Monday, January 4, 2016

Mmmm......Sausage Legs! (Dec. 31st)

Out like a light!

Flying half way around the world is kind of a crazy concept.  To help with jet lag, I set my watch to Colorado time and tried to sleep/stay awake according to CO time.  I managed to stay awake for the 5+ hour flight from Kathmandu to Hong Kong.  We left Hong Kong sometime in the morning there, which meant it was night in CO.  We slept on and off for this 16+ hour flight.........seriously....who can sleep soundly on a plane when you have to sit for that long?  Not possible for me!  After about 8 hours my butt, knees, and back started hurting from sitting still for so long.  In addition I was getting swelling in my legs from sitting with my feet on the floor and inactivity for so long.  When this happens the blood pools in your leg veins and it is uncomfortable.  I did my toe pressing and ankle rotation exercises as much as I could but nothing stopped my legs from looking like bratwursts on the grill just before they burst open!  My new nickname became, "Sausage Legs!"  I wished I had compression socks to help combat this problem but they didn't have them at the airport in Kathmandu and because my brain was numb from a lack of sleep I totally forgot to look while we were in Hong Kong.  Ugh!
I pulled my sock down so you can see the size difference in my leg where the sock was and where it wasn't. Haha! Gross! My ankles were nonexistent! 

We landed in New York around 1 in the afternoon with our brains operating at the equivalence of a slug!  Our sleep was minimal and we were done!  Done!  We wished there was some portal that would "beam" us to our comfy homes in the mountains of Colorado.  Instead we were thrust into the bowels of the JFK International Airport's United States Customs area where the officers were as cold as granite!  Welcome to USA!  We were both in a fog and navigating the customs process was not easy for us slugs.

It was pretty crazy to finally use a bathroom with a flush toilet and not have to worry about having toilet paper or flushing your toilet paper down the toilet!  In Nepal, their sewage system is not capable of accepting toilet paper.  Therefore there are little wastebaskets in the bathroom for you to throw your used toilet paper into.  This becomes a little gross when you are sharing a wastebasket with everyone else and their mother and you see it right there in front of you!  Its even more gross when you are using a pit toilet because you have to squat over a little hole which gets you nice and close to the toxic abyss of used toilet paper!  I heard screeching horror music every time I had to use a public bathroom.  The next step after you do your business is you have to rinse the bowl with water that is provided in a bucket next to the toxic wastebasket.  This requires handling a cup that floats in the water that everyone else has touched.  Danger Alert: Be careful of the rinsing step because water may splash back on you!  My advice for using the bathroom in a developing country is to plan ahead......drink only the necessary amount of water you need to be healthy, always carry toilet paper in your pocket because bathrooms in Nepal rarely have toilet paper for you to use, and practice squatting and aiming before you travel!  ;)

After 5 hours of layover in New York we finally boarded our last flight to Denver!  Luckily we both slept out of pure exhaustion to prepare for the last leg of our journey: driving over Berthoud Pass!  We picked up our car from my friend Mary Ann's parents' house in Lakewood and started our drive up the pass around 10:40 PM.  The roads were clear and we had "road food" to keep us awake and alert.

We arrived at my house a few minutes after midnight to celebrate the coming of 2016 with Walter and Winston!  It was a loud welcoming with good ole' Walter's whines and wales!  Of course my cat Winston played the typical cat card and remained coy all evening until it was bedtime.  He finally came around when he got his nightly kitty treat right before bed.  I guess he finally decided that he didn't have to punish me anymore for being gone.  I was in heaven with my sweet buddies.....John, Walter, and Winston!  Happy New Year!

Our last day in Nepal.......we think. (Dec. 30)

Near Swayambhu (Monkey Temple)

Its hard to believe it but today is the last day of our stay in Nepal.  It has been a great experience and we both have learned so much but we are ready to go home.  Because our flight is scheduled to leave at 11:00 PM, we decided to go see Swayambhu, nicknamed the Monkey Temple by tourists.  Swayambhu is another famous stupa in Nepal and is always a busy place with tourists, locals, street dogs, and of course monkeys.  For the most part this site is intact after the earthquake except for a few smaller buildings around the main stupa.  The atmosphere around the stupa was interesting because of the dichotomoy of people worshipping and the vendors pushing their wares on tourists.  The vendor stands are right next to the small shrines where people are praying and making offerings.  The close proximity of the vendors kind of took away from the ambiance of this sacred site.  It was challenging to take a picture of the site without the encroachment of vendors repeatedly asking you to buy the same trinkets we had seen throughout our entire journey.  We got to the point where we didn't stop to admire the beauty of our surroundings because that's when they strike with their touting.   I was the most interested in watching the monkeys and loved watching the mothers taking care of their young, but every time I started to enjoy my live "Animal Planet" movie a vender would step in front of my "television" and block the view and prevent me from getting the pictures and video footage I was seeking.  It was frustrating for both of us because we felt the presence of the vendors really conflicted with what this sacred site was truly about........spiritual practice.

