Nepal Earthquake 2015 in Sanepa, Lalitpur

It was a lazy, grey, Saturday morning at our home in Sanepa. Prakash was traveling in some villages in Nepal from Tuesday to Friday, was very tired and wanted to take it easy. We contemplated going out for lunch and watching a movie in the evening, or having a simple lunch at home and going out for dinner. The second option won the family vote… thankfully.

Prakash was half asleep in our living room on the sofa. Janani and Sumi were playing on the floor with legos. Sajjan was cuddling up with Prakash. I was in the kitchen, getting started with lunch prep, but in the process of writing a text message on my phone which was resting on a narrow table we keep our water filter on. The “bati gayo beep” (electricity ON / OFF signal) just went off and immediately, the narrow table started slowly rattling. In my mind, I thought, “why is the bati gayo / electricity making our table shake?” As the seconds passed and the shaking increased, I started walking over to Prakash in the living room. The confusion quickly turned into intense fear. Barely able to walk on the shaking floor, I hobbled to the landing between our dining room and living room. Sumanth and Janani and I crouched down and I covered them as best as I could. In Sajjan’s words, “Baba went flying off the sofa and I went with him”. They crouched down in the living room. I was screaming loudly and was VERY scared. Janani and Sumanth reacted to my fear and were crying uncontrollably. Prakash, having experienced three California earthquakes was calm and was holding quiet little Sajjan tightly. It went on and on… The shaking got worse, then finally subsided. My first thought, “let me call Tika Dai!” I called twice and couldn’t get through. We then walked quickly out of the house into our front yard. Our brick privacy fences had all crumbled – but our house and all neighboring houses were still standing! The landlord and his family (our neighbors) came out into the yard too – we were all shocked, stunned, and at a loss for words. We were huddling at our picnic table trying to calm ourselves and the children and the first aftershock came (minutes from the major quake); the landlord’s house helper asked us to not sit near the trees, but come to the open grass area in the landlord’s yard. We waited for well over an hour with about 1 dozen people in the yard. My phone rang, and I was so gratefully to hear Tika Dai’s voice on the other end. He was with a friend in Kathmandu, but was ok.

The landlord’s family was glued to their portable radio listening to the Nepali radio – my Nepali is pretty good, but I could only understand bits and pieces of it (poor sound quality, fast dialogues, vocabulary that I haven’t learned yet). However, the earth was still. Hunger soon crept into all bellies and we ventured into the house to muster up a very quick lunch. We were eating at the table and Tika Dai’s voice broke the silence, “Hello Madam!” He hugged Prakash and in tears told us, “Kathmandu katham bhayo / Kathmandu is finished”. Our hearts sank… He cycled home through destruction, rubble and crowds of crying people. Devotedly, he came to make sure our family was okay before checking on his own…immeasurable sense of duty. We sent him off to his family’s house about 0.5 kilometers from our home, and thankfully, they too were all okay (later that evening we got a call from Sonu and her family was also okay). He came back inside and asked us to take our lunch outside, it just isn’t safe inside, he insisted. We fearfully followed his advice and went back to the landlord’s yard. The Nepal Government, via radio, urged all people to STAY OUTSIDE. This guidance stretched from 12 to 48 to 72 hours.

Aftershocks kept coming. But sitting still, in a garden or elsewhere, for children is just not possible (who are we kidding, we adults are equally restless). The kids were playing with other neighborhood kids. So much of their conversations had the words “earthquake, aftershock, shaking, scary” in them. We place a half-full water bottle on the ground and were literally staring at it – when an aftershock came, the water would shake. Sometimes we’d feel it first, sometimes we’d see the water shaking first. Many times, we felt like the ground was shaking (vertigo or seasickness feeling) but it really wasn’t. We’d intermittently run into the house – to use the bathroom, get something out of the playroom, get something from the kitchen – but immediately came back outside. Phone connectivity was very poor, all electricity was out, but our internet connectivity was strong (charged by our invertor). We were so grateful.

Our garden has several very tall trees. Prakash adamantly felt we’d be safer sleeping in our home than out of it. We argued for a bit, Janani and I really wanted to listen and do what the masses are doing. Prakash wanted to be smart and do what was best for our family. His arguments were that the main earthquake is over (no matter what the numerous rumors suggested), potentially unstable trees falling on our tent could be worse, and our house walls are over 15 inches thick and it seemed / is much sturdier than the average house in Kathmandu. He won and we slept inside, but the kids and I insisted that we sleep downstairs in the living room (close to the front door and with no second story above our heads) instead of upstairs in our bedrooms.

