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Reflections Of A Year Abroad…Part 2

Here continues my final reflections from my year abroad.. and just in time to start my new adventures coming up…

New Zealand

New Zealand, like Australia, was one of the top contenders for “where I might want to live when I grow up…” While Australia was vast and overwhelming, NZ was stunning and easy to travel in. The people were also downright “nice” as the Aussies put it. Heck I was even wished happy early birthday by an immigration office when they had to double check my info that apparently is similar to a person of interest

I loved NZ and the Kiwis and got to amazing things there. Like dig my own hot tub at Hot Water Beach. Cover myself in thermal mud and take relax in a sulfur spring in Rotorua. Jump off a mountainside and paraglide, screaming all the way, in Queenstown.

Free as a bird

I even ade it to all THREE islands: North (right upto the tippy top), South and Stewart Island (the 3rd) where I did trade work at Bunkers Backpackers, one of the best spots in all of NZ.

A drink with the locals

The Worst Part Of NZ: would have to be the hacking cough I developed for about 3wks, felt so bad for my fellow dorm mates, oh and the price of lamb (so much for my bday roast 😦 )

The Best Part of NZ: friends, paragliding, mud and Stewart Island.

A Reason to Come Back: Everything

Malaysia and Borneo

The plan post NZ was to go volunteer in Sri Lanka at an animal shelter. They had contacted me and asked me to come promising accomodation and no fee. Sounded perfect and I was all set with tickets. Mid Tonga I got a message saying a returning volunteer was staying for 6mths and they were giving her my accomodation, but I could still come I just had to pay to stay… Well that blew that plan out of the water. My ticket on air asia was a ticket to Kuala Lumpur and then to Sri Lanka. I had great friends who I hadn’t seen in years in KL. So I scratched my 2nd ticket and ate the losses, planned a short visit to KL then discovered a converted oil rig in Borneo (a short flight) for scuba diving. Sounds like a perfect recovery plan to me.

I can’t tell you enough about how great it was to see my friend Chauw (first time in 7yrs) and meet his fabulous wife, Viven, and dog Pakkun (who really runs the house). They welcomed me like a long lost relative and put me up, fed me, and showed me around. It felt like home and I can’t thank them enough. I only wish I had had more time to stay.

Great Friends/Family

But Borneo beckoned and since I had to go through immigration it counts as a country on my list. The Seaventures Dive Rig, a converted oil rig, was incredible and with a sealavator that went straight into the ocean a diver couldn’t ask for more. This was my first DIVE VACATION and my first in tropical water, the rig made it truly spectacular in every way.

THE SEAVENTURES RIG!

The Worst Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: Leaving

The Best Thing in Malaysia/Borneo: friends and diving

A Reason To Return: Friends, diving and so much more.

Nepal

Nepal is a country I have always dreamed of going to and never thought I would. Most people go to trek, to get to base camp at the very least. For me, I wanted to buy myself a singing bowl. Since the first time I saw one of this beautiful bowls that “sing” as you pass a wooden stick around the outside, I have promised myself to only get one when I got to Nepal. It took me almost the full 3weeks to find the right one, but she sings just perrtty for me and I love it.

Nepal was fascinating and, unknown to me, would introduce me to someone who would change my life for good in many ways, but bring it crashing down with a terrible betrayal.

But you can’t blame a country for the actions of one person and so I focus on the people like Laksmi and her family who essentially adopted me in Pokhara. I went to dinner at their house, helped my new little brother, Gaurab, with his homework, even moved hotels closer to them (with Laksmi’s husband’s help). I spent many good hours chatting with Laksmi and I will miss my “sister” very much.

The Worst Thing in Nepal: The traffic and pollution

The Best Thing in Nepal: The people and the shopping and the history

A Reason to Return: The people, the shopping and the history

Germany

Cathleen, who I had met in my first country of Peru, and I had joked about me coming to Germany on my way home. Low and behold fate saw to it that I did. While I was super sad to leave Nepal, I was super excited to Cathleen again and well Germany in December means: Gluwein, Bratwurst, Christmas Markets and Christmas Cookies. Woohoo!

