A Travellerspoint blog

Hopeful Home

Christmas Time in Nepal + Nadine's next adventure

sunny 10 °C

Hmmm....you know what? I'm ready to leave Nepal now! I think 3 months is enough time here...I have been at the Hopeful Home orphanage for over one week now and it's tiring to say the least. When I first got there, I was told I would be sharing a room with another volunteer, which indeed was true. I was very grateful to have Rosie, from Australia, to share the children with because there are 38 of them and you can imagine how difficult it would be to learn all those names without a bit of help, can't you?! We (or rather 'me' as Rosie has now left to go back to her hometown in Perth) are expected to be there from 7.30am until 9.30am, then from 4pm until 7pm (except Saturday - when we should be there ALL DAY). EXCEPT now that there have been more strikes in Nepal the children have not been at school so I HAVE BEEN trying TO ENTERTAIN THEM ALL DAY EVERY DAY since LAST SATURDAY. When they are at school, like today, it's much better as you have 'free time' in the day. I don't know how Rosie did it because before I came to join her, she was on her own for 3 weeks WITHOUT ONE DAY OFF (except when she was sick but that doesn't count).

My favourite children are the small ones because I like hearing them laugh and like to learn dances from them. They take it very seriously when they are dancing and expect you to be able to copy them after watching them 'one time'. By the way, their favourite saying is 'one time Miss' which means 'in a minute Miss'. They are so sweet and all call me "Nisha Miss" (my nepalese name is Nisha - did I tell you that?! Dai gave me this name...) The older children are a bit moody, especially the boys - the girls are the best! The 'management', as in the head boss lady, is a bit scary. She got really annoyed yesterday when she thought that Rosie had left without giving her a Christmas present (she did kind of get her a present, which consisted of used peanut butter, opened honey and needles and thread!) but I don't blame Rosie at all for giving her these hilarious gifts because the week before this, Rosie and I were asked to 'volunteer' 27,000 rupees of our own money (that's about 220 quid!) to pay for 38 children + 12 anonymous guests for a picnic! How on earth they came up with figure I don't know. Actually I do, because they showed me the calculations, which they had totalled-up wrong and then added another 2000 rupees! No shame...no shame.

I wasn't going to at first, but I'm now in search of some cheap (but nice) christmas presents for THE CHILDREN. (Thank you mama for sending those colourful stickers to me because I know they will love them!) The Nepalese people do like to celebrate Christmas but apparently some years back they didn't and 'they' (Dai and his saati's - 'friends') had to go to the king (there isn't one now - don't ask coz I still don't understand what happened to him) and demonstrate on the streets until they got Christmas Day granted as a National Holiday (I'm not sure how much of this is true by the way). Anyway, after Christmas Day is over I have only TWO DAYS LEFT in NEPAL as I have decided to spend time (maybe a month, maybe more!) in NEW ZEALAND! WOooooooooo!

I'm so excited because I have booked myself a party ticket to go to a 4-day DRUM&BASS/REGGAE/HIP HOP rave starting on Wednesday 30th Dec 2009 until 2nd Jan 2010. New Zealand is 12 hours in front of UK so when you are all eating your lunch on Thursday, I will be one-stepping (as Luke says!) into the night of 2010! I have hired a sleeper-van so I can drive myself from Christchurch to the partay and back. I've bought the Lonely Planet guide for New Zealand which has made good bed-time reading for me - except that most nights when I go to open the book, the power goes off, so I have to read in the dark using my wind-up torch, which needs 'winding up' every 30 seconds...absolutely ridiculous. I'm really looking forward to permanent power supply, a hot shower, clean/unmatted hair, and a food menu that contains lots of MEAT where I don't have to be afraid of being sick. I am going to miss Nepal for its cheap food/internet/taxis/laundry/music/gifts/toiletries/clothes/jewellery/....the list goes on. I would say I'm going to miss the hot weather here, but IT'S SUMMER in NEW ZEALAND! YEAAAAAHHHHH!