We opened our doors to others. Tika Dai’s daughter just had a baby about 10 days before the earthquake. I suggested that she and the baby sleep inside our house instead of out in the open air. They initially accepted, but at 9pm discovered no feasible way to transport Rita and her baby to our home (motorcycle, bicycle and walking were all too uncomfortable for a new mom). Prakash also offered our home to the group of scientists he worked with in the villages. They were driving in their trucks a few hours from KTM while the quake hit, but managed to slowly travel into the city and made it back before midnight. Their hotel was initially closed, but opened in time for them to sleep there. In the end, just the five of us slept at home.

Needless to say, that first night was really really really long. We barely slept. During each aftershock (at least 4), I’d wrap my arms around our sleeping children and hold them near to me. Within seconds the shaking would stop and my blood pressure would gradually decline. I knew we were amongst the REALLY LUCKY ones – we had our lives, no injuries, food in our kitchen, water in our storage tanks, all extended family members and friends accounted for, and even internet connection to be in touch with those abroad! There was SO much death, pain, destruction, sorrow less than 1 kilometer from our house. Still, fear kept us awake most of the night.

Besides fear of severe aftershocks and a continuous vivid reel of the first quake playing through my mind, Prakash and I wanted to start mobilizing and trying to help those in need. We had food, shelter, water, family – our needs were satiated. Countless times, we’d be in our living room in the USA, watching CNN and wishing we could “be there to help” when mother nature released excessive amounts of energy elsewhere – and now we are HERE! And fully capable of helping given that our basic needs are satiated. On Sunday, we teamed up with our dear friends, Emily and Caleb Spear, from Portal Bikes, and gave it a go. Prakash and Caleb worked on getting more tarps to those needing shelter (a tarp suspended to create a “ceiling” with no walls provides decent protection from the rain and a bit of warmth from the 50 degrees low temperatures. As we are gradually realizing, connecting those in need with what they need is a slow process. A severe aftershock / second earthquake that afternoon swayed us enough to shift to sleeping in a tent in the yard. Feeling so grateful to still have our lives, no injuries, food in our bellies, and a tent to sleep in, we eventually feel asleep.

On Monday, our whole family ventured off to ICIMOD. We used our car for the first time (our brand new Ford EcoSport was delivered two weeks ago but we hadn’t used it because we haven’t received our license plate). We decided that now, it was worth using anyhow. The roads on this part of town are okay. They’ve all sustained several hairline cracks, but are very passable. Thankfully, the ICIMOD office sustained only a few minor cracks and the building was deemed safe to be in. A few employees and directors were there and met to discuss next steps. The directors offered Prakash the role of organizing efforts to assist a few nearby villages where ICIMOD already has a presence. Awesome! He has a green light to channelize ICIMOD staff and resources for relief efforts. After the meeting, we waited in a one hour long queue to fill gas into our car’s empty tank while the kids napped in the back.

Soon after arriving back home, the bati aayo beep sounded and power was restored! I was so surprised, anticipating a wait of days or maybe even weeks. Power was restored in about 48 hours – unbelievable. Again, we are lucky – many families do not have power yet (over 72 hours). The kids even watched a movie on our TV – I was just perplexed as to how “normal” our life is flowing while others in Kathmandu are dead, injured, homeless, hungry, thirsty, fearful, and desolate. I was enjoying our comforts but feeling like it is all a bit unfair. To add to this bias, we splurged, indulged and treated ourselves to a bucket bath. Feeling grimy, sweaty, smelly, I justified using some of our water reserves to bathe – felt totally guilty, selfing and indulgent, maybe it was even foolish, but it felt so good. All clean and no significant aftershocks, we decided to move back into the living room for the night.

Tuesday, ICIMOD officially opened its doors to employees. Prakash was the only employee on the staff bus this morning, whereas usually it is full! Both long-term and short-term planning meetings took place. Back at home, I was restless and wanted to mobilize. The kids, Tika Dai and I cleared fallen bricks and concrete from two privacy fences that were blocking half the roadway outside our home and our neighbors’ homes. It was a small insignificant task, but felt good to be doing something. Later on, we took the Spear family kiddos to our place so Emily and Caleb could more efficiently work on distribution of drinking water and educating locals on solar-based water purification methods.

Soon we are headed to school – it opens at 10am today (kudos to The British School!!).

