Archive for October, 2010


Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Pokhara is Nepal’s second largest city. It sits on a lake between the hills. It sometimes has beautiful views of the Anapurna and Dalagiri mountain ranges. At other times it has beautiful views of clouds that temptingly look like they could be mountain ranges but aren’t. 🙂

Fishtail from Pokhara

I had the good luck to spend a week and a half in Pokhara. After my trek finished I ended up in a hotel there for two nights. I met up with Becca and Gary (who I’d met at Anapurna Base Camp and were staying in the hotel next door). I got washing done – clean, dry clothes – the world is a very happy place. I ate lovely Chinese food (sweet and sour tofu with mixed vegetables is awesome). I drank freshly squeezed fruit juice – the kid who works on the fruit juice stall worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week and always had a smile for me. I ate vegetable sandwiches in the Sip ‘N’ Bite cafe. Awesome! I resisted buying lots of books from the magnificient second hand book shops – I only bought several books. I read lots of wonderful books. I walked by the lake. I spent a day of massage, meditation and reiki – not quite as good as I hoped, but it was interesting. I did lots of emailing, blog posting etc. I made friends with the woman from the shop on the corner and she took me to do some sightseeing around the town.

All in all, I had a wonderful, wonderful, relaxing time. Which was just what I needed after 11 days of trekking and before facing India.

I love Nepal!! 🙂

Trek Length

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

I know it’s been a while since I was actually on the trek but I did want to talk about trek length.

Before I started I had been thinking of doing a 6 or 7 day trek. A nice gentle, easy, beginners trek. Even though I do a lot of walking generally, I wasn’t sure how strenuous or how difficult it was going to be trekking through Nepal.

When talking to the agency who arranged the trek for me, I ended up being convinced to do a 12 day trek. Walking each day would be between 4 and 6 hours. I thought about it and decided: what the hell, I’ll give it a go, how hard can it be!

Now, in my case, this turned out to be the right decision. Though 12 days turned out to be just a bit too long. My porter/guide and I split from the rest of the group on day 9. They were going to go the quick way back to Pokhara, I was going to take one extra night and go the longer way via Poon Hill.

Day 10 saw us arrive in Gorepani. It had been a long day. It had rained for the last two hours of walking. The ground had been very slippery so I spent the whole time walking really carefully. I skidded several times but managed not to actually fall. When we got in, I removed 5 leeches from my shoes (fortunately none on me). I sort of washed some of my clothes so I could hang them in the dining room to dry. The dining room was full of a group of British Gap Year kids who were having a riotus time (good on them, I say in hindsight and in a different country). During/after dinner the gap yearers plus the Korean group were singing and dancing with the locals (guides, porters, guesthouse staff). Fortunately I managed to avoid it by dashing off to bed as quickly as possible. In short, I was fed up and grumpy. I had no clothes that were clean and dry. My room was cold. I was just plain fed up. And I still had two days left. What’s more, the next day was an early start: 4:30 so we could watch the sunrise from Poon Hill.

I prayed for rain. It didn’t. At 4:15 the skies were clear, I woke up. We downed a cup of tea and headed off into the night.

Now actually, this turned out to be a good thing. That sunrise from Poon Hill is the most incredible thing I have ever seen in my life. It was worth every aching muscle, the lack of sleep, the grumpiness. Just awe inspiring.

But, it was still only day 11 and I had to walk for the rest of that day and for another. Or so I thought.

It turns out that the plan was to do about 6 or 7 hours that day and then 1 or two the next. Hmmmm, I thought. Why not just do 8 hours today. We have more than enough daylight for it. And I think I can handle pushing myself that far if there’s a hot shower, a bed and a laundry at the other end. It seemed my porter/guide was just as happy (he would get back to Kathmandu a day early and would get paid for an extra day). So we did just that.

8 hours on day 11. Which felt great. It wasn’t too hard. Though my knees were starting to hurt with all the steps we had to go down. But I did decide that 10 days trekking is great. 11 is not bad. 12 would be just a little too much.

Transporting Chickens

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

My last trekking day in Nepal seemed to be a day for transporting chickens.

Now, transporting chickens isn’t something I’ve ever had to do, and I’m not entirely sure how I would go about doing it if I had to do it. But now, I have several ideas of methods that might work.

These are the methods I saw on my final trekking day.

In all these cases the chickens were very much alive and kicking, scratching, squawking, flapping, etc.

