Atma and Lynn 
 
 
Nothing was more popular on my Nepal Adventure blog than the rescue of Atma.  I am receiving emails constantly asking about her and there is much to tell, so this post will give you the rest of her story.
 

 I left you with Atma and me getting back to the hotel after her flea bath and medications at the Kathmandu Animal Hospital. She was a sorry sight with no hair over 2/3 of her body and the bare skin covered in a rash, but none the less, she was introduced to my fellow volunteers and hotel staff, many of whom must have wondered what the heck I had seen in her.

 

But as the next few days went by, Atma wriggled her way into many of their hearts just as she had crashed into mine. What she looked like faded out of sight and all one could see was her amazing little spirit (Atma: Nepali word for ‘soul’).

 

We quickly discovered that she was not about to allow me out of her sight. The whining, barking, scratching and mournful dog language that echoed throughout the hotel when left alone in the room, made it very clear that she was going to be attached to me like gum on a shoe sole for my remaining time in Nepal.

 

So off we went to the monastery every morning to teach where she sat on a plastic tub chair and was every bit the lady with all her Monklettes doting on her. After class we trotted back the 5 km to the hotel, drank a small ocean of water while Mum showered and then out to lunch.  We chose outdoor, garden restaurants where she was welcome and due to the morning’s walking workout, she curled up on a seat beside me and never moved.

 

I learn that she is leash trained, shakes right then left paws, dances on her hind legs with forelegs making the ‘namaste’ position, wants to go outside to do bathroom duties and listens to me with much more attention than any of my kids ever did.

 

At night she popped up into her chair for sleeping and stayed there until I patted the bed after the alarm woke us, whereupon she leapt across the room, dove in beside me and wriggled in for a morning, pre-breakfast snuggle.

 

Aussie Charmaine took on the chore of pseudo-mama while I went on my pre-planned excursion to Pokhara and never have I had such a welcome home upon my return!  Face, glasses and hair all received a thorough little-dog-tongue washing.

 

Now it’s time to get down to the business of getting her home with me.  Talking to airlines, finding a proper leash, collar, food and transportation kennel would take one day at home.  In Kathmandu, count one week.  But I am a new mama and am not to be deterred! We traverse the city in cabs, spend much time on the phone, go through rupees like starving bunnies in a lettuce field, but at last all is done except a re-visit to the vet.

 

Time to be spayed and vaccinated.  I drop her off in late morning and receive  instructions to come back around 6 pm.  I promptly arrive at six and tiptoe into a room where she is lying in an old fashioned metal baby crib.  Still coming out of anesthetic, her eyes are slightly open but not focused and her tongue is lolling out of her mouth.  I speak quietly to the staff and the next thing I hear is “thump, thump, thump”.  She heard my voice and thumped her tail three times while absolutely nothing else on her body twitched!  Not even an eyelash.  It was so sweet, my throat lumped up.

 

Gradually she became more awake


 

 

 

And then everything changed….

 

The newspapers beneath her body absorbing her urine were being changed frequently by an assistant when suddenly the urine was showing pink and then red.  Atma was bleeding from somewhere.  Two vets and three assistants materialized instantly to assess. 

 

Having no history on a street dog, it could have been a blood condition such as hemophilia or a urinary cyst that ruptured, or, or, or.  Dr. Yadav checked for cysts, went over every detail of the surgery, looked at her gums which were white and injected her with iron and vitamin K.  At this point all we could do was wait.  The five staff members and myself stood around her, talking quietly, watching diligently for change and all saying silent prayers.

 

At one point I was alone with her for a few minutes.  I cupped her chin in my hand, leaned down and whispered in her ear, “ Atma, you have such a strong little spirit and between you ,me and the help of our friends here in the hospital we are all going to work as one to keep you with us.  You were meant to come home with me, keep fighting to stay with me and I won’t leave you.”

 

Within a half hour the bleeding slowed and finally stopped.  Everyone let out a communal sigh of relief at the good news and adjusted our prayers to asking that it not start again.

 

Even though within the next couple of hours I was assured that I could leave, every time I left the room Atma would fuss, move too much and exhibit her separation anxiety and I was worried she would start the bleeding again, so, true to my word, I did not leave her and stayed beside her for the night.

 

Atma and I were not the only ones in the room, we had a constant visitor!  Every time I put my head down on her bed to catch a few winks,…zzzzzzzwhinezzzzzwhine, a blasted mosquito started doing circles around my ear.  Could never find it due to the subdued lighting in the room, besides I didn’t want to smack the wall and disturb Atma.  The mozzie didn’t differentiate between my left and right ears either.  I wouldn’t see it for an hour but just put my head down and it was at my ear.  I smacked myself stupid that night hoping to smush it on the side of my head.

 

I finally did go back to the hotel about 6:00 AM to return about 5 PM at which time Atma was well enough to jump into my arms and give me the ol’ Atma facewash routine.  She had been given a 48 hour pain medication at the time of surgery so felt no discomfort.  And back to the hotel we went where she was spoiled by everyone, pampered by me and allowed to sleep in my bed cuddled up and happy.

 

Three days later she had a vet checkup.  The cause of the bleeding was attributed to poor nutrition while Atma was on the streets and her liver was unable to produce enough blood clotting material. She was given rabies, distemper and parvo vaccinations, said her thanks and goodbyes to some incredibly caring and talented Nepali people and she was given the green light to travel.  Big Sigh!

 

BRINGING ATMA HOME 

After several difficult goodbyes, Atma and I are in a cab airport bound.  As I look at the Kathmandu sights I realize they are the same as upon my arrival, but my perspective is 180° skewed.  Everything just looks ‘normal’!

 

We check in at Jet Airlines and I am pretty wound up about putting my new baby in the cargo hold. I’m holding up well until I have to put her in the kennel and she begins to cry, whine and scratch madly at the door.  So as not to embarrass myself I use every ounce of strength I have not to cry, but a couple of tears leak down my cheeks anyway.  A wonderful, older gentleman who transfers the luggage from the desk to the belt notices this and as I walk away toward security he steps out from behind the desk, looks at me and nods his head making hand gestures that everything is okay and she will be alright.  Bless his heart.  Well, I did get upgraded to first class too and that helped a little bit.

 

Next stop-Delhi.  Collect my bags and Atma for the 8 hour layover.  She was overjoyed to see me and not in the least upset with me.  It was wonderful to spend the time together.

 

Time to check in with Lufthansa for the trip to Frankfurt. It’s quite a process when you are also checking in a live animal.  It was a struggle, but I finally got her back in the kennel. To say she was reluctant would be a gross understatement.  She is quite the little gymnast what with all four legs going in every direction.  And the pitiful crying, whining and scratching begins in great earnest once again.

 

I’m now told I need to go to a different desk and make the payment to the airline for the dog plus pay my India exit tax.  The exit tax must be cash whereas the airline fee can be credit card. I have no Indian rupees but will use Visa for the airline then go to the ATM. 

 

#1 problem:  There is a hold on my Visa card.  I go to the ATM to withdraw all the funds I need.

 

#2 problem:  ATM card won’t work in machine (never happened in Nepal!)

 

Back to the desk.  What am I going to do now? I only have the one credit card.  I think I know the reason for the hold on it.  I had not used it since I left home six weeks ago until paying for Atma’s fare on Jet Airlines in Kathmandu.  This would have sent up a red flag as possibly stolen.  I share this info with the nice gentlemen on the desk and tell them I have to phone the credit card company.

 

#3 problem:  How do I pay for a phone call without a credit card?

 

The call is not toll-free outside of N. America.  Now I’m getting flustered.  Somehow I have to get my hands on 13,000 Indian rupees.  One of the VERY nice Indian gentlemen gives me his cell phone!  I dial the number and get a message that they do accept collect calls.  Why the blazes don’t they put that on the credit card along with the number!!!  But I’m on a roll now and the agent answers.  I’m not only flustered, but now I’m pissed and those who have seen me flustered AND pissed slink away quietly making a very quick exit in the opposite direction.

 

#4 problem:  I cannot hear the agent on the phone!

 

I keep saying, “I can’t hear you could you please speak up.”  All I hear is “I can’t do that ma’am” and the rest of his words fade out. I holler “I’m in Delhi, my card has been cancelled and I wanna know why!”  Can’t hear his reply. I keep telling him I can’t hear him.  I try to find a more quiet corner where I sit down on the floor, plug my free ear and keep trying to hear him. No go.  Now tears of frustration prick at my eyelids as I listen to Atma nearby perfecting her cry, whine and scratch routine, and I yell at the agent, “I can’t get on that plane until my Visa card works and I have to get on that plane with my dog!!”

