Tag Archives: pokhara

The Most Colorful War In Nepal

War was approaching.

Not just any war, but the most colorful of wars. A war that I single-handedly started…

The special day was near. A day where it was perfectly acceptable to throw handfuls of colorful powder at people. Perfectly okay, to spray people with water and throw water balloons at anyone and everyone. That day is called Holi, an annual Hindu holiday celebrated almost primarily in India and Nepal during the spring season. Also known as one of my favorite new holidays.

The students explained it to me and the more they spoke of it, the more my inner child grew giddy.

“So on Holi day, everyone is throwing colors at each other and throwing water balloons at random strangers?” I would ask them.

“Yes!” they would tell me. “But not older people or people with yellow tikka on their heads.”

A Nepalese with yellow tikka on their forehead meant that they were mourning the anniversary of a death in the family. This is also means they are completely immune from any nonsense.

The days leading up to Holi, students would bring the most feeble balloons I’ve ever seen to school, fill them up with water and throw them at each other. Even the teachers played along sometimes. The students dared not to throw a water balloon at me because if they did, they knew it meant snow spray to the face! Yes, I would blend education and entertainment (edutainment) to the students with English learning games. A wrong answer or lack of response meant certain death…or usually just dowsing them with snow spray, which is actually just soap suds made to resemble snow. It terrified and made them happy all at the same time. Most importantly, it never failed to hold their attention.


Containing my excitement and enthusiasm for Holi was nearly impossible. I made it aware to the students and families that I was going hardcore nuts with the Holi festivities. I stocked up on supplies: three water bazookas, 100 balloons, 30 bottles of combination of snow spray and string spray and lots and lots of packets of colorful powder. The students told me there were two types of powder I could get: Indian and Nepali.
“What’s the difference?” I asked them.

“Nepali colors are easier to wash off,” they would say.

With that, I chose the Indian colors. 😈

The snow and string sprays aren’t something that’s typically used during Holi but I thought it was fit for the occasion. The students agreed.

The day before Holi, I decided to put my weapons and ammunitions to the test. I recruited one of the neighbors to help me surprise attack the kids at the school once it dismissed. That neighbor’s name is Yubraj but most know him as UK. He’s an 18-year-old student attending university in Pokhara. UK, along with his brother Dhiraj, play a major role in my stay in Padeli. I’ll explain why on a later post.

Right before school dismissed, UK and I attacked, I would say half of the students at Bal Prativa, as they were walking home. UK’s house is conveniently located next door to the school, so we were able to attack all passing students. If they wanted to go home, they had no choice but to brave an onslaught of water guns, snow/string spray, and buckets of water that we chugged at groups of students. The powder I would save for Holi. Every kid was beaming with smiles, except for two of the baby kids who were absolutely terrified. We didn’t attack them, nor the female teachers that strolled through. Everyone else was fair game. The older students at the government school, another school about a hundred yards away, looked on in amusement.

This was a warning to the village of Padeli for what I had planned for the next day.

I spent the remainder of the night filling balloons with a combination mixture of purple powder and water. Out of the 100 balloons I bought, only about 50 of them didn’t have holes in them already. Amish and a couple of the class ten students gave me a hand.

The Morning of the “Holi” War

Aatma gave the class ten students one hour of break from study to celebrate Holi and to hurl colors at each other. Even on a holiday, these kids had to keep their heads in the books. It was no matter to me because they were not my main target–the rest of the village was. So for now, I will play with class ten.

I filled the tanks of my guns with water mixed with red powder. The mixture resembled blood and would look like a bloody massacre when I blasted the kids. One tank was strapped to my back and the other two on my left and right sides. I filled a dry bag with a few canisters of snow spray and a variety of different color string sprays. I filled my pockets with dozens of packets of colored powder. I put on my festive white shirt and was ready to go! The water bombs I would save for after.

Half of the students began to engage in hurling colors at each other, just a few minutes walk into a barren crop. I followed the other half there into the middle of the battlefield. Immediately, I began attacking them, with little counter. These kids had a skimpy amount of colors at their disposal (which they mainly used on me once I entered the fray) and were nowhere near as equipped as I was. I had the free reign to terrorize, much to their fright and enjoyment.

DCIM100GOPROG0039569.

 

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

The kids ran out of colors quick, while I still had an absurd amount in my possession. I may or may have not emptied out all of the small village shops of their supply. They were ridiculously cheap. I ended up sharing my packets with them but saving most of it for the main event later on.

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

Opening each individual packet of powder was meticulous and not conventional for fast paced war. I should have opened all the packets back at home into a giant pouch first. But I had to make do with what I had.

Even little Aakash was in the spirit!

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

This battle was over and everyone looked like a rainbow had detonated in the village, splattering everyone in the vicinity. Also, the kids had a blast, which was the highest of priorities.

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

Unfortunately, they couldn’t join in the village war and had to clean up and get back to their never-ending studies.

2 vs. The Entire Village!

