Arriving in Bodh Gaya we come to the place where the Sidhartha Gautama became the Buddha (the enlightened one). I have many, many thoughts, and no thoughts as well. Just experiences.

Like me, many pause at these footprints of the Buddha, carved in stone, to bless themselves with the water collected in them. I am a Christian, this girl is Hindhu. Neither of us is a Buddhist, but we are both pilgrims in this place, searching.

On a train, on the way to Bodh Gaya, the place where the Buddha was enlightened.

In the coach, there is a great, free-ranging discussion about life, the dharma (Buddhist teachings) and practical matters such as how not to get food poisoning. But thoughts drift away from the present moment as well, to the place where we are going-for Buddhists, the holiest site in the world-and its significance. For what are we searching? This brings to mind our pasts, the things that need healing, the struggles to get to this point.

I am back home in Boudhanath. Funny how quickly a place can become home. I have been gone a week, but it felt much longer. It is good to be back and see my family and friends here.

On the way back from Pokhara, Greg and I stop to visit his friend. Maila Praja is his name. He is Chepang.

Until very recently the Chepang lived in the forests, very primitively. Now Maila and his children and grandchildren live on the hillside next to the highway. Not quite as primitively, but not far off. They can now offer us a Coke, and they do, and Rakshi as well. Pulling out all the stops.

In the back of a monastery behind the main shrine room in a Tibetan refugee camp in Chorepatan, Nepal, an old woman attends the butter lamps. People come throughout the day to light these candles in prayer, and they must be watched over to keep the mice from eating them and to clean and change them when they are finished.

Most of Nepal is still very rural, and village life seems to dominates the collective imagination, even of those who now live in large cities such as Kathmandu. Television is becoming more popular. Even traditional mud houses, if they have electricity, often have an old television in the corner.

Dashain is the time in Nepal for families to come together, sharing food, and gifts, and all sorts of traditional activities. One of these is swinging on huge bamboo swings.

This particular swing was set on a steep hillside outside Chorepatan. Everyone took a turn on the swing; it brings good luck in the coming year (in my family it was eating sauerkraut on New Year's day that brought good luck). The swings are easily two or even three stories tall, so swinging out over the hillside gives a great view.

Though I have been here for only a month, it seemed time for a road trip. The timing was great, because it is the the Dashain holiday, the Nepali equivalent of Christmas, when Hindhus here celebrate the fact that Durga (a joining of at least nine Goddesses) saved the world by defeating a terrible monster. All that is too much to go into, but it makes for a great time to travel out to villages to meet new families.

I decided to seize the opportunity to get out of town with a Jesuit friend.

An old motorcycle, a good traveling companion, and an open road... freedom.

The excuse for the road trip was to experience a traditional Hindu festival in a village, with a Jesuit friend and long time Nepali resident Greg Sharkey. But the old bike I borrowed had some issues about going as far as we wanted to go, and I had a little motorcycle accident as well, so was a little sore. But the Maoists have declared a cease-fire, the rain has stopped, Nepal is on vacation during the Dashain holiday season, and my other research could wait. It was time to head out somewhere.

Most of the rice is now heavy with grain, almost ready to harvest, but not quite. Much of it needs a bit more time to finish growing. But this last little bit of time has its own problems.

The grain is so heavy that storms can blow the stalks over, burying the grain in the dirt. There are large swaths of the fields here where this has happened after one particularly heavy rain. The farmers have gone out and stood up the grain again, carefully tying stalks together so that they can reinforce each other as they finish ripening.