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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Visiting the Doc in Kathmandu!

21st November 2011

Exploring Kathmandu

Being so tired from the long day yesterday, I slept in and met friends for brunch later in the morning. That afternoon Buddha and I explored the more local area of Kathmandu, twisting and turning through a maze of ancient buildings, set very close to each with low alleys leading into more of a maze behind. Many of the buildings were built with unbaked bricks and were over 100yrs old. I fear any time a large earthquake hits, as this place would likely crumble.

Ancient Buildings


Small alleys and imposing buildings

In Search of Meds

Buddha had developed a nasty chest cough over the last week and it seemed to be getting worse. He had already worked through 2 bottles of cough syrup with no effect. To me it sounded more like asthma or in the bronchials and I wanted to find an inhaler type medicine for him. He said that after 9mths working in the ship in the clean ocean air, returning to smoggy Kathmandu causes him to get this cough every home coming. It usually lasted the full 3 mths he was home and then improved within a week upon return to the ship. Similar to Allergic bronchitis.

We walked from pharmacy to pharmacy to no avail, no one had anything in the form of an inhaler. At about our 5th pharmacy the pharmacist recommended that he see the doctor who would be in in about 2hrs. We spent the next couple of hours exploring the area, having tea, buying Buddha new socks and then headed back. It cost a total of $3 to see the doctor and she was brilliant. Yup, you heard me right, SHE was great. When she discovered I was in the medical field, even though the animal side, she treated me as an equal and explained everything clearly for both of us. Reprimanding Buddha for not wearing a mask when riding his motorbike, he sent him off to get x-rays, with the order to return tomorrow for her to look at them.

Walking towards the hospital we stopped at a tiny little shop in a tiny alley selling some kind of soda. Buddha explained that this was traditional homemade soda. It comes in a glass bottle with a ball as a lid, they pop the ball in (I tried to ignore the dust on top), this caused a reaction which created the bubbles, then they added some salt to it. I swear everything from tea to soda is salty. Much to the amusement of the Buddha and the shop owner I nervously gave it a try. I was surprised at how good it was, although I am not sure if I would get one anytime soon, sort of like the salty tea, good in a different sort of way.

Rows of wonderful colors

Finally making it to the hospital, we checked in and found the x-ray department. Surprisingly we hit a low traffic time and there was almost no one there. Or maybe it was because we were outside the emergency response times:

The hospital and old x-ray machine gave me flashbacks to growing up in South Africa. after living in the States where everything is state of the art, and ridiculously expensive, watching Buddha pay $10 for 2 films made the, what most would think, antiquated equipment seem downright sensible.

Off to dinner at a very nice looking restaurant, as I had been craving pizza. The place might have looked great but the service was shocking, I think I prefer “aunty’s shack” down the road.

An early night with plans for a return to monkey temple in the ‘morrow!

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Meeting Bob!

20th November 2011

Namo Buddha

Meeting Buddha and Yogi for breakfast we chatted a bit about the changes Yogi had planned for Hotel Silver Home. He had been thinking of opening up the reception area, breaking down the wall between the dimly lit dining area and making it more of a social place for guests. This would be extra beneficial as the wifi only reaches the 1st 2 floors and would make it more comfortable for folks to chat and or work on the internet. He also hopes to redo the piping, curtains and much more, but it all comes at a cost.

Buddha had decided to take me out of Kathmandu to a Buddhist Monastery called Namo Buddha. It would involve a minimum 2hr drive on the motorbike, a breeze for him who is used to it, but I feared my rear end would never forgive me. Once we were escaped the cacophony of sound and traffic that enveloped the city we were out on the open road, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. After about an hour, when I could no longer feel anything below my waist, we took a tea break and stopped along side the road, buying some water from a street vendor. We seemed to be in the middle of no where. Then it was back on the bus and off we went.