While back at Aatma’s, restocking on ammo and water bombs, one of the class ten students came to my room and told me that “some students are here to see me”. A gang of boys, a mixed medley of students from the private school rose up to the entrance of the house, armed with a couple of water guns and colors, wanting me to come out into the center of the village. I responded with a steady stream of water, spraying them.

“I’ll be out there soon!” I said to them.

But there was no way I was actually going to follow them, as they assumed I would do. Instead, I took the back way behind Aatma’s house up to the center of Padeli. Something like a sneak attack. There were about ten of those boys. I needed at least one more person to help me. I went to UK’s house and recruited his assistance, much to his delight, and gave him a bag of water bombs, some colors, and one of my bazookas. And thus, we chased the boys around the school and attacked them with ease.

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors warholi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

They were lacking on weaponry and ammunition as well, but had water bombs which they were able to throw with almost perfect accuracy every single time. Eventually they retreated…at least for the time being.

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

Soon after, a group of five girls from the school came down from Sarangkot, ready to wage war against UK and I. These girls were afraid of everything and we easily overpowered them. Although, some of the girls landed some great shots and were able to douse me with buckets of water as I took the time to refill up in the nearby water reserve. The water reserve is a spot where villagers would come to wash their clothes and sometimes even bathe. It was also the perfect spot to refill the water bazookas. The girls ran off into the background, yielding and surrendering against any future attacks against us .

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

Just as they did, the ten boys from earlier returned, except this time with a staggering amount of other boys from across the village. I counted close to fifty of them. They all looked down at UK and I, equipped with water balloons galore along with an unknown amount of colors in their possesion. I thought I wiped the stores clean of colors, to prevent the kids from getting any?  😈

I guess not.

This is about to get interesting and also very, very difficult for UK and me.

When we went in to attack, the boys dispersed in random directions and we found ourselves flanked from all sides. One of the chunkier kids had the best aim with his water balloons and never failed to hit me right in the head. Kids would come from behind and rub colors in my face as I was being hit with their dinky water guns. UK was getting attacked from all ends as well. I was empty on water. We had no choice but to retreat. But to where? I ran to a random neighbors home, inside their goat shed with their goats thinking I would be safe, but no. The goats were as startled as I was as some of the boys ran right into the shed and attacked me good. Real good. It looked like a bloody mess.

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

The small group of boys backed away and went into the open lot of the nearby government school, where all of the boys and the girls were playing with colors. We refilled our water tanks and decided to enter their base (the government school) and go all out on everyone, no matter if we were outnumbered.

The girls that attacked us earlier were getting annihilated from all of the village boys, so I swooped in to help the girls out, creating new allies in the process.

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

This is the part where my GoPro battery died, but it went something like this…

I got absolutely WRECKED out there!

All the boys thought it would be great to gang up on the teacher (me), the foreigner (me), the one with all the ammo and weapons (also me). And I would have done the same if I were in their position. The chunky kid returned with his deceptively on-point accuracy. Kids would sneak up behind me and smother powder all over my face. And I got soaked with a few buckets of water. UK was pretty much dead as well. Instead of trying to attack all of the boys, instead I conspired with the girls to get the three boys who appeared to be the leaders of the group and also this one really annoying brat toddler who tried to hurl a rock at my face. I got him real good with a blast of green powder to the face.

Eventually, I put my hands up. I was completely out of ammo and I had little energy left to continue fighting. This colorful war; this Holi festival, was one of my most favorite days in Nepal. Can we bring this over to America and make it a permanent fixture? It’s more fun than any holiday I’ve ever had the fortune of being a part of–granted people don’t usually go through these lengths, but still.

I also learned a couple of lessons for a potential “next time”:

  • I’ll need to recruit a small, capable army. I can’t do this alone, especially if the whole village decides to attack me again.
  • Open my color packets ahead of time and combine them all in one bag. I wasted too much time opening packet after packet after packet…
  • Two words: Smoke. Bombs. But with colors!

UK and I went to wash up and he and I went down to Lakeside to celebrate the rest of Holi with a live concert in the middle of the street, along with hundreds of other people; locals and travelers. We got colors all over us again but it was okay.

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

holi festival pokhara nepal india colors war

I know what some of you are thinking. “But Dan! It’s a religious holiday. You completely missed the whole point of Holi!”

My response: “No, not at all.”

Holi Festival is a celebration of colors, the arrival of spring, a day to play, laugh, have a good time and frolic in the streets splashing water and colors on anyone and everyone. I just took the holiday and cranked it up a few notches, much to the enjoyment of all the kids and even to the amusement of the adults. I haven’t played this hard in years.

This was the most fun, this colorful of wars, and has solidified Holi as one of my new favorite Holidays, just before my ultimate favorite holiday, Christmas. I may have won a few of the battles, but the village has definitely won the war. I’ll admit that. However, I won’t forget. One day, I shall get my revenge!

