Merry Christmas

26 Dec

How is it already Boxing Day?

Tomorrow is the date that Zak was supposed to be arriving in Kathmandu, but of course that’s not happening anymore. But, I still cannot believe how quickly time flies.

Christmas is over. The world did not end. It’s nearly 2013.

We had a pretty fantastic Christmas, especially considering that I have never been in a place where it felt less like Christmas anywhere in the world.

It is quite freezing in Kathmandu these days and the load shedding is getting continuously worse. But, on Christmas Eve we had a nice potluck at our friends/colleagues Greg and Lindsay’s lovely apartment. Considering none of us had much expectation for the food, the meal turned out quite epic, if I do say so:

food2

We threw a Christmas day party at our place. It was a pretty fantastic turn out, with people trickling in and out throughout the day until about 11 pm. We only had power from 2pm until 6 pm, but still people stayed, drank, ate and were merry. It was pretty hilarious having 20 some people over in the dark, sitting by 3-4 candles.

We even got a little Christmas tree that Tara, Jen and I decorated with fair trade ornaments from FTG-Nepal’s member organizations, and some tinsel and other cute little things from the Supermarket. We were quite pleased.

tree

food

xmas

Merry Christmas!!

xxx

Ayesha

India Days 1 & 2: Delhi

21 Nov

Delhi was not what I was expecting.

I guess because so many Nepalis told me ‘oh, India’s probably more chaotic than Pakistan’ I was expecting at least the chaos of Karachi. Turns out they were wrong. No doubt Delhi has some pretty run-down hoods, but there weren’t even close to the number of beggars as in Pakistan, there were some really fancy cars and homes that I wouldn’t necessarily compare to the upper class houses in Karachi.
In many ways it’s very similar to Kathmandu but it’s also so different. Delhi has a lot of parks, whereas there’s practically no green space in Kathmandu.

We went around with a rickshaw and saw many sites. Our first night after heading to red fort at night we found a Jainist temple which was so beautiful. Then, we stumbled across an Urdu festival and rode a ferris wheel and another merry go round. It was scary because it was held together by three tires. Our rickshaw driver home ended up showing us all sorts of back roads and side streets including the spice market and flower market. But then he got tired and made us take another rickshaw home, which was strange but he was so fun we were happy regardless.

Day 2

We started our day at a stand buying some pani and a random tourist from new Zealand started talking to us and took us for chai. He looked exactly like an ex-love of mine and made me uncomfortable, so we ditched him and got on our merry way. A new rickshaw driver agreed to take us on a tour of the sites for 500 rs for 5 hours. The problem was that he barely spoke any English. Neither Tara nor I do much research before going on trips so i can tell you where we went but not much about them. We saw the Qutab Minor, India Gate, Laxmi Temple, Red Fort and Hanumans Tomb.

Qutab Minar

India Gate

My friend who is from Delhi but who I met in Toronto working at the body shop, met us and convinced me that I should move to India!

We’ll see….

India Day 3: Agra

21 Nov

We got up at 5 to catch the train to Agra. The train was first class with a/c and breakfast which consisted of tea, toast and jam and a veggie cutlet.
We arrived at Agra at 830 and were immediately accosted for tours or taxis. We agreed to take a cab tour for 8 hours only to be told once in the car that the price for the guide was separate. The guide was already in the car so…we agreed.
First stop: the one and only Taj Mahal. Everyone has heard how fantastic it is and they are right. I kept  thinking how unfair it was that I didn’t have my DSLR camera to photograph with.

After an hour or so there, we got taken to a rug shop. We were very angry that he took us to shops and we told him.
He admitted that just by taking us to these places he gets perks like sweets and stuff. He pretty much guilted us into wasting an hour/hour and a half on seeing shops and pretending to be interested.

We went for a nice Indian lunch then headed to the Agra Fort. This was where the royal families lived and where King Shah Jahan died captive of his son. The guide then said the tour was over and we still had three hours. Annoyed, we said he had to show us other things so we saw the back of the Taj. It was further, but beautiful and much more quiet. On our way back to the car we found a big group of adorable puppies who let us play with them.

Taj

After paying our guide and realizing that he, too was a crook (more on that here) we were dropped to the train station an hour early only to find out our train was an hour late. The train ended up leaving at 8 and we didn’t arrive in Jaipur till 1 am.

This train was a sleeper, and what an experience that was! Surprisingly there were a number of tourists on it – the young, hippie type, but it was pretty miserable. Every second someone would walk or crawl by asking for money or selling something, screaming loudly. The stops were very long and I caught germs and got a cold/flu/bronchial infection.

