Valley Walks

While we await Kishore’s South Africa visa, we have been biding our time taking walks in and around Kathmandu valley. It is still quite hazy, but it gets us out of the hustle of the city for a time.  Please enjoy a few views from this past week.

The Fields outside the village of Khokana, Kathmandu Valley

 

Views from Chobar and the Aadinath Temple

 

 

Chobar resident watching construction at the temple

 

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We Walk the Path of Madness

I have been sitting on this post for some time. I hate to be negative, but felt this was a  story that should be told. It is a bit more wordy that I am accustomed to, so I hope you will bear with me.

As you may or may not have noticed, this blog has suffered a bit of neglect since we left Cambodia. In the time since my last update, we traveled to Laos and then briefly to Vietnam before deciding to pull the plug and head back to Nepal. We have remained in Kathmandu since our rather suspenseful descent into the airport at the end of January.  When I set out to document our travels, I promised to “keep it real,” but for several reasons I frankly was not up to the task until now.  I’ll do my best to catch up over the last few months.

When we decided to take the leap and travel, I’ll be the first to admit that we had rather romantic notions of how things would be. This was partially fueled by the limited articles we read about other families who had embarked on similar journeys, or were “world schooling” their own children. The families in these posts and articles appeared to be happy and well adjusted to their new lives on the road. And most, if not all, parents claimed that the experience had really strengthened their bonds as a family.

As any parent will tell you, kids are challenging to be around at times. In fact, I recall a few friends marveling at our boldness to take on such an adventure. Now, add in the fact that you are with them 24/7 in constantly changing and unfamiliar environments. What could possibly go wrong? Well, quite a lot, it so happens. Granted, we made a lot of rookie mistakes along the way, and while I could waste time lamenting this, it is these mistakes that have revealed much about ourselves, our capacity as parents as well as what truly bonds us as a family.

What happened and what we learned

From the beginning of December when we embarked on our tour of India until the end of January, we traveled to 20 different destinations.  Twenty different places! Wrap your heads around that. If you calculate it out, we were moving on average every 3 days. Now, if you are single, motivated and in your 20’s, its still a bit much, but manageable. When you are in your 40’s traveling with young children, it is absolute madness. We were all an exhausted mess the majority of the time. Had we really thought this whole thing through, perhaps we would have done things differently. After all, the whole point of this experience, was to spend quality time together as a family and give our children an enriching cultural experience. But to be completely honest, a good portion of the time it had the opposite effect. We were so weary with the constant movement and extensive planning that goes along with it, (accommodations, transportation, sightseeing, etc.) it was nearly impossible to be present for our children. And as for cultural experiences, due to the frequency of our movement, there really wasn’t much opportunity to engage in the communities we visited. We were in essence, just passing through.

Clearly, we did too much with too little advance planning.  We didn’t account for the negative impact it would have on our young children by not giving ourselves any downtime to just relax and be together.  In retrospect, the kids really could have cared less about the countless temples and museums we visited. Maybe they are too young or perhaps, as some folks have said, they will look back and appreciate the experience when they are older. I can’t say I regret visiting many of these cultural sites, but we should have put more limits or at least given ourselves more time. Thanks in part to our 3-day Angkor Wat extravaganza, both kids seem to have acquired a sort of post traumatic temple fatigue syndrome. Frankly, I’m not sure when they will willingly  step foot in one again. Angkor Wat is truly a wonder of the world, but not when you are 6 years old and just want to swim in the hotel pool. ***Note: when traveling with young kids parents should never underestimate the power of a pool!

Contemplating Angkor Wat-5
Moments before the meltdown at Angkor Wat

Thankfully, every perceived negative experience provides an opportunity to learn and grow. Through trial and subsequent error, we rediscovered what connects and grounds us as a family.  This one common thread is nature. This should be no surprise to anyone who knows us at all. It is in the quiet open spaces that we find our peace. This is precisely why we spend so much time in the mountains or outdoors on our little island. We all, kids included, struggle with various levels of anxiety. We can only tolerate the over stimulation of large crowds, loud noises and other visual assaults often associated with large cities for so long before we start to crack apart. I am not entirely sure why we didn’t consider this when we started our journey, but it doesn’t really matter. We have come around full circle.

Where do we go from here?

Now that we are back in Nepal, we are taking time to just be with family and reconnect. The children have been enrolled in a local school here in Kathmandu where they have made many friends and lifelong connections to their second home. Our son participated in a Bratamandh ceremony along with his cousin and is learning what it means to be a part of another culture. Our daughter also participated in her own “right of passage” the Ihi ceremony, along with 8 other girls her age, which was truly rewarding. We are incredibly proud of our children’s resilience and eagerness to embrace their culture.  So, that is how we got to where we are. To quote Helena, “We already are where we are.” Amen to that.

Helena and Evanan in Chhauni-5
The kids sporting their school uniforms.

Footnote to the Future

We have run into several hiccups on our travels as we try and plan the remainder of our trip. Kishore’s Nepali passport has proven a real deterrent to visiting most countries without considerable advance planning, which of course we didn’t even consider. He did mail off his South Africa visa application today (woohoo Andooo and Shaggy!) and hopefully, we will be departing from Kathmandu in less than a month’s time. Cape Town will likely be our final destination before returning home to the states. While we wait for his visa, we plan to get out of the valley and do a few more treks with the kids. To be continued… As always, thanks again for following along!

