The opinions expressed on this blog are the personal views of Andreas Kjernald and do not reflect the positions of either the UMC congregations in Skien or Hvittingfoss or the UMC Norway.

söndag 22 januari 2017

Two weeks in Pokhara

There are many "obvious" things about coming to and being in Nepal. The roaming dogs and cows; the incessant honking and the chaotic traffic; smells both horrible (sewer) and delicious (food). The radiant colors of women's clothing. The dust. The staring. The "Namaste" and the smiles when you greet them. The legion of hole-in-the-wall shops selling the same thing (chips, Cokes, water, soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper); The low prices. The because-you-are-white-we're-increasing-our-prices-150%; The mountains. The scary looking doctor's offices (and even worse hospitals); Advertisments everywhere; Hindu temples/holy trees/stones; the trash.

But there are many other things I have noticed, or that have made an impression on me. For instance, I find it interesting that most medium to large temples are padlocked and gated so that the little statue/god is barely visible. Why? It's a cement/stone statue of some size. Besides, wouldn't the laws of Karma dictate that stealing a statue/god would automatically send you down the reincarnation ladder?
I wonder if the devout Hindu person really gets anything out of the chanting that goes on down by the lake temple for A WHOLE MONTH (Imagine listening to one of those fast talking auction guys for hours upon hours). Funny footnote: our neighbor has a little temple in his yard and every morning at 8 o'clock he jingles some bells, gongs a gong and blows a trumpet. Why? To wake up the god? Some cosmic rooster liturgy?
I wonder if hope exists. I see so many people just sitting around, just staring. I see people living in shacks and mud huts next to $200/night resorts. I see children playing with broken plastic bottles or rubber bands, looking cute and happy but realizing that their parents can't afford the school fees and that that is why they are out playing...until they are grown up and have to find some crummy job just to be able to eat. What hope is there when choices are absent? What can people hope for?
I wonder what people look forward to.
I wonder what makes them happy or content or joyful when their surroundings are so bad.
I wonder how it all works when our landlord invited us to dinner, which was great btw, and she tells us that she prayed "to her god" (quote) for help when she didn't have any renters. According to Scripture, she was praying to a demon and God didn't hear her...along with billions of others. You never think about that when you live in a "Christian" country. What is the theology of that?

I also wonder what the white american woman was thinking who came into our restaurant and promptly decided to do yoga on the floor and railing by our table. What was that all about?
I don't wonder about the many descriptions in the Bible about mountains and the "mountain of the Lord" and similar themes. It is, in fact, quite obvious that a huge mountain will make you quiet and in awe and I get that view every morning.

Today we went to church. It was St. Ann's Catholic church and it was a normal Mass. Laurie and I were excited to be in the fellowship of believers (church) and in semi-familiar surroundings. I can't say that the service was amazing but the normalcy and comfort of the language and the rituals and the songs were nice. I enjoyed it. Another funny note: 5 minutes AFTER church should've started, but hadn't, the deacon walks over to our pew and asks if anyone in the congregation can do the reading for the day. Laurie volunteered me. So there I was, reading the confusing order of worship, trying to find out what exactly I was supposed to do. Should I cross myself? Bow before the altar? Say anything before or after the reading? But I read the Scripture and can now say that I have participated in a Catholic Mass :).
We also found a local market close-by where David almost got his wish of seeing a chicken killed and cooked (he just wants to know how a chicken meal is prepared). We did see them cook a newly fethered chicken with a blowtorch and that was good enough.

Next Thursday we leave for the Family Home and the children (and a jungle safari and Buddhas birthplace). We are super excited and a little apprehensive about the long car ride. There aren't exactly any Statoils along the way for snacks and/or bathrooms breaks. The kids are flexible enough, though, that it should be fine.

For now and until next time,
Did I mention that Nepalese love colors?

One of many boat days. They're looking at the Gurkha village over "there".

fredag 13 januari 2017

Let me tell you about Pokhara, Nepal and its people

It's been five days so I am no expert by any means but it is hard to walk the streets of Pokhara and not notice things. Different things. Dangerous things. Funny things. Normal things.

