Former barista checks in from Kathmandu

Namaste to all...

Ciel in NepalAs i'm writing today there is a very determined sentry line of lilluputian black ants plodding along single file (at a very respectable pace) right above the ledge where my feet are resting, appearing completely oblivious to my intrusion into their little missionistic day. It borders on being beautiful as to how they've charted an alternative route for their mass of bodies in unison around the contour of my big toe and down the other side, and even more so for the fact that no aggression resulted from my thoughtless foot placement- merely just general acceptance and an unhestitating compromise. Not to say that I haven't had run-ins with the insects here as in Thailand ( I don't think you'd believe the size of the spiders i've found in my room even if i tried to explain them), but there's something about Nepal that seems completely incensed with a kind of gentle, accepting nature, from it's physical environment to it's people...and all the way down to it's ants. I'm amazed on a daily basis.

The end of my travels in thailand ( part one, anyways) brought no more accidents or illnesses, and save for a few pertinacious scabs on my feet you'd almost never know it had all happened. Parting with the group of travellers I'd been with for a week was very sad, though hopefully one with all the vagrants you meet...i hope that they'll either come my way or i'll end up towards theirs. I managed to trade in three brits, two auzzies and two irish for two more brits, two canadians and a kiwi between now and then. Not bad, i thought- though i do enjoy the company of the irish. The journey from Bangkok to Kathmandu will surely go down as two of the most memorable plane rides i've ever had the displeasure of taking....two rides due to the exciting night-long stopover at a four star hotel in Daka, Bangladesh. (And that would be four stars out of....20?).
The plane was over 6 hours late to begin with, and upon final arrival we ended up standing for hours on end while a series of airport officials looked back and forth at each other apparently trying to find out why in gods name there were 14 foreigners with massive backpacks standing on their airport 3 in the morning.

(Well no, we don't want us to be here either...but you're gonna have to do something about it...)

Arrived at this marvelous hotel at around 4 and were packed in three to a room ( me+ half asleep mexican+sleeptalking austrian= best sleep ever), and had just settled into bed, around five now, when someone began pounding on the door:


no, no really. you shouldn't have.

apparently the bangladesh people get up in the middle of the night to wash themselves. either that or they were quite concerned at the level of hygiene that was displayed by our group of ruffians. the service at this hotel was very much unlike anything i've ever experienced before, and how i DO look forward to the stay there on the way home.

Off again we went in the morning, and i had the (dis?) pleasure of sitting a few rows back from the general airline engineer on the way from daka to kathmandu, and he was taking great pleasure in explaining ( very loudly) the various models of plane used by Bangladesh Air. While cockroaches wandered about my legs and feet- that would be the first cockroach-infested plane i've ever been on.(what a great thing to check off your lifelist...)- the engineer proceeded to explain that the vehicle which we were in was the last of three that they had bought back in the 80's, the first one having crashed in 1992, and then the second in 2002, and so basically they were just waiting for this one to go. I'm not one to have a fear of flying, but i am really, really, really not looking forward to the flight back....yes, on the same plane. that would be assuming that it lasts that long.

Kathmandu was an incredible place to spend a few days- the number and diversity of temples in these cities blows my mind, and chris and kirsty (two lovely brits met in daka) and i spent the first while wandering about checking out as much as we could on foot, and then spent an entire day doing the 40 km loop around the valley on mountain bikes. The only major downfall to riding bikes in the kathmandu valley, aside from having to maneuver your way around water buffalo here and there, is that the pollution is so dense when you get halfway up any of the surrounding hills that it becomes nearly impossible to breathe.

You can literally see little pieces of particulate matter streaming into your mouth with every breath in, and so by the time you get to the top you might have well smoked an entire pack of cigarettes on the way. The view was staggering though, and a wonderful abatement to get away from the tiger-balm hawkers and incessant honking of the city below. We promptly boarded a bus out of there the next morning and headed north, and since then i've found myself staying in the beautiful town of Pokhara, right on the shores of Phewa Tal ( the second largest lake in nepal), and nestled beneath the slopes of the annapurnas.
Good view? um, could say that.
We've seen the sun rise from the peak of Sarangot mountain slowly making it's way down the cascade of peaks to the north...hiked to the peace pagoda erected by the japanese government to encourage support for nepal's maoist insurgencence ceasefire...paddled a ( not entirely sea-worthy) rowboat to the rice paddies adorning the hills opposite pokhara and nearly got caught in one of the most fantastic storms i've ever had the pleasure of seeing...and spent much time enjoying the plethora of rock cover bands that nepal has to offer. Aside from having difficulties pronouncing the 'th' and 'st' consonant sounds in the lyrics, at times they give the rolling stones a run for their money.

You haven't lived until you've heard someone sing 'I can't get no...tat-us-fact-uhn...."

I've managed to find myself quite a wonderful situation with the people that i'm staying with, as I ended up being their first customer, and since the guesthouse is completely full now after only being open a week they've decided that i'm 'good luck' (ya that's right...i'll be charging 5 bucks for belly rubs when i get home..) i'm allowed to stay there and pay 'what i like'. They're also got me doing all the brochures and english type-ups necessary to get the place going, so on both ends it's been a fantastic deal.

I enjoyed a lovely dish of palak paneer a few days ago (like cooked cottage cheese with curry sauce and spinach) and have ended up with severely violent food poisoning for the last couple days and so have postponed my trek a couple days in order to recouperate, though I'm feeling much better today and have just purchased the last of the gear that i'll need.
I should be gone for around three weeks, depending on how many little side jaunts i decide to take, and will be returning to pokhara for a while when i get back. The volunteer work is endless here and have been flipping back and forth as to my options when i get back. Ended up meeting the tibetan national soccer team at Tashiling Refugee camp last week while we were biking around, and they were quite adamant that i should come out and teach english there, though i would also like to head to chitwan national park and work on a construction site for the new school that's being built. Time seems to be both flying and staying at a standstill, if that is remotely possible.

The days are full and yet nothing seems rushed or painfully hurried here- a reflection of the nepalese way of life i guess. I've had afternoons of playing cricket with the kids down the street that seem like ages...and then days coasting down the mountains that fly by like nothing i've ever known. My travelling friends have continued on their paths (including a wonderful fellow-victorian that I met here and had actually met at home years ago- funny how small the world becomes...) so I'll be heading out alone on the trek, but everyone is wandering here....thus they're quite ready to allow you to wander in their company. You never end up being alone for very long.

Sorry for the length of this story - two weeks of normal life would fit in a paragraph or two but i could write a book on the occurences of merely a week here. pretty freakin fantastic. much love to all of you, and again should you want postcards ( cause i looooove to write 'em) please send your address and i'll be sure to mail one along.

Ciel P. was once a famous barista at a local cafe. Now she travels the World helping others.