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Annapurna Base Camp Trek Part III: Our Biggest Blunder

annapurna base camp poon hill nepal trekking himalayas

A snow storm raged outside our lodge.

It was by far the coldest night on our whole trek. Shoot, it was the coldest night on this Quest to the Seven Continents, yet! We slept in all of our layers and cocooned ourselves in our sleeping bags and topped off with the blankets our lodge provided. I was anxious to get to the summit, but also ready to get this trek over with. Yes, I was enjoying it, but I’m not gonna lie; the thought of getting back to the warmth of a Lakeside hotel bed in Pokhara and a rewarding gigantic Oreo milkshake from Perky Bean’s dominated my thought process.

So far, our trek up towards Annapurna Base Camp has been smooth and easy. No signs of altitude sickness. No mishaps. No lagging paces. No nothing.

But.

Summit day, day seven, was when we made our biggest blunder during the whole trek.

Day 7: 9:30am Annapurna Base Camp Summit…

We woke up at 8am. Getting out of the coziness of our beds was difficult. Stepping outside, I found that the snowstorm from the night had passed and there wasn’t as much snow on the ground as I had initially thought. It was a beautiful morning!

annapurna base camp trek nepal poon hill himalayas mounting hike

annapurna base camp trek nepal poon hill himalayas mounting hike

The initial plan was to reach the summit and spend the night there, meaning we would have all day and night to bask in Annapurna’s mountainous glory. But, Hamish wasn’t having any of it.

annapurna base camp trek nepal poon hill himalayas mounting hike

You see, he hails from the sunny temperatures of seaside Sydney, Australia and this is the most cold he’s ever had to deal with in his life. He suggested that he wouldn’t know how he would fare spending another night in the cold. We had to compromise. So we decided to go up to the summit, stay up there for maybe an hour or two, and then head back as far down as we could go. On the bright side, that meant we could leave most of our belongings in our lodge at MBC and pick them up on our way back down.

The final ascent was relatively easy compared to the previous few days. We followed a rather linear path up a slope that never presented itself as terribly steep.

annapurna base camp trek nepal poon hill himalayas mounting hike

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

The temperature never played a factor either. In fact, trekking made us quite warm. The only issue I had was the light reflecting off the sea of pure white snow, directly into my eyes. I couldn’t keep my eyes open! I had everything I needed for my trek except for a pair of sunglasses because I was too stubborn to make an effort to bring a pair. I should have brought some, because I had to hike up the majority of the last leg like this.

annapurna base camp trek nepal poon hill himalayas mounting hike

I applied the same technique I adopted in New Zealand and wore my buff over my face. Thankfully, I could see through it.

*Snow blindness is a real thing. Bring your sunglasses!

We continued our slow, but steady pace up. Soon we could see the lodging of ABC in the distance. We were surrounded by snow and mountain peaks.

We made it!

annapurna base camp trek nepal poon hill himalayas mounting hike

We clocked in at 11:20am; almost two hours later at 4,130m.

The feeling of knowing that the hard part of the ABC trek was over (or so we thought) was endearing. The cold didn’t bother us anymore.

We stayed at the base camp for about an hour, enjoying hot tea and bread and chatting with a group of trekker’s who we’ve come across the past few days, before we made our way back down to MBC.

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

I realized at this point that I have a personal habit of eagerly wanting to get the heck off a mountain once I reach the summit. I felt this way on Kilimanjaro and also on Acatenango. The same applied here in Annapurna. I wanted off! Not because I hated it, in fact this is probably up there for some of the most enjoyable treks I’ve ever done. I wanted off because I was eager to get back to the comforts of Pokhara and to get back to my people and students in the villages.

My speedier pace going back down to MBC was what I would describe as “careful trotting”. The ice and snow was slick and some of the tracks were muddy from the melt. Hamish eventually caught up and revealed that he was getting a slight headache up there. I told him he should feel fine the more we descend.

We arrived back to MBC at 1pm to retrieve our big bags. We left at 1:20pm and continued back down to Duerali and arrived there at 2:12pm. We rested for about ten minutes and trekked to Himalaya and arrived at 3:20pm. Once there, we took a rest to eat our lunch. It began to sprinkle outside, nothing major, just a light drizzle. It didn’t deter us and we both decided to keep going.

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

As we walked back through jungle, the drizzle turned into typical rain. Not a downpour, but still rainy. I had on my water resistant jacket. As for my pants, I was certain they were also water resistant. My bag? I was positive it was water resistant as well. And so we made it back to Dovan at 4:25. Once we got there, it really started to pour but it was such a refreshing feeling. We encountered a group of trekkers who all decided to stay the night at Dovan, to let the rain pass. Hamish and I…stupid us, decided that we had ample energy to make it to Bamboo, which wasn’t too much further ahead. The rain never bothered us, so off we went!

After getting soaked from head to toe, we arrived in Bamboo at 5:00pm on the dot. We got our room and started to peel off our wet layers. I opened up my bag to get some dry clothes and found that everything inside was dripping wet. All of my clothes, my sleeping bag, my toiletries. My camera?! My most expensive possession for this trip was also wet but thankfully I had put protective covering on it, so it survived.