 

I Was Doing so Well…

…keeping up with my blog while we were in Nepal. We are into week 3 of our month long tour in India. We have already toured the golden deserts, palace forts and temples of Rajasthan, walked and swam on the beaches of Mararikulum and boated the backwaters of Kerala. We’ve watched traditional Kathakali dance and martial arts performances in Fort Cochi and explored the tea and spice plantations outside of Thekkady. Not to mention, sampling the local delicacies along the way. Whew! Makes me tired just thinking of it all. It has been amazing and exhausting, chaotic and tranquil.

It is Christmas Eve as I write this from our shabby hotel room in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. It is the first day we are without activities and the kids are happily watching a English dubbed Jackie Chan movie, set in all places, India.

I am so overwhelmed with post processing, I’ll just share a smattering of images from our trip so far. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Love from India!

Dawn

New Delhi

Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer desert safari-2

Jodhpur

Kerala Kathakali Cultural Center – Fort Cochin

 

Kathakali-6

Mararikulum

 Fisherman at Marari Beach

marari beach-19

Sights along the Kerala Backwaters from a houseboat

Our Gang (minus a few) and hosts in Mararikulum

marari beach-28

We Already Are Where We Are

As we were leaving the Muktinath temple on our way back to the village of Kagbeni, my daughter reached the entrance gate and said, “We already are where we are.” Certainly, she meant that we had returned back to where we started but I was so charmed by this statement. It has become a mantra in a way. Each time we reached a place we had been before, I found myself saying it. We are where we are and we keep coming back. A metaphor of sorts.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I went on the Annapurna trek exactly 20 years ago. We did it in reverse this time, flying into Jomsom and walking back to Ghasa. It was my goal to make it up to Muktinath since we were unable to reach there the last time due to the all too common traveler’s sickness. It was wonderful to be back here with our children despite some of the challenges with the road. Development in the area has certainly had a negative impact for trekkers, but we were able to find alternative trails that avoided the dusty and often times dangerous road.

Rather than bore you dear readers, with a full trip report, I offer these visuals. I did spend some extra time to caption the images if you are so inclined.

 

Jomsom to Ghasa-8
Queue for the next flight.
Jomsom to Ghasa-24
The village of Jomsom

 

Jomsom to Ghasa-18
Carrying water to make Chaang

 

Jomsom to Ghasa-11
Donkey transport
Jomsom to Ghasa-62
Mother and child along the roadside between Kagbeni and Jharkot.

 

 

 

Jomsom to Ghasa-109
Don’t follow the herd

I’m Bored…

It doesn’t take long to realize that your kids will be bored wherever you are. Yep, they are officially bored out of their minds. I can’t say I blame them, we have been holed up in this house for a good portion of the week. Kishore and I are feeling a bit restless ourselves. Our few attempts at outings have been lackluster at best and/or hindered by major traffic jams or our daughter’s complaints of stomach pain. I do believe her pain was legitimate, at least initially, but I am coming to realize it is now an attempt to avoid having to go on walks.

While there are a multitude of cultural activities and attractions in Kathmandu, getting to them is definitely a challenge where we are staying. Traffic jams can be mind numbing and walking in the city center (which we did one day) was a bit of a shit show. The kids (and I) were legitimately scared they were going to be hit by a truck or motorcycle. Luckily traffic moves at such a snail’s pace that any accident would likely not be life threatening.

So while we prepare for our trek, we are finding ways to combat the boredom, mostly by eating. On the bright side, the kids are keeping up with their school work, playing with the dogs and recently started making their own music videos. Helena has a bit of an affinity for Taylor Swift (lord help me) and sits in front of the vanity lip-syncing her favorite songs. Its a riot.

Downtime in Kathmandu

Less than a week into our stay in Nepal, we are all working through jet lag and various bodily ailments. Evanan, who has always had a high histamine response, is swollen with infected mosquito bites. Our resident thumb sucker, Helena has mild travelers diarrhea and I still can’t kick my chest congestion that started before we got on the plane and seems to be exacerbated by the poor air quality in Kathmandu. All said, we are laying low at my father-in-law’s place for a few more days.

In our downtime, we are making plans to go on the Jomsom trek in the Annapurna’s next week with our family friends from Seattle. The last time Kishore and I went on this trek was exactly 20 years ago. Regrettably, I became ill during the last few days of the trek and had to take a night donkey (something that can be arranged) to the nearest exit point in Jomsom where we were able to take a flight out the next morning. This time around we’ll be doing the trek in reverse, flying into Jomsom from Pokhara and then trekking back down, at least that is the plan for now. It may be a bit ambitious for the kids but we will take it slow and with all the tea houses along the route we should have options if things go awry. I do hope that a few of us will be able to make it to Muktinath which we missed the last time around.

jomsom_muktinath_trekking

So much has changed over the last 20 years. There is now a road all the way from Pokhara to Muktinath where there was once only trails. You can book accommodations at various teahouses prior to going on your trek, which is also new to us. There is a mandate that went into effect several years ago that all foreign tourist must have a guide while trekking. I’m not entirely sure how that will all work out, I guess we shall see.

Below are just a few snapshots of our surroundings in Chhauni during this downtime.