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4/5 Nepal – Ambush

4/5 – Contributing Author and Photographer,  Michael Restivo – Mike in Nepal

mike in nepal - canoe

Namaste everybody! Coming to you from Pokhara, at least for the moment. I was hoping to get into a canyoning trip, canyoning is a new sport, which involves roping down waterfalls, sliding, jumping, and swimming off cliffs. This was my birthday present to myself. Well that might have to be put on hold for the moment as I need a minimum of 4 people to do a trip and I am currently at….one. So I am giving myself until Thursday to find another group or I’ll head back to Chitwan. A little disheartened but head held high, lots of other adventures forthcoming.

So whats been going on here? First an update on the supposed kidnapper, details are sketchy but from what we can piece together he was eventually found and punished….BEFORE the police were called. The only words we could piece together were “man” and “hospital”.

Our little study group is strong. The kids have finished their exams so our “tutoring” sessions have taken on a more relaxed playtime feel. We play games, got into some physical activity, and still get them educated. Were feeling close to them and I think eventually leaving them is going to be difficult.

Mike in Nepal - Pilgrim

March was a very relaxed month, we took a trip to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha which was an inspiring and spiritual trip. Lumbini is a collection of temples each built by Buddhist countries (and some non-Buddhist countries as there was a temple built by the French and one built by Germans, and an Austrian temple is under construction). The temples vary in size and complexity but are all astounding pieces of architecture. The centerpiece of this complex is the Maya Devi temple. Built over the garden where Maya Devi gave birth to Buddha. The remains of the ancient temple have been preserved under ground, and a small stone marks the exact spot of birth. I find Buddhas story fascinating. He was born a mysterious birth to the Goddess of the Earth Maya Devi, but he was raised by a wealthy king who made him a soldier. To protect him from the world, the king locked Prince Siddhartha behind the palace gates. When the prince turned 28 he escaped the palace curious about the world. While wandering the streets he saw an elderly beggar, a sick man, and a corpse. He wondered why he should live in wealth when others live in poverty and suffering and cast away his riches. He went to meditate for 40 days under a Banyan tree and after 40 days declared himself “Enlightened” thus the name “Buddha” (“enlightened one”). He traveled and preached a “middle way” to life. Not a life where one is bonded to riches or poverty, but one where anyone is able to achieve nirvana, ultimate happiness, following 7 steps through life. He developed a system of codes by which people should live and abide by. After years of preaching and traveling he died in his 80’s and is now buried in India. What fascinates me about Buddhism is it is not a religion per say. It is a way of life, following the teachings and moral codes and allowing yourself to guide your own way through life. Although Buddha is considered a diety, it is rather his teachings that are worshipped rather than himself. He was neither the first Buddha nor the last. Another part that astounded me about this place, was the similarities in style to anything i’ve seen in the Western world. The story itself of a religious leader born a mysterious birth is very familiar, and many of the images I see in statues and carvings, such as the Buddhas blessing to visitors, or the ring around the heads of the disciples in the carvings are a strong link between two vastly different beliefs but similar iconography. I was very impressed.

Mike in Nepal - Ambush

To navigate the temples we rode bicycles around the complex. It was extremely hot and rocky, but getting through the different temples was a breeze. We were ambushed by at least 50 pilgrims in the Chinese temple who invited us to chant and dance with them and were very impressed with one of our volunteers. We ate breakfast lunch and dinner at the Three Fox restaurant which was by far the best non dal baat food I’ve had in Nepal and a wonderful repose from the “same same”.

Upon getting back from Lumbini, we had a little St. Patricks party breaking out the Everest beers for a night but nothing too rowdy (except a broken chair…Thanks Josh). I celebrated a great birthday here, even if I was missing my friends at home. The kids here seem to miss the point, as the first thing I heard was “Mike! you! birthday! me! get present?” and holding out their hands expecting money or chocolate. We westerners are seen as a cross between Willy Wonka and an ATM machine. My birthday was celebrated via an all day “House” marathon, and some wonderful special dal baat of chicken and fried potatoes. My host mother even put some eggs with my rice, she’s simply great! That Friday we had another special dinner throwing out the Dal Baat in favor of boiled eggs, french fries, prawn crackers (thick rice cakes with a fishy flavoring) and Papadam (Fried pancakes of lentil flower, sort of like a fried tortilla chip). We also have a new puppy in the compound, a small white dog named Punta, though we call her Knut because she looks like the famous polar bear. We also have named our 3 goats, as Johnson, Phil Collins, and the uniquely named Phil Collins Johnson. We have a buffalo named Betty who is pregnant, and a (we think) mentally dysfunctional unseen goat named Gordon whose “blehhh’s” sound like he is constantly being tortured.

Well thats it for this edition, I’d like to thank everyone once again for the great birthday wishes and the appreciation of my photos. I’d also like to give a special thanks to my wonderful family on both sides of the Atlantic, and my grandparents for my gift. Thank you.

Whats coming up next? Well I’m crossing my fingers hard for the canyoning. But I’d like to plan another safari, this time by jeep which takes me deeper into the jungles, and then just over a month till the big one…Everest. For now I’m enjoying this repose in Pokhara and look forward heading back to Chitwan refreshed and renewed. Namaste everyone!

Contributing Author, Michael Restivo

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