I'm not sure whether I'll write another blog before I leave Nepal - if I don't end doing one, you'll be hearing from me in NZ in JANUARY!

Thinking of you all in England with your White Christmas ! HAVE FUN, STAY WARM AND BE MERRY!

Lots of love,

Nadine xxx

Posted by NADZ2 21:35 Archived in Nepal Tagged events Comments (2)

Village Stories

Patana, Pokhara, Swayambhu

sunny 14 °C

Wow! It's been a month since I updated my blog - have you missed my stories?! Well the latest story is that KFC has just opened up their first outlet in Nepal as of yesterday and apparently the queue was absolutely huge. Just so you know, there are NO WESTERN FAST FOOD CHAINS IN NEPAL. For me it's just Dhaal Bhaat, Dhaal Bhaat and more Dhaal Bhaat. Basically Dhaal Bhaat is white rice, a potato curry and lentils which luckily I really like! Didi is a wonderful cook and I try to help her with the food preparations sometimes but she tells me to 'basnus' (SIT DOWN) because 'I am her guest' so that means I can't help...sometimes she lets me though.

A few weeks ago I went with Didi on a 7 hour bus journey (3 separate buses) to her previous home/village called Patana (near Pokhara). I had tummy trouble on the way there so you can imagine how difficult that would have been for me with no TOILETS on the bus! Luckily, Dai (he came with us for the first part of the bus ride) asked the driver to stop for me, so I ran to the toilet and I was over 15 minutes one time! The buswaited for me and I got no dirty looks when I got back, just smirks...

When we eventually got to Didi's home (with some amazing beautiful scenery along the way) I was relieved I was still alive.. there are about 3 buses that go to her village per day, and this one bus we got was near to falling apart but the worst thing is that these buses have to drive up these massively steep rocky hills (sometimes with water on the other side!) and there were so many times I thought the bus was going to just keel over. But thankfully we got to her village in one piece and were greeted by her three younger sisters (Anjanna, Anjoo, Indoo) who all called me 'Didi' (older sister). Straight away I noticed how much warmer it was there. We were surrounded by green hills and fields, and there were chickens, a few dogs, buffalo, goats all around the place.

My first meal consisted of Dhaal Bhaat and sweet corn for starters (fresh from their own field) which tasted lovely because it was cooked on a fire. Then they had 'kukura' (chicken) with Dhaal Bhaat but I politely declined because I still had tummy trouble and wanted to stay clear from meat (this was why I was ill in the first place!) I witnessed my first chicken slaying, which was done by Didi's uncle. I saw him grab the chicken with the knife in hand and turn it upside down but I couldn't look away. I saw everything and didn't feel sick or anything (I won't go into detail about it, don't worry). They don't waste a single part of the chicken which I thought was very good. Anything they don't eat goes to the Kukur (dogs).

Talking about dogs...on my second night in Didi's village, while trying to sleep in the bedroom, I was greeted by a sound in the room, which I thought were moth wings beating together. Then came a crash by the foot of my bed which was a broom falling over onto the floor. I sat up straight in bed, eyes wide with my heart pounding. Then came the sound of what sounded like an animal munching on something. I started howling and woke up Didi's sister who was in the room next door. Didi and Anjoo came to my aid as I lept out of bed, turned the light on and opened the door to let them in. I said "there's something in my room! HELP!" Anjoo then bravely stepped into the room, calmly walked towards the bed and a BIG FAT RAT came running out from underneath it, heading towards the door and out into the bushes outside. Then I looked at the dog that was sitting quitely outside my room and thought 'Oh good, the dog will go after it and get it!" But no, the dog just sat there and couldn't care less that a big fat juicy rat had just ran past it. What...a...joke. So then I went back to bed, Didi and her sister returned to their room, and about 10 minutes later CAME THE SAME SOUND OF MUNCHING again. I thought, 'what am I gonna do now? I can't wake them up again because of this rat!' So I just laid there knowing that I would just have to share my room with the rat for the night. I put my ear plugs in and tried to think of something else...

