It was nice to have familiar faces to return to Kathmandu. Tashi and Lakpa have two sets of family staying with them right now. Their cousins, Pasong and Dawa Phutiare are living with them on a longer-term basis because their home was destroyed in the big earthquake in April. In addition to Pasong and Dawa Phutiare their son, Nema, is visiting for a short period of time from Australia. And last but not least, Tashi and Lakpa's son, also Nema, is visiting from the United States. So we were welcomed from many of their loving family! Unfortunately all of them had to leave today for a big trip to India in which they are hoping to meet the Dali Lama in person. They will return in three weeks.
This morning I got up early with Tashi, Lakpa, Pasong, and Dawa Phutaire to join them in their daily "prayer rituals" at their local stupa, Boudinath. I watched them like a hawk but was sure to give them their space among the hundreds of other worshippers. The "worshipping" at many stupas include walking around the stupa in a clockwise fashion, reciting mantras, and making offerings to Buddha. Today was a special worship for them because they were worshipping for blessings of a safe trip to India. The morning was glorious for me to witness the devotion and commitment of these Buddhists. I was surrounded by cool and crisp air, and there was a "hum" of people walking and reciting their mantras with their prayer beads in hand. I was very thankful to be included in something that was very sacred to them! After they were done praying we took a side walkway to a little stand where they serve freshly baked chipatis (bread disc that is about a 1/4" thick) and milk tea. We put fresh yak butter, chilly sauce, and salt on our warm chipatis. It was yummy in my tummy! Lakpa explained that everyday they come to this stupa to pray, then walk more laps socializing with friends, and then finish the morning off with chipatis and milk tea. It reminded me of going to have coffee and donuts after church on Sundays but they do this everyday! Once again I was very thankful to get an inside view of Tashi and Lakpa's life.
After a wonderful lunch of Dal Bhat which is a staple meal in Nepal consisting of rice, curried vegetables, sometimes meat, fried spinach, and lentil soup, we had to say goodbye to our Nepalese family and properly send them off. In the Sherpa culture, if you go on a trip you have to have your bags packed in advance because close and extended family come to see you off and bring you gifts starting a day or two in advance. The gifts includes anything ranging from soda, wine, tea, cookies, fruit juice and much more. They also bring a white silky scarf and put it around each person's neck for good luck. It was quite the event leading up to their departure because they were saying goodbye to the group going to India and the two Nema sons going back to the U.S. and Australia. John and I just watched and truly got to see how close and supportive Sherpa families can be!
The send off at the bus also had ritual! There was more scarf giving and the offering of Chang (homemade rice wine). Each person put the tip of their finger in the wine and flicked it to the ground three times before putting their finger in their mouth. There were lots of hugs and laughs as we said goodbye to our generous Nepalese family, Lakpa, Tashi, Pasong, and Dawa Phutaire. We were sad to see them go but are already making plans to to see them this summer in Winter Park!
Luckily we were not left alone at their home. Maya is a woman from the Khumbu region that works for Tashi and Lakpa at their lodge near Namche. Because Tashi has been having problems with her back, Maya has come to Kathmandu with them to live and help with cooking and maintaining the house. She does not speak English which is a bummer because we would like talk with her and learn more about her life and history.
While we are here for our last days in Nepal we were planning on visiting and volunteering at the Himalayan Hope Home for girls whose parents have either passed away or are missing. These girls are orphans from the Khumbu region and The Small World (http://thesmallworld.org/our-works/girls-refuge-himalayan-hope-home/) is a nonprofit organization that provides a home for these orphaned girls so they can go to school and receive an education which is a ticket for success in Nepal. Human trafficking in Nepal is a problem and often orphaned children are sold as slaves. Today was supposed to be our first day at the home but because of the power outages we were unable to connect with Karma Sherp (main person in charge of the organization) and therefore could not go to the home. In Kathmandu addresses don't work like they do in the United States. You have to have a taxi take you to a common intersection where someone then meets you to take you the rest of the way to your destination. So just going there on our own was not an option. :( I was really bummed because this was the one day of the week the girls did not go to school and we could have spent the rest of the day with them.
About mid afternoon and after hand washing some laundry we decided to hit the streets of Kathmandu to see the many sights we hadn't seen yet. We decided to walk to Pashupatinath, an area where Hindus cremate their loved ones after they have passed away. The ritual is completed in public and along the bank of a river where the ashes are released. Bathing in this river is considered to be holy. If you would like to learn more about this very interesting site look it up on the Internet. I will post more pictures of this site on my Facebook page because I don't feel that the pictures are appropriate for my school blog. ;) Friend me on Facebook.
Around Pashupatinath there are a http://thesmallworld.org/our-works/girls-refuge-himalayan-hope-home/lot of people, dogs, monkeys, and cows. We strolled around the Pashupatinath area watching the monkeys and dogs. This was the part of the evening that got to me. There is a serious overpopulation of dogs and monkeys in Kathmandu. There is a lot of suffering. The monkeys were very entertaining with their playful nature but it was terribly painful to see how many of them are malnourished and injured. Some of the dogs chase the monkeys and they fight. One baby monkey had an injured back leg and could not get up a wall to safety where his mother was sitting. The whinnying of the babies are terribly sad and this baby was stretching and pawing up the wall. We watched another monkey get beneath him and try to lift him up to his mom but they couldn't reach high enough. It was awful and I left in tears. There were many other monkeys who were injured as well. Very sad.
We also saw holy men called, Sadhus. They are dreadlocked men who live in small prayer caves near Pashuptinath and hang out around Hindu temples.They live solitary lives, are always on the move, subsisting on alms and owning nothing but what they carry.