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Nepal 2012 Blog
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1. (eck) - Stupa in the morning
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A few of us woke up at 6 to go see the Boudhanath stupa. The biggest stupa in the world, it was surrounded by a throng 5 people wide. Many held rosaries and there was a faint hum of “ohm mane padme hom,” the most common Buddhist mantra.
2. (duey) – Sick students
By this time most of the people in our group had acquired some nasty colds and/or gastrointestinal illnesses, which were extremely unpleasant. A few peopled were landlocked at the hotel, never far from a toilet, for the majority of the day.
3. (tin) – Souvenir shopping
Our last day in Nepal, there was no schedule beyond visiting the stupa. As the day progressed, the number of people performing pooja decreased and the number of shops (and shoppers) increased. We spent most of the day walking around the stupa in pairs, going in and out of shops and bartering for prayer flags, pashminas, jewelry, and other final souvenirs.
4. (char) – More food
We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel, complete with naan and Nepalese pastries. Lunch was at a nice restaurant in a garden courtyard. We had the luxury of ordering our own food (no dal bhat and lots of pizza). Dinner was at a restaurant by the stupa. Walking up to the pation, the most notable feature was the 100% foreign clientele. Again, we ordered for ourselves, and this time we even got desserts!
5. (panch) – Tenzi’s thanka paintings
One of the guides from the trek, Tenzi, was also a thanka painter. Painting had been in his family for generations, and he visited the hotel with some of his paintings. They were beautiful and several of us bought some (he had to make a second trip to bring even more). Even those who didn’t buy any appreciated the intricate work and traditional stories behind each piece.
6. (cho) – Our last Nepali hotel
Situated near the stupa and right next to Thrangu monastery, the “Happy Valley Guest House” had a Nepalese ambience. It had traditional murals on the lobby walls, nice marble floors, and several Nepalese people talking at the front desk at any given time. The roof had a view of the top of the stupa with its eyes and prayer flags. The rooms were nice enough, although people had to share beds or sleep on the floor. One room was even on the roof, with a view of Boudhanath.
7. (sat) – Packing
With our remaining hours numbered, everyone started the tedious task of packing. Most of us had acquired things during our stay, expanding our bags. Many of us packed our smelly trekking clothes as a separate duffle, with souvenirs and nicer clothes in our original bags. It was a melancholy feeling as we packed our bags to know we would be leaving Nepal the next day.
8. (at) – Free books
In our packing, we added a few books from the guest house’s book swap shelves. They had a bookcase in the room on the roof stuffed with books of all languages. We chose a few English ones and left some new books for the next visitors.
9. (no) – Visiting a monastery
A couple of us also visited a neighboring monastery. We looked at the bookstore there, milled in the courtyard, and finally approached a group of monks about seeing inside. They only half understood, but sent the youngest, who was perhaps 12, to open the prayer room door for us. The little boy led us into the ornate room and turned the light on over the giant Buddha statue flanked by intricate wall carvings. He invited us to walk up the aisles and behind the glass to pass the Buddha, making a full “U” of the room. On the way out, we gave him a deep “Namaste” and retrieved our shoes (no shoes are allowed in the room).
10. (dos) – Stupa in the evening
After dinner on our last night in Nepal, we walkaed around the stupa a final time. People were still circling the stupa making their last devotions before the night took them away. Flocks of pigeons ate the last bits of corn before flying off into the dusk. The stupa was magnificent at night, its white surface lit against the darkness. It had an effervescent presence; as we headed up the alley, I turned to say a last goodbye to the grand stupa.
Andrea and Liv
After enjoying another traditional daalbat lunch on the roof of our hotel in Patan, we walked for about fifteen minutes to Sattya. At Sattya we met Galen, one of its co-founders, and we also were introduced to some of our pen pals. If we were to take Galen and bring him back to Portland, he would look exactly like all of the other hipsters we see in P-town despite the fact that he is from San Francisco, CA. Interestingly enough, the Nepali kids from Sattya also looked quite similar. We toured the building and received friendly welcomes from both students and dogs. The building had four levels, including a nice rooftop where we would eat dinner the next day. Most of our time was spent in the screening room, which was just a nice little place with a projector, a screen on the wall, and several mats and cushions on the floor. After our tour was over, we broke into groups of about three Catlin students and one Sattya student and we discussed the issue of waste management in Kathmandu. We formulated interview questions, then spent an hour walking around Patan and filming interviews both in Nepali and some broken English.
