Nepal Trip 2013
Thursday, June 6th
3 Sisters Guest House
Finally taking some time to sit and to begin to reflect on all that’s transpired in the last week.
I’m sitting on the bed in our airy 3rd floor room at the 3 Sisters Guest House here in Pokhara. Even though it’s airy, it is still humid. Not quite hot, yet, but it’ll surely get warmer as the day moves on.
3 Sisters Guest House, Pokhara, Nepal
The fan overhead is whirring rapidly. I’ve just begun playing a bit of music on my laptop.
This feels good to stop and reflect…
But, how to work my way back through these days? There are any number of ways paths to take…
We have plans for the afternoon and for our remaining days here in Pokhara, and so even though the pace is slow, I feel a pressure to get everything out, RIGHT NOW.
And that’s not helping… relax, Gary. Relax.
I also feel this pressure to get into the mountains, to see the Himalayas, as I’ve no idea if I’ll ever be this close to them again… But they are shrouded in haze and I’ve not yet been able to see these huge mountains that are so very nearby. We are investigating the possibility of driving closer to them and hiking around… but hiking here is not like it is in the US. More on that later…
2 Himalayan peaks poking through the clouds.
Yesterday, as we flew from Nepalganj to Kathmandu, we saw several grand, mighty and majestic peaks poking up through the roof of clouds. Mountains bigger than I could have possibly imagined… I’m not sure which peaks we saw, but they were well over 20k feet. The most prevalent peak near to Pokhara, is Machupichre and it is 23k plus… just a baby by Himalayan standards, but more than 9k feet higher than my home mountains in Colorado. It staggers the mind.
Back to yesterday… we snuck out of Tikapur furtively in the middle of the night to drive 2+ hours back to Nepalganj. We had to leave under cover of darkness as there’s a strike on in the country and such overland travel with hired drivers is forbidden during a strike. The strike is on because a slave girl was killed in Kathmandu several days ago and workers are protesting…
So, we barely slept to rest from the long, long full day of the men’s conference.
Also, robbing us of sleep was the sheer heat and humidity of that region. It’s downright oppressive. We stayed at a good hotel in Tikapur that had air conditioners in each room, but there are power cuts throughout the country and the generator that the hotel uses to run power during cut times was not working properly… and so we were denied the cool air that had been such a relief the previous two nights.
It was so hot in the middle of the night that I literally felt I couldn’t breathe. Melanie and I both woke up coughing, feeling we were choking. We were able to settle down a bit and lay back down, but it was miserable.
Finally, though, the power smoothed out and our air conditioner was able to run for a couple of hours, allowing us some measure of rest before the alarm sounded at 2:30 am.
The front of Nepalganj airport.
Since we had to leave Tikapur so early, we arrived in Nepalganj far ahead of our scheduled flight, so we sat around the Nepalganj airport chatting, sipping coffee and tea.
A bit about who “we” were at that point… It was Melanie, Vaun and me, along with Udaya and his two children (and they are such great kids!!), Shalom (pronounced with an “S” not an “Sh” sound) and Salome (pronounced Sah-lo-may).
Udaya, Vaun and Salome
Udaya works with a ministry called ServeLife. That’s the organization that supports him as he and his wife Bhakti care for 23 “adopted” children along with their own two children mentioned above. The children they assist are orphans for a wide variety of reasons and who are from all over Nepal.
These are beautiful, beautiful people.
They’ve recently grown to the point that they have split the boys and girls into two homes, with Udaya and Bhakti living in one home and Bhakti’s brother and sister-in-law living with the boys in a home nearby. We visited with them the first day we were here and had an amazing time. More on that later…
I am standing on something of a podium, but stil…
Udaya also pastors Ekta Church, a growing congregation in the heart of Kathmandu. He and his family are the core of the church and Salome and Shalom lead worship while the other kids help with music and singing, too. This is the church where I preached last Saturday. More on that later…
Udaya is also involved in a variety of other endeavors. He’s working with Daya Girls home, another orphanage for girls out in the more rural western region near to where our conference was held. We stopped to visit these girls on our drive from Nepalganj to Tikapur… more about that visit later… but for now a pic of the visit… (picture of visit)
And Udaya is also engaging in the foundation of a new political party here in Nepal, as there are elections ongoing as the government continues to grow and stabilize from the upheavals that occurred in 2008-2009 when the Hindu kingdom was peacefully overthrown. We’ve had some conversation about their political situation, but frankly it’s hard to cobble together… Suffice it to say that the government that’s in place is not the best and it’s full of selfish, greedy and largely un-educated people who have trouble working together for the common good. And everyone suffers as a result.
Udaya is a key figure in an association of non-denominational churches in Nepal as well, and this trip out to the west was very much a working trip for him, too… and so he was occupied with hosting us, meeting with other leaders and also doing a pastoral visit with an extended family member whose husband had committed suicide the evening we arrived… Udaya barely slept the whole time we were in Tikapur, it seems.
And so, as we were spending time at the Nepalganj airport, Melanie, Vaun, Shalom and myself sat in the canteen while Udaya slept and Salome rested nearby.
For those that have been to places like Nepal, you’ll “get” the humor of a VIP Lounge…
For those of you who’ve traveled abroad to the developing world (or “majority world,” or whatever descriptor is most appropriate) you understand what these small, local airports are like… For the rest of you, put any and all thoughts of American or European airports out of your mind. I’m not even sure how to begin to describe them…
Because to describe them individually might take them out of the context of the condition of everything here…
And that requires describing what it’s like to “be” in a country like Nepal.
I’ll say it like this…
They have most everything we have in America… Electricity, plumbing, roads, buses, taxis, buildings, restaurants, hotels, etc, etc… But, there seems to be very little infrastructure or solidity behind these things. And so, electricity comes and goes during the day. Water comes out of a tap, but it’s unsafe for us westerners to drink. There are streets, but they’re uneven and full of potholes and are bustling and crazy and bizarre, with pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles all sharing space with dogs, cows and water buffalo. You flush a toilet, but you have no idea where the waste is going to end up.
And there’s trash everywhere. There has been no “buy-in” by people to properly dispose of waste, likely because there’s nowhere for it to go… and so, trash gets thrown on the ground and it is absolutely everywhere. Pokhara, where we are now, is the cleanest place we’ve been by far, but it’s a far cry from even the dirtiest of an American or European city I’ve seen.
There are some strange dichotomies, too… for example: EVERYONE has a cell phone and there’s cell coverage EVERYWHERE. Just this morning, while I was out on a run, I saw a very “traditional” looking Nepali woman… dressed in colorful clothing, carrying a large basket of something or other to the market, walking down the road… it could have been a picture from 150 years ago… except she was talking on a mobile phone.
Steak dinner last night… maybe beef? Maybe water buffalo? Tasty either way…
The food has been outstanding, though, too. I really had no idea what to expect, but it’s been absolutely fantastic. Just this morning, we had a little breakfast buffet here at our guesthouse and there were pastries, cereal, yogurt and fruit and they prepared veggie omelets and lemon sugar pancakes (Swedish style, we rolled up a fresh banana in them… amazing) for us, too. And last night I had a steak with some sort of amazing sauce, grilled veggies and bread smothered with cheddar cheese.
But, the effect, though, of this feeling of lack in infrastructure results living by a LOT of faith. In the back of your mind, you understand that any bite of food or drink of beverage could potentially make you violently ill. And out in Tikapur, malaria is an issue, so any number of the mosquito bites we received could have carried the virus.
So, in many ways it’s a strange place to be.
But, the people are absolutely beautiful and kind and gracious and humble and respectful and simple.
I’ll jump into actually telling the tale of exactly what we’ve been doing in my next post. Thanks for reading and loving and caring and praying.