Since returning to Kathmandu after our vacation in Nagarkot, Karin and I have been busy! The day after returning to the city we set off to get a local bus to the nearby medieval city of Bhaktapur. It is now a world heritage site and offers 8th, 12th and 15th century Newari temples by the dozens! Streets and squares paved in red brick, flanked by red brick or grey stone buildings with intricately carved wood windows, doors, and eves. Looking closely at some of the carvings can provide a vivid education in the erotic! Shops and markets abound for locals and tourists alike and there is little traffic so, while crowded with people, it’s much quieter and more pleasant to walk around than Kathmandu. We saw several parades one of which was a colourful masked dance parade to chase away demons. Always a good idea to rid the area of that type of character especially while providing a deliciously noisy spectacle! Getting to and from Bhaktapur was an adventure in itself because very few local busses were running due to the SAARC Summit. I’m not sure what the relationship between the two was – but there was an alarming dearth of busses. So as we were waiting with a growing crowd of other waiters, a woman with two enormous bags of shopping asked if we’d like to come in her taxi. Local rate, the equivalent of $5 for all of us. Well “yes” – and in we hopped. Smart woman, she just got herself a free ride home and we enjoyed the comparative comfort of a taxi. Why she picked us over the numerous other potentials is a mystery. The bus, if it ever came, would have been really really crowded. Turns out this woman sells jewelry in Bhaktapur so of course we later each bought a piece while she plied us with – you guessed it – tea! Our trip home was on a local bus. It cost us each the equivalent of 10 cents! Thankfully it wasn’t too crowded.
We have spent our last few days teaching. Karin has been enlightening classes 3, 4 and 5 while I’ve made more inroads with 8, 9 and 10. I also had “my” grade 7s who I’ve greatly enjoyed teaching over the past three years. These kids and I have a fabulous relationship and we seem to accomplish “great” things. It’s this class that has created books over the past two years. This year, inspired by the recent SAARC summit meetings, these kids decided to create their own school environmental summit. They have elected their chair people, treasurers, secretaries, and four projects committees (dust bins, trees and gardens, plastic reduction and education). Every child in the class is involved. I elicited funding from the school through some pretty serious arm twisting and am hopeful the kids will be able to follow through with their ideas. It is always so very satisfying to spend time with them as their enthusiasm is boundless. Classes 8, 9 and 10 offered some challenges and despite the short time frame I was able to make some headway with them as well. Well perhaps not too much with class 8 – they were a tough and pretty disinterested crowd. I started a journaling program with them all – I doubt any of the class 8 kids will continue but am quite sure there are some in the other two classes who are realizing the value and enjoying the process of writing about their thoughts, dreams, frustrations, successes etc. So while our time together was limited, I feel it was for the most part, worthwhile.
For me the hardest part of travelling in Nepal isn’t the cold nights in unheated buildings, it isn’t the less than stellar toilet facilities, the noise and general dysfunction of Kathmandu. It’s not the challenge of no drinking water from taps, the lack of hot water, it’s not even going for days with no warm shower. Nor is it the power cuts, which have been almost continuous since the summit ended. No, it is none of those things. It’s simply the act of saying good bye to this place and people I love. And that difficult time has arrived.
Yesterday evening Karin and I went to Thamel House for dinner. We sat at “my” table, our meal was delicious and our bill significantly discounted. We left with small but meaningful gifts – the wee dishes from which one drinks rice Roxy – and good wishes from the staff. Today was our last at school. As I’ve said, neither of us spent much time there this year due to various reasons, but the kids are oh so very hard to part with. I have more projects to complete with them, more dreams to explore, more lessons to share, but time was short and now it’s over. Saying good bye to Phulu and Nima was particularly painful. They are part of my extended family. And then there’s Tendi. My little brother who is also my protector and guide. I am his Didi (older sister). He came to the hotel this evening to say his good byes. Of course, as is the custom here, this included gifts and Khatas for Karin and me. Our leave taking – difficult – but made more bearable with promises of our next trek – one which will begin and end in Khamding – and include some off the tourist trekking routes and surprises. March 2016 seems a long time away but I’m already counting the months – 15. I’m very glad Karin is here as I’m feeling fairly bereft at the moment.
Tomorrow Karin and I will go to Boudhanath. We’ll walk clockwise around the stupa with all the pilgrims. We’ll likewise walk past all, and no doubt into most, of the surrounding shops with all the tourists. I think we both have bags too full already to add any more to either them or the gross national income of any more shop keepers! We’ll visit the temple then sip tea at a roof top restaurant. (Well OK we’ll probably guzzle a cold beer.) We’ll consider the sacred and the secular, and admire the synergy between them. Upon our return to Thamel, we’ll say good bye to our friends at the hotel – they are hosting a family dinner for us – before heading off to the horrendous airport. We’ll be saved from a bone jarring ride in the usual rickety old taxi because Binod (HikeNepal.com) is coming to take us there in a decent vehicle. And then we’ll fly home to join our neighbours and friends at a Christmas party. We’ll be glad to be home and will bask in the comforts and friendships. But always part of my heart, and likely Karin’s too, will remain right here in Nepal.
I’ll try to send a few pictures shortly.
Thank you for reading my blogs and sharing this journey with me. And thank you also for your comments which kept me connected with home. I needed that! See you all soon. Good night from Kathmandu on my dog barking, currently sleepless, last night in Nepal.