We hung everything in our rooms and outside. It was still raining and a bit chilly outside. We really needed the morning/afternoon sun to dry our things. Hopefully it comes out.

Day 8: 12:15 Bamboo to Jhinu

Good news? The sun came out in the morning and I learned that my pants and my bag were not water resistant like I thought. Bad news? Our trekking was delayed a few hours but since we got a head start yesterday by not spending the night at ABC, it was okay.

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

After everything was mostly dry, we repacked our bags and continued on the rest of the trek. Now out of all of the days, this was the day I dreaded the most. Remember all of those steps we had to climb up and down during Day 5? Well, we had to do it all over again soon.

We trekked to Sinuwa and arrived at 1:45pm and continued on the never-ending steps down and up to Chhomrong. For some odd reason, going the opposite way leading to Chhomrong was a lot more work than coming to Sinuwa from Chhomrong.

Once we finally slogged our way up to Chhomrong at 3:10pm, we continued onto a different route back to the foot of the mountain. We heard that in a village called Jhinu, there ere natural hot springs trekkers could dwell in. How rewarding! Hamish and I decided to go there and relax in the springs. However the jaunt down to Jhinu did work on my legs. The steps were extremely steep leading downwards and it never ended! But eventually we arrived in Jhinu at 4:00pm.

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

We were too tired from the trek today that we best decided we would do the hot springs, first thing in the morning–during our final day of the trek!

Today was the day of few thousand steps!

Day 9: 8:30 Jhinu to Nayapul; Back to Pokhara

It’s the final day of trekking. What better way to begin the day than with natural hot springs?

Hamish and I woke up, had breakfast and barely mentioned the hot springs. Going to the hot springs required going down for roughly twenty minutes to the springs and then hiking back up to get our things and then continuing on our planned route. We were game for it the prior night but on this morning, neither of us could be bothered with it. We both just wanted to get off the mountain and so, we skipped the hot springs.

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

The trek back to Nayapul was straight forward. We cut through some villages, followed a river, crosses a couple bridges, and even walked along herds of goats.

annapurna base camp poon hill himalaya trekking nepal

Once we reached New Bridge, we both decided to take a cheap 200 rupee bus back to Nayapul and eventually a taxi ride back to Pokhara.

We haven’t showered in nine days. My hair was matted to my head and my beard felt like a brillo pad. I was the ugliest I’ve ever been and I was glad to be finished! The trek was very enjoyable, but it’s just me with any hike–once I make it to the summit, I’m ready to get back to the bottom immediately afterwards.

Some things I learned from the Annapurna Base Camp Trek

  • I was weary of using water purification tablets at first because I’ve never used them before in my life. Looking back, I wish I used them from the start of the trek. Would have saved me a few hundred rupees.
  • I already knew this but sleeping with my electronics in my sleeping bag really does help to preserve battery.
  • Speaking of sleeping bags. It’s possible not be okay with not bringing a sleeping bag during this trek because every lodge that we stayed in provided one. Some lodges had a limited number of blankets however. Since we were in the low season, we never had an issue.
  • We hiked in the middle of February and despite what people say that it might be too cold or what not, the weather during our trek was mostly perfect.
  • At the lodges, if you’re hungry then always go with the dal bhat. You are always offered second helpings for no extra charge.
  • Staying hydrated is what kept us going.
  • Slow and steady really does wonders for your stamina during a trek.
  • Bring a waterproof cover for my bag next time!
  • Be bold. Start cold! Otherwise all of your layers are just going to get wet from sweat

Annapurna you were great! My most enjoyable hike yet! But it’s time to get back to the village in Pokhara that I call home.

I made a promise to the students at my school from two years ago that I must fulfill.

Living in Nepal…With 18 Teenage Students That I Thought I Hated

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

Getting to my old village in Nepal was a pain in the beeehind!

First, we had to endure a six-hour bus journey through twisty mountains from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The trip actually took ten hours because of ridiculous road conditions. I also vomited while on the bus from a combination of motion sickness and probable food poisoning. Those chicken momos I had the day before did not settle well.

Once we finally arrived in Pokhara, we stayed the night at Simrik Hotel and hired a taxi in the afternoon to take us up another giant hill to a village called Padeli. The roads on this particular mountain will instantly turn from reasonable to downright ridiculous. So much that cab drivers refuse to drive on them, and thus we have to get out of the taxi and hike the rest of the way.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

After a twenty minute jaunt, I spotted my old school, Shree Bal Prativa Boarding School, with the intention on surprising everyone there, former students and teachers alike. A handful of them knew I was arriving today.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

We walked through the school grounds with teachers popping their heads out of classes, welcoming me with warm returns and students who remembered me from two years ago, shouting my name. It was a humbling feeling, because I couldn’t remember most of their names, although their faces struck me with familiarity.

