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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010


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Last friday, the instructors organized a ceremony introducing each of us to our host stay family! It was great! At first, the atmosphere was thick with nerves and the idea of an unknown adventure ahead. Each of us walked out separately and met our homestay family. One of our family members welcomed us and blessed us with a tika. Everyone was very excited to begin this part of our trip.

My homestay family lives in Dhapasi, about 30 min. from the program house. I live with the Sharma family. I have a host sister who is 18 years old and has already become my best friend! My amaa (mother) Rama, is very welcoming and motherly. She is always making sure Im comfortable and well fed : ) I attended a community party with my family the day after i met them. It was a wonderful experience to get to know the neighborhood and my family. The party really made me understand how important community is to them. We played lots of games like musical chairs, bingo, and hit a pinota which was really a clay pot. Staying with a Nepali family has made me realize how similar my own family is to them. I didnt think I would see similarities because of the vast cultural differences but they are definitely there!!!Ive been exposed to Hinduism in practice which has really impacted my understanding of Hinduism. My amaa was on her menstrual cycle when i arrived which means she gets three days of rest. My host sister had to step up to the mother postion and cook meals. She hasnt learned a lot about cooking so we ate a lot of noodles : ) So far the homestay experience has been the most incredible expereience yet! I get a first hand look at the culture which most tourist wouldnt get to expereince.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Meeting Homestay Family!

Hannah Oblock,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Last friday, the instructors organized a ceremony introducing each of us to our host stay family! It was great! At first, the atmosphere was thick with nerves and the idea of an unknown adventure ahead. Each of us walked out separately and met our homestay family. One of our family members welcomed us and blessed […]

Posted On

02/24/10

Author

Hannah Oblock

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On the misty morning of the 17th of February, after filling ourselves with tea and coconut biscuits, the time arrived for our group to say a sad farewell to the Bhaktapur guest house. The previous night we had each filled our backpacks with what we believed to be the neccessary supplies for the two-day trek that lay ahead of us. We were extremely fortunate enought ot have our friend Jungmo to bring all of the extra possessions back to the program house in Kathmandu. After a short drive we arrived at the base of the Changurayan temple, the oldest temple in the valley, and were allotted a half an hour to circulate the exquisite site before heading over to a local restaurant for some breakfast. Our stomachs began to rumble as the half-an hour wait for food soon turned into a little over an house. In order to use our time in a resourceful manner, we completed a non-violent communnication excercise introduced to us by Nate.

We all feltfully fueled after a hearty breakfast of fruit, vegetables, chapaati, eggs and chai, and soon began our descent into the fields below. During the first few hours of the hike we found ourselves travelling through an expanse of farmland, relying on our friendly chef Pembladai and a number of farmers, to lead us through the maze of crops. Gradually the route began to steepen, and our path soon resembled rocky mountain paths which in turn became paved roads.

Stopping for lunch at around 1:15, we indulged in a packed meal while reviewing our Nepali language with Rajesh (who had accompanied us on the trek), and basking in the beautiful sunshine. The rest of the afternoon wore on as we steadily climbed higher and higher, the only distress coming from the vertically vertical shortcut discovered by Pembladai.

We reached our destination, Chauki village, at around 5:30, and were immediately bombarded by a curious pack of Nepali children. After their curiosity had subsided, we were given the chance to escape and place our packs in our designated sleeping areas; the girls posted on the upper balcony of the farmhouse belonging to our kind host Maya, and the boys in a room below.

Unfortunately at this time three members of our group were eeling quite unsettled, and not even the chai tea served to us at the restaurant next door could relieve their aching stomachs. Due to the overall sick and weary outlook of the group, we were given the option between a quick simple dinner of ramen noodles, or an authentic, open-fire preparation of dhaal baat. Those of us who opted for the dhaal-baat huddled into the smoky upstairs room of the house and watched as Maya produced the delicious Nepali cuisine, accompanied by a type of polenta.

Exhausted from our long hike, with our therma-rests and sleeping bags sprawled across the balcony, the girls were all out like lights before 8:30 rolled around. It turned out that an early bedtime was in our best interest, since althought they say that roosters crow at sunrise, this particular villages rooster preffered to assert its presence a couple hours earlier.

