Saturday, July 7, 2007

New 7 Wonders of the World were announced on 7.7.07!

Things are winding down here in preparation for my departure on Tuesday morning… I was going to join the group in the village literacy project but their departure was delayed (until Saturday afternoon) and they were going to have to stay over, and it was going to crowd in my plans for the last two days, so I decided to stay in town.

Bishuo and Makunda were summoned to meet me at 5 and they took me out to a funny little place in Thamel… I have avoided Thamel for almost the 6 weeks I have been here, but yesterday went there twice… after Shashi tried his best to get me to go and I sent him off with out me, after which I took a taxi to buy a larger carry on backpack. Though I tried valiantly to find a plate for my mother and hankies she requested, I have be thwarted, but none the less did somehow acquire a few things to bring back for folks to admire upon my return to the Ponderosa. I few to many “objets d’art” made of bronze to put thru, so got a great little backpack and noticed a guy that stitches patches and things along the road back to the taxi… I convinced him to do a Nepali flag on the backpack, and had a very nice conversation with him.

So I was back in the guest house by 10ish and listened to the BBC-FM all night, dozing and sleeping, as they were playing music from the Live Earth Concerts sponsored by Al Gore. It was great… having dreams with Madonna and The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Himalayas and Nepali buses all mixed up as I slept… Gore is one USAan that makes me proud.

Woke up early, had breakfast and was at Boudha Stupa by 745am. The best time, before it gets filled by tourists, yet is filled with Buddhists circumambulating the stupa, so I quickly get in the flow, I like to do 3 laps at ground level, 3 more at mid-level inside the wall, and another 3 at the very highest. While at the highest level the Himalayas broke out of the clouds, which I took as a both a good omen and a blessing for the time I have here. Which has been overwhelmingly great! The people here are absolutely great, their culture and history and food so interesting. They have been patient with me, and I look forward to any future collaborations.

So the rest of the visit looks like: Class tonight, a talk at TU to the math education department, and packing, packing, and packing… I am sure there are a few dinners and lunches in there as well.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Happy 7.7.07 at 7am!

Last nite I had a very nice evening with Rosemary and her husband. They are a British couple who are retired educators. R went with us to the Sustainable Development Project site last week... They are here for 3 years (ends in May) as part of their Volunteer program like our peace corps which is canceled here (grrr!). Amazing to meet people who have everything, and are willing to go out for awhile and do something for the good of things... people like them humble me, and it was great fun as well as an honored to be asked to enjoy the sunset from their rooftop before dinner.

So at any rate, I have 3 more days, a lot of farewell parties... and festivals to fit in... also off to the village where we have been working on a math curriculum for the day...

I am fortunate indeed... I have friends and family in so many beautiful places in the world . Good decent people, who just want a fair chance, a good job, education, and the best for their children. The more I travel, the more I see how we are all the same.

So this morning I am packing before we go to the countryside. I was thinking as I looked out the window at the poverty, just how fortunate I am to have these opportunities to travel and learn how others think and feel and perceive and do things...

I miss my friends and garden, but I also look forward to more travel abroad...

bucket baths make you strong indeed!
life is good!

It wasn’t just the rat running across the floor that was fun last night. The rat was in one of the restaurants called “the Bakery Café” that are staffed by people who hearing and vocally impaired. The rat is a pet, and upstairs on the balcony level and cyber café, they let the white rat run loose… the rat is of special significance as Vanesh is always accompanied by a rat. But how I got to a restaurant with a rat with two colleagues is much more interesting than the rat itself. Or at least I think so, and since this is my blog, you will just have to humor me.

So let me start at the beginning. This morning I was free until 11:30, so I got up, had a leisurely breakfast and took a taxi to Boudha. Boudha for those non-Nepalis reading this is the place I like to go to more often than not to walk and soak in the energy, as it is one of the more sacred of al Buddhist places on earth, and is one of the largest stupas in the world, and the largest in Nepal. I did my nine circumambulations in a clockwise direction as are everyone else, and then took my place in the “Saturday Café” which I think affords a splendid view of the whole area… if you are lucky the Himalayas peek out. But alas I was there late, it was already hot, and the clouds had begun their daily buildup. Shashi called to tell me he was in the Guest House, so I was back by 11:30, we went to the restaurant where as you saw in my last post, folks fêted me with a few gifts.

After lunch we all went back to the university, where I asked someone to call Nepal Airlines to confirm my return. After a few dozen phone calls it was determined that I needed to go to the office (downtown – on New Road about 15 km distance) before 5pm. It was 3:30 and as I have been here six weeks and know little to nothing, I do know that 1.5 hours can and then can not always be enough time… so the trusty drive r was called, whisked me thru traffic and I was done in 30 minutes - with a dreadfully small stamp for the effort, I might add – on my ticket. Just as I entered Nepali Airlines HQ, Shasi called and told me to come back to campus ASAP as the “rath” was moving to its last position. “Rath”? Worth a look… so back we sped…

Non-Nepalis are all asking “now what the heck is a rath, and why would those crazy Nepalis think they had to move one?” Now for the relatively uninitiated, as I can safely say I was earlier this morning, a rath is a very large cart. The wheels of which are taller than this writer, and because no iron can be used to construct this object, it has no infernal combustion apparatus in which to move it, and so is completely dependent upon the good graces of the entire male population to tug it through the streets.

