Monday, March 31, 2014

Friends

Leaving Nepal was much more difficult than I could have guessed, I made some great connections with people.  I met some amazing and inspiring people.  I feel like I left a giant piece of my heart with the people that I met. 
Since I didn't find a photo of Paul on my phone I included this photo of Harrison.  Paul took excellent care of us volunteers, from giving me an orientation to including us in any adventures.  I enjoyed talking with Paul about his experiences with Zen Buddhism and hearing about all his many jobs.  Paul created a welcoming atmosphere that enabled the volunteers and visitors to the monastery to bond. 

Harrison is such a joy!  I don't imagine I would've been so calm and happy to be brought to Nepal when I was 13.  It was great to watch him play soccer and hear him talk about his unique school classes (stock market).  

I wish Paul and Harrison a smooth and healthy journey.  I can't wait to see the photos of their treks and to continue to follow their journey. 
This is my roof buddy, Jiwon!  We ended most evenings, staying up late talking on the roof of the guest house.  We talked about everything from movies to our hopes for the future.  Jiwon woke up early the day I was leaving to walk me down to my cab.  Her energy and openness were really inspiring; I wish her clarity as she continues her journey. 
Here is a photo of me with Drolka and Alex.

Alex is actually one of the first volunteers I met.  We met very briefly in Kathmandu when he arrived at the hostel.  He left the next morning, since he elected not to take the language course.  He was a comforting face my first night at the monastery.  I loved hearing about Alex's travels all around the world, and I look forward to seeing his photos from the Annapurna circuit.  Alex and I spent an evening looking through bookstores for a fantasy book.  I was a little disappointed I wasn't able to find "The Name of the Wind," hopefully the Wheel of Time series is completely absorbing. My wish for Alex is that he continues to find the magic in life and that his college applications go smoothly with the internet situation.  

Drolka was our meditation teacher on Tuesday and Thursday nights.  She inspired me to start teaching Qigong, so I promised her when I come back next year I will teach classes at her center.  I really enjoyed her story about becoming a Buddhist and finally ending up in Nepal.  I look forward to staying in touch with her and seeing her next year.  My wish for Drolka is that she stays happy, the happiness and peace is simply infectious. 
Here are two of the monks at my final dinner, Jiwon, Tenzin, Tsepal and I went eat at a place down the road.  (The funny thing is Paul had warned me not to eat there, since some volunteers had gotten sick in the past.  I was fine!)  

The Monk in the puffy jacket is Tenzin, one of the Buddhist informers.  He gave a class on Buddhism every morning.  Unfortunately I didn't attend all the classes, that was prime time for Adam and I to chat using the WiFi a little bit.  I really enjoyed his classes, I ended up writing a lot about the different questions and idea that he brought up in class.  I love his fire metaphor, it doesn't matter how many windows you open in your mind, if you don't put out the fire (suffering) the smoke is still going to build up.  I wish Tenzin students with lots of questions!  

The Monk with the smile on his face is Tsepal.  You can learn more about him on his blog (http://teenmonks.com/).  Tsepal greeted me every morning with a smile and I am grateful he was so open with me about what it is like to be a teenage monk.  I wish Tsepal certainty as he continues to walk the road. 

Question to consider:  What are some of your wishes for people you have met traveling?

Here are all the posts from my time in Nepal, in case you missed one:
















