Today was simply fascinating! Very informative, exciting and beautiful. We started the day getting breakfast in our Hotel and soon afterward hit the road to get to our first meeting with the SAMANTA Foundation where we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Paradip Pariyar (Executive Chairperson) and Sarita Pariyar (founder and co-chairperson of the Darnal International Award for Social Justice Initiative DIAS). Their NGO is working on the the Social Inclusion and Issues of the Dalit and they gave us a unique insight into this complex problem. After introducing us to the castesystem and its implications, they also talked about their goals, projects and further steps in order to break this vicious circle of injustice done to the Dalits- the apperently Untouchables. It was great to see and feel their positive energy and their passion to make a change even though they also accepted the ugly truth (and the slow speed of the change) to some extent.
After this session we said Goodbye and drove to Bhaktapur. Arriving there, we were able to go to a local mans house – a construction tower which gave us an overview of the shocking image of the neighbourhood. This place was deeply affected by the earthquake in 2015 and still there are signs and evidence of the massive destruction everywhere. This surely left an impact on us…
Destruction meets creation – right after this we got the chance to watch a man doing traditional pottery. Watching him handicrafting pot after pot out of this clump of clay was like watching a magician – he created these pots with such great skill and ease. The son of the man then came with us as a local guide for the rest of the day in Bhaktapur and we continued walking through the little streets, passing heartwarming people and historic buildings. After eating lunch we went to a part of the city where the impact of the earthquake was not so obviously visible anymore and where the street and shops even showed themselves with a new particularly cleanness. In slow but good pace we completed the sightseeing of this cultural village leaving everyone full of impressions before we headed back to Lalitpur.
In Lalitpur we took a well deserved and needed coffee break and prepared to take in more information about Nepal through the information by an expert. What Anil Chitrakar managed on bringing across with his charismatic, professional and skilled way of talking surely did impress anyone in the room. His views, opinions and plans for the future are so promising, his knowledge so broad and his ability to connect the dots and to see the whole picture making him well deserved “one of the 100 Leaders of tomorrow.” He broke down the complicated and complex issues of the Nepali history, society, tradition and struggles in beautiful language and easily understandable metaphers.
Overwhelmed by information we enjoyed a very good dinner to top of this beautiful day filled with unique impressions and experiences, good company and new thoughts. In the end we might just get to say that all of this is so complex and a matter of perspecive and position that we come to the point of (fascinated) confusion – Oh well, at least that’s only one step to Enlightenment. 😉
After a sort of busy and long day, we started this day a little bit later with breakfast at the Bodhi Guest House. Afterwards, we left the hotel to meet Saroj Dhakal, who’s an economics teacher at the Ellen’s High School. The minute we entered the High School, we felt amazed and shocked at the same time, because all the teenagers were wearing typical western clothes and the inside of the building looked like a regular high school. Although it may have been pretty naive, we expected it to have more of a Nepali touch.
Saroj though us basic economics in a Nepali context that contained a lot of facts and figures about the mountain land. Most interestingly, although Nepal has one of the best demographies for a quick economic growth, one out of four Nepali goes to study or work abroad due to a lack of economic possibilities here. I hope Nepal will be able to encourage more young people to stay in Nepal in the Future by providing them more opportunities here rather than abroad.
After a delicious Nepali Daal Bhat for lunch, we drove to the Democracy Research Center, where Sudip Pokhariel gave us a great presentation about the past and current Nepali politics, before letting us asking questions. Personally, it helped me a lot to close some of the gaps I had from my so far understanding of Nepali politics and history.
After some individual free time in the afternoon, we closed the day in a cozy Tibetan restaurant over some delicious curry and momos. Overall, it was a day to learn a lot about the country, though still sufficiently relaxing in order to tackle the long journey to Pokhara tomorrow.
I was woken up by the sounds of birds and people’s voices in the early morning. My first glance of the new day out of the window above my bed revealed huge banana trees and other greenery and, in the background, the surrounding picturesque hills, which all together made it too beautiful to be real.
