouched down under the cold water, trying to rinse the soap out of my matted hair as a huge palmetto bug--the one that had been in the shorts I'd been wearing until I undressed for my ... shower (?)--cowered in the corner of the bathroom. Just inches from me was the hole in the floor that is the toilet, where, so far, I've avoided dropping my brush or soap, which I foolishly keep setting down on the ledge just above it.

Yeah, at that time, I would have liked to beam myself home to stand under a warm, massaging shower after having actually sat down to pee. But, ah well, I suppose I'll have killer quads when I get home. Who needs Jazzercise when you've got hole-in-floor potties and shower faucets at about waist height? (Yes, there's one higher up, but the water just trickles out of that one--not enough to get the soap off of me or out of my fuzz.)

Do I sound like I'm complaining? Well, let me balance that out, then.

The hospitality here is amazing. My hosts really want me to be comfortable and make sure I have enough to eat and drink. Jith always offers me tea when I go downstairs in the morning. And Phulmaya--nearly every day she comes to my room to see if I have laundry and washes it by hand. Ingo often asks, "Are you well?" (I guess maybe I don't look so happy when I'm deep in thought, which I am a lot, so maybe he worries.) I really appreciate how they've welcomed me here and look out for my well-being. And Karna and Dikpal in Kathmandu--my trusted helpers and friends. I'll have to tell you more about them sometime.

Anyhow, I'm now back in Pokhara, on the quiet outskirts of town. Ingo and I flew back on Saturday--a 25-minute flight after sitting in Kathmandu traffic jams for two hours, made even worse than usual when the Maoists shut down streets in the middle of the city, forcing the taxi to take the long way around to the airport. It should have been a fifteen-minute ride.

So it's back to quieter, lazier days at the house, with views of corn fields and rice paddies and grazing water buffalo. Every morning, I get up at dawn to check if I can see the amazing Himalaya and watch people working in their fields.

I do a circuit around the roof to see what I can see in all directions, then usually go back and read in bed for a while until the five boys go off to school. Then I go downstairs to eat the early meal with Ingo. The days here tend to have a simple, easy pattern to them, punctuated only by occasional business in town and some book sessions, where Ingo talks (and talks) and I listen and scribble.

Well, it looks like there will be a break in the routine when we head off to the jungle in a couple of days, to spend a little time at the rescue squad's base and dog training center in Shyauli Bazaar. It's a walled-in compound which includes a healthcare center, a school (although there are no students at this time), a resort that once catered to trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit (which has been re-routed away from there, thereby greatly impacting what was once a significant source of income for the squad), fish ponds, fruit trees and vegetable gardens ... and I don't know what else. I'm really looking forward to seeing this place that I've heard so much about and which is a significant part of the HRDSN story.

While I'm in Shyauli Bazaar, I won't have internet access. At one time, there was a good satellite connection, but that equipment, set up by two Enlishmen who met Ingo while trekking through the area about ten years ago, was pretty much destroyed (or rendered useless anyway) by the Maoists during the war. At this point, there is no money to replace the missing parts. So if you don't hear from me for a bit, it's just that I'm hangin' in the jungle near the Middim Khola river.

I'm sure I'll have lots of photos and stories to share when I get back. In the meantime, there are lots of new photos on the Facebook page, including a new album "Pokhara II." And here's one of my favorite recent photos, taken while stuck in traffic in Kathmandu. I just love how the little girl smiled at me even before I held up my camera and pointed at it, asking her if I could take her picture. She nodded and kept smiling.