The last 30 min were probably the most traumatic to my posterior, involving off roading in a way (luckily his bike is an off road variety so that helped), the road had been cobbled at one point or rather attempted, but it was in severe disrepair. I momentarily forgot my pain when 2 Buddhist monks, completely robed in orange, whizzed past us on their bike wearing designer sunglasses and listening to a radio… it obviously pays to be a monk. Such a surreal sight.

Finally rounding the last corner on a steep uphill climb we pulled into a very well maintained cobbled parking lot and I eased myself off the bike flinching as the sudden rush of blood reached my toes… Since I was barely able to stand upright we decided to get some tea first. We had the option of what looked like a well maintained restaurant or a little run down, dark, family run place. Buddha headed straight for the latter. Something I really appreciate about having him as my tour guide and friend, is that he takes me to the local places and not those well maintained gleaming ones for tourists. The tea was delicious. As we sat on the edge of the wall and drank we attracted the attention of a rather handsome fellow, a little down on his luck, but beautiful none the less. I named him BOB! Bob came and sat and looked at us with gorgeous deep brown sad eyes. Buddha jumped up and bought some cookies to give him. But Bob wasn’t interested in taking them from us, although you could tell he wanted to. Then Buddha had an idea, he took a bite of his and offered it again, Bob wolfed it down in a heartbeat. Apparently, these strays have learnt that food is occasionally poisoned and prefer to wait you taste it before taking anything. He continued with this even after eating 10 cookies, we always had to take a bite before offering it.

BOB!

As we got to the end of the packet, Bob got spooked by a rather deranged and most likely homeless, Nepali lady, and seemed to inhale some of the crumbs causing him to sneeze and snort. the lady cackled away at him and Bob shrunk away to a corner. A local tour guide attempted to give him water by throwing it at him. But I took the packet, removed the last cookie and walked over to where he was hiding under a bench. I then offered the water in the packet and he lapped up almost a full bottle before he was satisfied, then ate the last cookie. He looked at me like an old faithful friend. My heart ached at wishing I could take him home.

Bob confused by deranged laughing lady

Traditional Instruments

Heading into the Monastery, it struck me how quiet and peaceful it was. No cars, no honking horns, no shouting, just peace and quiet, I even heard birds. This is what I imagined when I thought of Nepal. The Monastery is set on the side of a mountain, and has housing and school facilities for the monks and some other people who live there.

The monks had just started their prayer session and we were allowed to go up and enter the temple. I was in awe, the chanting and music was incredible, and the vibrations from the loud 4ft long trumpet like instruments went through you from head to tow. There was a group of school kids there as well, and they all stood in the doorway with me giggling and watching the monks as they chanted in unison. Buddha kept encouraging me to go in and walk through but I felt shy, eventually he walked with me and explained some of the paintings and tapestries that lined the wall. We made a full circle and I would have loved to sit and listen for a while, but I felt like I was intruding, and preferred to watch from the outside.

Unfortunately no photography was allowed. As we marveled at the artwork I noticed an older monk handing out crisp new bills to all the monks, donations from the people. You can understand why becoming a monk, with the promise of education, lodging and a stipend would seem so welcoming for young boys and girls. As we turned to leave, I noticed a young monkling taking a swig from a coca cola bottle… another oxymoron… Just seemed out of place and yet perfectly normal at the same time.

We spent the next hour or so exploring the grounds. Discovering prayer flags and beautiful carvings and even a Hindu shrine on top of the hill.




As we headed out of the monastery towards the little snack shack, Buddha called my name and pointed out my shadow on my right. Bob had been sitting waiting at the edge of the monastery for me to return and had fallen in step with me so stealthily, that I hadn’t even noticed. If only it was possible….

Suddenly we were accosted by 3 young Nepali girls all chattering away in Nepali, handing Buddha a camera and gathering round me with linked arms and heads on my shoulder. I was completely clueless as to what was going on, and still don’t really know what it was all about. It appeared as if the girls wanted a pic with me to show their teacher that they knew a foreigner, and I fit the bill.