At 7:30 each of us rolled out of our sleeping bags, wolfed down porridge and dried fruit, and participated in an hour long Nepali lesson on the balcony with Rajesh. By around 10:30, we were all packed up and ready to start our descent into Kathmandu. With only about 5 hours of hiking and a mostly downward path, our group sped towards our final destination without any complications, arriving in the city of Patan (on the outskirts of Kathmandu) before 4 o'clock. The only negative occurence during the second day came right before we reached our bus stop, on our final set of downward stone steps, when our dear instructor Nate sprained his ankle but miraculously fixed it himself within a span of what appeared to be 10 minutes. As we all loaded into the van heading towards the Program House, Nate promised to teach us this useful skill which will surely come in handy on many occasions during our 16-day trek.

Although observing our group slumped into the back of the bus, heading into the city, may have been a disheartening sight, I am quite certain that each of us enjoyedour travels through the hills of the valley and will look forward to our next opportunity to escape the commotion of the city and reconnect with Nepal's mother nature.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Chauki Hike

Montana Feiger,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

On the misty morning of the 17th of February, after filling ourselves with tea and coconut biscuits, the time arrived for our group to say a sad farewell to the Bhaktapur guest house. The previous night we had each filled our backpacks with what we believed to be the neccessary supplies for the two-day trek […]

Posted On

02/24/10

Author

Montana Feiger

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I have never laughed so hard at my own insecurities.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game of fear pictionary, it goes something like this: Seated in a circle (preferably next to a crackling fire in the common room a beautiful and welcoming guest house), everyone takes a minute to write their deepest fear on the front piece of a stack of scrap papers. All participants

then pass their stack to the person to their right who glances at the first piece of paper before moving it to the bottom of the stack. This person then proceeds to illustrate the fear that was written on the previous piece of paper. The illustrated fears are them passed again to the right and the illustration is deciphered and rendered into writing again for the next person to illustrate. And so on and so forth. The game continues until each piles of fear has returned to its original owner and each sequence is shared with the rest of the group.

The results were nothing short of comic genius, several examples of which follow:

-Fear of losing friendships turned into fear of falling in love with an oblivious yak (yaks being a central theme to our group)

-Homestay anxieties turned into fear of being chastised by a yogi teacher for not possessing hips flexible enough to sit in full lotus position.

-Fear of not making friends turned to fear of an ensuing laugh attack in March.

-Fear of being left behind on a trek turned to fear of eating spicy mangoes and breathing fire.

There were stick figures trapped in bubbles, people falling off mountains, robot yaks, hapless Nick portrayed with pigtails- not to mention 14 students and instructors bent over eachother, eyes streaming, bellies bursting, laughing until they cried.

Hilarity and silliness aside, this simple game brought about some important realizations that will serve us (and have already!) during the rest of our stay in Nepal. First, as our instructors inform us, we must be able to laugh at ourselves. We are going to mess up on this trip. We will find ourselves in awkward situations where we don't know what to do, and some of the time we will inevitably make the wrong move. The only possible thing we can do in this situation is laugh at ourselves and since laughter is universal, our mistakes will eventually be forgiven.

Secondly, and perhaps most important to our group dynamic, everybody has fears. Even the loudest, most confident and self-assured among us still harbors doubts and darkness that can overwhelm and consume. Too often in our daily life, we dwell only on our own fears, imagining that others stroll through life as sure and confident of themselves as Buddha after he attained enlightenment. We are inclined to build walls between ourselves and others. Fear pictionary reminded us that this is not the case. With this knowledge in hand we are more able to support each other in times of weakness, building trust and compassion within our small group so that hopefully in the end, our fears become our greatest triumphs.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Fear Pictionary

Deva Steketee,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

I have never laughed so hard at my own insecurities. For those of you unfamiliar with the game of fear pictionary, it goes something like this: Seated in a circle (preferably next to a crackling fire in the common room a beautiful and welcoming guest house), everyone takes a minute to write their deepest fear […]

Posted On

02/24/10

Author

Deva Steketee

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well this has certainly been an eventful week, and this being my first ever yak, I am naturally compelled to talk about about absolutelyy everything that has happened over my first two weeks in Nepal. However I have only enough time and rupees on me to discuss my recentindoctrinationn into a Nepali family, the Bogati's.

