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Seoul, Korea – Week 2

Revisiting Olympic Park – Peace Gate

When I lived in Seoul I was part of an inline skating group called OOPS. Now, many might think this name perfectly appropriate especially for first time skaters, but in truth it means Out Of Park Skaters and they never even realised the irony of the name until I kept repeating it every time I fell.

Being part of that group was another reason why my time in Korea was so fantastic. They accepted and made me part of their inner circle without a moments thought or hesitation and I got to experience far more of the Korean culture (especially the drinking part) than I would have without them.

We used to meet every night at the Olympic Peace gate at Mongchongtosong subway stop on the pink line. There was always a sense of peace and relaxation at this park with reflecting ponds and the eternal Olympic flame. Returning to meet up with one of my closest friends from OOPS seemed like the perfect combination. I couldn’t wait to sit under the arch and relax, so leaving early to have some time to contemplate I headed that way. Unfortunately when I exited the subway I discovered a massive event going on, people and security everywhere. Well there goes the contemplation idea. Security was super tight and everything was blocked off, but I managed to find a spot to sit and watch the goings on.

So Young arrived a little late but we recognised each other immediately! It was amazing to see her, and it surprised me again how seeing someone after so long with only minimal contact can still feel like I met them last week. We giggled and talked and laughed and headed off to find some lunch. Behind the Olympic Park area is a back alley section with tons of restaurants and bars, walking through there was like dejavu. I even remembered us all visiting some of the places (my mind sometimes amazes me). We went to one of our regular hang outs from 8yrs ago and had Korean BBQ. Delicious as usual.

So Young and me at Korean BBQ

Then a short walk to Jamsil station area and coffee and cake. Not quite sure how we managed to fit in the massive slice of honey cake, but it was delicious. So Young agreed with Number 1 that I should return to teach… who knows, maybe I will.

Honey Cake

So Young and Honey Cake

We planned to meet for dinner the next night and said farewell. I truly hate saying goodbye.

The Dangers of Korean BBQ

Sunday was a very chill day, I made a big breakfast for everyone and then relaxed most of the day. Later Jamie and I explored some of the neighborhood and then headed off to meet So Young for dinner. We went to the same Sam Geup Sal (Korean BBQ) place we had been to the first night. The owner remembered us and especially Jamie being vegetarian.

We had a great evening and while Jamie practiced Korean with So Young, I ate… and ate… and ate. It was so yummy and even though I was full I thought just one more piece. Also it is very Korean to pass pieces over to friends and you can’t say no, So Young and I were doing this to each other all night. I ate so much my stomach hurt to breathe.

Later Jamie headed home and we headed for cake and coffee. We found a place with a slice of chocolate heaven and sat down to enjoy. About mid way through I had a stabbing pain in my upper right side of my back when I inhaled. It was like someone had punched me and bruised my ribs. So Young and I walked around a bit to see if that would help but finally had to say goodbye. I will miss her tons and hope to see her again before I leave.

I hobbled home and as I got in I collapsed on Jamie’s bed clutching my back and hyperventilating saying “I…. think….. I …. hurt…. my ….back”. She looked really concerned and then said “do you think you have to fart?”. Ummm well I hadn’t thought of that since it was so high up. But yes, in the end it turned out to be severe indigestion… note to self, moderation…moderation!!

Boston Campus Revisited

During my 3yrs in Korea I worked at a hogwan, after school program, called Boston Campus. I came for 11mths and after 3yrs my mom asked if I was ever going to return home, I simply renewed my contract each year and flew home for a month in between to keep my green card active.

Hoping onto the number 5 purple line I headed towards Sangil Dong. After some confusion trying to remember how one of the transfers worked I arrived. Up till now my memory had been pretty good at finding the right exits and such but I had to admit, nothing looked very familiar. I took the exit 4 and then decided it must have been exit 1 so walked above ground till I found it. Still nothing! Finally I called number 1 (my code name for my first taekwondo master) and asked. As I started asking I remembered it might have been the stop before, Godeok. Damn it all to heck, so close and yet so wrong! So back on the train and off to Godeok. This time I remembered the exit and found the school no problem.

I couldn’t believe how much it looked the same after 8yrs, everything was the same, from the art work to the plastic flowers. Janet, the head teacher was still there and she remembered me, so did the art teacher. Janet and I chatted a bit and she told me how bad the economy was and how they don’t pay very much, but if I ever want a job I am welcome back.

Then I went upstairs to find the Principal, we called her the Professor. She wasn’t there but one of the cleaner ladies went to find someone. It was Mr. Lee, he remembered me, but not my name, and he was so happy to see me. He called the Prof and said she was coming. Then we stood for a few minutes with him just smiling, his English is still non existent even after all these years working at an English School.