Cathleen met me in Hamburg with her amazing friend Hendrik, who put us up for a few days. Then came the whirlwind tour of Hamburg and Berlin with a final stop in Leipzig where Cathleen lived. Fate also allowed me to catch up with Carolin and Nadine, friends from Australia.

The Worst Thing in Germany: My heartsickness at missing a guy and ending a trip (not really Germany’s fault).

The Best Thing in Germany: Gluwein, bratwurst and Christmas markets… and fabulous friends.

A Reason to Go Back: need I repeat the above?? Oh and add the bakeries and the cold meats, mmmmmmm…..

Home

So after 347 days on the road, just shy of a full year, I finally made it home! For those of us who love long term travel, going home is both a blessing and a curse. We get our own bed, we see family, have home cooking, and 3 days later we want to pack our bags and head out again. As someone once explained to me, finally giving me an explanation I could use for non travelers, “traveling is a double edged sword…you live you grow you explore but you never feel settled”.

Starting my job as a vet nurse with a mobile vet barely 3 days after getting home at least helped that trapped feeling from catching a full hold. And being mobile kind of felt like I was still moving.

Ready to Monitor in Surgery

Something I learnt on This Trip: I am stronger than I look, and I love being near a warm ocean.

My Most Memorable Experience: Shaving my head for charity

My Worst Experience: Can’t say that anything was terrible, but let’s just say I learn a lot of lessons about life.

One thing is for sure, I prefer living abroad and plan to find work that gives me that. As much as I loved all the travel, there are times you want to stay put for longer than a month or 2.

So stick around and join me on upcoming adventures including Italy, Korea and Thailand…

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Germany, RTW, Travel, 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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Bats, Caves and Waterfalls

16th November 2011

Taekwondo at Sunrise

I had promised Gaurub that I would be sure to find him and the Taekwondo group this morning, so just before 6am I open my eyes, heard the rain pissing down, closed my eyes and went back to sleep. Since the kids practice in the open I assumed they would cancel class. Thank heavens I went back to sleep, ’cause class was cancelled and wandering around in the dark and rain would not have been a good wake up. Will have to try tomorrow.

I only rolled out of bed 4 hrs later at 10am. Went to my usual breakfast and wifi spot ordered my usual and got some work done. Then headed over to Laxmi’s as it was a day for sightseeing, not much improvement weather wise, but am at the point where I don’t care.

Sightseeing with Lamsal

Lamsal, Laxmi’s husband, had been trying to convince me to go sightseeing for a few days offering his services. I like Lamsal, but he can get a bit insistent and would never give me a price on how much for a few hours. One of those things that really gets irritating after a while, as you don’t want to insult him but you can’t afford to give a huge amount. On some advice on a friend just give what seems about right and if he complains its his own fault.

At 2pm I hopped onto the back of his motorbike and headed off towards Mahendra Cave.I must admit after spending those couple of days in Kathmandu riding with Buddha on his huge off road bike, weaving through the traffic of that crazy city, sitting on the back of this smaller one with a driver who may not be as confident as my mate, got a little nerve racking at times. But all in all he was a safe driver and I soon learnt how not to fly off the back when we hit a bump or a hole.

Situated about 20min by bus north of Pokhara Mahendra Cave is a stunning spot to explore. They have lights that guide you in, but it is a valuable idea to take a flashlight with you as there are often power cuts, and it can get very dark down there. Discovered in the 1950’s it is a natural limestone caves with some interesting formations. Unfortunately, unsupervised visitors have begun damaging these and also scaring the rare bat species that reside in the cave.