Didi took me to Pokhara the next day and that was another 3 hour journey by bus. I really do feel for the people of Nepal who have to travel regularly by bus. They are so uncomfortable - mainly because the roads are in such bad condition that you can feel every bump/rock through the comfort of your seat, plus they pack them so that we are like sardines and you have people's bags in your faces as you sit down (if you are lucky enough to get a seat!). I met Didi's other sister, 'Bindoo' who lives in Pokhara. I let them catch up while I just behaved like a tourist taking photos of everything...Pokhara is beautiful because it has the backdrop of snow-filled mountains and there is a lovely lake there called 'Lakeside'. I saw people paragliding off the mountains there and may go back there myself to have a go (so I can be like you Camilla!)

I stayed in Patana for 3 nights in total and came back to Kathmandu with over 20 mosquito bites. They've gone now though. It's too cold in Kathmandu for mosquitos and there are no rats that I have seen here so far. When I returned to Swayambhu with Didi, Dai told me that another volunteer had arrived and would be working with me at the monastery and would also be staying with us. I thought "Yes, now I can share the monks with someone else!" The volunteer's name is Alvin and he is from Canada - first time travelling at the age of 48 and his son and wife are back at home in Toronto. He hasn't been well recently and has been coughing really badly but now he is better.

It's weird that we are both teaching the monks at the same time. We spoke to the head lama about how we should manage the class now that there was two of us and he said that we could teach together for one hour with the small monks (8-14 years) and one hour teaching with the older monks (15-21 years). It's good now because one of us can help the very small monks who have no idea what is going on during the class (who sit at the back).

I have only one week left teaching now! Alvin is here for another month so he will be on his own when I go. After next week, I go to the orphanage for 5 weeks to start helping out with the children there...but I still have no idea where in Kathmandu I will be placed. This is because 'HOM' (the coordinator for RCDP) has gone on a 2 week 'meeting' to New Zealand! I wonder who paid for his flight?

Yesterday, when Alvin and I were walking back home from the monastery, we saw a dead man that had a white sheet placed over him lying by the side of the road. There were lots of people crowding round the body and at first I thought the people were gambling because there was someone shouting and holding lots of money (I found out later that this was a collection for the family of the dead person). Not sure what happened to him but there are a lot of homeless people who sleep by the roadside round here and I wonder whether he too was homeless.

My last story of the day is that I asked Dai where the prisons in Nepal are, as we see lots of army/police people round here. He told me that if I wanted to go and see one, I could. So when I came back from Patana, I had the opportunity of going to see a female prison in Kathmandu! There were young girls in there as young as 16, some as old as 60. Apparently, most of the offences relate to drug trafficking. Dai tells me I am the first tourist to EVER set foot inside a prison in Kathmandu! We went through about 5 different ranks of police/prison staff before it was agreed. No photos allowed though...

It was Dai's birthday yesterday so we had a little party and ate lots of food, drank 'Everest' beer and had cake. Alvin and I bought a cake and a card for him and he was very pleased.

I think that's the last of the stories I have for you at this time. Will update you all again when I can. Thank you for your emails too - I really enjoy reading what you are all getting up to back home. I heard it is really bad weather in England? IT'S SUNNY HERE!!!!

Lots of love,

Nadine xxx

Posted by NADZ2 19:51 Archived in Nepal Tagged transportation Comments (7)

You want the good or bad news?

Base Camp

sunny 10 °C

Well, let's start positively. I'm alive! We got back from our '12' day trek (should have been '14') on Saturday - today is Tuesday so I have had three nights stay in Thamel in Kathmandu courtesy of RCDP (the volunteer agency). As I write this, I am in Swayambhu - back with my host family being looked after, fed and watered. NO monks in sight as I have the day off!

