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!