Kathmanduin’ it // “The Lonely Planet” is surprisingly unhelpful
Hello friends and family! I’m back in Meghalaya, and before today’s Orphanage Management Committee meeting, I’m updating my blog. (And, for those of you who heard about the bomb blasts in Guwahati, no worries, Jon and I made it back to Shillong a few hours before any of that started. Everyone here is safe and sound.)
I’ve already written about our somewhat haphazard journey out to Nepal, so I’ll skip ahead to us arriving in Kathmandu and surprising Jenn in her hotel room. We stayed in a very pleasant hotel, the Potala, in the Thamel district of the city. Those of you who know some Westerners-in-Nepal history may know of Freak Street, a place in the city where all those crazy hippies settled to “find themselves” in the 70’s. Well, now that place is Thamel. Jenn took us to a number of wonderful Western-style restaurants which were packed with Europeans. I have to say, I missed pizza and pasta, so I can’t complain — it was just weird, after being in Shillong and Kharang, to be surrounded by white people.
Jenn planned a really lovely visit for us, which was great after Jon and I’d been sort of stressed out by our complicated trip out there. We went to two important temples (Pashpatinath [Hindu] and Swamybodnath [Buddhist]), stayed overnight at the Hotel at the End of the Universe in Nagarkot (from where you can watch a beautiful Himalayan sunrise), saw a Nepali film (Sano Sansar, which I’m fairly certain was awful), and visited Patan (where Jenn was volunteering and where Rachana’s extended family lives). We celebrated Jon’s birthday by going to the aforementioned Buddhist stupa, which is full of monkeys and general amazingness. The only weird happening was one night we heard from our hotel a police raid on a bar that was open past curfew. From the roof, we watched an enormous cadre of police running through the streets to clear them. I also embarassed myself in the streets by singing along to Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand” (great live bands in Thamel), to which a random Nepali man sang back to me. But, aside from those things, we had an awesome and relaxing time. Thanks Jenn! 🙂
Our days in Darjeeling were equally nice, but no thanks to The Lonely Planet. Much of our time was spent wandering the streets wondering why our map was wholly inaccurate; if we hadn’t met so many friendly people and been pretty okay with just looking at the city, we may not have had so much fun. But, as it was, we went to a really cute zoo (so many red pandas!!), a Buddhist monastery, a Hindu/Buddhist temple, a Japanese Buddhist pagoda, and the main market. We also got to see the start of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, which was really fun albeit a little dangerous. People set off fireworks everywhere, and we decided to go home after seeing a huge one explode in the middle of a street lined with four-story buildings. Still, we thought it was great. I especially liked the temporary cloth-and-bamboo temples and “Christmas” lights set up along major roadways from Darjeeling all the way back to Guwahati.
It’s been all business since I’ve returned to Meghalaya. (Well, aside from giving out many hugs and gifts to everyone here!) Last night, Sharmila, Jon, and I had a long dinner meeting with three of the executive members of the UUNEI: Derrick (president), Pearl Greene (secretary), and Darihun (treasurer). Including the delicious food, we had a wonderful evening during which we exchanged many congratulations, comments, and concerns about life here in the Khasi Hills. I’m glad to have all of their contact information now so that I can keep them more closely in the loop about Children’s Village happenings! Today we have an OMC meeting during which we’ll discuss our current auntie applicants and construction plans. Jon and I were very happy to see when we came back to Kharang that the foundation is totally finished and they’ve started putting up the brick walls!
Lastly, I hope all of you have made free time on November 4th to vote. If I can manage to vote, you can too 🙂