North America, Asia · 15 Days · 63 Moments · October 2017

Jen's Journey in Nepal

28 October 2017

All packed and on the curb at the appointed time. Some of us had more difficulties than others with the packing. Both Carol and Terri had to pay overage fees, but they were able to get all of their things in their bags which was impressive. Jaya and Surendra from RNN came to pick us all up with all of our stuff and drive us to the airport. On our way to the departure area, Aunt Mim gave us each a departing president!! It was a special touch. She really did try to think of everything the whole way and tried to make everyone happy! She was a blessing to us all in this grand adventure.

27 October 2017

We ended the trip as we started it, with a meal in Miriam's house. Maya, the house helper, prepared a beautiful dinner. I am in love with tomato chutney/utchar and smeared it on the new to us flat bread items. We had our ivy gourd again but also had pointed gourd. There was chicken with fantastic spices and potato chutney and again brown rice with coconut, carrots, peas and cashews in it. Everything was delicious!!! Aunt Mim broke out the sarengah (need to check the spelling) and showed us what it looks like and how it is played. However since her hearing has been going she hasn't been able to tune it. That did not stop Elizabeth from playing for quite some time!!! She gave me another present for my birthday, as well if a surprise party wasn't enough. She got me a note card with a beautifully painted piple leaf on the front. We all gave her hugs and she wishes us all blessings and safe travels. We would see her in the morning but it just wouldn't be the same.
Terri, Carol, Melanie, and I went for a little more shopping in Thamel. We got way more stuff than what I ever need and everyone is getting stuff from Nepal for Christmas!! So I won't say what I got here :P We chose a Chinese restaurant for lunch. The menu was a display of pictures on the wall, names weren't even in Chinese. We just pointed and they brought things.... I really wish I hadn't of ordered the mushroom soup. The picture looked like soup with meat in it. Turned out to be mushrooms with a little chunk of meat here or there. Alas, that was what I ordered so that is what I ate. I can say I've eaten more mushrooms in the last week than I have during the rest of my entire life. In Chitwan they would just serve us meals and we would eat them. I had mushroom soup and mushroom chicken there as well. The food has all been very good (jury still out on mushrooms), and sadly I may have gained 10 lbs in a country where people are starving.
Our last morning stop was at the new nutrition program headquarters. We got to meet Roshani Shrestha, who is the current director. However, Mim originally met her out in one of the villages when she was 15 years old. Her brother was malnourished and she took what they were saying and told her mother and her brother is heathy with children these days. The staff joined us for tea and all introduced themselves. They receive very little funding and seem to be barely making ends meet these days, despite the fact the government sends people to them to receive nutrition training. Many of the pictures up on the walls are ones that Miriam took in her traveling days. They have many before and after pictures of the children they helped out. Unfortunately, Elizabeth got sick right before tea and I ended up cleaning puke out of the carpet. Taunia, Elizabeth, and Miriam left from there to head back while the rest of us went for a little more shopping.
Our last day in Nepal was fairly low key. After a hearty breakfast made for everyone by yours truly, we headed out to Mim's. From there we caught taxis to catch a couple of Miriam's old haunts. The first stop we took a look at the first place she stayed as she had language lessons for her first 4 weeks. She said that the language teacher slept half the time. As a good Mennonite girl she daren't touch him to wake him back up so she had to kick his chair. The place is now a private residence. The second stop was at the UMN headquarters. The nutrition program is no longer strictly associated with the UMN so they headquarters are not part of the main complex. Aunt Mim pointed at about every building there saying that she worked in each of them.

26 October 2017

I think I mentioned the traffic of Kathmandu, but it's worth talking about the driving again. I am so thankful we had Bim to drive us everywhere as the roads here are half of my experience. I tried to capture some of the crazy but a picture just doesn't capture the felling of terror that strikes occasionally. This was the 3rd accident we saw this day. The others were a bus and a truck off the side of the road. Loosing control would not be hard with how the Nepalis drive. Passing is allowed everywhere, which makes sense because there are a lot of busses and trucks bat just can't make it up the mountains at a reasonable pace. However, these mountain roads have a new twist and turn every 100 feet so you can never see if there is oncoming traffic to pass. The drivers here are not discouraged, particularly the motorcycles. The other challenge is the bumps and potholes. The roads are all either falling apart or being repaired. Either case leaves the roads in terrible shape.
We continue to see amazing things along the road on each road trip we take. These huge swings are everywhere right now. They were constructed as part of the Dashain Festival. One of the biggest festivals it lasts for 15 days and they just happen to build swings as part of it. We played a road game cows and goats. Each side of the car was a team and you count the number of cows you see until you see a goat. Seeing a goat wipes out the cow count. It's fun for numerous hours especially when the trip is 9 hours long. We had a couple pit stops along the way where we got to use the glorious facilities. I even witnessed the waiter at the lunch stop lick the bottle of hot sauce as he was clearing a table. There are so many swaying foot bridges but today we got to see a hand powered cable car. Unfortunately, it was not in action. Also there were road side water spouts everywhere here. It's not unusual to see dish washing, bucket filling, or even bathing along the road.
We got up bright and early this morning to see the sunrise from Sarangkot. We were not the only ones. A quick jaunt up 20 flights of steps got us to the lookout tower before the sun came out. We watched as the clouds went from grey to pink to orange We even had snow mountains peaking out over the clouds during the early morning hour. Unfortunately, we have had cloudy skies for the last several days which is unusual for post monsoon weather. Usually, post monsoon there are clear days without end. The lookout tower was packed with folks and was not as peaceful as one would hope for a sunrise experience. Our travel group did its part to support the mountain people for the next several months by purchasing things at the little shops. I did make a shawl purchase, because I was a ninny and did not pack warm clothes for this one overnight stay on the mountain top (after being hot the last couple days). Yak wool is quite warm. Pictured is the accumulation of stuff purchased.

