Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pictures Added for Kathesimbhu Stupa & Durbar Square

So between trips to the airport, phone calls and e-mails to Jet Lite and Air India, and Kim having to do marketing work we were able to sneak in some time to go see Kathesimbhu Stupa and Durbar square in Kathmandu. All the pictures have been added to the January folder and can be viewed on the Picassa page or through the slideshow on the left hand side of the page. I've added a few examples below;

Baggage Update: As of Saturday morning we have been informed by Jet Lite that they received our bags from Air India in Delhi. They said they should arrive in Kathmandu on Sunday or Monday. At this point I was already considdering how to replace our gear, so the news is very welcome. I'd also like to give a big Thank You to Kim's dad, who did a bunch of calling and e-mailing for us from the US side. I have a strong feeling that it was his calls into Toronto that got this done. Thanks Tom! Now lets see what condition the bags are in and how much stuff is missing. ;).
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Garden of Dreams and General Update

So yesterday we got a chance to visit the Garden of Dreams, a restored Victorian style garden just east of the busy Thamel district. It's a very pretty and relatively quiet spot, considering the location, that can be entered for the low price of 160 NPR. For a day where I'm just looking for a quiet spot to read a book, this place will be getting a visit, although I doubt I'll pay for the WiFi. Pictures from the Gardens have been added to my January photo set, so anyone interested can take a look. I've also geo-tagged one or two of the pictures so you can see where they are.

For those curious, we still have not found our luggage. As we move into day six we are finding the usual frustrations one runs into dealing with anything that has something to do with India. How anyone thinks that country will become a super power I do not know. Their complete lack of initiative in dealing with anything and red tape that binds that country are impediments that would seem almost impossible to overcome unless there is a huge change in culturally in how things are handled. If I had to place my bet on an Asian nation, mines firmly with China. Anyway as we move into day six without worldly possessions I am preparing to go to the airport again...

Review of Fire & Ice

Fire & Ice, named after the Robert Frost poem of the same name, is a well established landmark in Kathmandu that had come highly recommended by both guide books and internet postings. In the past we had not gone because we were on rather strict budgets, and though the prices are not high by US standards, one pizza alone costs what we got most meals for. I had heard that the pizza was as good as that back in New York, and having had Pizza at other spots in Nepal and through out Asia I was eager to see if this were true. For those who have not had pizza in Asia, it is generally terrible, often using ketchup for sauce and the cheese is imitation mozzarella or worse.

We started with drinks, Kim got coffee (110 NPR) that came with warmed cream and I got ice tea (100 NPR) Both were good. The ice was safe, the tea was flavored with citrus and was some of the best I've had in Nepal. They also offered a good selection of alcohol and the standard selection of soda and teas, at what looked like fairly reasonable prices.

Next we moved on to the actual pizza. Kim got one with olives (350 NPR) and I got one with olives and red and yellow peppers (375 NPR). The pizzas were thin crust and were made with real sauce and mozzarella cheese. While I'm not going to say it was as good as what we are accustomed to back home, it was excellent by Asian standards and far and away the best we've had outside of North America and Europe*. The peppers on mine were roasted just right and the olives too were a good quality and all had excellent flavor. Personally I found the sauce to be the weakest link in the pizza and it was slightly lacking in flavor.

Over all I was impressed with Fire & Ice and will definitely give it another go in the future. In addition to the pizzas they also had a decent selection of pasta and other Italian dishes that would be worth a try as well. The only thing keeping this place from an a weekly trip is the price tag. Although not too bad by western standards, and decent for the quality the 1,187 (NPR) price tag was a little on the high side. This price included the two pizzas, drinks, 13% VAT and a 10% service fee. While some places in Kathmandu charge the higher prices and fail to deliver, Fire & Ice delivers a product that matches its price range.

*Kim would like to note that she doesn't think we had any decent pizza in Europe and that Fire & Ice surpasses anything we had in Italy or France as well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lost in Translation- Part 1

Well my first set of pictures are up, and you can see a preview on the left of the page here under "Nepal Pics-January".

I've taken some pictures that reflect the sometimes very funny translations that occur in places where English is not the first language. There will be plenty of these, so I'm sure this will be a recurring theme on this blog. Here are some of the ones I spotted today.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Moving On

So this will be my second time writing this entry, and the first one had pictures and a movie! Unfortunately the internet and the power have been slightly unreliable, and despite the setbacks I'll get some pics and movies up someday...just not today it seems. So anyway on to the post.

