Our first day as a group started today at Bhodi Guesthouse in Kathmandu. After having breakfast, we received a language lesson from Tulsi. With basic questions like: Timi lai kasto cha? (How are you?), everyday life questions and answers, we got to learn a lot about the language including even the social structure of Nepal ( expl. Sayings between youngsters or formal sentence builing). Trying to use these new learned words we had lunch at Tibet Kitchen in Bouddha. Completing the group there, we had a beautiful view of the temple and the surroundings, where we got to ask some questions and got information about typical food and beverages. We got to know each other a bit better and travelled back to the guesthouse.
After a little break the most important part started, when we introduced ourselves to the whole group and got to know the organizers better. They confronted us with the information and real life examples of how life is here in nepal. Using local experience they answered all our concerns and hopes and walked us through the process of preparing us for the home stay in the village. After coping with all the new information we got ready to leave for Thamel by bus. Seeing very touristic and impressive roads we got to meet the very interesting owner of the restaurant, named Anil Chitrakar. He showed us what Nepal and its people are made of and how they identify themselves. Making examples like their eating habits as an important factor, the importance of agriculture and the monsoon and keeping traditions and festivals alive, helped us to understand the current situation in this diverse country. Trying to unify these different subcultures all aspects of Nepal (like politics, education, religion etc.) are faced with difficult tasks. After the Q&A session our delicious Daal-bhat made us strong for the ride home.
Since some of us have only arrived today we tried to keep the reflection session short and simple. A very positive and impressive day has passed and we are all looking forward to these next challenges of the tour. Also, it’s great to see that the group dynamics seem to be very harmonious…
On the second day of our trip we made experience with the engagement of the Nepalese civil society. We left the hotel in the morning to go to the Niti Foundation. Niti is the Nepalese word for policy. This institution explores Nepal from a democratic aspect. The two presenters showed us how the country found his path to democracy. At the example of a hydropower project they made us clear how different interests in the society complicate the decision-making process. Interests from the government, land-owners and companies have to be lead together on a platform. Here the Niti Foundation tries to help.
After lunch we really got into Nepalese political history. Sudeep Pokharel from the Democratic Ressource Center explained us the democratisation of Nepal. It was very interesting to hear how Nepal became an constitutional democracy after a long rivalisation between the parties.
The highlight of the day was the discussion with Sarita Pariyar, a Dalit-woman from the Samata-Foundation. They fight for the rights of Dalit-people. Sarita told us about the Dalit issue in Nepal. She is an inspiring woman who engaged us to our visit at the Dalit-community. Furthermore she explained the cast-system in Nepal and showed us how she fights against a culture of injustice which has grown over thousands of years.
We got up at 5.00 to get ready for the long bus journey to the Dalit community in Apshwara.
After a quick milk tea we left Kathmandu towards Pokhara. Time flew by rather quickly since we were playing all kinds of games in the bus. Alongside singing, the “potato game”, animal quizes and mingboggling Blackstories, the spectacular view did not fail to entertain. The 6-hour bus ride never got boring. After the bus had stopped, the 2-hour “easy hike” up to the village made everyone go up in sweat. Apart from preventing yourself from melting the omnipresence of handsized spiders was a considerable concern.
Once we finally made it to the village, we were warmly welcomed by the community. The ceremony involved loads of flowers, powdered colour and singing and dancing. After the official part the homestay lottery began and everyone got to blindfoldedly pick a family to stay with. The families then lead us to their homes where we would stay for the next two nights.
The youngest son, Samir, was entitled to be my guide, which he took very seriously. So I was pulled through half the village and softly forced to take pictures of everything, especially him and his friends. Back at the house the food was already prepared and I had dinner with the father. (Apparently, the rest of the family eats after father and guest.) After dinner, we sat together with a cup of Raksi and exchanged stories and told ech other about our families and occupations. Although communication was limited by language differences, we managed quite fine, only interrupted by the very loud insects making all kinds of buzzing noises in the trees around. At around ten, sleepyness took over and this long day came to an end in a comfortable bed.
