Tuesday, January 23, 2007

final shots from the tibetan reception center

tuesday was a sad day as i said goodbye to the kids at the tibetan reception center. it's hard not to get attached to them (except the bratty ones), but i was warmed up to the inevitable goodbye from some of my favorites leaving for dharamsaala over the past week or two. i hope i touched their lives like they touched mine.
for those of you who love kids, you'll be sad to know that this is the final photos from the tibetan refugees. for those of you who hate kids, i'm not sure if there's anything i can do to help.
so here you go.
making funny faces
some kids beg to get their picture taken, but never smile. this older child for example.
self-promoting artist
playing with paper planes in the hallway
the kid in the middle has been at the refugee center for over a year, mainly due to medical reasons.
this is great. the kid on the right in monk's clothing, used to walk around dressed like a hip-hopper. he had the hat to the side, a track suit, and a chain hanging from his neck modeled after 22" rims with the spinny things. we used to exchange gang signs to each other, and he told the teacher he was a tibetan hip-hopper. then on monday, he walks into class and is now a novice monk. it blew my mind away.
this kid is a good kid.
one of the kids with one of the other volunteers from france.
reality. waiting in line for food.
on my last day, one of the other volunteers gave the kids leftovers from lunch. it was spicy chili chicken. here are two of them with their mouths on fire.
on the last afternoon, we dressed the kids up in costumes, and painted their faces. this girl (who we call the 'hullo, hullo' girl, since that's all she says to get our attention) would call us yelling 'hullo, hullo!' and then start doing a dance that looked half hindi, half hawaian.
my favorite kid getting glammed up
i think she wanted her photo taken, but i couldn't understand what she was saying.
the mosh pit at the costume party
a little one dressed up. this girl has been scared of me for the past 5 weeks, except on the last day. maybe she was glad to be out of there.
remember in 'goodfellas' when joe pesci asked if he was a (expletive) clown. i don't know why this made me think of that.
the moustache isn't real
the aforementioned good kid dressed up like a cat
it took 20 shots to get them to smile
this kid is rad. taught him secret handshakes and high fives.
my favorite looking like a showgirl
this girl is funny. she always leeches onto the volunteers and never lets go. she could spend a whole afternoon attached to you. see photo above with the french volunteer for a perfect example.
here she is disguised with a wig. she can be like a dog who protects her owner sometimes. when other kids try to play with a volunteer she's holding on to, she snarls and threatens to attack.
this little angel likes to cry a lot for attention. sometimes it actually works.
little pinkie
little red devil
the 'hullo, hullo' girl, and my favorite. when the teachers told my favorite that i was leaving, she didn't speak, but smiled to be courteous, in a surprised and shocked way. i told her i'd hope to maybe see her in dharamsaala, and my last image walking out of the refugee center was of her, her little brother, 'hullo, hullo', and the kid i taught secret handshakes goodbye. made me a bit sad. the next day, the french volunteer told me that my favorite was very quiet and calmer than usual. i guess the saying goodbye part isn't new to them, since about 98% of the kids make the journey across the himalayas without their parents or other family members. and most never see their family again. i'm glad my favorite six year old at least has her 3 year old brother to be with throughout the journey to the tibetan government in exile in india. free tibet.

i'm tired.
good bye
Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Monday, January 22, 2007

this weekend's weekend getaway

this weekend's getaway from the smog of kathmandu was to nagarkot, about 2 hours east of kathmandu, and 800 meters higher. it's amazing, it's only about 30 km away, but takes a couple hours to get to, due to changing busses in bhaktapur, and slow crowded windy, dusty, thin roads.
the big draw for nagarkot, is a clear view towards the himalayas. it's famous for the sun rising above the jagged snow-capped peaks. the town is high above the kathmandu valley, with a panoramic view of the tallest range in the world. after sunrise on sunday morning, the plan was to head down to changu narayan, a hindu temple and unesco world heritage sight on the way back to kathmandu.
of course, both sunrise and sunset at nagarkot were filled with clouds, with sunrise looking like the ocean beach fog in san francisco.
lit a butter candle in front of a buddha for good luck in bhaktapurhand made wooden masks in a shop in bhaktapur, a place i visited a couple weekends ago
here is where magnificent photos of the himalayas would have gone, but fog killed that idea. but all was not lost. ended up hiking most of the way back to kathmandu, partially for hiking exercise, and also because of a nationwide blockade on the roads of nepal by 'public transportation' (a very loose term) drivers. last friday, a student protester was killed by maoist cadres in the southern region of lahan. protesters then torched 14 busses in protest, and a curfew down there was established. on sunday, the 'public transportation' workers closed all roads to traffic except for motorcycles and a few taxis. so it ended up that protesters were protesting other protesters burning busses due to a protester being killed.........but anyway, the hike was great, as we passed through chhetri villages, holy temples, and an old sadhu. the hike felt a bit like a holy pilgrimage.
these girls greeted us at the start of the hike. i gave them a passport photo of me as a souvenir, and took photos of them for the same reason.

