I attended my first meditation class in Nepal this evening and it was free!
The teacher was an American guy from Manhattan and all 7 of us attendees were foreigners. Understandable, I suppose, given that it was held in the upstairs of the same restaurant/bar we went to on Friday night, called 1905.
It was a really interesting class – very different than any meditation I tried previoiusly. To be honest I didn’t leave feeling nearly as relaxed as I normally do, although admittedly I have very little experience in the matter.
We learned to be more aware of our mind, and our concentration, or lack thereof. We were given 5 minute intervals to focus solely on our breath and to count our breath in and out and every time our mind wanders, to start from 1 again. I couldn’t get past breath #4!
I hope that if I try doing this regularly at home, even once or twice a week for 15 minutes, I may actually be able to count past breath #10. It really concerns me that this is the case, but as the instructor said, it’s just a matter of changing your habit.
Coming here, I was hoping to go to meditation daily at 6am and do yoga every other day, and have this set routine. Now, I know that setting a schedule takes time but it turns out that within the Kathmandu valley, or at least where I currently am and where I will be moving to (a town called Patan) there is actually very little in the way of regular meditation classes. What most hippies do is go on 10 or 20 day retreats. I don’t have the time or patience to do that, so for now, this will have to do.
Along with meditation of course I will decorate my new apartment with lots of buddha images and hindu gods, some statues and mini prayer wheels – just to set the mood. They’re so pretty!
It’s been a week since I’ve been here. Within the first week of living in Mauritius, I had established a group of friends, had attended an awesome all-night party on a beach off the main island, gone shopping and figured some things out.
I keep telling myself not to compare my experience here in Nepal to that of Mauritius. It will not be the same. But, at the end of the day I am an imperfect human and have many tendencies that are not only silly, they are sometimes harmful.
Why must I be such an ungrateful person? I am living in NEPAL!! Yes, I am very happy, feel lucky to be here, and seeing the little kids frolicking around makes me feel even more grateful for the life I have. It doesn’t take much in this part of the globe to realize how good you have it. Yet here I am, feeling lonely, almost depressed, wondering how I’ll get through 9 1/3 months here.
Last night I went out for the first time here, and I met two other volunteers who will be here for another year, and some other expats, some locals. Perhaps it’s because I don’t go out very much in Canada and when I do it’s to big places, or perhaps I’m once again thinking I’m in Mauritius where the nightlife was incredible, I don’t know but for some reason I didn’t love it. In fact, I found the place rather lame and didn’t even feel that great amongst fellow Canadians.
It’s not that I don’t like them, I do, in many ways all of us are very, very similar. At times I felt a bit like the black sheep (I have had social anxiety in the past) and at times not. At times I wished I wasn’t there, at others I tried going with the flow.
Maybe it’s because the nature of this mandate is that all of us come and go at different times, individually, and stay different lengths and I’m still adjusting whereas two others were very well adjusted. Maybe it just wasn’t my scene. In the past I often felt like a loser because I didn’t go out as much as many people my age, and I think some of those feelings might still be hiding behind the curtains somewhere. Ideally by now I would have grown up and realized that’s ridiculous, but maybe I haven’t quite done so.
During my 5 months in Mauritius I think I went out more than I had ever before. I never felt like an outcast or black sheep. There was always someone for me to talk to, meet, whatever. As someone who is overly-sensitive and gets jealous easily, my time last night brings up worries that I may feel out of place with some of the other girls and that could take a real toll on my experience. Or maybe I’m just really struggling to adapt to life without Zak. Maybe it’s all of the above.
How long do I give myself before I decide I preferred Mauritius? How do I let myself be happy here and not let that evil comparison creep up on me?
What an awesome day!
Our organization set up a guide to take us on a city tour of Kathmandu. Of course there is tons to see, so we only went to three sites, all temples, all UNESCO heritage sites.
I don’t know where to begin. Finally, I understand why people who have been here say it’s amazing. It is.
There’s not much else I can say to describe it, better to just tell you through photos.
I am so in love with the Buddhist monastery and the temples, I really want to go and spend some time there and get to know the religion and culture. But boy, is it complicated.
Hope to see much more of this in the upcoming months.
Today was our first language class. We get two weeks of lessons provided, after which I think I may want to pay to continue on my own. It was really intense.
I actually think that me and Tara learnt a lot more than most people do in one lesson because I knew many of the words as they are similar to Urdu. I don’t speak urdu but I recognize words, and especially at this basic level, there were a heck of a lot of similarities. So, I asked a lot of questions (as I always do) and pushed and pushed.
I even got my teacher to help me write a text to Zak saying “I love you” which I bet thoroughly confused the poor fellow. He is so cute, he wrote me back in sanskrit asking “Where is the shower room?” which he must have found on google. How cute is he?!
After language class, as we were in the tourist district, Thamel, we of course continued our shopping. This country is going to be so dangerous for us, spending-wise. I went back to the guy I bought my bag from and he gave me a new flower (a hair clip) for free to sew on in the broken one’s place. What a sweetie. Then, we went back to the silk guy’s shop where my dress was waiting for me, and we bought a lot more dresses. I am trying to get him to make me a blanket cover but he just wasn’t bargaining as much as I wanted. I am also in no rush as it is still very hot. I have many markets left to see, I’ve only seen the tourist one thus far, and have made a long, long list of things to buy. All for me. Gifts will come later.