When you get to the center of the gave there is a Hindu Priest who will bless you dot your forehead with red paste for a few dollar donation. I think he was so excited to see a foreigner that he used up all his English words in a span of 1 minute, it was very amusing. As you exit the cave you can leave using the common big entrance or veer off to the right and go through a tight maze to squeeze out through a small opening. I opted for the entrance to exit.

As we left I was in awe of numerous birds in the sky, large birds. I tried to identify them but could only get as far as some kind of raptor species, maybe a kite or hawk. But truly spectacular to watch them ride the thermals and then rest in the tree right above me before riding the thermals again.

The entire experience was great, however, it turned out to be a vacation day for all Hindus so the place was overrun by local highschool kids, in any country that can be annoying when you simply want to take in the natural beauty of a location. But still fascinating.

Exiting Mahendra Cave with my blessed dot on the forehead

Bat cave

Our next stop was Bat cave and it was even more spectacular, it helped that we seemed to have timed it in between crowds of kids. We bumped into an older lady who I had seen in Mahendra cave, her guide was a monk and spoke almost no English, but had a great smile. He seemed relieved when we helped her out, in her very apparent exasperated state of dealing with limestone pitfalls and a guide who just didn’t understand how she wanted her picture taken. It took us a bit of an awkward trek over the limestone, slippery from water, before finding the main chamber of bats. There were thousands and it was truly incredible.

Bats!


A closer view of the little darlings

As we were enjoying staring at the little critters, those wonderful children arrived and were very noisy. We could see the bats getting a little spooked and once we “explained” to the kids that they were about to have a thousand bats come flying out of the cave after being disturbed, they quickly quietened down.. I am not sure for how long. Kids are the same no matter where you are!

I bought Lamsal and I a soda and we sat down and relaxed watching a local family attempt to crawl out of the adventurous exit of this cave. I think one of the dads should have taken the larger, easy exit.

Leaving the caves behind, Lamsal took me to the largest Hindu Temple in Pokhara. He tried to explain some things about Hinduism and about the different gods, but I think that is a subject that needs a common language, as I got confused very quickly and just ended up nodding and smilling (an action that has got me out of a lot of difficult situations).

Devis Falls

The final stop of the tour was Devis Falls. This amazing spectacle of mother nature is a gushing waterfall that has cut deep into the rocks and disappears underground before emerging on the other side. With all the rain it certainly lived up to all the hype. It was spectacular.

Devis Falls

The only bummer was Lamsal trying to be the best possible tour guide he could be, which involved in him man handling me into different locations that he felt gave the best view. As much as I appreciated this, the more he did it the less I wanted to stay and look. Never a good combination.

The story of how the falls got its name, however, is a very sad one. It is said that a Swiss couple were swimming in Fewa lake in 1961, when the sluice gate was either opened or overflowed, washing the wife down into the river and ultimately over the falls. They never found her. Her name was Mrs. Davis.

Frustrations

When we got back I went to pay Lamsal. He continued to insist I pay what ever I would like, and since I was also mildly irritated at having been “tour guided” in the annoying sense of the word, and his deferral of discussing anything in the terms of payment, I offered him the equivalent of about $5. He looked at it and said “is this for gas?”. I just rolled my eyes and gave him some more as he mumbled something about how much it would have cost to take a taxi. I know its a cultural thing, but seriously, he wouldn’t give me any hint of how much to pay not even trying to bargain or anything. That’s just downright irritating.

I decided to skip dinner with the family that night and treat myself to a night out. I had lasagne at my favorite Fewa restaurant, which was delicious but ridiculously rich, could barely eat half. My “friend” from the other night, a stray dog, saw me immediately and came over to sit and stair into my very soul. I could only ignore him for so long. When he had finished my garlic bread and saw that I only had a drink left on the table he left, typical male!

Homework

I was back in the room by 8pm, man my nights out are pathetic, when there was a knock on the door. Garaub was there asking if I could help him with his homework. I guess “when you got skills”, as he so kindly put it, you got to help out as much as you can. After homework I headed back and watched movies… Until power went out.