The Professor arrived a few minutes later and was thrilled to see me, she just stared and me at first and then pointed to a picture of me from a calender that was taken in 2002. “Every now and then I look at it and think of you!”… Awww that’s kind of sweet. She also insisted that I call if I decide to come back and work in Korea.

Afterwards, I walked around the old ‘hood for a bit and explored the shopping center I used to get steamed Mandu in. Finally stopping for a bite of donkas (fried pork cutlet).

Luggage Games
I spent the evening playing luggage tetris on Air Asia, trying to figure out the cheapest and safest way to check my bags. I opted for 40kg checked from Seoul to Bangkok and 15kg checked with 20kg sports going through to Surat Thani.

What’s in a Name

I was meant to meet my good friend, and language exchange, Jinsoo, for lunch. I went to spend some time at Olympic Park without the thousands of people from the week before and was thoroughly enjoying the memories when Jinsoo texted me that he had to go out of town for work. Always, Korean’s work way too hard.

Olympic Park Eternal Flame

I met Jinsoo through my Korean co-teacher, Esther. He was her brother and wanted to have some English practice and since I needed to learn Korean, Esther thought it was a perfect fit. I think he had more work to do than me as his English was fantastic. He taught me to read the symbols of Korean, and now prefer to read it that way than with the western alphabet, he taught me the sounds and the inflections and made it possible for me to pick up a reasonable amount of Korean.

He also gave me my name, Park Da Hi. Park being his last name and Da Hi meaning “big happy, always happy”. When he first told me he wanted to give me that name he said he couldn’t because it was the name of his hamster. And we all know you can’t be named after an animal…. 2 weeks later he arrived to our study session literally beaming!

He proudly announced “I have great news! My hamster is dead!”
I looked at him in confusion and said “why is that a good thing, I am sorry.”
Response, “but that means now you can have the name!”

So, yup you guessed it, I am named after a dead hamster…

Namdaemun Revisited

Wednesday I went to Namdaemun Market again in search of postcards and to see if I truly could find the curio shop I used to frequent all those years ago.

Instead of following my instincts from the subway I looked at the sign and promptly got myself lost. I forgot how truly big Namdaemun was. Eventually I found exit 5, my usual location for exiting the subway and then could orientate myself.

I had a flashback to the past for breakfast. Flat dough fried on a griddle filled with cinnamon and sugar that is hot and melted, truly spectacular.

I kept thinking I was finding my store but there was just something that didn’t feel right about them. Also finding just 5 postcards seemed impossible, only packs of 15. Guess the age of letter writing is going out the door. Then one of the sellers suggested I look down the row and 2 streets over and there was a store that had single cards. I walked down but didn’t get far as low and behold there it was… My Store!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was 100% certain it was the right one. I asked the guy if the store had been there for over 10 yrs and explained how I used to come in almost every week with teachers and even brought my parents here. He wasn’t working back then but he was thankful that I came back. I ended up buying a fan, a pack of postcards that was half the price every other seller had them for, and he also included a little cell phone dangly of a little Korean Drum as “my gift to you”. Yup, this is the place I remember.

On my way out I stopped to pick up a box of yummy delicacies. The maker takes honey that is spun into fine strands like spider webs and then encase some peanuts or almond filling inside them. Absolutely divine. Although when I mailed some home one year, there was an anthrax threat for letters and here came a box to my parents with fine white powder leaking out the one side. Something to remember when boxing them next time.

The honey candy guy – all comedians I am sure

Returning home on the 1hr subway ride home, I felt exceptionally satisfied with myself. 1hr there , 1hr exploring and 1hr back, and all worth it!

I had my favorite spicy chicken pieces and some left over rice for dinner. Think they put extra spice this time, as I lost feeling in lips for about an hour.

Spicy!!!!!

Sisterly Reunion

Today I get to have a reunion with one of my closest friends during my time in Korea. Esther was my co teacher during the first 2 yrs and we became very close. I went to her parents for Korean Thanksgiving one year and spent lots of time with her. I have not spoken or emailed her for almost the full 8yrs. For some reason we just sent messages through Jinsoo, her brother, who uses facebook. Esther tried to use Facebook but never got the hang of it.

I also get to meet her daughter, Christine.

While I waited I grabbed a subway waffle, used to love subway travel just for the food stalls. So yummy and filled with cream like stuff.

We met in the artsy market of Insadong. I used to love coming here just to walk around and look at all the different paintings and paper works and curios.