This morning we did not wake up because of the ringing of the alarm clock, but because of the yell of the cock telling us that a new day has begun and it’s time to get up. Our hoste families are already busy. They got up much earlier than us and are now cooking dal bhat.
We enjoy the view and the nature while drinking thea. After a traditional breakfast with our families we start our day program in the village. Today we will learn some of the traditional skills of the dalit people. We learn how to play music, do iron work, bamboo crafting and how to make mud jewellery. Our teachers from the community take their time to show us what they produce and how. We also get to try the skills ourselves.
In the later afternoon we all meet with our families in front of one of the houses of the community. The members explain us how the dalit cooperative works and why it was founded. Before the dalits were dependent on the other villagers from the higher casts. For example if someone died, they would have to ask the other villagers for utensils and other things they needed for the ceremony after the funeral. Instead of getting help from the other villagers, the dalits often got dicriminated by them. The dalits wanted to do something against this dependence. They formed a cooperative. Every familiy pais 50 rupies per month. This money is then used to prevent the members of the cooperative with stuff they need, so they do not have to ask anyone for help anymore but can help themselves.
The cooperative gave the dalit community strength and united them. Every month the cooperative meets and decides what to do with the collected money. The next goal of the cooperative is to build a community house where they can meet.
After learning about the cooperative a cultural program starts. The community members sing and play music. Everyone is dancing, laughing and drinking. We from the IFIL group sing a Swiss song for the community and they show us how to dance in Nepali way. At home the party continues and some of the families meet and we dance and chat in the dark in front of the houses.
When we finally go to bed we all feel gratful for all the wonderful experiences we made today and we are looking forward to what awaits us next.
After saying farewell to our wonderful host families and a goodbye ceremony where we got so many beautiful flowers, we got ready to go to Tulsi’s organic farm near Pokhara. The journey was rather tricky. We first took a public bus that would bring us to a nearby village where another bus would pick us up. We had a lot of fun discovering the local way of taking a bus: sitting on the roof!
Before jumping on the second bus, we talked to Somrat and Bijay about how we’re feeling and about some possible improvements that could be done. After that we had lunch. The second bus arrived according to “Nepali time” 2 hours late, which made Somrat miss his bus to Kathmandu and us happy to have him with us for another day. However, the difficulties did not end there. When we arrived in Pokhara, two jeeps were waiting for us. Again, some of us got to sit on the roof. Everything went smoothly, until we had to stop because of all the traffic. Moreover, there was a road that had to be repaired to be crossed. Finally, we had to hike our way up to the farm in the dark with torches. When we finally arrived, the tiring day was almost forgotten when we were welcomed with spaghetti, music and a well deserved shower.
Even though not everyone in the group felt 100% comfortable staying in a tent, that day staying at Satha Organic Farm was one of the most relaxing ones and perfect for recharching our batteries. Especially after the very interesting but also challenging few days of our homestay in the Dalit community.
Our day started with an hour of yoga, which woke up even those staying up late dancing the previous night. The banana pancakes that were served for breakfast afterwards were simply amazing.With no official program that day, most of us chose to just sit around reading, talking or playing and to process our experiences of the trip so far. After lunch, we walked down to the river for a cool bath although the “swimming pool” had to be built first. After a cold shower, we were ready for dinner, a barbeque with a variety of vegetables, paneer and chicken.
We started our day bright and early with a delicious organic breakfast provided by the farm. Soon we started our anxiously anticipated trek.
We weren’t disappointed. The landscapes were absolutely breathtaking and the trail was easier than expected. Before we knew it, we had arrived in Dhampus welcomed by a heavy downpour. Luckily we found refuge under a roof and Lukas, the hero of the day, took it upon himself to save Chandru and Anja from the rain by running back with their raincoats.
Lunch, although accompanied by great musical entertainment, was a bit disappointing. But with great efforts from Bijay and Pabitra, everyone got their meal.