 

I switch the phone to my other ear.  Voila! I can hear his modulated, monotone voice. Seems I must have touched the volume control during the transfer.  He is saying, “Get them to try the card again”, they do, it works! OK, dog fare is paid.  Now all I need is rupees to pay the exit tax.  I try a different ATM…it works!

 

As I am trotting back to the desk with hot rupees in my hands, I suddenly realize, I paid an exit tax in Nepal, why am I paying an exit tax in India when I never even left the airport?  I explain this to the nice gentlemen and they say I don’t have to and when did I arrive in Delhi.  Eight hours ago and I show them my Jet Airlines boarding pass.  My trip was on two itineraries and I only showed the one from Delhi onward when I checked in at the Delhi desk.  Well why in heck would I show them the one I had just completed??!  Sheesh, don’t they all have ESP?

 

Problem #5:  Now I have a fist full of rupees I don’t need.

 

Over to the money exchange desk where I am ripped off exchanging rupees to US dollars that had started out as Canadian dollars 15 minutes ago.

 

They have finally taken Atma out of the check-in area, everything is looked after and it’s 2:00 AM.  As I show my boarding pass at the gate, I realize it is the same young man who checked me in at the desk and he says in a whisper, “Atma is aboard, she is doing just fine.”  Bless his heart.

 

I still have a long way to go.

 

Frankfurt 8 hours later.  Baggage and Atma checked in all the way to Calgary from Delhi and I have another 8 hour layover.  I pray someone is giving her water and food.  There is nowhere to sit in the Frankfurt airport except the gates and mine is not open until 1 hour before flight. Lordy, I am intimately familiar with every public nook and cranny of Frankfurt airport.  I don’t drink beer, but I thought, “While in Germany…..” so I sat down (phew!) and had a beer.  It was actually good or I was sleep deprived?

 

Once at the gate I am paged.  Nice lady asks me if I am traveling with a dog to which I give an affirmative reply.  She tells me the dog is here and doing fine.  They feel that for the 10 hour flight to Calgary she needed more room so they put her in a larger, loaner kennel and baggage tagged mine.  Bless their hearts.

 

Calgary. Arrived late, missed my connection. Wrestled bags onto a cart, found my ecstatic dog who I couldn’t take out of the kennel because we were clearing customs and she made it well known what she thought of that.  A simple wave of her vaccination certificate and we were through. Now to rebook a flight and put Atma and bags on Connections belt. Cry, whine, scratch.

 

Approaching security to get to my gate.  A pre-security check is done to ask if you have any liquids or gels.  My backpack has my toiletries and I have forgotten that in Canada one can’t carry any liquid or gel on board that is over 100 ml and they all have to fit into a miniscule ziplock bag provided by the airline. 

 

#6 problem: My toiletries break the rules. 

 

They were ok-ed through five physical and three x-ray checks in Nepal, Delhi and Frankfurt. It is suggested that I can check in my backpack at the Air Canada desk.  So I trot off to do that. 

 

#7 problem: It will cost me $100,

 

Seems I have already checked in two bags, which is the allotted number for my distance and any more I have to pay for.

 

Now I’m thinking, I have some small empty bottles in my toiletry bag.  Off to the washroom to transfer product into them.  Quite a job when the tap at the sink will only stay on for 5 seconds at a time.  OK, done.  Everything is 100 ml or less and I get it all to squeeze into that ziplock bag (with a bit of stretching).

 

Back to pre-security.

 

#8 problem: The nice man who suggested I check-in my backpack has been replaced with a stern-faced woman of large proportion and a BADGE

Dum de dum dum

 

I proudly show her my ziplock bag.  With a puffing out of her chest (the easier to see the BADGE) she tells me one of the bottles is too large.  But it’s half empty and has less than 100 ml in it, I reply.  No matter, the bottles can’t be larger than 100 ml.

 

#9 problem:  She doesn’t realize that I have been awake, crossed 5 time zones over the past 30 hours and am dizzy with jetlag. 

 

Buried deep within my small stature their lies my “Beelzebub Bitch” who I only allow out under certain circumstances.  No sleep for 30 hours, worried about my dog and jetlagged IS such a circumstance.

 

I argue.  What’s the difference, it’s just air in the bottle with the CREAM, it’s not liquid or gel, its CREAM!  This is expensive stuff and you are going to make me throw it out!?  It was just fine with Jet Airlines in Nepal, Lufthansa in Delhi and Air Canada in Frankfurt!  Can’t you airlines get it together and have some kind of consistency!!! Why is it ok with Air Canada in Europe, but not Air Canada in CANADA?????!  Screw it, take the damn thing and enjoy!

 

And I stomp off. Yeah, I was ripped.

 

She calls after me, “We don’t keep them ma’am.”  I toss a bitchy reply over my shoulder, “There’s a garbage can right behind you, so throw it in there!”

 

I was expecting a platoon of security agents to haul me off for ‘questioning’, or at least to get tazered. Guess I went up to the wire, but didn’t cross it.  Well, I got my blood boiling and my adrenalin glands pumping and damn, I was feeling better!

 

Arrive in Kelowna.  It’s 8:00 pm and the sun is still shining. Atma is first off the plane from cargo.  I let her out of the kennel and the fastest tongue and tail in the west go into action. Greg meets us with dog food and water and dishes.  Smart man.  She ate, she drank, she ate, she drank. 

 

A very happy puppy, a worn out Mummy (with ‘Bitch” safely chained back in her cell), a man happy to have his family complete again, and a mound of luggage pack into the car for the short drive to HOME, SWEET HOME.      

 THIS IS ATMA TODAY

I love my pillow

 I Love my PillowMe and my new  friend Sid the cat

 

Me and my new friend Sid the cat

 

 My hair is getting long enough to part! Next....braids.

My hair is getting long enough to part! Next….braids.
We Three

We Three

Our local newspaper did a recent article on my time in Nepal and the rescue of Atma.  You can read it below:

 

Vernon Morning Star

Making a spiritual connection

My Monklette Class_1_1_1

 

 

 
Lynn Moore with her students at the Sangye Choling monastery in Kathmandu, where she spent six weeks as a volunteer English teacher.

photo submitted

 

By Cara Brady – Vernon Morning Star

Published: July 02, 2009 6:00 PM

 

From the moment she saw the short article in the Investors Group magazine, Lynn Moore couldn’t stop thinking about it. It read, “Find Your Zen While Teaching English to Buddhist Monks in Kathmandu,” and gave the contact for i-to-i, a travel/volunteer organization.

“I thought I’d love to do that. Buddhism is a very peaceful, compassionate religion, and I’ve always done teaching in my work,” said Moore, recently retired with a background in sales and life coaching. “Then I thought, ‘If I’m meant to do this, how can I make it happen?’ It just wouldn’t leave me, and my husband agreed that I should do it.”

That was in June 2008 and she made her plans, including taking a teaching English as a second language course. By the beginning of May, she was in Nepal, staying in a Kathmandu hotel and walking five kilometres each way in 35-degree heat to teach at the Sangye Choling Monastery.

“The city was very busy and noisy but the monastery was quiet, and everyone was so appreciative that the volunteers from around the world, most of them students, were there to help. I had a class of 25 six-to-10-year-old boys and another class of 16-year-olds. We all sat on the floor cross-legged and it was a challenge because they were at different levels of English. The monks want to learn English to use if they travel.”

Moore found out that boys will be boys anywhere in the world — they would tease and push each other and the older boys were caught texting in class, holding their cell phones under their robes. In Buddhism it is considered a privilege to have a son educated at a monastery. The boys enter the monastery when they are five and at 18 they can make the decision to go on to train as monks or to leave.

“It was fascinating to learn about the religion and the culture and to travel in the country. The people want change but it is difficult with more than 16 political parties and how hard it is to make any progress or get anything done,” said Moore, who stayed for six weeks.

She got used to the life of the city, even the stray dogs, which made her feel sad. One day, one of the dogs rummaging in the garbage looked her straight in the eye.

“I just knew I was meant to save that dog. It was like going to Nepal, what I call an epiphany, an emotional and physical reaction to a thought.

“I didn’t see her the next day but then I found her and took her to the animal hospital to get cleaned up, get her shots and get spayed. The cook at the hotel helped me feed her and she walked to school with me every day. She wouldn’t be parted from me. I call her Atma which means spirit connection,” said Moore, stroking the small white dog in her lap. “I had no idea she was going to be such a perfect dog. Her hair is growing back in and she looks so much better now.”

