Packing for Nepal
This is day one of packing/preparation for the trip. We leave in 5 Days! Packing is coming along, but I'm not quite finished yet. I have to finish all of the work that is due when we get back. I am very excited to go!
Grace was our micro blogger yesterday. Here's her take on our second school visit.
Today we tried indigenous dancing. It was extremely crowded in the little echoey room we were dancing in. First the senior high school students performed an amazingly complex and passionate indigenous dance in full costume and beating drums. The girls were dressed in elaborate headdresses, and vibrant skirts with matching jackets. The guys were dressed in multicolored skirts and headpieces with large feathers. Then we got to try it for ourselves. We paired up with senior high school students and our Stella Maris pen pals. The drums began to beat and we were off! In a mixture of complicated steps and chanting we all felt totally lost and confused. At first it was really hard to figure out what we were supposed to do it was a lot of fun. We spiraled and twirled around in a buzz of movement. With the help of our Stella Maris friends we got to truly experience Taiwanese indigenous culture
Sent from my iPhone
One of the things that I found interseting in the 'small picture', hence the title, was that the showers are different in the following ways. The first, there is no shower curtain. The second, there is no fixed head showerhead, it is only a small hand sprayer that had a fixture that enabled it to be eaither fixed to the wall, or mobile. The entire floor gets wet because of the way that the shower is set up. The entire setup is very interesting, but different from what we as a group are used to. The system seems to work though, because all of the Taiwanese that we have seen are pretty clean.
Durring our first day in Taiwan we the pier 2 art gallery. This was a urban park filled with scultpures, painting and murals. One of the main features was the spiraling tunnel constructed out of wood. Throughout the gallery there were pairs of sculptures where each one painted differently. Farther down there was a sculpture made out of shipping crates and a transformer constructed out of old parts. There were also large murals painted on buildings. It was all together a very interesting gallery and was my favorite part of our first day.
Today we set off on a adventure that we will remember throughout our lives. We began the day at the Portland Airport saying our goodbyes to our families for the next two weeks. Then we boarded our flight to head to the San Francisco International Airport where we spent three hours eating, preparing, and exercising for our coming flight. While we were in San Francisco we also had a suprise party for Kathryn which included cake, party hats, and birthday notes. After our "brief" layover in San Francisco we boarded a China Airlines 747-400 for a flight that lasted 14 hours which felt like days. After our "never ending' flight we finally arrived in Taipei! We are now awaiting a short flight from Taipei to Kaohsiung which will be our final flight today. Today we will be exploring the city of Kaohsiung and tomorrow we will go to our first homestay family at Meiho High School.
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
Tuesday, March 13:
Today was our first full day on the ground in Nepal. Rising at the bright early hour of 8 a.m., we ate breakfast, repacked our bags, and headed out on foot towards Swayambu. While walking through the streets of Kathmandu, we were struck by the extreme density and grotesque poverty along the streets. At the same time, the amazing brightness of the buildings and the unworldly scenes were thought only to be seen in a Hollywood world. On our way to the temple, we were forced to cross Bagmati, a river that is more trash than water and a prime example of Kathmandu's waste managment troubles. Arriving at Swayambu, we were greeted not with the well-advertised "Monkey Temple" but rather by hundreds of steps leading to the temple. We saw the monkeys, however, acting mischieviously everywhere. Once atop the ladder-like stairs, we circled around the temple (counter-clockwise, of course) spinning prayer wheels and and observing both locals and pilgrims pay their respects. Attached to the top of the temple and several exterior points were strings of five-color prayer flags (you can see a similar set hanging from the lights in Dant 10). After decending from the massive climb, we headed back down into central Kathmandu and ended up in Darbur Square, the central square of Kathmandu. After a tasty lunch at the Festive Fare Restaurant (the chicken dumplings, aka momos: SO GOOD) we toured a former royal palace that is now a museum. The entire museum is dedicaded to the former kings of Nepal. At the end of our tour, we walked up to the top floor of a nine-story pagoda (much to the chagrin of a few height-fearing group members) for a wondrous veiw of the city. Finally, we headed to a small courtyard, home of the Kumari, the living goddess. Kumari is a seven-year-old girl who is worshiped as a goddess until she hits puberty or "bleeds a single drop," at which point a new living goddess is chosen. Taking pictures of Kumari is strictly prohibited. Unfortunately, two non-Catlin Western tourists decided to ignore that rule, so we only saw Kumari for roughly two seconds. After leaving disappointedly, we headed out to a bus that drove us to Bhaktapur, where we will spend the next two nights.
Cody and Theo
We're here... I don't even know what time it is... but we're all on two legs. Coming from the Hyatt in Seoul, where efficiency, modern amenities, and breakfast buffets featuring eight courses for each breakfast item (eggs eight ways, toast eight ways, waffles eight ways, dim sum eight ways and so on....) are the norm... Kathmandu is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. We were processed through the Seoul airport in a grand total of about 10 minutes for the entire group... we arrived in Kathmandu after a seven-hour flight, took a 25-second bus ride around the corner of a building, exited, and then entered the line for immigration and our visas. We were in line for over 2 1/2 hours. Although hot, thirsty, and exhausted, our group maintained their perky spirit - we joked about doing a flash mob and maybe will consider doing this on our return venture.
We exited the airport to clean, if dusty, air and hundreds of people waiting outside in the parking lot. Many were day laborers looking to help us with our bags. All bags were loaded onto a bus and we piled in and went on a crazy ride through the streets, avoiding thousands of people on mopeds, bicycles, tricycles carrying construction equipment, with kids playing, chickens, goats, other tour buses, students in uniform, beggars, people coming home from work talking on cellphones, monkeys, and dogs.
Mellow night here... dinner, more cards... sleep
I write this at the luxurious hour of 9 am (Havana-time) It's 6 am in Portland and I've been up since 4, having gone to bed around 7 pm. I spent the day yesterday soaking at the Kennedy pool in NE Portland and was alone there with my daughter for nearly half an hour when I heard a tap on the windows above me and looked up to see none other than my co-chaperone, Molly Grove who had similar ideas about visiting the Kenndey School for some post-trip R&R.
We packed a lot into our final day and a half in Cuba, visiting three schools, driving 60 km to Pinar del Rio, touring national monuments, a tobacco farm and taking a boat ride through some underground caves. Into this, students fit in visits to Palladeros (authentic, home-based Cuban restaurants,) the Mercadio de Artesanias (Havana's equivalent of the Saturday Market,) and several braved the heat and crowds to attend a massive outdoor concert.
We departed for the airport at 2 pm and gazed out our bus windows as Ludwig waxed poetic saying he hoped our memories of Cuba would not be "lost as tears are to rain." Although that sentiment earned a few eye-rolls, others' faces were trained on the rapidly disappearing landscape - absorbing what may be many of our final glimpses of laundry lines, Yank Tanks, revolutionary billboard slogans, las Damas de Blanco, coco taxis, crumbling neoclassical and art nouveau building façades, and, of course, Che...
We hope you will join us at our assembly on Thursday, April 15 at 10:40 to hear more about our adventures.
Thanks for reading,