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3/7 Nepal

3/7 /2010  Contributing Author and Photographer: Michael Restivo  – “Mike in Nepal”
rice grows
Namaste everyone! Its been a long time since my last entry but I’ve had a busy last few weeks and it has been hard to find time to update as regularly as I like. However I’m fine, healthy (once again) and getting ready for another round of expeditions and adventures in the next few weeks. I’ve left Pokhara for the greener pastures of Chitwan. My new placement is much more…rural, lets say, gone are the constant drone and pollution of city life, no cars and motorbikes rumble outside of my window, replaced by goats, a buffalo, a chicken, and a puppy named Bote. Its a much smaller placement with less kids, but its peaceful, sunny, pollution free, and it even comes with a guitar which I am extremely pleased about.The last few days in Pokhara after the white water rafting were pretty uneventful for the most part. Carlie, Laura, and Veronique came in for the last few weeks and it was nice to have a brief reunion and share some of our last days there. I became more involved in the orphanage and was able to catch up with lots of reading. Books are a big form of entertainment here seeing that our days are pretty empty and I find myself finishing them quickly and trying to trade them in for new ones. My subjects have varied from mountaineering to history, and about 10 minutes before writing this blog just finished re-reading “The Old Man and the Sea”. We decided we were going to head to Kathmandu for Holi before heading out to Chitwan so the last days in Pokhara were mostly goodbyes and filling in the new people who were replacing us. In my last week my home stay family decided to throw a massive feast for my departure which included the omnipresent dal baat and some wonderful mutton. I tried to contribute to the meal by trying to cook macaroni, but my home stay “father” confident in his cooking abilities tried to do it himself. He ended up boiling them in water for about an hour and a half while we ate much to my concern, and we ended up with a doughy “paste” of noodles…he didn’t even bother to drain out the water when he served it to me. The night before I left they offered me flowers, got me “lei-ed” and gave me a Topi, a traditional Nepalese mens cap offered as a sign of highest respect. The kids at the orphanage threw me a goodbye party with dances and songs and more flowers.
tikka and farewell
What started as a simple tikka ended up with the kids smothering red powder all over my face. The kids all wrote thank you letters to me and put them in a book with pictures of all of them. After dinner goodbyes were done and my three “Mikes Devils” Sanjeet, Bishnu, and Sanjoc walked me out to the gate in absolute tears. It was a very emotional draining night.Next morning I headed out early for the ‘du. Arrived, checked into the Tibet Peace Guest House which was cheaper and nicer than the Nepal Peace Guest House where I was placed when I originally arrived, and got the nostalgic feeling of the street and being barely able to breathe in the traffic. I located Mike and Emma a few hours later and spent some time with them. The next day I headed out to Boudnath, the biggest stupa (Buddhist shrine) in the world and built supposedly to hold a single bone of Siddharta, the historical Buddha. It was an enlightening, spiritual, and peaceful oasis from the hustle of Kathmandu. I walked around the stupa taking pictures and then sat on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the stupa with a coke and some fried rice and had a great afternoon. That night we decided to splurge for dinner in an Italian restaurant in the center of Thamel and had a great meal. I ordered the pasta and it was a little pricey (by Nepal standards) but still a fantastic dinner, I felt full for the first time in a long time, and it was a nice change from rice and lentils. After dinner we decided to watch a few movies. DVD shops are very cheap here in Kathmandu and you can pick up everything from full television series (I bought seasons 1-5 of House for $30) and movies for about $2 (that’s not a typo…thats two dollars) both bootleg still in theaters (quality varies) and movies already out. They work on my laptop so its a big source of entertainment for us. The next day was Holi. Holiis the Hindu festival of colors and the signal for the arrival of spring. Everybody gets in the streets and throws water and colored tikka powder at everyone (by everyone I mean mainly western tourists). It can go quickly from mild to chaotic. We spent the morning with buckets of water dumping them down on anybody below and were having great fun, then we decided to actually try walking on the streets
Michael and the start of tikkaing
Just after taking a few steps out of the street there were gangs of kids shoving powder into our faces and throwing balloons. It was when the kids started slamming (not throwing pretty much punching) a balloon into my face we decided to retreat back to the hotel. My white shirt was hopelessly stained and now I have a multicolored piece of art to bring home. Holi was massively fun even through the chaos and I was still picking of color two days later.Two days after Holi we finally made our way to Chitwan, it was an easy five hour ride (no scary cliffs!) and while Mike and Emma were placed in the Library House, the volunteers compound, i’m in a home stay with one woman living there. I have a room with a mosquito net, a first, and only 100 meters down the street from everyone else. I was reunited with Josh, the only other American in our group and there is another American at the Library House, Kathleen from Boston. We met again with two Scots in our original group Katie and Jessica, and then with our Aussies from Pokhara Brendan and Angela (or “Brangela”). We have great coordinators here and they were extremely excited to see a laptop and are always wanting to watch movies, so we start our day working with the kids and watch a movie every night. Its a massive step up from Pokhara and we are all very happy. I’ve traded orphanage work for teaching English and tutoring with the local village kids. The kids here speak less English than they did in Pokhara and working with basic math and literature is a struggle but we make with the best that we can. Carrying a camera or an Ipod is dangerous here because i’m assaulted by about 30 kids who curiously all want to use it. The Dal Baat is much improved here. My host mother actually includes eggs and meats into the rice so I’m finally getting the good protein fix that I was so desperately missing. My first 3 days here were a mess of sickness from which I blame the water from Holi, but I’m much better and healthier now. On Thursday we leave for a three day elephant safari in the jungle, looking for rhinos and tigers from the back of an elephant, which also includes a canoe trip and jungle walk. I’ll also be celebrating my birthday by rappelling down the side of a 140 foot waterfall and then living out my last days in Nepal here. I’m just about at the halfway point and starting to count the days….That’s all for now, since internet is pretty scarce here can’t say how often I can update here but it won’t be too long. Hope everything is well at home and can’t wait to be back soon! Namaste everyone!
For other posts by Michael Restivo on Nepal –  MiamiRealEstateCafe.com

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