Sunday, July 3, 2016

Stuck, but hope is here

Haven't written is quite a while. Didn't feel like it.
I'm going through something which I think most people go through in India - I'm stuck. In the last month I've hung with a small group, and we were just near the guest house all the time, smoking too much, and generally doing nothing.
Kind of what I felt in the orphanage, but somewhat intensified by something which happened when I was in Israel for my birthday... Basically, the last month wasn't easy on me, emotionally.

Long story short - I landed in Delhi, went to Kasol to meet Yuval, a friend I met on the plane back from Kathmandu. We spent two days there, then went to Dharamsala, where we stayed for two weeks.

Now I'm in Manali, the weather is absolutely beautiful, the views are stunning. Tomorrow I'm gonna rent a bike and go ride with a group.

I lost friends I love, and it's painful, but I hope I can put that behind me. Isn't a month enough? I say it is.

Here's to better days ahead!

Taking a vacation. From my vacation

Day 54.
Last day in Nepal. Did some last minute shopping, and got on a plane to India. The flight was uneventful, and I met a few guys and we came to the main bazaar together. After some chill time, me and one of the girls I met on the plane went for some food. The usual Indian scene now - getting some weed, sounding some fine music, and having a great conversation about absolutely everything. We stayed there for about 5 hours, and reluctantly I had to go back and head back home.
I made the mistake of taking a motor rikshaw, which can’t enter the airport, so I ended up paying more than a taxi would cost, for far less comfort. Flight to Israel was ok.

Day 55.
Israel. The place which you deeply miss, yet when you come there, you can’t help but frown. There was something wrong with the train, and we had to take a taxi from Tel Aviv to closer to home. But then, I got to see my mom, and we had a fun couple of hours. Later, I met a good friend, who was happy to see me, and then I met his kids, who were even more happy to see me. And boy, was I happy to see them!

Day 56.
It’s Lag Baomer, met a couple of friends, had a great time.

Day 57.
Took my niece and 4 more kids to the science museum in Haifa, I used to go there all the time when I was a kid. It grew and there are more fun stuff to do there. And there’s a fountain where kids can run around and get soaking wet. Which, of course, they did. Fun ride back home with my niece, I love talking to her, she has a tendency to open up to me, so we have really interesting conversations.

Day 58-59.
Weekend. Chilling and doing basically nothing

Day 60-61.
Work days, ate lunch with a couple of friends, and gotten some work done. And then, apparently, as it doesn’t work, not exactly finished some of it.

Day 62.
And again, day spent with friend, having a great time.

Day 63.
Happy birthday! I’m 30. Now, let me cook up Beef Wellington, and then some BBQ, salads, music, alcohol and good people. In a beautiful country house. A good recipe for a party.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Back to Kathmandu - and goodbye to Nepal

Day 42.
Went to a Tibetan refugee camp tour - these guys are very interesting people - they’re refugees from Tibet, which was occupied by China on 1959. They built a bunch of refugee camps inside Pokhara, and even though they have no legal status in Nepal, they’ve managed to build a thriving community, and seem to be living in better standards than their Nepali neighbours, which is quite not typical of refugees. I got the chance to talk with a Buddhist monk about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (he claims it’s not 42, and he’s obviously wrong). Overall, the day was very good.

Day 43.
Taking the bus back to Kathmandu, wanted to go by plane, but, annoyingly, my card didn’t work at the agency’s office, and I didn’t bother finding an agency which does work with Amex… The bus ride was not as bad as the ride to Pokhara, we stopped only twice, and the bus had A/C. Entering Kathmandu is hell, basically a 1 hour standstill, passing a 500 meter street. The hotel I booked through was absolutely horrible, but I was too tired to look for another one with all my bags on me.

Day 44.
Woke up, put my stuff in the Chabad house, and went to the Garden of Dreams, just sat down for a while, enjoyed the peace and quiet. At noon I went to the restaurant in the garden, and enjoyed a good steak. Then, I went shopping for some souvenirs, and took a cab back to the orphanage. Funny thing - I brought the price of the cab quite a bit, and the whole way there the driver kept bitching about the ride being long (it’s just a 6KM ride), I guess he was hoping that the price we agreed upon when I started the ride might get bumped a bit if he kept bitching. Kind of a silly bargaining technique, I don’t imagine it work :P

Anyway, when I got to the orphanage, the kids were so happy, hugging and kissing me, saying how they missed me, etc. Definitely worth coming back for this :)

Day 45.
At 4:00 in the night we had an earthquake, not strong, just enough to wake me up, and confuse the hell out of me (it felt kinda like what it felt like to be woken up by my mom when I was a child). Couldn’t go back to sleep afterwards, for some reason. I was kind of bummed out that there’s school on Sunday, for some reason I expected Sunday to be a holiday. I just slept when the kids were at school, and when they came back we watched a movie - The good dinosaur. It’s a movie about a world where dinosaurs don’t go extinct, and they’ve evolved to agriculture. The movie describes the life of a kid dinosaur who loses his father and later gets lost, and goes on a journey back home. At the end, most kids were in tears. I’m happy I showed this to them, it’s a very simple movie, doesn’t have a lot of English in it, so they could enjoy it.

