Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Months of March and April in Kathmandu valley

Two and a half months have now passed and sometimes it seems that I have lived here forever.  

I have been sick over the last couple of days firstly with diarrhoea and then with an infection in my chest.  They haven’t been bad but it is just so dusty here and with the warmer weather and the lack of power it seems that germs just breed.  I have lost a lot of weight which will be put back on as soon as I get on the Dawn Princess in July.

OK, what have I been doing on my few days off? 

In the past there were 3 kings who were brothers and they each had a Kingdom and they spent most of their time trying to outdo each other to make their cities the most beautiful. 

It is told that they would hire an artist to do a ‘commission’ and the chop off his hands so that he would not be able to do the same work for his brothers.

The 3 kingdoms are in Kathmandu, Paton and Bhaktapur.  Bhaktpur is about 45 minutes bus ride from the centre of Kathmandu and Paton is about 30 minutes.

Jessica, Mayte and I have visited all 3 areas this month and have found them very interesting but very similar in layout and architecture.  All 3 cities have a Durbar Square, a Royal Palace and many, many temples.

Bhaktapur’s history goes back to the early 8th century when it used to be the capital of the whole Nepal unto the 12th to 14th century.  It was a relief to enter the city square as no vehicles are allowed to enter the square so there were only people and the pigeons to navigate around.  To enter the city square foreigners had to pay $15 US which is quite a lot of money but the upside of this is that there are people employed to keep the city clean and for ongoing maintenance of the buildings.   

It astounds me that wooden structures and carvings in wood can last so long and look so good.  We were sitting on the stairs of one of the buildings to watch the world go by when I looked up and took a good look at some of the carving and I now know where the Karma Sutra came from. 

I would have thought it was impossible to get into some of the positions they were in.  No, I am not including any pictures here.

Interesting Fact.  The Nepalese flag I shaped like 1/2 of this Stupa structure.  It is the only flag in the world that is not rectangular.

We spent the whole day in Bhaktapur and then caught the dreaded micro-bus back to Thamel where we were planning to stay the night.  

It was a lovely day and later that night we planned to go to the café where they make the best pizzas.

We stay at the Heritage Hotel and I think that I mentioned before the only good thing about it is the price which is about $9 and if you are lucky you might even get a hot shower.

We learnt an expensive lesson that night when we got the bill for the pizza.  It seems that in Napal if you order a pizza with ½ different on each side you are in fact ordering 2 pizzas.  Mmmmmm.

The next morning we were going to a Rotary meeting as Mayte had been offered an opportunity to speak to some young people but when we actually got to the meeting the concept changed dramatically to not empowering women but speaking to members and family.

It seems that Rotary is very big over here with 86 clubs just in the city alone, in Darwin we have 3.  It seems that they are going into the country next week to distribute nanny goats to some of the villages as part of their self-improvement program for women and we have been invited.

I felt a bit guilty as I haven’t paid my yearly fees to my club in Dili but I pretended I was a member and received a banner and made to feel very welcome. 

It is crazy, last year on my cruise I took banners and badges but this time didn’t even give it a thought.

I have offered to run a Leadership course for their youth members.

After the meeting we wandered around Durbar Square in Thamel.  

This is certainly not as quiet as the Durbar Square of yesterday.  The buildings are very similar but certainly have not been maintained as well as Bhaktapur.  

We were asked to pay money to go into the square 200 rupee but managed to convince them that we were there for a meeting and were let in.  The Rotary meeting was in fact in the square.

I didn’t take many pictures but I am sure that I will be back.  In fact looking at my photos I only took one and it was of the famous peacock window which took us ages to find.  This window is regarded as the finest carved window in the valley

As we were walking out of the square we noticed a lot of people standing in front of palaces and there was a white horse outside.  

We had been reading about the Kumari Devi who is a real living goddess.  The Kumari Devi is a young girl who lives in the building known as Kumari Bahal which is in Durbar Square.  

Customarily she is somewhere between four years old and puberty and must meet 32 strict physical requirements ranging from colour of her eyes and the shape of her teeth.  

Once the Kumari Devi is chosen the young girl moves into the Kumari Bahal with her family and makes only half a dozen ceremonial trips into the outside world each year.  

The Kumari’s reign ends with her first period or any serious accidental loss of blood. 

Once the first sign of puberty is reached she reverts to the status of a normal mortal, on retirement the old Kumari is paid a handsome dowry but readjusting is hard.  It is said that marrying an ex-Kumari is unlucky, but it’s believed that taking on a spoilt ex-goddess is likely to be too hard a job.

Well, it seemed that the Kumari Devi was in fact about to leave her building and travel to an event outside of the square so we got ourselves a spot on the steps of a nearby temple and waited.  

