Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Keeping Busy

It's been a funny old week, and I mean funny strange rather than funny ha-ha. Of course, I don't really like football so have paid little attention to this rather pointless tournament going on in South Africa at the moment and should anyone wish to discuss it I suggest you choose someone else.

So, other than wasting 90-minute chunks of my life I have been rather busy surprisingly. I finished up the last of my freelance work on the Great Himalayan Trail and with Zen Travels, well almost, and have managed to fit in another Hash as well as visit a hospital and attend a very random Rotary Club annual evening.
On Saturday morning I met up with my friend Mudita who came to the UK on an exchange a year ago and had stayed with my folks, coincidentally at exactly the same time that I was up on Everest for the cricket. She showed me around Patan and I finally got to see Durbar Square down there, so I felt like I had done something vaguely touristy for the first time in about two months, which was good. By 10am it was already sodding hot and I was beginning to develop a fear that hashing in the afternoon might be the death of me.

The Hash was the last time I would see most of the expats I've become friends with over here for a considerable time so there was something a bit strange about that. Still, as I've said many times, they're a good bunch and I am sure will pop up from time to time in the future.

The Hash itself was so hot it was absurd and despite having suncreamed up for only the second time since getting here I managed to get significantly burnt and my face has proved something of a shining beacon for the last few days...until all the skin fell off yesterday which was awesome. Once again I took some punishment after the event for having my hand in my pocket and then rather stupidly volunteered to do the write up, which cost me another mug of beer. Still, at least I kept it down which was more than could be said of one poor fellow. That said, I think he was Australian so he wasn't getting much sympathy from me.
On Monday I went to visit the Nepal Orthopedic Hospital as my Dad intends to send some medical equipment out to them and wanted me to go and meet the guys in charge and see the place so I could report back. It was actually really worthwhile and was incredibly encouraging to see what can be achieved by charity workers who are really determined. Having spent rather a lot of time trying to get Nepali people to actually do anything this restored some of my faith that there are a few out there with the necessary drive and determination to make things happen. In 12 years they have raised around $1million to build the hospital from scratch and provide care to more than 200 people every day. Big hand to those guys.

The chap in charge, Dr Anil Shrestha, then invited me to his Rotary Club Charter evening. For those than have no idea what this is (probably 99% of you) should you ever get the chance to go to one as a guest, I suggest you give it a miss. While it was very good to see what this Rotary Club had achieved, which was no small amount, I don't think I have ever been subjected to a more public display of back slapping in my life. Several parts of it were conducted in Nepali, and of course it was supposed to start at 6pm and finish at 7 but actually began at 6:30 and finished at 8pm, which was predictable.

I also wanted to get out because it was my last night with Nir and the guys and we were all going for dinner. With me heading off to Pokhara the next day and them all going to the village for some family celebration related to Nir's sister getting married in a few days I will actually be home alone for my last couple of days in the 'Du. Not sure a more low-key end could have been imaginable.
Dinner was cool, it was the first time little Ayush had been to a restaurant and he was only slightly annoying and generally pretty good fun. Because of the late start and the little lad getting tired it was just dinner and a beer before calling it a night. Still, paying for seven adults and a kid to eat and drink for an hour and a half and it costing less than £20 represents a considerable bargain from my point of view. There are definitely certain things I will miss about this place! I can't say I enjoyed saying goodbye to everyone, especially the family the next morning. I have no idea when I'll see these guys again and really wish I could have done more, at times I feel like I've done pretty much f**k all to be honest.

Yesterday was the seven hour bus ride to Pokhara and I have got a serious case of truckers arm from the sun coming through the window. Sadly the clouds have not lifted at all thus far and so the mountains may as well not be here, and it has rained all morning today. I did expect this though so can't complain, it's just nice to be away from the smog and noise of Kathmandu (although the drilling outside my room isn't exactly ideal) and sleep in a bed with sheets and have a shower where I can control the water temperature.
As a final word my thoughts are with my good mate Charlie BN at the moment who had a rather nasty operation a week ago. From what I know he's home now and is basically just sitting around waiting for the Tour De France to start - if you read this mate I hope you're OK and will be down to see you as soon as I can.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

My pad in Kathmandu.AVI

Double Homicide and Holy Vegetables

Something unusual happened on my walk home yesterday. When you go from Thamel to my house you go through a hectic intersection called Paknajol and then down a short road before turning right down a sharp slope that leads to the main road and into Naya Bazaar.

