Arrived in the smallest airport of Kathmandu! Strange how a major country airport could be so small. $100 visa?? WHAT?? I didn't expect that! $100 is all I have in cash (luckily)! The only ATM doesn't work, and I still need to get a photo done for my visa. A few guys overheard me and offered to pay for my photo, how nice :) Then they were worried how I'll get my visa, I wonder if I didn't have money what would've they done! 2 hours wait, the queue just doesn't move at all. 2 ATMs outside of the terminal didn't accept my card either :S I found 20 CAD, but in the exchange office they didn't want to accept anything less than 50. I have no money, and I need to get to the hostel somehow. Found one taxi, he told me double the price. Again, no negotiations with him, I don't want to give my business to lairs, and that's exactly what I told him. Found another driver and off we went. The cars are so old and so beaten down, not one single nice car! We drove on the streets and there are no roads most of the time, on other occasions potholes on potholes. I'm looking at the broken down streets, at dirty children playing in mud, at huge markets with everyone wearing a sari ... welcome India #2. I'm thinking to myself, what am I doing here again??!!! A second later I feel a strange nostalgia and actually feel happy :) I asked the hostel owner to pay for the taxi, and I sat in a dirty hostel but in a great atmosphere getting to know everyone.
October and November are supposed to be the best months to visit Nepal, but there is some cyclone in India, and it's raining here every day! :( No trekking in this kind of weather! There are some important holidays here in Nepal, apparently they sacrifice tens of thousands of animals, but I've missed that, then they throw blood on cars and even on Air Nepal planes!!! and then there are goats on every menu, but again, I missed that :( Half of the menu is missing from the hostel, and it's dirty like I don't know what because it's the end of the 15 day holidays, and everyone is spending them with their families. Stores are closed, employees are on vacations. Nevertheless, people are great, and I'm sitting here happy even though it's raining, it's cold, and it gets dark at 5:30pm!!
We are 4 girls in the room, we don't know each other, and we lie in the bed laughing our heads off. That's the fun of the hostels.
In the morning I wake up very happy. Welcome back to India :))
Spent a few days reading the bible, and finally set out to see the temple nearby. Streets are over flooded with people and my first cow, what's going on??! Apparently it's another holiday which involves doing a loop of 65 kms stopping at every temple in Kathmandu. I was happy about that, because the temple I went to was a monkey temple. Thus I thought, the more people, the less monkeys! Still strange to me to see Hindus spinning the Buddhist prayer wheels. And it's strange to see that no one is staring, couples hold hands on the street, people are fairly honest and actually seem happy. Big difference from India. I was cautious and a bit nervous to get out and fall right into India, but nope, everything went smoothly. If you want the relaxed Indian culture, definitely come to Nepal!
People put rice mixed with red powder on their foreheads, and unlike a small dot in India, here it's a huge red rice patty, which looks like an ugly infection, or as if their skull got opened and the brain is peeking out ... disgusting!
I changed hostels. I can't understand why that hostel has 90% rating. The location sucks, right in the middle of nowhere. The rooms are dirty. There aren't enough washrooms. The blankets are so thin I'm freezing every night. Their menu is small and it takes them 2 hours to prepare anything. They always screw up orders, forget orders, and write in your log something that you haven't ordered, making a big line up on checkout while people try to remember what they haven't eaten. The only plus is the friendly stuff, but does that add up to 90%?
New hostel: right in the center, clean, nice and cozy blankets, lockers, and it's the same price! Now that deserves a 90% rating, and yes, it does have it.
Went shopping. Wow, did that take a long time. Everything in the center is same same. Only trekking shops and hippy shops. No variety, no nothing. I wonder if they actually think that we like that stuff? Why can't someone think of something original? Went outside of touristic center to shop. It seems like everything is made either for a barbie or for a grandma. Brand shops have original prices which I can't afford. Somehow I found 2 pairs of pants, but no sports pants. All the pants are made for Nepalis. I take XL size, then call for an attendant, and ask if she has XXL size? Then still, the length is to my ankle (Nepalis people are short). No luck :( How will I do yoga with no sports pants? Went back in the dark. The sellers sell their things with a candle light. How can you buy if you can't differentiate if they sell shoes or potatoes? I was a bit worried walking in dark between large groups of Nepalis, but nothing happened. Nobody looked at me, nobody grabbed me, it was like a breath of fresh air ... well, congested air in here :)
Went for a week retreat to a yoga ashram. The prices online were hovering above $50/day ... kinda expensive for Nepal. I asked around and they told me about an ashram that charges $15/day. I wonder where am I gonna end up in? I arrived here. It's a small little village. They sponsor a school, so the fresh air this time is filled with angels' noises. Nevertheless, I crashed to sleep instantly. I think that constant beeping on the streets and 100% attention that you have to give to even walk on the street not to get run over by a car (there are no sidewalks in here), a dorm and 1 hour taxi ride got me a little bit tired. We started our yoga practice. These 1.5 hours were filled with mostly stretches, I hope it will get more complex as the time goes on, and then some breathing exercises. Oh, and in the beginning they were singing some songs/chants to their gods and told me that when I'll learn their words I will join in. Can I tell them that I don't want to? Is there a polite way to say that their Shiva is nothing more than a cartoon character for me?