No word on our bags yet, but I'm not going to dwell on it too much, you do what you can and the rest is out of your hands. With our small compensation amount given to us ($50/each) we set out yesterday to buy some clothes, since we had the same thing on for like 4 days. Buying clothes made for Asian people when you are of European descent is not always easy, and the selection was not things I would normally buy, but oh well. Much harder for woman I think, so I won't complain. The upside was that we got to drive around a bit of Kathmandu and see some of the larger shopping areas. Going through one of the grocery areas I was surprised and delighted to see many items I had thought I would have to give up; Tabasco (!!!!), Cheddar Cheese, feta cheese, Salsa, Olives, olive oil, Balsamic Vinegar, and plenty of other things that had been staples in my kitchen. Yay! We also spotted the rumored KFC and Pizza Hut, but I'm not in a hurry to go to either. I've read a place called Fire and Ice serves up really good New York style pizza if I get a hankering for it.

Between these stops and going to the Air India office we got to drive around quite a bit and get a feel for the driving. No way will I ever drive here. Traffic consists of motor bikes, bicycles, cars, pedestrians, dogs, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, vans and the odd cow chicken or goat. Traffic supposedly keeps to the left side of the road (Brit style) but really it just moves anywhere it can fit. Everything seems to come from all sides at all times and aside from constant signalling via horns and headlights I can't distinguish any real rules to the road, and also note that the roads are constrained, no wider than many people's drive ways in the US. Despite the apparent unorchestrated chaos they call traffic, it all does seem to flow (all be it at a slower pace) without any incidents. You would think after watching it for just an hour or so you would witness a fatality, but I haven't, nor have I seen an accident.

As mentioned I had video of the traffic, and a pic of KFC, but they are on my laptop, which is across town atm. Maybe I can get them loaded in an update. Another positive note is that I got my GPS device to finally lock on some satellites and figure out I was in a different hemisphere, it kept trying to acquire believing I was still in Westbrook. With this I plan on geo-referencing a lot of our pictures and mapping where we are staying and visiting. Those of you who don't have google earth, get it HERE!

UPDATE: Picture added, video is too big to upload on this connection,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dude, where's my luggage?

I have always lived by the saying that when it comes to baggage in air travel there is carry on and there is lost. When one is planning a long term trip to another country and taking most everything they own with them, carry on is not really an option, and thus most of my worldly possessions are lost.

Now when we came into Delhi yesterday it was a cluster. After some discussion we managed to get ourselves on a flight to Kathmandu, but were told our bags would arrive the next day. Faced with the possibility of spending a full day in an airport in India, this sounded like a deal worth taking. The problem of coarse is that today we spent 4 hours at the airport, checking multiple incoming flights and speaking with many people from Jet Lite, and no bags are to be found.

When you ask for assistance in things in the sub-continent there is this belief that by filing paperwork things will get done. Forms are filled signatures taken, log books are filled with numbers, but I often get the feeling that no one on the ground is actually doing a whole lot. You can fill out all the paperwork in the world, but if someone in the airport in Delhi isn't actually physically looking for the bags they simply won't be found, and it seems to get people to do that is something just short of a herculean task.

Lucky for us, Pradip graduated with and is friends with one of the woman who works at the Jet Lite office and she seems to be making an effort to figure out where the bags might be. At this point I could live with being told that the bags are going to be another 4 days before we get them, as long as someone can tell me that they are actually going to get here some day. As much as it kind of sucks losing just about everything you own, I'm glad that we can be patient and wait for it. I can't imagine if I had come all this way for just a couple of weeks and had to waste so much time chasing luggage.


Well we are here! After a small marathon of flights we arrived in Kathmandu yesterday. We were a little late getting into Delhi yesterday and due to that and the backlog of people wanting to fly due to fog over the last few days we missed our connecting flight to KTM. As usual India was a mess of paperwork and ineptness. After some forceful negotiating (mostly on Kim's part) we arranged to get on the next flight out, after initially being told we would have to wait about 24 hours in transition. yeah that would not have been cool. Our luggage unfortunately did not make the flight and is supposedly coming in today around 2pm.

Once in Kathmandu Pradip met us at the airport and after filing some things with airport about our bags we traveled to his house in Lazimpat where we will be staying. The apartment is very nice, and is just down the street from the Danish Embassy. After arriving and dropping off our stuff we stopped by his shop in Thamel and the went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Thamel House. Already tired from our 35+ hours of travel and add to that a few drinks at dinner and I had to fight hard not to fall asleep. Needless to say upon return to the apartment I slept like a rock.