25 October 2017

Once we got our bags in our rooms. Tipa the hotel owner offered to show us the way up to the top of Sarangkot. I was mainly confused because when he pointed to where to go it looked like we'd be climbing stair cases across neighboring houses. It was actually a straight forward staircase. We were up there as the snow mountains emerged from behind the clouds. As we got back to the hotel we got to see the sunset reflected on the peaks which doesn't turn out as nice on a camera as in real life. We also had evening tea out on the terrace under the glow of post sunset snow mountains. It's pretty awesome if you're into powerful landscapes and delicious tea. It's worth saying that Tipa was fantastic to us from beginning to end. He had served in the US army and understood American folks and that our cultures are just very different. He ran the hotel with his wife and 4 daughters helping out occasionally. I give his place a gold star!!
17 years ago when Taunia was here last there was a little walkway with stairs leading up to the top of Sarangkot, the mountain top where we spent our next night. Not so any longer. We had this fantastic little road to drive our giant van down, complete with areas where the road was crumbling away and places where you didn't need to swerve to see off the ledge quite close. Himalayan crown lodge was where we spent the night. Each room had a single and double bed and a bathroom with a shower head strategically placed at one end. There was also a balcony restaurant and a staircase to the roof to take pictures of the mountains. Well I'm sure it has other purposes but we took pictures of the mountains.
Day 2 in Pokhara started off with a multi hour boat ride around the lake. We got up and we're able to get breakfast served by 7:30, by putting in our orders the night before. From there they had a paddle boat come and pick us up just up the shore from the hotel. Everyone had fun on the boat and what was planed as an hour or 2 ended up being closer to 4 as everyone was enjoying themselves and we kept telling the guide to keep on going along the shore. We saw lots of different birds along the way and we're even able to get close up shots of the blue king fisher!! On top of that we saw the wagtail wagging his tail, long tail birds, green parrots, a little yellow thing, and an owl. Our guide was paddling the whole time, but most all of us took a turn helping out. Elizabeth did have some height difficulties reaching the pedals. You could also tell how effectively folks were paddling by the sounds ranging from nothing to peeping mouse to yowling cat to steady drum thumping.
I finally took some pictures of Hotel Fly Inn. We had stayed here 2 nights while in Pokhara valley. It was a luxury hotel for what we were paying. Again just like Shiva's Dream in Chitwan the manager here is a friend of Jaya's. There were a couple of quirks to this place. We had a lovely little balcony with a beautiful view over the lake. However to get to it you had to crawl over the bed and out the window. Again this place had the shower head in middle of the bathroom, literally, it was situated between the sink and the toilet. We had to remove the toilet paper before showering. Lastly was the length of time needed to get any kind of food at the restaurant. Nothing came in less than an hour. Even breakfast eggs took 1.5 to get to the table.