When we were done filming, we transcribed the interviews, said farewell to our friends from Sattya, and ventured out to explore the Patan Durbar Square which was conveniently located right outside of our hotel. The square was full of people and saturated with shops. Many of the shops sold westernized clothing, and the tattoo parlors and nightclubs made the square feel much more young and vibrant than the squares in Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. After wandering around the square for a few hours, we ended our night with another delicious daalbat-ish dinner on the roof of our hotel, said goodnight and prepared ourselves for our second and last big day at Sattya.
-Esichang & Kellie
In the haven of Sattya Media Arts Collective on a hazy Saturday near the end of our stay. Our gang and young Nepalis shot footage yesterday around the busy Patan district of Kathmandu Valley. Now they are putting it all together, mixing sound and image, and adding titles. The theme of the interconnected pieces done by five small groups is waste management, a huge issue in this once pristine valley of many millions.
Nepal's infrastructure is limited and being in the 'most poor' country category, the rapid growth of the capital city and environs in recent decades has put unprecedented pessure on just about everything and everybody. Roads are being expanded, trash is routinely dumped in rivers, large brick or cement housing structures are built in the middle of former rice paddies and vegetable patches. With even a 200% duty on any car or motorcycle purchase, the inadequate roads are choked with vehicles. For our students. there is plenty to think about and discuss with our Nepali hosts.
It's our last weekend in country and students are in fine spirits. We've toured extensively in Kathmandu valley, home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We've trekked for 5-days in the Langtang region north of Kathmandu and reached a viewpoint at 12,600 feet. The view in the late morning light was spectacular and our breathing returned to nrmal on the long walk down. The final ascent was 2,300 feet and when we left the Taruche overlook, we descended about 5000 feet to our overnight stay at the Potala Guesthoiuse in Thuman. The challenge to our bodies has led to a bit of coughs and colds, but generally all are happy and well in the flow of the filmmaking projet underway.
Tonight, we will sleep at Valley Guesthouse near the great Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath. It's an ancient pilgrimahe site and the neighborhood is now home to many Tibetans whose family's escaped Chines oppression since the takeover of their country in 1959. Sunday will be our day to prepare for the long way home. It's traditional to walk around the stupa, spin the prayer wheels and meditate on life. It will be a calm day, and much needed in this most hectic of valleys.
Today we had a regular wake up time of 6 and a breakfast of 6:30. We ate fry bread for our breakfast and started on our easiest trek day yet. Today was only a 1/2-day of trekking. We were able to see an amazing view of the Lang Tang range. We ate lunch at the Great Wall, Nagthali Great Wall that is. Dinner was at the same place where we had lunch because we reached our destination by lunchtime. Before we reached Nagthali we were able to see many view points and we passed through a small village and we were pleasantly surprised when they spoke very clear English. Today was amazing because we were able to relax and hang out for 1/2 of the day.
We reached the summit of 12,600 ft., which was our highest point. We came back to Nagthali ate lunch and then set off for our next destination. That night we stayed at Potala guesthouse in Thuman we relaxed and ate a delicious dinner of American food of mac n' cheese and fries. After that we drank hot chai and played cards for only a little while because we were so wiped from our high trek that day.
We woke up at 6:30 rather that the usual 6 this morning, because it was only a 1/2 day. We ate eggs and pancakes with jam and honey. We took our pleasant time walking down hill to the bottom, where we started our trek. Nance got some altitude sickness and David stayed behind to help her come down later in the day. The walk was much easier that other days of the trek however it was hard on the knees to go down-hill for multiple hours. However we received a break because we found a small waterfall swimming area to dive into. We felt refreshed and tired after we reached the hotel and although we were happy to reach real toilets and showers we were sad to say goodbye to the mountains.
Dana and Craig
We got up early and boarded a tour bus for the seven hour trip to Langtang National Park. The roads were etremely bumpy and it was a little scary at times. The bus hugged the hillsides as we peered down steep valleys. We finally arrived in Syabru Besi and went to bed after talking to local kids at the town's school. The little kids loved Liv's tale and ripped it off. Luckily she got it back.
