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Archive for the ‘Nepal’ Category

Nepal: Country in Review

11/29/09: Nepal

Top Five To-Dos

  • Annapurna Circuit Trek
  • Get blessed by the 100-Rupee Monk in Menang
  • Paragliding in Pokhara
  • Eat half-price bakery items after 8pm
  • Ride on top of a bus like the locals do

Top Five Don’t-Dos

  • Breathe in the Kathmandu air for more than three days
  • Cry at over 5,000 meters (it wastes precious oxygen)
  • Visit Chitwan National Park expecting to see animals
  • Trek at nighttime without being sure of where you’re going
  • Ride on top of a bus for several hours in the cold


Top Five Things We Learned

  • Your left hand is considered “dirty,” so don’t use it to take your change (unless you use both hands) or to eat with (unless you are using a knife AND a fork). Use your right hand.
  • PDA is taboo, and so are shorts. Kevin and I didn’t even hold hands in public, I think we’ve forgotten how. Don’t show affection, and cover your shins.
  • We’re not sure if this was on purpose or not, but we got short-changed several times, once by 500 rupees (~$7). Hey, 500 rupees could buy you five sandwiches, 20 cokes, 25 apples or one night at a guesthouse! Count your change.
  • In Kathmandu, the traffic is bit crazy, the hawkers are loud and the electricity goes out promptly for two hours at 5:30 every night. But hey, it’s Kathmandu! Go with the flow.
  • Kinda cheesy, but doing the Annapurna Circuit really tested us (well, at least me), mentally and physically and every other-ly. But we survived it, and we loved it. Trekking is pretty awesome.

Kevin’s Top Five Favorite Pictures


Zhou’s Top Five Favorite Pictures

Stats

Total days: 29
Days over budget: 21
Days under budget: 8
Total dollars over budget: $238.80
Kevin showers to new foods ratio: 1:2
Kevin showers: 9
Zhou showers: 10
Longest time between showers: 5 days
Hours spent trekking the Annapurna Circuit: 86.8
Longest day of trekking: 9 hours
Most expensive hotel on trek: 300 rupees (~$4)
Consecutive days spent without changing pants: 21
Kevin books read: 2
Zhou books read: 3
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Thought of the Day: Are there going to be any other countries where we can eat dinner for $3?
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Picture of the Day: A sneak peek: Singapore airport

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11/29/09: Kathmandu, Nepal

I am prefacing this post with a boring (but I think necessary) explanation. So you see, now that we’re done trekking and will (fingers crossed) have consistent, decent Internet access for the remainder of the trip, I have strongly suggested to Kevin several times that we need to come to an almost-real-time schedule of posting. Though Kevin agrees with me in theory, he sees a very serious problem with not having a post for every single day of our trip. For example, he recently noticed that we had not written anything for the 23rd and compulsively went back and wrote an entry for it. To wean him off of this madness, I suggested to him that I write ONE SINGLE POST covering three days (the 27th through the 29th), explaining to him that we would never be able to catch up to almost-real-time if we wrote a post every single day. He pondered this irrefutable logic at great length and reluctantly agreed. Now, I didn’t realize that it was contagious, but Kevin has become a control freak. He has a template for each blog post, and he already had the template for this post ready. It read as follows:

11/27/09 – 11/29/09: Kathmandu Nepal

Black Friday/Saturday, Why Kevin needs daily posts”

I, in an act of unwifely insubordination and defiance, deleted the first half of the date section. I am writing this on the 29th! We will NOT have a post for the 27th and the 28th, and it’s ok! And maybe this way, someday in 2010 we’ll actually physically be in the same country as the blog would have you believe!

Ok. So that’s that. Now for the post. Thanks for reading.

Since we’ve spent the last six days in Kathmandu not doing much of anything besides eating, I’d like to share with you some of the conversations that we’ve had so you can see just what our lives are really like.