Once the photo shoot was over they waved us goodbye and skipped off into the sunset…
After taking a few minutes to comprehend the events that just zoomed by we went to get some grub. Our choices were dal bat, dal bat or …. dal bat. It took a moment to decide but we opted for the dal bat. Sitting in the dingy little 2 table cafe we chatted with the family who were super sweet. Bob seemed to sit at attention outside, until I went to check on him and then he seemed to relax and lay outside in the sun waiting for us, until some other dogs decided he was on their turf and chased back across the lot and under his bench. I wasn’t super hungry, or maybe there was too much, so took our left overs , tore off a piece of cardboard from outside and walked over to Bob. Ignoring the pleading looks from the other dogs, tough to do but they had been mean to my boy Bob, I laid the “plate” in front of him and encouraged him to eat. He looked at me but then seemed to decide that since I didn’t poison him with the cookies or water then it was unlikely I would poison him now. He wolfed it down happily. I will miss this stoic old boy and wish I could take him with me.

Good Old Bob, Watching us Leave

Back to Kathmandu, Vegetables and All

As we started getting our gear together for the long drive back to Kathmandu, Buddha noticed a farmer with bundles of some type of leaf vegetable. Almost looked like spinach. He was excited to see it and at the price, and decided to buy some for Yogi, the hotel owner. Of course tying this ungainly bundle on to the back of the bike and then attempting to fit in between Buddha and it, proved an interesting challenge.

Once I was finally able to swing my leg over everything and get settled we headed off. The ruggedness of the road made hanging on a mission in survival, add to that the now slipping bundle of leaf vegetables on the back. Eventually we had to stop after barely 15min as the bundle had come completely loose and I had spent the last 3min hanging onto the bundle with my hands and Buddha with my knees, don’t think he minded the latter too much. Using my superior knot tying skills I learnt in Girl Guides, I executed several superb granny knots in various directions and secured the bundle with no chance of it ever falling off… unless scissors were enforced. Struggling back on we set off down the road, about 20 ft when Buddha decided he had to pee. So piling off and turning my back as he watered the bushes and then piling back on, we set off for the remainder of the journey back to the city.

After barely an hour I was in agony. How on earth do people do this for hours on end… We stopped and took a 20min break as I walked around and waited for feeling to return to my numb butt and lower half. Then off again, I was so tired and numb that I kept shifting until Buddha, very sternly told me to stop and sit still, especially if I valued my life and his, as I was apparently becoming a safety hazard and unbalancing the bike… oops! Eventually we made it back and I could put my sore ass in a soft chair, thank the heavens above.

Cultural Night

Buddha and Yogi decided to take me out to dinner and a cultural night. A local restaurant in the Thamel district with excellent food and a great show with traditional dances from all most of the Nepali tribes, along with some not so traditional “dances” to modern music. The best by far was a guy doing a comedy dance routine about going to the temple to check out girls. I guess people have told me to join church to find a husband, it seems Hindu countries have a similar past time.

Our hostess was very good, so good in fact that I would barely have the food in my mouth before she would come by and try to dish up more. Each table got their own hostess and they were very insistent, to the point of being annoying, it was like I was being force fed at times. Or maybe I am just not used to be catered to like that.

A great day with amazing memories and good friends. I will always miss Bob!

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Visiting Facebook…

19th November 2011

Competition Results

We received the competition results with Buddha no where in the top 3. Turns out top 1 and 2 went to students of the bartender school who hosted the event, and also 2 of the competitors who got the most critics from the judges. We all agreed the competition had been fixed from the start, which just made us angry that it had happened. Oh well what ya gonna do… I know go sightseeing and eat!!!