After using our brains all morning and afternoon, we decided to call it quits on shopping and head home. As we were walking I heard my name being called out “Ayesha!” It was one of the shopkeepers we met the other day!! He is Kashmiri, nice man, Muslim, who I bought a wallet from and Tara bought 2 shawls from. I got his name wrong, but I will try to remember from now on. We asked him to help us get a cheap cab home at which he failed. The neighbouring shop was a jeweler who joined in trying to find us a cheap cab. Also failed. I explained “we are volunteers, we can’t afford such prices” and the nice old man responded in perfect English “I understand this, I am trying to help you.” What a nice man. I forget his name.
Then, we saw our Rickshaw driver bike past us and we smiled and waved. He wouldn’t go lower than 150Rs which is what we paid him the other day (and we threw in a 10 rupee tip!) so we decided to keep walking. 10 minutes later, he agreed and we hopped on the back of his bike and he biked us home in his makeshift rickshaw. I love this method of transportation. Not only does it allow us to see the chaos on the streets of Kathmandu but I have come to just adore the rickshaw driver who struggles to bike us home uphill as he must be used to little Nepali people, not overweight North Americans.
Now, I’m home, covered in dirt and mud, and ready for a nap which I will try hard to avoid taking.
Here’s what I bought today:
The blue dress is the one I had made the other day, which I picked up today, the two necklaces I got jipped for, as after bargaining down I saw them on sale for half of what I paid, ugh. Then, the longer dress is a silk maxi dress and the one on the left is a long wrap skirt.
When the housing agent arrived, we expectantly waited for him to take us to his car. Well, to our surprise he arrived on his motorcycle and expected us to pay for a taxi to get to and from the town of Lalitpur. Oh.
So, we took a tuktuk which is a big rickshaw to Lalitpur, which was cheaper and felt much safer than the bicycle rickshaw from yesterday but packed with people, and once we arrived, we met a second housing agent and Tara and I paid for a taxi to house #1. I hated it. The second apartment was a 5 minute walk owned by the same owner. A foreign family lives there right now and I LOVED IT. The landlord wouldn’t budge on price though and it’s just too expensive. I am in love with that apartment though, and apparently it’s within walking distance of our office. The old man wouldn’t bargain, though!
So, we reluctantly hopped into another cab to yet another apartment. Again, we paid for the cab and this place was decent but it smelled so musty, one room was so much nicer than the other, and it was very dim and dark. Worst of all, the woman was charging the same as the other apartment and it was a 30 minute walk from the office. Big fat NO. One more cab, and off to the top of a really nice man’s house. We did not like this one at all, either. The furniture was ugly, there was no gas heater for winter (we need hot water!), and one room had no door.
Afterwards, feeling slightly defeated, we sent both agents on their way so we could walk around our soon to-be town. It is much less chaotic than Kathmandu. Amazingly so, in fact. There are no words to describe the chaos of the streets of Kathmandu. We then walked past a tiny little temple or holy place,
and finally found our way to a cute restaurant/wine bar. I had a small, personal pizza with chicken and mushrooms and Tara had a cocktail. Which one, you ask?
A Fuck Me On The Beach!!!!
The reason this restaurant was so cute was because it was outdoors. The waiter spoke an adorably minimal amount of English, but enough to get by and be overly polite.
Then, we walked back to the main road and bargained a cabbie from 400Rs to 200Rs to take us home.
Tomorrow, we begin our Nepali language lessons in Thamel. We will also be looking at yet another apartment in Lalitpur, but only after shopping a bit more!
Today the agent will be coming to take us to the town of Patan or Lalitpur. I can’t figure it out. It is called both, and I don’t really get how that’s possible. It is in the Kathmandu valley, so it’s basically like the suburbs. We will be taken there but need to find our own way back to the passage house.
We are looking for a two bedroom, preferably two bathroom, clean, with internet, furnished and preferably with security apartment. We want something cheap. That’s about all we know. Especially learning about all the different handicrafts made around the country, we need lots of left over cash to spend on art we don’t need.
I’ll post updates.
Change takes time, and I know that. But for some reason I keep feeling unsure about being here.
I mean, I am happy to be here, I am. I feel very lucky to have been selected for the program and know that this really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I have wanted to come to Nepal for many, many years.
But this place is so chaotic and it’s nothing new, really. I’ve seen it before, but I’ve been okay with it. But, for some reason, I’m finding the stress and chaos of this city quite stressful and have been noticing myself becoming anxious lately when I should be on top of the world (almost literally, with Everest nearby!).
I just don’t know what’s wrong. Is it just the adjustment? Is it because I miss Zak so damn much and keep wondering how on earth we’re going to survive this time apart? I’ve been doing everything I can to keep my mind occupied so that I won’t cry but today after coming back from shopping, we had dinner plans with another volunteer I have yet to meet but I fell asleep, when Tara woke me to go for dinner I said to go without me. Maybe I’m just lonely but I am feeling so, so low.
The organization with which I will be working seems really cool. And I’m afraid I’ll buy way too much as there is a shop next to the office selling the Fair Trade goods. But, that doesn’t start for two weeks and it is the developing world, things will be slower. Period. That’s okay, though.
So I am definitely excited to be here, I’m just feeling so uneasy. I don’t know why.
Today Tara and I went to Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu. OMG. The handicrafts are incredible. We knew we were being screwed by prices and bargained, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
“Is that the tourist price? What’s the Nepali price?”
We managed to score a few decent deals (we think!)
We walked there, it took about half an hour and I didn’t think Kathmandu could get more chaotic than where we live, but boy was I wrong. One literally fears for one’s life while on the road. We were so dirty and dusty and tired by the end of the shopping, we decided to take a cab home. But, the cabbie was giving us “tourist price” so we bargained with a bicycle rickshaw driver. It was terrifying and fun and exciting. So worth it.
Some more shots of the ride home:
I am exhausted.