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

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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

Birthday Weekend

8 Oct

This weekend was quite nice.

Friday the plan was to stay in and have an early night so I would be awake and pumped for the Astrologer on Saturday. But with no electricity, and no laptop (update – my laptop is completely fried I need a new one, it sucks) I got bored and we decided to go to the bar.

It wasn’t such an exciting night but I didn’t want a very exciting night. I woke up Saturday at 7 to catch a cab to New Sadle’s CEO’s house where the Astrologer would be meeting us at 8.

My Astrology chart. Written in Sanskrit.

Here are some  of the things he told me:

  • I was born in the year 2044
  • My Hindu name is Jhuma
  • I should start my own business within the next couple of years, preferably on my own but if I have a partner I should be sure it’s someone who does not like the colour black
  • I shouldn’t start anything new on Fridays
  • If I dream of a snake that means I shouldn’t start anything new
  • I am hard headed and when I love people I really love them but when I don’t like them I don’t want anything to do with them (well, duh)
  • I should be gentler with people because they don’t understand my need to be right all the time
  • I should avoid Leos because we both have very strong personalities
  • I should have married at 18 but since I didn’t, I should marry at 27
  • I need to be with a man from east or west of Toronto (anywhere in the world) not South or North
  • I like music but am not good at it
  • I will have 2 kids – first a boy, then a girl
  • I will travel a lot in my life but should take it easy between the ages of 33-36
  • I like to watch others dance and not dance myself (That is extremely false, I throw myself dance parties all the time)
  • I have health problems in  my chest (which is true)
  • I was born with the love of a mother but not a father (also true)

It was interesting but as I needed constant translation, it took a while and I didn’t get a lot of answers or specifics I need. I will be praying to Shiva on Mondays or Saturdays for my future marriage.

I asked which stone to wear and he recommended the yellow one, in Nepali it’s called Pushpuraj and it’s to strengthen my weaknesses due to the weakness of my Jupitar star.

So, that was the Astrologer. I felt really into it while I was with him but now I’m feeling more and more jipped.

Afterwards I visited a colleague who lived nearby and she taught me to cook some curries and daal bhat, fed me and taught me a bit about Newari culture. Then, I went to Thamel and got my nails did 🙂

For my Birthday on Sunday, I woke up feeling really content. I must first state how rare this is as birthdays are ususally quite hard for me. I just felt happy that I am turning 25 in Kathmandu not in Toronto doing the same old, same old. On the one hand, when I’m in Toronto I get phone calls and taken out to dinner, but here I only get Facebook posts even from family, but it’s ok. I’m living in Nepal, where I have dreamt of being for years, working with awesome people.

I went to the Farmer’s Market with Tara where we had waffles and yogurt and fruit and coffee then I went home, Skyped with both bros, made a collage, took a nap and then all the other volunteers came over to chat, drink wine then eventually head to dinner at a restaurant in Jamsikhel called Lhaksa’s Chulo. It was so nice and there were so many of us, and it felt really nice to be out celebrating my birthday. I never really do that in Canada and it was so nice being surrounded by all these lovely, interesting people.

Then we had cake and the candle said ‘5’ on it which made me laugh so hard. How cute.

It was a good birthday and now I am trying to be a mature 25 year old woman.

Wish me luck 😉

xxx

Ayesha

Karma

5 Oct

Despite being clumsy, for the most part I try to take decent care of my laptop. I don’t download stuff, I don’t do illegal things…all I really do is surf the web and edit photos on it and work, listen to music and watch DVDs.

Yet, yesterday after only 13 months, it completely went berserk and isn’t working now.

There is no reason for this to have happened. So, I’m wondering, is it karma? Is this Vishnu or Shiva or Ganesh’s way to tell me that yes indeed I screwed up and this is how I will repay the universe, by sufferring?

My computer is not working, my phone is cracked and losing its sensitivity (it’s a touch screen) and the model never came to Nepal so getting it fixed would require sending it abroad, costing about half of what I paid for the phone itself.

What does it all mean? Should I toss out all my broken or nearly broken electronics and move to a mountain somewhere to meditate, as it seems the universe is telling me I don’t do well with electronics, at least not these days. Or is it just a really bad coincidence?

The good news is that Tara and I are now talking. Things aren’t perfect, but we’re back to being friends and roommates, which is good because I missed her so, so much. She really is a fabulous friend and roommate. I need to remember to buy her flowers…

Tomorrow I have an appointment with an Astrologist. Astrologists are really big in Hindu culture, at least in Nepal. Most Nepalis visit them at least once a year near the time of their birthday, as well as during the year when they need to seek advice. The Astrologist will look at their birth chart (which I need to get made) and consult the stars and if something bad is going to happen, advise them as to which stones to wear and on which finger, which god to pray to, which days and when to fast to avoid the trouble.

I am an atheist. I don’t believe that the location of the stars when I was born has anything to do with my fate, however, people really seem to believe in this stuff, so I thought, why not? Who knows? Maybe if he gives me a really accurate description of my past, I’ll believe what he tells me about the future. It should be interesting. Since the Astrologer only speaks Nepali, the CEO of one of FTG’s partners is going to translate. It is his Astrologer, and I will be going to his house at 8am tomorrow morning to meet with him and the Astrolger and he will translate. Who knows, maybe this time next week I’ll be fasting on Tuesdays and praying to lord Ganesh.

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

Puja

28 Sep

This morning we got up early and walked to the new FTG office in Jamsikhel.

The walk to the new office is about 20 minutes – so not as convenient as the current office but still okay.

The Puja is done before we start to move in to make sure that there is good luck in the building and that good things happen to those that enter.

During the hour and half long ceremony, the Hindu priest blessed us with a tikka, then entered the puja room where apples and bananas were offered to statues and gods, prayers were chanted, water and milk was splashed all over the room including on the people observing, a penis god was worshipped and finally we were all blessed individually after offering the priest a bit of money.

During the ceremony, most people got up and walked out then came back to get blessed. I stayed the entire time, though, because I’m a trooper 🙂

Here are some pictures of this morning’s Puja:

puja ceremony

Getting blessed and tikka’d

Tara and I after this morning’s puja

Namaste

xxx

Ayesha

26 Sep

It seems there are new Canadian volunteers or interns coming almost on a weekly basis. I must admit, I feel quite unimportant with so many more Canucks taking over Kathmandu and my ego is definitely being affected.

Although the others are all at either different partner organizations or going between FTG and others, and I am the only dedicated one to FTG, still, at times I feel a bit extraneous. I have taken it upon myself to tell all new volunteers/interns that come visit FTG that they shall, at no point, even think about taking my desk. There is very little room in the office, but we were recently informed that the office is moving 15 minutes away to a smaller space. Uh-oh.

This Friday morning there will be a puja (prayer) at the new office to…well, actually I’m not sure what that does, but something neat I’m sure. There will also be food, so I’m definitely going.

Back to the other Canadians – I am not hating. They all seem really cool. There are 2 3-month interns that are young students from Ottawa U and one of them works at FTG with me and is from Quebec so she has a cute accent and I really like her.

There are 6 8-month interns from the University of Waterloo, also all gals, who seem really nice, too. Then, there are two new, older (late 20s) one-year volunteers, who will be splitting their time between FTG and other partner organizations. One of them is even male. Poor guy has no idea what kind of estrogen-ridden world he is entering, I wish him luck.

Then yesterday we welcomed a new Leave For Change, 3 -week long volunteer.

Plus there’s those of us who have already been here. So, needless to say there are tons of Canucks struttin’ down the streets of Kathmandu wreaking havoc!

Watch out, KTM 🙂

xxx

Ayesha