Did I say there was a large 15m tall redwood or Christmas like tree on top of the rath?

It is not really a Christmas tree, as there is no Christmas here as this is not a Christian country, but being a country, they have devised thousands of holidays that are just a wacky – I mean what can a culture that believes that a very fat man an drives a sleigh through the air driven by tiny reindeer to deliver presents to good children that are delivered by the fat man through the chimney and whose entire economy depends on Santa buying the presents - have to say to a culture that drags a tree through the streets for fun and spiritual purposes? Obviously we have nothing to say, as this culture has been doing this same insanely wild act for a couple of thousand of years, and we invented Santa only 150 years ago. Bishou, one of my hosts who along with Mukunda and Rosemary accompanied me on chasing the rath through the streets of Patan wrote the following for me when I asked in the “rat restaurant” what just happened, he wrote in my notebook:

The Machendra Nath = Jatra (Carnival of Machendra Nath) is the festival of the farmers of the valley. They celebrate this to get enough rain so that they can harvest the rice in the paddies in sufficient amounts.

This makes perfect sense… But I digress, which is my right as this is my blog of course… Did I say that the giant tree on the rath festival is ancient, so has been celebrated long before any city anywhere had electrical power and telephone lines (either legally or illegally installed)?

Hmmm… 2m tall wheels, another 1.5m tall little house that has a 10m (plus or minus) giant tree thingy perched on top. What of the power and telephone and what not cables across the street? What to do be done you ask? Well… As the party progresses down the street, the only sensible thing to do is the cut them, and so they do... in fact a man shimmied up the pole and cut a line with a pair of pliers which meant one side of the street was dark and the other was not. Sorry Mom that I didn’t call, the rath went down our street and we had had no telephone service… Brilliant!

So after it was all over, one knows it is over as members of the original Gurkha regiment fire their muskets when the rath is pulled over the sunstone… Rosemary went her way, and the three gents went their way to the Bakery “Rat” Café across the roundabout and retired for drinks and momo’s and serious conversation about life, politics, religion and the true meaning of dragging giant trees through streets and the sheer joy that a population gets by doing so can unleash while the owners who hired hearing impaired waiters let the pet rat roam about the premises…


Thursday, July 5, 2007

After a morning walk at Boudha, and a nice coffee with a great view! I was asked to lunch. Here are a few snaps of my farewell luncheon with the Dean, Registrar and Vice-Chancellor (Kathmandu University President) . They surprised me with a very nice gift and a hat!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Namaskaar! Namaskaar!

Last night after work I was invited to the Dean’s home for a sumptuous dinner with my colleagues. He has a lovely home, a fantastic garden, which made me miss mine now more than ever.
With all the corn and rice growing, I am aching to get my hands dirty in my yard. To see his garden, a really nice yard, with a huge pecan tree fro shade, and lotus pond… beautiful! Before I could think to take pictures we were chased inside by mosquitoes… But here is a snap of all of us on his hand carved sofa. My uncle Ron would be so interested in the wood work done here. He also had a nice little wall clock, see if you can figure out why it is so interesting? Today a formal farewell luncheon is planned at noon with the KU vice-chancellor and the deans and colleagues. I had better go for a walk after I post this! Friday I have a talk at Tribhuvan University and Saturday we are in the field with the UNESCO project.

Included here is yesterday’s corn and rice shots.

5 days left – 7 days to see my garden… Nossa! Que saudades tenho - para meus amigos em Sacramento e Brasil! There is only one cure for this saudades... a walk around the Boudha Stupa... off I go!
Ms C of Portland writes:

Wow...what stories. I have your photo of the rice field on my desktopscreen.

Dr. D in Kathmandu (tho in 5 dyas will be back in Sacramento) says:

feel free to borrow any pics... I am honored!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Took a taxi to Patan, and walked around and found a magnificent 5 storied Shiva Pagoda Temple... and then on to KU... the snaps have a theme... lets see if you can guess what it is...

Leaping leeches…

Leaping leeches…so let me tell you about my afternoon tea in Lakhure, Bhanjyang with the KU Sustainable Development Interest Group.

As I write this I braved the petrol strike, flagged a taxi to Patan and am sitting on the third floor of a marvelous little restaurant overlooking Durbar Square… I figure if the transit problem continues at least I am now 10minutes walk thru a lovely old part of the city to my office…

Yesterday was “rather fine” as they say here.