I was finally welcomed by Aatma, the principal of the school and the head of the home-stay I would be living in. Also by his wife Mina, the vice principal of the school. They haven’t aged one bit.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

On the way to my old home-stay, I reunited with Aatma and Mina’s three children: Amisha, Amish, and little Aakash who was still a runt even though it’s been two years since I last saw him. Seeing them all again was like seeing distant relatives I haven’t seen in some time. Except, these were the kind of relatives that you wanted to see.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

IMG_2479.JPG

Upon arrival to my old digs, I expected to settle back into my old room that Tim, Emre, and I used to occupy. But not this time. Instead, Hamish and I were put into another newly-built room on the opposite side of the home, equipped with our own toilet. Aatma has made some additions to his once simpler abode and added two new toilets, a “shower” room, and three new rooms including a full sized classroom.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

“Why is there a classroom here now?” I asked Amish.

“Because class ten is staying here now”, he replied.

I was taken back.

“What do you mean they are staying here now?”

“Class ten is studying here for four months and it’s required for them to stay here at the hostel.”

So they are calling this a hostel now? And all of class ten lives here now?!

Back in the day, class ten, who I knew quite well as class eight…well, they weren’t exactly my favorite class.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

It was no secret to anyone. I always avoided them and spent my time mostly with class seven and nine. Class eight was a group of 18 students who looked at me with blank stares whenever I spoke to them and some would even snap back and curse at me in Nepalese. When I say some, I mean primarily a boy named Milan. He was the absolute worst and one of the sole reasons I wasn’t fond of the class. He was loud, obnoxious, a bit of a bully to his classmates, and for some reason, he was the outspoken leader of his peers. The rest of those students were silent and barely spoke to me, unlike the students in class seven and nine who always responded to me respectfully.

When I found out that I would be living 24/7 with class ten, formerly class eight…my excitement for being here went from a raging high to an “aw sh*t” low.

What are they even doing here anyways? Aatma’s school only goes up to class nine! Aatma building another classroom to his school to extend to a class ten was another change that I was unaware of until I arrived.

As I settled in, little by little, students from class 10 began to arrive. Although I wasn’t the fondest of them, I was still a bit eager to see them again. They’ve grown taller, their voices deeper, their English a little better, and their demeanor a tad calmer. Even Milan matured from a rotten brat to a seemingly well-mannered young adult. All of them remembered me and were happy that I was back. I remembered all of their faces as well, but not their names so I took it upon myself to relearn.

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I asked them what the deal was with this whole living-in-a-hostel-thing and they said that it’s mandatory for them to stay here to study for their board exams at the end of March. Everyday they will take exams given to them by the school in preparation.

“Everyday?” I asked.

“Yes,” they replied. “More than 150 exams until the board exams.”

My jaw about hit the floor.

“150 exams?!” I said in somewhat disbelief.

“Yes!” they said in laughter in response to my reaction.

Holy sh***t! I think I may have cursed in front of them but it was appropriate for emphasis.

“Well, I’m here to help whenever you need it,” I said to them. “Especially with English since I am the most fluent English speaker on this mountain now and you live with me. Don’t bother me with your math though. I stink at that.”

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

I began to realize how different these students were in comparison to two years ago. They have definitely matured and their demeanor is a lot more relaxed. I can actually hold a conversation with them now, mostly with the boys. The girls were still somewhat shy around me but made more of an effort this time around to speak to me in English.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

Out of the five boys in class ten, Samir had the most trouble with his English. Though he was the most curious about me upon my return and spoke to me asking me loads of questions, broken English and all. Two years ago, he barely said a word to me.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

Over the course of the next few days, I tried to find the time to implement educational activities to the students but finding the time was difficult. Aatma made them study constantly. They would wake up at 4:30am to study, go to school at 10am, return back to the hostel at 4pm, study more, have a class around 8pm, and then study until 10:30pm. Jeez! I don’t know anyone who studied like that! Other than the extra classroom sessions that Aatma would ask me to teach, like Environment and Accounting (I haven’t taken an accounting course in years!), I would take the students out to the field for team building exercises that implemented snippets from lessons they were learning at the time. Group projects don’t exist at the boarding school, and as much as I disliked them growing up, I felt that it was important to acknowledge the teamwork aspect.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

As far as English is concerned, the best thing I can do for the students is to speak to them as much as I can, in the most natural conversational tone. Except I would speak just a bit slower, pronounce my letters a bit more, and use less complex words. Hand gesturing is also key. I would correct their English when they spoke or wrote something, as well as the teachers. Their English wasn’t exactly the best. It’s good, but not great. Especially, Aatma’s. You would think being the principal of a school and having loads of western travelers stay at your home would develop your English. But for his case, it’s still as wonky as it was two years ago. And out of all the staff, I have the most trouble understanding him. As for Mina, she gets a pass because I missed her delicious dal bhat.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

Samir enjoying his daily double dose of dal bhat. A signature dish here in Nepal.