24 October 2017

Last stop was for dinner at the mint hut. It was recommended by the hotel. It was a short walk away, down the road and then the sign lead us through a tunnel and down to lakeside seating. The best part of dinner, besides the amazing Nepali set food, was the giant projector screen playing animal planet nature shows. However, not only was there nature shows, but we got to watch a live action nature show as two geckos were running around, lunging, and eating little bugs that were drawn to the light of the projector. This is the face of love Elizabeth gives me after I make her eat half of her chicken momos for dinner. She had picked at her lunch and must have been running on empty by dinner. She wanted to just wait for her banana chocolate crepe after eating 2 momos and deciding she was done. I told her she needed to eat half. She tried also sorts of creative ways to get out of it. I upped my game and caught her each time. I even named a stray dog Eat Your Chicken, she was not amused
The last adventure of the day was the World peace pagoda. When Taunia was here last they had been rowed across the lake and had walked the whole way up. Now you can cheat and drive most of the way there. Aunt Mim and Elizabeth stayed at the cafe and shops in the parking lot while Melanie, Bim, and I headed up to the top. It is a Buddhist Stupa. As you walk around the top layer of it, there are 4 different motifs representing major moments in the Buddha's life: his birthplace, his enlightenment, his first lesson, and his death. While I was there, I am completely fuzzy on some details on the place. Like why it was built and by whom. I think it has been built since the Tibetan refugees came out of China in the hope that there will eventually be peace and they could return home... but that could also totally be a lie. I have no wifi right now or else I'd look it up. Regardless, sunset here was breathtaking, even though we had no snow mountains.
Devi's Falls was a brief stop but definitely worth going. On most days you can see a rainbow from the mists coming off the falls, today was not one of those days. But the multiple falls made it beautiful to see. And the sound of water made it hard to hear much else. I did really enjoy hearing the crashing sound of the water. On site there were also two lingums... which it has just become fun to hear Aunt Mim say 'Ugh lingum' with disgust in her voice or to tells us again that a lingum is a 'peeenis'. Which google tells me it's actually a lingum and a yoni (vagina) coming together, representing both fertility as well as a divine power of creation. So not just penises everywhere for the fun of it. We also stopped and looked at the entrance of Gupteshwor Mahadev cave. It is one of the easier caves to get into, however the entrance was spiraling flights of stairs down and would have to been the same to come back up. 8 and 80 were just not up for it at this point of the day.
A quick stop for lunch of thukpa, a Tibetan soup. As my first thukpa experience I was not prepared for the amount of spice it contained. This had my face turning red and my nose running. And this was from the most spicy hot tolerant one of the group... which Bryon will find hard to understand, since I am the spice weakling at home. At the Tibetan refugee camp we saw many a wondering cow, a handful of bazaar stands but mostly they were all about the hand woven rugs. We saw the ladies working on small chair cover sized mats which take 4 days to make. It was very interesting to see them loop the wool, cut the loops from their 'knitting needle', and shear it to the proper size. And they did it crazy fast. They had a a whole warehouse with many sizes for sale. Melanie got two and Aunt Mim almost got one. If they had had the beautiful peacock in the small size I would have brought one home too. But I am brining a picture or two of them back with me :)
The first stop of our adventure today was at the Mountaineering museum. We found things to look at even waking up to the place. Bim, the driver, round a rudraksha tree. We've seen many necklaces made from their nuts. I also saw a coffee tree ripe with coffee berries. The museum itself was very interesting. It has displays of many of the different mountain tribes and their traditional wear. There was a lot on climate change and how it is affecting the glaciers and glacial floods. There was a geological section with many rocks that make up the mountains here and fossils from the mountains creation out of a ocean floor. They even had a section on the yeti and a mountain for us to climb. One little room in the museum, had a bit of a shrine. This is for people that are embarking on a mountain trek. Friends and family of the trekker are invited to have tea and to say a blessing for the trekker so that they return again safely. This is the custom of the Sherpa people.
As with much of the countryside, Pokhara has been massively built up compared to the way Mim remembers it. What was just a few little shops have become a bustling center of commercialism. At least all of the shops are on just the one side of the lake. From our hotel we have a beautiful view of the undeveloped side of the lake.

23 October 2017

Today was another travel day. Packed and at breakfast by 6:30 and on the road shortly after 7. Despite few stops we only got to Pokhara at 6:30. Mim did take us the long way to avoid landslide prone areas and to have a better view. And the view was truly breathtaking. Beautiful hills again with rice fields built into them, however, a prolonged mist kept us from seeing the snow peaks. We did have a handful of put stops. Early on we stopped for a potty break and tea. If you weren't into tea they always had chicken heads. Once to take some pictures where Taunia stepped in poo and again to clean it off at a roadside water spout. We also stopped for lunch at a roadside tea shop. The family was there as we at with a toddler mother and grandma all helping out. We were all glad when we finally got to our hotel, The Fly Inn. However their hotel bar took about 2 hours to get all of our food, compared to the 1.5 hours we have come to expect