Tomorrow will be my last day in Pokhara as I have decided to return to Kathmandu and the friends I made there.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Shopping Nepali Style

15th November 2012

Early Morning Taekwondo

Ever since I told Garaup about having a black belt in taekwondo, from my years living in Seoul Korea, he has begged me to come to his early morning class at 6am. So at 5.30am in the pitch dark I rolled out of bed threw on some clothes and headed out into the night. I knew round about where they would be having class, and headed in that direction. It was about an 30minutes before sunrise and a beautiful time of the morning. This mist was rising off Few Lake and creating an eery presence to the morning. I could hear the disembodied ki-aps of the students but could not find entrance to the field. As I wandered down a lane full of buses I came across a staircase leading over a wall to some houses. I was fairly certain they were over the wall, but didn’t want to be that tourist that merrily walks into peoples yards at 6am in the morning. Call me a scaredy cat, but growing up in South Africa certainly makes you more cautious. Around 6.20am I gave up and headed back to the hotel. As I turned to look back at the lake one more time the sun’s rays had just kissed it and it was stunning, for a brief second before the grey clouds realised they were being lackadaisical in their duties and quickly filled the hole. I fear it might be another dreary day, but hey at least there are momo’s in this country, maybe for breakfast after another few hours of sleep.

Sleep didn’t last too long as I received a call from Raj, one of our drinking mates in Kathmandu. He is hilarious that guy, but not at 7am, I mumbled some kind of greeting and put the phone down. Oh well I was due to meet the German folks from Dresden at 8.15am anyway, may as well just get up. Headed over to Few Restaurant and got settled, unfortunately there was a misunderstanding on time and they had been there about 20min earlier. Oh well, all good though as Fewa has decent wifi, so I was able to sit and work on my blog. Been there so many times I pretty much have a table and they know how I like my coffee, one of my favorite things about stopping in one place for longer than a few days.

Walking Fewa Lake

As I could tell the sun was desperately attempting to break through the impenetrable barrier of clouds I decided to enjoy what little sun, or rather glare, there was and go for a walk. For weeks before I had arrived here I had dreamed of talking a daily walk around part of Fewa lake, relaxing perhaps sitting with my singing bowl I was yet to buy, and I was looking forward to it. I put on my MP3 and headed out. After some interesting criss cross maneuvers along the path and field that were saturated with the rain I finally made it to the path around the lake. EXCELLENT!!!!

The path turned out to be all of 500m long, it just stopped at the edge of the lake to the left and at the boats you could rent to go on the lake to the right. I was gutted to discover the only way around the lake, other than by boat, was to walk through town. As much fun as that can be it was not the relaxing, zen like hike, I had been imagining all this time. Oh well if you can’t beat ’em may as well walk and explore the main drag, luckily I had forgotten my money at the hotel so had an excuse everytime a seller approached me. I wish I had more money to be able to sit and bargain and interact with all of them, as it is one of the most enjoyable and occasionally frustrating things to do when traveling.

Rent-a-boat

Shopping Trip!

Popped in at Laxmi’s for tea and she said she was going to go to town to get some supplies and look for some cloth for me if I want a traditional outfit. I asked to join and we decided to leave in an hour. Went to get changed and take a rest and then headed back.

We hopped on the local bus and squeezed into a seat. Then enjoyed the 20 minute ride out of the tourist center and into the local shopping center. When we got to our destination we hopped off with barely enough time for both feet to hit the pavement before the bus hurtled off in search of more passengers. Laxmi uses one shop to buy material and the fabric was all absolutely stunning, the colors amazing and the embroidery beyond description. Unfortunately, even with the owner giving me the friend of local discount, it was still too much to pay for an outfit I might never wear. In hindsight I kind of wish I had, but when you are in backpacker penny pincher mode its often hard to see hindsight…

We walked around a bit and she bought us some peanuts to share. They are roasted out in the open, in their shells. Very yummy!!! She also chose some Indian style bracelets and bought us each a set, “a gift for my sister”. Explored some of the local produce and then caught the bus back home.