Everyday we get served dal bhat for breakfast and dinner and Mina’s dal bhat is certainly the best in the village. It’s basically a load of white rice with steamed vegetable curry and a broth made with lentils. Mina remembers exactly how I liked it; no added eggs, no added buffalo milk, but with lots of veggies grown right from their garden. The only difference this time around was that I ate with all of class ten. Many of them ate with their hands, which is normal here. I was battling a stomach bug so I wasn’t ready to be utensil-less quite yet.

nepal pokhara padeli shree bal prativa

I was starting to grow fond of class 10, who I couldn’t care less about two years ago. They have certainly grown up and now actually respond to me a lot more than the used to.

One thing for sure was that they studied WAY too much. I was on their side and expressed my opinion on the matter to them. Yes, it’s great that they are in an immersive learning environment but still their brains needs to rest and let live from time to time. I hammered the teachers about giving them just an hour or two out of the days to do anything but not study but I was hard pressed with hardly any notion of “leisure” time. Aatma was here to prove to Pokhara that his school is the best of the best and can produce high ranking students, even if it means they must study 18 hours out of the day. I couldn’t really argue against it.

It was a frustrating situation for me. These students I once disregarded, I now found myself defending. But I could only hope Aatma gets the result he is looking for and that it is worth the price for cramming these kids heads in books for four months straight.

We shall see.

Whatever Your Little Nepalese Hearts Desires

I’ll be honest. I wrote an entire post dedicated to the final rounds of the volleyball tournament and then read it over. I decided it was a boring read and scraped it. I’ll fast forward to the end of it!

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I told each class, if the boys or girls win from a class, then the whole class would receive the prize. Grade 9 girls won so all of grade 9 would be rewarded. Grade 8 boys won so all of grade 8 would be rewarded. All that left was grade 7. Early on, I already knew that no matter the outcome, I would reward each of the classes. I just chose not to tell anyone because I wanted to keep the matches competitive. Besides, grade 7 didn’t have a girls team to represent for them being that there were only two girls in the entire class. It wasn’t exactly fair.

Grade 7 left the volleyball court, defeated but still surprisingly in an okay mood. Later that day, I went to their classroom and told them that even though they didn’t win, I would still reward them along with grades 8 and 9. They clapped and cheered hearing the news.

“On Tuesday, instead of going to periods 7 and 8, meet me down below the rice fields,” I told them.

What was the prize? I’m going to dedicate the next post about it.

In the meantime, I had something else planned for my host family kids, Amisha, Amish, and Aakash. Weeks ago, I told them for my last weekend in Pokhara, I wanted to take them down to Lakeside and treat them to all sorts of fun stuff. Aatma and Mina gladly let me have them for the weekend. Thankfully, I had Zahra coming with me to split the babysitting duties.

Now that most of my core group of volunteers were gone, I could focus on spending more time with the family. Immediately after school on Friday, I told the kids to pack a quick bag and we’d hike down to Lakeside, which takes less than two hours. I guess the term “pack a bag” isn’t what it would mean to me. Each kid brought an extra shirt and nothing else. Not even any toiletries. They put their shirts in my bag and that was that. They were excited to go though! They wore their cleanest set of clothes. “Save your good shirt for later,” I told the boys. “You’re gonna get sweaty going down the mountain.”

“It is no problem!” exclaimed Amish. “I won’t sweat.”

Whatever floats your boat, man. While Amisha would be hitching a ride down with Aatma on his motorcycle, the boys would be hiking down with me. Mina took Zahra down to Lakeside earlier in the day to get fitted for traditional Nepali wear, so they were already down there waiting for us. Aatma was a little concerned about little Aakash hiking down the mountain, but I let him know that I would be carrying him most of the way. He’s lighter than a piece of paper and shouldn’t pose a problem.

Amish, Aakash, and I made our way down the mountain village along with their crazy young uncle Anish. Anish lives with the Thapa family during the week and is also a teacher at the school. It seems like they grab any random person in this village to teach at the school. He followed us down the mountain and left halfway through to catch a bus back to his home.

Crazy uncle Anish, Amish, and Aakash.
Crazy uncle Anish, Amish, and Aakash.

I was happy to see that Aakash had all the energy in the world hiking down the mountain, but once we hit the bottom, he came to a halt. His little legs couldn’t keep up with us, so I propped him right into my big bag and continued on. He fit inside perfectly and I think he enjoyed the free ride!

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We did have to rest midway through. The boys were getting thirsty so we stopped at a small shack and quenched our thirsts with cokes. They rarely ever get to taste any soda on the village so I let them get whatever their little Nepalese hearts desired, even though I knew cokes would only make them thirstier.

We eventually made it to Lakeside without a single complaint from the boys. They rarely complain about anything. We met up with Zahra and Mina at Lakeside and also with Tim and Emre who have been there for a few days now. Tim and Emre could have stayed another week in the village, but they wanted to spend their last week with hot showers, soft beds, and toilets with seats–none of which we got on the mountain. We checked into our rooms and all of us went across the street to Perkys for lunch. “Get whatever you want!” I told the kids. “But you have to get a milkshake with whatever you order.”