Near Swayambhu (Monkey Temple)
Near Swayambhu (Monkey Temple)

A monk meditating in a shrine near Swayambhu 

Swayambhu Stupa

Mama and baby!

Making offerings

Prayer wheels. 

Entrance to the temple area. 

There are a lot of animals that live at the temple. I had to feed this nursing mama. 

This poor pooch didn't have very much fur. :(



After our visit to Swayambhu we decided to make one last trip to Thamel which is a tourist mecca in Kathmandu and a great place to shop for souvenirs and gifts. Our shopping spree was cut a little short because of a return of the "Colon Blow" that struck us both earlier on our trip had returned to haunt John on our last day.  We've actually been surprised at how little our digestive systems have been disrupted on this trip.  When you visit a developing country it's not a matter of if you are going to encounter digestive issues but rather how many times you will encounter these issues.  Every drop of water you put in you mouth has to be treated (boiled/filtered/chemical treatment/ultraviolet light).  This means that eating fresh vegetables is off limits because most likely the vegetables were washed in untreated water because Nepalis' bodies are accustomed to the untreated water.  Even if your silverware has drops of water on them it is advised that you dry the silverware before using it.  Luckily round two of "Colon Blow" for John only lasted a couple of hours and subsided before our long flights.  Phew!
Street dust on a garden. Very dry right now. 

Pigs rooting in a dirty river. :( this is in Kathmandu. 

Dental hospital

Lunch in Thamel.

Pig head for sale on table (far right on table). This is a meat market. 

Tashi and Lakpa's street. 

Playground across the street from Tashi and Lakpa's house. 
View of playground from inside and upstairs. Kids play a lot of soccer here!

Goodbye to Ema. 

We then made our way back to Tashi and Lakpa's home to shower, pack our bags and enjoy our last meal of Dal Bhat, milk tea, and milk coffee prepared by Maya the great!  Because she doesn't speak English and only a little Nepali (she speaks Sherpa) it was hard for us to express our total gratitude for her over-the-top hospitality.
Maya's Dal Bhat!

Yummy! Rice, chicken,fried spinach, curried vegetables, and lentil soup!

Our last Dal Bhat. 

I could live off of milk tea!

John could live off of milk coffee. 

View from Tashi and Lakpa's roof. 

Then we were off to the airport at 8:30 and boarding our plane for an 11:10 PM departure.  Because of India's blockade to Nepal, our flight had to be rerouted through Bangkok, Thailand for a refueling stop.  This added a couple hours to our journey to Hong Kong, making the connection for our flight to New York tight.  
Our plane for our flight to Hong Kong. There aren't any jetways at the Kathmandu airport. 

BIG engine!!!

Luckily we arrived in Hong Kong early and got to our gate for New York with time to spare!  ;)  In fact this flight was delayed for over an hour!  Yuck!  We were just glad that our plane from Kathmandu was able to have enough fuel to leave Kathmandu to begin our looooooong journey home!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dirt Boogers..... (Dec. 29)

Many, many friends!
My friend Julie who is a neighbor of Tashi and Lakpa. I stop by to see her everyday!
I have been able to get my German Shepherd fix! I REALLY miss my kiddos!

Aaaaand another special friend Ema. She lives in the apartment below Tashi and Lakpa. We like to play chase together!

Yummy Dal Bhat for lunch made by the amazimg Maya!!! She is an amazing cook!

