Thursday, 29 April 2010

Riot Doodle

It has been an interesting week so far. Home life remains much as it is pictured above while perhaps the most important piece of news I have received is that Rum Doodle still stands -woohooo! Word is out that it has in fact just moved location, I have yet to find out where of course, and spent about an hour wandering the streets last Friday (during my meltdown) trying to find it, but to no avail. Yesterday however I heard from an acquaintance that he had dinner there just a few days ago, so I can now breathe easy.

Well, I can breathe easy until Saturday. It would appear, as those who have seen my Facebook status will be aware, that Kathmandu is about to go into mass political upheaval. This is not unusual, but from the tone I've been picking up it sounds like it will be the most serious since 2006 when my good friend Kirtley got tear-gassed on a bus (wish I was there to see that). Basically, it's the Maoists again. I can't be bothered to go into a full and probably boring essay on this, but basically these guys have been a rebel faction for some time but rather surprisingly won the last election after the King got booted out. However, the PM fell out with everyone because nobody would let him put his maniac soldiers into the national army; he resigned leaving a typically weak coalition government in charge.

He seems to have been sitting quietly for a while but has decided now is the time to kick up a fuss and by that I mean overthrow the current Prime Minister. The PM himself has said that he will happily stand down for anyone...except the Maoist leader. What a conundrum. Anyway, talks are ongoing at the moment and if a solution is not reached by close of business tomorrow then all hell will break loose, so fingers crossed. Thas has not been helped by the son of the former King popping back into the country and sounding off about something as well. Everyone seems to hate the government and has lost all faith in politics in this country (sound familiar to those in the UK?), this week 8,000-ish schools where closed because everyone was fed up with the hike in fees.

Now, I was hoping to escape all this chaos by running off to Pokhara on an all-expenses paid trip to do a little cricket-related work for Aamir, but that went out of the window yesterday when a rather surprising job opportunity came my way. I won't say anything about it now for fear that nothing comes of it, but have a second meeting tomorrow and will see how that goes. Should it come off it means I will have my own place in a rather quieter area and will no longer be kept awake by the various farmyard animals and now the recent drilling that has started in the building next door. Oh, and I may also be able to finally get a warm shower - so far I have managed three out of a possible 18. Not a great return.

Last note, I have finally finished uploading all the pictures of various treks in Kathmandu to the Peace Nepal Treks Facebook page and would be hugely grateful if everyone could give it the thumbs up. The more fans we have the better it looks - I have also had to upload the pictures three at a time, which has taken about 30 minutes each go. Next step is to sort the website. Favourite cool picture below.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Meltdowns, Monkeys and Kim Jong Il

Right, what news? Well, as promised I celebrated The anniversary of The Everest Test in Tom & Jerry's bar on Wednesday night with a couple of quiet ales. It was great to walk in there again and be greeted by the bar staff who immediately pointed to our picture behind the bar and t-shirt on the wall and started asking when we were doing it again. It felt like a bit of a home-coming and I actually felt guilty that it had taken me two weeks to visit the place!

Thursday and Friday were not quite so satisfying. The power situation in this place is enough to drive the most chilled person up the wall. Generally the power is off between the hours of 12-6pm, so yeah, the entire working day. Given that I am trying to re-do a website and upload various bits and pieces online, this is somewhat frustrating. On Thursday I basically read my book all day refusing to give in to the growing fury of failed uploads, but on Friday I could take it no more.

When midday hit and the power was cut just seconds before an upload completed, that had taken four hours, I had to take myself for a walk in case I threw all my toys out of the pram in front of my Nepali hosts, which probably wouldn't have been the best. Their day of course was largely untroubled as they sat drinking tea and reading the papers...

Still, a quiet bar with a roof-top terrace was discovered and I then had a text from a girl I was put in touch with by northern monkey Phil Deacon who is also living out here, so I joined her and a mate for a beer before getting back to work at 6pm, without killing anyone.

They “work” a six-day week here with Saturday being the only day off. Nir and I were up at 7am as we planned to visit the Monkey Temple (perhaps a subconscious tribute to my northern friends?) which is a major sight in Kathmandu but I had as yet failed to go and see it, although the top can be seen from my house.