We had to cover our heads with a shawl as the pigeons roost in the rafters and we were right under their bottoms.

I managed to get a picture of the young girl, it is really sad; she is like a little doll.

 Back to work, working 6 days a week is not a lot of fun especially if you use your one day off to sight see.  

I find that by the time Friday comes and I am on the micro on my way home I am totally exhausted.  Not sure if it is a combination of altitude, dust and heat.

It is still a pain to wake up each morning trying to think of what you are going to do ‘today’.  It is a little frustrating and I really wish that I had the skills to develop a curriculum for English teachers and how you can teach with out repetition.   

I have said it so many times there is a fortune to be made in resources for the Asian students learning English and making them relate to Asian matters.

When we went to school on Friday they told us that there was a picnic the next day and that we could pay 600 rupee and join them.  Why not, it should be fun.

Meet us at 0730 at the school and we will leave by bus to the picnic spot.  0730 Nepoli time or real time.  Silly real time of course.  

Well at 0730 there were 3 foreigners and 1 lady waiting for the bus, will we ever learn?  0900 saw us getting in the bus and driving around the extremely narrow streets around where we live to pick up a generator and entertainment equipment. 

We eventually hit the highway at 0930 and proceeded to the picnic site.  It seem here in Nepal a picnic site is an open area in a forest and there maybe 2 toilets in the whole huge area.  

You hire the area and also high a catering team who come in and set up an eating tent and also a cooking tent.

It turned out after we discovered that only about 6 of our students were at the picnic that it was in fact a picnic for the 3 local communities and after a cup of tea and about 10 speeches, the  men all disappeared and the women and the young people started to dance to the loud music.  

We had 2 huge speakers which matched the 2 speakers of the tent in front of us and the one behind us and of course the music just kept getting louder and louder.  Nepali dancing is interesting; you just walk around in a circle, waving your arms and not necessarily to the music. 

The men turned up about 3 hours, ‘full as a goog’ and proceeded to dance by themselves and fortunately it was time to eat again and we all lined up to join in Dhal Baard which was lovely and I enjoyed it, very different to what is served up at home more Indian. 

It was a long day and we were pleased to climb on the bus for the trip home.

Garden of Dreams is an oasis in the centre of Thamel it is a marvellous place to escape the noise, bustle and heat of the city.  
There are dozens of gorgeous small gardens and pavilions and although you have to pay the equivalent of $2 for as long as you like and we stayed until well after dark.  It is really nice and I intend to hide out there more when I go into town for meetings. 
There are great places to sit and read and there is a large area where you can sit on mats and just lie out in the sun.

On our next day off we went to visit the 3rd city, Patan which is only a short bus ride, it is almost a suburb of Kathmandu now.

Patan has a long Buddhist history which has influenced the Hindu temples and the four corners of the city are marked by stupas said to have been erected by the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka in around 250 BC.  

The town was ruled by local noblemen until King Shiva Malla of Kathmandu conquered the city in 1597.
The walk from the bus to the square was down a crowded street and there were quite a few stalls and I bought a pair of sandals to wear with my Kuttah tomorrow and a Bindi to also wear along with a pink pashmina shawl.

Once again we had to pay when we went into the square but at least it was only 200 rupee or about $2.  Thank heavens cars and motorbikes are not allowed in the square to at least it is quiet and no chance of being run over.

We are so lucky to live in Australia. 
This was the line for water in the Patan. 
The left side had maybe a dribble coming out and the right probably the occasional drop. Water, a natural resource should never be this difficult to get. 
I watch this lady stop and sigh when she saw the line of plastic bins waiting to be filled. I felt so sorry for her, for them all. I can’t imagine their daily life struggle to get water.
It's so easy at home. Why not here?

because the teachers had been invited to the wedding of the niece of the teacher and we decided that as we had not sari we should at least dress up.  

The kuttah is worn by most of the women here, it consists of a tunic and baggy pants and can be very dressy with lots of bling or for everyday wear.  

Mayte was not well so she stayed home but Jessica and I walked to the wedding venue and were made to feel very welcome as it is quite an honour to have a foreigner at your wedding even though they don’t know you. I love going to weddings as it means that I get to eat meat.

The kuttah we were wearing were very hot and we only stayed a couple of hours as there were over 400 people cramped in a small space and the weather here at the moment is really hot.

As I was walking home Jessica took these pictures when a few of the local girls came up to have their photo taken.

Mayte was almost at the end of her placement so on Friday the ladies at Basandara gave her some small gifts to say ‘goodbye’ although Mayte was still going to be in Napal for another 3 weeks.

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