Lanterns made of Paper

For lunch Esther insisted on buying, I had mandu soup (like chinese dumplings).

Esther had a beef bulgogi broth type thing. So yummy.

We explored Insadong, found the post office and mailed my postcards. Then we took a taxi to Myeongdong as I wanted to show Esther and her daughter the cat cafe. Turns out her daughter loves cats and really wants one, but Esther is nervous as she has never had a cat before. Well, visiting the cafe is great practice.

I looked for Juno, my friend from the last visit and found her hiding in the back of a dark spot on top of a fridge that was keeping her extra warm. She did pop out to say hi though.

There are so many pictures I would be loading them all day. The easiest way to see more is to click on the blog where my flickr photos are. Hope you enjoy them.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye, only after a photo op with the mascot of course.

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Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Korea, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Seoul, Korea – Week 1

1 Oct 2012

Flying United

You would think by now I would be an expert at packing. But add in some dive gear and I am lost… Trying to fit in my fins turned out too much work.

The most important aspect to my packing was my faithful friend, who traveled all year with me in 2011 and never once demanded a mention. Well here he is my faithful African Wild Dog:

The shuttle picked me up at 3.45am for my 6am flight. I wonder why I do flights at these ungodly hour, literally before the butt crack of dawn.

My fabulous, amazing parents allowed me to use air miles to get a flight to Seoul on United Air. I have flown United many times and usually they are ok, not brilliant but ok. Well this flight lived up to all the expectations… of other people who say United is shite! The flight attendants looked miserable and never smiled, only offering water once during a 6hr section of the trip. They even refused to help anyone with their bags. So much for it being a customer service based industry. The lunch they served was almost inedible, it tasted like they had warmed the salad up with the “chicken” dish. They had also run out of choices by the time they got to me and the back half of the plane, and of course the only choice they had was the one I didn’t want.

The entertainment was still the old way with the TV in the center of the aisle every few rows, and about 25 people didn’t have any sound… it was a 12 hr flight! But it felt like longer.

Luckily the passengers were super nice in my area, some of them helped me get my bag up into the overhead as the attendant just glared at us. As I got to my seat, I realised there was a couple behind me with a 8mth old little one, named Hudson. My first thought was “blooming hell, 12 hrs with a screaming child”. But then the mom handed out little pieces of paper attached to ear plugs introducing little Hudson and apologizing for nay crying. You can’t be angry when the parents are considerate.

My seatmate was flying her first international flight and was super nervous. She tried to upgrade, even to first, but they refused to let her since she had already boarded, once again United steps up to the plate. She had booked a window seat and been assured she would get one but instead she had the 2nd seat in from the aisle in the 4 seat section. I had the aisle, and I would have switched but I couldn’t do a 12 hr flight in an inside seat.

She was on her way to visit her husband for their anniversary, he is a soldier at the Yongsan Army base in Seoul. We chatted a lot and I helped her through immigration and customs.

Old Friends

As we came through the doors I saw Jamie, I had not seen her in almost 8yrs. We met on a Korea Tourism trip and had stayed in contact ever since. When I told her I was planning to go to Thailand she said I should visit her in Seoul as she would be returning there to do 2yrs at an international school. Sounded like a plan to me and it meant that I could try meet up with Korean friends and hopefully my taekwondo masters.

It was fantastic seeing Jamie and chatting about everything, both good and bad that had happened in the last few months. The shuttle bus took almost an hour to get to her place and then we hopped in a taxi to go the last 10min rather than lugging my bags… I was already sleep walking as it was. After a shower I felt much better and then we headed out for my first meal of Sam Geup Sal (Korean BBQ with thick bacon like pork), my favorite.

Visa Run

Wednesday turned out to be a public holiday so we couldn’t go to Itaewon (the Foreigner area) till Thursday. We spent Wednesday meeting a friend of Jamie’s to help her with an application essay. I was really jetlagged and tired, but after some Donkas (fried pork cutlet) I felt much better. We also went for coffee and a delicious brownie. I ordered an iced coffee and had to pay 200won for the ice, how funny is that!

Then we walked around Namdaemun market (South Gate Market). One of my favorite places from when I lived here. I was still able to find my way around even after 8yrs…

Thursday morning we got up early to find the Thai Embassy in Itaewon. If Jamie had not been with me I would have been lost for sure!! To find the Thai Embassy you go out exit 3 and walk straight until you see, what I termed, the lego building on your left, then turn right and go downhill till you find the embassy on your right.

