Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Blog

It has been a while since I have posted...for those of you who follow, I will continue to have a blog on my new website. Please visit and select the Blog tab. Also -- please check out the rest of my site!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nepal: Pashupatinath & Boudhanath

After an early morning yoga class and an early lunch I grabbed a taxi to Pashupatinath. I think it's safe to say it is the strangest, yet one of the most interesting, places I've ever visited. It is along the Bagmati River and has a Hindu temple. Along the river are platforms where cremations take place. You can see various streams of smoke rising from a distance, which are, in fact, burning bodies. There were 2 going on when I was there, I watched one but didn't take pictures out of respect for the families there who were cremating their deceased. Again, a strange experience. 

People sitting across the Bagmati watching a cremation
Smoke from a cremation

View of Pashupatinath 

Cow statue outside a temple 

The complex is large and as you wander up the stairs into the trees, you are surrounded by what I think are graves with monkeys wandering through the trees. Then it was a 45 minute walk to Boudhanath through the "suburbs" of Kathmandu. I loved walking through the quiet peaceful streets and seeing a quieter way of life. 

View of Kathmandu
Crossing the Bagmati River
Down by the Bagmati River

A schoolyard

Boudhanath was unbelievable. It is the largest stupa in Nepal if not all of Asia (can't remember). It is a pilgrimage sight for Buddhists all over the world. TIbetan monks live in a nearby monastery and were walking around the courtyard the whole time I was there. It was a circular complex with the stupa in the middle which you can climb and walk around,  a walking area around the stupa, and shops and restaurants wrapping around that. Really, really cool!

The professor I will be working with (Steve) arrived that evening with the students he had been leading for the past month. It was nice to finally have people contact and get a feel for what I will be doing over the next 5 weeks. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Nepal: Patan Excursion

On a miserably rainy day I attempted to find the bus station to take a bus to Patan. After wandering for about 45 minutes in pouring rain and finding no sign of the bus station, I gave up and tried to relax the rest of the day. I felt particularly homesick. I found a local yoga group that offers classes for tourists for about $6 and went that night. I met a sweet woman from New Zealand and felt so much better afterward. 

The next day I decided to forego the bus option and opted for a taxi to Patan (it is only about $3 one way). It was pouring rain, but Patan was BEAUTIFUL! It also has a Durbar Square filled with temples and the Patan Museum had some of the most amazing statues and sculptures from both the Hindu and Buddhist religions. 

Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square
Elephants at the entrance of a temple in Patan Durbar Square
Good luck mudra on a Buddha statue
Patan Durbar Square
Lion outside a temple in Patan Durbar Square 
Patan street
I then grabbed a taxi back to Thamel and had the best cab driver ever. Ever. He gave me a tour of Kathmandu as we drove to Thamel, when we got there I realized I only had big bills and he couldn't give me change so he let me find someone who could make change for me, and after I paid, he literally walked into the busy street to stop traffic so I could cross. Such a sweet man. There are people doing good EVERYWHERE. 

I ate dinner at the Northfield Cafe (which I recommend to those who visit Thamel), read my book (1984 by George Orwell) and enjoyed the evening. The restaurant has a band of Dalits (!) that perform every evening so I was able to here some local music. (Dalits are the untouchable caste of the Pokhara region, whom I will be working with and filming starting next week)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kathmandu: Day 2

Today was 100 million times better than yesterday. After breakfast at the hotel I walked to Durbar Square and found it easily thanks to my new strategy of asking a stranger on the street anytime I am unsure of the direction I should be headed in. The Nepali people are incredibly nice and thanks go them, my day was far better. I paid for a guide at Durbar Square so I would know what I was looking at. He was very kind and he talked so much that I don't remember much of what he said. I only have iPhone photos because the skies were threatening rain and I was wary of carrying my camera around.

I did get to see the current kumari which is a pre-pubescent girl that is seen as the host for the goddess Durga (basically she is treated as a goddess). The kumari is selected at age 2 and continues to act as kumari until she has her first period. Then they select a new one. The kumari is not allowed to touch the earth so she is carried everywhere in a little covered chariot-type thing whenever she leaves her home. Interesting fact: It is considered bad luck to marry a former kumari. Photographs of her are only permitted during the festival in September, so I found one on the internet.

Where the Kumari lives

After Durbar Square I returned to the hotel for lunch and some more work. Later I walked to the Monkey Temple (a 45 minute walk, a quarter of which is up steep stairs that are angled down so you feel as if you will fall backwards if you don't hold on to the handrail!). I got to see a different section of Kathmandu (though much, much dirtier). It was a very cool thing to experience. Monkeys climb the stairs and swing in the trees beside you all the way up and hang around at the top. There were many tourists at the top as well as many natives walking clockwise around the temple in prayer. And at the top are stunning views of Kathmandu.

Luckily, it never rained though the skies were threatening all day. Many of the businesses were on strike (including taxi drivers) due to disagreements with the government so if it started pouring down rain, I would have had no option but to walk in it or duck into a cafe (if I was lucky enough to be near one) until it stopped. There was no way I was going to go to the Monkey Temple without my camera so I was very thankful that the clouds were kind to me.
I walked back and had dinner at a local cafe called Himalayan Java and had a delicious cup of coffee and a sandwich with yak cheese! Delicious!