Prickly Cucumbers…


Fresh Produce on Every Corner

As we boarded the bus and squeezed into the front seat we were rewarded with this, some of the best word art on a vehicle yet… I am still not sure what to make of it!

Ummm… well I guess it’s better than two pieces…

To Stay or To Go

Back in Pokhara I went to my usual wifi spot at Fewa Restaurant to check emails and chat to friends. Chatted a bit with my mate who had been in Pokhara a year before in January about staying or going. He said the weather would clear if I wait another day. But considering the weather reports keep pushing the sun out another day, I am seriously doubting that. I will give it a few more days, but am leaning towards heading back early. At least in Kathmandu I have a great friend who can take me to many places on his bike and show me all the nooks and crannies with yummy local food. Staying in Pokhara is going to result in a serious dip in my bank account as I am just not motivated to go out sightseeing when it threatens, and often succeeds, in pouring with rain each day.

Around 6pm I headed over to the family and helped Gaurab with his homework. He told me that I should come and stay and teach, he would talk to his teacher and get something sorted for me. In his words:
‘Cause you’ve got skill Kathy, you’ve got skill!” Well at least I know I have skills somewhere. Laxmi is just amazed at how he listens to me. Unfortunately she was brought up very traditional and Gaurab, being a boy, barely has to disagree with her decision before she gives in. She changes significantly when her husband gets back, I don’t think he is mean in any way, but she just becomes quieter and more deferential.

I am a little concerned because she has developed a bad cough and was vomiting last night. I wish there was something more I could do, she is so sweet and am so blessed that she adopted me as her sister. Luckily Gaurab has facebook so we can stay in touch a little at least when I leave.

Back “home” involved curling up in bed with the movie channel…

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Annapurna what??

14th November 2012

Pokhara day 3

I woke up to another grey miserable day. If I didn’t know better I would think I was back in Eugene, Oregon where we have about 9mths of grey weather with occasional sun spots. Everyone keeps telling me how amazing the mountain views are, and how paragliding here would be a once in a life time blah blah blah…. Most times I can’t even see across the lake, apparently there is a Stupa that is visible…apparently. Not that I am unhappy enjoying all the sites and sounds of Nepali life, it is truly amazing and I am already developing regular haunts and getting to know people, not to mention being “adopted” by a local family. But lack of sun has a way of making you feel tired and unmotivated.
Mountains? What mountains??!!??

Mountains?? What Mountains??!!???

My days revolve around eating and sleeping and shopping and at this rate I am going to run out of money as there are wayyyyyy to many good things to eat and buy. This afternoon I was stopped by a lady claiming to have walked from Tibet when she was a child, to have about 6 kids and selling jewelry to get by. I told her perhaps on my way back… dang it all if she didn’t keep a watch out for me and catch me as I attempted to buy some small oranges from a guy I had walked past about 10 times. She got me arm in arm and walked me across the street tut tutting at how I had overpaid for the fruit. Then began a very animated and rather enjoyable bargaining session. Her stuff wasn’t the best quality and there wasn’t much that jumped out at me, but it was so much fun I couldn’t help but pick out a couple of things, even if the price was too high. If you are going to be hoodwinked you may as well enjoy it!!

Tibetan food

A friend/writing guru/occasional shrink of mine recommended I go to a local Tibetan restaurant and try their momos. He had stayed in Pokhara for an extended period of time about a year prior while he was traveling and writing and so knew a lot of good places. The momos were AMAZING!!!! They were lightly fried too, which makes everything better. I knew this would become a regular lunch spot for me. I only wish I had taken a picture but the it tasted so good I forgot as I stuffed them in one after the other, attempting not to dip them too enthusiastically into the rather spicy sauce, already experience the after effects of that…

Full Moon!!

