Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Return Date: June 15

Friends, I am wrapping up my time in Nepal and getting excited to return to the States and see you all! My map in the corner says I return June 2 but I wanted to let you know that has been extended to June 15. I will be home that evening.

See you soon!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Trekking in the Himalayas

One of the things I really wanted to do before returning home was trek in the Himalayas—and I got to do that last week! I trekked with 3 friends from my organization through a mountain range about 7 hours drive from Kathmandu. The mountain peaks were beautiful and trekking through terraced farmlands seemed to be a classic way to spend my time before leaving Nepal.

 We trekked for 4 days and stayed in lodges (called teahouses) along the way. In total we trekked about 32 miles with an 8,000 feet elevation gain. The elevation gain was, well, tough! I have to say it was the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. But when we reached the views at Poon Hill for a 5:30 a.m. sunrise, it was worth it all. (-:

Here are a few snapshots from the trek.

I almost jumped on the back of one of these donkeys halfway through the trek.
I guess we didn't consult each other before taking this pic!
Finally... classic Nepal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What I See ...

Friends, it has been a while since I posted anything here and wanted to let you all know I am still alive and doing well. It seems the more comfortable I get in Kathmandu, the busier I get as well! I thought I'd share a few photos of the fun things I've been doing and the interesting things I see so you can get a better picture of the atmosphere here. Enjoy!

Elephants crossing a river in Chitwan National Park.
Lots of traffic here Kathmandu but no stoplights, or rules for that matter. (-:

The tougher side of life in Kathmandu is the pollution. Many wear masks to help filter some of the pollutants and smells.

A mask or bandana comes in very handy on the dirt roads!
A colorful contraption on wheels used to display idols during a festival.

A temple in Bhaktapur, a town about an hour outside Kathmandu with many beautifully restored paths, statues, and buildings from the medieval era.

Elephants are a theme here!
And, finally, drinking coke and celebrating our friend Santi's birthday. She is the one wearing pink!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Sunday night I had what I like to call a cultural learning moment. I was out all day with a Nepali friend walking and talking around one of the tourist sites. It was getting late and dark so we decided around 6:30 p.m. to find local transport to get me back home. We were in New Baneshwor, a section of Kathmandu, and I needed to get to Jawalakhel, I’m guessing about 8 miles away. The only problem . . . I didn’t really know where I was or how to speak the language. The “transport” that ensued would have been completely normal—if I knew exactly what I was doing.

So one of the forms of transportation here is a tempo, a small, 3-wheeled vehicle with two benches situated lengthwise in the back of the vehicle. There’s usually just enough room to squeeze your hips onto part of the bench and hold on to a rail above your head. (see pictures)

So my Nepali friend found a tempo for me and made sure it was going to Jawalakhel. She also told the driver that I (the foreigner with limited Nepali!) should be getting off there so he would point it out when we arrived. Well, about a half hour into the ride, I asked someone if we were at Jawalakhel. No, not yet. It’s still ahead? OK, great.

A few minutes later, the driver stopped, got out of the vehicle, and started counting his money. This should have been my first clue something was wrong. Before I knew it, without explanation, everyone piled out of the tempo and got into a different one. I was left sitting there wondering what on earth was going on. And there didn’t seem to be anyone too worried about the sole bedeshi (foreigner) sitting by herself in the tempo. So with no one to tell me what to do, I figured I’d follow the masses and pack up and hop into the new tempo too. When I got in I wasn’t quite brave enough to try forming complete sentences in Nepali with any of the passengers, so I looked quizzically at one of them and asked Jawalakhel?

In retrospect, this may not have been the best question to ask. For all he knew, I could have been asking Do you like Jawalakhel? Have you ever been to Jawalakhel? Is Jawalakhel on this route at some point? He graciously said yes but I’m quite unclear now which question he was answering because I don’t know at what point we arrived at Jawalakhel, if we stopped, or if anyone got off or on. All I know is he gave me an affirmative answer and that somehow made me feel secure for a few more minutes.

About 20 minutes later most of the passengers got off the tempo and I was left with one other passenger and the tempo driver asking me where I was going. What follows is my English interpretation of the conversation. It may not be exactly (at all) what was really said:

Where are you going? [driver to me]
This is New Baneshwor.
Hold on, what?! … Oh, no!

So, if you recall, I began my journey at 7 p.m. in New Baneshwor. It was now 8 p.m. and I was once again in New Baneshwor. Oh, this was too funny. I had apparently missed Jawalakhel, switched tempos at the halfway point along the route, and made the return trip back within an hour. LOL. What do I do now?

So you won’t be going back to Jawalakhel tonight?
Ah, no. You’d better find a taxi.
[more chuckles]
OK. How many rupees for the ride?

His answer was the classic Nepali head tilt, which meant “Don’t worry about it.” Ah, he had taken pity on the confused bedeshi. So I quickly found a taxi and confirmed the price and destination. $3.50 for the ride. OK, deal. The tempo ride would have cost about 25 cents, but no matter. This solution was quick and safe, and I was home in about 10 minutes.

All in all, the tempo ride was a comical experience for everyone involved—the driver, the other passenger, and myself! So I’ve decided to call it a comical “learning moment” and hold to the old adage that life is really more about the journey than the destination.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snapshots of Kathmandu

I have been in Nepal 4 weeks now and am finally starting to feel like I have a bit of a routine and know where I'm going—at least in the 3-mile radius I walk around my home! I haven't taken as many pictures yet as I'd like, but here are a few pictures and descriptions to give you a snapshot of life here in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu is nestled in a valley amid mountains, which you can see on a clear day. In the picture above you can see Swayambhunath Temple on the left overlooking the city. I and a couple friends hiked to this temple one Saturday.

The steps going up at Swayambhunath Temple

When we visited the temple it was a Saturday, the Hindu holy day, so the temple was filled with people, sounds, smells, and color. It was fascinating to see the intricacies of it all.

Bhuddist prayer flags at the temple.
Back at my home, here is a view (below) of part of the city from my rooftop. I share a flat with another American who happens to be from Minnesota! Our view overlooks the the laundry and washing hub of the city called the dhobighat. The laundry lines are quite a colorful view most days!

Conveniently, the office I teach English at is only a 5-minute walk from home! I teach just below the dhobighat in one of the flats on the left in the picture above. To give you an idea of day to day life, I am currently teaching Monday through Thursday in the afternoons. In the mornings I either prep for teaching or take Nepali classes from a private tutor. (The walk to Nepali class is a bit farther—about 25 minutes one way.) I have to say, the Nepali language is difficult, but I am learning ... slowly.

The English classes, on the other hand, are going really well. I teach 5 students every day (3 lower level students and 2 intermediate level). It's a blessing to be able to teach a small number of students and give them the attention they need. We are working on pronunciation, reading, and identifying parts of speech in the intermediate level class right now. In the lower level, we spent the first two weeks studying for a high school equivalency exam called the School Leaving Certificate. Two students are taking the exam this week!

Life in Kathmandu is colorful, to say the least. I can't say I'm used to the incessant honking yet or walking into oncoming traffic to cross the street. But the people are beautiful and I enjoy my world "shrinking" to about a 3-mile radius as I walk to the store, then class, the office, and home. Hopefully I can share more shapshots of daily life here as I spend more time calling it home in the coming weeks.