Phayo, Franche-Compte, Elounda, Jum

Naturally Nepal

Overwhelmed by Kathmandu’s gritty chaos, I look back over my shoulder for M. I follow his gaze and catch just a fleeting glimpse of who he is smiling at- a hunched little man wedged into a decrepit wheelchair. The man’s body is twisted and frail, but his face is glowing with pure joy, as he’s propelled faster and precariously faster, down a miraculously empty street, leading the avalanche of bleating motorcycles and fume-belching micro-buses in his wake. This is one of those moments when I want time to stop, so I can hold on to a scene, turn toward a smile,  ask a story- keep the light….

Thank you Nepal, for all the unforgettable memories, for new friends, and good times…. You delighted and frustrated us- confounded and humbled us.
We didn’t know that the paths to your Nirvana would be paved with flats
Nirvana with obstacles

or laid out in endless stairs. We froze and steamed here and learned to take the weather- Jumla 4° C – Nepal Ganj 42° C- in our stride. As we did the blood on your temples’ paths, once we realized that the red blotches we stepped around weren’t betel juice….
Nirvana with obstacles

We learned that loadshedding doesn’t mean respite from the unbelievable burdens your people carry uncomplainingly low and high-
Heavy load

and even onto death. Yes, loadshedding is crassly misnamed; it really means long daily electricity cuts, which just make life that little bit harder for everyone. Like water. O wait, that should be- Like no water: Water every two weeks for two hours, water dribbling, occasionally, from a spout in the courtyard of your neighbors’ house, water pumped from a fountain, two kilometers from home
Water chore

Water they warned me not to brush my teeth with…. Spring water gushing from the Himalaya eternal, where art thou!?! We admire your peoples’ tenacity and humor in the face of countless hardships, Nepal. That so many say they want to leave you, even though they love you, is discouraging….

Frothy rivers, gigantic landscapes, sights to see, hired cars, that come with (ultimate luxury) handy, unfazable drivers
Mr Beam!

quiet villages strung along mountain ridges, more candlelight dinners than you might want, (candles doused subito of course, when electricity returns), flaming sunsets lingering on snowy peaks…. People
Cotton candy

People! (Not last the Tibetan communities
Tibet in Nepal

scattered round the country, who freely shared their colorful myths and memories with us). And the best and funniest lemon cheese cake baker this side of the Himalayas

Nepal gave us all this and much, much more. For our part, teaching digital media skills via the coveted, increasingly affordable 2nd hand smart phones became a rather sought-after contribution at Snow Hill Lodge, our temporary home in Pokhara
Going digital

I’m convinced that sharing pictures, videos and news can help alleviate isolation from spouses and children, a sad reality for many people here, where families are scattered across the country, and as far as the Middle East, to earn a (meager) living. For them, visits are a rare option at best. The numbers that N.- senior staff member at our guest house- gave me, are eye-opening. His wife and baby girl live in the country several hours bus ride away:
Rs 9000 rupi sallary ($90 month), my room charge por month 3000 buy food rice curry baby charge normally 5000 rupi, so I can not visit now. The “left over” 1000 Rupees/month are for- everything else….
N. doesn’t own a SIM card and communicates via free Wi-Fi at the guest house. His family also has access to free  Wi-Fi once in a while.

9000 Rupees are by no means an all-time low salary for Nepal. Workers’ wages at a clothing factory we visited in Kathmandu
Factory job

(featuring M’s star performance as Purchase Manager for Joike- but that’s another story) range between $60 and $120 a month. Others earn perhaps one dollar a day.

Of course we did our part to boost Nepal’s flagging economy: Treasures from the road- bringing ‘em home!

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