Posts Tagged With: tourism

The Faces of Pokhara

Hello lovely people,

I’ve officially completed my volunteering here in Nepal. I’m happy to have finished my project but I am left wanting to do more. I had conflicting feelings coming here. In undergrad/gradschool I learned a lot about policy, community development and specifically the impositions of the western world onto “underdeveloped” countries. Part of me felt that I would become that imposition by intervening with a culture the I knew very little of.

Thank yous…

I first was exposed to the South Asian community in high school when I volunteered at a women’s shelter. That is actually what initially gave me the idea to do social work. It was not until 2013 when I had a community development internship in a government housing community, that I began to really understand some of the South Asian cultures; and fell in love with the community of women. I have been fortunate enough to also be mentored by very passionate people who offered such insight that I continue to use today (shout out to Joanne, Neil, Evan, Anuja, Pila, Lucrecia, Jaime, Kavita and Tara if you are reading!) All of them in different ways taught me a lot about domestic and cultural violence, community development, community engagement and volunteering abroad. They have each individually inspired me to be who I am personally and professionally today and collectively pushed me to come here. They also showed me the ways in which community service can be altruistic if done in a particular way, and thank you for showing me that way.

A word of advice…

I came here with an open mind, a willingness to give, but more specifically, a willingness to be utilized in whatever ways that the community needed me. My offer of advice to anyone who wants to volunteer abroad, is to recognize that volunteering is selfish in many ways, understand how self-validating and question our feelings of reward, and then ensure that you are doing it for the right reasons. Giving is a reciprocal process of gain and give, and at times, we may gain more than we give. Remember what the purpose is for, and do not complain when you are not using your skills in the ways that you expected to. Do not feel humbled because you feel better off, feel humbled because you are learning so much more from people that you never would have previously. Learn the lessons of every situation, do not dwell on the negative aspects of it. Do not assume you know more, because you don’t. Let them lead you, and you offer what you know. Do not feel shy to get dirty and live locally, it will probably be the best thing you ever do.

On that note, live locally. I don’t think any traveling experience that I have had thus far comes close; not even that time I lived in Italy to learn Italian, even then it did not feel this way. Thank you to the Gurung family for giving me that experience. Not gonna lie, I cried leaving, and laughed hard reading your goodbye notes haha. Finally, (thanks Vivek!) learn to trust people; don’t assume every stranger is going to have bad intentions hahaha.

The paradise called Pokhara…

This week I had the opportunity to kick back a few beers in a paradise called Pokhara. I was there a couple of days before meeting up with my two friends at our guest house. Having the opportunity to be alone for the first time since arriving in Nepal was much needed. I rented a bike and took off, allowing myself to stop and talk to anyone who I had a good feeling about. As a result I had the randomest week ever. Here are the highlights of some memorable encounters. Enjoy!

 

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A Tibetan refugee Dolma. She came over as a young child, being carried by her mother and since cannot leave Nepal. She also cannot get a Nepali passport so essentially she is stuck here. She’s been hand making Tibetan jewelry for 30 years and has someone cross the border to bring in materials that she buys. She sells independently and you can find her by Lakeside East.

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Musician Prem has been playing the Nepali Sarangi his whole life. His father and grandfather were also musicians and taught him what he knows. He hand carved this Sarangi and taught me to play the scale by the Phewa lake. When not selling instruments, he plays in his band.

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After biking uphill to Seti River Gorge, I met Ram who stands at the end, inviting tourists to take photos with him. He then asks you to mail him a copy of the photo so he can add it to his collection (you can see behind him), a collection he’s been doing for lord knows how long. He has one black and white photo of his mother doing this, so that gives you an idea of how long haha. He then invited me to his home which is right beside the river and introduced me to his farm animals and family.

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Saroj is a hotel manager at the guesthouse that I stayed at. Originally from Chitwan, he is very passionate about his job and it shows when he interacts with anyone who comes in. Knowing that I was alone for a couple of days, he offered to show me Begnas Lake during his break. He took me where only locals swam and even let me drive on the motorbike. You can see behind Nepali children bathing.

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The Dutch couple, aka Camiel and Lizzy, who met up with me in Pokhara. If ever you had doubts that soul-mates existed, just have dinner with these two. They are looking at the amazing view of Pokhara from the World Peace Pagoda

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Me taking a solo swim in Begnas Lake looking at the waterfall.

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Meet Vince, the most frightening yet funny pilot and person you will ever meet. Funny in that he told me his company has killed 19 people in their history of running. Yah, really funny. The real answer was zero by the way. Vince is originally from France and he has been paragliding for over 10 years now. He currently is training to Base Jump.

Here are some more photos taken…

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The view of Phewa Lake and the boating dock.

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Walking through Gupta Cave was beautiful but so terrifying.

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On my bike ride I randomly decided to go through the farming communities and took this shot of locals drying out their clothes in the sun

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And then there is the view of the Annapurna Himalaya range…the reason why you travel to Pokhara and wake up in the middle of the night to see.

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A Buddhist Day

Hello all,

I’m writing this on my phone so quite possibly it might not send =S and that also means no photos.

But in any case, here’s the update:

DASHAIN
This week was (and still is) the 15 day festival celebrating the god Durga. Some really unique and memorable experiences were had.
1. I learned how to make a Nepali meal from start to finish (soon to be posted). Including how to prepare an entire goat that was sacrificed hours before.

2. We gathered around to receive tika from our elder and a blessing in our new custom fitted clothing that was given to is by our host family. During Dashain, you must give money to the younger generation after applying tika (a red paste) to their foreheads. You then go around the city to other relatives houses accepting and giving tika. Oh and eating. Lots and lots of eating.

