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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

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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.

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

Pokhara

28 Oct

Last weekend, Dan and I headed to Pokhara. The bus took about 7 hours and wasn’t bad other than not having a toilet on board.

We arrived in Pokhara by 3 pm or so and found our lodge with only a little difficulty. There was a girl traveling solo on our bus who we befriended and she ended up staying in the same lodge as us.

Before night fall, we wanted to go on a canoe ride, so we did that at about 4 pm and got caught in the very first rain fall since monsoon season ended a month ago. The timing was hilariously sucky, but I didn’t mind, it was actually quite nice.

Pokhara Fewa Lake

Our new friend Jo joined us for dinner at a restaurant recommended by The Lonely Planet and we all had steak and beer. Poor Dan was up all night sick because of it, though.

The next day we hung around Lakeside in Pokhara, rented rickety, unsturdy bicycles at $1 each for an hour, hung by the lake reading and drinking tea and went for another boat ride, this time a paddle boat hoping it would require less work (it did).

Fewa Lake, Pokhara

We called it a night super early because we were going to get up and watch the sunrise on top of a mountain called Sarangkot. So, we got up at 4 am and caught a cab to the mountain and walked about 30-45 minutes up to the top. There, for the first time, I saw the Himalayas and it was at dawn. Gorgeous site.

 

Dan overlooking the Himalayas from Sarangkot at dawn

We spent the remainder of the day hanging around Lakeside, again reading and sipping tea and tried out an authentic, super-cheap Nepali restaurant where we were served unlimited daal bhat.

Pokhara was gorgeous and serene, but packed to the brim with tourists.

We didn’t go paragliding or zip-lining, which are two of the main attractions there because it was so expensive. But I may go when I next visit Pokhara.

xxx

Ayesha

Dashain

18 Oct

Happy Dashain 2069!!

This is the big festival in Nepal where everything closes for 10 days, so I got my twin brother to visit me. It happens to also be peak tourist season.

Daniel arrived on Sunday and has already been to most placs around Kathmandu. Heck he has seen more than I have!

Having him here has been awesome and for the most part we’ve gotten along, with the exception of him constantly telling me how much he hates my dyed hair and fake nails. But he’s had 3 days now to get used to them. Tuesday was the first day of the festival so I had the day off and we went to the 3 main temples around KTM: Bouddha, Pashupathi and Swambu.

Me and Dan at Bouddha!

I hadn’t yet visited Swayambu, also referred to as the monkey temple, so it was really neat to see. We got there at sunset, too, which provided for a really great, romantic view.

Swambunath at sunset

Dan’s has also served as a good distraction for me as Zak told me he’s officially not visiting and has moved on. I am happy for him in one sense as he deserves to be happy, but there’s a part of me that is honestly hurt that he moved on so fast when I’m still listening to sad music and wishing I’d hear from him. It makes me wonder if he’s found someone else. It’s the only explanation…

So, I am now looking at my solo-travel options while here.

Tomorrow, Dan and I are headed to Pokhara for 3 days then to Chitwan National Park, which is a huge tourist destination where we will ride elephants!! I can’t wait!

Today at work for Dashain, we had a Momo making party. They are so hard to make but we ate so, so many. I am still not fed up of them…Momos are basically dumplings but are extremely popular and common in Nepali and Tibetan cuisine. They can be steamed or fried and have veggies or meat inside.

momos

Yum!

xxx

Ayesha

Maithila Art

28 Sep

I spend most of my money here on handicrafts and other beautiful possessions that make me a very bad aspiring Buddhist.

One of the most interesting Nepalese art forms that I have learned about, and get the pleasure to actually work a little with – is called Maithili art. Maithili art comes from a region called Janakpur, which I will have the chance to visit later in the year.

Traditionally, the art was made on the walls of the city during celebrations and depicted women doing traditional work – farming, cooking, dancing. The skill was passed on from generation to generation. At one point over a decade ago, it was suggested that they paint onto item that can be sold, such as cups, pencil holders, wall art, etc. and it took off from there. Now Maithili art is one of the most common forms of art one finds, at least in Kathmandu.

Despite that, I doubt that the women of Janakpur are floating in their riches or anywhere near that. However, the region and it’s traditions are becoming well known and the women pass on their talent from generation to generation, providing an extra source of income to their daughters.

At Fair Trade Group, one of our partners is the Janakpur Women’s Development Centre. One of my tasks is to create a brochure for them, amongst other things. Many products that FTG sells depict Miathili art and I love every single one of them. Below are just a few images of items with the art. It’s Tara’s duty to come up with new designs and innovative ideas of what to paint them on. I suggested a silk maxi dress….I would be the first in line to buy it!

Maithila frame

card with Maithila art

I regret the poor quality of the above photos – I used my webcam!

xxx

Ayesha