Day 46 - 49.
Staying at the orphanage became a routine - wake up, read a book with the kids (like, in the same room as them, not together), say goodbye when they go to school, and work a little bit (didn’t even complete a full day’s work on this week, this isn’t a good way of working)

Day 50.
Decided to take kids on a field trip

Day 51.
I’m about to leave Nepal, and thinking about how to summarise it. It began with me feeling relieved, after being stuck at Delhi for 6 days, the calmer, more inviting Kathmandu was so refreshing. Suddenly, the food is really good (and then it gets better when I stop being afraid of eating in local restaurants), and there’s less noise, and I can stay at a 10$ hotel and feel comfortable, then the trek, where I learned to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of life in Nepal (I’m a tourist, I have no knowledge of how life really looks for Nepalis, I just know how it looks), and appreciate the fact that I’m a fat man, and fat men are not designed for walking a half marathon in a day. Then the orphanage, which did give me a glimpse of the daily life in Nepal. And the brief commercial break for Pokhara.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking, about what I’m doing in this orphanage. I don’t feel like I’ve done much. I’ve not made the kids feel very happy. Hopefully, a few I did make feel happy. But basically, I was there just as background noise for their daily routine. I didn’t disrupt anything, I didn’t teach, except maybe by practice of English, and I didn’t play with them as a group much.
And today, I went and bought a box of legos - just 500 assorted lego blocks. And we told the kids about the water park plan (which might be a mistake if it rains and we have to cancel). I’ve never seen the kids play, they usually just do homework and then watch TV. And now, when they had something to play with, they were all just so happy and excited.
My point is this - Things do matter, when you give a lego set to 11 kids who don’t have many toys (mainly card games), and give them some good toys, you can make them happy, even if temporarily. And these moments are precious. I dare say, that this is as important as giving money to the orphanage for day-to-day livelihood - life in Nepal is going to be hard, whether or not this 40$ got donated to the orphanage, and giving the kids something to play with and be happy about, is giving to the kids more than just their routine.
And the moments I’ve had here in Nepal are precious to me. Even if I got stuck in my comfort zone too much, and even if I figured out I haven’t played for a long, long time, and playing made me feel happier than I felt in a while.
Yay, my conclusion from Nepal is that I’m a child, and playing makes me happy.
If I was 7, that would have been a great conclusion.
I’ve also gotten the thought of going back home for a couple of weeks, to celebrate my birthday at home. Just a crazy idea. Which made me take the time to check flight prices.

Day 52.
We woke up, did our normal routine, and went on a field trip. The weather was our friend - it stopped raining in the morning. We went to the Kathmandu Fun Valley, a water park not far from Kathmandu. The kids had a blast, there were a couple of fun water slides, nice pools, etc. We came early enough to have the place uncrowded for about an hour. After, the kids went on a few other attractions, 11 tired and happy kids went back to the bus. We stopped for mo:mo on the way back to Kathmandu, and decided not to go to the monkey temple because it started raining. It was pretty amazing, that the day went so well, I was really afraid that we would get rained on, but it didn’t, and I was so happy to see all those kids have a great time for a change.
If I learned anything from that experience - giving to those orphanages’ everyday operational budget, is extremely important. But providing for such activities, buying toys, directly to the kids, is just as, if not more important.
Life isn’t going to be great for those kids, materially, it’s worth giving them some good experiences, rather than to just invest in their routine, because these happy moments of childhood are priceless.
Oh, and on the way, I got my passport (forgot it in the Chabad house), and bought the ticket home, flying to Delhi and a few hours later, getting on a plane home.

Day 53.