Friday, March 28, 2014

Free time

There was plenty of free time at the monastery, for the volunteers.  The students on the other hand were very busy, especially since exams were coming up.  When Dr. Tom's dental clinic was open I spent time in there, chatting with him, his hygienist, Connie, the patients and the monks who were volunteering.  I have never been more motivated to take good care of my teeth after seeing some of the teeth and the extractions that were performed.
One morning Harrison, Paul, Alex and I went hiking (trekking) around the monastery before classes started.  The hike started by climbing down this cliff.   We went hiking for a while, got a little lost and came back for classes.  It will be nice to go back and have the time to go on some of the longer hikes on the days we there are no classes.
I took a lot of photos of the mountains.  In the morning the skies were clear and we had a beautiful view of the Himalayas.  There was one night near the full moon where we got lucky and could see the mountain range at night, we even saw a shooting star.  When I go back, I am taking our DSLR camera; just to see the difference in how the photos turn out.  
One afternoon I watched the older monks play Football with Harrison and David.  The monks are big fans of football, they often stay up all night on their one TV night to watch football matches.  While I was there the Cricket World Cup matches were going on, we saw people gathered in the streets watching the any TV they could find.
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon a group of the volunteers tagged along with Paul and Harrison to meditation classes lead by Drolka, a former Buddhist nun.  You can read all about Paul and Harrison's adventures on Paul's blog (http://delusionaljourney.com/).  

All of us would spend some time discussing Buddhism, Daoism and meditation.  Drolka was interested in the the differences between the types of meditation that I do.  She also asked if I would mind teaching a little bit of Qigong.  I loved teaching Qigong!  I am motivated and encouraged to learn more so that I when I return to Nepal I can teach at a couple of places.  This was the beautiful room that we practiced both meditation and Qigong in.  
The view of the lake from the porch of the Buddhist center.  
I was fortunate enough to be in town to celebrate Holi, a Hindu spring festival.  Paul wrote all about our day on his blog (http://delusionaljourney.com/love-things-holi/).  Click on the link to see an amusing photo of me! He has some much better photos, because he was brave enough to bring his camera despite the colors, the water and the paint.  

Question to consider: Have you ever experienced a festival in a foreign country?  






Thursday, March 27, 2014

My class

Another volunteer Roxanne and I, were assigned to teach Social Studies and Science to class IV.  I am sure it comes as no surprise that I knew nothing about Nepali Social Studies, luckily we were given a book for both the classes.  Roxanne decided that since she was very uncomfortable teaching Science she would be in charge of Social Studies and I could handle the Science class.
The classrooms were dark, the only light was from the windows. My students were incredibly sweet and gentle with each other. There were some rowdy moments, they are children after all.  It was so fulfilling to hear them shout out the right answers when we were reviewing for their final exam.  They were a great group of children.  
We came to teach at a interesting time.  In social studies they had finished the book, and Science just had another couple of chapters.  So after reviewing for the science exam, we spent a lot of time outside.  
I talked to them about the forces on airplanes one day, and then we went outside and threw different types of paper airplanes.  This experiment did not yield the results I expected, the children were really rowdy and ended up disturbing other classes.  So I brought them back inside.   I do think we all had some fun playing.
Here is a photo of my class that one of the other volunteers took.  There were so many great moments with this class.  I am looking forward to coming back next year and seeing them all in class V.  I wish them the best of luck on their upcoming exams.  

Question to consider: What was your favorite class in school?




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Dentist

Another volunteer and I left Buddhism class one morning to find all the younger monks lined up outside.  Her class was canceled because her students were standing outside.  We were told "the dentist is coming."   We had heard about the dentist very briefly the day before when we noticed that dental equipment was being dusted off and pulled out of storage.
We were given scarves and told to stand in line with the monks.  One of the school officials went around making sure the scarves were being held properly.  Two of the other volunteers and myself were simply confused about what was going on and the etiquette we were following.  
After Dr. Tom drove by the children in his vehicle, all the monks sat down on the steps and proceeded to be children.  They started playing with the scarves and playing with the dog, Angel.  We just kept standing there confused about what to do and then we were invited up to meet Dr. Tom.   The monks came in one at a time and Dr. Tom took the scarf from their hands and draped it over their shoulders and then they ran away.  We had a nice visit and introduction to Dr. Tom.  This was his 13th visit to Nepal to provide free dental care to the monks and the surrounding area.  He saw over 400 people during his short time at the monastery.  
I wanted a photo of the dental instruments, just to demonstrate the differences between dental care in the states and dental care in Nepal. Dr. Tom was extremely patient educating the monks who would be helping in the clinic all week about how to handle the instruments safely and correctly.  
Here one of the older monks is helping to teach a younger monk how to brush his teeth.  I saw this type of nurturing and gentleness all the time at the monastery.  These children come to the monastery when they are very young, and they form a family together.  There is no "mother" figure, no adult tucks them in, they simply take care of each other.   
Here is a photo of Dr. Tom examining some of the local school children's teeth.  He energy was so inspiring, he was simply a joy to be around.  He had the same funny and relaxed sense of humor from the first patient to the last.  