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The milkshakes at Perkys are gargantuan and I knew the kids would love the freshly made ice cream shake with two scoops of more ice cream on top. Amish ordered the chocolate one and Aakash ordered a strawberry. The shakes were too big for Aakash so he ended up sharing with his mother. Amish and Aakash both ordered a chicken sandwich with fries. Amish liked his but Aakash wasn’t a fan. He only liked the fries and dipped his fingers in the ketchup. Weird kid. How can you not like a chicken sandwich? Mina was there to finish off his plate.

Later on, Amisha finally joined us after we had already eaten. She was probably hungry too so I asked her what was she in the mood for.

“Chicken momos,” she replied.

Excellent choice! Chicken momos are a Nepalese staple here. Chunks of chicken wrapped in a flour pouch. Very similar to a perogi. We found Amisha some chicken momos and she chowed down.

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It started to get dark so we went back to our rooms to relax a little and so I could take a shower. The kids would finally have their own soft beds that they didn’t have to share with each other! Amisha and Zahra split a room while Amish, Aakash, and I split another. Tim and Emre shared a room between ours. It all worked out great! We regrouped and walked around the main street for a bit until we found a neat place that offered pool. These kids have played pool only once before in their lives and it was evident based on the way they held a pool stick.

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“Order something to drink guys,” I told them. “Whatever you want.”

They did and aside from the pool table, they were focused on the swinging hammocks nearby. Occasionally, I would stop them from swinging on them so hard. “Those are hammocks not swings!”

The kids were getting hungry already and so was I. I already knew I wanted to treat them to pizza and I knew the best place in town: Godfather’s Pizza, which was located right down the street. For drinks, they ordered chocolate lassi’s and we split a veggie pizza and a chicken and mushroom pizza. We didn’t really have much of a choice. We couldn’t order any pizza with sausage or ham on it because it was against their culture to eat it. Godfather’s Pizza catered to tourists so they threw all their culture laws out of the window. Amish mentioned that his pizza tasted like pancakes. What kind of pancakes have you been eating kid? Aakash scraped all the veggies and goodies off his slices of pizza and poured more sugar into his lemon drink. I think this is the most sugar he’s ever had in one day. That, on top of the strawberry ice cream Zahra bought them shortly after. Even though the pizza was okay for them at best, it still managed to fill their bellies.

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The kids slept silently through the night and woke up to the sound of roaring trucks passing by on the street outside. Zahra and I had to go to the market in the city center to get some supplies in the morning, but brought along the kids for breakfast. The only place that was open at 10am was a vegetarian restaurant. The kids reluctantly ordered veggie momo’s (they really wanted chicken momo’s again). Afterwards we headed back to Simrik for a quick rest before we went to the local store to stock up on snacks. These snacks would go with us to the lake and on a boat I would rent for all of us to take. This was the highlight of the weekend for the kids. I let Amisha and Amish take off their life vests, but not Aakash. He’s so fragile and light that the wind could carry him away and right into the water.

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Zahra and I paddled most of the time but eventually let the kids work off their debt to us. Their little legs could barely last two minutes!

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Before we left Pokhara, Zahra and I wanted to take Amisha out to the market to pick out a couple of birthday gifts. As she mentioned to us on the previous post, her birthday was in a couple days. We took her to a market and let her pick out whatever a new 14-year-old teenager would want. She ended up picking out a pair of red shoes and a pair of red jeans. Afterwards, Zahra went to get a massage while I took Amish out to get a henna tattoo on his arm.

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We planned on taking the bus back up but it broke down and the driver said another bus wouldn’t be ready until 6pm. We had to get up the mountain before dark so we opted to cab it up instead. The kids had a great weekend but I could tell they really missed the dal bhat, it’s the only thing they know. It’s their absolute favorite food. I’m just glad I could take them out of the village to enjoy the little things in life!

The next day was Amisha’s birthday, and after school, two of her classmates joined her at the house to celebrate. One of the girls was absolutely smitten with me and it became awkward real quick. All evening actually. It was already bad enough at the school. She’s in grade 8 (another reason why grade 8 is not my favorite). I was the teacher and she was the student. I had to detach herself from my arms and hands a few times. Anyways, we celebrated Amisha’s big day with a cake, sweets, and gifts!

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Tomorrow would be the big day for grades 7, 8, and 9. The reward for the volleyball tournament and more so, a way to give back to the students. I can’t wait for you guys to read how it played out!

 

 

 

 

Pokin’ Around Pokhara

The hippies are here! Right here in Pokhara. I’ve never seen so many gathered in one place in my life.