We walked over and it was already damn hot, and as predicted the place was full of monkeys. And dogs. Wild, hairy, flea-ridden dogs, which made me a tad uneasy, especially when I saw one chasing a child probably no older than eight. Still, you get good views from up there, as I had hoped after the several hundred-step climb up, and as we strolled back down it was actually quite peaceful.

Then it was a full day with the family. During the last week I've been getting on pretty well with them all, particularly the little fella who I have recently decided looks uncannily like Kim Jong Il, especially when he puts on my glasses. He has a habit of repeating everything I say and then running around in a circle before he falls over, which is always quite entertaining. He did offend me slightly the other day when asking why I was so much larger than his DaDa, and so I politely pointed out that if he kept stuffing his face with lolly-pops he'd be much larger soon too. That told him.

Not really sure what's going to happen next week, I had a rather odd call from Aamir today saying that we may be off to Pokhara, although I have no idea how long for and I sure as hell hope he doesn't expect me to pay for any of it! I guess I'll keep you posted on that one.

In signing off I hope everyone who was stuck overseas has made it home, from what I've heard the weather in England has been unseasonably warm. It's much the same over here but with an added dose of mosquito's. I even managed to get a bite on my eyelid the other day, which left me looking a little frightening. Ah well.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Nostalgia and Pottys

So, a year ago it was that a group of us had a little jolly up a mountain. A hell of a lot seems to have happened since then, and I do sometimes wonder how on earth we managed it. Still, we did and it's always rather nice to look back with pride on something you did and it leaves me feeling rather misty-eyed when I think back to the day itself, how thoroughly crap a lot of us felt, and how we all grabbed a couple of beers afterwards and celebrated. Frankly, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

So here I am, back in Nepal, albeit several thousand metres lower than where the match took place, and I seem to finally be settling into some vague sort of routine. It generally involves a fitful nights sleep thanks to various animals, cars and more recently heavy rainfall and winds, getting up around 8am, having twice as much food as I require forced into me before heading to Thamel and sitting in Nir's office for the day.

The last few days I've been here nine hours a day re-writing all the content for his website, which I had no idea would take so long. I'm barely halfway through! Of course the numerous power cuts are not much help, but that's something we have to put up with over here. I have had a pretty hefty setback however, my to favourite dining spots in Thamel seem to have closed down, so I am currently mourning Helena's and the phenomenal Rum Doodle (am still waiting on clarification on the latter and am hoping it's being refurbished or something...optimistic I fear).

After that it's back home to the family and after much confusion I have finally worked out who everyone I am living with actually is. Nir and his wife I already knew of course, and I had met their 22-month-old boy too. I was convinced this was their only kid, but on the day I flew out here Kirt told chastised me for being so ill-informed and that he actually had three children. So when I arrived and found two girls in the flat I of course assumed they were his daughters. WRONG! The younger one disappeared the next day and has not been seen since, I think she's gone back to the village to go to school there, while the other looks far too old to be Nir's kid, and she is. In fact she is his sister and the other girl is his niece. So thank you for that stitch-up Kirtley, it was either a half-decent gag or you're simply an idiot. I'm settling on the latter.

For the first few days I was eyed with deep suspicion by the youngest member of the Lama clan, but it seems that now there is some acceptance, not just by him but by all in fact. The breast-feeding threw me at first, but I've kind of got used to that now (a lot of staring at the ceiling and remarking how wonderfully white the paint is), but when the little lad had his trousers removed and the potty was brought into the living room last night I was a little taken aback, especially as I was just eating my dinner. Still, all a sign of being one of the family I suppose. I am also being called Uncle on a regular basis and have learned the Nepali word for nephew (bhatija for those interested!) so think it is all going swimmingly.

Nothing more on the cricket projects, but did manage to get the beach cricket article published on Cricinfo, which was something of a relief.

