In the Blink of an Eye
We are now approaching the last month of our stay in Kathmandu, and we wrote our last blog over 2 months ago. Where did the time go??? Looking back, we see that we have been enjoying the company of several good friends who visited us in Nepal, we stepped up our travel schedule, and, poof, time evaporated! Here's a few updates:
Everyday Life in the Kat
Seasons change faster here than in the US. Although we arrived to winter in early January, by the end of February, spring had arrived, and we dispensed with use of our gas heater. By early April, summer arrived, with daytime temperatures in the 80s and strong midday sun. Ben has perfected his vodka and tonics for cocktail hour on the rooftop. Karen now dons the traditional summer cotton kurta for school days or outings. Rains are infrequent, but when they do come, the streets clog up quickly with mud. And they can be fierce! Below is a "before" and "after" shot from an evening out with our friends Rick Polster and Jodie Collins, who visited us from Colorado. We were enjoying Sangria and a beautiful view of the Bodhnath stupa from a rooftop restaurant, when suddenly the rains opened up. Ben's holding a soggy french fry, almost the only thing left from our plates after the storm!
Another famous Hindu site in Kathmandu is Pashupathinath, on the banks of the Bagmati River where Hindus come to cremate their dead through a sacred ceremony. There are temples, funeral ghats for burning bodies along the river, people seeking blessings from Shiva, and holy men who surround the area and willingly pose for pictures in exchange for a few rupees. It was initially a strange experience to be viewing, and taking photos, during cremation rituals, but we have learned that death is a much more open, matter-of-fact experience in this culture. We have been told by Hindus that it is not a sad time but rather one of joy, as it means that one is passing to nirvana. Here are a few photos:
|Cremation in process, with ashes to be strewn in river below (although it is very dry at the moment)|
|Cremation of a revered person such as a sherpa or high official|
|Temples at Pashupathanath|
|Holy men posing for the camera|
Travel to Chitwan National Park
One of our favorite trips thus far was to Chitwan, a wildlife preserve reputed to be one of the best viewing areas for wildlife in Asia. This jungle is located in southern Nepal near the India border, where the terrain is flat and covered with forests, marshlands, and grasslands. During our stay, we saw one-horned rhinos, wild elephants, crocodiles, and many species of deer, monkeys, and birds. The closest we came to seeing a Bengal tiger, leopard, or sloth bear was their poop, which was abundant everywhere along the trails. Our guide Gopal was excellent and charming to boot, climbing high into the trees to scout out animals as shown on the right.
Off to India!
Although Nepal has more than enough to keep us busy, we made our first trip to India in early March for the South Central Asia Regional Fulbright Conference. Karen presented on the research she has been doing on parenting attitudes in Nepal, and we attended presentations on topics ranging from spirituality and mental health to supraglacial lake changes to mystical love. The conference took place in Chennai, a huge city in southern India on the Bay of Bengal. The hotel was so luxurious, the Fulbright meetings nonstop and of high quality, and the food so delicious after our many dal bat meals that we barely made it out of the hotel! Still, one afternoon, we took a tuk-tuk along with a few other Nepal Fulbrighters to the Bay of Bengal for a stroll. We also visited a Hindu temple, which is very different and much more colorful in style than the temples in Nepal.
I hesitate to report that we have only covered about half of our goings-on in the past several weeks. We will save the rest for another blog, including our recent, second trip to India. Stay tuned, and let us hear from you!
Namaste, Karen and Ben