It has been less than a full week since my nepali mother, known simply as aamaa or mother in nepali, smeared red power over my forehead and marked my symbolic rebirth as a nepali boy, and oh the adventures we have already had together.

my family consists of my aamaam my hajur aamaa (grandmother, although if you had told me she was my great grandmotherIi would have believed you) and olderbotherr Hari, the only one who speaks onlyEnglishh at all. Needless to say it would not be hard for anyone who has seen me try to speak anotherlanguagee to imagine howIi might behave if thrown into a home of nonenlisth speakers. our conversations generally revolve around the phrase "Nepali khanu mito chha." which means nepali food is tasty. but there is no shortage of laughter in the house and my new family could not be anything if not hospitable. It is impossible toexaggeratee the genuine warmth and kindness of the nepali people who will for the most part welcome any rougeforeignerr into their home and feed them as if they thought that rice was on the brink ofextinctionn and this might just be your last chance to try it.

our home life is simple andcomfortablee, last weekendIi went out to visit the local barber andIi learned that inNepall all barbers canduplee as black marketchiropractorss after the man who had just finished shaving my face grabbed hold of my cranium and forcedmy neckk to make noisesIi am not sure human necks are suppose to. Mom and Hari taught me how to do the laundry by hand, and naturallyIi now wear all my garments about five days more than whatIi would havepreviouslyy considered acceptable.
Ii hope to write more about my wonderful family soon!

Namaste!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Welcome home nabin…

Nick Gollner,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

well this has certainly been an eventful week, and this being my first ever yak, I am naturally compelled to talk about about absolutelyy everything that has happened over my first two weeks in Nepal. However I have only enough time and rupees on me to discuss my recentindoctrinationn into a Nepali family, the Bogati’s. […]

Posted On

02/24/10

Author

Nick Gollner

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From Instructor Team

Sitting in our fourth-story classroom was apt for drawing wide conclusions about the processes occurring in the Kathmandu valley below.

In three groups, students contemplated our prompt: What is your definition of development?

The roar of a saw and the call of a hammer echoing nearby underlined the palpable piece of our discussion: development, while an amorphous concept, is far from being unfelt.

“Development needs to be a balancing of many things,” opines Sarah.

“It is an attempt at the progression towards more efficiency - in government, the economy and social utilities,” reads Deva, speaking to her team’s definition, adding, “ - according to western standards.”

Studentsdebate the last statement. A stray honk from the street adds its agreement or dissent.

What is “the human condition”? What are our basic needs?

“Without insulin, a diabetic would die… so is insulin a basic human right?” multidimensionalizes an inspired Nick.

“Freedom to practice personal things without political and social oppression,” affixes Dougie.

Students talk to how if everyone on Earth were to consume as much as we do in the United States, we would need more - how many, we debate - Earths to support us.

Our first half of our fiery yet respectful Intro to Development discussion parts until Monday, when students will create their own countries and decide how they will prioritize the different components of development they’ve brainstormed.

We are pleased to be creating the space for students to share their voices, which are well-thought-out and represent an array of perspectives. Students are writing their yak-yaks and will post them shortly summarizing their experiences of the past week, and their experiential learning.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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What is your definition of development?

Instructor Team,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

From Instructor Team Sitting in our fourth-story classroom was apt for drawing wide conclusions about the processes occurring in the Kathmandu valley below. In three groups, students contemplated our prompt: What is your definition of development? The roar of a saw and the call of a hammer echoing nearby underlined the palpable piece of our […]

Posted On

02/23/10

Author

Instructor Team

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Pictures of Our Trip

Instructor Team,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Posted On

02/19/10

Author

Instructor Team

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From the Instructors

We finished five days at Bhaktapur Guest House (students have written about their unexpected experiences completing our Spring Bhaktapur Scavenger Hunt) with a two-day trek in the middle hills. On our walk we spent one night in a traditional house in a small village named Chauki, where following a smoky meal of dhal and bhat our girls slept upstairs and boys below. Our second day we descended into the Kathmandu valley and took impromptu transportation to the program house, our home away from our home-stay. As we entered the official city limits, students gave name to their impressions: “massive,” “crazy,” “different.” When asked to describe the details underlying these impressions they noted the flow of traffic (“a free-for-all”), buildings in various stages of construction or disrepair, the people (“no westerners”). They asked about the signs we passed (“cold store:” a store with a refrigerator - though often without electricity - that sells cold drinks. “Party palace:” a place to be married. “STD:” A place to make phone calls).