After a lot of phone calls to air lines and 36 hours of travel, Atma was welcomed to her new home. Moore loves her new friend but because she and her husband travel a lot, Atma is going to a forever home with a loving family in Armstrong where Moore will visit her often.

“It was all an incredible experience. I would definitely do some more volunteer work — maybe with helping animals. Retirement is not just sitting around waiting for happy hour. I’ll know when I’m ready. I think anyone, whatever their age or situation, can find some way they can help, in the world community or in their local community.”

 

Please continue to post your comments.  They are much appreciated!

 

Cherrio!

Lynn

As promised, here are a slew of pictures  that I was unable to post from Nepal’ s internet system.   Yes, I am home and this will bring you up to date with the blog on the final days of my Nepal Adventure.

Enjoy!

1. My scenic daily walk to the monastery

Bishnumatie River
The Bishnumati River. Almost anything is dumped in this river waiting for the monsoons to wash it away. The smell is indescribable.

55 perpenticular stairs

Two rest stops the first week, one rest stop the second week, no rest stop the third week and by the end of 6 weeks I skipped to the top with my thighs of thunder!

Another rest stop on a dusty day
Climbing, always climbing. Another rest stop on a dusty day.

Construction the Nepali way

Construction the Nepali way

The old fashioned cement mixer is used and the mix is carried by women up to the top floor in bamboo, cone-shaped baskets carried on their backs with it strapped to their foreheads. And I complain about walking in heat, humidity and smells! Shame.

My Kathmandu home

My Kathmandu home

The frontage of most businesses is 10 feet and this is my hotel.

2. The Climb to Jamicho

Our guide 'Ganesh"

Our guide 'Ganesh"

Ganesh tool great care of me, called me ‘Mother’, carried my water bottle, camera and on the last part of the climb carried my backpack. Much further and he would have been carrying me!

Charmaine sharing 'lollies'

Charmaine sharing 'lollies'

Aussie Charmaine treats the local kids on our climb.

Rachel, Charmaine and Lag-along-Lynn

Rachel, Charmaine and Lag-along-Lynn

It might not look steep, but we are holding each other up!

Among the prayer flags at the top of Jamicho

Among the prayer flags at the top of Jamicho

Conquerors of Jamicho

Conquerors of Jamicho

Back on somewhat level ground 3000 feet below summit.

3. Himilayan Buddhist Meditation Centre, Kathmandu

Peaceful room

Peaceful room





In the garden at Meditation Centre

In the garden at Meditation Centre

Venerable Lobsang Sherab

Venerable Lobsang Sherab

4. Adventures in Pokhara

World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara

World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara

Senora Spider-Mama the size of my hairbrush!

Senora Spider-Mama the size of my hairbrush!

Braving the Batcave

Braving the Batcave

Overlooking Pokhara from Sarangkot

Overlooking Pokhara from Sarangkot

Irish Peter, me, English Chris at Peace Pagoda

Irish Peter, me, English Chris at Peace PagodaPokhara view from Sanangkot. What I won't do for a photo!

Pokhara view from Sanangkot. What I won't fo for a photo!

Pokhara view from Sanangkot. What I won't do for a photo!

Run down a person..15 yrs in jail. Run down a water buffalo..25 yrs in jail!

Run down a person..15 yrs in jail. Run down a water buffalo..25 yrs in jail!

Another cave I conquered!  Pre-monsoon river which will fill cave completely in a couple of  months

Another cave I conquered! Pre-monsoon river which will fill cave completely in a couple of months

Toddler's Namaste.,  soooooo cute!

Toddler's Namaste., soooooo cute!

Temple on island in the lake at Pokhara

Temple on island in the lake at Pokhara

Nepal Army P.T.

Nepal Army P.T.

5. Saying Goodbye
Lynn's farewell dinner with fellow volunteers

Lynn's farewell dinner with fellow volunteers

Denmark Chris- There's no end to the talent in this inernational group

Denmark Chris- There's no end to the talent in this inernational group

Farewell balloon party

Farewell balloon party

Some of 'My Kids'

Some of 'My Kids'

My little Monklette class

My little Monklette class

My 'bigger' monk class

My 'bigger' monk class

So hard to say goodbye.  Choaked up before I could get a word out

So hard to say goodbye. Choked up before I could get a word out

Me, Atma and Suresh who fell in love with her

Me, Atma and Suresh who fell in love with her

Me with Tensin Lama after presentaion of White Scarf

Me with Tensin Lama after presentaion of White Scarf

Next blog will be my last NEPAL ADVENTURE post and will continue the story of Atma, my little rescue dog
Cheerio!
Lynn

 A Greyhound bus trip it’s not, but an adventurous experience it is.

It takes 25 minutes to fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The bus trip takes 8 to 10 hours. Now about the ‘bus’. On the advice of our guide, Ganesh, we chose the micro bus rather than the regular public bus because the micro bus has seating for about 15 persons and takes a couple of hours less to reach destination.

 

We taxied to the area where the buses congregate and what meets our eyes is a very noisy, hap-hazard tangle of taxis, micro buses, large buses, hollering people, street sellers and what appears to be mass confusion. Our taxi motors slowly among the mess looking for a micro bus that is going to Pokhara. There is no way to know until you ask or hear someone hollering ‘Pokhara!’

 

At last we locate one, pay the fee, and Ganesh puts me in the window seat behind the driver (he knows my tendency to claustrophobic fits in crowds and tight places). Now we wait, and wait, and wait. It’s well past departure time, but it seems we don’t leave until every seat is full.

 

We finally do go…….about 50 feet….and pull over. Driver hops out and starts yelling “Pokhara!”

Through my open window flies a fist holding a bottle of water, then another with some kind of supposedly edible ‘thing’ followed by a third with a newspaper, etc. etc. After a few minutes we finally get going…….another 50 feet. We pull over and the whole process starts all over again.

 

This running of the gauntlet continues even after the seats are all full. It is now an hour past departure time. And guess what? The driver finds another 4 people to squeeze into the bus! I am now squashed up against the side of the bus sitting sideways on one ‘cheek’. But my window is large and if I had to I could crawl out, so no panic yet.

 

FINALLY, we travel more than 50 feet and our hearts lurch with hope. Yes, we keep on going! Sort of. Winding our way out of the city is a crawling, stop and go, horn honking melee. We reach the road to Pokhara which is (halleluiah!) paved! After being in Kathmandu for a month, I suddenly realize something…..its left side driving in Nepal! The mess of traffic in Kath weaving all over the narrow streets in and around each other muddies that issue.

 

We actually have two drivers, one behind the wheel and one on the roof with the tarped luggage. Our upper driver bangs on the metal roof in what we assume is code to inform the inner driver of things like “I hear a truck coming around that blind curve.” Inner driver leans on the horn to announce our presence. In fact, all traffic hits the horn as it approaches every curve. I certainly hope drivers have to pass a hearing test!

 

On we go. It’s hot. My open window saves my sanity and I silently bless Ganesh. Air Conditioning??? Foreign language never translated. We wind around and we climb up and down and pass through small villages. In some we stop and pick up another passenger or two to flatten in a space large enough for a box of rice. Speaking of which, we now see rice paddies in the mountainside terraced fields. The landscape is truly beautiful.

 

In one of these villages we stop for lunch and I’m sure we must resemble the circus Volkswagon which expels several dozen clowns from its tiny interior. My numb ‘cheek’ begins to prickle into life again as I limp over to the outdoor table upon which I find several pots of completely unidentifiable (except for the flies) supposedly edible concoctions. Appetite now dead, I purchase a bottle of Coke which seems the safest choice and it is COLD!


 

Twenty minutes later, we do the clown trick in reverse, but the driver just sits with the motor running. Sweat runs in rivulets into my eyes (stings!), down my face, neck, etc and I’m hanging out the window gasping and praying for a breeze and I couldn’t care less what it smells like. Seems we are waiting for two passengers who have disappeared. Plenty of Nepali jabbering is going on between passengers and driver and finally we up and leave.

 

A half hour later a hand with a cell phone appears from above and into the driver’s window. Seems the Upper Driver is also in charge of communications. We pull over and a conversation ensues. Don’t have any idea what is being said, but the passengers are laughing and contributing their own opinions. Seems the two missing passengers finally showed up to catch the bus and found it gone. They had gone off down the road to eat elsewhere without telling the driver or asking how long they had to eat. And they wanted us to come back and get them! Hah! When water buffalo pas de deux!

 

Another half hour….another cell phone call….another pull over. This time the errant passengers want their belongings left at the next village. Ok, we can do that.