While walking down the street in Thamel:
K: So, the Nepali have this really conservative culture, right?
Z: Yeah?
K: Then why do they have these shower dance bars everywhere??
Pause
Z: I think to answer that question we’d have to know what a shower dance bar actually is.
K: Well, obviously it’s a dance bar with a shower.
Z: Is the water hot? (thinking of the lukewarm shower I had at the hotel)
K: (knowing that I am now thinking about going to the shower dance bar) YOU aren’t in the shower. The DANCERS are.
Z: Oh.

After buying insanely adorable yak wool booties and finger puppets as a gift for one of Kevin’s expectant friends:
Z: Awwwwww – look at how cute and tiny these things are!
Pause
Z: We should get some for our kids!
Pause
K: … We don’t have any kids.
Z: sighs. Yeah. I know.

While playing Scrabble:
Z: That turn took way too long. Next time you take a 10-minute turn, you’re going to pay.
K: Oh yeah? How so? With my life?
Z: Yes.
K: Wow, you really know how to strike the fear of God into a Scrabble player.

While sitting quietly at lunch one day:
Z: Hmmm… (thinking about what to order)
K: Oh, did you just have a Thought?
Z: Not really. I already have a Thought ready for my next post.
K: Yes, but you should remember them anyway because some days you won’t have ANY Thoughts at all.
Z: Speak for yourself.
K: (ignoring me) I already have TWO Thoughts ready, but I think the one I just thought of is better.
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Thought of the Day: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. But not when it comes to pepperonis.
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Pictures of the Day: Kevin looking down on me; me looking up at Kevin.

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11/26/09: Kathmandu, Nepal

Thanksgiving Day started out inauspiciously with me curled up in a ball on our hotel bed (we think it was caused by a bad chocolate donut), croaking out to Kevin, “I’m dying… Please, shoot me now. I’m dying!” Kevin, who is familiar with my absurdly melodramatic manner when even the least bit sick, paused and questioned me. “Is it really that bad?” Forced to consider the actual reality of the situation and not just the reality in my head, I grumbled back, “No. But my stomach does hurt. And it’s not fair because it’s Thanksgiving.” Because nobody should have a stomachache on Thanksgiving. Unless it’s because you had fourth and fifth helpings of everything, and then, well – what did you expect?

Despite the dramatics and the croaking, I felt good enough by dinnertime to indulge in our pre-planned Thanksgiving dinner extravaganza at a fancy Kathmandu restaurant. In my mind, only two things are required in order to be considered a fancy Kathmandu restaurant: toilet paper in the restrooms and entrees that cost more than four dollars. K-Too, a relatively well-known and punnily-named steakhouse in Thamel, met both of these criteria, so we decided it would be our splurge (we spent $19 for our meal, over twice as much as our previous most expensive meal in Nepal). In honor of Thanksgiving, they were serving a traditional three-course Thanksgiving dinner, but I decided that twenty dollars for turkey in Kathmandu was pretty much equal to extortion. Plus, can the Nepali really do stuffing? They can carry 100 kilos of stuff on their backs and beat me up the mountain, but stuffing? I have my doubts. So I contented myself with a salad (topped with REAL bacon!) and onion rings (with tangy barbeque sauce!), while Kevin had a steak (with two eggs on top!) and fries. The onion rings were perfectly golden and crisp, the bacon was oh-so-bacony, and the steak was juicy and tender. (But I’ll have to admit that I would have paid some good money for quality stuffing.)

 

We meant to take this picture before we ate any of it, but then we didn't.

We ended the day by watching a little bit of the CNN International coverage on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. When the live segment in New York was over and cut back to the anchor sitting at his desk in London, he informed us, “Thanksgiving is an American holiday. It falls on the fourth Thursday in November and has been an official holiday since 1863. The first Thanksgiving was in 1621, when the American colonists invited the Native Americans to a feast. They had seafood, venison…”

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Puzzles for Postcards

You Won’t Actually Find Any Lions Anagram

A Human / Lion Mainstay

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Thought of the Day: Pomegranates are a very violent fruit. They bleed all over your hands.
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Picture of the Day: We went there because it’s “probably the best steakhouse” in town. Probably.

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11/24/09 – 11/25/09: Kathmandu, Nepal

There’s an unstoppable force heading toward the streets of Kathmandu, and Zhou and I (more specifically just me) were one day from being part of the problem, not the solution.

