Outlanderings

Adventures of Two Americans Living and Working in Nepal

Archive for the category “Travel”

Farewell for Now, Nepal!

It’s hard to believe this day is actually here, but today Travis and I fly out of Kathmandu on a 40+ hour journey back to the U.S. Though we had originally planned to stay in Nepal through June, with the Edge of Seven and The Small World projects in great shape and my work at Next Generation Nepal wrapped up, we made a split-second decision a few weeks ago to head back a little early so we could make it to a few of our dearest friends’ weddings that we would have been so sad to miss.

So, where to begin? This has been an incredible journey. And I know I speak for both of us when I say that we are beyond grateful to have met all of the amazing and inspiring people who have crossed our paths during our time in Nepal. We’re also beyond grateful to have had the opportunity to spend our days working with organizations that are doing so much good in this country.

I can’t say I am not bursting at the seams a bit to get home, eat a taco, and soak in the uninterrupted flow of electricity and clean drinking water, but leaving is definitely bittersweet. For all of the hardships life in Nepal contains, there is also an unending beauty that can strike a person even on the most chaotic street of Kathmandu. And from the kids I worked with in Kathmandu to the teachers and elders of Phuleli and Basa, many new lessons and perspectives on life have been gained. As with my previous trips here before, I leave having once again been strengthened by people who live life with exuberant joy and light despite having been through extremely difficult situations.

And the deal with the blog is that we plan to keep it going. Being officially homeless at the moment, we still have many travels and unknowns in front of us. Plus, our schedules and lack of Internet access over the past couple of months have made it difficult to update this blog in the most timely of manners, and I think we could both benefit from some time to decompress and process everything that has happened during our time here. So, look for more updates and photos about our work in Nepal to come!

Farewell for now, Nepal! We’ll see you again someday soon.

Out and About Kathmandu: Part II

So, I’ve been a little MIA lately on this blog. Lots going on and many new updates to come, but for now just wanted to share some photos of life out and about in Kathmandu!

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Welcome to Basa!

Yesterday, eight Edge of Seven volunteers arrived in Basa to kick off the new higher secondary school project, and, in truth, I’m a little jealous not to be with them.

Having just returned from a trip up to the new site with Travis, I can say that Basa is an amazing place. Right now, spring flowers are blooming and villagers are at work planting their crops. Everywhere I looked there was something beautiful to see. The village is reached by a different route from Phaplu than we took to go to Phuleli, and the trail is very peaceful. It even goes by a viewpoint of Mount Everest, which Travis and I were lucky to to see on our walk in on a clear morning!

The people of Basa were excited to have both of us there, and I know they were eagerly anticipating the volunteers. According to the most recent update from the field, the community made quick work of the site preparations and foundation, so the volunteers could get right in to the earthbags when they arrive. The site is right next to the existing school building and near the center of the village, so it’s a great place to be stationed in terms of giving volunteers plenty of opportunity to get to know the students and people in town.

Here are a few photos from the trip. More to come soon on the update from Phuleli!

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Shivaratri at Pashupatinath Temple

Another day in Nepal, another festival celebrated.

Yesterday was the Hindu festival of Shivaratri, a day where devotees give blessings, offerings and worship to the Hindu God Shiva. It’s an especially special day in Kathmandu, since the city is home to the Pashupatinath Temple, located on the banks of the Bagmati River, where Shiva is believed to once have lived.

The temple is a sacred pilgrimage site for Hindu holy men, or “sadhus,” who come in by the droves from India to celebrate the festival. Some photos taken at Pashupati yesterday!

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Returning from India

So, we’ve been out of pocket for the past week or so, traveling through Rajasthan, Agra and Delhi in India. It was a nice break from Kathmandu and so refreshing to be able to turn on a light and charge a battery at any point of the day or night.

In addition to the striking scenery, I also loved the bold color and spirituality of all the places we visited. I’ll get more photos posted soon, but for now wanted to share a picture of this sweet man we encountered in Udaipur. I was a little obsessed with taking photos at the Jagdish Temple there, which is a hub of bright activity in the mornings (and also the town’s soup kitchen.) This man was there every morning, circling the temple and praying.

 

I Heart Street Markets

Street markets have are undoubtedly my favorite thing to check out when traveling in other countries. The spirited conversation and haggling, the vibrant colors and smells, the entrepreneurship of a woman with a cardboard table and tight grip on her change purse selling her wares – markets are where a traveller can often see a country’s true culture.