 

This roadway is very busy with trucks, buses, motorbikes, cars, etc. One sees insane driving antics, especially with the motorbikes upon which at least two people are riding. Driver must wear a helmet, but passengers don’t. There must be some logic in that somewhere, but it’s not apparent to me. The final 30K into Pokhara has us back to pothole navigation and is s-l-o-w going. The trip seems endless but we finally arrive in Pokhara three hours later than planned. Thoughts of flying back after the weekend are extremely tempting.

 

RETURN TRIP

 

Okay, now we are experienced. We know this game and we are prepared! Once again, Ganesh gets me into the window seat behind the driver. English Chris and I are on a bench seat that sits three people and we plant our butts squarely and vow not to move. In front of us, just behind the front seat, is a ledge upon which we can put our backpacks. There are several other passengers to load but for some reason this can’t be done without several minutes of Nepali chattering, everyone talking over everyone else and a modulated tone of voice is impossible. Sounds like everyone is yelling but aren’t upset.  Eventually we are loaded.

 

As we go along, we keep picking up more passengers until the bench seat for 3 with it’s ledge in front of us is now holding EIGHT people!!!! We have to alternate knees with the person facing us. English Chris says he had a strange man’s knee in his crotch most of the way home. But we did not give up a millimeter of our butt space! The others could sit on top of each other. This happens because the driver wants to make as much money per trip as possible and comfort of passengers can go hang.

 

Oh yes, and during both trips Nepali and Indian music blared from the radio all…the…waaaAAAYYY!

 

As if it couldn’t worsen, we found ourselves slowing down and stopping behind a line of traffic. And we sat….and we sat…and we sat. Eventually some traffic would come the other way but only about 5 vehicles at a time. We crept a few feet forward at a time at long intervals. One and a half hours later, we were through the cause of the slowed traffic.

 

Here’s one I doubt you will ever hear happening at home. It appears the day before a motorcyclist from this village was killed on the roadway by a hit and run. The villagers stopped traffic to collect money for his family. Now that’s very thoughtful and an hour and a half of our time was for a good cause. Until we learned that about one quarter of the collection actually goes to the family.

 

This time our quick supper was a Coke and a bag of chips for me and I learn that if the need is great enough I can actually use a reeking Asian toilet.

 

It is dark by the time we reach the outskirts of Kath and the roadway and streets are jammed with traffic trying to get in and also trying to get out of the city. We crept along stopping and starting for 2 more hours, either eating non-catalytic converter exhaust or closing the window and being poached. The entire return trip was 10 hours to travel about 200 km. Twice the time it is supposed to be. I forgot the Nepali mantra: Nothing is as it is supposed to be in Nepal!!!

 

Never, never, never, never again! In the extremely unlikely event that I find myself having to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara, that 25 minute flight is the only way!

 

From a previous post you know what a superb experience Pokhara was for us. A lush, green little city nestled by a lake and surrounded by the majesty of the breathtaking Himalayas. Sigh!

 

Oh, give me a home

where the water buffalo roam

and the bats and the monkeys do play

Where seldom is heard

an English word

and the skies are

mountain-peaked all day.

 

Cheerio!

Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

As I walk to the monastery daily, I see many sights very foreign to my western eye, many of which I have shared with you earlier on this blog from Napal.  One such sight, which as you already know is so difficult for me, is the Street/Stray Dog population.

 

One day as I was returning from teaching, I glanced at a heap of garbage by the side of the street (one of many due to the garbage strike), and uttered a groaning gasp as I witnessed a small dog and one very different from the average street dog, desperately digging for any morsel of food.

 

She was missing ¾ of her fur and what was left was so filthy one could not be sure of the colour.  Her skin was rashed and wounded and it was obvious that she had had a litter of pups not too long ago.  The vast majority of street dogs are male due to the fact that females keep having litters when they are sick and malnourished and therefore die off more quickly.  I took this video of her.

 

The following day it was raining as I slogged my way to classes.  And there, in the same general area as the day before, stood this wee, soaking wet, shivering dog. Both days she looked at me with sad, helpless, confused, pleading brown eyes and my tears spilled.  She never left my heart or my head.

 

Later that day as I showered off the sweat (you still sweat even when it rains!), I had an epiphany.  I scare myself with those dang epiphanies!  The last one was when I said to myself, “I’d LOVE to go to Nepal and teach English to Buddhist monks!” This one said, “I HAVE to rescue that dog!”

 

And so the dye was cast.  I hardly slept that night what with worrying that I would not find her again.  I did not see her on the way to classes next day.  Coming back she was not in her usual area.  I began pleading really hard with the angels.  About a block later there she was!  I had already named her “Atma” and that was the first word the shot out of my mouth. 

 

Keeping one eye on her I ran to a shop and asked for a cardboard box and was emphatically turned down even when I explained in Pidgin English what I wanted it for.  Never daunted, I went next door and pleaded for a box.  This time I was rewarded by a kind hearted man.  I had brought food and placed it in the box as I sat on a step beside her and talked soothingly.  She let me stroke the top of her head with one finger as I watched a flea population the size of Kathmandu race over her bare body parts and thinly covered areas with what I now realized was white fur.

 

Now I’m thinking, if I try to pick her up and put her in the box she may bite me and the flea situation made me cringe.  There appeared Nepali angel.  A man of senior years managed to ask me, through sign language and unintelligible words, if I wanted the dog in the box.  When I finally understood and vigorously nodded my head he just picked her up and put her in the box!  Nothing to it.  Better him than me.  We closed the flaps and one would have thought we had captured the Tazmanian Devil!  We needed rope…fast!  He skittered off, came back with some plastic twine and with much grunting and dexterity we managed to finally tie the flaps in place and looked at each other with big grins.

 

By now we had quite an audience and I managed to make it known that I was going to take her to an animal hospital.  Someone hailed a taxi for me and with plenty of jabbering between bystanders and driver, he managed to understand where I wanted to go.  We struck a deal on the cab fare and off we went. 

 

This animal hospital could only give me prescriptions for what she needed and I was to take her home and administer them.  I’m looking at the flea colony and shaking my head adamantly.  Seems they had no facilities for keeping her there.  And by now she’s figured out the box flip lid equation and this little head keeps popping out with a body desperately wanting to follow.  I could only stop this by dumping a bundle of newspapers on top of the box and leaning on them.

 

I was given an address of another, this time ‘private’ clinic, and yet again a cab was hailed for me, I make a deal for the fare once more and we are off across the city for a second time. I wonder if the first clinic ever missed that new bundle of newspapers?

 

The potholes and broken pavement make for a rough ride with me desperately hanging on to a slipping newspaper pile. The appearance now and then of a frightened eyeball through a space between the flaps tells me I’m not too successful.

 

We arrive at the Animal Hospital & Research Centre of Kathmandu where I juggle a wiggling box and rapidly flying newspapers into the reception area and gratefully plunk down gasping with effort.  The popping head emerges once more from the box placed on the floor and the whole thing strikes me hysterically funny whereupon I simply have to video Atma’s Jack-in-the-box antics with her defiantly rumpled appearance, box, newspapers et al.

 

This time the exam by a vet trained in the Netherlands, shows that her skin problem and resultant lack of fur is a dermatitis produced by the fleas easily cleared up with medication.  When I tell him I am in a hotel, he orders a flea and tick bath to do away with that problem, she has two shots to prevent any flea return, do away with any worms, heal her skin and help with the need to scratch.  Spaying and vaccinations can be done ten days later if her health is good.

 

I’m given a ‘clean’ box which she vigorous fights and we end up in the cab going home as a team of thoroughly disheveled woman and triumphant dog, head free of the box.  We struck a deal, but she thought she had won.

 

Why the name ‘Atma’?  It is the Nepali word for spirit/heart/soul and she is all of that and more.

 

There will be much more on Atma because I am bringing her home, but know that I will be looking for a Canadian Forever Home for her.  I never, ever want to take the chance that she will end up on the streets of Nepal again.

 

I will be accepting applications, interviewing her prospective parents and inspecting her prospective homes!  Yah, I know she is not a human child, but after what she has been through I want a guarantee that she will have a of life of excessive spoiling and endless love.  I’ve had her for a week and she is a very special little spirit!

Signing off and Cherrio!

Lynn

  Our adventure to Pokhara is really two stories, one for the trip there and back and the second for the time spent there. Let’s start with the time there.

As I am still challenged by posting pictures to this blog, I am saving them up until I get back home and will then post lots all at once!  So we will have to be content with videos for now.  I’m so happy we got those up!

The change from Kathmandu to Pokhara is as if they aren’t even in the same country. Pokhara is lush, green, cleaner, wider streets (however, they still have pot holes which I am sure saves time and money in building speed bumps), and the local people seem more relaxed and happier.