This is just a small snapshot at our last few days. I know SO many of you are SO worried about us – sincerely thank you for your warm wishes and prayers. We are really just fine and so thankful and grateful for how mildly this massive earthquake affected our lives, home, neighborhood, school and work. It will forever be etched in our memories… the silver lining behind this dark cloud is bright for us. The next few weeks, months and perhaps longer, we will join the immense efforts to uncover others’ silver linings…

My First Visit to Kathmandu, Nepal… by Viththal Bhave

My dear father-in-law visited us in March.  As the kids were in school and Prakash was at work, we got to spend a lot of time together.  He kept praising our family blog and I encouraged him to be our first GUEST WRITER – I was thrilled when he enthusiastically accepted my offer!  He is a special person… pedestalized by many, generous beyond measure, saintly…  Here is a glimpse of his experiences, thoughts and observations of his first visit to Kathmandu…

Grabbing a snack at the bakery while roaming the streets of Kathmandu.

Grabbing a snack at the bakery while roaming the streets of Kathmandu.

March 19 – My Jet Airways plane flew from Mumbai to Kathmandu. “We are approaching Kathmandu” the message I was waiting for. I looked out and boy, there were mountains after mountains! “Is there any flat land for this plane to land?” was the question in my mind as I saw the great white peaks of the Himalayas welcoming me. So, it was true what my friends in Belgaum were saying, “You are going to Himalayas, not Nepal!” The plane started descending and I was happy to read the name of the airport “Tribhuvan International Airport”. Indeed, all three bhuvans – heaven, earth and hell – are present in Himalayas. Prakash came to the airport and introduced me to their taxi-driver Dhankumar, a friendly person. Everyone here is friendly and acts as an extended family member said Prakash. Dhankumar was the first one I met in Prakash’s extended family. After coming home, I met two other extended family members – Tikaram (called as Tika Dai; Dai means older brother in Nepali) and Sonu Didi. I and Charu had heard about them. Nita was having some stomach problem. Tika Dai was giving her a tablet and a glass of water. The way the offering was done with care and love, it moved me to tears. What wonderful people Prakash’s family is living with! I thanked God for all this in my night prayer!

Kiddos excited to see and TASTE all the treats brought from home.

Kiddos excited to see and TASTE all the treats brought from home.

March 20 – Nita wanted to see the doctor. Her friend, Bahar Kumar, gave her ride to the doctor. I accompanied them. While Nita was with the doctor I and Bahar were waiting in the lounge. Within minutes, we established a wonderful father-and-daughter relationship. We talked about our families. She lost her father a year ago. She felt very good talking to me about her family. She told about her son’s trekking experience at school, although he is not very strong for the exercise. The time passed and I also got close to one more member of their extended family.

March 21 – On Ugadi day (Indian New Year’s Day), I happened to go to Pashupatinath Temple, the most prominent Lord Shiva Temple in Nepal. It was Saturday, so we went early to avoid the rush. Shanthi and her parents, friends that were visiting that weekend, accompanied myself and Prakash. We met a nice priest (God sent), who performed Rudrabhishek with 5 Brahmins. The entire pooja was performed very calmly, and the priests did not rush. One person came to help us for darshan. We saw the God from all 4 doors. The statue has 5 heads as the name of Shiva says “panchanan”.

Early morning special Shiva puja.

Early morning special Shiva puja.

March 22 – One of Nita’s friends told her that we could attend the chanting of Buddhist monks in their monastery, Seto Gumba. This monastery is different from the famous Stupas of Boudha and Swayambhunath. In Seto Gumba, there was a big hall with a huge golden Buddha statue. Around 150 monks in their maroon robes sat and chanted for an hour. I did not understand a single word (Tibetan language); other than occasionally some sound similar to Aum / Om. After the chanting, the monks disappeared in minutes. Nita’s friend walked us near the statue and we got a closer look. This was the first time in my life I attended such a function. It was a unique experience.

Golden Buddha statue in the garden of the monastery.

Golden Buddha statue in the garden of the monastery.

March 23, 2015, Prakash and his 4 colleagues were going around the city in ICIMOD’s van. I accompanied them. The project was to find some emission producing spots where the company can setup their equipment and measure the emissions. We had to select the spots on the roads for vehicle emissions and trash burning around houses. The roadside criteria were funny. One was number of vehicles, another was slope. They had to select both up and down slopes and some flat spots. The background noise meant some other source of emission should not be there. Because of the background a spot in the neighborhood of some car painting shops were rejected. The wind would take away the emission so we had to seek non-windy spots. Most of all the safety for their equipment and operators was a key factor. We went to several spots and using the criteria selected some spots. Then we went to some house holders who would not object measuring the emissions from trash burning. One small industry had a generator which was used in case of power outage. The measurements should be done when the power goes off. All these criteria were fun to consider. A good experience for me and the gang!

Does this street meet all of the criteria?

Does this street meet all of the criteria?

