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 cardboard...homes. 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.|