My last day at the orphanage, we built legos together, and said our goodbyes. I got on a bus to Kathmandu, and to my hotel room. Now, let me tell you my experience with places to stay at in Nepal - I’ve been to some bad places, and I’ve stayed in some good places, and oh my god, this place was nowhere near the good places. I get to the Mums Home hotel, the front desk guy is like one of those hotel clerks in the movies, uniform and all, greets me, upgrades me so I can get a ready room immediately, and somebody takes my bags there for me. At night, unlike the hotel staff in other hotels, who just chill in the lobby, these guys were working (or, pretending to be working, what would they have to do at that time…) and the whole place was just awesome, and for a really great price.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Week 4 and 5 - Passover, Orphanage, and Pokhara

Day 23.
Today is Passover eve, I woke up, went to give my clothes to the washing place, and then went to the garden of dreams, this time, with my kindle. I spent a few hours there, just sitting in the shade, reading. There’s a very good, and extremely expansive (in Nepali standards) restaurant there. I ordered a milkshake and a pork chop. It was heavenly. The combination of the serene environment, and the superb food, was absolutely worth the rather high bill ($20, which is the most I ever paid for food in Nepal)

The Seder was great. It’s my second time on Seder while abroad, and last time, in Koh Samui, it was horrible - the food was bad and there was zero organisation. Here in Kathmandu, they know how to do a massive Seder and do it well. The stated time was way too early, I came on time, 17:30, but the event started at 19:30. I did have some time to mingle, so it wasn’t bad.
Usually, Passover Seder is an excruciatingly long event, you take the time and read everything, explain stuff, etc. But here, they know nobody came for that, so they did the Hagaddah very quickly, and kept people alert by stopping for a raffle, with prizes ranging from bungee jumping and rafting trips to small amounts of money to spend at trekking equipment shops. I won a one day rafting trip, which was such a fun feeling - it’s the first time I ever won a raffle.
The food was okay, not the best, not the worst. I was extremely surprised that they served some stuff which Chabad usually doesn’t allow.
Anyway, after getting thoroughly stuffed, I went back to my hotel room and off to sleep.

Day 24.
Woke up by continuous banging sounds. It turns out that the building next to the hotel is being demolished. By two men with hammers. The building they’re taking down is connected to the one I’m sleeping in, so Saturday, 7:30AM, I woke up. Didn’t feel like doing anything today, so I just watched netflix and did nothing the whole day. Went out three times for meals, and that’s about it…
One thing which made me happy - I went to fetch croissants from the Pumpernickel bakery, and the fact that it’s passover didn’t even come up in my thought until after I finished eating. Until this passover, I felt either a tiny bit guilty, or slightly amused, about the fact that I don’t keep kosher. This time - zero fucks were given :)

Day 25.
Working hard again. I love the fact that I can just sit at OR2K (a very nice vegetarian restaurant) for the whole time I’m working, and enjoy a decent wifi connection, along with superb food. I keep surprising myself with how much work I’m getting done here.

Day 26.
Today I’m going to volunteer at an orphanage. Arranged my stuff, got some food, and took a taxi. The orphanage is located 25 minutes away from central Kathmandu, and it’s like it’s a different planet altogether. Quiet, tranquil, and the air is almost breathable.
I arrived before the kids came back from school, got a chance to talk to Laxman, the manager, and arrived at the simple conclusion that this man is an awesome guy.

And then the kids arrived. It took us a while to get to know each other, but that “while” was really quick, like an hour. Than I was swamped by children climbing on top of me, and playing, craving attention. The beautiful thing about this is that they share attention. They’re 12 kids, and it’s almost impossible to get attention if you got to fight for it, so they had a sort of a system, they would cycle between themselves, and play with me in turns. Mostly just sitting in my lap and talking with me.
I didn’t do much with them, just played. Then, after dinner, we watched the most confusing movie I’ve ever seen. It was an Indian action movie, and so much oddity was going on. The action scenes were insane, just so exaggerated it was surreal, then out of the blue, the star was running on foot in a horse race, and winning (wtf), then a woman hit on him, then he was dancing and singing, half in Hindi, half in English. I was never more confused in my life…

Day 27.
Got a new volunteer from the ad I put in the Chabad house. Reut is a nice 23 year old Israeli girl, on her after-military trip. It’s good to have somebody here with me, as the time the kids are at school is kind of a dead time, with not much to do, so company is pretty good. The kids are awesome as ever, currently still just being friendly with them, playing cards, etc. I did help a couple of kids with their English studies. 