22 October 2017

Bathroom gecko, he has been in there every time I have gone to the potty. He's my little friend.
We also saw more spotted deer and a third rhino. By the time we saw the third we were totally over rhino and wanted to see something new 🤣What a life I am living!!! We learned elephants can live up to 100 years or so and the one we were riding was only 17! You can tell their age by the amount of white/pink on their faces. Also all of the safari elephants were female, males are not often used for domestic work.
The last fun activity of the day was an elephant safari. The elephants had face or butt painting and looked beautiful!! Each one had a square wooden 'platform' on their back that held no more than 4 people. Taunia, Miriam, Elizabeth, and Carol were on one while Melanie, Terry, and I were on the other. The first thing we did after leaving the boarding station was cross the river to get to the jungle. The elephants wove in about several trails that are well worn already. It took a little while to get used to the lumbering sway of the great beast. We had a great sighting of 2 rhinos right beside each other!! What these pics don't show is the cluster of elephants surrounding the rhinos as each mahout brought their passengers in check it out. Sadly, the last is the closest I will probably get to a tiger picture. We saw tracks twice on the trip but no big cat in the flesh. I did get to see a picture taken by other hotel residents during their jeeps safari today.
Once done with breakfast, we hopped in a cart pulled by oxen and took a ride to a local Tharu village. It was interesting getting in and out of the cart but we all made it. It was a lot smoother than expected, particularly as we traveled along bumpy stone roads. I think only having one axle was key, instead of bumping we got a seesaw motion instead. The ride sported views of domestic animals and daily village activities. Since the holiday was now officially over, people were back to work. In this area that means cutting, bundling, and winnowing rice. We took the cart to a Tharu village, the indigenous people of the area. There are still making some of their houses in the traditional way of using elephant grass, covered in cow dung/mud mixture, thatched roofs, and decorated with colorful hand prints. We even made friends with 3 little girls Elizabeth's age and younger. They showed us to the 'museum' and asked for any chocolates we might have.
Things I am grateful for: my giant Nalgene water bottle, my adventuring hat from mom, and a little twisted bit of coat hanger shaped like an S hook from Aunt Mim.
We got up early and headed out at 6:30 this morning to go bird watching. From this experience I can tell you that our group is not made up of bird watching enthusiasts. We were very busy ooooing and aaaaing at flowers and butterflies and wee probably scaring a fair bit Of birds away. Tahkir was patient with us as always as he reminded us we'd see more birds if we were quiet. Unfortunately, birds don't photograph well on my phone as they're small and surrounded by sticks my camera would rather focus on. However we did see quite a few birds as well as elephants, rhinos, and spotted deer. Of the birds, we saw: egrets, parakeets, pond herring, blue kingfishers, black kingfishers, spotted doves, and the endangered great hornbill (I do have his profile on my camera). It was a lovely start to the day to get out and take a walk. However, walking before breakfast had me out of order and I missed a step on my way down the room before we even left. I landed hard on my knee

21 October 2017

Chitwan jeep safari part 2. FREAKING RHINO!!!! I don't think Tahkir thought I was serious when I asked if he could take a picture of me petting the rhino.... The safari actually stopped at a crocodile breeding center. The croc population is ever on the decline, so they raise them here and release them back into the wild. The babies were about 3/4 months old and were soooo cute!!! There were more jeeps on the road on the way back, which meant we saw far fewer animals. I also think the driver was in a rush to get back for the festival as he didn't stop when boar ran across the road. While we did see a brown monkey on the way up (no pictures 😢) we did get to add one more variety on the way back. He had about 2 more friends higher up in the trees. We could see leaves rustling, and a limb here or there but no clear sightings. To top it off we had a lovely sunset for this truly awesome day!!!
We came back to the hotel for lunch and headed out in the afternoon for our jeep safari. It took use deeper into the national park down a stoney road. We saw a mix of tall trees with flat palm type leaves as well as a lot of grassy areas. The ride was very bumpy as we sat atop an open backed jeep with seats for 9 built into it. The ride itself took about 4 hours and we saw most animals in the first half. We were very fortunate that we saw wild boar, spotted deer, and a FREAKING RHINO!!! right along the side of the road. Look for the hidden peacock in the pictures.
Elephant bathing followed the elephant breeding center. Tahkir, our guide, stopped the jeep right along the road and we slipped in between two buildings in town. The path lead quickly into the woods and out to a river. Here two elephants with mahouts were in the water. They helped folks in bathing suits onto the elephants to be sprayed with water. There were those of us as well that stayed on dry land and merely petted the elephants. I was surprised at how tough their skin is. It was near sandpaper texture, it was so rough. In top of that there were course hairs sticking up every so often. It also 'hurt' when his ears fwapped me in the arm as the whole thing was stiff and rough as well.
A short walk from the canoe landing brought us to the elephant breeding center. Due to increasing human population and settlement, wild elephants are on the decline. All working elephants used to be caught as wild calves, because raising them took too long. Here they have several female elephants and their babies to make sure the population continues to exist. It takes 5 years to raise a baby to working age. It is sad that they have them chained down. However, we were told that they tried electric fencing and that lasted 3 months until a wild male came by and tore though it like it was nothing to get to the ladies. Despite being chained, we were told they they go on morning and evening walks through the jungle. The main purpose of the walks is so the mahouts can gather large piles of foliage for elephant breakfast and dinner and the easiest way to transport it is by using elephants. After the breeding center we made a quick drive through a Tharu village.
The mornings first activity involved floating down the (possibly) Rapti River. We got what we're going to call the 'American' treatment... For the dexterity of our party, they actually lashed two wooden dugout canoes together, whereas everyone else got one. The canoes were flat bottomed and they placed little wooden chairs inside that raised you off the bottom as well as giving you a little back support. Tahkir, our guide was fantastic helping everyone up, in and out of the boat. We set out and saw many a croc. Unfortunately, they are good at hiding and the pictures are hard to spot them. 10 minutes in, we heard some spotted deer barks and shortly after we saw the cause. A leopard was on the prowl. What I have here is a picture of Terry's phone, I have a tiny dot of a cat in my camera but we plan on sharing pictures when we get home.
Hotel Shiva's Dream is a very nice hotel considering where we are at, a 3rd world country. The beds have actual mattresses, we have AC, in the rooms, and the fan isn't making squeaking sounds tonight. All 3 meals are included each and every day and they have a lovely little courtyard with a frog pond and hammock. The staff is very attentive, and are ready to get us whatever we need (like top sheets/a second fitted sheet to sleep under). This may be because Aunt Mim's friend Jaya is good friends with the manager here. While some are put off by the bugs (or Terry did walk up with a spider in her bed), sometimes shoddy electrical connects, and geckos in the rooms, I think it's a great place (despite the marsh in our bathroom because they don't have short curtains here - at least we have a tub).

20 October 2017

At last we arrived!! We're staying at hotel Shiva's Dream. We met our local lizards before heading out to see a performance. Two doors down they have a stage where we got to see some traditional dances from the Tharu tribe, native to the Terai flatlands. Fun fact: The Tharu people are actually immune to malaria and smallpox which is why they could live in this fertile area without getting sick and dying off. The Malla kings would exile their hill people to the Terai as punishment, where they would then contract diseases and die. While smallpox and malaria have been eradicated here, I have my shots and pills just in case.
Finally we only had another 1.5 hours after we reached the bottom of the mountain. This last bit was over the Terai or flatlands of southern Nepal. We were all a little exhausted by the end and glad to get to our hotel. The bumpy terrain really threw my Fitbit for a loop. Going slow and bumping it actually thought I was walking or going up stairs. With that in mind, my grand total was 23k 'steps' today and 439 flights of 'stairs'.
We got back on the road and headed down the hill... and by hill, it took us nearly 2.5 hours to get all the way down it. And on the way down we saw 2 different accidents. Taunia pointed out, as one motorcycle passed us, that it's dangerous to have your sari scarf hanging down like that as it may get caught in your spokes and it could lead to choking depending how it's tied. A couple turns down we see the same cycle stopped with them them pulling scarf out of the wheel. It looked like all were well. The second accident was another cycle. This one looked like it hit a stone or pothole the wrong way along the light turn of a switchback. We stopped long enough to ask if they were okay and luckily they just needed to dust off and continue on.
At the top of the mountain we stopped in Daman. There used to be a lookout tower but it was damaged in the earthquake. The folks were we asked directions recommended a restaurant and we headed back down the road a little ways. Once we parked there was a little bit of a hike to get there but not bad. The restaurant we were in had beautiful views of the snow mountains. While we were waiting for lunch, the clouds rose out of the valley to cover up our view. The food, like all places thus far, was awesome!! But very slow in arriving. We have to start building in 2 hours to get something to eat, from the time we sit down to the time we leave.
We got up and were on the cub ready to go by 6:30 his morning, heading out to Chitwan National Preserve. All 7 of us piled into our van with our driver and luggage and were on out way. The sites are truly amazing. I thought I'd have some time along the way to finish up my journal posts from the night before. Boy was I wrong. For about 3 hours, I rode with my head hanging out the window (sometimes literally) just taking it all in. Several parts reminded me of our family trip out to California when I was about 8. First was how disinterested Elizabeth is In amazing scenery. I know at that age I could care less if there were cool trees out the windows, I had a game boy and a Pokémon game. The other part is the way Dad would swerve to the edge of the road saying so you want to see it closer... here there was no swerving needed. We had to Up close and personal with cliff sides just so cars could pass. It was an adventure.

19 October 2017

After all of the adventures out and about, Aunt Mim invited us back to her house for Birthday dinner. We arrived and settled in for the delivery to get there. She said she was having it delivered to the downstairs neighbor because she didn't know what time we would be back. She went to check if it had arrived and low and behold, she had several friends from Rescue Network Nepal, the land lady, and church members with her!!! I was thoroughly surprised at my first surprise party!!! We ate momos, a Nepali dumpling, and pizza. A couple folks gave me a scarf, a traditional Nepali present at celebrations. We had delicious chocolate cake, and in traditional fashion, after I cut the first piece, Aunt Mim fed it to me by hand. And they all sang happy birthday to me, while I wore my birthday hat. When all was said and done, I had a fantastic birthday!!!!
Swayambhunath is also known as the monkey temple and was the last stop on our Thursday adventure. It has over 350 steps up to the top of the temple which is crowned with a Buddhist Stupa. There are also several smaller shrines dedicated to Hindu gods on the peak. As soon as you start up the steps you see monkeys crawling, jumping and grooming throughout the area. We even saw a monkey startle a woman who tripped down a couple of stairs dropping her coke. The industrious monkey quickly snatched the coke, climbed up a tree, twisted the cap off, and started imbibing. The climb also allowed for beauty views out over the city.
Ason Tol is one of the oldest and longest running open air markets. It is known primarily for its produce and we saw lots of it. The street vendors were in store fronts, pavilion shops, in bike carts and on the sidewalk. Not only were there vendors everywhere, but the press and squeeze of humanity was overwhelming. To top it off, motor bikes were weaving through the people everywhere. We had a lovely Chinese lunch shared on a lazy Susan table. The food was excellent but we were sat beside a group of men that were getting loud and drunk and smoking up a storm, which you can do here. Thamel was the next continuation of the market and is known for their wool products. Between the two markets all wallets were a little lighter. Carol and Terry are hard core shoppers and were doing their best to support the Nepali economy. Elizabeth even perked up today and enjoyed helping Carol choose her purchases.
Kathmandu Durbar Square was hopping with people. There were worshippers at the temples, tourists visiting the sites and many, many vendors. This was the last and largest of the Durbar Squares. Unfortunately, the palace museum was closed for Tihar. Today was one of the 2 most sacred days for this 5 day festival- the worship of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. Despite the museum being closed the palace guards opened the doors for us and let us peak our heads inside and look around. No pictures though. The courtyard was large and you could see the building where the entire royal family was birthed. We stopped by the temple of the living goddess. With her courtyard full of visitors Miriam thought she may make an appearance, but we only waited a few minutes and she did not appear. There were many more temples and statues around the area. The fun thing to watch today though was how the street vendors flocked around Carol. They could almost smell she would cave and buy their wares.

18 October 2017

It may have been the early start to the day, but by the end we were all tired and nerves were frayed. Our driver, who had been spot on up till this point was waiting at a different exit for us. We had to wait 45 minutes before he got the car turned around to get us. During that time we got to turn down folks trying to sell us things and watch the crazy of the street intersection before us. We happily climbed in and collapsed for the 45 minute ride back to Goshen House through traffic. Too tired to find something to eat, we had ramen noodles Aunt Mim had supplied us with with candy bars for dessert. Shower and journaling have kept me up way later than I should be awake, but at this point it is just less than an hour till my birthday. If I was at home ida still have to wait another 10 hours!!!
Our last stop for the day was Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Sadly the main temple area experienced massive damage during the earthquake of '15 and many temples were down. We were able to see the 55 window palace with its intricate woodwork, as well as the golden gate. We also saw the 5 story Nyatapola Temple from our rooftop luncheon restaurant. While the food was good it took nearly an hour and a half of our day, too long. However the view was great. In top of the temples, the square was filled with an open air market, with every type of produce and product being sold. While here we got to see pottery being made, and the start to finish process for making paper. We also stopped in many shops along the way.
As the second day of Tihar, folks here worship dogs. As such, the multitude of strays were wearing mallas and marked with tikas on their heads. Pashupatinath temple was no exception. Pashupatinath Temple is a place of death. The main structure is devoted to Shiva and has a giant golden statue of his faithful steed, Nandi the bull at its main entrance. Only practitioners of Hindu can enter. It also has a lot of phallic imagery, lingam are everywhere. However, we did get to witness one of the main functions, death rights. We saw a body being unloaded from a car. Then the deceased's feet were dipped in the Bagmati River while rituals were performed. Finally, they were carried to a pier, where the body was cremated. There are homes on site where people come to live their last weeks of life so that they can be reincarnated in human form in their next life.
As the first stop after our early flight we were all ready for breakfast. After entering the Stupa area we found the first place that served breakfast, golden eyes, and got American type bacon and eggs breakfast foods. Boudha Stupa is a Tibetan Buddhist holy location with multiple origin stories. It is an enclosed structure with the Stupa in the center and many shops and stores in the outer courtyard wall. The Stupa has prayer wheels (rotating cylinders with a prayer written inside. It is believed that the prayer is said every time the cylinder rotates) surrounding the base the whole way around. Several hundred prayers would be said if you rotated them all. There was also a very large one in the entry way for the stairs to climb to the first level of the roof. On top of all of the shops along the outer wall. There were also several more temples each with giant Buddhas, as well as monks chanting and playing horns and drums.
The flight was an amazing experience!!! As we took off we got to see the full sprawl of Kathmandu. It is a short but expansive city. We also got to see the smog line where all of the air contaminates don't get to leave the city because it's situated in a valley. As we moved away from the city we could see the majestic Himalayan mountain range. As we approached the mountains were to the left of the plane and on the right (my side) coming back. My first good look at them and Everest was when they called us to the cockpit pit one at a time to see out the front window. However, we were still fairly far away. However, the second time I went up, we were much closer and the copilot was kind enough to snap the shots for me. He did a much better job, see if you can spot the difference. On the way back I had the full view of all of the mountains. It was just amazing that many of them were over the cloud line so that the peaks looked like islands in a lake of clouds.
It may have been the early start to the day, but by the time we had walked through Bhaktapur everyone was tired and nerves were fraying. Our driver, who had been spot on up till this point was waiting at a different exit for us, and we ended up waiting 45 minutes for him to come get us. We got to people watch and view the crazy which was the intersection before us. We gladly piled in when he got there and Elizabeth fell asleep on my arm on the car ride back to Goshen house. Too tired to go out for dinner we heated up ramen noodles in the kitchen and followed it up with chocolate. Showers and journaling have kept me up way later than I should have been tonight. But at this point it is only an hour till my birthday!!! If I was back home in Philly I'd still have to wait another 11 hours.
It was an early morning. So of course, my mind decides to wake me up at 3 instead of 4:30 like it should have. Today was the first day with our personal van and driver who picked us up at 5:15 and took us over to the domestic airport. I'll be better about getting his name tomorrow... The day started auspicious as we could actually make out the mountain outlines in the morning haze, the first day we got any glimpse of them at all. Security was fairly lax, although we did get a scan and a pay down. But the pat down woman didn't even want to see the phone and camera she had patted in my pockets. We quickly got tickets and waiting around in the domestic terminal for a bit. We hopped on a small Buddha Airline propeller plane that holds 18.

17 October 2017

After the bead shop our group split up. Terry, Carol, and Melanie went back to Patan Durbar Square for more shopping and to see the temple museum. Taunia, Elizabeth, Aunt Mim, and I all went back to her house for leftover dinner and then out to her Wednesday night Bible study group. It was a lovely evening spent with my aunt, seeing what her life is like in Nepal. A handful of the prayer group spoke English but everything was conducted in Nepali. It was hosted at the house of the woman that ran the bead shop. She was very happy to have us there and to meet Aunt Mim's family. She even made soup for a snack after the discussion was over. We had two offers for dinner from different members. It was very nice of them all. Everyone here has been so friendly!!
Our last stop together as a whole group was at a bead shop run by women in dire need. They are either abuse victims, their husbands are out of work and so no money comes in, or like here they are single and trying to get their kids through school. They had lovely beaded necklaces, bracelets and Christmas ornaments. Getting to the shop was an adventure. Rescue Network gave us a lift... with 8 of us in a jeep driving down the crazy streets. Piled on top of each other. Not to mention, some folks had some difficulties getting into the vehicle. A video would have been worth its weight in gold.
For lunch we went to Rescue Network Nepal, an organization that Aunt Mim helped to found. They go to remote villages and train folks there in different emergency response, first aid, and general nutrition. These remote villages have to wait days for government assistance to get there. So they are going out there to show people how to treat and stabilize injuries until the patient can get more permanent help.
First thing we went to the zoo. There were a lot of animals native to the area so I'm guessing it would be like Zoo America at Hershey. There were baby monkeys that were adorable but the cutest were the bears. We stood there watching them playing in the water. They were wrestling with each other and even belly flopping into the water.
Some pictures of our hostel. We have a shared living room kitchen with beautiful woodwork. Taunia and Elizabeth have their own bathroom. However, Terry and Carol have a shared bathroom downstairs and Melanie and I share our bathroom with even more people upstairs. However the downstairs bathroom is unique in that there is no actual shower, just the shower head on the wall.

