Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Nepal (December 28th - January 11th, 2012)

Hello from Pokhara!

I've been trying to update my blog for a few days now, but the internet is against me. We've still been teaching, the kids are on holiday until the 22nd, so we have daily lessons until then. I started out with the second youngest group and now have moved up an age category! At first I was hesitant about teaching the older kids (they are always getting into trouble, which I knew nothing about at that age), but they are loads of fun. Mostly we play games that involve English somehow. Their favourite is 21 questions, where you stick a post-it note with a person/place/thing on their forehead and they have to guess what it is by asking yes/no questions. I learned pretty quickly on that separating them into teams prevented them from cheating in Tibetan. After lessons they usually have chores until lunch and then maybe chores after as well :) The orphanage runs like a well oiled machine, so it's nice to finally be into a schedule.

December 28th was the first day of the Pokhara street festival that runs every year until New Years Day to celebrate tourism in Pokhara. All the restaurants move their kitchens outside, as do the shop keepers, so it's lots of fun (mostly it was just nice that there was no traffic because they closed all the roads!). I found a new favourite restaurant to eat at, it's called SunWelcome and overlooks the Phewa Tal. I can also buy homemade peanut butter and there's lots of veggie stalls on the same road, so it's great. Every other day or so I pick up a kilo of carrots and green beans/peppers and soak them in iodine water to munch on. We were lucky to stumble upon a place that sells fresh hummus, so I've been having it most days. I had to stop eating dinner at the orphanage because they eat so late! The kids eat around 8pm and then go straight to bed, so we were eating at around 8:30pm and following close behind them. How is it possible to eat so close to sleeping?! Anyway, I've just taken to rabbiting with my veggies instead.

 (tofu curry with brown rice at SunWelcome)

December 31rst I climbed to Sarangkot, a set of villages that stretch up to the top of a hill overlooking the lake and the Himalayas. It's also where the paragliders take off from. I set out at around 7:45am in the morning, and luckily the directions from another volunteer were enough to get me started (after that I took to routinely asking the locals "Sarangkot?" whilst pointing up the hill). At various times I was joined in my climb by local villagers, who were all too happy to take my mandarins in exchange for their "tours." After about an hour of climbing I was joined by a little boy. "Sarangkot?" I said while pointing up the hill. "Yes, but miss, it's another hour and a half of climbing!" Silly boy, how could it possibly be that long? It was. I had calves of steel by the end. The view was 100% worth the climb though, and I even got to sit and watch the paragliders taking off. I caught a ride with one of the paragliding jeeps back down (ignoring the man that offered to "show me the short cut" back down for 500 Rs).

Happy New Year! I stayed in the orphanage alone over New Years and definitely slept through the countdown. But! I was awoken at 1am by the new orphanage puppy howling himself silly (I think he was indignant that no one included him in the celebrations). I played with him for a bit before passing out again. On New Years Day we took the kids down to Lakeside for the last day of the street festival. Their favourite part was the live comedy sketch, all in Nepali, apparently it was a riot? On our way back I stopped in to have veggie curry at a restaurant called La Pizzareia (the best place to have curry, right?), and ended up getting interviewed by National Geographic! They were doing a piece on why people travel, so I had a great evening just chatting with him about my reasons and pondering lots of questions I'd never thought of before. Excellent night! The next few days were just our usual orphanage-ing. I love when the kids read us books during our lessons. My favourite one is "The tale of the donkey-skin maiden." Yeah, it's also missing half the middle section, so when it picks up on page 12 it just doesn't make any sense. I also secretly read some of their Disney books when no one is looking. Oh! And another great thing, one of the other volunteers, Rachel, started joining me on the roof for my "hotel workouts." It's a total riot, and I think we're actually improving :) We do a lot of walking here, but mostly I just feel like I'm sitting on my butt; I'm glad I wrote down a ton of workout routines before I left! (I think I'm starting to put a dent in all that chocolate/gelato weight. All Europe's fault. Not only can my wallet not afford a massive Europe adventure, but I don't think my arteries would survive either).

On January 6th, I, Brittany, Rachel, Alyssa and two other volunteers at the other orphanage, Jess and Eladio, left to visit Chitwan. Chitwan is a flat jungle area that lies in the Terai area of Nepal. It's generally warmer there and people flock to Chitwan National Park to go on safaris. It was a five hour bus ride from Pokhara and after settling in at our hotel (Hotel Shiva's Dream) we walked around the city and saw the periphery of the park. The best part though was the Tharu Cultural Programme. The Tharu are a group of indigenous people that live in the Terai, and we got to see them perform traditional songs and dances. They also did stick dancing, which imitates the Tharu men training for battle (wouldn't you just hate to be in a stick battle? So would I). The next day we woke up to find everything covered in fog. Quite apart from spoiling the day, it made our morning canoe ride 100X more interesting. We couldn't really see where we were going, everything was silent except for the sounds coming from the jungle. We saw lots of birds and even two giant crocodiles (don't go in the water). After docking along the river we set off on our walk through the park. There were spotted deer, wild boar, monkeys and lots of birds. We'd been walking for a bit when there was a massive crash in the forest. Our guide stopped, gave a listen and then broke out into a run. At that point you don't know whether you're being chased or not, so we all took off running after him (I was remembering how before I left my family was joking that "you'll be fine, as long as you're not the slowest runner"). As we came through a small clearing in the trees we saw two rhinos bathing in the stream. So neat! I think I had to keep reminding myself what I was actually seeing. We didn't get to stay for long, seeing rhinos while you're on foot is not the safest, so we left before we disturbed them too much. Then we had to race to get out of the jungle in time. At around noon they let all of the elephants at the breeding centre into the jungle, and you don't want to be there when that happens, apparently. We made it out, got to see the elephant breeding centre and then headed back for lunch. After lunch, most of the volunteers headed out on a jeep safari while Rachel and I stayed behind to do a "bicycle tour." Though, I don't think you can really call it a tour if they don't give you a map? Also, the roads aren't so much roads, as stones with bits of road inbetween. My butt hasn't hurt so much since the spin classes at GoodLife! But, all in good fun. The next morning our schedule said "elephant bathing," which we took to mean watching the elephants get bathed in the stream. Well, that happens, but it happens with you ON the elephant. You get drenched, you have a riot, it was great. Everyone got to take a turn, and I think it was the best Birthday present Rachel could have asked for (even if Eladio did tell the handler to make the elephant dump Rachel in the river, which he did). Our last event was the elephant back safari which was also really neat. We got to go further into the jungle and even stumbled upon two rhinos close enough to touch (the elephants mask the smell of humans fairly effectively). Ah! I saw wild rhinos, while riding an elephant, in Nepal. I must repeat this phrase over and over to myself until I actually believe it happened.

Now we're back in Pokhara (brrrr) and life is back to normal. Hopefully I'll get a chance to update you soon!


On another note, I've plowed through a few books, including "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," "Teach Yourself Kama Sutra" (hilarity, in case you were wondering), "Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul," "The Glass Palace" and "Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad." Anyone have any book suggestions?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Vicki my name is Debbie Bryant and I have been bowling with your mom for years.She keeps us updated on your trip and this is the first time I have read your blog.It sounds like you are having the time of your life girl!Thanks for sharing your adventures with us...it's nice to live vicariously through your blogs,have a safe trip.