Day 28.
Woke up early (we go to sleep quite early as well), and played with the kids in the morning, one boy seems to like me more than the rest, and keeps coming to me for games, or just snuggling in my lap. I passed most of the morning by just having him sit on my lap, and reading an English book. After the kids went to school me and Reut went on a short walk to the edge of town. We went up the mountain, where they grow lots of different produce (mostly wheat), by using terraces. It’s very beautiful, the wheat is ready for reaping, and that creates a beautiful contrast in colors - the dark brown soil, the yellow wheat and the green trees around the terraces. It was a short walk, took us an hour to reach the point where we gave up on climbing :)

Day 29.
Now we seem to know the kids much better, I know most of their names by now, and they are pretty fun to be with. We settled into their routine, waking up at 6:30, playing with them and helping some read, eating breakfast, and seeing their odd transformation when they wear their cute school uniforms (dress pants, striped shirt and a tie), and then we’ll do whatever. Today I asked Laxman to take me to get some chicken and vegetables, so I can make the kids a thai style stir-fry. The dish was quite a success, it was an interesting dish, Thai style of cooking, but with Nepali spices, so it wasn’t exactly thai, but it was close enough, and it was very good. I did make it a bit too spicy, so some of the kids didn’t like it, it’s a bit of a shame, next time I’ll put much less chilly :)

Day 30.
Didn’t do much today, the kids were up extra early, which meant, in turn, that we were up extra early, and tired. The kids went to school, and we went to see what’s in the other side of town. We found some fun street food, and bought a ball, and went back to the orphanage. When the kids came back, we drew some pictures with them, and Reut got a bit claustrophobic, so we went for a walk, to get some fresh air. On the way back we found the kids, and played with them, in a field. Overall, not a very productive day. One of the kids who, in the first couple of days took a liking to me, is ignoring me for some reason. I don’t understand why. I believe he’s mad about something, but I have no idea what about. That kind of makes me sad, but hey, there are 10 more kids…

Day 31.
This morning we decided to make an Israeli (more correctly, druze) dish - pita with labane and za’atar. Reut got za’atar when she came from Kathmandu, we bought wheat flour and yoghurt in town, and tried to make labane. Apparently, the yoghurt here is different from the one in Israel, and although we did make a good cheese, it was not labane in any way. The kids made the pitas from scratch, which they enjoyed a lot, but the end result wasn’t very good. Nobody ended up hungry or anything, but it wasn’t what we wanted to do.

After that, we went to what the kids call “the jungle” - which is a bunch of bamboo trees on a very steep and powdery hill. A nightmare to walk in, and the kids, being the little monkeys they are (i.e. jumpy little cute bundles of joy) just jumped from one hill to another with the help of young bamboo trees (which can be used as sort of “ropes”). I gave up, and one of them came back for me, and led me through an easier route to the “river side” - the river being a very small, horribly smelly body of water. They stopped at a pool which is deep enough to swim in, and some of the kids went in… Kind of gross, but I got them all in the showers afterwards, so meh, as long as they enjoyed it :)
When I came back, I wanted to play some games from the “Hello Ruby” book, to teach the kids some of the basic ideas of coding. The kids decided to go play somewhere instead, so I got to the task of laundry, which meant I was bitching about the task of laundry. The lady who runs the home heard me talking about laundry, and told me that once the electricity comes back, I can simply use the washing machine.

Laziness - it gets shit done!

The washing machine was a very odd little thing. Apparently, the idea of putting clothes into a machine, and have it do all the different cycles automatically isn’t a thing here. This machine is manual. You fill it up with water using the taps, and let it do one cycle, then you get all the water out, then fill up again, and repeat. Literally “rinse and repeat”. Well, it was an interesting experience. I mean, in my house, I put the clothes in the machine, press a button, and after a few hours the clothes are dry, albeit a little wrinkled.

Day 31.
Reut left today. It was a bit sad, because I was left alone, and the time when the kids are at school is very boring when I’m the only one there.

Day 32 and 33.
Basically routine. Wake up, play with kids, send them off to school, do nothing until they come back, and then help them with homework, and play.
Before sleep, I put on some music and we had an impromptu dance party, which was very fun.

Day 34.
Woke up and told the kids that I’ll be leaving today. Some of them were really sad… I promised them I’d return after Pokhara, and that’s the plan. Went with the kids to school, and then went to town, got some really good momos and samosa for insanely cheap prices (1 serving of fried buffalo momos - 80 rupi, a bag of different local snacks - 40 rupi), and some lolipops for the kids. When they came back from school and we played a little, and then came the time to say goodbye. We hugged, and after promising I’ll come back, Hari released me, and I went back to Kathmandu, by local bus, which meant that a 7KM ride took an hour.
Oh, and we took a "goodbye selfie"

In Thamel I met friends, and we went out for drinks and Steaks, which was awesome.