So....the bad news is I didn't make it to Base Camp. It was very unfortunate. I kind of blame our guide, Dodgee, who decided to listen to the girls and boys in our group who thought it appropriate to combine two days worth of trekking into ONE. I'm still very annoyed and upset at this. Basically, because my 'group' thought it would be a great idea to trek to two major mountains (Kala Patarr, 5500m and Base Camp, 5385m) in one day, I didn't get the opportunity to see if I could make it to Base Camp. My main reasons for not wanting to do as they wanted was because it meant we would be walking for over 12 hours UP HILL and because I had already been feeling the symptoms of Altitude Sickness a few days before this. To me it made more sense to follow the plan and take things slow. BUT NO.

This is what happened the day I got ill:

The group got what they wanted. We woke up to begin our 'two big mountains in a day trek' at 3AM. I felt fine at this point as I had managed to get to bed the night before at 7pm. By the time we were all ready to go, it was 3.30am. We walked in the pitch black on rocky land and across patches of ice cold water for almost 2 1/2 hours. Half hour into this ridiculous walk, I started feeling unwell. I felt dizzy, and started to feel sick...but my guide didn't seem to care and we continued walking. I was at the back of the group and I almost fell down the rocks about 5 or 6 times. If it wasn't for Mao and Joel (the gentleman in the group aged 30 and 18 respectively) I might have been seriously injured from falling. By the time we got to the next village (Gorak Shep, 5100m) I was completely out of it. I had to lie down, sleep and be covered with blankets. It felt like the worst hangover of my life... So what did the rest of my group do? They carried on so they could finish their 'two big mountains in a day trek' without me - leaving me in Gorek Shep with one of our porters (who we named 'Flower Boy' because he liked to wear a pink flowered headscarf). Luckily for me, 'Flower Boy' took great care of me and was wrapping me in blankets, holding my hand and keeping me warm. Some concerned tourists kept coming over to me to see if I was alright. At one point, this French woman came over to me and started dressing me, putting more layers of clothes on me so I was like one massive puff ball of clothes. They 'told' the porter to take me back 'down' the mountain to Lobuche (where we stayed the night before, at 4900m) as I would feel worse if I stayed at this high altitude. I kept thinking, "oh its ok, the porter will organise for a horse to take me back down the mountain as surely walking back is out of the question..." NO. I had to walk back like a drunk for 2 1/2 hours to Lobuche in the cold. I was not impressed.

By the time we reached Lobuche, after numerous attempts by the porter to stop me from falling down the mountain, it was 10.30am. My loving group of volunteers returned at 4.30pm - they were knackered but happy in that they had managed to finish their 'two big mountains in a day' trek without incident and loaded with photos of themselves at Base Camp Everest...no i'm not bitter. I honestly believe that had we taken it slower and done 'two big mountains in TWO days' my blog story would have been a more positive one.

We slept and ate at different tea houses most nights. Our best stay was in a place called Naamche Bazaar which is where all the trekkers congregate before heading off again to Base Camp Everest and beyond. Seeing the porters carrying some heavy loads on their backs - like boxes of beer/Pepsi/pipes of steel/parts of roofing made me upset as it can't be good for them PLUS it's usually all for tourists that they are doing it anyway. The journey there was beautiful though. To see iced mountains towering above you, hearing the sounds of fresh running water gushing beside us rather than weird howling dogs, or car horns, was much needed.

Posted by NADZ2 00:23 Archived in Nepal Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

BASE CAMP EVEREST HERE WE COME!

14 day trek

overcast 24 °C

So.....tomorrow is the first day of our trek to Base Camp Everest and I'm feeling nervous and excited at the same time. Myself and 5 other volunteers (2 Canadian, 1 Singaporean, 1 Danish, and 1 Australian) and are all set and ready to go. We leave Thamel (in Kathmandu) tomorrow morning at 5.30am and we catch a flight to Lukla, which is the start of the trek.

We met our 'guide' today who's name sounds like 'Dodgee' - lets hope he isn't. He seems really sweet and is only 22 years old! He tells us he is from the mountains and has lived there all his life. He is the first from his family to climb all the way to the top of Mount Everest, which he did earlier this year and he has taken tour groups to Base Camp Everest almost 10 times.