March 24 – Kids and Nita went to school. Prakash was going to work by bus. I accompanied him to the bus stop. On the way back, I tried to remember the roads. While coming home I got lost. I did not know the address of Prakash’s home, nor did I have any mobile number or diary which had phone numbers of Prakash or Nita. Only thing I remembered was ICIMOD and The British School. I asked people the directions for The British School. Everybody was helpful. My Hindi jived with their Nepali and I made it to the school! The security guard at the gate knew English. I told him that my grandkids go to this school and I am lost. He let me in. After hearing that I am lost, the receptionist with a chuckle offered the school desk phone. I said I do not remember the phone number. She found Nita’s phone number and called her. Nita came to rescue me. Thank you Lord that I remembered the School Name and it was not closed!
Later that day, Nita and I went to a see a cycle factory. The owner is Caleb Spear from Colorado, USA. His wife is also from Colorado and their 2 kids are the same age as Sajjan and Janani. After seeing the use of bike by Nepalis, Caleb came with an idea of extending the middle bar and carrier of the bike so that 3 or 4 people can sit on it comfortably. It can carry a lot more load than an ordinary bike. Everything is done in Caleb’s shop of Caleb. He is the inventor of this modified bike. And all of this is from the view of helping poor people in Nepal. He takes nominal profit to keep his family running. All workers in his shop are local Nepali people. Everything from cutting rods, bending pipes and soldering is done here. They extend the chain for the length of the cycle. The bicycle can also be used as a motor to run a washing machine or a corn kernel remover. I was so impressed with their work. While talking about local workers, Caleb mentioned that new employees often get training in the shop itself and after a couple of months they will either go find a job elsewhere or abroad. Some do stay in the same shop. When new employees finish training, their salary increases, they get a provident fund and health coverage! Another great man created by God to take care of His people!!

Caleb and I chatting in this workshop.

Caleb and I chatting in this workshop.

March 25 – Today I went to Prakash’s workplace, ICIMOD. ICIMOD’s emblem says “For people and mountains” – what a wonderful environment to work. There were breathtaking pictures of Himalayan regions taken by various employees in their photography competitions. While leaving the office I told Prakash’s colleagues that “I envy my son”. I was under the impression that ICIMOD is working on emission control and global warming control. When Prakash showed me the pamphlets on over a dozen or so projects I was zapped. One of the projects was as follows: Many Nepali men go to Middle East to earn money. This leaves the woman of the house in charge of cooking, children’s education and the work on the farm. The project is to help this woman on farming by providing better tools to use and growing various different crops to get more yield, for example strawberries. This was started by foreigners and their governments with no intentions of any rewards in return; only to help the people and mountains in Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH). Again the world is held together because the God has created such caring people!!

After ICIMOD, I went to The British School. There was the first of four performances of a drama called Scheherazade, Tale of the 1001 Arabian Nights. The hall was full of parents and non-participant students. There were over one hundred students participating in the drama including Sajjan and Janani. The idea of making a cave formed by a pyramid of students wearing black clothes was fascinating. When Janani sang her solo song, “Please Tell Me a Story” the entire theatre was stunned! Her beautiful voice kept ringing in our ears even after the song was over. The other girl who sang with her was also great. How much co-ordination efforts the teachers put to make it successful. It went flawlessly! Great!!

Janani and her classmates in the school drama.

Janani and her classmates in the school drama.

March 26 – Today Sumanth became 6 years old. In Belgaum, Charu and I made a special greeting card for him. It took us quite a long time to make it work! First day we spent time up to 11 o clock at night making various corrections and on the second day by noon the card was ready. After seeing the special card, both Janani and Sajjan were curious to make one like that and WALLA!!! Janani made one in just a few hours. In the evening Nita and Prakash went to see Sajjan and Janani’s 4th and last play leaving myself alone with Sumanth. We had a ball! I told him various stories, and he played with the candies he was given.

As you removed the black and white card from its sleeve, color magically appeared!  Tricky illusion using 1 clear sheet and a few plain papers.

As you removed the black and white card from its sleeve, color magically appeared! Tricky illusion using 1 clear sheet and a few plain papers.

My overall impression about Nepal and Nepali people is that it is a very nice country to live in. There is excellent scenery to see as soon as you get up over the country in the plane before even landing. And, the very friendly people join you as if they are family members. Many foreigners who come and work hard to improve the lifestyle of locals is an excellent example to follow.

Prakash and me in Bhaktapur.

Prakash and me in Bhaktapur.

Ek Barsa Bhayo…

My experiences in learning the Nepali language (translation below).