* Upside Down
Take two chickens (one for each hand)
Hold them upside down by their legs so that their beaks hang down
Hold them far enough away from your body so that the flapping of the wings doesn’t bother you too much

* Chicken in a Box
Get a cardboard box
Sit some chickens in it
Close the box
Tie it with string
Hold the box by the string
(Alternatively, you could get the same effect by putting a tape recorder playing chicken sound effects into the box, which is what those people may have done.)

* Underarm
Tuck the chicken under your arm
Wrap it with a scarf

* Back to Basics
Get a wire cage (three levels)
Put chickens in each level of the cage
Carry the cage on your back
(You probably don’t want to wear your favourite shirt for this)

* Chicken Run
Chase the chickens up the hill
Use of a big stick may help to keep them in line

* Donkey
Get a wire cage
Put chickens in it
Attach the cages to a donkey (one cage to each side)
Chase the donkey up the hill
Use of a big stick may help to keep them in line


Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Why is Michael Jackson more well known than Pythagoras?
Why is Coca Cola more easily obtainable than clean drinking water?
Why do people without adequate plumbing have satellite tv?
Why do the very people who recognise pollution is a problem continue to throw rubbish on the streets and into our waterways?
Why do flashy, gaudy, sparkly churches build tacky, painted, concrete grottoes when the schools they run are falling to pieces?
Why do tourists who spend 1500 Rupees on a meal in a fancy hotel quibble over 50 Rupees for a ride in a three wheeler?

As human beings I think we have the power to diseminate valuable information and life-saving products. We can make the world a better, cleaner, healthier place.

For some reason, we choose not to.

I wonder why?

Quality of Life

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

I have been thinking of quality of life.

When I get to Sri Lanka and have the opportunity to teach adults again, one of my classes will be about quality of life.

I’d like to know what my students think is important for their quality of life.

I’ve been thinking about my quality of life indicators.
* I want to be warm and dry.
* I don’t want to have to drive a car.
* I want to be able to do lots of walking.
* I want regular contact with my friends – preferably in person, but via phone or net is ok.
* I want to have a minimal amount of stuff (I’m hoping for one bicycle and one big rucksack – I think I’m on about two or three times that at the moment).

Other people will have different indicators, some may be diametrically opposite to mine. That’s ok.

But I was wondering if any of you out there reading my blog would like to add your comments about what your indicators might be.

I won’t hold you to these and you are allowed to change your mind any time you fancy but I’m interested in what different people think.


Sunday, October 31st, 2010

There’s an exercise I’ve done with adult students which helps me to understand their culture and helps them to practice their English.

I did this with a class size of 10 and with a class size of 150. For the first step the small class worked individually and the large class worked in groups of about 10.

Context: most (if not all) religions have commandments/tenants/precepts/rules that their followers should follow.

Step one: students write down their own personal top 3 commandments.
Step two: I write them all on the board (there will be about 30 of them).
Step three: the class decides as a whole on their group top 5 from the list of 30.

They have to compare options (not killing is more important that not stealing) and they have to justify their choices to convince the rest of the group.

It’s a great exercise, especially when there are people from different races, religions and socio-economic groups.

I have learnt a lot. About my students and their cultures and about myself too.

Here are my current Top 5:
* Be excellent to each other.
* Exercise your powers of self-determination.
* Take responsibility for your life and your actions.
* Smile.
* Be self-aware.

I’d be interested in yours or in your thoughts about mine. So please leave a comment if you fancy.


Attitude to Religion

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

My attitude to religion has been changing a bit while I’ve been travelling.

I am interested in religions as a general concept. I’d like to know more about them. I know about Catholicism. I know a bit about Sri Lankan Buddhism. I know a bit about Tibetan Buddhism. I don’t really know much about any of the others and I think I should learn more. My travelling has increased my desire to learn more.

Knowing about them helps me spot the similarities and differences between them. It helps me to gain a better understanding of people who follow these religions. It helps me to put history in context. It helps me to understand politics and psychology and sociology.

And it helps me gain a better understanding of my value system.

People ask me what religion I am. I say I have no religion. It’s not that I don’t beleive in God (I’m not sure how to characterise what I believe in, but most religious types wouldn’t recognise it as god) it’s just that I don’t believe in religions. And the strength of my unbelief in religions is increasing the more I travel and the more I see of how different religions are practiced in different places.