That’s right, you too can soon fly thousands of miles to an incredibly cheap city and overpay for food that you can get a block from your house. But if you do, bring your Sunday’s finest to wear, as today’s soft opening was attended only by important businessmen and what I can only assume were famous Nepali celebrities. The Colonel’s food here is only for the big wigs (not the big pigs…), as it appeared to cost about three times as much as the local cuisine.

Speaking of unstoppable forces, we were told that after spending several days over 3,500 meters that we would feel like Superman when we returned to a lower elevation (“the altitude of the common folk”). Since our trek though, we have felt quite the opposite. All we want to do each day is eat and sleep and sit in motionless positions. (It just occurred to me that perhaps in other countries this is what Superman does!) It has gotten so bad that today we moved rooms from the third floor of our hotel to the first to limit the number of steps we climb. (Ok, our computer also reaches the wireless down here so we’ve been able to update the blog.)

Perhaps one of the reasons we spend a lot of our day waiting for our next meal is that the food has been so good here in the city. I really haven’t been able to get enough of the momos, chowmein, naan, cinnamon rolls, chocolate croissants, falafel wraps and everything else we’ve discovered around Thamel (the backpacker district in Kathmandu).

On a slightly related topic, here’s one of the conversations Zhou and I had that stemmed from my new-found compulsion to eat every last bit of our meals:

My reaction to Zhou passing me the remains of her roast chicken (not from KFC).
“You know picking the scraps off chicken bones is not my specialty.”
“Like it is your brother’s?”
“Yes, and that’s his only specialty.”
A half-second silence, just enough for me to possibly switch topics, possibly stay on the same – you be the judge.
“You know, I’ve been thinking of adding a ‘Thought of the Day’ section to the blog. I have so many great thoughts in my head but they all seem to be lost on you.”

There you have it. As long as I keep having thoughts (and keep remembering to write them down), we’ll post them above the Picture of the Day so they can be shared with the world.
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Thought of the Day: A good drink can really be ruined by a poorly constructed straw.
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Picture of the Day: 76 days since my last haircut and 21 days since my last shave, I finally bit the bullet. Whew knew straight-edge shaving was so easy?

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Sunday Morning Pancakes

[Editor’s note: Please note that in an effort to catch up, we have temporarily instituted “Two for Tuesdays” and this is the second post of the day.]

11/23/09: Nepal

The last time we put on a clean pair of pants was exactly three weeks ago. For me, it will have to wait one more day. We grossly underestimated how long it takes a bus to get from Chitwan National Park to Kathmandu, and what turned out to be an all-day ride didn’t allow for time to get our laundry cleaned. It did allow for one thing though: time to reflect on life.

A lot of things go through one’s head when living out of a suitcase while traveling the world for eleven months. The predominant thought is still “wow, we’re really doing this.” There are times when I get that feeling and catch myself awkwardly grinning at Zhou for no apparent reason. I don’t think she notices too often, but I think when I lose those moments I’ll know it’s time to come home. Fortunately, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

Another thing I like to think about is a miniature globe spinning in my head, and we’re on one side of it trying to peer around to see what our family and friends are doing on the other side. Usually they’re all sleeping though, which makes it easy to go back into the “wow, we’re really doing this” mode. Because we could be asleep or getting dressed for work or making Sunday morning pancakes if our lives were just a little bit different. Instead though we’re climbing the Thorong La Pass or snapping pictures of lion kills or even enjoying a ride in an uncomfortable crowded bus.

More and more though I think how as fun as this trip is, and as much as I look forward to our next activity, our next destination, our next new experience, I realize how good life is back home. Even though there are bills and work and obligations, there’s also the little things I used to take for granted. There are pajama pants, Mom’s seven-way chili, morning basketball, thick carpets, people who don’t ask you for drugs, single-knob shower handles, dentists (yes, dentists), lazy football Sundays, weekly phone calls home, the list goes on and on. And while I wouldn’t trade this trip for the world (although figuratively I suppose that’s what we’re doing), I hope that when we do make it home we’ll appreciate how good that is too.
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Picture of the Day: Zhou said this picture will go in our kitchen next year.