I like hippies. They’re free, easy-going, and have a wealth of knowledge about pretty much everything. Then you have the ones that are a little too free. I’m talking about the mega hippies. The difference is real. The ones who completely forgot where they came from and behave like superior beings above all others, especially over typical tourists, and usually look down upon them. Their only friends are native locals and other mega hippies. I’ve dealt with a few of them during my travels and it’s never ever a fond memory. The woman from the movie The Beach, Sal, the leader of the group on the island is the perfect example of a mega hippie. I wanna roundhouse kick one right off their high horse.

Mega Hippies be crazy.
Mega Hippies be crazy.

Mega hippies look similar to regular hippies so it’s difficult to spot one unless you talk with them for a bit. Don’t get it confused though, regular hippies are really fun to be around. Mega hippies on the other hand are not. With that being said, I’m bound to run into a mega hippie sometime here in Nepal. And they usually mistake me for a typical tourist based solely on my American accent.

Getting to Pokhara

There is no easy way to get off this mountain into the city. We could take one of two early minibus’s down which consisted of a van that looked like it was transportation for a school of circus clowns. Or we could hire a taxi, but since no taxi’s ever pass through the village, that option was out. Or we could hike down which could take up to two hours! We chose the circus bus. It was only 50 Nepali rupees which equals to about 50 US cents.

Our view from the bus stop.
Our view from the bus stop.

Upon entering the late bus, we were packed like sardines in a hot metal canister. The roads up here are terrible. Just imagine being packed uncomfortably close to smelly strangers in a hot, dusty van while an earthquake is happening that lasts for 25 minutes. That’s what it was. And we made it to the bottom just in the nick of time because I was on the verge of puking my dal bhat dinner I had the night before. Emre, Tim, and I skipped the dal bhat breakfast and headed straight for Lakeside Pokhara, the “happenin'” area of town, for something to eat other than rice and veggies. We found a spot called the Perky Bean Cafe that had some good food and Wi-Fi! I’m normally okay with not having any Wi-Fi while I’m traveling, but I need it mainly for blogging purposes.

While there we ran into a few other volunteers that we were split up from in Kathmandu. Matts (Sweden), Steff (Australia) and Millie (Australia). It was great to see familiar faces again. Later on, we reunited with a few more volunteers via Whatsapp numbers we exchanged while in Kathmandu. Tané (South Africa/Australia), Jess (Australia), Alexis (USA), and Natasha (Denmark). We all had a plan and that was to do something fun every weekend! The weekends were the only times we would be able to meet, as getting down and back up the mountain is a time-consuming trip within itself. What should we do this weekend?

Before we did anything, Emre, Tim, and I had to find a hotel or hostel to stay in. As we were going around the main street trying to bargain cheap prices for the local excursions, we came to one tourist agency called Simrik. There we met a travel agent named Arun. We haven’t had any luck with the previous travel agents we came across in Pokhara. Either their English was crap or they just didn’t make any sense with their prices. Arun is Nepali but speaks perfect English and he’s a trustworthy guy. I could tell upon meeting him. It’s that intuition you get from your gut. He had all the info we needed on excursions like camping, canyoning, and paragliding. He also had the perfect place for us to stay, right there at Simrik which doubled as a hotel. He gave us a fair price of $5 a night in a cozy room with three beds, a hot shower, and internet. Arun became our main contact and go-to guy for any information we needed in Pokhara.

Once we settled in, we invited Tané, Jess, and Alexis back for a fun relaxing night of Nepali beer, spirits, and hangout spots. That same night we met up with more volunteers as we compared our home stays and accommodations with one another.

From L to R: Emre, Jess, Alexis, Myself, Natalya (another volunteer), and Tane
From L to R: Emre, Jess, Alexis, Myself, Natalya (another volunteer), and Tane

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The Nepal Volunteers!

It sounded like my home stay was the most primitive, but our school was the most receptive to volunteers. I wouldn’t trade my home stay with anyone else’s. We goofed around that night and wandered around the city searching for the only place around that had any grub and activity going on. Nepal shuts down early every night, but us volunteers always managed to find the one place that remained open.

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Pokhara's night scene.
Pokhara’s night scene.

The next day, we didn’t have anything planned, so Emre, Tané, Alexis, and I rented a row-boat and went out into Fewa Lake for a couple of hours.

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Fewa Lake is small and calm. To the south of the lake is a temple where you can feed the fish and birds. To the west, Fewa begins to turn into a marsh and forms into a river that snakes along. Just to the north of the lake is the mountain which I live on and just beyond that you can see the rugged, snow caps of the Himalayas poking sharply into the atmosphere. I’ve never seen mountains so intimidating before in my life. It was unnerving even just looking at them. Just imagine the climb. Just imagine Mount Everest.

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We did more of the same in Pokhara including rummaging through the cattle that coexist with the cars, buses, and motorbikes along the roads.

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We ate more food knowing that on Sunday night, we’ll be headed back to dal bhat, dal bhat, and more dal bhat. As of this post I’m not sick of it yet, but it’s only a matter of time. But before we go back up that mountain, five of us were scheduled to paraglide over Pokhara, Nepal…one of the best places in the world to do so!