 

Again, Ganesh was our guide and our group was made up of myself, Irish Peter and English Chris who traveled over by bus for the three day jaunt. The Aussies, Charmaine and Rachel who were on a tighter schedule, came by air for the second day and returned later that day to Kath.

 

Our first mission was to check into our hotel, the Traveler’s Guest House, where I had a welcoming committee! La Cock-a-Roacha foursome were performing while Senora Spider-mama, the size of Asia, kept time with all eight legs. Needless to say, I came back down all three flights of stairs at the speed of light stuttering, “S-s-s-s-s-p-p-pi-pi-d-d-er!!!” while making large circular motions with one arm and stuffing my eyeballs back in their sockets with the other.

 

 

 

Ganesh and a hotel employee came to the rescue with a can of spray and a taking apart of the bed: mattress, bedding and mattress board, to find them all in various hiding places. Thorough searching and many assurances later, I was told the place was ‘clean’. I couldn’t help but notice the one-inch gap under the door through which a platoon of spiders and roaches could march. Therefore I rolled up a welcome mat and stuffed it as tightly as possible against the offending ‘bug-door’.

 

Off we went to the Peace Pagoda before it got dark. Nepal has only two directions:

UP…and…DOWN! We taxied as far up as the road goes and then…yup, more perpendicular stairs, sweat, bursting lungs and a heartbeat to outrace Bobby Unser. I tell you, I’m coming home with Thunder Thighs!

 

 

The World Peace Pagoda was built by an English woman as a Buddhist monument to promoting its namesake. Without a word of a lie, we all felt an ‘energy’ about the place that was indeed peaceful and as we stood and looked down on the beauty of the lake, valley and city of Pokhara. One could just breathe the environment and feel more fulfilled.

 

Back in the hotel for the night, I glanced balefully at the door gap and went about finding anything I could use to stuff it full. That done there was nothing for it but to get into a bed that I first stripped searched and turn out the light. Within 5 minutes something brushed my arm and I let out a shriek and dove for the light. Hmmm, it was just the curtain moving in a slight, very refreshing breeze. Wishing I had duct tape for my mouth, finally slept.

 

Next morn, Ganesh picked up Char and Rach at the airport and the six of us went on a whirlwind of activity so they could see as much as possible in their few hours. First, the bat cave. Dang, couldn’t find the Batmobile or its driver, but did see one bat for sure and named it Robin. Those of you who know me well, also know that I am claustrophobic. I expect a huuuuge round of applause for I conquered that fear and went into that cave!! It helped that there were no tight spaces getting into the large cavern. We carried lamps but their beams did not reach very well to the ceiling, so many bats were figments of our imagination, I’m sure.

 

Next stop, Devi Falls, named thusly for a Swiss woman, who while swimming with her husband, was washed away by a flash flood some years back.

Incredible pictures are to come later of this strange phenomenaof the river when in flood and when almost dry.

 

At this time of year, the water is at it’s lowest just before Monsoon season and that allowed us to once again go underground into an area that is filled with water after the rains. Ganesh is so gracious with his clients. He carried my camera and my water bottle more than I did as I groped around in the semi-dark among the rocks, steps, water etc. to reach the centre. He sweetly calls me ‘mother’ or ‘mum’ and makes certain that I am safe at all times. He really earns his money while bargaining for taxi rates, etc. and without him we would be spending much more money!

 

Then we cab it again to the Mountaineering Museum. What a great place! And the most modern building I’ve so far seen in Nepal. They are very proud of their mountains and the history around them.

 

 

Now we drop the Aussie gals at the airport and the rest of us are free to do some serious shopping, wandering, lunching etc. until supper time.

 

 

Pokhara is hotter and more humid than Kath due to a lower altitude and more rainfall. That rainfall made our last day a bit disappointing in that we planned a climb (grrroan!) up to Sarangkot in order to see the Himalayas at sunrise. The clouds only rose enough that we could see just above the snow line so no spectacular pictures that morning. Again, we turned ourselves into optimists and found great value in the experience anyway. Peter and Chris had booked paragliding following the sunrise we didn’t see and that also had to be cancelled due to weather.

 

Instead, we took a boat and paddled out to a temple on an island in the lake. Very picturesque and photos look really good in a light rain. So did a group of about 25 men of the Nepali army on a physical training exercise in and out of the water!

Next blog I will entertain you with the ‘ride’ to and from Pokhara!! Never, never again!!

’till next time, Cherrio!  Lynn

N

As I begin my fourth week in the metropolis of Kathmandu, I am finding that fun can be everywhere. So here goes with some of my giggles.

 

1. Rating the spitting.  As I share my walk to and from the monastery with one or another of our volunteers, we give a rating of 1 to 10 (10 being masterful!) of the native hawking, snorking and resultant spitting. Reached as high as a 9 so far.

 

2. Bargaining. Normally this is something I have always hated to do when holidaying. However, there is no doubt that here in the Thamel District of Kathmandu (the popular tourist area) there is a two-tier pricing system.  One for the native Napali and one for pale skinned tourist targets.

The shopkeepers love it and I have taken to keeping it fun and teasing. Here is what works best for me…”I’m just a poor volunteer english teacher, here to teach the monks and I don’t have much money.”  Works every time and it’s true!  They give me their last price and I respond with MY last price and a deal is struck.

 

3.Getting a Massage. Just walking in to a spa (word used lightly) you can be seen immediately.  A young man at the front desk where I had my second massage led me into the massage area and told me where I could put my clothes etc. Not seeing any other staff around I asked him who was going to give me my massage. 

 “Me”, he replied. 

To myself I said, “No way are you  getting your hands on my bod” while aloud I made it clear, “Nope, I want a woman.”

“No worries, very professional”, was his response.

Eyeball to eyeball I stared at him and said one word, “Woman.”

He made a beeline for the phone and called a woman masseur to come in and she arrived within 10 minutes.

 

4. Walking in the Rain. Love the looks I get while walking to the monastery in my rain gear which consists of neon orange rain boots (purchased at home for $5), a pearlized pink rain poncho and a multi-coloured umbrella.  Oh yes, and I also sing along to my iPod.  Hmm, maybe that’s what caused the stares.

 

5. Seeing how many smiles I can get. The Nepali tend to look down or away as you approach on the street.  I look directly at them and if they glance my way I give a great big smile and a cheery “Namaste!”. 

You should see their faces change!  Suddenly there are creases of smiles, toothy grins, sparkling eyes and a returned “Namaste”.  Sometimes I smile and nod and I will get the same back. 

 

6.Welcoming Monkeys to School. Check out video.

 

7. Climbing.  Last Saturday, two Aussie volunteers Charmaine and Rachel along with myself and guide Ganesh climbed to Jamicho, a temple (Jamicho) on the top of a mountain in the Naranjan Forestry Reserve.

We climbed 3000 feet within 3 hours and 45 minutes.  So steep that steps were carved out of the earth for much of the way.  Lots of dead leaves to make footing slippery.  I bought a back pack to haul my water and lunch in and found it caused my centre of gravity to be more than slightly off kilter, and the dang thing was heavy!

To this moment I don’t know from where I found the moxy to keep on going to the top.  I was definitely “Lag Along Lynn”. Mind you, Char aND Rach are in their 20’s and Ganesh can lope up the mountains like a goat.

How can one little person sweat out so much water!  My hair looked like I had just stepped out of the shower and rivulets of salty excretions ran into my stinging eyes constantly. But hey, it was only 1 1/2 hours getting down and I only fell twice! I drank at least 3 lt of water but had no need for the loo until back home!

So worth the view from the top!  The entire Kathmandu valley spread out before us. 

 

It was the following day that my second massage was crucially necessary.  I started with a very stong desire to descend the hotel stairs on my butt, then shuffled, groaned and agonized my way to the spa. Upon seeing a flight of stairs that needed negotiating at the spa,it was only by Herculean mental effort that I forced my screaming leg muscles to function for one more time.

 

8.  A Day at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre. Irish Peter and I registered for this whole day experience which started with a yoga practice that left me needing a nap and it was only 9 AM!  A combination of aerobics and yoga at a pace reserved for race horses.

A wonderful vegetarian breakfast was then served in the garden after which we gathered for a 2 hour fascinating talk with a senior monk who took us through some of the basics of Buddhism.

Another fabulous meal for lunch again in the garden.  A DVD was next, then tea break and another Monkly presentation. Tea again and an hour of meditation instruction and practice.  The day ended at 6PM.