Historically Kathmandu was made from smaller towns that eventually grew together into the large city that it is today.  Leadership of the country resided in some of the smaller towns at different times in history depending on who had the power.  The royalty in the town occupied buildings located in the town's Durbar Square.  There are four Durbar Squares in the greater Kathmandu area and today we visited the Durbar Square in Patan (southern part of Kathmandu).  In legend and in fact, Patan is the oldest city in the Kathmandu Valley and was the capital of a powerful independent kingdom and still maintains a defiantly distinct identity.  Its nickname is "Lalitpur" which means "City of Beauty."  The vibe of Patan is less frantic than Kathmandu and is known for being a more artistic community producing much of Nepal's fine metalwork.  Also, Patan's Durbar Square is smaller and less touristy than Kathmandu's Durbar Square, and because Patan is a city of artisans the city's buildings have more architectural harmony and incredible detail!

Patan is quite a distance from Boudha (the area of Kathmandu where Tashi and Lakpa's house is located) so we knew we were going to have to take either a cab for between 1000 to 1200 Rupees (Rs) or get lucky and find a local public bus to get us somewhere near Patan for a cheaper price.  The bus system here is confusing because the destination on all the busses is written in Nepali Devanaagari script and there isn't a schedule with bus numbers to know what to look for.  
Devanaagari script (top part)
Here is another sample off a curry spice box. 

So we decided to find a main street that eventually leads to Patan and stand on the correct side of the road to find a taxi or bus, which ever came first.  Asking the destination of a bus is more difficult than one would think.  The bus operation requires two people: one bus driver and a person who stands in the doorway yelling their desination and taking people's money.  Of course they are yelling in Nepalese so we had no clue where any of the busses were going, however we happened to ask the exact bus that we needed to get to Patan's Durbar Square.  Lucky dogs!  So we quickly squeezed on the bus before it moved.  The busses are not very big, therefore some people can sit and the rest either have to stand or ride on the roof.  Sometimes the busses get so full that people also hold on to the outside in the doorway.  

The ride was actually very pleasant and not crazy because there were so many vehicles on the road and they couldn't drive fast.  At this point in our day we had walked along a busy street for about 30 minutes and riden on a bus for about 15 minutes when I couldn't stop itching my nose!  Oh my gosh....I just couldn't get it to stop until I blew my nose to see that I seriously blew dirt out of my nostrils!  In a matter of 45 minutes I managed to breathe in that much dust from the air!  Maybe I should buy one of those fancy masks so many Nepalis wear?
Traffic on the other side of the highway. 

A Lorry truck. 

The Lorrys are usually very ornately decorated. I love these trucks!

 The ride was about 30 minutes and the whole way John and I were trying to figure out how we would know when to get off the bus.  Eventually a landmark let us know that we were getting close and when we tried to get off the bus when the second bus guy told us to ride the bus until the last stop.  It was nice to know that he was looking out for us and willing to help.  The bus ride ended at the bus park and we were back on the streets in Patan.  
Look! Bags with legs!!!

Heading towards the square. 

The mushroom stand!

We slowly navigated our way to the Durbar Square and enjoyed the lack of motor traffic in the square.  The old buildings in the square were a sight to see with incredible detail in their architecture.  Many of the buildings had external wooden supports keeping the walls in place and that I assume is the result of the April 2015 earthquake.  I was especially facinated with the carved wooden supports under the roof eaves of many of the buildings.  They were incredibly detailed and there were many of them on each building.  People, street dogs, and pigeons sat and roamed the square creating a mellow vibe.  We even decided to take a tour with a guy named, Vinod.  Vinod gave a great tour explaining the meaning behind each building in the square and even took us to a Buddhist temple just off the main square.  The temple also had intricate detail in its metal architecture!
Entering Patan's Durbar Square

A palace. 
Door to the palace. 
One of the many supports under the eaves. 

Notice the offerings on the ground in front of the door. 

God of travel. Half human half bird. 

Buddhist Temple

Inside Buddhist temple. The man and boy are monks who are inside the shrine where people can make offerings. 

Example of the amazing metal architecture inside the Buddhist temple. 

John and our tour guide, Vinod. 

Healing bowl demonstration. Wow they are amazing!

We capped the day off with a tasty Indian dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the square and watching the sun set behind the distant mountains.  As we were leaving the restaurant our waiter asked us some questions about our stay in Nepal, about our religious beliefs and then shared that he just recently became a Christian.  We had a wonderful conversation talking about his conversion and the importance of compassion towards others as an important part of Christianity and Buddhism. It was a magical evening!

Another new friend. It looks like she recently had surgery because part of her fur was shaved. She was sleeping in this spot and loved some petting!