I asked him if he wouldn't mind checking the weight of my backpack today and he told me it is a good weight for the porters. We will be having 3 porters to CARRY ALL OUR BACKPACKS THE WHOLE WAY to Base Camp Everest (5400m)! Mao (boy from Singapore) is going to carry it himself - we will see. I've taken a few things out of my bag because of the guilt from knowing that each porter will be carrying on their backs TWO of our BACKPACKS! It's unbelievable how they do it. We've been told that Day 2 and Day 6 are the most strenuous days of walking for us. The biggest risks are Altitude Sickness so we will be taking it slow...apparently.

Unfortunately, I ate a dodgy chicken fahita dish for dinner last night (in Thamel) and now I'm having toilet trouble - PLEASE PLEASE I hope it goes before tomorrow!

I doubt there will be internet where we will be going but if there is I will do my best to let you all know that I am ok. Not sure what the phone situation is like there either. Another trekker told us that when he tried to use internet up at Base Camp, it wasn't working because a YAK had crashed into the satellite and broken the connection!

Wish me luck!!! My next round of photos are sure to be amazing!

Lots of love to you all,

Nadine xxx
P.S The monks have all been behaving themselves recently because I told the Head Lama from the monastery about their behaviour...he wasn't at all pleased so he 'disciplined' them! He went away for 10 minutes after I had spoken with him about them. Then, when I returned to the class they were all silent and the stick was positioned nicely on my desk...poor monks. Best they BEHAVE THEN!

Posted by NADZ2 02:25 Archived in Nepal Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Royal Chitwan Park

"Lati ---llalalalala the Elephant"

sunny 30 °C

We left for Chitwan on Friday morning and it took OVER 14 hours to get there! (SHOULD HAVE TAKEN 7!). We got to the bus stop and waited for over an hour for our 'tourist' bus. There were 8 of us in total, 9 including Keshav (our Nepalese teacher/coordinator/brother) and all our bags! Luckily we all got seats...

I bought my first newspaper on the bus - people were coming onto the bus selling things like fruit, water and magazines. So I bought The Kathmandu Post. I asked Keshav how much to pay for the paper and he told me 2 rupees is a good price. When I asked the man for the paper, he says 50 rupees! "No thank you." Then he says "30 rupees". Again "no thank you." The bus is about to leave and suddenly he says "ok, ok. 5 rupees!" This newspaper had about 10 pages in it so I thought that was a reasonable price to pay. I think this was my most successful piece of bartering yet.

The journey to Chitwan was absolutely ridiculous. We were stop - start, stop - start, for the first 2 hours Then our back tyre exploded. Luckily for us, we broke down just by a shop which selling cold drinks and it was so hot outside so we were very grateful for this. Here we were also able to use 'the toilet' and buy some water. Got back on the bus and then half hour later, there were strikes on the road. Another delay, more drama. Apparently someone was killed in a road crash the week before and because no one was arrested for the driving offence, the residents kicked up a storm which resulted in road strikes and the army being called to 'sort them out'. (We had no idea what was happening at the time and we only found out about the reason for the 'strike' from speaking to a Canadian backpacker three days later!)

When we eventually started moving again, we travelled to our first proper pit stop and ate breakfast (at 1.30pm!)
After feeding we got taken to do a place that did White Water rafting. We changed into shorts, put sun cream on and got into our life jackets, and helmets. We waited for almost an hour for the staff to put air in the rafts and then were given our 'safety talk' - most of which we couldn't understand...Then into the boat! I shared a raft with all blokes so we went the fastest! Two boys from Manchester were with us as well - someone asked them if they were Scottish! We had a lot of fun and luckily no one fell out into the water. We had instructions being shouted at us from the back of the raft whenever we came to a fast-part of the river and I got told off for not holding the peddler thing correctly. The scenery was amazing but I have no photos for you as I didn't want to get my camera out in case it fell out of the boat! At some points across the river, we could see local people doing some kind of tight-rope walking to get from one side of the river to the other. I worked so damn hard for 2 hours straight - it was great exercise for us all.