3. We ate more than should be legal.

4. We gathered on a relative’s roof at a family party to have a kite battle in the sky. Apparently it’s a thing to not only fly kites but to try to attack with your own until someone loses theirs. This can get pretty aggressive. Children are terrifying. Just kidding…ish.

5. I ate goat intestines. It reminded me of my godmother’s squid soup (the texture of it) but I couldn’t get over the taste. Also I had to swallow chunks of cooked goat fat which turned into swallowing it whole because I couldn’t bite into it. That wasn’t the best.

6. I discovered that slow cooked goat is delicious.

7. We hiked in a very deserted Kathmandu (everyone is visiting relatives) to Durbar Square (one of the ancient cluster of temples) to see buffalo sacrifices. Every year 108 buffalos are sacrificed to reenact the bloodbath that occurred when the Royal family was murdered. It’s also a sacrifice to the gods for the holidays. We weren’t allowed to see because we are not Hindu, but I got a lot of shopping done =)

SWAYAMBUNATH
This is a World Heritage Buddhist temple that is known for its monkeys and impressive stupas. Today we decided to take a local bus, just Maddie and I, which was literally stand anywhere on the side of the road until a sketchy bus comes by yelling which Nepali regions they stop at. When you get on, you’re never 100% sure you will actually get there hahaha.

We get off and walk for twenty minutes and then climb stairs for what seems like another ten minutes until you’ve reached the very top. This was a particularly breathtaking experience because we got to see Kathmandu from the top.

BODHNATH
I almost considered not going here because of a satisfactory review, but I’m so happy we paid the expensive cab ride there (expensive being $10). This is Asia’s largest stupa! For those of you who don’t know what a stupa is, it’s a large Buddhist shrine with Buddha’s eyes on it. Inside this dome-like structure are holy documents, artifacts or remnants of important people that are locked up at the time of building it. When I asked a staff at VIN how they knew there really was something buried inside, he said that one has faith that there is.

This was probably my favourite stupa so far (well it was the biggest haha).

What I have noticed now are the backpackers have officially invaded. I was just telling someone last week that it’s so nice to be the only tourist. Everywhere I go I am the only one who obviously is foreign. Now they run the streets, dressed in multicoloured Nepali clothing (some really decked out) with hiking gear. So many gopros I cannot keep track. So many hiking poles in hand. I no longer feel original hahaha.

But none the less it’s been fantastic having a truly authentic and local experience. I am also really grateful to have spent it with a Hindu family who openly has welcomed us and has been so generous with us during their festival time. Can’t wait for Diwali!!

Tomorrow I go on a three day trip to the national park. Wish me well!

-CS

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Categories: Kathmandu | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

First Full Day in Kathmandu

Nepal Photojournal-3

A photo of the winding street that leads to my hotel.

Soooooo here it goes,

The only way I can describe my initial reaction is by saying that it was congested, surprising and unfathomable. I actually used the word unfathomable. I knew there would be a somewhat of a culture shock, but I say that and still don’t believe it haha. For those who personally know me, they know that I am constantly curious about all aspects of different cultures from food (hells yes), to language, to customs and religion–fashion is not reeeeeeally a big interest, sorry to say. I also love reading non-fiction, memoirs, historical fiction, travel blogs and often will watch documentaries and look at travel photography. I basically spend my spare time learning about what everyone else around the world does in their spare time haha.

So when I say I am currently experiencing a culture shock, then I seriously mean it!

I’ve heard stories from other friends, I’ve read online, I’ve seen the photos, but actually living in it is an entirely different sensation and experience.

We had our first day of orientation which discussed the building of the organization. Working in community development before, I can really appreciate how difficult it can be to build something at the grassroots level. To see how VIN has truly done so much, in only 7 years, is impressive. They work from a holistic framework in intervention, which is what my Masters degree emphasized, so coming in I am very optimistic but realistic as to what that will entail in my everyday experience from here on out.

The general observations I’ve made:

  • There are no enforced driving laws. What’s that? You want to ride on a motorbike? with 4 people? Why not? Oh you think a 7th lane should be added to make more room for cars? Great idea! Oh…? It’s ok if

    This picture captures the chaotic mess of wires that hang everywhere. Notice the man wearing a face mask. It is very much necessary to wear one when walking.

    someone is driving too slowly, just move into oncoming traffic and pass them before you get hit.

  • The pollution is so thick in Kathmandu. It is so thick that it took an hour after a 45 minute walk before I stopped wheezing and coughing. To be fair I was warned but I really didn’t think much of it haha
  • The food is excellent. Not as heavy as Indian food, smaller portions than Canadian South Asian food, and really excellent flavour. yum yum. I fear I will gain so much weight from all the rice that I won’t be able to fit into my pants. sigh.
  • It is very normal to see broken wires hanging above puddles of water. Enough said.
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OR2k. We were seated at a table and chairs, but the remaining seating were pillows on the floor that you sit cross legged on. Also, there is a black light over everyone and the menus are made to glow. My order was a naan wrap with hummus, fried eggplant and hard boiled egg. It was really good haha.

That’s really it so far. I keep getting mixed reviews about the type of people that live here. The vast majority have said how hospitable and kind Nepalese people are. Then after the last two days I keep hearing about the begging problem and all the safety precautions about going out at night. I can’t tell how much of what is true. Hopefully I’ll find out the good way and not the bad.

-CS

Categories: Kathmandu | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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