Day 35.
Work day - nothing much to report about it.

Day 36.
Went rafting (for free! thanks to the Chabad house raffle). The drive to the rafting place was relatively comfortable. When we got to our rafting company, they put us at a table (10am), and told us to wait for food, and that at 11am we’ll be on our way.
There’s a thing called “Nepal time” - we got our food at 11am, then only at 12am we started the trip…

The rafting trip itself was good time, 4 hours of rafting, a little physical work, but mostly relaxing and enjoying the views between short and sweet rapid water parts.
The way back was on a local bus, and the ride was extremely uncomfortable - the bus’ back springs feel like they’re made out of granite. The ride was excruciating, and to top it all off, we got stuck in a massive 1.5 hour traffic jam entering Kathmandu.

The bus put us about 1.5 km from Thamel, and we walked there, stopping in a small local restaurant which served really good momos. For less than half the price I would have paid for the same dish in Thamel. Continuing on our way I found a sweets bakery, and got a whole bunch of amazing local cookies. It was a very good day :)

day 37.
Going to Pokhara today. Took the tourist bus from Kathmandu ($6), the bus itself was okay, only thing which got tiring was the fact that we were stopping every hour for about half an hour, so the 5 hour drive there took about 7 hours. I tried to just relax and take photos of scenery, and I got some really good photos, but the bus ride was VERY tiring.
Pokhara is a beautiful city. I found a good hotel in my budget, and went to see the lake. Sat down for a beer on the lake, and watched a beautiful sunset, and the air cleared up enough for the himalayas to peak over the horizon, giving a spectacular view.
After that, I decided to go get a tattoo, so I did. My first tattoo - behold!

Day 38.
Today I went mountain biking around the Fewa lake. It was very beautiful, and quite hard. I went for the trail which goes around the lake. It starts by going east out of Pokhara though some very pretty villages on the water (there are some good looking guesthouses there, if I wasn’t travelling alone, I’d definitely want to spend a few days there), than the trail goes around the lake, up the mountain. The climb was hard, most of it I did on foot, because it was very steep.

After five hours of hard work, I’ve reached the World Peace stupa, a beautiful buddhist stupa dedicated to speading the message of world peace and shanti shanti.
The ride down from the stupa was easy, and I stopped by Devi’s falls, which is kind of overrated, really.
I then found a very good local place for simple, cheap local food, which made me happy :)

Day 39.
Went paragliding, which is amazing. The visibility wasn’t ideal, so we couldn’t see the mountains, but the experience is absolutely exhilarating. We drove up a mountain, then reached their “runway” which is a cleared land which ends in a cliff. Taking off is done by running off the cliff. It was amazing! We took off, then climbed for about 10 minutes, and then just want on a downward glide over the city and the lake.

At the paragliding club I met a nice solo traveller from Chile, and we went together to the international mountain museum, which was interesting - they show different cultures who live in high mountains, mainly Nepali, but some european people as well. Than there are exhibitions showing the different Himalaya mountains, with details about how they were formed, and lastly, an exhibition about global warming and how many climbing missions were destroying the mountain before strict rules about trash disposal were enforced.
We met up for drinks later, at the Busy Bee caffe, which is a great place to get drinks and enjoy some good music (albeit a little expansive)

Day 40.

Doing absolutely nothing. I wanted to go to a Tibetan camp today, but the guy was booked, so I’ll do that in two days. Meanwhile, it’s too hot to be outside, so I just bought some food and I’m chilling in the hotel room, editing videos, and generally enjoying the wonderful act of doing nothing :)

Day 41.

Work day - nothing much to report

Friday, April 22, 2016

Week 3 - I tried trekking, it doesn't seem like it's for me...

Day 18.
Just a do-nothing Saturday. Literally didn’t do anything. Wanted to go to the garden of dreams again, just to chill and read a book, but it was packed with people. Will probably do this tomorrow.