There is a distinct flavor to the tourist district, which is to be expected. The white people, as we call them, all look kind of hippie-ish. Some are wannabees, some live here permanently. The hair is a mess, the pants are Indian style baggy. There is always a back-pack. The brand North-Face is everywhere although nobody shops at the North-Face store.
The locals seem to be heading somewhere else.
Many shops are runs by foreigners that are never present. They usually have a woman in the store that calls the owner, a man, when decisions need to be made. Yes, it is a very male dominated country and even though I think feminism is mostly bunk and gender theory even worse I don't think it is fair that, for instance, the men shovel a bunch of sand for cement making into these huge baskets that the women have to carry on their heads. Or that they make the women run their shops but not really. Or that the men sit and place cards and the women do all the work. Our landlord, a woman, is married but her husband is in India for fun and she has three tenants, two boys and a job in an office. Hmmm.

In Pokhara there are dozens of massage and spa places (all with the same western pictures of white people getting massage in fancy spas) but I wouldn't go there for anything. I wonder why they have so many massage and spa places (and no, they are not fronts for depravity). Who knows? (which is a VERY frequent saying here). Very Hinduistic. Who knows with so many gods and random chance running rampant.

They light fires everywhere, much like the Norwegians. They do it for the heat, like Norwegians, but here they do it outside along the streets and in-between tables with flowing tablecloths in outdoor restaurants(!). Seriously, when they moved a firepit close to two small children where people walked by all the time and firewood on fire(!) kept falling out of it, I couldn't ignore it and kept it under close watch.
Small groups of people huddle around the tiny fires who are fed with poor quality wood (or scrap wood) because it is cold here at night (around 0 Celsius). Our apartment isn't much warmer but we have blankets and more blankets. Of course, the heater is in the shop and the repairman is in the hospital...but such is the nature of adventures. They are never like home.

Our host, Ajit, is an incredible Nepali man and I don't think he is an unusual Nepali. He's only 27 but for example: the other day we told he we wanted a table and some chairs for our extra room to do school activities. He proceeded to give us a free (nice) table and chairs from his own restaurant. Then today when we asked him about where and how to buy local food he drove me around to the non-touristy areas such as the local rice and vegetable whole-sale places and got me stuff for dirt cheap. He then took me to his house where he offered me tea, introduced me to his family and cut vegetables from his own garden and gave us eggs from their own chickens just to be nice. He then took me to places to find iodine tablets for cleaning the vegetables and then took me home on his motorcycle. Have I mentioned that I have only met him five times?

The people are very friendly to the point that they make you feel better inside and make you want to be friendlier yourself. They smile. They say their "Namaste's". They shake their heads when they mean "yes". They wear striking colors (mainly the women). They go out of their way for nothing in return. Of course, everybody isn't a saint but the sun and the people and the (yummy!) food make it a good place to be. Not to mention the stunning scenery. We get to see the mountains in the morning before the clouds come in but in a month or so the winds will come and the vistas should be amazing.

They throat-spit everywhere. Cows and roaming dogs are in the streets. Fancy hotels are next to horrible little boxes of corrugated metal and Then there is a birthday bakery with Princess cake and all kinds of stuff. There aren't so many temples here but the (amazing) trees are holy and there are a few statues or actual temples. I don't think Pokhara is a religious town as much as it is a practical/pragmatic town. They have trash cans everywhere AND they recycle. For anyone who has been to Kathmandu this is truly amazing.
Kids of all ages are everywhere, playing with rubberbands tied into balls or empty plastic bottles. They all look adorable. The young men are trying to be cool and the young girls are trying to be indifferent. I think this part is normal for everywhere, though.

I think I am coming to terms with being here now. I have felt responsible for making sure that Laurie and the kids are not only safe but happy here. Is it too cold? Too hot? Too unsafe? Too boring? To sparse? Too far away from downtown? Too spartan? Too crazy? Too different?
This morning we had devotions and then impromtu-school. Then free time. Then walk down to the lake for some lunch and shopping and then home to more free-time and relaxing. Finished with good local food from Ajit's restaurant and then, amazingly enough, a movie night with big screen and chips. That was normalcy and it was good.
Life is good here. We pray more. Read the Bible more. Worry about what we eat more ;). Shower and brush our teeth with our mouths closed. Read more. Bond more. Soon more adventures will come but for now I think we are finding our Nepali normal...and I like it.

