A man from the Chitwan Forest Resort is holding a card with my name on it when I get off the bus from Kathmandu. My back and legs are stiff from the eight-hour journey, my mind still holding onto images of the city I couldn’t wait to leave: a caramel-colored river clogged with wet clothes and garbage, children touting bottled water at the bus stand when they should’ve been in school.
I leave my backpack at the resort, rent a bicycle in town, and set out for a nearby river. On either side of me are rice paddies the color of clover; beyond them, a hazy strip of blue mountains at the horizon; and in front of me, a rutted, unpaved road. Already I can feel it coming back, “it” being that elusive centeredness of being when you’re on the move. You either have it or you don’t.
I rattle past thatched houses, goats tethered to a fence, cows lumbering home to the low din of their clinking bells. At the river a herd of water buffalo are slowly making their way from bank to bank. A few women wade across behind them, silver water jugs balanced on their heads. I leave my bike at the Lama Café, walk to where a boy and his dug-out canoe wait to ferry me to the other side.
Beneath a purple sky, I step into the boat. The boy motions for me to sit, extends his pole into the water. We push off.