I noticed a 12 year old girl in here. She constantly works. I'm not sure what's up with that, but she makes chapati, prepares tea, sweeps the floors. Her cloths are dirty, so she's not her child. Need to do more investigation!
9pm sleeping time, 6:30 I wake up. I hope the breakfast won't be too spicy.
Breakfast was funny, they didn't add any spices at all, so it was just bland boiled vegetables without any taste. What can I say ... for sure better than tears running from my eyes :)
I made dinner tonight! No more rice, and no more curries. A bit difficult to make vegan food, as I don't know any recipes at all. Internet didn't work the whole day, so had to make my brain spin. I made some boiled veggies with fried veggies, added cilantro, caramelized garlic and toasted nuts. Yum!!! They said it was good, but it didn't feel like it. I don't care, it was the best food I had in a while. I could finish on my own everything that I made for 6 people :)
I finally decided to do liver detoxification. I have time, it's so cheap in here and apparently very effective. Of course it involves not eating for 2 days, but hey, I'm ready for the challenge. It's 2pm and all I can think of is nuts, chocolate, raisins, pastries ... my mind goes crazy!!! 5pm I'm calm. The doctor told me that after the first pill I won't be hungry anymore ... who knew, he was right!
In the evening he gave me a glass of oil, so that all the liver stones will get out easily. Oh what a torture! The feeling of oil passing through your throat, disgusting! He then woke me up at 6 to give me pills, then at 8 he gave me more oil. This time I thought I would throw up. I felt nauseous for good 5 hours after that, especially that he told me to drink 2 glasses of water every half an hour. I'm not a big water drinker, and I barely managed 1 glass an hour ... he was not happy. He then made me a sweet drink, maybe I'll enjoy that, but he added black salt (it's good for digestion), and it felt like medicine again. So back to the kitchen, only sweet water this time ... that I could manage! And after 3 glasses, I was awarded an apple :) Every hour he asked me if I went to the toilet, no I haven't. Apparently I was supposed to go 12 hour ago. So he gave me 2 more pills, and finally when it happened, I got out and saw him waiting next to the washroom door, with big eyes, and big smile. "So! How was it????!!!!" ... um.... strange question to ask. These weird natural doctors, you would never guess what makes them excited! :)
Anyway, for 2 days now, I can't have anything but boiled vegetables and fruits, any fruits that I want, but since it's not a fruit season, I can have "all I can eat" apples. I can't have root veggies, so no potatoes or carrots, no nuts, no milk products, and everything boiled. I can't look at cauliflower anymore. I want cheesecake and iced mocha!!! Can't wait to get back to Kathmandu!
In the morning I feel weak, but not tired ... strange feeling! I don't know the effects of this treatment. Will see when I'll hike, since I have respiratory problems and knee pain, but at least I lost some weight. He said that people lose between 3 and 5 kg. But probably I lost 3 kg because I'm not that fat :)
Went for a walk around the village. Took some money with me, I counted 380 NRP (Nepali Ruppie). I'm thinking to myself, "why do I need so much money with me??". While walking I started laughing, it's only $3.8 USD!!! Here there is real value for your money. And indeed, internet costs 40 cents per hour, and I bought a bag of veggies to last me for 2 dinners and it cost 35 cents. I cooked dinner again, and they don't like it ... it's ok, I don't like their food either :) They would only make chapati (flat pita bread), and only potatoes with spices. That's all! I'll starve to death from food like that! I sit in a mud made kitchen. Where you walk on the floor and sit on the floor, and use the floor as a table. The girls made the dinner and are serving it, then eating everything with their hands, I still can't get used to it! Feels so disgusting. They asked me not to wear house shoes in the kitchen, but I don't understand why. They walk bare feet everywhere, inside, outside, on dung fertilized soil, and then walk into the kitchen. I bet their feet are dirtier than my shoes.
I checked the internet, found out that some other yoga course starts in 2 days, it means that I have to go back to Kathmandu now to catch an early morning bus. I made up some excuse that I found out that my friend is in Pokhara, and I need to go there now. Caught a taxi and an hour later I'm back in Kathmandu. Went to a restaurant, and what a surprise it was. I think it was the best restaurant in Nepal! The decor is amazing, it's sparkling clean, you sit between blooming flowers, menu makes sense and is all grammatically correct, there is live music, service is excellent and the food and presentation are amazing! How could that be???
