Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a dark city... Kathmandu

A couple days before I left Milan for a week in Kathmandu, Sarah sent me a message telling me to bring 40USD and a passport photo for a visitor's visa, a bit of patience, and ...a flashlight. HA!

(Since my stay is under 15 days my visa cost just $25 ...and she was right on target with the patience... the visa lines were nuts but, in the end, I figure it took me about 45 minutes.)

I knew there were regular power cuts throughout the city to save money on electricity... I figured the flashlight was for that... but have learned so much more since actually being here.

Not just to save money... there just isn't enough electricity in this city.

Sarah's house is set so that even when the electricity is cut in the neighborhood she can still have a light on here or there in the house. ...Water is also pumped in and she turns it on/off herself.

There is even an app to see when the power will be off or on! Yesterday there was just one hour in the entire day when she was WITH electricity. Wow. My first day here the power had been off for about four hours in the morning and then again for that amount in the evening.

Sarah has to plan ahead for when she will wash her hair and be able to use a blow dryer... or if she can have toast in the morning for breakfast!

Still... I hardly notice it. This morning the power was out but we did make toast in the oven. And, funny enough, she has Wifi! It feels great to be back in the part of the world that feels like The Land of Free Wifi. Vietnam was the same. ...Especially feels so nice, as I have been without Internet in my apartment in Milan for over two weeks now.

Come to find out my first night here, walking back from dinner with Sarah and Michael... the flashlight (or 'torch' as these two Brits call it!) isn't particularly for the power cuts in her house... but more for walking in the city at night.

This city is DARK at night! And not dark just because it is nighttime and the sky grows dark... but like no-street-lights-and-not-even-very-many-house-lights kind of dark. DARK.

So interesting. I've always taken lights in a city for granted. If I walk around the neighborhood at my parents' place in Upstate New York, then I expect it to be dark. But a good-sized city that's dark feels quite different.

The roads have many holes, bumps, rocks, etc. There are also a ton of street dogs (some not so nice... one attacked and bit Sarah's dog, Ellie, my first morning here while we were on a walk!)... so a flashlight surely helps.

I really like this city so far. ...The city and the culture. I do wish I were planning to spend more time here in Nepal, as it would be great to get out of the city and see more of this amazing country... but my mom says to figure I can always come back again and she's right. (She told me that last year when I was trying to plan my two-week trip to New Zealand and wanted to do EVERYTHING!)

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Kathmand, Nepal... first experiences

Sarah met me at the airport Sunday afternoon and we went to her lovely, goooorgeous 3-bedroom house. On the way, the taxi driver rolled his window up to keep dust/dirt out, Sarah asked him if he would kindly put the air conditioning on. (The days are hot here... about 90F. It cools down nicely at night though, which is a great break.) The driver replied, "Sorry, you did not pay the AC price." Wow! Interesting. And I respect it.

Gas and electricity both are costly here and fuel prices recently went up. This city is amazing in ways. I have never been in a dark city before at night. Sure, there might be a dark alley... but here, the entire place is dark! ...More on that in another post...

Sarah's boyfriend, Michael, is here for 3 months as well... he was also at AIS with us in Vietnam and it's been really nice to see him too.

I did not expect so many pieces of this city to feel like Saigon! Part of me wasn't ready for that. I can't explain all of it... but pieces are the crazy driving and traffic, including motorbikes weaving dangerously between cars and trucks... the dirt, haze, and pollution... the shops along the streets with no doors, etc. But more than those things, it's the feel...

Kathmandu also has lovely quirks... like cows, which are sacred in this culture, simply standing or lying in the middle of the road, amidst the non-stop traffic.

Moving from Saigon to Milan, I went from one great coffee country to another! I loved finding out that coffee is amazing here as well. I want to buy some local coffee before I leave. I've been going to a beautiful cafe each morning and it's coffee is really, really delicious. Mmmmmhmmmmm : )

I also cannot type out how nice it feels to spend time with Sarah. It's been almost two years since we've seen one another and we don't keep in touch all the time but it's one of those friendships that just picks up right where it left off. I feel very fortunate to have amazing, true friendships in my life.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Saturday, April 19, 2014

traveling to KATHMANDU, NEPAL!

Wow. I had never really thought of traveling to Nepal before... until my closest friend in Vietnam my first year accepted a teaching position at the Lincoln School in Kathmandu.