We woke early and started treking up the hill past the town. After a hard day of treking we enjoyed tea and a rest. After lunch, the path flattened out and we quickly reached the guest house in Catlang. After reaching the house a group went out to explore the town. They talked to the locals and learned the phrases. The rest of the night was spent playing cards and enjoying conversation over food and tea.
After a nights rest we headed down from the village to the river at the valley floor. We passed several stupas on the left, as is the custom in Nepal. The stupas were hundreds of years old and built of carved stones tacked on top of each other. We followed the river to another valley and headed up again. It was a long treck upwards to Tatopani which means hot water. We all enjoyed a soothing mineral rich bath in the hot springs.
-Erin and Grant
Today we woke up in Bhaktapur rested and ready for more touring. First we ate a delicious breakfast of omelets and yogurt, then headed out to do some final shopping near the guest house. Around 9 a.m. the tour guide picked us up in the bus and we headed to Pashupatinah, the largest Shiva temple in Nepal. When we arrived, we were barraged by a multitude of vendors selling everything from golden plates to coconut violins to ceremonial dyes, all which were apparently hand made, though we tended to doubt this. As we walked towards the temple we saw a number of cremations along the banks of the sacred Bagmati river. Once the bodies were reduced to ashes, the familes would disperse the remains into the river amongst a large amount of floating garbage. We found it strange that a river with such spiritual significance could be so polluted. Further along the river we saw a collection of sadhus (wandering Hindu monks) sitting by small shrines to Shiva. They would allow you to take their picture, but expected a few rupees in return. We saw a large group of monkeys climbing on the shrines, and a man feeding them crackers. They would sheepishly grab the food from his hand, before scampering off to munch in privacy. As we returned to the bus we noticed a few of the monks sitting away from the public eye talking on their cell phones. Once we got close to the bus we were surrounded by more vendors who pursued with more ferocity than before. One particularly persistent man began trying to sell us a trinket for $50, but we managed to work him down to 500 rupees (about $6). As we all crowded onto the bus the vendors banged on the windows yelling final offers to us as we drove off. From there we made our way to the heavily guarded Royal Palace. We were separated into two lines and patted down before being granted entrance to the extensive grounds. We were immediately shocked by the immensity of the palace. Stuffed animals coated the fine floors and walls of the ostentatious palace where the royal family had been massacred by the crown prince in 2001. The building in which the family lay was leveled but the foundation remained with signage indicating where they had fallen. Many rooms inside the palace were used for seating and discussion, including books and portraits of the royal family. We were a bit surprised by some of the furniture choices, which seemed to come out of a U.S.S.R. catalog. As we left we walked through the gardens, which led us out of the grounds and back to our bus. From there we went to lunch at Killjoy's, where we ate momos and noodles. After lunch we headed to Tamely (the tourist district of Kathmandu), where we placed an order for our group t-shirts. While David and Craig talked to the shop keeper the rest of the group dispersed to do some more shopping. We bought cashmere scarves and wool shoes, as well as some tasty finger chips (French fries). After shopping we headed back to the Hotel Tibet from the first night and began preparing, both mentally and logistically, for our long trek. Once we were packed we marched through the rain to Fire and Ice, a delicious pizzeria. After eating we headed home and made the final preparations, and now were off to bed.
Walker and Thomas
Today we went on a hike to a temple. It was a bit surprising considering most of us did not know we were hiking. Liv slipped into the water at the farmlands, where we had to walk on high up narrow paths. We saw army guys in training while we were hiking. Cody and Kenny raced each other to the top. Needless to say, Kenny tired out and lost. We got to the top and looked around one of the oldest temples in Nepal. There were amazing carvings throughout the temple, and many shrines to Hindu gods. Afterwards, we shopped from the many vendors on the way back from the temple, and then had lunch. We rode a bus back to Bhaktapur. After resting for a little bit, we went to Durbar Square and Potter Square. We got to see how pots were made, from their forming to their firing. Durbar Square was was really amazing. It is the palace square, which is what Durbar means: "Palace." The buildings were very intricately detailed. There was a golden gate, with the statues of gods that prevented evil spirits from entering one of the many courtyards in the palace. This courtyard led to a temple within the palace, reserved only for Hindus. Unfortunately, we couldn't really pass as Hindus so we went to the royal bath, a very large stone bath with many levels, with a giant cobra rising from the center of the water.