Eager to grow city legs, but mostly relieved to get a good night’s sleep, we entered the side dirt road leading to the program house and became acquainted with our oasis seemingly far away from the city streets. Students climbed the four floors to the classroom, dusk’s light still streaming in, set up for sleep and had an early night.

Today is the students’ last day before spreading out over the city. As each student is called, one by one, to the patio where families are snacking to be introduced, we realize our first night - and full day - without our students is upon us. In 48 hours students will exchange stories of awkwardness, tenderness, shopping excusions, prayer rituals, food ingested, and challenges overcome.

The Instructor Team

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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48 hours apart

Instructor Team,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

From the Instructors We finished five days at Bhaktapur Guest House (students have written about their unexpected experiences completing our Spring Bhaktapur Scavenger Hunt) with a two-day trek in the middle hills. On our walk we spent one night in a traditional house in a small village named Chauki, where following a smoky meal of […]

Posted On

02/19/10

Author

Instructor Team

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Team Nag Scavenger Hunt: Bhaktapur

Team members: Sarah, Dougie, Amy, Janet

Today we played a competitive scavenger hunt in Bhaktapur, a walled city 16 km outside of Kathmandu. We were given 500 rupees and a list of questions to answer and items to purchase. We received help from many Nepalis, mostly young boys. Birae, 8, took us to his grandmothers traditional Newari eatery connected to a Bahal (Buddhist shrine) where we ate lentil pancakes for four people for 80 rupees (a little over USD or 60 P). A local artist named Krishna took us to his Thangka painting school, where we saw students painting elaborate mandalas which could take several months to complete. Later, we met a man named Bikash, who owned a wood carving shop. He invited us back behind his shop into his home where he talked with us about philosophy, especially the downfalls of Europe/America. Amy and Dougie ont parlé français with the owner of a spice shop to translate some Nepali instructions into English. After that, we went and did some more shopping bits and saw a chicken being cooked with a blowtorch. We saw a wedding procession complete with a marching band. With two hours left and 300 rupees, we decided to treat ourselves to momos and cold drinks at a rooftop café overlooking the city and the beautiful Himalayas. We then found our way back to the Bhaktapur guest house with only a minor water balloon ambush. Overall the day was filled with laughter, new knowledge, lots of laughter, friends, and a sense of newfound confidence and independence to prepare us for our six week stay in Kathmandu!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Team Nag Scavenger Hunt

Sarah, Dougie, Amy, Janet,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Team Nag Scavenger Hunt: Bhaktapur Team members: Sarah, Dougie, Amy, Janet Today we played a competitive scavenger hunt in Bhaktapur, a walled city 16 km outside of Kathmandu. We were given 500 rupees and a list of questions to answer and items to purchase. We received help from many Nepalis, mostly young boys. Birae, 8, […]

Posted On

02/18/10

Author

Sarah, Dougie, Amy, Janet

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1. Forming

2. Storming

3. Norming

4. Performing

This is the group development model our instructor Nate shared with us on our second day of orientation, before we had ventured beyond the comfort of the Bhaktapur Guest House. As it turned out, our group (Team Kachuwa, or "turtle" in Nepali) found that we experienced each stage of this model in our quest to complete an extensive scavenger hunt that led us deep into the heart of Bhaktapur.

Stage one: We started off enthusiastic, quickly completing the first two tasks with the help of the eager kids in Durbar Square (the tourist-filled center of the city). Morale was high, but bellies were grumbling, so we headed off (way off...) in search of a lunch that was both authentic and clean, which proved to be a most challenging endeavor. After quite a walk, we finally settled on a nice-looking, albeit empty, restaurant where we sat cross-legged in our own personal thached-roof hut and planned our next moves. With the aid of our eager to please waiter whose English was less than polished, we were able to accomplish several more of our tasks.

Stage two: Having filled our stomachs, we set off in hopes of efficiently working our way through the list. Unfortunately, we had wandered far outside the walls of the old city into a much more residential district which made it difficult to complete the majority of our scavenger hunt tasks. We did, however, manage to scare up some red chili peppers and unidentifiable meat parts, which the shopkeeper assured us, were written in Nepali script on our list. This was the official storming stage, due to our lack of progress, tired feet, and declining morale.