Outside, everyone seemed to have been up for hours – carrying water, making fire in the kitchen, walking up the hill with gigantic bundles of grass. I was served delicious parathas and ginger tea for breakfast and just about an hour later heavenly daal bhat. Around 10am we made our way up to another cluster of the village to enjoy so-called skill sessions where locals would show and teach us how they do things like mud jewellery, bamboo basketing, iron work or music on local instruments. we were warmly welcomed by everyone and divided into our groups. I was taking a session on bamboo work and was taught by an adorable elder man whose big hands were so impressively gentle and careful with the bamboo strips and whose face gleamed with complete contentment while doing his work. It was sort of meditative to sit on the porch with the view over hills and valleys and to watch him create beautiful baskets out of plain wooden strips.
In the early afternoon we said goodbye and walked down to the local school. It was a lovely walk with mango trees ligning our path. Unfortunately the school was closed since it was Saturday (weekly holiday in Nepal) but we had some drinks from the store nearby and just sat and looked out into the greenery (and sweated) before we then headed back home where we were awaited by tea and pastry.
We then sat down with representatives of the local Women’s Group, Youth Group and the Dalit Homestay Community and were informed about their goals and achievements, experiences and thoughts which was really interesting and furthermore lovely to see how much effort is put into these projects by the locals.
With my host brother I went to the football field a little up the hill to get some views over the beautiful valley in the evening light and walked around the village once again to imprint everything into my brain. Leaving the next day was painful to think about – it’s incredible how people take up so much space in your heart in so little time.
After dinner which consisted of yet another most delicious (!) daal bhat, we all gathered and had the chance to listen to very traditional story-telling songs sung by one of the village’s elderly women – she’s the only one around who still knows this kind of singing!
We also contributed by singing a Swiss song for which in my opinion the villagers cheered way more than we deserved 😉
We were then put into traditional Magar dresses, a speaker was plugged in and people started dancing to the blasting Nepali music. It was heartwarming to see everyone have such a good time without knowing each other for more than a day and without speaking the same language.
I had one last glance at the marvellous sky full of stars with the sounds of nature surrounding me and then finally fell into bed.
Sadely it’s already time to say Goodbye to our hostfamily and the rest of this beautiful and kind community. With flowers and blessings we went on our way to the jeep – which supposedly should take us o Pokhora. Due to overload our group soon had to split up and some of us got on the local bus while the others got to enjoy the entire room of the jeep for themselves. When the bumpy roads where over with we all got to ride in the truck again and with a stop to drink something and doing the review of the fabulous homestay we arrived in Pokora for lunch. Bijay took us to an old lady who is doing her popular lunch for decades and we got to the pleasure of her good food for such a fair price. We had to switch to another Jeep, which would make it through the last bit of even bumpier roads but through a simply breathtaking scenery. After riding the jeep for about 40min we had to climb a hill for the last 30 min and finally we arrived at this WONDERFUL place – Tulsis farm. We got a warm welcome from Tulsi and his crew, the tents were already set up for us, the fire place ready for usage and then there was just this incredible panoramic view. We spent the evening eating pasta, listening and making music, sitting by the fire, playing games, having good conversations and simply enjoying the good time. What a nice place to let the experiences of the homestay sit a little and being able to relax after so many new impressions. Just what we needed!
This morning started with a yoga class. So we placed our comfortable mattresses outside and enjoyed the beautiful view. We learned different breathing techniques and tried to meditate. Some of us were quite experienced. It was fun even though different from the usual yoga lessons we know. Afterwards a delicious breakfast was waiting for us. In the morning we could choose what to do and many found a nice place in the shade and enjoyed reading. Some of us were absorbed in a mathematical riddle. Because it continued raining we played a game called werewolves to pass the time. After some emotional discussions and accusations it stopped raining and we went to the river and enjoyed the cold fresh water. Some of us played soccer with the children of the village. In the evening we sat around the camp fire, playing games again and discussing. Everybody seemed to enjoy the camp experience. It was a lovely day despite the weather
5:30 – it’s early in the morning when I leave my room. We want to see the sunrise and the Anapurnarange. Slowly the others of the group fallow and after 20 minutes the group is completed. We are sitting on the benches of the little park of the Australian Camp and enjoy the morning vibes. In front of us we can see the mountains and behinde them the sun starts to klimb the sky. The atmosphere is amazing and it seems that this is one of the most beautiful sunrises I have experienced so far. After the breakfast it is time to leave this place. An one hour walk leads us to the street where a bus is waiting for us. The bus takes us to Pokara with a stopover at the a tebetian refugee camp. We were shown the monastery and the rest of the camp by a young women who was born in the camp. Accompanied by explenations and answering of questions we could gain an impression of the live and story of a tibetian refugee. After the stopover we are heading Pokara which we reache by midday. There the vibes have changed. The city can’t be compared with Kathmandu. For the most of us it is the first time in Pokara. So we spend the afternoon with shopping, walking through the streets, drinking cocktails and enjoying the free time. After a few drinks in a lovely bar with amazing live music it is time to get some rest. And so a beautiful day ends and the softness of the bed leads me to a deep and dreamless sleep.