Day 19.
Worked today. I keep astonishing myself, because, well, at home, when I work from home I usually can’t concentrate, and keep getting distracted, and get almost zero work done. Here, I say I’m gonna be working, and I’m working. Hard. I kill tasks off in an astonishing pace, and every work day I’ve had I’ve been extremely happy with so far.
I sat in a small vegetarian restaurant called OR2K for about 5 hours (they have good wifi and constant electricity, and they don’t make a fuss about people hogging tables for long). I ended up eating breakfast and lunch there, and then needed a change of scenery, so went to the Chabad house, and got three more hours of work done. Then I went shopping for trekking pants, and got a decent pair for $12

Day 20.
Started the day by catching a bus to Nagarkot. Well, it’s two busses.
And busses in here are extremely uncomfortable. They’re massively overcrowded, and they stop every minute. A 30 minute ride turned into a 90 minute one, and when we got to Nagarkot I was just happy that this was behind me.
Nagarkot was, well, not very interesting. I chose a hotel room, and took a stroll around town, and I found nothing of interest. Went back to the hotel, and discovered that my room has not been cleaned (missed it when I checked in), it was so bad that I demanded to get my money back (to which they complied), and I found a decent hotel room overlooking the valley. Met a nice American traveller named Alex in the hotel, and we enjoyed each other’s company for dinner.
Nagarkot’s main attraction is the sunrise over the Himalayas, from a view tower located 45 minutes walk out of town. I thought that the walk is 30 minutes out, so I woke up a little late, and had to run up the hill. Almost missed it, if not for a couple who gave me a ride on the last two KM. We were very lucky, it rained at night, so the visibility was pretty good (still, far from optimal, but you could actually see the Himalayas until around 1pm)
After watching the sunrise, we went back to the hotel with Alex, and apparently, she was very displeased with her guide, so dear reader - be very careful, if you hire a guide in Nepal, make sure that they’re knowledgable and professional.
Then I set out for the trek from Nagarkot to Dhulikhel. The trek is about 15KM, mostly downhill, and passes some small villages. In these I found the most fun parts of the day - whenever I passed through a village, I seemed to be a magnet for the local children. They actually saw me, ran away to call their friends, then all of them came out to get pictures taken and either ask for some money or chocolate. After this day, I made sure to have a chocolate bar with me.

I arrived at Dhulikhel completely broken. My legs were killing me, and my back hurt like crazy. The town itself was uninteresting at first glance, I had some trouble finding myself a hotel (they’re either taken out of horror movies, or WAY too expansive, I finally settled for a $9 crappy hotel with no hot water, but a decent enough bed, with a balcony)
After lying in bed for about three hours, trying to recover from the trek, I decided I want to go to what Wikitravel recommended to see in town - the Kali temple, on top of a hill (about 400 steps, yay). It was getting dark, but I soldiered on. Got to the temple, and it turns out that it’s an empty broken down building, and it has a small statue of Kali next to it. Not much of a temple to talk about, and definitely not worth the walk up just to see it.
On the way back I stopped to buy a bottle of coke, and a local man started talking to me, he said that he always wanted to talk to a tourist, so I invited him to sit down, bought him a coke, and we chatted for a while. He’s from a tiny village 500km from Dhulikhel, and it’s the first time he’s ever been out of his area - he went to Kathmandu, trying to find work abroad via a manpower agency. He’s married, father to a 9 year old girl, and makes about $1-2 dollars a day. He’s seeking work in Dubai or Qatar, to work and send some money to his wife and child. I told him about some of the horror stories I’ve heard about people being treated as slaves there, forced to work for years without pay to repay their “debt” to the manpower agency, and living in repurposed containers in the scolding desert heat, with no A/C, and with 6-10 people in every room. I recommended him to try to come to Israel, which has laws protecting workers (although it’s harder to find legal work in Israel). Later on I was really bummed than I didn’t take his number, it could have been an interesting experience to ask him to be their guest for a couple of days, and get to know Nepali life from a personal perspective. I’m also sure that the money I’d have paid for the stay would have helped them a lot as well.

Day 21.
I was debating whether to take the bus or hike, and chose hiking. Went to the Namobuddha monastery, a 3 hour trek from Dhulikhel. On the way, passed through a village, and the scene with the children happened again, albeit the kids were much more friendly, and we ended up in a playful tickle fight. Afterwards, one of the kids, a bright little 10 year old girl, continued to walk with me, she was going to the shop to buy some food stuff for her family, and we talked. Her name’s Amitah, she has a brother named Amit, and was very amused to learn that this name means “friend” in Hebrew. She told me she loves to read, and wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Told me a bit about her life in the village, and then we reached the store. I offered to pick up the bill, to which she happily said yes (25c), and I bought her a chocolate bar, we said our goodbyes, and I kept on walking. I really enjoyed talking to her.

After walking some more, I reached the Namobuddha monastery, which is a beautiful building on top of a hill (these guys love building religious stuff on top of hills…)
The monastery has a guest house ($12 a night, shared bathroom, very clean and well built), and guests can eat their meals with the monks. I arrive just in time for the afternoon prayer, and it was a very interesting experience. The monks play instruments and create a very hypnotic music, and they chant. For about an hour. I was basically stuck, aimlessly watching a random point in space, for the entire time.