I was picked up bright and early, and met with the NGO at KU. We hired a bus to take us to Lakhure, Bhanjyang, is a Tamang town at about 8ooo ft elevation overlooking the whole Kathmandu valley. There were a few complications, which only made the whole trip with the lot, a great deal more fun! The first hassle, which as we all looked back was somewhat of a precursor, was that the van we had hired didn’t enough diesel petrol to get us to our destination. Under normal circumstances it is only a minor problem, petrol stations being few and far between, but generally open. But alas there is a strike in the area that borders India, and the roads bringing petrol into the country are blocked… This being a tea drinking land, we stop often and frequently for tea. So at our first stop as I began to take pictures, one of the lads pulled me aside for a “briefing”. More or less that if the YCL “pulls me aside they suggest I do not tell them anything about being from the Untied States (they are rather non-plussed with Bushlandia as it seems). I assured them that I would be glad to speak to them in Portuguese and feign any knowledge of English if need be if that would expedite things… everyone laughed. And as it was, there were no YCL to be met or seen the whole day. (YCL = Young Communist League = which are a groups of youth who on occasion take the law into their own hands in rural villages) Lakhure, Bhanjyang is on the edge of the valley, some areas just outside of the valley are very active places for the former insurgents who are learning to integrate into local society and government.

So when we finished our tea (number two by 10 am), they decided to find a cave that was “five minutes walk” from where were. The path seemed nice enough, being a major water buffalo track along the side of the hill, so off we went; only we realize that we were hosting leaches. They are funny little guys – looking like inchworms and hanging on the ends of grass, or leaves waiting for unsuspecting victims… I managed to spot a number crawling on me and my friends… even Rosemary Reid or very nice indeed British representative to the project who is a retired school teacher/administrator serving in her Majesty’s equivalent of the Peace Corps abandoned her stiff upper lip for a moment to exclaim how nasty the situation was. So after ½ hour we decided to beat hastily back to the van and push on. Where we took tea (number 3) on the veranda of a very nice hotel with absolutely nobody in it, which afforded the view of the whole valley and the allusive Himalayas (see photo me holding the poster of potential view).

So over more tea and noodles, we discussed what we wanted to do, we brainstormed a number of ideas, while a meeting was arranged for us to meet with the school advisory board and teachers (conveniently in session). So we left the resort to find the van had a flat tie… so we pushed on only to be completely drenched in rain shower, hiding under a tree afforded the opportunity of the leaches to fall on us, and while I was sitting in the meeting the local teacher to my right, pulled a rather fat and drunken leech off my arm…

The meeting school was enlightening, as we all agreed earlier that we did not want to impose, but if they themselves described a need we might be able to do something. So what we learned was that they are tired of projects and NGO’s that come and decide what they need, do not finish their work and leave before they are completed. One example was a public toilet (gifted by a very well-meaning Japanese woman) that does not function because no one knows how to use, clean or maintain it. SO after the meeting, we all retired to the bus stop tea shop to hang about until our van’s tire was fixed. Phone calls were made and we were told that all would be right in 30 minutes. 4 hours alter after sharing the building with the local population as the rain came on in force; we decided to take the bus down the mountain. This seemed a reasonable choice until it came and we sat, while more phone calls were made to let them know we gave up. Then the bus we were all on (gratefully we had seats)… was delayed as they tried to take a large rock that was wedged between the real right tires. I took advantage to take a plethora of snaps of a trio of boys playing in the rain. It wasn’t until the bus arrived at the lowland rice paddies that our fearless leader leaned forward to whisper… “By the way the driver is drunk”. I won’t scare my mother, should she be reading this to describe the width of the road, and the shear 100 ft drops we hairpined about. “Mighty talented that bus driver, I must say!” and to be under the influence of the local rice wine none the less! From the bus stop which was strangely near the KU road junction (which led me to believe that we could have taken a drunken bus up and back and had been done by lunch… instead we arrived at 6pm… I having to sprint to grab my bag in order to make it to the World Hunger Day Concert at the BICC. The regular driver’s taxi was now incapacitated due to the strike so a colleague took me by motorbike to the taxi stand (in a driving rain shower) And we managed to grab a taxi, and due to the petrol shortage the traffic was clear and smooth… and I got to the Guest house in record time. By the time Roshen and Prawachan came and got me we arrived to hear the last two songs of the concert. Now if you have ever been to a rock concert (in The USA or Brasil or Nepal) they are all remarkably the same, especially at the end… thousands of people cheering and dancing… to come into all that after a day like I had was very much the “coming late to the party”. It was great fun none the less. Capped the evening off with being treated to a great band at a rooftop café in Thamel with Prawachan who was kind enough to show me around and make sure that even with the petrol shortage that I was safely deposited at the Guest house past closing hours. My Nepali guest house family not happy if I come home after 9pm (which is quite strange as even in Sacramento I allowed to stay out longer on school nights). But after such a lively pair of Nepali rock songs I just didn’t feel like going back to a quiet guesthouse and listening to the BBC while I read my novel.

I must get a humidity indicator next time… my REI thermometer I have with the handy little compass, is reading about 30c (86f) at 9am, but I am dripping on my keyboard… the view, and the people chanting and singing in the temples on the square precludes my leaving… its just plain nice here!

So that is how my afternoon tea came to take the whole afternoon at Lakhure, Bhanjyang.


The message reads in Nepali:

We will always remember you!

Diregard violence, let us be determiend to create peace.

This is in the big round about between New Baneswor, Kathmandu and Lalitpur...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Rice and corn progress report

Here is the progress of the rice and corn from the office window as of today
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