by Luisa and Jonas
After the two day trekking experience on the Annapurna circuit, it was nice to have a day off. Although everyone had big plans for today which reached from visiting the World Peace Stupa over Boating on the lake to Paragliding, pretty much everything had to be rescheduled due to rainy weather and lots of clouds.
Isabelle and the two of us started the day quite early to head up to the World Peace Stupa on the other side of the lake to see the sunrise and the mountain view. As already mentionned, there was not much to see of the sun, nor the mountains, but it was still a really good idea that we went. We enjoyed a yummy breakfast at one of the view restaurants near the Peace stupa and as the weather cleared a little bit up, we got a nice view of the Lake Side and the rest of Pokhara.
After an adventures public bus ride back to Pokhara, we joined the others for a delicious daal bhat and other Nepali food. In the afternoon, some of us headed back to the hotel, while others went to play games at a café on the Lake Side.
We reconnected again in the evening to go together to the Blind Tiger, a cozy hippie bar with open air cinema, where we had dinner and watched “The Boat That Rocked” together. It was a chilled out and humorous atmosphere between us, which made the movie even funnier and overall better.
After the cinema, we headed back to the hotel to get enough rest for the long and exhausting trip back to Kathmandu tomorrow.
We had to get up early to start our journey from Pokhara to Kathmandu. Fortunately we had our own bus again.
During the drive we could see the beautiful landscapes. Again we were quite ingenious to find some new games to pass the time. This time we would search random unknown terms, which we had to give an explanation and then guess the right one. After a very long drive during which we were even stuck in the mud we arrived at the Bodhi guesthouse. It felt a bit like coming home.
Since we were tired we decided to get dinner nearby and chose the garden restaurant. Sadly it was the last dinner as a whole group since Natascha and Cynthia would leave the next day.
We met at 7:30 for the breakfast. During breakfast Tulsi hold a speech about the projects he is working on since a few years. Wonderful and inspiring words which leads to fallow ones dreams. One nice point about his story was the fact that he found some of his inspiration in Switzerland. On the other hand a group of young Swiss people is traveling Nepal and finds a lot of inspiration there. This shows how every one can learn something from one another – finde inspiration every where no matter how close or fare it is. After an hour it was time to leave for our session at the SDC even though we could have listened Tulsis story for much longer. As we arrived at the Swiss Embassy for a short moment I was impressed: standing on Swiss ground in Nepal – a wierd feeling. The session was full of information about the work of the SDC is doing. Main projects were the Human Rights and Livelihood. With the informations we got from the other sessions we allready had, now the picture of Nepal started to take form. Including the last session which was called “Mountain Issues: Examples from Western Himalayas” we had gotten troughout the whole trip informations about several topics: politics, economics, kastsystem, development and some informations about the Himalaya-Region. The session about the Mountain Issues was our last one. And I’m very sure that I was not the only one who felt a little bit sad leaving the room of the session – knowing that the trip will slowly come to an end. One more lunch in the group, one more afternoon together and then the first of the group would leave. Our last lunch in Kathmandu was probably the best we had so far. The Goodbye-Dal-Bhat with its incredible colors and flavor was breathtaking. And then it was time to sit one last time all together to reflect the whole trip. Each of us wrote 5 things on a paper which he or she would take home: the vibes, “more is less”, friendships, amazing pictures and unique moments. These are only a few words which were mentioned. Natascha and I were the first leaving. At 6 o’clock the whole group jumped in to the car and accompanied us to the airport. There we said farewell – a little bit sad to leave this amazing country with its amazing people. But also with a smile: knowing we will come back one day and knowing that we will see all this people again – either in Switzerland or back in Nepal.