Temples and Shrines

After breakfast we headed out to a small temple on the edge of Kathmandu, Shree Budhanilkatnha Bishnu Bhagwan, a holy Hindu site. The tale goes that many years ago when this area was still farmland, a local farmer dug into his field and discovered a life size statue of Lord Vishnu in repose on a bed of giant serpents. It quickly became a holy site and devotees from all around visit it. Since it is a Hindu site, no photographs are allowed, no leather materials may enter the site and no videos may be taken. Only those of the Hindu faith may enter the gated area surrounding the statue. In comparison to Buddhist sites where everyone is welcome and photos are accepted.

Lord Vishnu, courtesy of Jasmine Strings Blog

The Mall – how else do you spend a saturday

After exploring the shrine we headed for some lounge around time at the mall. It always astounds me to walk in from crowded, noisy, polluted streets into a shopping mall mirroring those found in the Western world. It does make for some great people watching. We had tea with Buddha’s friend who owns a store, watched my first 6D (didn’t even know that existed) film. Or rather 4 shorts in 3D, moving chairs, and air blowing with the occasional brush against your leg. It was hilarious, and Buddha delighted in scaring me during the scary short by grabbing onto me now and then.

Monkey Temple routine

Then it was off to continue what had become an evening tradition, feeding the monkeys. I wished we could bring fruit or rice or something like that vs cookies, but carrying bags of cooked rice or fruit on a motorbike was just not feasible, so cookies it is. We pulled up to our local vendor window where the lady had got to know our routine and started getting the 20 packets ready before we were even off the bike. Finally it was time to reunite with some old friends…

Some of them are almost polite


Checking to see if he has space for one more


Do you think he gets training to look this cute??

A sad truth

As we walked through the temple looking for the different tribes of monkeys that seem to have very well defined territories we came across an old woman lying prone on the ground to the side of the path. Her skin was bloated and her stomach distended. Buddha explained she was most likely a poor person who had come from India seeking a better life and had fallen ill. He encouraged me to give a little something and some of the cookies. He is always careful not to let me just give money away unless he believes the person truly needs it. It is so sad to see things like this and not be able to help in more ways… a sad truth in every country, whether its a westernized world with the best health care or a developing country with barely enough doctors.

Off to Facebook

As the sun began to set we headed off to another of his friends restaurants, named Facebook, offering a range of Nepali foods. The first time I ate here the dal baht (traditional meal with rice and curry sides) was too hot for me. So this time I stuck to something simple and fried… always good. We chatted with a couple of his friends from the cruise ship who were having a late lunch and one of them mentioned he had a sister who owned a pashmina factory and he could take me there some time if I liked. Always handy knowledge to have.

Sauna time

After my long trip and all the motorbike riding Buddha had been doing we looked for a place to have a sauna. The first place seemed very fancy but unfortunately their saunas were segregated. So we headed into the tourist section of Thamel and found another place. Luckily we were the only 2 sitting there wrapped in our towels, it might have felt weird with strangers. We had a choice between a hot steam or dry sauna and took turns in each. Then some hot noodley soup before saying goodnight.

Tomorrow we are off to explore a monastery almost 2hrs outside of Kathmandu… hope my butt can survive a bike ride that long!

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Return to Kathmandu…

18th November 2011

side note, I believe I have been writing 2012 on some of my posts, oops, ignore that and imagine 2011 when you read it… Thanks! (of course I guess I could always go back and change them, I could…)

Bus Ride number 3

Returning to Kathmandu would involve another 6+hr bus trip, luckily this time I had booked in advance and had ensured I would have one of the very front seats. So after checking out and saying a sad farewell to my new sister, Laxmi, I grabbed a taxi and headed to the bus station. As luck would have it, the driver didn’t have change, but one enterprising young lad selling baked goods quickly took advantage of the situation:
“Lady, lady, I can make change if you buy something…”
Well I did need something for breakfast. I told him he was a bright lad and would go far and he seemed to like this. Now that I think about it maybe the two were in cahoots… But either way it meant I didn’t overpay the driver and got something to eat at the same time.
I felt a little bad for another chap who had tried to sell me something but I had said no, he just sort of looked on in shock. Am guessing he learnt a valuable lesson.

The front seat I had so hoped for ended up being almost jammed into the glass behind the driver giving no room to put my legs up and the seat was too high to put my feet down, for those who don’t know I am barely 5ft/1.5m tall, you can pretty much use me as measurement. My seat mate was a local travel agent and was kind enough to ask the driver for one of the little stools people use in the aisle when the bus is overcrowded, and I had an instant foot rest. It only got better when the people booked into the row behind us never showed up and the agent moved to that row, providing ample space for me to stretch out.

The bus ride still took over 7 1/2 hrs and I was utterly exhausted at the end of it.

Without much warning and in an area completely unfamiliar the bus stopped mid traffic flow and the driver yelled “Thamel! Last Stop”. All of us piled out of the vehicle rather confused and disoriented, we grabbed our bags as they were unloaded, with the bus still moving with the traffic, and then hurriedly got out of the road.

Luckily a couple of folks were heading my way so I was completely left to fend for myself and in no time I recognised a street corner and knew where to turn. My friend, Buddha, had promised to meet me, but when I called he said he had been invited to participate in a bartending competition and if I could make it back to Hotel Silver Home the owner, Yogi, would come and pick me up and take me to where he was.

Competitions

I had hoped to have time to shower and grab something to eat, but it sounded like we had to go asap. So after they showed me to my 4th floor room (I have always had a severe dislike of stairs, especially after a long bus drive), I washed my face and headed back down. Unfortunately Yogi got side tracked with some duties at the hotel, and Buddha called twice to find out where we were before we finally left.

I was tired, famished and dressed in wonderfully touristy Nepali clothing when we pulled into this rather fancy looking bar hosting the event. A local bartending school was using it as a way to prepare bartenders from around Kathmandu for international competition, with a rather nice sum of over $100 for 1st place. Buddha works as a bartender on the MSC cruise lines, and has for the last 5yrs, he is a natural when it came to that.

He was excited to see me and gave me a big hug then lent on me as we watched some of the other bartenders take their turns. Unfortunately I was so light headed and tired I had to find somewhere to sit. It took almost 2 hrs before it was his turn and he was by far the best of the lot, I am not biased in any way…ok maybe a little.

He had wanted to make 3 cocktails in the 5minutes they had, the judges permitted 2, but with a severe shortage of glasses and then have a glass shatter mid pour and cutting his finger he ended with one… and still a minute to spare. It was called purple rain and I thought it was spectacular, as the 2 colors of alcohol turn a vivid purple when mixed. The judges were well impressed and the only negative comment was that perhaps he seemed too confident. We felt he was a shoo in for 1st.

Buddha doing what he does best

We waited for the results but the flaring competition which was very cool, ended up taking too long, so we headed out to Buddha’s friends place for dinner.

Bronco Billy’s

Bronco Billy’s is a western theme, cowboy type place ,with pics of John Wayne and other stars on the walls. There was a circle of chairs and a big drum for a fire pit. Buddha had arranged it all for me and a few friends, super sweet thought, if I hadn’t been so exhausted. But the food was amazing with chicken and beef ribs (or rather buffalo) all done on open flame and slathered in yummy sauce. The hot rum punch that was ordered for me was also fantastic, threatening to make me pass out then and there. After a great evening it was time to head home, almost falling asleep behind Buddha as we rode through an eerily quiet Kathmandu at 2am on his motorbike. Dropping me off at my hotel we planned to meet the next day for more sightseeing.

Bed oh glorious bed!!!!!

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Final Day in Pokhara

17th November 2011

Taekwondo at Sunrise

I started my last day in Pokhara by waking up at 5.45am and meeting Garaub so he could take me to watch his taekwondo class. He was so excited that I was finally coming to watch. About 9 kids were there already and started doing warm ups with 2 of the higher belts leading the way. A few minutes later the master showed up. He seemed a little nervous to see me and apologised profusely for not having his uniform on, but that he hadn’t known I would be coming that morning. Then he made me stand in front of the class and introduced me, making all 9 kids bow to me. It has been such a long time since I have been involved with taekwondo and it felt really good. For those of you who don’t know, I lived in Seoul, Korea for 3yrs and earned my 2nd degree black belt while I was there. It is a sport that is still very close to my heart, as it taught me lot of confidence and so much more.