I am so grateful that I Dr. Tom came to visit while I was at the monastery.  He really inspired me to come back and to continue to help the monastery even when I walk out of the gates.  I had only been at the monastery a couple of days when he arrived and already the place had a piece of my heart.  I enjoyed hearing his story about how he got involved and helped build the monastery.  I look forward to brainstorming with him in the future.

Question to consider:  Who have you spent time with recently that always seems to have a ton of energy and is inspiring to be around?




Sunday, March 23, 2014

The monastery

Here is the monastery as seen from the street.  I took this photo right before a hail storm started when some of the volunteers and I were trying to hail a cab.  When I first drove through the gates, I was feeling very nervous.  I wasn't sure what classes or what ages my students would be.  I had no expectations.
The bright colors were very inviting.  I arrived just in time for tea, and was treated to tea before receiving my room key.  I was told to come back in the morning for my assignment.
Here is part of the dorm, the volunteers and other guests are on one side and the older monks live on the other side.  When I first recieved my assignment I was shocked that I would be allowed to stay on the grounds, that was just one of the unique things about this place.

Hanging over each one of the doors is "the endless knot."  During my stay I was told there were many meanings for this knot, including good luck, endless compassion and how everything is always joined in cause and effect.  We had a Buddhist philosphy class one morning that was all about cause and effect.
A photograph of the stupa with a bonus monkey.  The monkey is drinking from the faucet, they are able to turn the faucet on.  I never saw one of them turn it off though.   There were plenty of monkeys during my stay there, sometimes they even ended up in the guests' or volunteers' rooms.  I was fortunate to have never suffered a monkey invasion.  I only had one morning that one of the little ones was making a racket outside my window, and banging on it.    However before I arrived one of the volunteers had their passport and other belongings thrown out the window.  (Hence my passport was on me at all times.)
A photo of the courtyard and the younger monks rooms.  I spent a lot of time in the courtyard.  Most of the time the weather was really nice, and my room was pretty dark without power.  Plus I enjoyed being about to hear afternoon services (puja) from time to time.  Sometimes I didn't feel like actually going into the temple.  
I spent a lot of time underneath the butter lamp offering building pictured above, until the monkeys scared me away one day.  It provided excellent shade on the days it was a little bit warmer.  I also loved listening to the prayer flags in the breeze and the trickling of the stream nearby.  
I took this photo as the sun rose and I waited for the morning puja to start.  I really enjoyed being able to attend the services in the mornings and sometimes in the afternoons.  I had absolutely no idea what was going on, there was some thing soothing being in the temple.   

Question to consider: Do you enjoy attending religious services that are in a language you don't understand?  I remember when I was little, I actually enjoyed going to Mass in Spanish.  It would be nice to go to a Latin Mass one day.  




Sterling Sunday


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Leaving Kathamandu

So bright and early on a Sunday I left Kathamandu to take a tourist bus to Pokhara. I was super excited to leave the loud noises and pollution behind and get to the monastery.  The bus was pretty comfortable and the ride was long.  I was told it was about a 6 hour bus ride, it turned out to be closer to 9 hours.   
Traffic was pretty bad, there were a number of accidents, including a truck that had gone off a cliff.  I didn't take many photos during the bus ride because I was attempting to sleep.  This is one of the stops along the way; we stopped to eat breakfast here.  I just took the opportunity to stretch my legs and was enormously grateful for my trail mix.
We stopped at this location for a while, but were not given the opportunity to leave the bus, so I opened the window to get a photo of the fire brigade.  I loved this image!
I was given a key to my room at the monastery and immediately saw this poster.  Since I don't know if the photo is high enough resloution to be able to read it I will type it up.  As I read this poster I knew the next two weeks were going to be amazing!