After a bit of a nap and some chill out time, all you can really do in weather like this, I headed over to Laxmi’s for dinner. I helped Gaudal (am sure I have a couple of versions for the spelling of his name, I keep hoping one of them is right) with his homework. Then he took me over to a local restaurant that has a nightly cultural dance show. We hovered behind some bushes until the door man asked us if we needed a table, for about the 5th time. He kept looking over at us and so we eventually headed off back to dinner.

As we were walking I looked up to see a tourist couple in front of me, the father their kid on his shoulders. I nearly fell over laughing when I was faced with a very white, very full moon! The kids shorts had slipped during loading onto shoulders and was showing the world his rear. I was giggling but managed to tap the couple on the shoulder. The wife was mortified but amused, the father I think would have stripped with the kid saying its all about freedom. We fell in to chatting and discovered they were from Dresden, one of the cities I would visit in Germany. We planned to meet up the next morning for breakfast. I still get a giggle when I think of that full moon!

Mmmm the power of Dal Baht!!!

Once again Laxmi cooked an outstanding dinner, I am sure eating with your hands had something to do with it. She is an amazing cook and makes it with just enough spice now not to kill me, which I am sure is barely a pinch compared to what they are used to. Then off to bed for sleep.

Contemplation

There is something about this country that makes one stop and think. I feel completely at peace at times but the very next minute agitated. Am sure its all the emotions of this past year and the knowledge that after 1 more country, 1 more month, it will all come to an end. The constant calming sounds of Buddhist chants make one want to sit in the lotus position and simply BE… but unfortunately that only lasts so long, guess then the thinking starts, and its way to dangerous to let that happen…


A Daily Scene in Pokhara

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pokhara cont.

13th November 2011

Shake and Wake

At precisely 5.19am I was awoken suddenly by the earth moving, I swear I only had 1 drink last night. But no it had nothing to with that, as a few seconds later I got a text from Buddha asking if I felt the quake. Turns out it was a 5.0 earthquake that lasted 3sec and was felt all through Nepal. Thinking about the “construction”, to put it lightly, of the buildings in Nepal I fear anything stronger may just collapse the entire nation.

But that thought only lasted a few minutes as I rolled over and went back to sleep. After finally emerging and discovering that there was still no hot water I decided to check out and look for a new place. As I only had to be out by noon, I decided to pop down to Laksmi’s and have some tea and see if I had clean laundry, she had also suggested I move to a place just round the corner as her husband knew the owner.

I really like the Nepali tea, black or milk. It was great to sit and talk with Laksmi, and learn about her life. I showed her some photos of my travels and she was shocked to see the one of me teaching at a zoo holding a snake. My laundry wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be for a couple of hours but she called her husband to come and take me to the Nepal Guesthouse round the corner. While we waited we looked at the shirt I had bought the day before as I wanted an adjustment, but then we noticed it had some fading. Laksmi was very embarressed and offered to exchange it for any of the other shirts, I found a nice long sleeve black tunic style.

When Lamsal, her husband, showed up he took me to meet the owner of the hotel, it was literally 3min from their shop and home. Usually they would charge $15 for a room with a bathroom and tv (including the movie channel!!!). But for me, being friends with the family, they would charge me $10. Sounded good to me and I went to collect my stuff and check out of Hotel Miracle. When it came to pay the not surprising miracle was that they wanted to charge me $15 , but I insisted that I had been quoted $10, so I was able to check out at that price (even if they did use a high exchange rate). Settling in my new place my first step was to have a hot shower. Oh joyous joy of joys. Only fellow travelers who have missed a good shower for over a week will truly understand the sheer pleasure of hot water running through your hair and being able to suds up without the fear of it changing it frigid ice water. The wifi was still weak but I decided I may as well find a restaurant to work in anyway.