I stood and watched the kids trying not to fall asleep (too many movies the night before), they were doing great and the master tried his best to teach the whole class in English for my benefit, and occasionally to the confusion of some of the kids. The highlight of the class was when he had a couple of the kids show off their sparring skills. He has some good potential in that class. He was a very humble man and tried his best to do good by the kids, by day he would take tourists across the lake and some other side jobs. He was very interested in my opinion of his teaching and seemed pleased when I said it was a great class. We took some photos and as we walked he asked if it was possible to help out with buying some equipment. I said I would try but couldn’t make any promises. As Garaub and I walked home for some tea, Garaub asked me what the master asked me for, he was rather embarressed that he had wanted something and insisted that I did not have to buy anything, it was kind of sweet to see him so indignant, repeating that I was like a sister and did not take me to the class to try get me to provide financial aid. If possible I will help, but it is unlikely as the equipment would need to be bought in Kathmandu and then somehow sent by bus to Pokhara with no guarantee of arriving.

Taekwondo Class – Garaub is 2nd from the right in the front

Bacon Roasty

After tea with Laxmi I headed for a nap as it was barely 7am. Then headed to Fewa Restaurant for my regular breakfast and blog time. I decided to try their Bacon Roasty with cheesy hashbrowns, on Roger’s (who was here a year ago) recommendation. It was delicious, wish I had discovered it earlier. It was also very rich and so made sure I at least finished the important part…BACON!! Somewhere in the back of my mind there is concern about ordering meat in developing countries, but then when it comes down to it, sometimes its worth the risk for the taste!

After breakfast I picked up a few last minute things and then headed back to the hotel to pack and sort. Returning to Laxmi’s I bought another top and a few other smaller items and then helped her adjust the hem of one of the pants I bought.

Laxmi sister

Back at the hotel I met a couple from Australia, both of them engineers working on a project for Engineers Without Borders. They were about to head out on their motorbike to do some touring. I gave them some advice from the places I had been the day before and we decided to meet for dinner later that evening.

For lunch I met Gaurab and Laxmi and headed to the Tibetan restaurant for momo’s. I wanted to treat them to something as thanks for adopting me and treating me like family, when mine was so far away. They were both so excited as I don’t think they get to go out that often. They both ordered banana lassi’s, a selection of momo’s and I had a lemon soda (fresh lemon juice with soda water, my new favorite).

Laxmi, Gaurab and me at Tibetan Restaurant

Afterwards I gave Gaurab a hug in farewell, he got a little emotional but seemed to listen to me when I made him promise to study hard and listen to his mother. I think he had got attached and used to having me around, I will miss my little brother and his wonderful mother, my sister.

World Politics

Had a glorious hot shower, scrubbed down, shaved and chilled out a bit. Hearing voices outside I went to investigate and discovered one of the Aussie engineers chatting with a guy from Luxemburg. We quickly fell into a discussion about world politics, Africa, China and much more. There is something to be said about the ease at which world travelers fall into conversation with each other and discuss things bigger than themselves and yet we all seem to see the answers, and they seem so simple.

All this talk of saving the world made us hungry so the engineers and I headed to the Tibetan restaurant for momos. Oh so yummy. The conversations morphed into life experiences, jobs and travel adventures, one of my favorite things to do when I meet like minded folks.

Early to bed as there was another grueling bus trip starting at 6am. My friend Buddha promised to meet me at the bus in Kathmandu and take me out to dinner. Pokhara has been great but I am really hoping to the sun in Kathmandu…


The Closest to Sunshine in 5 days

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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