Smells, smells everywhere.

“And now I’ve got to explain the smell that was in there before I went in there. Does that ever happen to you? It’s not your fault. You’ve held your breath, you just wanna get out, and now you open the door and you have to explain, ‘Oh! Listen, there’s an odor in there and I didn’t do it. It’s bad.”
― Ellen DeGeneresMy Point… And I Do Have One

Great theme this week Ailsa.  I spent Saturday walking around trying to play the tourist again.  I will be honest, most of the scents I have encountered here I can not in any measure capture in words let alone in photo.  So today I will leave you with the positive fragrances.  Think scented candles, fresh vegetables and yes, even some stinky feet. Ok maybe the feet aren’t stinky but i loved this picture.  Fragrant or not, I will let you guess.  I hope you enjoy.

Bandh – Short views of another life

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa was Short.  What immediately came to mind for me regarding this theme was how easily our short term desires and our need for immediate gratification can have such long-term affects on our planet and and how big of a difference a short term action can make.

In Nepal, bandhs are very common. The word actually means to close or to hold a strike in protest and is usually used by political parties.  However, anyone in the society can declare a “bandh”.  Sometimes bandhs can become violent and they always cause a huge disruption in society because stores are expected to stay closed, public and private transport is expected to stop and for many years it was a tool of protest and civil disobedience.

Nowadays many people have complained about the bandhs because during these events violent clashes often break out, burglary and economic loss is the most common result rather than positive change.  Despite this, I’m a bit in favor of bandhs.  If only for the short-term effects they had on my morning and evening commute, the view of the mountains that I had for nearly the first time in the two months I have been in Nepal and for the general lack of stress one feels when nature is apparent around them.

I walk to and from work most every day.  Most days I need to wear a mask due to auto pollution and dust on the road. Not to mention my annoyance with walking due to the extremely disrespectful driving habits here.  I was also able to see the mountains that surround this city both in the morning and in the evening.  In November alone there were a total of 11 days of bandh.  That’s nearly half the month where transportation was to be shut down.  I was told that what we’ve been feeling for the month of November but especially for today, election day, was how it was over 15 years ago. It was just a glimpse but I could actually imagine what life might have been like not so long ago.

All of these pictures were taken with my iPhone.  Once again I wasn’t carrying my normal camera.

View with a bandh…

View without a bandh…

Come again…wait under WHAT tree?

I believe that life is chaotic, a jumble of accidents, ambitions, misconceptions, bold intentions, lazy happenstances, and unintended consequences, yet I also believe that there are connections that illuminate our world, revealing its endless mystery and wonder.
David Moranis

Ailsa’s travel theme this week was perfect.  Connections connotates so many different things to so many people and it was fun to look through other samples of what “connections” means to others.

Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se. – Charles Eames

Sometimes when living in a different country it becomes very difficult to connect with the words, the culture and some of the people.  It’s not due to either party’s intent or lack of trying.  It’s more that we all come from a place that we understand because we grew up in that place.

Take directions for example.  For the most part in the U.S. you can expect to be given directions in a very specific format.  Street names, building landmarks, or even natural landmarks.  Take this out of context and move it to a country where you barely speak the language and wow do some of these connecting factors change their meaning.  A tree will always mean a tree, but as I found out today a tea shop does not always mean a tea shop.

I have been trying to find this business so I can start taking Nepali language and cooking classes.  Today was a holiday and so I decided to venture out and find this place which is only about 5 minutes (Nepali time) from my workplace.  Here is how the conversation went.

Me:  So if I am walking from my home how do I get there?

She:  From the U.S. embassy on the first main road take a right.

Me:  Yeah but if I am coming from my home which road would that be?

She:  Oh yeah.. well, take the first main road right after the teaching hospital.

Me:  But my house is the opposite side of the embassy.  I can’t take a right from both directions can I?

She:  Oh yeah.. well, from your house take the first main road right after the teaching hospital .. take a right.  Walk a little ways and then take a right again.. You will pass a guard who is usually sleeping and then after about 200 meters or so you will meet with a tea shop.  Stop there and they will tell you to take a small left and there is our building.  If you can’t find it stop at the tea shop and then call me.