About halfway down the slope there is a water collection point. It is probably about 4x3 metres and there is invariably at least one person either getting water for home or having a wash. It was this area that is the focus of yesterday’s episode.

I was wandering down the slope, daydreaming as I often do, when I noticed a large group of people gathered around it and a woman walking in my direction. I vaguely heard somebody shout something from behind me but took little notice of it, until the woman replied. The words that came out of her mouth were: “shooting, shooting.”

As you can imagine, this caught me a little off guard. There were no police around and I was about five seconds away from walking into a murder scene. What the hell was I going to do? My mind was fairly blank and as I approached the spot morbid curiosity took over and I could not help but glance in. I saw another woman standing there, not looking too upset which seemed odd, but couldn’t see the bottom. Then I glanced left.

Standing among the crowd was a bloke with a rather large camera who I can only assume was “shooting, shooting” a movie of some kind. I smirked and reminded myself that this is Kathmandu not Kosovo before continuing home

On Friday night there was a murder of a different kind, the mysterious type. All week I had been mildly stressed out about what sort of fancy dress I could find and being that my character was some French poet I had the intention of shaving my beard into a dirty little moustache and creating some kind of stupid hat. However, I lost my temper with the beard earlier in the week and hacked it off completely, so I was relieved when I went to Dan’s house beforehand and saw that his girlfriend has already drawn a massive handlebar on his face and for some reason made his eyebrows enormous. The little twirly effort that was then drawn on me was quite a delight.

I had bought some red trousers and borrowed an ill-fitting blue shirt from Dan and fashioned a beret out of a white plastic bag and some gaffer tape (Blue Peter awaits) with the idea of being decked out in red, white and blue. The coup de grace was to be provided by a French flag attached to my shoulders with hair clips. The flag itself had been obtained after some extremely lengthy discussions with a bar owner who had one hanging outside for the World Cup and I had to convince him to let me have it. At the end of the evening I was left mortified when host Vikki asked me why I had an Italian flag on my back and argued that it was green and not blue. It’s f*+king blue dammit! I was really rather upset! A picture of said flag is below, you decide.

The evening however was suitably ridiculous and there was a good mix of people I’d met before and new folks (one of which has previously written episodes of Sesame Street and is now helping write the new Constitution for Nepal – rumours that it will include a musical alphabet are as yet unconfirmed) and everyone had a good laugh despite the standard power cuts and generally stifling heat. Afterwards I watched that disastrous game of football in my strangest venue yet – with about 70 other Nepali’s with the picture being projected from the other side of the road, over a wall and onto the side of a temple. Dan left at halftime so I was on my own for the last 45 minutes and all in all it was pretty strange.

Finally, every morning I am awoken by a variety of noises, one of which is a strange chanting type sound from a woman outside my window. She repeats a single word over and over and for two months now I have been wondering what it was. At first I thought she was calling someone’s name, but soon decided it wasn’t that, then just figured she was praying.

I had been meaning to ask Nir about it but by the time I actually crawled out of bed my mind was usually on other things, but I finally got round to it yesterday and discovered that she is in fact a lady from outside of Kathmandu who come to down every morning to sell her products. Vegetables. She walks up and down the road at 7am simply shouting the word vegetables over and over again. I have now nicknamed her the Vegetable Nun, purely for my own amusement.

Two weeks to go.


Friday, 18 June 2010

Counting Down

Hello all and a good morning to you. Friday it is and may I be the first to say how welcome that is - and I don't even have a real job like most of you lot!

The last week has been something of a mixed bag. With the decision now made to leave I feel a bit like I'm just treading water until I get on the plane. I finished my rubbish office job on Wednesday and spent yesterday and today doing some freelance writing work for a travel company which is reasonably entertaining. Plus it's in Thamel so I can walk in rather than the terrifying journey on the back of a motorbike along the Bagmati River. It's called a river, but I think festy pit of sewage would be more accurate.

England game tonight so am gearing up for that, along with the murder mystery evening, which could be entertaining. I must say though, a sure sign that this city is not for me has come through the fact that there are no fancy dress shops around. Frankly if you can't buy a frog suit then something is seriously amiss!
Nir has gone back to the village again this morning which means I need to find a place to crash again. Casa Goliath looks the most likely, which is worrying for numerous reasons, I simply cannot go down the same path as last week - I was broken for days.