We are very excited to finally be here! I'll add pictures and all that kind of stuff as soon as we have them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Nearing Departure

A lot of things go in to getting ready to go to a foreign country for an extended period of time, especially when you have a fairly limited time period to prepare yourself. The last few weeks have included a fairly signifigant amount of running around making sure to tie up loose ends on this side of the world, and taking care of things that are harder to get done over there. A short list includes;

Rent out the duplex
Move out of the duplex
Give tenants bank deposit slips for rent
Sell the cars (haven't quite done this yet)
Find homes for the dogs
Give notice at work (and try like hell to stay focussed before leaving)
Move all billing to paperless
Change of Address
Get new glasses and a new prescription
Get all dental work up to date
Make sure Laptops are properly stocked with software
Get electrical adapters for all chargers
Get additional memory/batteries for cameras
Decide what is getting packed and what goes into storage
Actually pack stuff and put stuff in storage
Sell, throw out, or donate the rest of the stuff
Cancel Utilities/cell phones etc.
Set up contact information and software for people for communication
Notify Banks/Credit Cards of travel plans
Sell other assets and link online financial accounts
Buy cell phones that can be used on arrival
Arrange plane tickets
Try to figure out where one might be staying on arrival
Try to figure out how one might make money after arrival
Try to figure out how one might get a visa after the tourist visa expires
See everyone before you leave
Go out to dinner with half of these people before you leave

In some ways it doesn't look like much, but it has really kept us busy over the last two months. Now with only a few days left everything has for the most part fallen into place. The things that are up to us have been dealt with as best as we can, the rest you just have to roll with as it happens.

A lot of people ask if we are nervous about being close to going. The short answer is absolutely not. All I can say is that with so much out of the way, it will be a real relief to finally be over there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Edge of Empire

This term comes from a book I read a long time ago, in fact I don't even remember which one it was. It took place in Rome, well after it had ceased to be a Republic. Some character of renown had been exiled from Italy and was sent to "...somewhere up along the Black Sea or some other dark bleak place at the edge of the Empire." I have totally forgotten the book but that line has always stuck with me, because to me it has forever enshrined in my mind how most Americans look at the world.

Like the Romans of their day we view our country proper as a shining light of civilization, and those third world countries outside of Western Europe are strange dark places at the edge of the empire. Many people view them as inherently dangerous for Americans and yet they can't really put their finger on why. In a recent conversation someone mentioned to me that, ..."your an American in a third world country, of coarse it's dangerous." While I don't concur, this sentiment seems very pervasive with people I talk to.

Sure these places are different. Sure many of them are rife with political corruption and some odd laws that can make what seem trivial activities into crimes, most are not places where as an American you are going to be gobbled up by the bogeyman hiding in the darkness at the edge of the map. A little traveling usually reveals that the signs declaring "Here be Monsters" are far outdated, and with the rare exception most places are perfectly fine to travel in and are remarkably safer than even what once passed as civilized lands to our friends the Romans.

Exile from the "civilized lands" was a favorite punishment of the Greeks and Romans, and although not in use in America the perception of severity of the punishment is not lost on them. I think in many ways this is why people have the kind of reaction they do when I tell them where Kim and I are moving to. Why would you live at the edge of the Empire, when you could live in the light of civilization? I think that is really the question they are asking.

The answer is written in another form below. In line with this post I can only say that there is something to be said about frontiers, and even in Roman times there is a good chance that I would have happily left Italy for a quiet spot along the Black Sea Coast at the edge of the Empire.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Going Away Party

Thank you to everyone who came to our going away party on Saturday, Kim and I had a great time and it was nice to be able to see everyone in one place before we leave. Special thanks to Kim's mom for hosting the event and getting everything organized! I didn't get too many pictures but I've attached a few that I took at the event. I think we had somewhere around a hundred people or so show up to see us off.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Where is Nepal?

Well it seems that many people, aside from not knowing why I would want to go to Nepal,also don't know where it is. Well here is a map showing where it is for those that are curious.

Monday, January 4, 2010

17 Days and Counting

Actually it's 16 days and about 20 hours, but close enough. Things have gone remarkably well for us in preparing for the big move. We were able to find loving families for both of our dogs, and we have had someone rent our side of the apartment building. All that is left
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