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Pop Quiz

11/22/09: Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Question 1: What activity is bumpy, uncomfortable and leaves you with tiny purple feathery things all over your clothes?

a) A Nepali-style pillow fight, where the pillows are stuffed with feathers that are dyed a maroon-ish pink
b) A long ride in a dusty jeep in which the last passengers were ducks and chickens
c) An elephant safari through Chitwan National Park

 

The correct answer is c.

 

Our ride awaits us.

 

We got covered in bits of these 12-foot tall purple things.

Question 2: What are the differences between an African safari and a Nepali elephant safari?

a) On an elephant safari, you will not see any lions or leopards; the only animals you will see are one parakeet, several deer and lots and lots of bugs – oh, and of course – other elephants
b) On an elephant safari, your vehicle will occasionally stop to: pee, poo, fart, snort loudly and tear branches off of trees and eat them
c) On an elephant safari, you will constantly be ducking to avoid the branches that almost hit your face and must shout out warnings to the person riding backwards behind you so that they do not get smacked in the back of the head
d) All of the above

 

The answer is d. Kevin and I aren't in this picture, but just use your imagination.

Question 3: How long does an elephant safari last?

a) one hour
b) two hours
c) 30 minutes
d) one and a half hours, but 15 minutes would have been enough

 

Again, the answer is d.

So although we didn’t really see any animals and the ride was bumpy and uncomfortable and lasted so long our legs were like jelly when we finally got off, well, it was still kinda cool.

 

Kevin's feet on elephant rump.

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Picture of the Day: Crazy nonstop-meowing cat at our hotel

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11/21/09: Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

It’s only been two days since leaving the Annapurna region, and already the number one thought on my mind has turned to who won the Big Game. (For those of you living under a rock, the Big Game refers to when Ohio State thumps Michigan in American college football each year before Thanksgiving.) I suppose that means this is a good time to reflect on the days that were. Besides, all we have to show for our trek now are a couple thousand pictures, dirty pants and a 16-day beard. And you can hardly see the beard.

So what did we learn while trekking?

It’s not a walk in the park. Zhou and I are very lucky to have completed the circuit without any real injury. She got a pretty bad blister on one toe and I wound up with a sore wrist after a fall, but that’s about it. We covered so much tricky terrain and icy trails that it would have been incredibly easy to sprain an ankle or much worse.

Shortness isn’t a disadvantage. We measured once and Zhou takes about six steps for every five of mine. Over 140 miles, the extra steps would definitely add up, and based on how tired I was, Zhou would have been dead. But since even the flat parts of the trail are often quite rocky, I wasn’t able to put my height to good use by taking big steps. That’s the only reason why Zhou was faster than me at times.

I’ll eat anything when I’m hungry. The new food count didn’t increase by as much as it could have, but it seemed like every day I ate something I hadn’t had before the trek. It even got to the point where I was eating tomato slices whole and ordering the previously-dreaded curry over the previously-delicious fried rice. To top it all off, I learned that you don’t actually have to eat meat every day, let alone every meal. I smashed my “I’ll be a vegetarian for one day” record by going over eight days without swallowing any animals. Mom and Dad, I know I’ve changed, but I hope you still love me.

Smartwool is better than Thorlo. I put on my good Thorlo socks for one day of hiking and they smelled worse than Jerry’s car in the B.O. episode. But the two pairs of Smartwools were the gifts that kept on giving. It’s not often that one needs to wear the same socks for ten days in a row, but if you do, “don’t be a fool, get the ‘Wool.”

You can do anything if you set your mind to it. Except fly. Or grow to ten feet tall. Or outrun Usain Bolt. Actually there’s a lot of things you can’t do, and many things you shouldn’t try. I’m reminded of the famous Homer Simpson quote: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” But when it comes to trekking a popular circuit in Nepal, there will probably be days where you feel like you aren’t going to make it, but if you try hard enough and the weather conditions allow, you can do it. Zhou and I did.
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Picture of the Day: There’s nothing quite like sunset over a small river surrounding Chitwan National Park in Nepal.

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