All of the struggle was forgotten, when we arrived at Australian Camp, where we were greeted by the tippy top of the Fish Tail (Machhapuchhre).
Our euphoria only increased when the fog lifted and the pure beauty of the Himalayas was revealed. A truly magical moment that none of us will ever forget.
After our night in the Australian Camp the day startet for many with a first wakeup at around 04:30 am. We had the hope to see the sunrise over Pokhara and to experience the Anapurna massiv in the glow of the rising sun. Unluckely it was raining and foggy, so we skipt the sunrise. After the breakfast the descend towards Pokhara startet. It was a very nice path with a wonderful view. The mountains peaked once in a while from behind the clouds and showed us their amazing hight and beauty. After 1.5 h we reached the main road and took from there the bus to Pokhara. This time we had a very nice bus. We checked into Hotel Venus and were free to do whatever we liked for the rest of the day. Some went paragliding, some shopping, some sightseeing and some rented scooters. Pokhara is a very nice city and quite touristic. There are nice shops, good restaurants and bars, a nice lakeside and the air is much cleaner than in Kathmandu! In the evening we all met at Godfather’s Pizza for dinner. And we got all our food in 20 min after the order! That was really something new! The rest of the evening we spend in the Busy Bee or the Bamboo Bar. It was a very nice day and perfect for relaxing and doing something else.
So today, breakfast was served from seven to eight o’clock. As usual, service took long. But hey, you get used to it! The program was to drive the whole day in the bus, six to seven hours from Pokhara back to Kathmandu. We were all very sad we had to leave this beautiful little city where we just spent one day. Our bus was very luxurious and everybody appreciated the comfort after the heavy days in the community and in the tent. The drive was very long, especially because we were stuck in traffic jams due to some accidents, but we are all tough guys and girls. We spent the time in the bus by listening to music, sleeping, playing games, talking and processing everything we experienced the last week. Especially the games gave us a hard laugh, for example truth or dare or quiet whisper. It was good to have something that distracted us from the bloodcurdling maneuvers of our bus driver…
Also, we still had our pin game going on. Chandru and Lukas were the guys with the pin yesterday and we decided to let them dance tango together after lunch, which was very amusing for everybody. Today, Marjam was the last person with the pin, so we still have to decide what she has to do tomorrow. After finally arriving savely in Kathmandu around six o’clock, we ate dinner at the hostel. They were really friendly and caring as usual here. Now, we are prepared for the last weekend in Nepal!
by Julia and Lukas
In the morning we took the bus to Soyembhunath which is better known as the Monkey Temple. Walking up the stairs to the temple was a little morning training. Up there we could enjoy a wonderful view over Kathmandu. At a tiny shop some of us experienced the Singing bowls. While visiting the historic site and its temples we were accompanied by countless monkeys. Although they were a bit naughty they were also entertaining and quite cute.
After visiting the temple we went for Lunch to Thamel and enjoyed some free time, which was used for souvenir shopping, coffee or just exploring Thamel further. The day continued with a stop at a authentic spice trader where we could get some spices. Finally, we visited the Pashupatinath area which is one of the most important holy places for Hindus and a UNESCO World Heritage. We were not allowed to enter the temple itself (only Hindus), but we could still observe many touching and for us probably foreign ceremonies of the Hindu culture. Some of us attended the prayer in the evening which was followed by thousands of believers. It was an impressive ceremony with candles, scents, ritual movements, music and dancing. We enjoyed the evening in the yard of the guesthouse after this intense but exciting day.
We met early in the morning to say good bye to our group members who had to leave for flying home. First of all we all revealed our secret friend. One by one had to wear an eye-mask finding out blindly their secret friend standing in front by just touching their hair and shoulders. It was real fun and we all had to laugh many times. A bit later in the morning we met once again and held the good bye session. Several points were mentioned, thought and comments joined and gifts exchanged. Everyone had a real good time even though there were challenging times, we all find ourselves in a dynamic group with different personalities having a great trip. See you all again!