When we arrived in Jaipur, as everywhere else, tons of rickshaw drivers offered us rides. We finally went with a sweet young boy who looked about 15 but claimed to be 22. The five minute ride to our hotel was such fun as our young boy was quite dynamic.

Rickshaw driver: Which country is suffering without you?
A&T: Canada
RD: Justin Bieber!
A: you like Bieber??
RD: No, I hate him.
A: Oh, you’re just jealous. We love him.
RD:i There’s gonna be one less lonely girl…
A&T: hahaha
RD: Baby, baby, baby, ooh like baby, baby, baby, ooh like baby, baby, baby, ooh thought you’d always be mine.

Then he started dancing and wiggljng and jiggling while driving and continued the song. Tara and I joined in at parts unit hr got to Ludacris’s rap where he stopped and said “it sounds like ‘dadafadadDaDa above’” and continued “you got me going crazy oh I was star struck…”
Once he completed the song, he went on to sing ‘Boyfriend until we arrived at our hotel.
Funniest rickshaw ride ever.

India!

11 Nov

I’ve wanted to go to India for years and this is a dream come true.

Nepal and India were top on my list and I can say I’ve been to both.

For me, this is more than a trip – in some way I feel like I’m discovering my roots. I’m Pakistani, but India and Pakistan were once one and though the culture differs immensely its also very similar.

I feel so lucky, so blessed and so excited to be embarking on this trip. And having the chance to see India during divali, getting there for a mere $215 rather than nearly $2000 it would cost from Canada.

I’ve had some emotionally trying times as of late – just trying to figure myself out and who I can trust and rely on, who I love and who I really am. But this is one hell of a picker-upper.

In Delhi I’m going to meet a good friend of mine from Toronto who I worked at the body shop with. She is one awesome chick. Then, Tara and i are off to Agra and Jaipur.

En Route to India

O-M-G!

Happy divali, or as they call it in Nepal, Tihar.

India, here we come!!!

Sari Soldiers

8 Nov

Last night I went to Moksh Cafe where they were showing a documentary Sari Soldiers. It was an extremely interesting, horribly depressing film about women during the insurgency in Nepal that lasted from the assassination of the Royal family in 2001 till the King’s successor and younger brother Gyanendra stepped down.

The documentary described the violence that was inflicted on innocent Nepali families by the Royal Nepal Army after the Maoist rebellion and also the violence done by the Maoists. It basically made this lovely country I now call home look like a war-torn, uninhabitable country. Which, I suppose to some extent it was.

It’s really incredible to imagine that all those horrid events took place so recently and that, though there is no Constitution right now and the government is kind of a joke, for the most part Nepal is a safe country. Yes, it is riddled with corruption, but the Bandhs aren’t really violent, at least not the ones that have occurred since I’ve lived here. For the most part Nepali people are really nice, helpful and giving.

The documentary was definitely painful but really informative and worth the watch. It showed the impact that banding together for a cause can have, even when the cause seems impossible.

Check out the website for the film: http://sarisoldiers.com

xxx

Ayesha

Out With The Old…In With The New

6 Nov

The last week since Dashain has been a little difficult.

With vacation over, I had to adjust to being back at work, to my brother going back to the UK, to being single (which I’m still struggling with), to having no DSLR camera, having to redo all my work, etc.

The first thing my supervisor commented on when I arrived in the office last week was ‘wow, everything new!’

My new laptop is awesome and I can’t begin to explain how happy I am to have it, especially as I’m trying to cope with this whole heart break thing – without it there would be no Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, movies and Curb Your Enthusiasm and I’d be left in bed with my own thoughts every evening…what a depressing thought.

When ordering it on Amazon, I was so desperate to just buy one I forgot to look at the size and I bought an enormous one…17 or 18 inches. It doesn’t even fit in my laptop bag, so I got a new one (naturally dyed, fairly traded!!).

I dyed my hair red, as well. In Canada I would never, ever do this, however in Nepal it doesn’t matter much how ‘professional’ I look as people will stare at me for the western clothes I wear and the whiteness of my skin and the Canadianess of my accent no matter what. Plus, beauty here is quite affordable!

Retail has also been a huge form of therapy for me although not a healthy one, and I have done a hell of a lot of shopping in the last week. I bought two pairs of Steve Madden shoes this weekend, a bunch of bootleg DVDs including seasons 1-13 of South Park, fake Beats by Dre headphones as I have broken the other 10 pairs that I’ve purchased here, a wallet with the UK flag on it, two pairs of lovely earrings, a bunch of stuff from FTG partners including woolen socks, a vest and a backpack.