Funny enough... the world of international teaching proved itself to be quite small... when Sarah accepted the position, she then became colleagues with Jenn Alevy - the librarian that was in the Adams 12 school district in Colorado with me during my first two years of teaching. Jenn is the person that tipped me off about the Librarian position in Ho Chi Minh City (which created two huge years in my life)... and SHE was the Librarian at the Lincoln School! Weird. Now Jenn is the Librarian at an international school in Chennai, India.

Sarah leaving Vietnam after my first year (she had lived in Saigon for three and a half years!) was really hard for me. I missed her a lot... especially since you have only so many friends (that are also like family) when living abroad. I told her that, no matter where I was in the world, during her second year in Kathmandu... I was going to go for a visit! --- SO... here I go!

I'll be staying for just under a week for my Spring Break. I'm really, really excited. I hope to take a day-hike or two... wander and shop through the markets... and walk, exploring the city/valley with my camera. AND I'm looking forward to spending time with Sarah - catching up and soaking up time with a good friend. Other than that - I don't even know what to expect!

Below are some Google Maps screenshots of the locations...

Milan is the 'B' green marker at the top left... and the 'A' red marker is KATHMANDU!

All of Nepal - a small but long country...

I fly through Doha, Qatar...
...from left to right: Milan --> Doha --> Kathmandu!

The 'Earth view' option in Google Maps is cool when looking at Kathmandu because the city is set in a valley, surrounded by mountains:

Very sad and very scary... yesterday there was the deadliest avalanche ever in Everest. At least 12 local guides died and they are searching for more.


Some randoms... all favorites... from a wonderful weekend in the bella citta of Roma!

fancy farmacia (pharmacy)

train - from Rome back to Milan

The train ride between Rome and Milan is so nice and easy.

A new, clean train... and a smooth, fast ride with just a couple stops between. Yes, please!

The total ride between the two cities is just 3 hours. Such a nice weekend getaway!

The Rome train station has a large international bookstore!
I also grabbed some breakfast at the station before boarding the train.

There are a lot of tunnels along the ride, but the views between tunnels were really nice.
When heading to Rome, it was evening and the sunset was lovely but then I didn't see much of the land.
it was nice to travel during the daytime and see the land and mountains.

pieces of this and that - Roma

You didn't think I would travel to Rome and not take photos of doorways did you!? Haha...

(Doorways and colors...)

street sprays - Roma... THIS guy again!?

THIS guy again!?
I love it.
THUMBS UP!   : )

...This guy gets around too!

street sprays - Roma

I love the random street sprays around Rome. ...I wish I knew the story/thought behind each one!

street signs - Roma

Various signs and stickers:

"Library" - bookstore!

'not your dolls' ...nor does it seem 'open'...

I took this photo... just seeing these stickers on the wall next to an entryway with a garage door shut over where the door is. Later, walking by... the shop was open and it is a great vintage shop! King Size is the name. 

breakfast a Roma

Breakfast in Rome consisted of walking until I found a cute cafe... and then ordered a cappuccino with brioche... and sat on the street with my Kindle. Perfection.

Morning deliveries! Across the way... someone was delivered plenty of fresh veggies and (below that) a flower delivery truck added some color to the morning:

buildings and colors of Roma

Rome has sooo much to see and so much variety.

Below are some of my favorite photos of various buildings and the colors throughout the city:

...Another gorgeous piece of architecture coming into view while walking along the street!...

I found a really great area of cafes and vintage shops that's behind where I stayed at Hotel Nerva.
This street below is one end of the area and there's a cute, quirky cafe at the end where I had a lovely cappuccino and date with my Kindle.   : )

Archways-no-longer... near the Colosseum:


Ah, the Colosseum of Rome. Wow.

The first time I stepped inside the Colosseum was between the sophomore and junior years of college. It was my first full day in Italy and the entire experience was amazing and overwhelming. I teared up! I didn't expect to have an emotional reaction like that... but going to Italy was a dream of mine and the history held within one place was so incredible to me - still is! ...And now, to think, that I live in Italy. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

I figured I couldn't be in Rome for a weekend and not take a stroll around the Colosseum. About half of it (the part with the highest outer walls remaining) is currently under scaffolding, which is too bad for tourists seeing the Colosseum for the first time... but it's still gorgeous.

The nearby Arch of Constantine is also currently covered in scaffolding.

And more nearby ruins (this city is like an outdoor museum!)...