Going to Pokhara. It's about 235 kms away, and it took us 8 hours to get there. This also is considered to be the best road in Nepal! There is a national park north of Kathmandu, only 120 kms, and it takes 9 hours on the bus! There are just no roads and whatever you call a road is full of potholes. We made 3 stops which was nice. I wanted to talk to someone, just sat near some guy and asked him "so, you're going trekking?". I was wondering how that will work out in Toronto. I would sit next to someone on the bus station ... "so, you're going to work?". Maybe I should try it just to see what will happen :)
The center of Pokhara is similar to Thamel (touristic center of Kathmandu). It's full of travel agencies, trekking shops and restaurants. Except that it sits on the lake and has side walks. You won't believe what a difference that makes! The weather is not that great. It was pouring rain while I had dinner, and it's supposed to be a dry season with blue skies. People who came to Nepal in the last 3 weeks, pretty much missed most of it, since it's cloudy and foggy, and no views of nothing! Weather forecast shows sun in 5 days, lets hope so!
I met a girl who just came back from an Everest trek. In Pokhara and Kathmandu it rains, but in mountains there is a heavy snow storm. People couldn't get out of their guest houses because the snow blocked the doorways. Then the storm got really bad and the guide was rushing them to a safe area, so the group didn't have any time to eat, drink, relax, put sunscreen on. A bunch of them got blisters on their faces, but at least they were safe. A guide of another group took the tourists off road to see the mountains better, an avalanche happened, and killed 3 of them :(
The restaurant that I went to, sucks! The waiter was terrible, he kept forgetting stuff, he had no idea about the menu, he took one order/request at a time, it took forever to get something, food was so so, and he brought me something that I didn't order :( It's so hard to go from something excellent to something mediocre. Hopefully I could find something better!
My Buddhist meditation course started today. We have this amazing teacher, who has a wonderful manner of speech. He explains things very clearly, and I could listen to him talk all day long. We started with death meditation. He asked us to close our eyes and visualize that we're in a hospital lying on the bed. We can't see anything, everything's a blur, the throat is too dry to speak, you can't move a muscle, and you realize that you're about to die. Your life flashes before your eyes. Did you live life the way you wanted to? Do you have any regrets? Did you say "I love you" to those people who you wanted to say it to, did you forgive? Now imagine the doctor comes, gives you an injection, you wake up in the morning and he tells you, good news, you're gonna live for another month. What will you do in this month? A month later you come back to the doctor and he says, wow, what a difference, you look very good seems like you're much healthier and happier and you have another year to live. What would you do in this year?
A lot of people had tears running when they opened their eyes . Myself included, almost. He asked, do you live according to what you've imagined? Do you understand that life can end at any moment. We're in an earthquake zone, and if it will hit, this building will collapse in a second; His friend was just walking on the road and the taxi hit him out of the blue. Life can end at any moment, why are we not living to our priorities, why are we waiting to express our feelings, to start new, to follow our path?
He then showed us a small research done by a lady who asked people who were gonna die soon a question: What do you regret most in life?
The answers were:
1. Not living the life I wanted
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard (men only)
3. I wish I expressed my feelings more
4. I wish I lived more
5. I wish I didn't let fear run my life
check, check, check, check and check ... have no regrets here. Also, had no regrets in the death meditation. I think I'm on the right path :)
Among other things we've learned how to be in the moment. We were given a small chocolate candy and were asked to say "I'm breathing in" then pay attention to what happens to the chocolate, then say "I'm breathing out" and describe what happens to the chocolate. Concentrating on the breath brings you into the moment because breath is something stable, something rhythmic and something that happens now. We sucked on this little chocolate for about 5 minutes, saying things like "I put it into my mouth", "I feel it with my tongue", "I bite it with my teeth", "I'm swallowing" etc ... People have felt after this meditation different textures, different flavours, sudden taste explosion, and chocolate maniacs were actually very satisfied after only this small piece, and didn't want to have more. The result of such a simple experiment is tremendous. Being in the present intensifies life, brings more colour to it, more flavour.
He gave us an example of a traffic jam. What do people usually do. They start cursing, beeping, getting angry, impatient, thinking of how will they explain things to their boss again. The cars are not going anywhere, nothing will change, why won't you change your thoughts and come to the present? Look around. Maybe you'll see a nice coat someone is wearing in an adjacent car or how beautiful some tree is ...
You look at the lake, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you think to yourself, what a beautiful lake, I haven't seen a more beautiful thing in my life. And then your boss calls you and fires you over the phone. You look at the lake, and think to yourself, what an ugly lake, why do these birds make so much noise, it makes my head hurt. What am I doing here anyway, such a waste of time!
Nothing has changed, except your perception. It's never the place or an object. Sometimes, not even a person. Everything is in your mind... which you can control, and turn your life upside down. From pessimistic and gloomy to happy and sunny :)