After some lunch, we had to get back on a bus to Chitwan. By this time it was pitch black. Waiting for a bus on the side of a road, with all our bags and NO STREET LIGHTS with cars/buses moving towards us at 60 mph was not great. We were shining our torches at the traffic so they could see us. We waited for 45 minutes before we got a ride from a local in his open-air caged jeep with Keshav hanging on standing at the back with the road beneath his feet. He didn't seem to care but everytime a car came too close to us we were screaming at the driver! We eventually got to our hotel at 9.30pm and all we wanted to do was sleep. But we had to eat dinner instead. After scoffing our food down us, we went to our rooms and didn't come out again until 7am the next morning.

Next day was ELEPHANT BATHING! Yeah!!!!! When we got to the place where they were doing the bathing, we could see about 6 elephants in the river all with people on top of them, laughing and falling off into the river. We were shown the way to 'our elephant' and we climbed on top while it sat down in the water for us. With some help from the guide we were now sitting on an elephant! But we didn't stay up long because as soon as it got up, we fell off crashing straight into the water. We must have tried about 10 times to stay on but it was no good. Wasn't sure if it was our lack of balance or the elephant wanting to throw us off on purpose?! Unfortunately, I wore my sunglasses that day and they were no where to be seen...The elephant was then 'instructed' to lie down and then we started massaging it and putting water onto his back. It seemed to like it and every now and again it would spray water onto us (and itself) using its trunk. Someone else was responsible for taking these photos so there aren't many good ones of me doing this.

We also went to an elephant breeding centre that day which had baby elephants roaming around and even twin boy elephants! Got some great photos of this. It was sad to see that some of the adult elephants were chained up which reminded me of Dumbo the cartoon and made me want to cry! The good thing thought is that the elephants get 'released' every day to go into the jungle between 10-4 and go WILD! The staff were feeding them hay and also seemed to be setting fire to their poo?

On Sunday we had a proper elephant ride which lasted 2 hours. Four of us sat in this box thing - one in each corner. I was at the front so could warn the others if we got too close to a telephone cable/branch of a tree. We travelled into the jungle and saw 5 one-horned rhinos, some deer and some of those naughty monkeys. My photos are not great because of the jogging of the camera during the ride. It was an amazing ride through the trees seeing all these wild animals while being carried by a massive elephant. Our elephant was a male so we had to stay back from the other 'female' elephants who were also carrying people - according to our elephant rider it would be 'dangerous' for us to get too close...I did ask for the name of our elephant but it was too long to remember. Sounded something like "Lati ---llalalalala". Every now and again it would pull down branches of trees to have a snack. Saw a few Nepalese elephant riders with Chelsea FC shirts on, which made me smile...COME ON CHELS!

Two of the other volunteers - Amy and Betina - have gone on a 7-day track to the Annapurna mountains today. We go on our trek to Base Camp Mount Everest next week Monday (or Tuesday)! Very excited about that. It's the Tihar festival this week, which is celebrates the family relationship between brothers and sisters. Although it seems as though it is only the 'brothers' who get all the gifts/attention? I've seen how the 'sisters' put 'tikas' on the heads of their brothers, provide them with food, beer, clothing...Our male volunteers were spoilt and showered with gifts and us girls got nothing!

Luckily the bus ride home back to Kalanki was fine with no delays. It took just over 5 hours, which is normal (as we didn't go rafting this time!) I'm typing this to you all in an internet cafe in Swayambhu near where my host family live. I really miss it in Chitwan - it's much cleaner, quieter and friendlier. Now I have to put up with the crazy dogs and naughty monkeys/monks again!

I will try and see if I can upload my photos of Chitwan, etc by the end of the week. I've only found one internet cafe that would let me upload them...we will see.

Good bye for now! Hope all is well with everyone.

With love to you all XXXXXXXXXXXX

Nadz

Posted by NADZ2 21:43 Archived in Nepal Tagged events Comments (1)

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