 

9. Teaching Monks.  Let it be known, that 6 to 10 year old boys are rambunctious, noisy, punch each other, yell, run, ignore you and otherwise truly test their teachers whether they wear monk’s robes or not.  Love them? Yes. Do they have angel faces? Yes. Control 20 of them in a class for an hour? No.

But a-ha! I am older, wiser and trickier.  I divide them into 3 groups.  One group gets a pile of crayons, felt markers and colouring books. The other group gets a fascinating picture book to explore and the final group gets  a stack of Scrabble tiles and me.  We read a simple story and have one monklette at a time spell new words with the tiles as they learn what it means.  After 15 minutes (the extent of their attention spans) we change groups and then change again one more time before the class is over and we form our ‘goodbye circle’.

Just wait until I bring them “Shreck” on my computer to watch tomorrow! Dollars to donuts their attention span magically expands to the whole hour!  We will have to watch  it over 2 classes and I’ll bet all will be in position and quiet for the start of the second installment.

  

10. Garbage Strikes.  I suppose this doesn’t really qualify as ‘funny’, but when you think of it, the fact that at least 6 different factions have to agree on a solution, it could be verrrry long.  In the meantime, one comes across heaps of garbage piled in various areas providing food for dogs, rats, flies and the resultant stink just adds to the soup of olfactory assaults.

 

11. Beggars Tactics. Soft-hearted foreigners beware.  I’ve already told you about the street kids begging for food money which they use to buy glue to sniff.  Next we have mothers with babes in arms beseeching you for milk.  You should have seen the look on one tourist’s face when she bought milk powder in the store for one such mother and a few seconds later the mother sold it back to the store for money!  No doubt the stores are in kahoots and make their bit of profit too.

One will undoubtedly come across some men who have obvious deformities with their feet or legs and they crawl about the sidewalks in tourist sections begging.  It can be very heart tugging until you ask yourself how does he get to this spot every day?  There are no living quarters.  Then you see one riding in a rickshaw on the way to his ‘sidewalk job’.

Then their is the young person who will walk beside you and ask “Hello Madam, where are you from?” Early in the game I made the mistake of responding and he immediately said “Ottawa is your capital city”.  I was a bit taken aback and he followed with “Ask me any country and I can tell you the capital city”.  Many of my fellow volunteers got caught with this same young man and he actually can tell you correctly.  No one could stump him!  Then, of course, he asks you for money for his ‘performance’.

I must say, beggars, shopkeepers, taxi and rickshaw drivers, etc. are all very polite in their approaches.  It is always with a “Hello madam, excuse me madam, do you remember me madam” as a preface. One day instead of ‘madam’ I got ‘Mother’.  I must have been having an ‘old-looking’ day!

 

 

12. Pilgrims Read ‘n Feed. My favorite store!  Two floors of books, Nepali treasures and a veggie restaurant. I keep buying things for my monk students in the way of books, etc. because they have so little.

 

 

13. Shreck for the Monklettes. The delighted, fully focused and absorbed faces were a treat to see when I played the movie ‘Shreck’ for my younger class!

 

 

14. Electricity. We volunteers could make some good gambling money if we started a daily pool for the time(s) the electricity goes off. I’ve had many a cold-water shower in the dark. And I really couldn’t care less anymore.

 

 

15. Riding a Rickshaw. A bumpy ride of course, but the rickshaw owner pulls his ‘carriage’ with his bicycle and the rider gets a bit of a breeze and a good looksee at passing interests.  Great in the rain and very inexpensive.

 

 

16. Nasal treats. My highly assaulted smelling capacity became aware of a slight, strange wafting playing around the edges of my nostrils during the walk to the monastery one morning. A memory of ‘pleasant’ awakened when the fragrance intensified. Then a brain memory cell flashed the word ‘JASMINE’ in flashing neon lights!  Yes, from somewhere the phenomenal scent of jasmine traced by on a wayward breeze. Heaven!

 

 

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Cheerio!

Lynn

Breakout the popcorn and settle in for entertainment!  Remember, this post was written, but not posted prior to the recent published post so they are kind of backwards as to the dates of their occurrence.  Enjoy!! 
 
 
 
It’s time to venture out.  Our coordinator, Chris, takes us for a lesson on how to maneuver the streets of the Thamel district of Nepal and at the same time shows us some important locations we may need or want to use during our stay.  Best thing he did was provide us with a street map as we were so confused and turned around within the first 10 minutes I felt like hanging on to his shirt tail so I didn’t lose him in the crowd.
 
First stop and foremost, the medical pharmacy that doubles as a doctor and medicine dispensary.  Simply sling your cut foot on the counter, he takes a look, treats it and gives medicine if needed and you are on your way. They are very good at treating and recognizing the various intestinal problems us foreigners are prone to get.  Listen to Chris on this video giving our new group of volunteers the “It’s not whether, but when you will fall prey” lecture.  (I finally figured out how to post videos!)
 
Next video is Thamel Chowk (pronounced ‘choke’) and very aptly named.  These chowks are intersections wherein as many as 6 streets can come together. No traffic control and remember ALL traffic, wheeled or on foot, fights for a few inches of progress at a time.  This one is not too bad at the moment, but I have seen them come to a complete gridlock wherein nothing moves, no one will give in and the only movement there is, is a flurry of fists hitting horns. Madness.
 
 
The following day Chris takes new volunteers to their placements for teaching.  It appears ‘Boston’ Michael and I will teach in the Bouddha district and we travel there by cab and walk a fair distance thereafter.  Part of that walk is on this video:

 

 
My Monastery is up first.  There has been a change of boss monk and things are very vague as to when I am to start or if I am to start. Seems the person we were to talk with is not there even though he said he would be during a phone call that morning. Very common in Nepal. Appointment? Maybe, maybe not.  We leave that hang and go on to Michael’s monastery.  Again person to talk to is not there.  Home again, home again jiggity jog.
 
After seeing the local public transit (and I use that word veryloosely), I immediately panic when Chris tells me this is the means I will use to get to and from the monastery.  There isn’t room for a shadow on this dilapidated tin can on worn wheels and I am claustrophobic!!  Result?  Chris has now decided to see if he can get me a placement in the Swayambhu area which is walkable and next day he takes me and ‘Irish’ Peter on this ‘walkable’ saunter. Gawd help me.  It feels like 7 to 10 km but I learn later it is only 5, mostly uphill.
 
 
Along the way is this daunting staircase. 55 (count ’em) stairs almost perpendicular to the street. The lure is a breeze and a beautiful Jacaranda tree at the top.  First day I needed 2 rest stops, second day 1 rest stop and third day I made it all the way to the top!  Mind you I have bandaids on 6 blisters not to mention the sprained toe done on the first day in class when I smashed it into a chair leg. No shoes worn in class. Still having a challenge with posting pics but will show you the one of the stairs when I fix this.
 
Walking in Kathmandu.  One must keep looking down for potholes and unmentionables on the street and, one must keep looking ahead, sideways and behind all at the same time or risk being walked over, body checked and at least losing a limb to some form of motorized smog belcher. Then we must also be looking for landmarks to stay on course. I tell you, if I manage to keep both ankles intact I’ll be celebrating. 

 

Final upshot, I will buddy teach two classes with Peter while Tamsin Lama tries to find me a placement.  Swayambhu area has many monasteries.

 

The next day we are on our own.  News flash…both Peter and I are direction challenged. More than once we pass the same landmark twice and cross the disgusting river (doubles as a landfill), but we handle it with fits of hysterical laughter.  What else can you do when it is 35 C and the humidity has you wishing you could buy clothes made of absorbent diaper fabric?  I drink 3 to 4 lts of bottled water per day with little urgency for the loo.

 

More about the bridge over which we must travel to and from class.  I can’t even describe this river, so you must wait for the picture.  As you look at it, imagine limburger cheese, sweaty feet, rotting carcasses, an overfilled outhouse and any other unearthly stink you can think of and mix it all together.  It’s too far to hold my breath so the next best thing is to cover my mouth and nose with a tissue and mouth-breathe. Even the locals are covering faces.  I am told that after a month of monsoon it runs clear, clean and much higher.  Where everything goes I don’t know and do I even want to?

 

What makes all this worthwhile??? Take a look at Peter and me in the classroom. Monklettes sit on the floor so teacher finds her or himself on the floor much of the time as well. So eager to learn, so attentive, so appreciative. We just love these kids!

 

 

On the second day Tamsin Lama invites Peter and I to join in the Puja (pronounced Pooshuh), a ceremony in the Buddhist temple.  Awesome!  No headgear for women necessary.  We are shown how to do the obeisance (three positions of the prayer held hands, then kneel and place forehead on the floor – do this three times).  Now we sit on the floor against the wall during chanting, bells, horns, drums, tea drinking and walking around the temple altar holding incense.  We can take pictures or video without flash, so enjoy!

 

 

Within a week Tamsin Lama tells me I can teach a class in the same monastery.  The class is Little Ones and I start right now!  I am transported immediately from the familiarity of our buddy class to another room to be greeted by 5 to 10-year-old’s and I have no idea what to do with them, I’m not prepared.  Then I see their big brown eyes and expectant grins and I immediately drop onto the floor with them and we have a great time for the next hour.  No doubt….I’m in love!

 

Here is one of my earliest joys…Little Shessy lives on the top floor of the hotel with a family who are part of the staff.  A cross between a polar bear cub and a teddy bear this wee one covers me with puppy kisses and I suddenly my world is upright again.

 

 

 

It gets even better!  More next time. 

 

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Cheerio!

Teacher Lynn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing is certain about life…much as we plan, there is always something around the corner that could knock your plans askew.  Such as this…..I simply cannot solve the problem of not being able to get my videos and pictures onto this blog!!! GGrrrr!

 

 

I have a blog entry all typed and ready to go.  All that was left was to upload the pics and videos.  No go.  SO, that being said, I am going to continue to work on that and in the meantime I can at least send you more news and your vivid imaginations can visualize to the max.

 

 I’m up to my eyebrows in monklettes!  I have two classes in the mornings after I have sweated and puffed my way uphill for most of 5K to the monastery lugging my school books and feeling like a pack mule.  On arrival I am soaking wet and my face is the colour of a profoundly embarassed tomato from the heat and exertion. I’m celebrating today (just starting my third week in Nepal) because I actually had my very first bandaid-less day for my feet!

 

Irish Peter and I teach at the same monastery (Sangye Goling Gompa) at the same times.  I start out earlier than peter because I like to stroll while Peter strides.  He is tall and lanky (built like my son, Dan and younger than him).  We walk back to the hotel together and discuss our classes, what worked, what didn’t and what was hilariously funny that day.

 

The monklettes all have colds and barking coughs (change of season from dry to wet) so Irish Peter and Boston Mike both got colds.  I haven’t and the only reason I can give is that I use a hand sanitizer at least 6 to 10 times during every class and keep my hands off my face. 

 

 My first class is 6 to 9 year olds.  Soooo cute in their little monk robes. They see me coming and hoop and holler “Good morning, namaste” and run into the classroom, set up my chair and tiny table, turn on the ceiling fan (bless them!) and sit cross-legged on the floor in anticipation. Anywhere from 16 to 26 can be in the class.  Completely uncontrollable!  When finished an exercise in their scribblers, they yell ‘finished!’ and swarm me trying to get their book into my hands first to get the much coveted drawing of a star from teacher. All the while hollering ‘Lynn, Lynn, Lynn!’ until I take their book.

 

 

After that class and two aspirin, I make my way to an older class of 15, 16, 17 year olds and the change is like rain to sun.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the wee ones. Again, someone runs and gets the board eraser wet, cleans off the board, another dries it and we are off. This class is ready for very basic grammar and is anywhere from 12 to 30+ on any given day.

 

 

There is one thing that makes teaching monks a bit different.  They learn all their Buddhist teachings and prayers by repetition memorization.  Thinking for themselves is a foreign concept and sometimes feels like giving birth, just to get a conceptualized answer or response! But we are getting there what with my antics, funny faces and cajoling. They are a great group too.

 

School aside, I think I’ll share with you some of the things I would never get used to if I lived here until I am a hundred.

 

1. Spitting.  Everyone spits on the streets! It is considered very normal.  In fact, if they see a foreigner blowing into a tissue they are repulsed by it!  Picture this….a very lovely woman dressed in  a beautiful sari is walking toward you and you are full of admiration.  Then you begin to hear a sound akin to an old junker trying to rev it’s worn out motor.  You look around wondering what this noise is and where it is emanating from.  As she comes closer you realize this lovely woman is the source and you think she must be in distress until she finishes with a drawn out ‘haawwk’ and promptly deposits half a lung at your feet.  Thus the local warning to newby’s “Watch out for the oysters on the streets”.

 

2. Flying water.  As you dodge traffic and other pedestrians, watch for oysters, doggie do, etc., be ready for a bucket of dirty water to be flung out a shop doorway into the street.

 

3.  Street children. Due greatly to the political mess in Nepal, many young children (boys) come into Kathmandu to be safe from being kidnapped by the Maoist soldiers in their villages.  They find there is no way to make income and live on the streets.  They  become hooked as glue sniffers and beg for money. We must never give them any and if you give them anything else they will simply sell it for cash to buy glue.

 

You see these filthy children sleeping on the street on filthy old blankets and most times are cuddled with stray dogs.

 

4. And that brings me to the street dogs.  My first day walking to the monastery I arrived in tears.  Diseased and injured stray dogs are aplenty. Rabies is known in Nepal so we must not approach or touch them.  But as I look in their eyes I see such misery.  So I have taken not to looking in their eyes and simply give them love and blessings as I pass.

 

On the other hand there are many pet dogs I see on leashes and others with collars that show they belong to someone. They are as loved and well cared for as those in our western culture.  We have one in our hotel that belongs to a staff family which lives in the hotel.  Her name is Shessy, she looks like a cross between a tiny polar bear cub and a teddy bear.  A pure white fluff ball with bright eyes with whom I have fallen madly in love.  I can hardly wait until I can send you her picture.

 

5. Horn honking.  Constant, varied squawking.  Absolutely no traffic control in the way of signs or lights.  Honking is considered polite because they are letting you know that they are coming and if you don’t get out of the way be prepared to be road kill.  I am about to buy my own damn horn and blast people and vehicles out of MY way!

 

This past weekend, Irish Peter and I attended an all-day retreat at the Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Centre.  A quiet oasis just 5 minutes from our hotel, hidden away down a side street.  We did an hour of yoga, were served a wonderful breakfast in a quiet garden, listened to a venerable monk speak on Buddhism, were served a lovely lunch, watched a DVD, had a tea break, another talk by the monk, another tea break, then a meditation practice. A long, but wonderful day from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

 

This weekend I will finally get out of the city into the real Nepal.  Myself, Courtenay & Rachel (two Aussie volunteers who have just arrived) Irish Peter and our guide, Ganesh, are going on a day trek into a forest reserve and hike to the top of a ‘rise’ which will take about 3 1/2 hours and return (2 1/2 hours). The following weekend we are taking 3 days to go to Pokhara (a must-see I am told), 6 hours by native bus (ho  boy!). I will definitely visit the Peace Pagoda among many other things while there. I will tell you all about these excursions in a future blog.

 

I shall keep working on the visuals. Stay with me here!

 

Feel free to place comments by clicking the ‘about’ tab above.  I receive them in my email as well.

Cheerio!

Lynn

Last time I left you stranded at the Kathmandu airport with me. Let’s see how we made out.

 

Wheeling my baggage cart out of the airport I was immediately swarmed by ‘helpful’ taxi drivers.  I kept saying someone was meeting me but as time kept passing with no Chris, they once again offered ‘help’.  Actually one of them recognized the ‘i to i’ company name I kept saying and offered to phone Chris for me.

 

This was my introduction to the Nepalese mobile phone system.  Most of the conversation consisted of “Hello? Hello? Hello?” only to learn that we were unable to contact Chris. LSS (long story short) I got into a cab which had a slight resemblance to a vehicle, with a driver who insisted he knew where the Student Guest House was and brought his friend to ‘assist’ and off we went.

 

Two minutes into the journey and the words “Whose great idea was THIS?!” reverberated repeatedly in my brain. If you have any romantic notions of the city of Kathmandu nestled in the heart of the majestic Himalayas, I may ruin them for you…..momentarily.

 

Roads:  My head hit the roof of the taxi more than once as we made our way over broken, pot-holed pavement, dirt, rocks, gravel piles, pedestrians, motorcycles, bicycles, cars, buses and rickshaws. No sidewalks make the roads fair game for all.  The honking of horns, considered polite as it is a warning you are getting run into if you don’t move, is a constant cachaphony. Add to that the fact that the average width of a road is about two Smart cars wide.

 

 

 

 

I’m thinking we are driving all the way to Tibet and that I’m at the total mercy of this driver when he stopped dead in the middle of all this chaos, says ‘wait’ and disappears.  Five minutes later, during which I had panicked thoughts gerbil-wheeling in my mind, he reappeared with Chris! Somehow his wife had understood some words through the static of the mobile phone call and he went to the hotel to wait for me.  Suddenly I am a five year old who has lost mommy in the supermarket when she miraculously appears through a throng of people’s legs.  I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath for an hour until I saw him and exhaled!

