Saturday, April 23, 2011


• My last full day in Nepal • I'm up by 6:30 with the sun streaming in our windows & hitting my book - it looks like it will be a lovely day • The dogs have finally quieted down, the birds are chirping, horns honking and all is good in my little corner of Kathmandu - all but my stomach • I've taken another antibiotic, an off stomach is something I do not want to be dealing with as I travel home - my first flight, from Kathmandu to Hong Kong leaves tonight at 11:30 • Nepalese music is blasting from a neighbor's house & pigeons are cooing on a roof near by • Lucked in and had another hot shower - must be the lack of people in the hostel • I am going to savor my last day here • Kitti, Morgan & I decided to have a leisurely day in Thamel, after I packed up my gear in the morning • I thought purchasing some croissants from the Dutch bakery for the plane might help my stomach as I travel • I stood in the sun & beautiful weather, knowing it would be the last nice weather I would see for a while • I even managed to get a red nose • I wanted to check in with our seamstress to make sure she got the correct measurement for my pant length, and, much to my surprise, my outfits were done • Wow - yet again • I tried on the tops over my t-shirt, and one neckline was not as I requested, but, it was quite pretty so decided not to have it altered • Both Kitti and Morgan had gone off to get their pieces to have alterations done (Morgan a Sari top and Kitti had a pair of pants made) • I sat patiently on the stool in the tiny little sewing store while they ironed my outfits • All three of us were given a scarf from our seamstress, because we had given her some material we bought, which we didn't use in the end • See what I mean about generosity - it came when you least expected it - and it was very touching & humbling • This whole trip has in fact been very humbling - it has put things in check for me - what is important, who is important and what should be important • Sometimes, I think it takes living another lifestyle for you to note things with such clarity, at least it does for  me • I never got culture shock - I've done a bit of traveling in my day - so didn't expect to - but at the same time, had no idea what to expect • This far away land, on the other side of the world, literally, has made me take stock of things • I've always been a hands on student, so this trip provided a great classroom for me • I passed on my last dinner of Daal Bhaat - no surprise there- and was whisked to the airport by Bagwan, the hostel's driver • Kathmandu Airport sure like there security checks - bags checked before going into the terminal, before checking in, I was frisked before entering the gates, my carry on were checked, but I was allowed to keep my 1 Litre bottle of water, and then frisked again before going on the plane • It was the last day of world cup cricket and televisions were in every corner turned on to the match • When the match was over  there was joy throughout the airport - leaving on a high note is always a good thing • Namaste Nepal - when spoken to another person, it is commonly accompanied by a slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards, in front of the chest

Friday, April 22, 2011

Symphony of Dogs

• The sounds of the hostel neighborhood welcomed me back - barking dogs, clanking gates & the laughter of the guys that worked in the hostel • Had my first hot shower in Nepal this morning - there was actually steam billowing over the divide of the washrooms - now that was a treat • With my stay in Nepal winding down, I have time for reflection • What a busy and full two weeks it has been • Short in terms of most volunteer missions, but rich in experiences, textures and effects it had on me • I will miss my young Monks - I grew fond of their welcoming faces each day • I will miss the camaraderie of traveling with someone who shared similar experiences - Kitti and I live half a country a part yet will be bonded by what we have shared - we both lived in the moment and did not dwell on anything • This was so the right thing to do for me - a tonic if you will • My eyes have been opened to looking at things from a whole new angle - I think a shake-up like this is needed every once in a while to put things in perspective • Kitti had wonderful traditional Nepalese outfits made while in Chitwan & Kathmandu, and suggested I had one made, today • The fact that I was leaving in 36 hours didn't seem a concern to Kitti • Off we went to our local neighborhood "Fabricland", and found some material for two tops and a pair of pants • I settled on a lovely turquoise material with gold paisley for one top, and a red and black print for the other • Kitti had dealt with alterations with a seamstress earlier in the trip, so back we went to get measured up for my outfit • The tiny little side street shop had three foot powered sewing machine stations, an ironing area and the main counter where our proprietor measured me up and drew out the pattern and did her cutting  - it was all of 100 square feet • There was a side room with completed outfits and material, supplies & a full length mirror on the wall that hit my shoulders • There was discussion of neck line and arm length - well, when I say discussion, more hand gestures and drawings • The seamstress said the outfit wouldn't be ready till Sunday, but since Kitti was leaving on Sunday evening that was ok - Kitti would pick up the outfit and just mail it to me, once home • I was delighted with the idea of having a traditional outfit • My rupees had lasted the week, until I bought my material, I hadn't counted on that - the material and sewing of the outfit cost me $25 -a veritable bargoon in my eyes • What a great souvenir • We went into Thamel, to the Kathmandu Guest House, our usual drop off point • Because we had wandered this main drag of Thamel a few times, I guess our faces were familiar to a few, as we were getting a friendly "Nameste" as we walked by • I had seen lovely silk jackets when we were previously in town and decided that was to be my mission for today • I found a gorgeous turquoise based one that fit like it was meant for me - it was a true Nepal style jacket, that I just loved & knew I would get a lot of wear out of it • We hit our Internet cafe, that was truly high speed, for the first time in a week • We lunched at the Pumpernickel Bakery and had croissants and tea • Out of the blue a parade of cows came walking down the main drag, between cars, motorbikes and pedestrians • We were wandering without any particular pattern down the streets of Thamel when Chris, who was in the hostel with us our first week, came up to us and said hi • Even in Thamel, you never know who you are going to see • Chris and her daughter Shea, had been in Chitwan, and met up with Kitti's friend Barb, and were now doing volunteer work at an orphanage in Kathmandu • We made plans to all meet up at 5:30 on the rooftop of the Tibetan Tea House for drinks • What a fabulous view from the rooftop looking down on intimate neighboring private rooftop gardens • Had a wonderful sighting of snow capped peak in the far distance - it was a clear day • By 6:15 it was getting dark and we had to leave, in order to get home and down the long scary hill to the hostel before it was totally dark • Back in time for - Daal Bhaat • It was a pleasure watching Kitti enjoy her meals here - Kitti truly embraced Daal Bhaat - and loved it like a native • I on the other hand, will be happy to say goodbye to it • Morgan, an 18 year old volunteer from Vancouver was now in the house - we had met her our first week - she was now back to take up where we left off with the Monks • Morgan was young in years, but not experiences • We gave her an update as to what we did with the Monks and what to expect, since she is going there on Sunday, when they are back in class • Kitti and I lay in our beds, with our aroma therapy candle from home glowing, as the power went off during dinner, and talked till at least 10:30 - that was a first • It can be hard to be with someone 24/7 and we found we traveled really well together Dozed off to my symphony of dogs

My seamstress, with my material for my outfits
on the counter.

Cows appearing in Thamel.
Where did they come from?

I just couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Not phased by the traffic.

This is ironic,
as this is the main sound you hear in town.
I guess no one read the sign.

Kitti on the rooftop of the Tibetan Tea House in Thamel.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Rinpoche...

• Our last day at D.T.s and our last day with our young Monks • Always good to leave on a high • Our core group of young monks were: Rinchin Tsering, Dargay, Nyiama Tsering, Rabi, Pema, Singhe, Nyima Setar (and Sindu the dog) • These boys have left their mark on me  • Power was to be off till 3:00, so our morning ritual of hitting the Internet cafe was put on hold till after class • Walked the base of the steps of the Stupa after breakfast • A lovely older woman was sitting contentedly beading a necklace (I thought she was in her 80's, she was 71 - long hard lives here leave their mark) • Spoke with a couple of the women vendors, and they told us just how hard it was to sell one item a day here, approximately $8, and that they only had another month of good sales before the monsoon season hit - a really good day was $20, but they were rare • Women Buddhist monks were serving Daal with pitas to the street people at the base of the Stupa • After our Daal Bhaat we made our last trek up the stairs to the Monastery - this was our hottest day yet with the sun beaming down on us, & without the usual breeze • We were greeted by faithful Rabi - within 5 minutes all had shown up, all but, Pema • I guess Pema had to show me who is the alpha, as he didn't show up till we were leaving • Our last class, like most of our classes was a shot in the dark with a lot of improvising and changing on the fly • We thought we may go back up to the Stupa, but decided half way through the class, that why disturb things, and continue on with the word find books, drawing, reading fairy tales, singing songs and the review of the days of the week • The stranger from the day before came and walked through our class • The young Monks told us it was the Rinpoche •  Rinpoche  means “precious one”  - in most cases, the title is bestowed upon one who has been recognized as the reincarnation of a great teacher • This Rinpoche was the head of this Monastery who visits here for one month, once a year - he lives at a university in India, where he is the head, for the rest of the year • All was good • Rabi thanked us at the end of the class, saying he learned from us - what a compliment, as he was the brightest in our bunch • We let them keep whatever supplies we had brought (crayons, pens, notebooks etc.) • Pema showed up as we were walking to the Monastery office - we had one last lesson with him, he earned his goodbye chocolate and off we started • We went looking for Karma, to give back the marker for the whiteboard, I knocked on the door to the office, only to be looked down on by someone on the roof, motioning us to come up • The Rinpoche • Pema looked impressed • We were honored that he invited us into his private quarters for tea • The stranger who was listening at the door the day before, was the Rinpoche • He told us that this Monastery was founded in the 1930's and that approximately 60 Monks lived here full time • Finally we had a chance to tell someone in authority,  that his young Monks really should have a set curriculum for English, as they do for their other studies - and the Rinpoche seemed quite receptive to that • A lovely, lanky gentle man, with large beautiful almond shaped eyes, and all of 30ish, the Rinpoche asked us if we were interested in seeing his previous lives? • How do you say no to an offer like that? • We were guided through a door covered by a Holy Door Covering into a small room off his "living room", which housed photos, his private Stupa & a shrine with relics of the two previous Rinpoches of this Monastery - his two previous lives • Wow - now you don't get offers to see & experience this everyday • The Rinpoche couldn't be nicer, wanting to show us what he had and it seemed he couldn't give us enough • I had asked for the address of the Monastery so that I could send photos to the Monks, and he gave both Kitti and I his business card with private email & cell phone - how modern • He also gave us a calender with photos of him being honored on it • The whole event now seems almost surreal - I mean meeting the Rinpoche, in his private quarters and seeing his two previous lives - not on your basic tour guide of Kathmandu! • We left his quarters and started walking by the Monks living area - Pema came out to wave his last goodbye with a big smile • We both had connected and left our marks on each other • Hit the Internet cafe in Swayambhu for the last time at 10 rupees for 30 minutes - it has been great to stay in touch with home - some friends have lived each day with me • We had our final tea at D.T.'s while waiting to be taken back to the hostel for my last two nights • We did mention to D.T. as well, that both the Monks and volunteers would benefit from a set curriculum for their English studies •  D.T. gave Kitti and I Holy Door cloths, like the Rinpoche had going into his room which contained his previous lives • The cloth contains the 8 signs of the mandala • A big hug goodbye from D.T. - even Gudu gave me a hug with his shy little smile, though I was afraid I was going to crush him • We really are lucky! • Back at the hostel it was pretty quiet and Kitti and I could have had our own rooms, but felt we didn't want to be separated yet, so put our luggage into one of the empty rooms & gave ourselves more space • All of a sudden these once thought of flattened mattresses felt down right plush, compared to what we had at D.T.'s house - strange how that works • Kitti and I said and did our usual sleep ritual, and I'm sure I was out within 5 minutes.

Our local garbage man at D.T.'s.
He whistles and you bring him your garbage.

Women Buddhist Monks handing out breakfast.

Always helping who they can.

This lovely lady beading happily posed for me.
When I showed her the photo, she took off her head scarf
& had me take the photo below.

Vanity at any age - in this case, 71 years.

Water wherever they can find it.

The veggie market always gave me great sources of photo ops.

Our local chip delivery man.
You can see one small bag coming out the front.

Another street tailor - the scenery is always changing.

Kitti giving Pema his last lesson
to win his Canadian chocolate loonie,
with Rabi in the background.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Singing bowls...

My treatment with the singing bowl.