One of my new pairs of shoes

But the problem with retail therapy is that it provides a very short high.  Yesterday I had an especially difficult time coping with the lack of love I currently have, it comes in waves, and I treated myself to a nice massage at The Wellness Sanctuary. It made me think of how lucky I am to be in a country where I can afford to get a nice, long massage to take my mind off of things. A broken heart in Canada is much more expensive to heal.

I wake up every morning and try my hardest to not cry, not be sad, and especially not make a phone call I know I will regret. I often fail. However this morning I succeeded and I have yet to shed a single tear today. I know Zak and I broke up a long while ago, but it’s only really hitting and hurting me now. I was so distracted before – getting to know new people, friends, colleagues, the country. All I really needed was a little bit of space from our 3-4 conversations a day to feel like I was living in Nepal, not on Skype. But that turned into mistrust and fights and eventually a break up.

New beginnings can be a blessing – but boy are they tough. I keep trying to remind myself that this is for the best. It could be so much worse, I could be living in the same city as my ex, sharing friends, even a workplace. But regardless, being single, with no one calling to check up on you, no one to fill in on mundane day-to-day activities…it’s new for me.

The new me also wants to put up barriers and not open myself up to people even if I like them. I don’t want to crush on people so easily and don’t want to fall for people so easily. Trust is important but also has to be preserved and only given after a long time.

As a wise Mr. Marley once said:

Bob’s got a very valid point. But how do we find the ones that are worth it?

Nepal is all about a new beginning and a new life. I will not be the same person when I return to Toronto and frankly, I don’t even really want to return to Toronto yet. If nothing else, I’ve learned how vast this world is and how much more there is for me to see and experience. I will do this while guarding my heart, though. Being heart broken in every corner of the globe sounds interesting, but a little too painful.

This week our office moved to a new location about 15 minutes from my apartment. The move has taken a long time and yesterday we were told to work from home, so I spent the day at two cafes. Today we went to the office to find that there is still no electricity, phone or internet, so once again we are at Top of the World Cafe.

This Friday my ex-roomie from Mauritius, Hoda, who I have not seen since she left Mauritius on March 26, 2011, will be in Kathmandu for a vacation this weekend, and it will be lovely to see her, reminisce and hug her. Then, Tara and I are off to India for Divali (called Tihar in Nepal).

In with the NEW indeed…

xxx

Ayesha

Chitwan

28 Oct

After Pokhara, we headed to Chitwan National Park – one of the most popular (non-trekking) tourist destinations in Nepal.

The bus from Pokhara was an interesting one as it was te eighth day of Dahsain festival, which is the day that buffalos or goats are sacrificed. We witnessed every step of the sacrifice from the window on the bus along the side of the road.

The bus was also interesting in a very horrible way as my DSLR camera and $100 were stolen. I am partially to blame as I left it on the bus with my bag, which is dumb, but it was a tourist bus and I left it for less than 5 minutes, but alas, someone awful stole it. I hope they break their fingers and cannot use it, and that karma gets them with a serious vengeance.

That obviously put a big damper on the rest of our trip, so when we arrived in Chitwan I was quite upset. But I held it together and enjoyed myself (though silently resenting people around me who had amazing cameras to photograph the animals with).

We were joined at the hotel by 5 friends/colleagues of mine which made the trip much more enjoyable. We stayed at a high-end resort called Royal Park Hotel and all the activities were included as well as food.

The first evening our activity was an ox-ride through town, followed by a cultural show of Tahru people dancing with sticks. At the end of the show we were invited to join in the dancing so one of my colleagues, Nafisa, and I joined in the circle.

The following day we went on a canoe trip to watch birds around the river, then headed to the elephant breeding centre, the museum on elephants, then the best part of the trip – bathed with the elephants, followed by free time in which we shopped, and then an elephant ride through the jungle.

View during the canoe ride

Dan and I getting ‘bathed’ by the elephant…

Second bath with two of the girls

Post-bath

Heading out on the elephant for a ride through the jungle

Elephants were given tikkas for Dashain


That night we heard rumors that there was a rhino that we could see in the jungle, so we got one of the guides to take us. We saw two together, cooling off under the water. We weren’t able to see their faces, though, and our disappointment was apparent to the guide. He offered to take us in the morning to look again.

Two rhinos cooling off in the river

The next morning, tagging along with a group of Dutch tourists going bird watching, we saw a rhino in the wild, moving about very slowly and eating.

Rhino eating in the wild. Picture taken by Nafisa.

Aside from getting my camera stolen, the trip was incredibly awesome, nearly perfect, I’d say.

xxx

Ayesha

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