One of the reasons Nir has left I think is because his sister, Sonchalle, took off mid week to get married. This came totally out of the blue and the family barely know the bloke she's legged it with. Now, while Nir is never one to get too het up about anything, I think he was pretty peeved. When he left this morning I am sure I saw him tucking war paint into his pockets and packing a rather sharp looking blade...
The other rather depressing thing was that Nir moved out of his office deciding it was too expensive, and into a smaller place (it was hardly large to begin with) around the corner just outside Thamel. I was pretty gutted about this, although the office was in a crap location, at least it was still in Thamel (the tourist centre for those who don't know) which made it easy to bring people in if necessary. He is now further out of the mix and even more reliant on business coming through the website and referrals. the website is nearly done, so fingers crossed that will help, but this is a sure sign that whatever profits he made from the cricket a year ago are now running out.

Am still hoping to get to Pokhara for a few days but we'll see if I actually make it. Is rather dependant on my previous job actually paying me, which they have not done so far. For those wondering, my flight is booked for July 6th and while I have a few busy days with the family at first, I'll be in the mix (to some degree) for at least a week or so after that.

Below is a video clip of a bike ride through Kathmandu at night, don't worry Mum, I promise not to do this anymore!

Interesting results on last weeks poll - clearly not many fans of fine wine read this blog - which I suppose is not a surprise. Let's see how this one turns out...
video

Monday, 14 June 2010

Calling It A Day

Well, I figure it is time to stop procrastinating and just make a damn decision, so with that in mind I have opted to call time on my Nepali adventure and head home in a few weeks. To what I have no idea.

This little jaunt has not quite worked out as I’d hoped, but in truth it has not been far off what deep down I expected. I am aware that I could stay here and do a selection of different jobs and probably earn enough money to get by, but that is not what I came here to do, and frankly it’s bloody exhausting.

My biggest regret will be that I never managed to get a place of my own, even if it had only been for a month or so. I think I might have felt a bit more at home then, and not so reliant on other people. I’ve not decided whether this is a final choice or if I’ll have another crack at it, I think I need some time away from this country to gain some perspective before I’ll know quite how I feel about it.

This weekend did give me another glimpse of what life could be like here if my circumstances were different. I had agreed to meet Goliath to watch the rugby which kicked off at the very social time of 4pm. Of course, the football was kicking off just after midnight so he had kindly offered to let me crash at his place, since they have three spare bedrooms.

We had some food and watched England score two scintillating penalty tries in a losing cause before going with his missus and an Aussie bloke called Tim (who looks frighteningly like Ruud Van Nistelrooy) back to chez Goliath.

His place is unbelievable. Three stories, massive garden area, wicked roof terrace and just the two of them there. Plus their two dogs, Coffee and Alfred (or Albert, we’d had a few by this stage and I don’t remember).

Ruud showed why Australians should not be allowed to begin drinking early by promptly passing out before 9pm and I managed to offend various other people with my chat as the evening wore on and we played a considerable amount of FIFA ’09 on his xbox. Those who have seen me in such environments know that I have a tendency to get a little carried away and some of my banter would perhaps have been more suited to an evening with Team Hillary than a bunch of blokes I didn’t really know.

Anyway, people came and went, as did rather a large amount of Rum, before we somehow managed to grab a lift from a truck at a construction site (complete with two blokes asleep on top of the cab who didn’t even move) to the British Gurkha Camp where we arrived approximately three minutes after England had scored. Rage.

More booze and Robert Green–related fury ended with us back at the castle guzzling more booze until 6:30am. Being due to start work at 9 I thought this was a good time to pass out. Work was of course cancelled and I spent Sunday watching highlights of the 2005 Ashes. Super stuff that.

So there we are, from what I gather this is a fairly normal weekend for Goliath and the rest, so perhaps doing a runner might be what’s best for my liver. That said I have the small matter of a murder mystery party this Friday, followed by another England game. Could get interesting.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

More Random Meetings

A few months back I read a great article on The Adventure Blog about a company who were offering The Great Himalayan Trail as a trekking experience.

