8 May: Flying to Kathmandu, Nepal

8 May

We were up at 7.30am to get ready to catch the plane to Kathmandu at 9.40am. I was packed the night before and had a good sleep. We all piled into two taxi’s for the airport. We sat around until 9am until they were ready to give us boarding passes and pass us through security. We got through and waited for our plane, Buddha airlines. I forgot that Lumbini is not far from Pokhara, this was the birth place of Buddha. So I laughingly said we will fly high, perhaps even reach Nirvana, it is Buddha airlines after all.

So we got on the plane. I had two seats to myself. So I sat at the window. I really wanted to see the tops of the Himalayas. I hoped for a clear day but it was misty. I sat there looking out the window, then thought I’ll listen to my iPod. I didn’t think I’d see anything. I noticed clouds and then noticed the people in front of me taking pictures, they seemed excited. I looked again and what I saw was both clouds and mountain tops. The whites were so similar but incredibly spectacular against the blue sky. I saw sheer mountain tops. Our plane was beneath the tops of the mountains. The Himalayas are breathtaking. They went on for ages, more mountain tops with clouds beneath them. I looked at the foothills and then the tops. They were absolutely enormous. I thought of the mountaineers who wanted to climb them. I recall the avalanche at the Annapurna base where 13 people died (few missing). I actually met a man tonight who knew the two Sherpa’s who died. He said they were friends and really good men. He said he was a day behind. He is no longer in the trekking business but involved in other activities. I asked him about the ice caps, he said the glacial ice is receding. Climate change of course is a real phenomenon.

I stared out the window and just stared taking pictures in awe. This magnificent plane trip continued for around 1 hour. Then I noticed more terraced mountains, much smaller. It was interesting to see the tapestry of roads. The rivers running to sea level from the mountains. I saw pockets of houses, nothing like the built up and organised cities in the West. Slowly the plane (turbo prop) descended. We came into Kathmandu which was a sprawl of buildings. It went on for ages and I thought of the size. The fact is that so many are coming into the city for work.

The plane landed and we got off and walked to the bus. We were taken to baggage claim. The baggage arrived by tractor. People were crowded under this little shelter with a place for bags. Apparently we had tickets for the bags, Peter was holding them. We went up and got our luggage. We carried it not too far, a taxi driver with a van came. Peter took the van as we could fit all our luggage and us comfortably. It was 800 rupees (200 each).

We drove into the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, so many contrasts from Ghara living in primitive circumstances with bucket wash and basic beds and lots of dirt. The village was simple with donkey’s, goats, cows, people carrying all sorts of loads. We could see the mountains and just sit with a peaceful lifestyle where people are not watching TV (only a few) but old guys sitting on benches. The women are always busy. Some things don’t change. The other contrast was Pokhara where we stayed in nice accommodation. My room was like a little flat with double bed and mod cons. I had a shower (luxury). It was a tourist area so all the coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, lakeside, forest, a well off city compared to Kathmandu which is a sprawl of population, I suspect growing. So interesting has been our journey, not as tourists but within a context of education, clowning and culture. We have Nepali friends and they feel like family now.

So we drive through the city, lots of traffic jams. I feel for the poor police trying to navigate the traffic. There are no traffic lights. Everyone seeks out a gap and off they go, the same as India. Cars, motorbikes, bicycles, walking, buses, four wheel drives (expensive) and lots of little fuel efficient cars. Some new so poor. It is a real mix.

We wind our way through little alleys, ring roads, over bridges and then into the busy area of Thamel, the tourist area. You can see that there are more shops, westerners and you know you are close. We turn into the Kathmandu Guest House. It feels like home.

Peter is greeted by the manager as a valued guest. He speaks of getting us good rooms. We then get our keys and go up. It is a lovely room, double bed, TV if I want, a large mirror (good for clown make-up). It is around lunch-time. We got into the garden which feels to me as some British Raj oasis in the middle of Kathmandu. It is a nice garden with water features, green grass and flowers. We sit at a table and wait for Kailash and Krishna to arrive. I am very happy to see them.

They sit with us and join us for lunch. Gordon does his usual funny stories which just relaxes people more. He is so funny and we all love him. Kailash and Krishna are fond of him too. There is discussion around some meetings with Rotary and others. As we only have four days before we fly back to Australia.

Peter says we have a free afternoon. Kailash and Krishna are off to the bank and I feel to go up to my room and rest. I am still getting rid of this cold and find I am tired but happy. I lie down and just enjoy the comfort of a bed. I didn’t know how long I lay there. I suddenly felt to turn on the computer. It was 3.50pm. I realised we had to meet downstairs at 4pm. I go down to the dining area. I see Kailash and Krishna with a man who is a friend from the Paudwar village. He used to be a Science teacher and went onto study health. He confessed he preferred the country. I said ‘you can take the country out of the boy but not the boy out of the country’. They nodded. I see health as balance and I do feel it is within us. Yet I understand that there are modern health issues given poverty, nutrition habits, life expectancy, child mortality and so on. Wellbeing comes from balance but as societies transit from agrarian self-reliant societies (eating healthy produce) to money economics they find themselves slowly being disconnected from the land. Many children that Pat spoke to indicated they would not be a farmer. So they are not taking over the family farms but moving to the Middle East for income or the cities. So the family is breaking down and that will create health issues for sure. I was told by a student psychologist that there are mental health problems given the fear over poverty – depression, anxiety etc. I told her about positive psychology and how it is important for wellbeing.

We went out for dinner and met another friend of Peter’s he met at his farm in Victoria. He is famous in Kathmandu, having won many awards. He is a community guy and his restaurant is a place for people to meet. He has been successful in a trekking business I think he is now into cash cropping. He feels people have to become profitable from their produce. I can certainly understand that desire given the cash economy. After the meeting we decided to go to another restaurant for dinner. Kailash and Krishna went on home. We went to a restaurant called the New Orleans and had a lovely dinner. It is fascinating to me so many Westerners (tourists) and yet there are no Nepalese, so segregated. I feel that sense of privilege. I find it really interesting. Love would provide access to everyone. I am glad I came from a working class family as I do have a strong sense of equality. It is always with me.

We walked on back to the hotel and went to be.

Another great day, clowning tomorrow. Woo hoo. I have to make sure I have the energy. So a good sleep. Night night.

Mohandas Gandhi

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

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