 

Dust:  It is not chemical pollution that covers the city in a haze that climbs hundreds of feet into the air, its dust.  Most roads are not paved within the city and none outside the city.  Then there is the lack of rain for months.  Many people wear masks. I have yet to see a mountain through this haze!

 

 

 

 

I'll never complain about my electricity bill again!

I'll never complain about my electricity bill again!

 

 

 

 

Smells:  Is there a word to describe the mixed soup of every odor imaginable?  I’ll work on that one.

 

My Accommodation:  Up three flights of marble stairs Chris and I struggle with my luggage. Not much point in elevators in a country that has no electricity half of the time. I walk into a room that is best described by yourself as you watch the attached video. 

 

 

student-guest-house-nepal1

 

 

What you don’t see is my room key, a skeleton key from a couple of centuries ago.  In the ensuing days I learn that it will only work when I use my left hand (??), cross my eyes, bite my tongue and pray.  A last ditch solution is to either run down the three flights to get Suresh on the desk or holler for him down the stairs and ask for help. Either one works and I’ve taken to hollering. I realize I must never have to get into my room in a hurry for the bathroom!

 

I am warned that it takes 3 to 5 minutes for hot water to reach the third floor. Handy tip as I wanted nothing more than a shower. The bathroom IS the shower.  Everything gets cleaned…me and the sink and the toilet and the floor and the walls.  After which I grab my hair dryer and attempt to turn the knob from 110 to 220 volts…no dice.  Now what am I going to do?  I have brought a small screwdriver for another purpose and low and behold it is the right one and the right size to take my blow dryer apart, get the knob in the right place, put it back together again and find it works!  Aren’t you proud of me DB??

 

I try very hard to make it to dinner with some of the other i to i volunteers from Australia, Switzerland, Boston, England and Ireland, but by 4 PM I collapse into bed and sleep for 15 hours.

 

chef-depaak_1_1

 

The next morning the world begins to become upright again, my balance is restored and with it my good old optimism.  As with everything in life, we can make it hard or we can make it easy and it all begins with how we think.  My choice is made and suddenly everything looks different.  See just how different with my next post!

 

Monkey Family

 

Here’s a preview:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lynn

A View of Kathmandu

A View of Kathmandu

Kelowna to Calgary, Calgary to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Delhi, Delhi to Kathmandu.  I roughly figure 36 hours on the move.

 

But let me go back a couple of days. A few moments of panic occurred when a wayward nut set a goal to loosen a crown on one of my molars just 2 days before departure. The thought of a toothache in Kathmandu sent me frantically dialing my dentist and begging to the point of offering a kidney in order to be seen immediately.  Bless her kidney-loving heart, I was in the ‘chair’ next afternoon. Turns out the tooth fractured below the gum line and crown had to be removed. 

 

The good news is because I had already had a root canal in said tooth, it could remain as is until my return when it will have to be extracted and a bridge installed.  Much as I am grateful to my Canadian dentist, the difference between her cost ($3,500) and my Mexican dentist ($500), my business will go well south of the border next winter when we migrate to Yuma.

 

Back to flying.  Great start from Kelowna as I sat on the airport floor removing one suitcase out of the other and split the contents between the two all in full view of fellow travelers.  Seems my smart idea caused an overweight problem in the baggage rules.  I tried to explain that I weighed much less than the average passenger which made up for the overage of my suitcase-inside-suitcase brainwave, but the unsmiling face had no sense of humor.

 

On to the second lap.  The Air Canada aircraft was a new model.  A TV screen in front of each passenger allowed us to choose our own movies, TV shows, audio, etc.  Watched three movies, “The Reader”, “Hotel for Dogs”, “Taken”. Honest, I did try to cat nap but was not successful thus the marathon of movies. I’d have given my other kidney for one of those sleeping pods in the first class area!

 

 No problems getting around the Frankfurt airport to the Lufthansa departure gates except for the security screening wherein they had a more than particular interest in my travel digital clock which necessitated me being taken to a private area where they examined it further, decided it wasn’t a leftover mine from WW2 and sent me on my way.

 

Third lap. What was good about Lufthansa? Let’s see….I know, stainless steel cutlery, no snapping plastic forks. Not so good was the fact that I was now spoiled and did not have my own TV.  The passenger list was mostly of Indian ethnicity, understandable as we were on our way to Delhi.  Is it just Indian children or was I plain lucky?  One wee 2 year old darling had the face of an angel and the scream of train wheels executing an emergency braking on the tracks and he was obviously in love with his own voice. For six hours! Seems he was not the only one as we were eventually serenaded by a Delhi Boy’s Choir at full volume near the end of the flight. In spite of this I did manage some catnapping mainly because I had earplugs and had already seen the movie.

 

Now I’m losing track of time.  The meal, when served, could have been breakfast, lunch or dinner for all I knew, but with all the racket going on I ordered a gin and tonic anyway.  Here’s the difference between an Air Canada G&T and a Lufthansa G&T. No cute little miniature bottle on Luft.  It’s premixed and served with the remaining tonic in the can. Said can was Liliputian in size.  First sip and my tongue went into paralysis while fire exited my nostrils. Definitely no skimping on the gin!  No wonder I finally got some shuteye.

 

But back to that meal…Chicken Teriyaki and rice.  A sauce over the rice resembled the colour of urine and contained what appeared to be corn and coconut (aghhh!).  Don’t eat the yellow sauce!  Nice chunk of Camembert cheese on the side though.

 

Arrived Delhi at 2:00 am local time and it was still 34 degrees C. Here is where I have to collect my luggage and make my way to departures and Jet Airlines to check it in.  First, due to Swine flu we have to go through a ‘medical´ clearance. Everyone mobs this poor little guy in his scrubs and masque who is handing out the forms.  Answer the questions on said form, line up at a counter, someone stamps it and it’s on we go. 

 

Having reached the Jet Airlines counter it is now about 2:30 am and I am greatly looking forward to dropping off the two checked suitcases but find the counter is closed.  Dilemma #1: I’m alone¸ I have a baggage cart that won’t fit through the doorway of the washroom and can’t leave it unattended. Dilemma #2:  I am hot and dying of thirst and have no Indian rupees with which to buy water.  I sit, I wait, I wander dragging my cart around like a bag lady.  I find a money changing booth and am able to get my water.  Oh, did I mention the Indian soldiers walking around with their nasty looking guns?

 

The Jet counter finally opens up at 5:30 am. In line I strike up a conversation with a couple of other Canadians going to Nepal to volunteer at a medical clinic and an Aussie doctor living in the Philippines. The four of us pass the time while inching our way to the counter.  I place my two suitcases on the baggage weigh-in and am told I am only allowed one piece of baggage. I now picture myself sitting on the Delhi airport floor putting one suitcase inside the other and repacking once again.  However after a discussion including the words ‘thirty hours’, ‘volunteer’, ‘six weeks’ and a third kidney if I had one, the agent accepted my two bags.

 

Flight is delayed an hour and I have time to do a wash up and a change of clothes in the bathroom at last.  Wander to a coffee counter, a Starbucks knockoff, and figuring I now have to stay awake, order a coffee and confidently hand over my Indian rupees.  Seems they do not have change for that particular denomination and they give me my coffee free! Now why couldn’t the ticket agent be that nice?  Security…again.  The ladies walk through a separate security archway from the men and are then escorted to a screened off area where a female agent gets rather too acquainted with my body parts as she uses her beep wand and her hands to frisk me. All because my watch set off the alarm.  Then another agent removes everything from my carry-on and minutely examines them for 5 minutes.

 

Arrive in Nepal during a torrential rainstorm.  The first rain in 7 months. Again a Medical check-in, complete an entrance form if you can find one in English and complete a Nepalese Visa form.  Line up at the money exchange, line up at the Visa counter to pay for your Visa ($100 US).  Then line up at the Visa inspection and acceptance counter.  Note you pay for your Visa before you know if you are accepted or rejected!  My turn and I cannot find my passport picture for the Visa.  By this time I am starting to really feel the jet lag and just put my head on the counter while they figure out what to do. I’m the last passenger and alone at the counter.  Eventually they give me the go sign and I find the baggage pickup, grab a cart and race out to find my Coordinator who is picking me up.  He has gone thinking I had somehow missed the flight.

 

Picture this:  Little ol’ me stranded at the airport in Nepal hanging onto all my worldly goods, jet lagged and abandoned.  Stay tuned for the next installment!  I promise pictures next time.