Here are some pictures:

Big screen movie night

Birthday cakes galore two houses over from us. Who would have thought?

A familiar sight. Electrical and phone wires/cables EVERYWHERE. This was the view from our lunch restaurant.

Here is one of the few temples we have seen.

måndag 9 januari 2017

Now living in Pokhara, Nepal

We have arrived in Pokhara, Nepal, and everything is working out great. I am amazed that we haven't had any real problems or issues with this entire thing. Selling a house in Norway and moving to Nepal has been pretty smooth, almost easy, and I am confident that the Lord has been with us.

To be sure, it is an overwhelming thing to move like this. Everything is new and nothing is the same as home. However, everything is not new for me or Laurie. We have been here before and seen it and experiences it. Sam and David are experiencing everything for the first time...and "everything" is a lot here in Nepal. The smells, the sights, the people, the language, the food, the sounds, the apartment, the isolation. They are doing super well and are adjusting and adapting better than Laurie and I did the first time. They do miss their friends and especially David misses Norway, his friends and just having all the comforts he knows. It is not easy for him, nor Samuel, to leave Norway for Nepal, but we feel confident and see great promise that the adventure and all the interesting things about Nepal will win them over. They are already asking for homeschooling to begin!

...which it will as soon as the apartment is ready for it. It is a really nice place and we just need to add a few things to make it functional for what we need. Since we just packed up a whole house we are keenly aware of what a normal Norwegian house contains and needless to say, this apartment lacks many things we are used to. But it is a nice place and it feels good to come home to it. Once we get a bookshelf, a heater (it gets cold at night) and a table/chairs setup for the school room we should be in business. Our landlord is great and our host/friend here is super helpful. For one thing, he just got us Nepali sim-cards for our phones in his own name today. The boys appreciated not having to come along for that since they had already walked 20,000 steps today(!).

Here are some pictures:

Here are the boys along the lakeside walkway in Pokhara. 20 degrees in January...not bad. 
Here the boys are goofing off downtown Pokhara after the meal we had at the Chinese restaurant. So far, we are 0-2 when it comes to finding good dinner restaurants. We're doing much better with breakfast places. Looking forward to some homecooked meals soon.

This is the restaurant we went to. I never got my meal, which was fine since Sam had ordered the same thing and I found out that it was gross when I tasted it. Laurie got gluten-full noodles when asked for gluten free. David got a big plate of yummy food, which was good since we went there for him. Drinks arrived eventually. They didn't speak English.

So, we can so far conclude that the hot water works well, we have drinking water and good electricity, we have WiFi (more in name than in speed) and we have 3G internet on our phones (faster). It takes 20 minutes to walk to the tourist area with all the restaurants, our area is quiet (save for the occasional dog), we know our way around Pokhara enough to walk freely, our apartment gets cold at night/morning but heats up fast, we are not sick...all in all it's all good.

Pray for David's and Samuel's adjustment and for our family to draw closer to each other and God as we depend more on family and God now than perhaps ever before.

Resting in the Lord and with love from Pokhara, Nepal,

onsdag 4 januari 2017

T minus 1

My family and I are flying to Nepal tomorrow to embark on an adventure of huge propotions. We have sold our house and will be gone for several months, living in the city of Pokhara in the foothills of the Himalayas.

There are many reasons why we are doing this and some of them will find their way to this blog. My wife Laurie will blogg on and my son Samuel will blogg on Feel free to read their posts and get additional insights and perspectives on what we are doing and why we are doing it.

We are very thankful for this opportunity and we intend to make the most of it, seeking God for our future and how to best serve him, as well as creating memories for a life time and build our family even stronger. We will also work on our children's home/Family home and visit the children as well as expanding our dream.

So please, read and comment on our blogs and be a part of our journey. We would love to hear from you and know that you are with us and it will help with us staying connected as well to family and friends.

Until the next time,