Sunday, 4 March 2012

Losar and the end of Pokhara! (Nepal, Feb 22- Mar 4, 2012)

We survived Losar!

Losar started on February 22nd this year and is the Tibetan New Year. The first day was definitely the most insane! The kids had pulau for breakfast, a sweet rice dish that has dried coconut, raisins and almonds mixed throughout. I cannot count the number of variations I have had of this dish since I left Canada, but this has certainly been the best! (no offense SunWelcome, yours is still pretty ballin). Most of the kids were all dressed up in traditional Tibetan dresses and it was probably the most fun to watch the girls try to skip and play in them :) For lunch there was curried buffalo meat, which was only the beginning of so much more buffalo to come. The staff set up Tashi's laptop outside and they played music all day. Nicole and I slipped away to Perky Beans for chocolate milkshakes and iced lemon tea (the glasses are almost 500mL, these things are massive). After all the New-Yeary festivities were over and the kids had gone to bed, Nicole and I set up shop downstairs and watched the movie One Day and then Vampire Diaries (Nicole bought all the seasons in Mahendra Pul, it's been totally awesome). Oh! She also bought these Cadbury Eclairs, of which I ate far too many. It's just better not to look at the ingredients/calories in times like this; did you know that most candy here has beef gelatin in the first few ingredients? I like that they're so specific. Beef.

Over the next few days the Losar activities died down, but we did have one stellar night where all the kids performed songs and dances outside before dinner. They were practicing for so many weeks leading up to this, so it was really special to watch them. The days passed by in a blur of traditional Tibetan food interspersed with frequent trips to SunWelcome with Mariah and Nicole. The girls at the orphanage made us wear our hair down ("Miss, you must make your hair nice for Losar!"), but I think we all avoided getting lice somehow, so all is well with the world :) We also got a new volunteer, Fabian from Germany, who is a total natural with the kids. I would like him much better if he wasn't 5% body fat yet able to eat like 500g of Toblerone bars everyday (I'm sorry Fabian, but I have to hold it against you, I'm sure you understand). Really though, all the volunteers here right now are so great, I knew it would be difficult to leave such a great group of people. Segue...

I ended up deciding to stay in Pokhara for another week! This means I'll probably take the bus to Kathmandu with Nicole on March 6th, and then I have to get to Bhaktapur somehow. The countdown is on to my meditation retreat (March 14th), and I booked my Tibet tour, so the last 3 months of this trip I feel are going to fuh-ly by! February 25th was Dave and Olivia's last night in Pokhara, so we celebrated at Bullet Bar. This night saw me having my first alcoholic beverage in Nepal (honestly, 300Rs per drink?! How do people afford this?), I met my first other "Victoria" and heard what will now be my favourite story ever (Dave's telling of being in Pamplona, Spain for the running of the bulls).

On February 26th I killed my first cockroach and bought sunscreen (riveting, no?). I also went to Varahi Mandir with Nora and Krishana's three daughters. Varahi Mandir is a Hindu temple on an island and is dedicated to Vishnu. We paddled the most monstrous pontoon boat you've ever seen to the island, interrupted only by a canoe of drunken Nepalis that decided it would be fun to run into us. The island itself is beautiful, there are lots of trees and flower bushes, and colourful prayer flags are strung everywhere. Mostly you try not to get pooed on my pigeons though ;) We paddled back and Nora and I had iced lemon tea at Perky Beans and a great talk about adoption. Honestly, it's amazing how many people I have run into here that have a connection with it in someway, even people with stories similar to mine. I then went in search of the Immigration Office because I needed to extend my visa (and had been putting it off). After being given half drunken directions from an American with a monkey (it actually happened), I began most uncertainly, not trusting the least in the map I had been given. The back roads were actually quite lovely though, and it was even fun getting lost (which I did). By some miracle I actually found the place, and though I briefly expected my passport and money to be stolen, everything came back fine and I am now legally in Nepal until April 24th! I had the Nepali set at SunWelcome for dinner, then ate my second dinner at the orphanage, then ate way too many of Nicole's Eclairs again. Then I sat in my room with the most outrageous stomach ache and finished my journal entry with: "Diet overhaul tomorrow! Love from the fat/bloated blueberry, Vicki." I have quite honestly never been so full in my life. I think they put crack in the white rice here, it's the only logical explanation.

I moved out of the orphanage and down the street to a guesthouse called Gurkha Lodge. The man showed me a number of rooms, and when I found one I liked and asked him how much per night he said 750 Rs. I thanked him and said I only wanted to pay 300 Rs. Then we stared at each other for awhile. Then he caved, telling me that I musn't tell the other guests, lol. So I've been living in this quaint little cottage-esque guesthouse that I absolutely love! There are gardens all around, so in the morning you are woken to the sound of birds and the smell of flowers (and then, unfailingly, the buffalos start up with their bizarre mooing sounds and the magic is broken, lol). Ah! Walking from the orphanage to the guesthouse in the dark though is always slightly creepy. I wear my headlamp, which casts only a dim light infront of me, and then eventually I start seeing pairs of green eyes appearing in the blackness ahead of me. You can't actually see what the creature is until you get closer, but it's like something out of a horror movie to see all these disembodied eyes staring at you! But, not to fear, there's usually a harem of dogs that accompanies me down the street (sometimes I read these blogs back to myself and think how bizarre this must all sound). I tried the other night to pay my protectors in orange slices, but they weren't impressed.

The kids went back to school after Losar, and the first day we got halfway walking there when all the kids broke out of line and started madly running about. I looked around, certain that there was a stray dog chasing them (this always makes them scatter like sheep), but it turned out that someone had just come running from their school to tell them that school was canceled. I remember back to when our school used to get canceled by snow days and couldn't help but smile along with them. I shook all of their hands, congratulating them, and then we walked back to the orphanage, lol.

The past few days have mostly been filled with eating, chatting with the other volunteers, and watching Vampire Diaries at night. Since my last update I've read a bunch more books, including The Secret Garden (Frances Burnett), Sister (Rosamund Lupton), Ishmael (Daniel Quinn), The Snow Leopard (Peter Mathiessen), The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran) and The Bhagavad Gita. Last night was supposed to be Nicole's last night, so Nora, her and I went to Cafe Concerto and had the most outrageous dessert dinner ever. There were banana splits, chocolate brownies, vanilla ice cream with Baileys milkshakes, fruit salad with honey and curd, nutella crepes and chocolate chip gelato all involved. Fortunately (for me), Nicole's Chitwan expedition had to be canceled because of today's strike, so we will have to repeat this last supper in another two days when her (and I) actually leave. It seems fitting that my second last day is a strike day, it means that all the streets are quiet and everyone here is relaxed and happy to have a brief holiday. This is the Pokhara I love.

The next time you hear from me I will probably be in Bhaktapur, with new kids, new volunteers, new sights and new food! Stay tuned :)


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