At Kathmandu’s street markets, there are strange culinary treats, people recycling odds and ends that most Westerners would throw away into their livelihoods, and street performers that leave me really wishing that I spoke fluent Nepali. Case in point, the other day we witnessed a man sitting in a tree and eating a bag of popcorn while spouting off some diatribe. Compared to some of the other magicians, gambling rings, and musicians in the park, this man’s act seemed pretty lackluster. But he had the biggest audience by far, so either he was saying something really cool or else people (much like myself) were just intrigued to see some crazy guy eating popcorn in a tree.

Here are a few photos taken recently at markets in Kathmandu. More to come from markets in the future.

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New Year’s in Nagarkot

Spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Nagarkot, a quiet little village on the top of a peak about 30 km outside of Kathmandu that offers excellent views of the Himalayas on a clear day. Here are a few photos from sunset on New Year’s Eve. Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Phuleli in Photos

It’s been 10 days back in Kathmandu, and I am just now getting some pictures of Phuleli up. Time seems to fly here in a way that it certainly doesn’t in rural areas. I think I wrote in one of my first posts how Nepal was special in the sense that, when one is here, time stretches out and that days seem to trail off with an ellipsis rather than come to a final conclusion.

That was before I had any experience living in Kathmandu. Days here definitely end with three exclamation points, a buzzer, and a game show host screaming, “Time’s Up!”

So. Back to Phuleli. Travis is still there and, amazingly, the workers are very close to start plastering the walls. The miracle of earthbag construction is that once a site is prepped things can happen very quickly. If you had told me on our initial trip to Phuleli less than 90 days ago that this steep, vegetated mountainside would be flat and have a school on it at this point, I would have been skeptical.

But because it has already been done so eloquently, I will refer you to Edge of Seven’s blog for a detailed recap of the trip. (In fact, I would also recommend you stay tuned there for upcoming stories about the women and girls being impacted by these projects. )

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the experience. Updated shots to come when Travis returns to Kathmandu!

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Volunteers Come, Fog Lifts

It’s been a strange fall in Nepal, weather-wise. Though skies here are usually clear and sunny in November, the time of year when the country experiences the highest amount of tourist traffic, the past few weeks have been a steady series of foggy, rainy days. And since pilots manning in-country flights fly on sight, it takes just the smallest smattering of clouds to make the skies impassable. Let’s just say the skies this month have been thoroughly smattered, and flights in and out of the mountains have been a rarity. In fact, the Everest Region made headlines recently when more than 2,000 tourists were stranded for several days at the Lukla airport because planes were not able to get in.

Emily, Edge of Seven’s Program Director, arrived in Kathmandu last Sunday with an itinerary that had her spending most of the past week at the project site. But the weather didn’t cooperate, so she has been here with us for the week. Which, frankly, has been awesome. In addition to loving the company, we’ve been making good use of her time in Kathmandu prepping for the trip, planning for logistics and supplies, and meeting with other NGOs working in Nepal.

Emily and Travis - Edge of Seven employees.

But the good news is that the weather has made a dramatic turn for the better and the past two days have been beautiful and sunny – great timing for the volunteers, who have all arrived safe and sound as of today. Travis actually made it out on a flight to Phaplu a couple of days ago and arrived in Phuleli yesterday afternoon. He texted earlier to report that it was exciting to get to work at the school site and that throughout his introductions to all of the villagers today he had consumed 12 cups of tea (which Emily pointed out would be a terrific title for a blog post from him at some point). He then called later to say that he spent a good portion of his evening helping a villager “chase his pigs” into their pen. A banner day for Travis by many measures.

The volunteers have all arrived and this afternoon we took a stroll from Thamel to Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. We visited a few of the more notable buildings, including the Kumari Ghar, or House of the Living Goddess. The Kumari (Living Goddess) is a young girl who is chosen at the age of 5 or 6 to live as an object of worship until she reaches puberty. The selection is made based on a host of criteria that begins with the girl’s caste. Though Kumari worship is an ancient tradition in Hindu cultures, I think the concept is a bit tougher for us Westerners to swallow. You can’t help but feel for this girl, who, while well taken care of, is confined to a life of sitting in a building with lots of makeup on, making an appearance at a window a few times a day.

This evening all of the volunteers went for a traditional dinner of Dal Bhat and milk tea. I have to say I was extremely impressed with everyone’s energy level. Going halfway around the world creates a hard level of jet lag to cope with, and I probably would have been face down in my plate had I just been through some of these flight schedules. But everyone was excited to be here, and conversation flowed freely. I can tell already that this will be a great group. Karma commented to me that everyone in this crowd seemed particularly fit, physically, and I have to agree. Hopefully they will all bear with me as I huff and puff to the project site. Or else just carry me.

At dinner tonight everyone was given their Nepali names, but tomorrow the true orientation occurs. We leave early Tuesday for the project site, and I will try my best to get another update up here beforehand.

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