The meal was fun, basic Dal Bat, nutritious and tasty.

Day 22.
Woke up, went to breakfast with the monks, we ate some kind of steamed bread, with milk tea and vegetable stew. The monks were chanting before and after food, which was interesting to watch.

Afterward, I set for the walk to Panauti - a 3 hour walk downhill. I was quite amused by the fact that cannabis plants grow here like weeds, literally, just grow on the side of the road.

Passed through more small villages, but because it was early, I guess the kids were in school, so didn’t get much of photographing the Humans of Nepal on that day. Just when I was about to reach Panauti, I saw two sisters sitting on the front porch of their house, one of them was holding a baby. I asked to take their photo, to which they gladly said yes, I took a few pictures, then they asked me to sit down and show the pictures to them. I did, and in a few seconds the entire family was outside, all asking me to take their photos, and trying to communicate although nobody seemed to speak English…

I then continued to Panauti, there was a cremation ceremony at the entrance to town.

The town itself is nice, I walked around a bit, and then got on a bus to Kathmandu.
In Kathmandu, I got a recommendation to a good hotel room, I was told to expect $15 per night, which is my budget. When I got there, the room was up to standard, but they asked for $35. Apparently, it’s okay to negotiate even hotel prices here, so I got to pay $15… This was quite funny, they started at 35, then 30, then 20, and as I was heading out they finally agreed on 15 :)

I decided against going on treks in the Himalayas. The guys I wanted to join for the trek were volunteering in an orphanage in the outskirts of Kathmandu, and I will come there for a week or two to volunteer. I met with them at night so they can tell me about their experience. We had a nice meal, then went to their room to smoke some weed. I came back to my hotel completely stoned, and immediately fell asleep.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Week 2 - Goodbye India, hello Nepal!

Day 11.
Went on a guided walking tour of Old Delhi today. I grew to really dislike this town. The constant noise, the pushing, the getting run over by rickshaws, it’s tiring. The walking tour itself was nice, I guess, but I was too preoccupied with the discomfort of being in this city to really enjoy the tour. The food we ate was good, and fun to eat, which is good, and there were a few interesting things to listen to (The architecture, for instance is built for women to be able to see but not be seen, because apparently in late 1800s if you saw a woman, it meant that she’s indecent. Good thing this changed)
After getting back to the hotel room I just stayed here. I didn’t feel like going out, except for some food.
I can’t wait for Tuesday when I finally get out of this town, and head toward Nepal.

Day 12 and 13.
Worked on both days, and went out the minimal amount of time I could. I could not get away from Delhi fast enough! Don’t have much to write except that the time at the Chabad house was pretty fun, good people, good talks. I enjoyed it a lot.

Day 14.
Finally, leaving Delhi. The flight to Kathmandu was uneventful, the metro ride to the airport was surprisingly comfortable if not for the attendant who tried to tell me that my flight leaves from the wrong terminal (which is on a different station). Kathmandu itself? Well, outside a very well designed tourist neighbourhood, it seems like any South Asian city. But Thamel, the tourist neighbourhood, is absolutely amazing. It is perfectly laid back place, which holds some good restaurants, actual supermarkets, and an absolutely beautiful nightlife.
I’ve read on a blog, that at night, Thamel becomes basically a huge brothel, but it’s either not the case, or they cleaned the place up.
I didn’t do much today, I did get an idea for a four day easy jungle trek to do, so I can get to know myself trekking not on the hard stuff. Now I’m looking for partners to do this trek with me.
Met two Israelis I’ve met in Delhi, and we went out for drinks. Apparently, today is the Nepali new year, and I guess Thamel, because of its nightlife, is a big attraction for locals, looking for nightlife. So we got to experience new years with Nepali people, and boy, those guys don’t seem to hold their liquor very well. The streets are full of passed out Nepali youth. And then we picked a bar, and boy, those guys can party!
We arrived when the night was still young, and the bar was packed. We got a standing table in the corner. The DJ was doing the playlist live. Shown on the projector, using youtube. By picking the next song in another tab. Then the join we smoked went into full blown effect. I told the guys “oh, guys, I think I made this too strong”. I made a joint with the proper amount of weed for 4-5 joints. This stuff is, how will I explain it, sensational.
So, here’s to a good, fun day in Kathmandu!

Day 15.
Went to the monkey temple. A beautiful temple located on a hill overlooking the city, about 30 minutes walk from Thamel.

