Saturday, December 25, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
I did my first trek last week. It was a 5 day trek in the Annapurna range. This is why I came to Nepal! It was wonderful to be outdoors in such beautiful country. But it wasn’t without some effort. A lot of effort, in fact.
The first day was meant to be a short, relatively easy day. An hour drive from Pokhara, I, along with a trekking partner, a guide, and a porter started the trek in Nayapul. After a few hours of fairly easy hiking, we stopped for lunch. So far so good. Because we got a pretty early start, we decided to move beyond where the itinerary said we should stay the night. So we forged on to get a head start on the 500 meters of uphill steps.
Strangely, we climbed up steps for 45 minutes before we even reached the “real” steps. The key to going uphill is to go slowly. Still, it’s tiring. I said that I thought Binod, our 18 year old porter, looked tired. (This was a lie. In fact, Binod looked perfectly fine.) Being the compassionate person I am, I insisted that we stop for a few minutes to let Binod rest.
Up, up, and more up. My first lesson of trekking in Nepal is that when you think you’ve reached the top, there’s always more uphill. We finally reached the tea house and enjoyed tea on the patio overlooking the steps we had just conquered. After dinner, a group of Austrians staying in the same tea house taught the Nepali porters how to play Uno. “Now you must say ‘Uno!’” Very entertaining.
The second day of trekking started out well. I felt strong, which was good because the entire day was spent going up more steps. The Nepalis seemed impressed with my language ability. I passed an old woman on the trail and I said, “Namaste, didi” (hello, big sister). She laughed this wonderful laugh and answered, “Namaste, bahini” (hello, little sister).
We arrived in Ghorepani in the early afternoon and the Annapurna peaks were peeking through the clouds. It was the first time I had seen the snow capped Annapurna range with nothing between me and it, except the foothills (what we would refer to as “mountains” the Nepalis call “hills”).
The third day started early and was painful. We got up before dawn and marched up 500ish steep meters to the top of Poon Hill in order to see the sunrise. My legs were in serious pain, it was dark and cold, and I was not enjoying the hike. Trying to motivate myself up those steps, I told myself how amazing my quads will look when this is over.
We made it to the top in time to see an amazing sunrise. Worth it.
I had an invigorating breakfast, so I felt really good when we left Ghorepani, even though the first hour was uphill. The fog came in just enough to keep things cool as we descended into the forest. The trail became very rocky and my feet started to hurt as we stopped for lunch.
My legs really didn’t want to start again, but I got back into the groove for about an hour. Then my legs and feet really started to hurt. “Binod looks tired.” (He did not.) We rested for a few minutes and trudged on. Just when I thought my legs couldn’t possibly go on… more uphill steps. My moaning and groaning could be heard for miles.
Finally, we stumbled into Tadapani (which means “far water”). I collapsed on the cot but soon realized that my clothes were damp and the coldness was attracted to the dampness, making true rest impossible until I changed into dry (if not clean) clothes.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast outside with a gorgeous view of the Annapurna peaks. My legs were really feeling it after 3 days of steep uphill. But this day’s hike was short and mostly downhill to Ghandruk.
Ghandruk is a lovely village that has managed to balance being attractive to tourists while still being a simple rural Nepali village where people beat rice stalks on well-kept stone patios. I’m pretty sure the cabbage and spinach that were in my lunch were pulled fresh from the cottage’s garden.
Exploring Ghandruk, we saw a sign pointing the way toward a temple. We reached stone steps (of course) that led upwards to an unseen destination. We kept going up and I reached an almost meditative state of mind where the soreness didn’t matter. The temple wasn’t very impressive – just a small concrete structure – but the achievement of getting there was satisfying.
The next morning my legs screamed in protest when I told them to get out of bed. But I got them moving by reminding them of the private attached European style bathroom (a luxurious exception to the shared, smelly hole-in-the-ground bathroom that was typical at the tea houses), which meant I didn’t have to go outside in the cold and I wouldn’t make them squat. We reached a truce.