That's all for now, any further news will be posted I can assure you, for now it's back to the grindstone.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Life's a beach

Aamir had said he wants to keep me busy while I am here so this weekend he took me about 160ks out of Kathmandu to help out with running the second Beach Cricket Tournament of the year.

Now I know what some of you are thinking – Nepal is a landlocked country. However, they have lots of rivers and some pretty big beaches by some of them, so this is where the event was held. The intention was I would just write about it and try to get it posted on Cricinfo and Cricket World while maybe doing a bit of commentating, which I was a tad unsure about. Upon arrival however, after a rather bumpy four hour bus ride, I was informed that I would be playing for the Nepal Police Health Club, run by the previously mentioned Don.

I should mention at this point that it was hot. Unbearably hot in fact. So hot that during the weekend I went though no less than six different tops, probably a record of some sort. I was pretty grateful I had whipped off all my hair before flying out at this point, and wished I'd ditched the beard too.

The tournament five-a-side and five overs with everyone bowling and there was an inter-bank competition with eight teams, and a corporate one with six, taking place over two days with a piss up thrown in the middle. The standard of cricket was patchy at best, but it was a great laugh. Towards the end of the first day they thrust a microphone at me and demanded I commentate like Geoffrey Boycott. Unable to do that I seemed to morph into a combination of David Lloyd and Ferris Bueller, which went down rather well as it turned out, and I had a much longer stint on Saturday.

The party that night was typically entertaining, Aamir had invited a girl to come along as “Goodwill Ambassador” - whatever that means – and she is rather famous in Nepal...or should that be infamous? She's done a few music videos and two movies, but has recently become rather better known for some filming done at home. One cool part of the evening was I saw a guy wearing a Brazil Football shirt with United Gurkha written on the back, so I asked him about it and we had a chat. The next morning he then came and gave it to me, which was awesome! Also turned out that he's friends with Nir, small world.

Anyway, during the two days most of the chaps were scared stiff of this girl, Nepali men being famous for their shyness around people they don't know, which was all rather amusing. What makes it even funnier is that these same guys are absolutely relentless when it comes to taking the piss out of each other and making fools out of themselves when they are around people they know, so I fitted in relatively well with my own brand of humour (stealing security guard hats and throwing a few shapes on the dance-floor).

The bus ride back today was something of a highlight as well. We left around 4:30 and I was expecting a quiet journey with my iPod, as had been the ride over, but one of the lads called Abhaya had other ideas. This guy plays occasionally for the national side (when he can get the time off work) and chose to lead the bus in song for more than half of the four-hour ride home. For those on Everest a year ago, the Milky Tea song featured heavily.

Needless to say it was insisted that I contribute, so what else could I perform other than 10cc's classic 'Dreadlock Holiday'. Clearly nobody knew the song, which isn't surprising since I sang the Drovers CC version, but they all got involved with lots of clapping and shouting in the necessary places, which was marvellous. I considered a full rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, but felt a nine-minute epic was not quite what they were after!

As I left the bus there were rumours going around that I had made the headlines in a few local papers thanks to my performance on the pitch on Friday (the Saturday hangover meant we tumbled out in the semi-finals) and this morning I have discovered this which is quite entertaining.

I wonder what next week will bring!

What Next?

On Wednesday I met up with Aamir, he of the cricket related projects, and while they have clearly stalled enormously he still believes that he will get it up and running again. We went for lunch at a “traditional” Nepali restaurant (dusty floors, no cutlery) and ate a curry, which was probably a little foolish of me but everyone else ordered one and I didn't want to be rude!

Aamir told me that he has arranged for a cricket match between some Indian celebrities and some Nepali ones to take place in about three weeks time and wants me to help out with some of the organisation. It is also part of the launch of Visit Nepal Year 2011 when the government are trying to attract a million visitors to the country. Aamir has been placed in charge of the sports side of the event, which is rather convenient for me. He then took me to the proposed site of the new stadium (he and the guys with me really took the piss when I tried to put my seatbelt on – my protests of “I want to live” and “I've seen how you guys drive” fell on deaf ears and I was the butt of all jokes for several hours).