Exploring Pokhara

Jens was coming over to meet me so we could walk around Pokhara a bit and then later we were both invited to Laksmi’s for dinner, traditional dal-baht. While I waited I indulged in a Nepali delicacy, Mo’Mo’s. They are like dumplings or potstickers and are filled with veggies, chicken and or buffalo. Yup you heard me right, due to the large population of Hindu’s, cow is not on the menu, however the “tame” buffalo are free game and rather yummy. The waiter did warn me about the sauce, but having had it before I dug in without fear.
Note to Self, Believe the waiter. This was not the same sauce as I had already tasted and I nearly choked as a fire ball singed my esophagus and might have even gone up into my nasal cavity… Just as Jens walked round the corner.

The it was off to explore. There were so many things to see and buy and well I normally hate the very idea of shopping, give me a market where I can bargain and I am in Heaven. We stopped in at a local jewelry store and ended up sitting there for almost an hour having a fascinating conversation with the owner about stones, and semi precious rocks, and old jewelry vs new. It was truly interesting and it wasn’t as if he was trying to sell us stuff (although I am sure he would have loved it if we bought something, preferable the more expensive stuff. Something that was a surprise was that people found fossilized red coral in the mountains, indicating that the himalayas had at one point been under water. The mountains in Nepal and Tibet are a virtual treasure trove of goodies when it comes to stones and gems. As our shop owner told us in frustration, it is a great source of income for the country if only the government did something to control and organize the mining of this resource. As we left I purchased a small bracelet, known as a dragon bracelet. It has carving on the outside and an etched dragon for protection on the inside, made of tin silver. I bargained him down to 650 (about $8), but in the end he gave it to me for 600. A very nice guy and a shop I would return to in the future.

Tin silver bracelet with "Ohm" sign


etched dragon

Coffee Break

As I was almost out of cash we decided to head back, as the rain started we turned up an alley in search of a coffee shop. We found a small place run by two women. They were very sweet and the coffee was rather good. We sat and chatted with them and watched them weave.

Coffee Shop Weavers

We were lucky to find the place because barely 2 sips into our coffee the heavens opened. It was rather impressive actually and there were times when we worried the wind might take the roof off or the rain come through. Finally it stopped enough to pop out, Jens headed to his hotel on the North side and I headed to mine, planning to meet up for dinner at Laksmi’s. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with my diary and watching movies.

An hour or so before dinner time I headed over and helped Gaurab with his home work. He was so excited to have my help and to show me his science project, a well like contraption.

Gaurab and me with his project

Laksmi and Lamsal have another lad who essentially lives with him. I never got his name correct, for the life of me I just couldn’t say it right. At a young age he lost his mother and his father beat him so badly that he broke his arm and he hid in the forest. Laksmi and Lamsal took him on as a shop boy. He is 12 (1 yr older than Gaurab), and spends his days working in the butcher with Lamsal, he comes home for lunch then relieves Lamsal, the same routine for dinner. They can’t afford to send him to school, and he definately has that street wise kid attitude, much to the annoyance of Gaurab. I took a shine to him and could tell he was very bright. Even though he spoke almost no English and my Nepali was non existent we still managed to get a decent amount of communication, most of it teasing each other. A great kid and I take my hat off to Lamsal and Laksmi for caring for him.

Together they taught me a game that reminded me of pool. The difference being that it was on a board and you used your fingers to flick the tokens at each other. Rather painful until you get the hang of it. Just as each of them beat me thoroughly, Jens walked in and so he had a go too.

game time


Jens takes on Gaurab

Finally it was dinner time and I must say it is some of the best food I have ever tasted. Dal Baht also known as Thakali is rice with a soup and various pickles or curries. I had tried it before but it was always too hot. Laksmi is an expert cook and I couldn’t stop eating, it was so yummy. Tasting even better because we were using our hands.

A very good evening, now time for a good night sleep and hoping the sun will come out tomorrow…… 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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