It was hard to leave knowing that it was the last day of the trek. The first hour of the downhill hike was painful, but then the trail evened out. There were many Nepalis on the trail carrying huge loads of hay, firewood, cages of chickens, or posts & tins. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. I liked the (perceived?) character of the rural Nepali. Life is physically hard, but everyone seems content. Nepalis here smile easily. I told myself that I must try to get out to the rural areas as often as possible.
Looking back on the trek, I didn’t know I had that in me. During the tough parts, not even the “museum quality quads” motivation worked (and my quads don’t look any different, dammit!). But I managed to keep moving forward. I’m not sure I’m inclined to do a hard-cord 14 day trek, but I know I could do a tough 7 day trek and enjoy the experience.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I’ve been thinking about my stuff a lot lately. My HHE hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m still living off my UAB (which, as I look back, I under packed). I’ve been dreaming about where I’ll put my things, where I’ll hang the pictures, that kind of thing. I think I’ve figured out why “stuff” is so important to Foreign Service Officers. It’s the one part of our lives we have complete control over.
We live in homes that we didn’t choose with furniture that we didn’t pick. [I don’t say this to complain. There is no way the State Department can provide furnished housing in such a way to satisfy everyone. This is just a reality of working in the Foreign Service.] Even with all of our own belongings surrounding us, our houses can feel like home only up to a certain point.
So we buy stuff. Within just a few weeks of arriving in Kathmandu, I had already bought a gorgeous Kashmiri rug, a few knickknacks, and some jewelry. It helped me feel a little bit settled into my new house.
In Nepali, stuff/things is called “cheezwiz.” No kidding. So I’m waiting impatiently for my cheezwiz to arrive and longing for the day when I can put my own books on the shelves, cook with my own pots & pans, and put out my own picture frames.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I indulged my imagination just enough to picture myself in a less glamorous version of this press room answering questions from Nepali journalists about American policy. In Nepali. "Ameriki aankama aatankawad samuhaa nuhuna, maowadile hinsa chodnu gaarcha."
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Nepalis will inevitably complicate a sentence, if possible. Why say something using only three syllables (ma baschhu - I sit) when you can use seven (ma basirahekochhu - I continue to be in a state of sitting)?
Yesterday in class I gave a presentation on economics. Ignoring for a moment the fact that I know very little about this subject, I am pleased to say I was able to give the following example of supply & demand in flawless Nepali - "If the number of available cars is larger than the number of people who want cars, then the price of cars will be inexpensive." To give you an idea of how this sentence is constructed in Nepali (and why it took me 10 minutes to write it) here's the literal translation back into English - "If available car's number than car-wanting people's number big became, then car's price inexpensive would be."
My brain needs an ice pack.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
A couple weeks ago, I met with a language training consultant. I took a bunch of personality tests with questions like: I think wearing medieval armor would be fun, true or false? Two years ago I might have answered true, but after a year of wearing 20 pounds of bullet-proof armor in Baghdad, I have a different perspective. The results of the tests were predictable - ISTJ, likes organized learning, etc.
Frankly, the meeting with the language consultant wasn't terribly helpful. The language test process came up and I shared how a lucky guess got me an extra half point in reading comprehension. She defended the practice, and I interpreted her response to mean that the test doesn't measure reading comprehension, but rather intelligence (aptitude). Interesting.
Friday, January 8, 2010
First, class begins at 7:40 in the morning. I can barely speak English that early in the morning, nevermind Nepali.
Secondly, I'm not much for chit chat. If I have something to say, I'll say it, but otherwise, the pressure to maintain polite conversation for an hour is painful (especially without the assistance of a cocktail).
Of course, speaking at length is an important part of the language test. I feel like I'm being judged for a character flaw rather than a deficiency in speaking the language.
A friend of mine who is also a language student has the gift of the gab. During her first test, she was given a photograph of Kofi Annan and asked to talk about him for 10 minutes. What she knew about Kofi and was capable of saying after a few months of training only lasted a few minutes. So she made up stuff. She explained that Kofi came to America for college. That's when he met her mother; in fact, she is Kofi's love child. I'm not sure if she used the literal Arabic translation for "love child" or if she paraphrased.