• Another early morning - up by 6:30 • We are very loosy goosy with today's plans • Used the Internet cafe at 9, since the power was on - love getting email from home - hey mail is mail • Helped D.T. with a business letter and looked over his new school brochure for any edits needed • Keep thinking how our Monks really needed a prescribed curriculum to follow • Gudu surprised us today, and served Daal Bhaat early, at 10:45 • Life is so different here, and so much the same at the same time • My volunteer teaching of the Monks has been great, but not without its challenges • Two students showed up at 1:00, and five more showed up at 2:00 and we left at 3:30, with all Monks in high spirits happy to show off their gymnastic skills • I worked on the alphabet for an our, one on one with Rinchin Tsering - he was only to happy to put the letters in order and tell me words for each letter of the alphabet and then spell them out with the punched out letters on the desk • Kitti had the "littlest angel" all to herself - writing out his ABC's • Suddenly at 2, five showed up, happy to do their word find books and draw flash cards • A senior Lama checked in on us, but kept hidden behind the door - only I saw him - I think he couldn't believe how quiet the young Monks could be - the young Monks are commonly known as the young monkeys • It was a really good afternoon at the Monastery •  Pema gave me his pencil box for the night, I think, to make sure I come back tomorrow - our last day • By 3:30 the weather was gorgeous, sunny & breezy as we happily walked down our steps from the Monetary • Each day we passed a street lady, who was not in her usual spot (she probably suffered from Leprosy, as much of her face was missing) • Today we saw her sleeping on her side in one of the metal stations normally holding candles to be lit • Home for our 4:00 snack, go for a walk, and wait for dinner - a lot of waiting going on today • I have become lazy with my days here and so they can seem long - our walks help, as each walk, even though they are on the same streets, has new action, new scenery, new vignettes • By 6:15 Kitti and I had our evening constitutional - walking up and down the main road. • We walked into a storefront where an artisan was  working on "singing bowls" - he told me they were also healing bowls • Never one to to not find out more, he demonstrated on me with a very large brass singing bowl • He asked if I had any ailments - I said my knees were sore - so he started there • He put the bowl over my knees, stomach, back, & head and hit the bowl with a large mallet and let the vibrations cure what ails me in those spots • Well, my knees were not that sore afterwords - you have to allow yourself to want to believe first I think • Saw Gudu shopping at the farmer's market • Monkeys were playing in the electrical wires • There was a garbage field where dogs and a cow slept together  - the cow was curled up like a dog - learned behaviour? • Tibetan ladies are walking • Prayer beads being counted by men & women as they walk • We are living another world • Cricket match on D.T.'s television (Pakistan vs India) - men being men - while Anjou is away, D.T. has his cronies over • Every night Kitti asks me, "What am I grateful for today?" & "What may I need help with tomorrow?" - lately it has involved our Monks - last week it involved my stomach 

I so wanted to buy these grapes, but resisted,
bananas were the safest fruit to buy.

The entrance to our Monastery.
I think it took us till today to really notice this lovely gate.
Every other day we were too pooped after the hill climb.

Yes, this is how one teaches in Nepal. Get comfortable guys.

Dargay & Rinchin Tsering.
Rinchin Tsering made a makeshift watch out of a sticker.

Singhe concentrating.

Rabi proud of his drawing of the flag of Nepal.

Our littlest angel did lovely artwork.

Pema working hard.

Pema, Kitti and I at the end of class.

Tidying up the classroom.

Pema has left his mark on me. He is this teacher's favorite.

Nyiama Tsering with me & Sindu in our class.

Pema, Sindu & Nyiama Tsering, disrobed their outer robes
hoisted their bottoms and were preparing for more Kung  Fu moves.

Preparing for action.

Honestly, they could have entertained us all afternoon.
We always liked to leave on a high, when things were good.

They followed us as we were walking away.
Still performing.

Monkeys alongside our stairs.

Beside the stairs.

 Our friendly Tibetan neighbor, with the pretty garden fed the monkeys,
I guess rather than loose precious veggies to the monkeys.

Laundry hanging beside our house.

Gudu making a  pesto for our Daal, stone on stone.

Hammering a pattern on the singing bowls.

Demonstrating the singing of the bowl.

Curing my headache.

The woman on the left was laughing, because the woman on the right was upset
I took her photo.
The laughing woman explained,
"if you are going to take a picture, you need to leave her a picture."

How could I do that? Fair enough, I got her point.

Peering over a garden on our walk.

I saw this Unesco world heritage site block
hidden beside the market.

Motor bikes were the main source of transport.

The many Tibetan ladies.

Dog & cow curled up. I found this scene so funny.
I have never seen a cow curl up before.

Steaming momos.

The Temple, the dog & the rooster. Where else would you see this?

I just loved all the colours of the market.

Local veggies for sale.

Often veggies & fruit were carried this way.
Note the monkeys sitting on the roof in the background.

Monkey Wires!