Next we visited a particularly fancy resort called Gokarna where there is a great looking Golf Course and hotel, before heading to his mates health/social club for a considerable amount of booze and food to see in the New Year (2067 apparently – they work off a different calendar here, something to do with the birth of Bhudda). His mate, known simply as “The Don” then hooked up a big screen and projector so we could watch the IPL while sitting on the roof terrace eating and drinking. To top it off I also managed to win R1000 courtesy of a little bet with the proprietor – thank you KP.

Thursday morning I had my first ride on the back of a Nepali motorbike, while feeling a little worse for wear, and I'll leave you with the fact that all my limbs are still intact, but only just. I then had to go home and prepare myself for a weekend at the beach...

Kathmandu & Kathmandon't

Well despite a few hiccups (wrong terminal at Heathrow and no Indian visa) and perhaps the worlds worst hangover (thanks to messers Lister and Staveley for that), I arrived in Kathmandu and as yet have not got sick...only a matter of time though.

I am living with a Nepali family, of which only one of the five speaks English, so beyond saying Namaste a lot and nodding I've not really cracked the conversation, will keep at it though.

My number over here is +977 9849144720, despite the fact that I am six hours ahead of the UK sleeping has so far been kept to a mimimum thanks largely to mooing cows, which start off the barking dogs, who in turn wake the roosters.

Thankfully I am a big fan of rice, as it looks as though I am going to be eating a lot of that in the coming weeks, awesome.

What Am I Doing?

OK, I guess first I should explain why on earth I am currently living in Nepal, which is harder than it sounds.

I first visited the place on Christmas Day 2008, as part of the planning for The Everest Test, which by now I am sure most of you know all about/are bored to tears with. That was when I first met guys like Nir, Bil, Sataya, Prem and Dharma. Kirt and I were only there for a week but by that stage I was already thinking about what I was going to do after we had got the expedition out of the way and living abroad had always appealed. Admittedly I was thinking more about somewhere like Sydney or Queenstown, but this was a different(all right, very different) option.

It was three months on from then that we were back for the trip itself and I got to see a totally different part of Nepal, the Himalayas themselves. You shouldn't really need me to tell you that they are awesome and I immediately wanted to return and see/do more in the region.

In the time between Christmas and April Kirt and I received many emails from a chap called Aamir Akhtar, a former international cricketer in Nepal who was educated in India and England and was very excited about what we were doing. We met him a couple of times and Team Hillary all went along to his cricket academy on the first day and taught the kids there a few things and donated a load of kit.

In the months after the expedition Aamir was in touch again asking if Kirt and I wanted to help him on his project of building a new stadium in Kathmandu. By now I had quit my job at Flight Centre and was back home writing a book on the past 18 months (which I'm sure will get mentioned again some time). He basically wanted some westerners to lend credibility and professionalism to the project and I agreed to it, so back I went to Kathmandu in September, this time for a month, to find out a little more.

On this third trip as well as planning for a new career I got to see even more of Nepal, Nir's village in the hills, the Langtang trekking region, Chitwan National Park (which is full of elephants, crocs, rhinos and even a few tigers), as well as finally visiting Pokhara, a truly beautiful town, and doing some white water rafting. Aamir and I discussed my role in his business and it was agreed that I would come out to live.

I was originally due back in January but things got delayed for a while, then a longer while and longer still until I eventually decided to write off Aamir for the time being. I had however, decided I would go to Nepal and not being one to back out of a decision I flew back on April 11th 2010.

The intention now is primarily to help Nir gain more business for his trekking company,, who took us up the mountain for the cricket and have not received the publicity or future business that we hoped it would generate. For such a wonderfully happy people all the boys I have got to know seem distinctly down in the dumps, and I really feel a little duty bound to try and help them out. How I am going to do that I don't really know, but I owe it to them to try.

So here I am, flying totally by the seat of my pants and wondering where this little jaunt will take me. I arrived on a 90-day visa with my return date booked for July 8th, however should things go according to plan I intend to stay as long as I need to in order to feel I have achieved something tangible. I hope you enjoy reading about it....and have not yet dozed off at your desk!