Beautiful Thought by the Buddha

Once Buddha was traveling with a few of his followers.  While they were passing a lake
Buddha told one of his disciples.  "I am thristy.  Do get me some water from the lake."

The disciple walked up to the lake.  At that moment, a bullock cart started crossing 
through the lake.  As a result, the water became very muddy and turbid.  The disciple 
thought.  "How can I give the muddy water to Buddha to drink?"

So he came back and told Buddha.  "The water is there is very muddy.  I don't think it is
fit to drink."

After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake.

The disciple went back and found the water was still muddy.  He returned and 
informed Buddha about the same.

After sometime, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back.

This time the disciple found the the mud had settled down, and the water was clean and clear.  
So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha.

Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said, "See what you did
to make the water clean.  You let it be, and the mud settled down on its own - and you 
have clear water.

Your mind is like that too!  When it is disturbed just let it be.  Give it a little time.  It will
settle down on its  own.  You don't have to put any effort to calm it down.  It will happen.
It is effortless"

Having 'Peace of Mind' is not a strenuous job; it is an effortless process!

Treat everyone with politeness
even those who are rude to you
not because they are not nice

BUT BECAUSE YOU ARE NICE.

Question to consider: What is the first thing you do when you arrive at a new place to stay?  Do you explore or immediately unpack?  When I got to the monastery I unpacked first, mostly because I really wanted to get settled in my temporary home.  






Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Site seeing In Kathmandu

Confession time:  I was planning to use photographs from my camera instead of my iphone, while I was in Nepal.  Unfortunately, I forgot the cable to transfer photos.  Which means that I don't have a lot of photos of the temples I went to and I saw while I was in Kathmandu.

First up was Pashupatinath, a hindu temple. All of my photos of this temple are on my camera, so here is a photos of the ticket.  The temple in this photo is lit up for Shiva night.
Pashupatinath Temple (पशुपतिनाथको मन्दिर)  is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, it is located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu.The temple serves as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath.  I walked around the grounds a bit with Prakash, my language teacher and he was generous enough to share his  beliefs with me.

We sat on the banks of the river for a while and watched the cremation of a couple of bodies, and the pilgrims bathing in the water.  He shared with me the story of his mom's death and told me about the rituals and beliefs about death.  This temple was a sacred place for him, and I am grateful that he shared so much with me.

After a delicious lunch of chicken momos, Prakash and I made our way to Boudhanath. In 1979 this became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Great Stupa is the focal point.  When I was there I saw many people performing the daily ritual of walking around while repeating the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum," the compassion mantra.  I was ecstatic to see the two buddhist temples, during my time in Kathmandu.  It helped build some momentum and helped me remember my focus.  
The final temple we went to see was The Monkey Temple.  As you may have guessed there were monkeys everywhere, I even saw one yank on a girl's ponytail.  Here we also walked around the stupa and Prakash told me about the temple and a little bit about Buddhism.  
The Monkey Temple is up on a hill, so there was a terrific view of Kathmandu.  It was so peaceful up there, it was nice to have a break from the noise and rush of the city.  

Question to consider: Where is a place you find peace and calm in your hometown?  I personally love the butterfly center at the museum back in Houston.  That is my happy place!