16 October 2017

Our last stop of the day was for dinner. We were able to successfully call Taunia to have her come meet us down the end of the road at a local restaurant. There was mixed reviews on the food, but my buttered chicken was fabulous!
Our last cultural stop of the day was Patan Durbar square. It is one of 3 squares in the valley. This one has a palace of the Malla kings and 3 big temples left after the earthquake. The palace has a golden window and all sorts of fine carved wooden windows. Three big temples remain and are all under some level of repair, while I believe one was completely destroyed. The ones remaining are the Krishna temple, Taleju temple and Vishwanath temple, which unfortunately lost all of its erotic statues in the earthquake. There are many smaller temples in the surrounding area. There was some shopping done at the square and we even had a break for hot lemon honey, pretty much like a hot Lemonaide sweetened with honey. The tea house overlooked the square. While resting we got to watch some youths dancing spreading their anti online bullying message.
After lunch we made a stop at a cell phone store. Everyone else was able to get SIM cards for local internet and the ability to call each other, alas it did not work for me. However, this experience tried Elizabeth out. So Taunia elected to take her back got Goshen house to sleep off some of the jet lag. The rest of us got our first real experience traversing the streets of Kathmandu. Walking along in Kathmandu could be considered an extreme sport. For the most part, there are no sidewalks. The street goes from empty of every thing. To an intersection with cars coming from 5 directions with motor scooters side swiping you on be right as bikes clip you on the left. Luckily, on the back roads where that happens they can't move at high speeds. Other than crazy cars, the buildings are filled with many varieties of little shops: baskets and home supplies, metal works, jewelry, tea, scarves, fabrics, and interspersed throughout it all are tons of temples.
The final product!! There was chicken, rice-with soy beans and coconut, squash from a neighbor, radish pulled this morning with their greens, tomato chutney, spicy potato chutney, cauliflower with their greens, and kidney beans. Everything was fantastically flavored, and most things included a combination of fresh garlic, fresh ginger, turmeric, and chili powder. On top of that sever dishes were prepared with bay leaves. And unlike the ones at home, there is no chance of loosing them when they come about as big as your hand!!! For dessert there was palmalo with yogurt. Pamalos are a citric citrus fruit that are grapefruit like but the grow about 3 times as big.
It was suggested that we would be interested in learning to make a Nepali meal when Miriam came to visit this summer. For this endeavor Aunt Mim enlisted the help of her house helper, Maya. She lives in the city with the youngest of her 3 daughters while she is going the school. Bryon should have definitely been the one to get these lessons as I'm sure he would have been impressed with, the spices used, the way Maya whipped a meal out of the random ingredients we brought home, and the fact she never used a measuring implement. While I did try my hand at gutting an ivy gourd, and even crushing a spice blend of, cardamom, cinnamon and one other local thing, I learned more of a language lesson. Words I've learned thus far: Dan ya vad- thank you Ca gue - cashew Mee toe - delicious Cut tea- how much/ many Ma sue - meat Nun - salt Teak cha - okay it's okay A lune - potato
We got up bright and early to start our day. I made eggs, milk and toast to get going. Things are servers hostel style so all of the ingredients were here you just get to make it yourself. Aunt Mim came to pick us up about 9 o'clock and we started out to a small market to pick up some veggies for lunch. Our selection included milk, ivy gourd, tomatoes, and cauliflower. A short walk took us to Aunt Mim's apartment. Like most places a big metal gate separates the building from the road. Inside the 'courtyard' sits a patch of grass, a chicken coupe, a veggie garden (where we got our lunch radishes) and a shed for Miriam's motorcycle. On the first landing is an oasis of orchids and other plants as well as couple of wicker chairs and the door to her place. The walls are covered in her own art from her time as an art student, while the floors are all pink and beige marble. It is perfectly sized for one. It also has a flat roof with mountain views on a clearer day.

15 October 2017

We have arrived at our destination!!! There were some long flights and long layovers but all in all the travel was uneventful, no full stops halfway down the runway. Aunt Mim had a warm welcome waiting for us!! She had marigold garlands for all and a special thistle one for Elizabeth. She brought 2 friends from Rescue Network Nepal to pick us up at the airport and take us to Goshen House where we'll be staying for the next several nights. We got rooms and water situations all figured as well as our itinerary for the next two weeks. To top it off, she got everyone personalized mugs!! Tomorrow should be an easy day with the big plans of making lunch at Aunt Mim's house, but there may be a flower festival right down the street tomorrow that we can check out. Fingers crossed for flowers!!!
Made it safe and sound to the Doha airport in Qatar. Had a wonderful pastry and tea for midnight snack/breakfast depending which time you use. Was nice to have a chance to rest up with Terry, Carol, and Melanie.
It's take off time!!! Thankfully this flight started off uneventful, no multiple runway trips here!! Terry and Carol had tickets together near the rear of the plan. Taunia, Elizabeth, Melanie, and I had seats together in the middle section of the plane. Also, the flight was highly undersold. After starting in a row with Taunia and Elizabeth, I hopped rows and grabbed one all to myself! More leg room and all of the pillows you could want. Also fancy Qatar airways hands out bags of amenities (socks, face masks, earplugs, and lip balm) as well and providing a full selection of movies, Lego Batman here we come!!
Plane games on our way out!!! Playing a little group Quiddler in the airport while we had the time
Ran into friends in the airport too!!! It's an exciting start!!

13 October 2017