the hazy farming countryside on the way back down to kathmandu
this was the greatest part of the journey. halfway on the trek back, some village kids had us climb a little hill to meet this man, babu, a geniune sadhu, or a holy hindu man who renounces material things, and wanders from time to time on spiritual journey. here he is offering us coffee, in his tiny, rammed-earth abode.
he's 73 years old, is originally from calcutta, india, has been a sadhu for 50 years, has lived in this home for 40 years, has been visited by many, and speaks a pretty good amount of english.
here he is holding a picture taken by a former volunteer building a school nearby. you can't see it, but in the background of the photo, the leaves of the trees right above babu's head looks like the hindu god, vishnu.
his secret to staying healthy and alive is eating nothing but vegetables, removing grains and rice from his diet, and smoking lots and lots of dope. homeboy tokes every day, and is popular with the male villagers aged 16-25.
elephant at the hindu temple, changu narayan
wood carving details on the eave of one of the temples
a nepali tradition, sitting around with afternoon milk tea.

speaking of wandering holy men, does anyone know Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Friday, January 19, 2007

This Week in Kathmandu :: Episode II

For the week ending on the 20th of January 2007, this is, This Week in Kathmandu:
Buddha sits, sadhu leans
The remaining photos are from the Tibetan Reception (Refugee) Center. This was my last full week, as my volunteer time ends on Tuesday the 23rd. There have been a flurry of kids leaving this past week for Dharamsaala, to start their new lives at the Tibetan government in exile. Four busses have left this week, with some of my favorite kids on board. I've been clicking like crazy at the Art Refuge, trying to capture every moment before I leave on Tuesday. Here's this week's top pics:
the brother-sister duo with the most appearances on This Week in Kathmandu
check out this sketch of the Dalai Lama that this guy drew at the Art Refuge. Impressive, isn't it.
a newbie who just arrived at the TRC shows off her latest artwork.
these girls (one is the sister in the photo two shots above) arrived at different times at the TRC, but they've been pretty much inseperable. They rank in my top 5 favorite Tibetans of all time, bumping His Holiness the Dalai Lama to number 6.
i'm tall
These kids are receptive to anything artistic, including shamelessly plugging Global Transmission. Of course they're kids, so sometimes things go wrong on the set, such as the props being upside down.
These two sisters are also in the Top 5 Tibetan list. They left for Dharamsaala on Tuesday, much to my sadness. But before they left I gave them my business card, and told them to first learn English, then learn to use the internet, email me, and then read the mantras of the Global Transmission blog religiously.

Speaking of reading religiously, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

travel tip #411

sorry for yelling, but after paying a $5300 bill on my visa card for my mt. everest debacle last month, i am excited to say that my travel insurance company world nomads, just sent me a check and paid for all of it. every penny from the $5k, 90 minute helicopter rescue ride, $258 emergency telephone calls to the usa from deep in the himalayas, to the emergency medical trip to the hospital (which ironically was the smallest part of the bill at a measly 19 bucks) and prescriptions.
we all know that the health care system in the usa is a big sham. overpriced and undercoveraged that it's no wonder more than half the country is without it. but the cost for insurance for travelling in any country outside the united states is quite a bargain. for 6 months of international travel, insurance with world nomads costs a total of $240, a mere $40 per month. that's about the same price for one month of coverage in the states. can you imagine if health care at home cost this little? i might never go home now with prices this low. i can't recommend world nomads enough. there's no fine print to deal with, they cover all the crazy sport activities that your mother doesn't want to know about, they have prompt service, and they even dhl'd my check to make sure it wasn't lost in the mail.
so if you happen to be travelling overseas, don't be stupid, buy health insurance. nobody likes stupid people. other than possibly, other stupid people, but that's a topic for a different day. speaking from experience, anything can happen out there, and emergency medical helicopters are far from cheap.

speaking of world nomads, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

weekend at chitwan, and the most bizarre, disgusting strike i've ever heard of

every weekend, i try to escape kathmandu and get away for a daytrip, or weekend jaunt. it's nice to get away from the pollution and the masses and get some fresh air. this weekend, i took a couple extra days off from the refugee center and went down south, near the indian border to visit chitwan national park, home to monkeys, sloth bears, spotted deers, bengal tigers, wild elephants, and its biggest draw, the endangered one horned rhino......sorry for the boring text. nothing really sarcastic about seeing animals in the wild.
misty sunrise on the rati river
elephant traffic in suaraha, the town just outside chitwan national park
the gharial alligator. total fish eater, has webbed feet, and extra long snout. crazy looking guys.
the endangered one horned rhino. two tons of fun. saw them during an elephant safari, but didn't see any while trekking (nor any bengal tigers). that might be a good thing while hiking.
baby rhino running to mommy
elephant yawning at the sight of another baby rhino
sunset view from the lodge overlooking the rati river, with chitwan national park across the way

the strangest, most bizarre reason for a strike
i almost didn't make it to chitwan because of a strike just outside the town of suaraha where i stayed. the roads were shut down by truck drivers. they weren't striking for wages, but to protest a verdict made on another truck driver. here's the reason why. in nepal, when an accident occurs, such as a truck driver hitting someone, the truck driver has to pay the victim and their family a lot of money on a regular basis. but if the victim dies, they don't have to pay anything. now most truck drivers do not have insurance, and in this instance, a truck driver hit a little girl in the street one evening. however, she didn't die. so what the truck driver did, was go in reverse, and run her over to try and kill her (believe it or not, this is supposedly a common occurance). he happened to get caught doing this, and a judge sentenced him to prison. the truck drivers on strike protested this decision, and said that it's not always their fault. sometimes the kids are running around when they shouldn't be. either way, this is the sickest reason i've ever heard for closing down a road. it's actually quite disgusting.
if anyone has a sicker reason for having a strike, i'd love to hear it.

...and never sick, but always slick Dónde está Ché Pelotas?