Published on December 7th, 20133
A Kathmandu Tattoo!
My memories of Nepal are many, varied, and vivid – the bustling cobbled streets and gilded temples of Kathmandu, the ancient crumbling buildings of Bhaktapur, sleeping above the clouds in Nagarkot, gossamer prayer flags wafting in the breeze at a Tibetan refugee camp; 6am prayers with the monks at a Buddhist monastery on the tippy top of a mountain, and glimpses of the legendary Himalayas in Pokhara. Fond visions all. But the one most lasting memory that I have of the Land of Everest that is guaranteed to remain with me forever is…
My beautiful ankle bracelet – permanently etched in black, blue, yellow and pink ink around my right ankle. Just a few inches above my first-ever “tat” – inked on my 6 week solo backpack across South Africa and Mozambique in 2005.
That first tat (a bitty Japanese kanji meaning “Tranquility” near my pinkie toe) came completely out of the blue. At nearly 6-oh, I’d never before dreamed I would EVER get a tattoo. But what can I say? Just loopy enough from jet lag (I’d just landed after 20 hrs. in the air en route from Chicago to Johannesburg), I arrived at my hostel and a young lass had a similar tat. In my euphorically muddled brain, I INSTANTLY vowed to get one just like it the very next morning. So that’s exactly what I did. And today, it remains one of the BEST souvenirs I’ve ever gathered in my travels.
And though I don’t consider myself the least bit “tat-obsessed” (I mean, no way am I ever gonna go for a full-chest unicorn nor fire-eating dragons trailing down each arm), that first tat made me realize – it’s MY body after all, and wee tats make perfect souvenirs of special lands that I’ve explored.
Thus, a few years later, I again got the itch for a new tat – this time on a trip to Bali. There, most the tourists are keen on temporary “henna” tattoos, so it was a bit tough to find someone who actually believed me when I said I wanted a PERMANENT tattoo. Given the ubiquitous focus in Bali on all things spiritual – I settled on a small “Ohm” symbol, set in a disc and colored in blue and yellow. I originally asked to have it inked on my ankle but… The Balinese tat artist looked at me aghast, and swiftly set me straight that the Ohm symbol of course is very sacred, and thus absolutely could NOT be placed anywhere below my waist. Thus I opted instead to have it inscribed on the inside of my left wrist so that I could easily see it, and perpetually bathe in its alleged good karma.
Next tat stop: Morocco, where (thankfully, so as not to tempt me) permanent tattoos are taboo, but temporary hennas are all the rage. Thus whilst wandering ’round the idyllic seaside town of Essaouira, I splurged on a full set of intricately detailed ankle tattoos (that lasted but a couple of weeks).
For awhile I seriously considered getting a tat in Vietnam, to commemorate my blissful two years there. But somehow the right moment never came. Tats are like that it seems. Very personal, not like ordering a Big Mac or bartering for a Moroccan rug. The time, the place, the inspiration, has to be just “right”.
And so it was in Nepal. Once again, I had no plan to get a tat there, but one day… as my Nepalese friend Dipak and I were wandering the shops of Kathmandu, we happened upon a tattoo place, and…
Well you can see for yourself – once again I opted for a (painfully) permanent souvenir of the magical land of Nepal.
On your mark…
Oh and… why a feathered ankle bracelet you may ask? LOL, actually I’ve ever loved the feminine demure of delicately dainty ankle bracelets. Indeed, have even bought a near dozen over the years. But I consistently lose them. Or they break. So… I just figured a permanently etched chain of colored beads would be just the ticket. The beads ‘n feathers reminiscent of a winsome “dream catcher”, and thus – a permanent reminder to ever follow my dreams.
What about you? Have you ever been bitten by the tat bug? For love – of a new land? a special life event? a dreamy love interest? a drunken moment?
Tempted but declined? A temporary henna tat perhaps? Or maybe a full-blown permanent map of the world plastered across your shoulders (good grief, country-count much?)