Met a couple of street children on the steps up, asked to take a photo.

An 11 year old local boy decided to be my guide took me around the temple complex, and did a pretty good job (I actually told him I don’t want a guide, and he ignored me). He took me to a beautiful shop which is also a school, making beautiful mandalas, and I just couldn’t hold back, they were so incredibly beautiful.
I wanted three, and the salesman told me the price, I thought he was talking in Rupi (125 per painting), but then he said the price is in USD :)
Bottom line, I got one small one for $20, and I’m really happy with it. Then we continued to the next temple, and sat down for some ice cream. When my guide was about to finish his, a monkey ran to him and just grabbed his ice cream from his hand, which was hillarious. The kid was a bit shaken, but not too much :)

When I came back, I went to the Chabad house, bought something to eat, and sat down. Two girls came to sit with me, and we chatted for a while. They wanted to go to the same temple as I did, at around sunset, so I joined them. It was even more fun, going with somebody. We went up, took a few pictures, I took them to the same place I bought that mandala, and they also bought one each. Visiting the temple at sunset is a better idea, the air was clearer, so there was more of a view, and generally things are prettier when lighted in red-velvety sunset light :)

We went back to Thamel, and got a REALLY good hamburger, with some great local beer. I really love this place, it’s not hot, the food is awesome, and the people more fun.

Day 16
Woke up, went to the Pumpernickel (an awesome bakery in middle of Thamel, they make absolutely fantastic pastries) and got some breakfast with the girls I met last night. We went on our separate ways and scheduled to meet later and go to another temple. I went looking for a better hotel room, and I ended up taking a 1500 rupi/night room at a place called “The Chillout Resort”. The room is almost perfect, large, comfortable bed, decently designed, and has a nice balcony. Only downside - the window doesn’t have a mosquito net on it, so if I want air, it comes together with a bunch of mosquitos. Good thing I brought a canopy, so I got it set up over the bed and it was okay-ish.
Went to the Chabad house, the girls were late, but I was having a blast. There was a family there, they’ve been travelling for about 4 months now, and their kids (4, 6 and 8) were incredibly friendly. I was chatting with a girl in the lounge area, and the 6 year old came to her, just sat next to her and started playing. We ended up on the sofa, with all the kids, using the computer to show them some cartoons. Great way to pass the time :)
The girls came over, and we went to the Pashupatinath temple, which is the most sacred temple to local Hinduism, non-hindus are not allowed into the temple itself, but we took a look from the doorway and from a balcony overlooking the temple (can’t see much, but still pretty), then we went to see a ceremonial burning of a body, and took a walk around the temples which we were allowed to see.

The experience of watching the burning of the body was an interesting one. In their culture, they seem to embrace death, as part of life. We, in the west, generally try to avoid dealing with death, while they do what needs to be done. The dead woman’s husband was the one who did the whole task of burning her body. The family didn’t cry, I was told they weren’t allowed to. I felt like I was intruding, by watching, and went away.

We came by a few “babas”, sitting near the small meditation “cave” temples. Chatted up with them (apparently, unlike their Indian counterparts, they avoid smoking weed), and took their picture.

Then we came by a rather sad situation - a young monkey was playing on the power cables, and got electrocuted. His friends were trying to tend to him, but were afraid to touch him (good call). Finally, somebody grabbed a long bamboo stick, and pushed the monkey off the pole. The monkeys didn’t understand what happened, and were grieving their fallen comrade, and the larger monkeys were really aggressive towards the people there. The locals reacted with aggression back, which I understand is the right thing to do (otherwise, the monkeys will establish territorial boundaries, and will become constantly aggressive towards people), but it was still quite sad to watch.
Back in Thamel, we went to a nice Israeli place, which makes some good vegetarian food, apparently I chose the wrong dish, as the dishes the girls ordered were by far superior, but we still had a good time. Then we parted ways, they are going to the Annapurna trek tomorrow.

Day 17.

Had a good night sleep, after setting the canopy, went to a small, beautiful garden, called “The Garden Of Dreams”, it was built by a local man in the 1920s, and recently renovated with help from the Austrian government. The garden is located just outside Thamel, and is a beautifully designed garden, with many places to sit, and just relax. I enjoyed it a lot, and will definitely come back with my kindle. The place attracts both tourists and locals, and it’s easy to see why that is - it’s so beautiful and tranquil. There are also some hidden places to sit, and they’ve been occupied by pairs of local teens, making out.

Don't want to do much else today, going to the Shabbat dinner at the Chabad house, will probably chill there for a while...