Me:  Ok.  so take a right on the first main road after the teaching hospital and then take a right on the next main road.. walk a short distance and when I see a tea shop then shortly after that take a left and there you are.

She:  Oh yeah!!

So I walk to the only main road between my house and my work.  I start down this road and there is no other main road to take a right on.  So I backtrack to the next main road.. which I didn’t actually know was a main road.

Main main road

Main main road

First main road to turn on

First main road to turn on

Guard sleeping as directed

Guard sleeping as directed

Not a real right but simply a bend in the road.. at this point I can only assume I am on the right road.

Not a real right but simply a bend in the road.. at this point I can only assume I am on the right road.

Is this really a main road?  Am I on the right road?

Is this really a main road? Am I on the right road?

First left.. I think

First left.. I think

No tea shop in site so I will walk a ways as she never gave me a distance perspective.

No tea shop in site so I will walk a ways as she never gave me a distance perspective.

This was the teashop and tree I should have spotted it right off.  The last picture shows that this is in fact the biggest tree on the road.

This was the teashop and tree I should have spotted it right off. The last picture shows that this is in fact the biggest tree on the road.

This side road was the one I was to turn left on.. after the first major road left.

This side road was the one I was to turn left on.. after the first major road left.

Acting like a tourist – karma, infinity and architecture


I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is me building bridges between people, between races, between cultures, between politics, trying to find common ground.
T. D. Jakes


Is very close to where I live.  It is near the central part of Kathmandu and only Hindu’s are allowed to enter the actual temple.  Though the entire area is a photographer’s dream location.  Ironically we were not planning on going there today and so unusual to my nature all I had on me today was my iPhone.  The pictures came out nice but you can bet I’ll be heading back to take better pictures with my regular camera.  The temple was built to worship the Lord Shiva and it sits next to the Bagmati river where cremations are held daily.  Sometimes upwards of 50 a day. 

Is located about a 10 minute drive from the Pashupatinath area.  I was told it’s about 2000 years old.  You are supposed to enter the area and walk clock-wise around the stupa where you will be able to see the eyes of the Buddha painted on all sides.  It’s amazing with the masses walking around and stopping at all of the little stores set up on all sides.   I’m looking forward to visiting both places again with my other cameras at the ready as well as a pile of small coins and bills to barter with the shopkeepers and buy small trinkets from the people wandering around with their wares.

It’s Not All Dust and Dirt…

It dawned on me the other day that nearly all of the photos I have been showing have been covered in dirt and dust and I’m probably painting a very grimy picture of Kathmandu.  In all honesty, dirt and dust is just about all I’ve seen since I’ve been here.

HOWEVER,  this past weekend I went up to a great little cottage in Shivapuri which is only about a 20-30 minute escape from the dust of the city.  Nepal is now in the season of celebration and blessings are given for everything.  Dogs were blessed on one day, cows on another, men, women, and children on others.  It’s really amazing to be in an area where virtually EVERYTHING and everyone is given a special blessed day. People celebrate here like they do everywhere, eating and drinking and enjoying each other’s company.  Bamboo swings set up throughout the city, dancers and musicians young and old celebrate this time of year.

It’s a delicate balance of happiness and celebrating life as it is handed to you mixed with extreme poverty and a daily standard of living that encompasses very hard work and sometimes barely scraping by.

Along with the the standard holiday festivities I was able to fit in some hiking and just a beautiful relaxing 2 days in a very cool location.

Laxmi Puja at Shivapuri Heights Cottage
The evening of November 3rd is a very special evening in Kathmandu with the celebration of Laxmi Puja – part of the Tihar Festival also known as the Festival of Lights.   The Shivapuri Heights Cottage provides a great venue to witness the festival and is also the perfect vantage point to view the spectacular display of lights down in the Kathmandu Valley.
Tihar, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most dazzling of all Hindu festivals. During the festival all the houses in the city and villages are decorated with lit oil lamps. Thus, during the night the entire village or city looks like a sparkling diamond. This festival is celebrated in five days starting from the thirteenth day of the waning moon in October.

So many I loved but couldn’t include from the last few themes: