Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nepal: Phase II- And Then we Rode an Elephant

 After spending a beautiful day with Trust Home and Pastor Luke we were going to be heading back to Kathmandu the next afternoon. The bus back left mid morning (if I remember correctly it left around 11:00). Pastor Luke had mentioned that if we were staying longer in Chitwan we could have gone on an Elephant ride through the jungle. All three of us (Amanda, Ali and I) were bummed. How cool would that have been? Even though that was definitely not why we were in Nepal we all were a little excited about the idea of riding an elephant. For me personally that would have been something to check off my bucket-list!
As we were entering the gates of the hotel that evening Amanda noticed a sign that said "6:30am elephant ride"!!!!
So after a few phone calls and a few "we're only in Nepal once"'s we were lined up to go for a ride the next morning!
We were told to be up at zero-dark-thirty to get some breakfast and make sure we got to the place on time.
I slept in my clothes that night for two reasons...
1. My pajama's were not going to be warm enough.
2. I figured not having to change clothes in the morning would allow me to sleep a few more minutes.

Yep I slept in my clothes... Don't judge, it was COLD! Besides I definitely wasn't sweating!
So early in the morning the three of us got up, brushed our teeth. Using our flashlights we came down the three flights of stairs in the dark... And it was DARK. We tried to remember where the "restaurant" was. We fumbled around in the dark and then realized if there weren't lights on, it probably wasn't open... So we stumbled back to the steps in front of the hotel and waited.
Things we learned while we waited:
-Nepal is definitely not on "U.S. time". We waited for about an hour in the dark before any other lights started to come on.
-Elephants are very quiet. Several passed by on the street while we waited... It was alarming how close they were before we knew they were there.
-Dawn is one of the coldest times of day!
We can now say we saw the sun rise in Nepal! For a while we thought maybe we would get to see the sunrise while riding an elephant... however before we ever left the hotel the sun had been up for quite a while! ;)
Anyway... Finally we were off and headed deeper into the park.
Again we took a bumpy ride. This time it was in the back of a truck. Yep it was definitely COLD. Are you detecting a theme?
After being tossed like a salad and having bumped my head a few times we arrived!
We greeted our elephant and 'driver'.
We were told the morning was the best time to sight rhino's, tigers and crocodiles! OH MY! ;) I was excited as a child on Christmas morning. We asked Pastor Luke if he was excited too.. He politely laughed and shrugged his shoulders.
We loaded onto this majestic beast super excited. "OK", I was thinking, "This isn't the most comfortable seat in the world, but it will do."
About 2 minutes into our ride I realized, while still every excited, this wasn't going to be a smooth 2 hour ride! Riding an elephant is nothing like riding a horse. The only similarity is that you have to find the rhythm of both animals or you risk being thrown around your entire ride. An elephants 'gait' is NOTHING like a horses. I eventually found myself not being thrown around quite so much. (I was understanding why Pastor Luke wasn't as excited as we were).
Our elephant was hungry. It was actually amazing to watch him rip limbs out of trees and chew while he walked... Breakfast-on-the-run!
While we didn't see any rhino's or tigers we did see a variety of deer.
It was a foggy morning which made it all seem magical. It was cool to see a heard of animals slowly appearing through the fog.
These guys had impressive antlers.

We paused here in hopes of seeing rhino... not this morning.
Lots of birds though. It was so quiet and peaceful out there.
We saw several peacocks.
While we didn't see any tigers, I am pretty sure those were tiger scratch marks. (seriously google what their scratch marks look like). I am going with there was a tiger in the vicinity! ;)
On the way back we passed these ladies washing their laundry in the river.
Thanks Mr. Elephant for the ride!
He did such a great job we tipped him. Seriously Ali put the money in his trunk and he handed it to the driver! So cool!
It was bumpy and a bit chilly but so cool! Definitely worth getting up in the dark for!
On the way back we saw a wild elephant wading in the river near our hotel!. This picture was actually taken from our balcony! Another bucket list of mine was to see a wild elephant! Two in one day! Pretty awesome!
Before long Pastor Luke made a few phone calls and we loaded into the taxi to go to the bus 'station'.  I was a little worried that we were late but have learned when Nepalis aren't worried we shouldn't be either. We were driving down a narrow dirt road between two rice fields when we stopped.
Then the bus coming our way stopped too. Pastor Luke said, "Here is your bus!" Really? In the middle of the rice fields? So we got out of the car and loaded onto the bus. Off we were and headed back to Kathmandu! ;)
Again the views were breathtaking!
This is a foot bridge crossing the river to a village.
Potty break along the road! ;)
In this picture you can see a small black dot above the river. That is a cart on a pully. I would guess one or two people could fit in the cart. They then pull themselves across the river attached to the cable it is suspended from. There were a dozen or so of these along the 7 hour road. Most of them didn't even have a cart. You just latched onto the cable somehow and pulled yourself across, no bucket, not cart... Just you the cable and the raging river below... No thank you! :/
I can't imagine this being how you get in and out of your village!

We made it back to Kathmandu safely and headed back to the apartment to bathe with our cold bucket of water. (We did eventually realize we could boil some water and have warm water to dump on our heads... That helped us not be quite so miserably cold!).
By the time we got back Ali's phone was out of minutes. We went to the local store and bought some more minutes as we didn't want to be without cell phone use.
We became very familiar with this guy! I am pretty sure he was amused by us. haha

(more Nepal to come soon.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Nepal: Phase I

I've been back from Nepal for a little over a month now... it seems like so long ago.
I guess each trip takes me awhile to process and think about what I learned, what I want to say and why I was there in the first place. 

This trip was eye opening for me. I for one didn't expect Nepal to be as "3rd World" as it was. I knew it wasn't going to be 1st world, I guess I was just struck by Kathmandu itself. I expected the capital city to be a little more industrialized than it was. It just wasn't. Even the capital didn't have power during many parts of the day. And heat... NOPE! Yes Kathmandu is in the Himalayan Mountains... no, heat isn't something they have figured out yet. Can you say BRRRR!  I definitely wasn't prepared for that! 

Anyway we stayed in Kathmandu, at the guest house of an awesome ministry, and went out from there. Our first outing was to go Chitwan valley. It was a BUMPY, winding, 7hr, death defying adventure through the 'foothills' of the Himalayans. (Yep these foothills make the blue ridge mountains look like ant hills.)  

 This is the view of the winding road we were on... So, so, so many ways to 'not make it back'. :/
I did A LOT of praying on this bus ride! We kept telling ourselves... these drivers do this everyday... And then I would look down the rocky cliff and see upside down and inside out vehicles that used to drive that road everyday... not any more. :/
 The terraced fields in the valleys were absolutely beautiful!
 Lunch on the way! The bus stopped... they didn't tell us why we were stopping.. so we got off looked around and saw food. Everyone else started to get in line to eat so we did too. We sat and enjoyed our food until the bus started moving! We ran rather quickly and jumped on before it took off! We later learned that was just their way of getting everyone back on board... I must admit that was an effective tactic!
 The views (when I wasn't watching the wheels of the bus crumble the edges of the road) were breath taking!
 It was a long ride and we weren't sure how long it was supposed to be. We did get stuck in traffic for a while. A truck was broken down and traffic going in both directions had to zipper around it... This was a narrow road between a rock/mud wall and well... oblivion. We were told on a good day it would be a 6 hour drive but good days weren't often! This was the only road to Chitwan valley. In the seven hours we did not see any other roads... at all. I'll show you pictures of cables and pullies (basically zip lines) that crossed from this "main road" to the other side of the river where small villages that appeared to only be a few homes were. The 'roads' on the other side of the river were foot paths.
 After about 6 hours we thought maybe we were getting close. So we called the Pastor who was to be picking us up. We were having a hard time communicating with him so Ali started asking people on the bus if they spoke Nepali and English. We found a boy who translated for us then took the phone to the bus driver. Before long we were stopping in the middle of the road in a village. The boy told us that the bus driver said this is where we were to get off... so we did. And there we were getting off the bus in an unfamiliar town. Fortunately we were greeted by the smiling face of Pastor Luke. SHEW!
 Pastor Luke took us to see his home where he, his wife and son live with 12 young boys. These were the sweetest most well mannered boys! It was such a privilege to meet them. Their home is modest but very clean and well cared for.
 This is their kitchen.
 Four boys sleep in this bed.
 While we waited for the boys to finish school Pastor Luke took us to see his church. We went over the creek and
 through the not-yet-planted rice fields. I don't have a picture of the church here but it was a sweet little church with no seats but a lot of heart.
 We walked back through town so we could buy the boys some fruit.
 The local people got a kick out of three western girls buying fruit from a street vendor.
 This guy enjoyed selling to us.
 I liked his weights. He had one legit 1lb weight and one rock he promised was also 1lb.  ;)
After we bought some apples and oranges we headed back to the home. We met with all the boys along with Pastor Luke and his family. It was devotion time. Pastor Luke led all of us (well he led the boys ,we watched... it was all in Nepali) in some worship time. It was beautiful nnd chilling to hear these boys sing with all of their hearts. They praised God with every fiber of their being. When they prayed they all prayed fervent individual prayers in unison. As I sat in this room listening I couldn't shake this feeling that these boys, these 12 young men are going to be world changers... earth shakers... kingdom builders. 
(Not sure if this video uploaded correctly but there is supposed to be a video of the boys worshiping here)

 In a nation which is 60% Hindu and 40% Buddhist it can't be easy to be the less than 1%. As we walked through town that day we passed the boys as they were leaving school to head home. They each seemed proud to greet us and Pastor Luke. The other children around would have definitely known that Pastor Luke, and by default us western girls were Christian, still they were proud which in turns translates they were proud to be Christian. Which made my heart proud of them. :)
 Before we left I got to give the boys bracelets that Pierson and Maylin and friends made to share. I showed them a picture of P&M and told them that they and their friends wanted to send a gift for my new friends.
 The boys were thrilled! They thought it was a lot of fun to receive these gifts. (Thanks to all our friends who made and sent these! They were a GREAT hit!)
 Ali taught the boys a game to play.
 They didn't quite get the words to the song but they got the "slapping hands" part. It was fun to watch them be silly and have some fun.
 Pastor Luke and his son.
 As we were getting ready to leave (waiting for our ride to our hotel) I showed the boys some pictures and videos on my phone. They got a kick out of some skiing videos. They had never seen snow... (bizarre to me that they live in sight of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains but have never seen snow! Apparently during the Winter season they never get precipitation. The rainy season comes in May when it is much to hot for snow.) So skiing is definitely a foreign concept. They laughed and laughed at clips when people fell! It was fun to watch them belly laugh!
 Public transportation at it's finest. ;)
 As we drove toward our hotel in Chitwan National park we passed this guy walking down the road... We of course freaked out and wanted to stop and get a picture. Later we realized this was not the only working or wild elephant to be seen. (Also turns out the next morning this guy and his elephant was going to be our guide through the jungle!)
We went to our hotel which was run by a Christian friend of Pastor Lukes. It was right on the river in the park where crocodiles can often be seen. We ordered hot lemon water sat in the dark by the river... yep, in the dark by the river that crocodiles are famous in... I was a little leery but no one else seemed to be so... well... I drank my lemon water but kept my eye out for low moving shadows! haha
After tea Pastor Luke took us to the local culture house where we saw traditional tribal dance. It was fascinating.
We came back to the hotel and had a dimly lit dinner... (not for ambiance but because of the lack of electricity.) It was delicious though.
Pastor Luke shared his testimony with us which an inspiring story. It was full of evidence of our loving an merciful God. If one ever doubts God, hearing Pastor Luke's testimony will restore their faith.

By this point in the evening we were exhausted. It has been a long day full of bumpy rides and many emotions. We climbed the stairs to our hotel room and snuggled into bed. (Yep it was still cold. I slept in layers of clothes, hat, scarf, ski mittens, and had my feet in the arms of my coat... I stayed 'reasonably' warm.)
Nepal: Phase II coming soon.