Our first day out from Pokhara. We hoped to take a bus to Beshishar and from there get a jeep all of the way to Chame best case, worst case no jeep at all.
The bus ride wasn’t bad at all – we had heard it could be scary, but it wasn’t. Unless you were the goat strapped to the top of the bus!! It was a huge goat. Rick had to climb up to get something from our packs so got to see it up close! This week is the big Dashain festival – which means lots of goats going places!! LOTS! … And eventually they’ll all be slaughter as sacrifices.
We chatted with a couple of ladies from Switzerland, Leonie and Maryse (so sorry, I’m probably misspelling that) on the bus who had a guide, and were kind enough to let us hop on in on their jeep. We made it Chaymche/Chamje and it was getting dark. Our new friends picked a lovely guest house and we spent the night.
So if you’ve read any of our blog at all you’re well aware that monkeys just don’t like me. They give me the evil eye, follow me around, try and sneak up on me and just generally give me a hard time. One of the first ones we saw tried to steal my camera, which I almost drop as I almost fell down 1000 steps as I shrieked and jumped back (that was before I realized how out to get me they were). I tried to scare the next one off and it came back at me with vengeance… He said, and I quote “You want a piece of me???” (in Nepali of course) as he showed me his teeth and raised his hand as if to backhand me… And no I didn’t get a picture. Even the guy dressed up like hanuman (the Hindu monkey god) outside the temple was heckling me.
So Liz and I are minding our own business walking around the park next to the temple in Pashupatinath, just checking out the sites. We had eaten some fruit for lunch and, being the good citizen that I am, had the trash in a little pink bag and was looking for a trash can (not really something that have many of in Nepal). The same pink bag that our fruit had come in… That all fruit and most anything purchased on a street in Nepal comes in. Again I’m not looking for trouble.
Out of nowhere this big old monkey and his crew start coming at me. The big one, he’s up to my shoulders standing on his hind legs giving me those, now all to familiar, evil eyes, like he’s looking into my soul and wants to steal it. I know that look, it’s trouble. So as he starts to walk circles around me I wise up and start circling around to match him. I’m not letting him get behind me. I know what’s up. He wants the granola bars in my backpack and it’s not happening. I’ll fight a monkey.
Blindsided out of nowhere his crew hits me from behind… A little one jumps up and grabs my pink bag right out of my hand and then punches my now empty hand with his other paw just to insult me. Then all 5 of them run off together to split up their spoils.
Jokes on them though… Bag was full of trash.
But still, word to the wise, watch out for monkeys, especially of they look like they are making plans to attack you, they probably are.
So for those who don’t know Jordan and Hailey Jacobus, they are our “neighbor daughters”. The Jacobus Family (Will, Angie, Jordan and Hailey) lived next door to us for 5 years on Solta Dr and became some of our very best friends… one day (conveniently when Will had been out of town all week on business, and I had happened to take Angie a couple dozen red roses left over from a friend’s wedding) 3 or 4 year old Jordan proudly answered Will’s question of “what have you guys been doing this week?” with “oh, Neighbor Daddy came over a bunch of nights and brought us flowers”…. Can you hear it now? “ummm…. ANGIE?!!?” Come to find out, Neighbor Daddy was Rick, and I’m Neighbor Mommy, and thus the name has lived on.
So we spent one of our last nights in Texas with our neighbor family, and Jordan and Hailey gave us some awesome gifts – a heart to carry around the world with us, and a blue inflatable ball (picture small dodgeball style ball). The ball was for us to play with on a beach on the other side of the world… <<okay, Angie, don’t read this part to them>> so the rest of y’all can imagine I’m thinking “seriously, how am I going to fit this in my backpack?! I mean I’m down to 1 pair of pants for a year, a dodgeball is not in the cards for my packing”
So I asked Jordan and Hailey, “this is such a fun toy, what if we meet a kid on the other side of the world that would like to play with it? What if you could share your toy with a kid on the other side of the world that didn’t have a ball… could I give it to them?” They LOVED the idea!! They were so much more excited about sharing a toy with someone who might not have one – so we made a promise, we would take it and share it with a child somewhere and tell that kid that it was Jordan and Hailey who wanted to share their toy.
…now, picture us walking around Kathmandu and I’m caring a small dodgeball in my travel purse looking for just the right kid. “here kiddies, come see the crazy white lady with the free toys” … No that’s not weird at all.
From reading When Helping Hurts, I’m determined not to just be the god-complex-filled white person who comes in and gives toys. So I need to find a kid (or a parent) who speak English so I can explain what I’m doing, and that it’s from Jordan and Hailey and is up for me taking a picture with them. On day 2 of carrying the ball everywhere with me, I’m starting to stress a little about finding this ideal situation. And Rick tells me, “Don’t worry, if God wants you to share Jordan and Hailey’s ball with someone, He’ll make it happen.” And about 5 minutes later, as we’re walking through a definite NON-tourist backroad, these three boys run up to us and say in English “Hi. What is your name?” so we start talking with them a little. And I finally tell them that we have two little girls at home that wanted to share a toy with someone in Nepal, I ask if they would like a ball. I have to re-explain a couple times and they get it, and they’re in! So I pull it out of our bag and they are SO EXCITED!
I asked to take a picture to show the girls who they shared with and of course the boys were excited to.
Jordan and Hailey — your generosity made the day of Ramiesh, Ram and Biren!! Thank you girls for letting us be a part of your sharing and giving – it made our day too!!
Well day 2 in Kathmandu was pretty amazing – we definitely got to experience some of the religious and cultural aspects… and Rick continued to be haunted by monkeys. We also decided for sure that 2 days was enough for us in the big city. It’s really polluted and both of us noticed it in our nose and throat, so we headed off to Pokhara yesterday. But first, I have to share the really amazing ceremonies we saw at Pashupatinath …and Boudha (separate post).
Pashupatinath is considered a very holy place for the Hindu people, it’s is a holy riverbank were the dead are cremated in the open, in a ceremony where their families wash them, dress them with flowers and oils, and eventually… well, I can’t think of a more eloquent way to say it… set them on fire.
sorry, couldn’t help myself 🙂 A little Monty Python humor
There are a ton of booths outside the area selling things to sacrifice to the gods. Including tikka powder (I’m probably not calling that the right thing) and flowers… the colors are so incredibly vibrant!! Tikka puts Lisa Frank and American Apparel’s neons to shame!
On one side of the bridge are the poor families, with much more basic ceremonies (the first one shown below). The sons of the deceased have their heads shaved except one little piece on the back. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.
On the other side of the bridge, the rich are cremated. We happened to be there when someone very famous and important was being cremated – still no idea who – but there was a lotta military, news cameras, and a bunch of people. The Nepali paparazzi are crazy – I mean right up in the dead lady’s face, and telling family to move to get a better shot of her! But no one seemed to mind. The religions here are very laid back it seems in terms of what’s tolerated.
There were holy men around…. and there were monkeys. I mean Rick has some serious paranoia going on about monkeys now… which I thought was unwarranted, but later that day I discovered they did indeed have it out for him. I will have to let him tell that story in another post, but even before “the incident” as he calls it, we did have a little bit of a run in. There were monkeys all around where we sat, but fortunately, we had a protector – who quickly became Rick’s hero!! We’ll call him David, because he was the little boy with the slingshot that kept the big herds of monkeys away, and he kinda took a liking to us, so he protected us the whole time we were there. Here’s a pic of Rick and the monkeys, and of our friend protecting us!
Our first day in Kathmandu was exciting, challenging and really beautiful. I have to admit I woke up a bit freaked out, realizing I wasn’t sure how I was going to get and figure out the most basic stuff – like the shower/toilet combo that was in the bathroom, or where to get water from, or where exactly we were since we arrived after dark and during the power shutdown (every day for two 4-hour blocks power is shut off).
Our host is great though. And we made it – got water, got a shower, feeling good!
Off to see the city… we wandered through some crazy traffic. This is a BIG city – good thing I’ve practiced my pedestrian fearlessness in Manhattan, although Kathmandu has it beat!
We made it to Durbar Square – where there are over 30 temples in one area, a combination of Hindu and Buddhist. We planned on just walking around figuring it out ourselves, but Raam befriended us and after talking to us for 20 minutes, and cutting his price in half, we had a guide. Since we had managed to come in the back way, we avoided the tourist fee, so figured we could splurge for a guide. Lots of beautiful architecture. Learned they view Buddhism as more of a philosophy here, and Hinduism as a religion – which allows them to coexist. Basically every temple, statue, etc. has them combined.
Lunch was a rooftop view, from there we could see the Monkey Temple, and that was our ambitious plan for the afternoon. We had MoMo for lunch – these delicious little dumplings.
We set off for the Monkey Temple. As we got close to the river, we smelled a familiar smell… it smelled just like the Trinity River in Dallas, I guess polluted rivers all smell the same. Mental note to use the Steripen AND the filter on the water!
Monkey Temple was the most beautiful yet. Walking up to it was saw a baby monkey do acrobatics on some prayer flags. The temple sits a top a huge hill and the golden roof gleams. Once at the top there’s a huge area to explore – we watched monks meditating, got “treated” with a healing bowl (it made this incredible sound, it was made of 7 different kinds of metal, handmade… and when it vibrated against your bad it felt like it was really healing, or at least a good massage)
Rick thought he would get up close to a monkey to get a picture. Monkey was not a fan and hissed at him and took a swing… let’s just say Rick retreated quickly… there was a high pitched squeal involved, Rick says it was the monkey….
That was just his first monkey encounter. As we were heading down the hill, we stopped to get something out of the backpack – and a monkey comes out of no where and bites into the outside pocket of the backpack (where there’s a protein bar stored), Rick grabs the backpack and pulls it up in the air… monkey is still attached. Now dangling in the air, but not even close to letting go. So I grab a rainjacket and start hitting the monkey with it, while Rick is shaking the monkey… finally he lets go. Later we find a perfectly shaped monkey bite mark out of the bar, but thankfully limited damage to the backpack. That’s rick’s favorite story of the day… and he now has slight paranoia about monkeys. You can read Rick’s side of the story as well.
For the next few days I’ll be sneaking up behind him and grabbing at the back of his arm with my most monkey-hand-like impression.
Tomorrow we go to what is known as a holy site on the river where they cremate the dead in the open, and a small town on the outskirts of Kathmandu that hasn’t been as taken over by the modern world. I think it’ll be good to get a little time outside the craziness of big city Kathmandu. Oh and we have to figure out how to get bus tickets to Pokhara! I can’t wait to see the Himalayas — can’t see them from the city due to clouds and pollution.
So it’s almost 1am here at the brand spanking new Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar our first stop (18 hour layover) of our trip and I figured it was time for me to make my first official post to our blog. Liz has done an excellent job of documenting our moving/packing/re-packing/etc up to this point and I’m sure she will continue to surpass me in frequency and quality of posts.
We spend ~14 hours on a Qatar Airways plane and it was actually quite pleasant. They’ve got an awesome selection of movies/TV/etc for free, the seats weren’t too uncomfortable even after double digit hours in them (Liz was kind enough to remind me when we sat down that we spent 16 hours in a U-Haul recently) and we got dinner and breakfast.
My favorite part of the airport so far has been the free luggage carts that glide effortlessly across the floor and just beg to be ridden.
I leave you with a hyperlapse Liz made of us playing in the airport.