Tuesday, August 28, 2012

sketching the school

Shree Mangal Dvip is a boarding school. Some kids have not seen their parents in years, as their villages are more than a week's trek from the nearest road, lying at altitudes that would make us gasp. The peeling buildings at the school are home, while fellow students and younger teachers become brothers and sisters. Many former students grow up only to return as teachers, as they just cannot bear to leave the arms of the school.

While most of my younger students are content to draw mountains, princesses and Justin Biebers, I wanted them to draw something that truly mattered to them— something that was a part of them. I hope they learn to find inspiration in the everyday, and begin to really look at the world around them.

After the rain one afternoon, we began to sketch the school.

As we scattered about the yard with papers and pencils, others wanted to join in or huddle around and watch. Most kids drew the dorms or the playground, while others drew their friends or some plants.

My favourite moment was when this little girl— who often appears at the window to the balcony where we have class, ready and willing to model for portraits— asked for a piece of paper and a pencil. Gripping both tightly in her hands, she climbed into the see-saw, and very seriously sketched the swing set. She was not originally in my art classes, but seems to have been listening to a thing or two while posing for the artists, and has been a part of the lessons since this sketch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

the other side of the coin

With our backpacks burdening our tired bodies, we decided to walk to Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square from where the bus dropped us off in Kathmandu. The ride from Pokhara was a cramped six hours, but we had arrived in the the early afternoon and preferred to take advantage of this fact, instead of running to our guesthouse for a shower and sleep. As we navigated through potholed alleys which stank of incense and sewage, trying to avoid mysterious muck and the kamikaze motorcyclists, our traveller mental fog lifted with each step, as Kathmandu pressed itself upon us. The noise of the city is astounding; the incessant beeping of every type of motorised vehicle drowns out conversation and the calls of fruit sellers— and yet somehow you always manage to catch that plea for money, milk, chocolate or water coming from somewhere around you. The brilliantly coloured ladies and the fine details of ancient architecture can sweep you away, but when you look down or to the side, there's often something you would have rather not seen. Missing limbs, twisted bodies— children with lined faces and broken, forgotten elderly. You get followed, pulled and grabbed, and you don't know what to do or what to feel— but your gut is tight and your neck, stiff. No one tells you how to help, or who you might be able to help— and how to distinguish them from those who might be taking advantage of your foreignness and ignorance. I try to focus on the positive on Harika, as I try to focus on the positive in life— but reality is inescapable, and it smacks you in the face in Nepal. You are forced to come out of your romantic, rose-tinted dream, and see the hunger and desperation— and if you are a thoughtful, open human being, you try to do what you can, and you become grateful.

I love Nepal. The people I have met, the landscape, the culture, history, and nature are unlike anything I have known; there is so much beauty. I've never been greeted by so many smiling faces— whether in some dark corner of Kathmandu or on a cloudy forest trail in the middle of nowhere. There's a reason why I can't stop returning.

Wherever our feet take us, let's look at the beauty, and appreciate the hands and the earth who made it—
but let's see with clear eyes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

for the butterflies

While out on our walks, I developed an interest in chasing down and photographing butterflies. This resulted in the eventual purchase of A Photographic Pocket Guide to Butterflies of Nepal— which, though the text has thoroughly abused the use of the exclamation point, provided me with names for these mysterious, seemingly weightless creatures. Nepal is home to over 600 species of butterflies, and it's astonishing what you can see without venturing too far into the wilderness.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

the culprit

In Nepal, where clean water and sanitation are often hard to come by, you are nearly guaranteed at the very least, gastrointestinal distress, and at the most, parasites or typhoid. A drop of water accidentally falling into your mouth while showering might strike you down with giardia or some other nasty— and the risk of getting sick increases during the monsoon season. Street food is out of the question, and raw veggies and salads are generally a no-no (there are some establishments who claim to wash their produce in ionized water, but unless you see this for yourself, you have to merely trust that they do). Having toughened my stomach early on in life on the various street foods of Cairo and other places, I usually do not succumb to stomach bugs, and as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I successfully avoided any problems in Nepal during the last two summers— even while eating in hole-in-the-walls. This time however, I was struck down.

But what was it? Was it the greasy breakfast we shared that first morning in Pokhara? Perhaps it was the roadside chow mein we scarfed down at a rest stop along the way. My bets are on the Newari buffalo dish we enjoyed at a restaurant by the lake— if you've seen a butcher shop in Nepal, you'll understand why— because I doubt it was the fried eggs and Tibetan bread we ate the second morning.

We'll never know what kept us from trekking; leaving us with mini-adventures within five minutes of our guesthouse, but what I do know is that a diet of banana porridge, banana lassis, toast and mint tea sure helps your stomach feel a little less awful. During this abstaining of everything that was not bland or affiliated with bananas, we discovered that a little café called am/pm toward the beginning of Pokhara's Lakeside region, had the best banana lassis we had ever tasted. I don't know what they do differently, but it seems the ratio of fruit to yoghurt is more in favour of the fruit, and when my stomach was a little stronger, I moved from the banana to the exquisite mango lassi.

My goodness, just looking at this photo makes me salivate— and mangoes are hard to come by in Istanbul, which crushes any thoughts I have of attempting to recreate this beauty. Sigh...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

an update

My friends, as I wake up to a cool morning in Istanbul, I can scarcely believe the summer has flown by so quickly. I wanted to let you know that I am just fine, and my disappearance from Harika was due to a complete meltdown of my computer. While I was on a rhino-spotting adventure in southern Nepal, my computer decided to give up and never turn on again, taking with it precious photos and many files. I suppose Kathmandu was too much for it to handle, and hopefully I can find a talented soul to retrieve all that was lost.

That being said, I have my dinosauric back-up computer, and many photos to share with you. Luckily, everything I've snapped since Pokhara is on memory cards, so we can pick up where we left off, which was unfortunately the diarrhea story (and I got a second bout in Chitwan). Stay tuned!