Being the hopeless dreamer that I am, I became quite fascinated with this idea and thought what an amazing and challenging experience it would be. I knew it would take about six months to do and while I wasn't about to sling on my rucksack and have a crack at it tomorrow, I thought y'know, maybe one day. I then found out the price tag was a mere 20 thousand pounds and swiftly forgot all about it.

In the last couple of weeks it has come into my mind again, and one afternoon last week while a tad bored I decided to go digging for more info and since I remain on a mission to find work that will get me excited I decided to drop them an email, this was last Friday.

I ended up meeting the guy who is looking after the site on Sunday, an English bloke from Warrington (and surprise, surprise, Becci and the Hash crowd know him) who seemed a bit of a maniac but open to chatting about the whole thing. He swiftly offered me a bit of cash to help do some research since he was off to Thailand the following morning and wasn't going to be able to do it himself.

So there we are, a third job. While this is probably only one weeks work and I have no idea if it will lead anywhere, it's a cool thing to be involved with on any level so we'll see how it goes.

My stance now with regards to whether or not I'll be coming home when my visa expires is that I probably will. I think coming home for the summer and getting the last few months into perspective will help me make up my mind about whether or not I want to come back. The rainy season is not far away and while I could extend for another month or two, I think it'd be better to come back in September or October for my last two months, should I want to. Of course, what I'll do back home I have absolutely no idea. As always I have some absurd ideas, but they're probably as practical as...I don't know, coming to Nepal with no job or place to live organised!

Otherwise life has remained pretty standard the last week or so. Nir was away for a couple of days over the weekend which meant I was the only English speaker at home, which was entertaining. I also had hot shower number eight yesterday and actually wished it'd been cold as it was 30-odd degrees outside (apparently in other parts of the country it reached the mid-40s) and was thus already sweating by the time I left for work. That was fantastic. Today mind you, there was no water at all, so I just stink. Thank God I'm not meeting anyone tonight.

Dinner at Casa Becci along with Dan and Helena (poor girl, she's really had a shocker the last few weeks, first her fiancee suddenly gets his visa revoked and then she gets mugged. She was surprisingly chipper all things considered!) last night and I once again left jealous at the rather nice pad she has. Have also lined up a couple of guys to watch the footie with on Saturday night, Goliath being one of them - I wonder who that evening will end... Of course the game deosn't even kick off until gone midnight and I have to work the next day. A serious concern.

Thanks to all who took part in the Graham Poll this week, unsurprisingly loo roll and electricty received no votes and none of you want cutlery. I hope you all have asbestos hands. Next I shall be focussing on luxury items.

Cheers!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

A Day In The Life...

Last week has followed much the same pattern as the one before, so there really isn't a great deal to discuss. As a result I shall tell you a little about my typical day.

This involves waking sometime between 5-7am thanks to either the sounds of someone hocking and coughing, or one of the many, many animals making their respective noises. I then lie in bed staring at the mosquito net until the alarm goes off, which I promptly ignore and put on sleep for 20 minutes. You'd think I'd just set it for 20 minutes later wouldn't you?

After that it's breakfast, which on Friday for example, was a bowl of curried beans. You can imagine. Normally however, it is bread of some kind and usually some potatos, they don't really do 'light' breakfasts over here from what I can tell.

Then I head into work and spend my morning writing news articles for www.estately.co.uk - feel free to have a look, although I'm not really sure how much it will excite anyone since I don't know any Estate Agents.

Then comes lunch. This really is a special part of the day. The first few days I went off on my own and read a book for an hour in a nearby cafe, but then the guys & girls in the office invited me to join them and I figured it would be rude to refuse.

We end up in this shack, and I really mean shack as the below picture will show. Thus far I have decided the noodles and veg samosas are pretty safe, of course they are covered with hot sauce, which while tasty is not ideal for one major reason. This shack is hot. I don't just mean a bit sweaty, we're talking sauna hot. After every meal I emerge totally drenched, much to the amusement of the people I am with. I have been trying to weigh up whether or not the absurdly cheap food is worth the pain of the experience.
The guys at work are all nice enough, nobody speaks in the office itself which is a bit sad, they're all afraid they'll get sacked I think, which doesn't make for much of an atmostphere. I'm sure because of that they want to talk non stop when they get out, of course it's all in Nepali so I don't really get much of it. They do however burst out laughing every so often and it's hard not to feel a little self conscious!

After that it's home and a meal of rice and lentils, ahh good old Dal Bhat, love it, before bed at around 10pm. I often sit out on the balcony and chat with Nir or just read a book.

So there it is, a day in the life of me right now. D-Day is fast approaching when I'll have to make a call on whether or not to stay here. I have decided to give it two more weeks but continue to chase options and will see how things stand then. If I do decide to head home then I am planning to take a week in Pokhara before I go so that I have not spent three months solid in Kathmandu - that thought is just depresseing!

Had a great night last night though, another evening with the expats which involved dinner and a few drinks. Brilliant bunch that lot, but this time I managed to take myself home at 11pm due to not having a hotel room booked. It has since emerged that this was a smart move as numerous people ended up back in the Yak and Yeti Casino until 4am and as such are not feeling too clever today! It all sounded very familiar!

With them was a chap called Ed Laughton (no relation to Neil) who was celebrating a successful climb on the north side of Everest. Top lad and incredibly humble, frankly I would have been shouting from the rooftops! He raised money for the Himalayan Rescue Association and is planning to go back next year and climb from the south side while also working with his wife at the Everest ER, super stuff really. He did go down in my estimation however when he produced a round of Tequila. God that stuff's awful.

I have also managed to finally upload all the Peace Nepal Treks slideshows to You Tube so you can view them by clicking here if you didn't manage to see them on Facebook for whatever reason. I've also stuck another video below, just because I can. Until next time, sleep tight.

video

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Wallop

Not a great deal has happened in the last few days, so I have decided to tell in a little more detail the events of Friday night, since it may give a few of you a cheap laugh.

As mentioned, I had a hotel room for the night so was able to cut loose, and cut loose I did. I was due to meet my mate Dan at 9pm, but knowing that he was attending a wedding from 6:30 I decided to wander into town and grab a bite to eat and sup a few ales from around seven.

I went to Tom & Jerry’s and thankfully the Test was on (because I nicked the remote and put it on) so I settled in to wait for Dan. Now, he’s been living here nearly a year so I was fully expecting him to be on Nepali time, and indeed he didn’t show until about 9:30, however I had got chatting to some slightly annoying English bloke at the bar and all was fine.

We stayed there until 11 and moseyed across to Fire Club. Last time I visited this place was due to Becci’s gag about there being a celebratory Toga party going on after the strikes ended only for me to arrive and discover a lone bloke with his shirt off on the dance floor. Thankfully, I was not toga’d up and neither did I choose to stay.

This time however, it was positively thriving. We bumped into a few other people on the way there, including Tony who I had watched the T20 with. I should also mention that Tony is an absolute giant, not dissimilar to what I imagine Goliath looked like, beard and all.

We stayed there until it closed at about 1 and that is, apparently, when the fun really started. Upon leaving, Ash (Goliath’s other half) got into an argument with a policeman about something or other. I decided to diffuse the situation by nicking the coppers hat and legging it down the street while shouting “You’ll never catch me, I’m an athlete.” I was caught approximately 0.73 seconds later.

Now, stealing clothing form Asian policemen is perhaps not the smartest move as coppers around the globe are not all quite like G-Man, it would seem. Needless to say the lad wanted his hat back, but having decided I needed it we entered into quite a heated debate over how much it was worth. Obviously his asking price was too high since I woke up the following morning hatless.

After that Dan and I challenged Goliath and Ash to a rickshaw race, which led to us tearing through the streets of Kathmandu yelling every line from ‘Days of Thunder’ that I could possibly muster. I am told we won, but truthfully the whole thing is a bit of a blur.

We then landed in a Casino where we promptly demanded the finest champagne on offer. Thankfully I don’t think they were quite prepared for this request as what arrived was certainly no Dom Perignon.

After that the others set about the prestigious business of gambling. Of course, having never gambled in my life I had no idea what was going on and could barely count past five, let alone to 52. I also discovered that yelling “red, no black, no red, no no black!” is also not a guaranteed formula for success. Oh well, guess you have to learn somehow.

I don’t remember getting home, but can only assume I hit the wall at some stage and decided to take myself out of the equation before I got myself into more trouble. Smart move that.

So there you are, you can take the man out of the Drovers but evidently the Drovers remain in the man. I hope you enjoyed; a new poll has just been posted. Rather surprisingly the last one was a tie between ‘Sir’ and ‘Mate’ – I think you lot are too polite.