    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Language classes

    My first week in Nepal I am staying in Kathmandu to take some Nepali classes.  I have class in the morning and then I am free to explore the city in the afternoons.
    This is the Main Street by the hostel, the first time I walked up to the street, I was hit with a wave of noise.  Since there are no traffic lights in Kathmandu, the drivers communicate with honking.  The streets were so loud, it was a little intense for me the first day I went out by myself.  I only walked around for about an hour, before I headed back.
    Luckily there were volunteers coming in and out all the time.  Usually one of them was willing to to show me around, and it was much less intimidating taking a taxi with someone that knew where they were going.  Generally the destination was Thamel, where all the shops and restaurants were.   
    An example of one of the shop windows, I actually regret not finding out how much an object in this window was.  I had originally planned to do a lot of shopping in Kathmandu.  When I got into Thamel and started haggling with people, I found I really didn't enjoy shopping.  I loved looking at all the bright colors and everything, I just didn't buy anything unless I needed it.  (Which also means, I may not be bringing back a lot of gifts for people.  Now that I am at the monestary I have a lot less time to shop.)
    My first momos!  I have to say these momos were pretty disappointing.  I didn't really understand the obsession with momos, until I had them somewhere else.  Momos are wonderful!   
    I spent a lot of time reading at this tea place near the hostel.  I would sit and read for hours, hoping the power would come on, so that I had wifi for a little while.  The ginger tea was amazing!
    One of my only purchases in Thamel, my first few nights I was freezing and these colorful warm socks helped so much!  Plus they made me smile everytime I put them on.  I would usualy put them on when I was doing my practice to help get me moving.

    Question to consider:  Do you mind haggling for goods?  Any tips?






    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    The hostel

    I am spending a week  in Kathmandu staying at a hostel here for the volunteers while I take a language and culture course.  I am the only student in the course, but thankfully there are plenty of volunteers in and out so most afternoons I am out exploring with someone that is a little more familiar with the area and bargaining for taxis.
    Here is a photo of the hostel as seen from the street, the top floor is where the kitchen is, we eat on the patio.  The first night when power went out during dinner it was a new experience for me, everything except the one little light above the table went black.  (There are regular power outages, usually the time power is on is scheduled.  However none of the volunteers could read the time table since it was in nepali.)
    This was my room at the hostel, I usually didn't have a roommate.  I felt a little spoiled having the room all to myself.  The bed wasn't the most comfortable place in the world but after traveling for almost 30 hours, I had no problem sleeping the first night.  
    So I know this is a strange photo, this is a photo of the tile in the kitchen.  I just loved all the patterns, it made me smile everytime I saw it.  (Or maybe I was just happy being done with climbing the stairs to the fourth floor everyday!)
    I took this photo one afternoon from my window.

    Question to consider: What do you see in the photo up above?


    Wednesday, March 12, 2014

    Number 10

    Here is my smiling face as we left to go to the airport for my 30+ hour trip to the hostel I am staying at in Kathmandu for about a week.   I was so excited!  



    Wow!  I left Houston just after the sun set and I landed in Doha just in time to see the sun set again.  I felt a little disoriented about time and space.  There is no photo of my smiling face (I am still smiling) because this is my blog and I just got off a 14 hour flight.  So here is a photo from the airport.  

    Anyone up for some shopping?   So when I went to check in for my flight at the airport they weighed my carry on bag (the only bag I was bringing), and it weighed 8 kg.  The limit was 7 kg, so my bag ended up being checked.  (Spoiler alert my bag arrived safe and intact in Kathmandu, even my camera survived!)  I was feeling pretty nervous about arriving in Kathmandu with nothing but my purse, and considered buying a few essentials in the Qatar airport.  Until I noticed that a small container of hand lotion was $12.  

    I am sure you are asking the question about why my camera was left in my bag, mostly because I forgot about it.  When they told me I needed to check the bag, I only thought about pulling out medications and happened to see my outlet converter and charger so I grabbed those.  Needless to say next time when I read that there is a 7 kg limit I will take it seriously.


    I had a 10 hour layover in the airport, and eventually bought a lounge pass.  (There was a 6 hour limit, and I wanted to stay there until my flight boarded.)    I feasted on hummus, salad, sandwiches and soup!   It was well worth the price.  I will come back here on my way home, when my layover is even longer.  

    I finally arrived in Kathmandu, and thankfully there was someone there to pick me up at the airport. I enjoyed tea at the hostel and just took in the fact that everything was perfect!