I went to pull my number noting about 20 people in front of me. As I pulled number 4 the dinnger dinged and showed 4, well that was quick. Less than 5min later we were out the door and I could pick up the visa in the morning. Turned out I couldn’t get the 90 day visa, as I hoped, as the letter from Lotus Divers was not an original.. dangit. But I have a 60day visa and can do a visa run to the immigration office near where I will be staying.

Time for breakfast at a place called Gecko’s, Jamie, being a veggie, ate all the non meat, I cleaned up the rest. Then a treat for ourselves, a pedicure. Bit more expensive than I would have liked but it was fun. Of course in the subway on the way home a lody rushing for the door stood on my foot and took off half the paint on my left big toe. Dammit!!!!

Meeting Masters

Jamie headed home but I went to meet my 1st Taekwondo Instructor, Master Kim Eun Cheol. I hadn’t seen him in over 8yrs. He had sent me text saying I must go to Jamwon and exit 4. Finding his school again was going to be a miracle, but then again if I can find a curio shop in the middle of Namdaemun market, there was hope. Low and behold I found it. I just walked straight then a left and then there was something about the door across the road that looked right, 3 floors up and woohoo, there was Sindong Taekwondo.

Now, since I had 2 masters during my 3yr stint in Korea, it became easier to describe them as Number 1 and Number 2 when talking to my mom. So for future reference that is how I will write them here.

Number 1 was out of the office when I got there but his assistants, who spoke no English, looked like an honored guest had arrived and scurried around finding me coffee and getting me a chair, it was kind of cute. They called number 1 and he said he was bringing the van and to bring me downstairs. There was much bowing and smiling when they took me to meet him.

I got in the van and it was like we had just seen each other last week. He took me to lunch at a place famous for its beef soup and kimchi, delicious. He showed me pics of his 2 kids and caught me up on all the other masters I had known. He called number 2 who nearly had a heart attack when he tried to give me the phone, as he was terrified of speaking English to me. It was all rather bemusing.

Back at his gym we chatted more and he told me about his second gym he had opened. We planned to get everyone together and meet at the restaurant of one of the masters, Maximus had opened a korean BBQ place and also had a gym. I looked forward to seeing all of them, but wasn’t holding my breath as we all know how busy Koreans can get.

Back at “home” I made Jamie some Pasta Italiano, thanks again to vet Nicola from Italy who taught me the recipe in the jungle of Ecuador. It has been a favorite of all my vegetarian friends.

Visa in my Hot Little Hands

Friday I got an early start and left a note for Jamie. Got to Itaewon and went straight to the embassy. This time I had to wait a whole 2min before it was my turn. What a pretty visa it is, 60days sorted need to make a visa run to Koh Samui at some point to get a 30 day extension.

Then went back to the nail place to have my pedicure fixed, no problem and no charge. The fascinating thing was, that when she switched on the dryer for my toes, there was air blowing. Yesterday there hadn’t been any and I just assumed it was one of those ultra violet type ones… no wonder the pedicure didn’t dry properly.

The Insanity of Myeongdong

Jamie is a bit different to me on the shopping scale. In other words she got the shopping in stores and malls gene while I didn’t, much preferring the open market crowds vs the mall type crowds. She needed to get a few things for winter and so we planned to meet at Myeongdong. I think I have been to this area once, and now I remember why. It was blaring music and signs and lights and people…

Since she was running a little late I went to find a coffee shop, which turned out to be harder than expected. Eventually desperate to get off the insane street I picked a place and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, a lemon tea for 5500 won ($5.50). It tasted like hot lemon crystal light with a piece of lemon in it and it looked a rather luminous yellow color. But it was out of the noise and street so I guess that’s what you pay for.

Did You Say Cat Cafe???

Jamie, still recovering from being sick, arrived and looked pretty miserable and sick, but we decided to give shopping a try. As we walked towards H&M I saw a sign for a Cat Cafe… I insisted we go look, Jamie thought it was just some stupid name, but I was certain it was like the ones in Japan I had heard of, where you have a coffee and can sit with a bunch of cats.

It was heaven and the cats were fantastic. Only photos can do it justice:

This little bugger is in time out for peeing on a customers bags and escaping.


Our favorite Juno, who gave Jamie some much needed kitty therapy

After some much needed cat therapy Jamie looked much better and was able to shop all afternoon. Can’t say that I faired very well, but then when we figured out the girls outside the beauty shops were enticing us with free face masks and such I was much better. You don’t have to buy you just have to look. Sounds good to me and I get free stuff… I really have no shame in that department, Jamie felt bad though and bought something in almost every shop.

Stir Fry and a Korean Movie about a Tsunami that wipes out Busan (city in the south).

1 week down another to go. So many things to see and do and friends to meet up with…

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in RTW, 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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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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