Stage three: Once we re-entered the city and realized the tasks were meant to be completed in the central area of the city, our successes became more and more frequent. Not only did we find out the uses of "gobar" (cow dung) from a group of giggling Nepali school girls, but we also learned about Nepali death rituals and obtained the signatures of 5 different fruit vendors. As the successes came one after another, our group "normed." Our tasks finally completed, we decided to start the 20 minute walk back to the guest house.

Stage four: But our trials were not over yet as we took the wrong route out of Bhaktapur and ended up in the outskirts of Kathmandu. It took over an hour, but we perservered as a group and trusted each other's capabilities as dusk descended upon us. We made it back safe and sound, and lived to tell our tale, thanks to the cohesive nature of our group.

Highlights of the Day:

-Turning stony stares into laughing faces with our offbeat requests

-Montana's refusal to leave the city without knowing what the Nepali death rituals are, despite many strange reactions

-Susanna's opportunity to practice her Nepali with the kind owner of a paper shop

-Dodging water balloons thrown by kids in the narrow alleys of the city

-Relaxing with our group at the end of a long day and sharing stories back at Bhaktapur Guest House.

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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The Long Way Home

Alex, Susanna, Montana, Deva,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

1. Forming 2. Storming 3. Norming 4. Performing This is the group development model our instructor Nate shared with us on our second day of orientation, before we had ventured beyond the comfort of the Bhaktapur Guest House. As it turned out, our group (Team Kachuwa, or "turtle" in Nepali) found that we experienced each […]

Posted On

02/16/10

Author

Alex, Susanna, Montana, Deva

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After 4 exhausting days of travel, we have arrived to the land of temples and mountains. The Bhakatapur Guest House, situated high on a hill overlooking the valley, has become our home away from home, where we have become immersed in yoga, meditation, language lessons, and Nepali cuisine, and it will be a sad awakening when we depart tomorrow for the less comfortable shelter of the mountains. What we have learned here, however, will definitley stick with us as we continue our journey.


Most challlenging and fun so far was our assigned scavenger hunt in the ancient Newari city of Bhaktapur. We were split into groups and let loose in the walls of the ancient city with a list of tasks to achieve throughout the afternoon (sort of like a version of The Amazing Race). They ranged from obtaining elderly men's signatures and tracing children's hands to buying piggy banks and pickled mangoes. Needless to say, we were thrown out of our comfort zone but made a thousand new friends in the process. Our bargaining skills are almost up to par and we found we could ask for everything we needed with very little English. The fear that comes with being a foreigner dissipated with every nod of the head and smile we received, and while we still stood out like a soar thumb, by the end of the day we felt quite at home. The last task, finding our way back to our guest house, was the most daunting, weaving through tiny streets and avoiding people, dogs, cows, tractors and motor bikes, but the most rewarding when we arrived safe and sound.

The ancient city, as well as most of surrounding Bhakatapur, feels as though it is stuck in time, still acting as and resembling an ancient Nepali kingdom. Women do most of the labor here, and walk around carrying pounds of produce on their heads and babies on their backs. Men wear the traditional topi and practice trades like woodcarving, pottery and the ancient art of thanka (painting). Translated as the City of Devotees, Bhaktapur is the smallest district of Nepal, but holds more temples than any other.

While we are all still a bit stunned, and images of home are still fresh in our mind, we have all embraced life here so far. A beautiful initiation ceremony last night led by our instructors and guest house staff made us realize how incredible this opportunity is and how valuable our experience will be.

Next is a two day trek, after which we will be welcomed into the arms of our homestay families in Kathmandu. Hope you are all doing well back home and we can't wait to share more of our adventures soon!

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Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

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Crazy Americans in Bhaktapur

Katey, Hannah, Nick,Himalayan Studies Semester, Spring 2010

Description

After 4 exhausting days of travel, we have arrived to the land of temples and mountains. The Bhakatapur Guest House, situated high on a hill overlooking the valley, has become our home away from home, where we have become immersed in yoga, meditation, language lessons, and Nepali cuisine, and it will be a sad awakening […]

Posted On

02/16/10

Author

Katey, Hannah, Nick

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