Thake ek barsa agadi, mero pariwar ra ma Nepal ma aaye…

Mero naam Nita ho. Ma North Carolina, United States of America badaa aeko. Mero pariwaar maa, paach janaa chha. Mero srimaan ko naam Prakash ho. Wahaa ICIMOD maa, scientist ko kaam garnu hunchha. Mero chori ko naam Janani ho. U paach class maa padhchha. Mero thulo chora ko naam Sajjan ho. U theen class maa padchha. Mero saano chora ko naam Sumanth ho. U ek class maa padchha. Sab bachhaa British School ma padchha.

Ek mahinaa Nepal aaye pachi, ma Nepali bhasha shikna suru gare. Dui janaa saathi-le, dui janaa shikshak ko laagi salaa dinu bhayo. Mero bichaar maa, ma eutaa class pahilaa shikshak sanga garchhu ra eutaa class dosro shikshak sanga garchhu ra ma-laai kun man parchha, wahaa sanga ma sadaai shikchhu. Tara, dubai shikshak dhere raamro thiyo thyesaile, ma dubai sanga Nepali bhasha shike!

Mero pahilaa shikshak ko naam Raju ho. Wahaa ko puraa kaam, bhasha shikaaune ho ra wahaa ko ghar bhitra, euta classroom chha. Raju ko ghar ra mero ghar dhere najike chha, paach minute hidera lagchha, theti. Asti, wahaa ko srimati, Prabina, pani class maa aaunu bhayo bhasha-shikaaunu shiknu ko laagi. Hamro theen-jaana ko class dhere ramailo thiyo! Raju dhere raamro chha grammar, verb conjugation ra pronunciation maa.

Mero dosro shikshak ko naam Deepa ho. Wahaa ko puraa kaam pani bhasha shikaaunu hunchha. Class ko laagi, Deepa mero ghar maa aaunu bhayo. Hami dui janaa matre padheko. Deepa dhere raamro chha vocabulary ra conversation maa.

Agadi, harek hapta, theen choti ek-ghanta ko class ma gare – eutaa ki diutaa class Raju sanga ra eutaa ki duitaa class Deepa sanga. Tyo bela-maa, ma raamro padhe. Harek class pachi, ma sab pheri padheko ra sab notes pheri lekhe. Bistarai bistarai mero Nepali raamro hudai chha. Hami ghar sare pachi, harek din Nepali bolna suru gare – Tika Dai ra Sonu sanga (mero ghar maa kaam garne didi-dai). Tes pachi, taxi driver sanga, sahuni ra sahuji sanga, ra chimeki sanga, ma bistarai Nepali bolna suru gare.

Nepali bhasha padhnu ko laagi sajilo chha! English banda dhere saadhaaran chha. Arko jaruri chha, mero afnu-bhasha Marathi ho. Marathi ra Nepali dhere pharak chhaina, milna janchha. Eute chithi chha, devanagari, ra dhere shabda eute ho. Thyesaile, mero-laagi, yo bhasha shiknu ko laagi sajilo chha.

Theen chaar mahinaa pachi, mero nasike saathi, Houk, ra ma sangai-class suru gare. Kasto ramailo thiyo! Wahaa Dutch ho tara wahaa ko Nepali dhere raamro chha. Ma banda ek barsa agadi Nepal maa aaunu bhayo ra ek barsa badi class shiknu bhayo. Thorai classes Raju sanga ra thorai classes Deepa sanga haami-sangai padheko. Dubai ramailo thiyo.

Raju ji ra Deepa ji, dhere dhere dhanyabad ra mero namaskar tapaai-haru-laai dinchhu. Ma dhere dhere bhagyamani chhu –Nepal maa basne mouga, nayaa bhasha shikne mouga ra dhere janaa raamro manche sanga padhne mouga paye…


Exactly one year ago, my family and I came to Nepal…

My name is Nita. I am from North Carolina, United States of America. My family has 5 people. My husband’s name is Prakash. He works in ICIMOD as a scientist. My daughter’s name is Janani. She studies in Year 5. My older son’s name is Sajjan. He studies in Year 3. My younger son’s name is Sumanth. He studies in Year 1. All of the children study in The British School.

One month after coming to Nepal, I started learning the Nepali language. Two of my friends recommended two Nepali teachers to me. I thought, I will do one class with the first teacher and one class with the second teacher and whichever teacher I liked, I would continue studying with them. But, both teachers were very good therefore I studied with both of them!

My first teacher’s name is Raju. His full-time job is as a language teacher and within his house, he has a classroom. Raju’s house and my house are very close, only a 5 minute walk away, that is all. Initially, his wife, Prabina, would also come to our class for her to learn how to teach Nepali. Our three-person class was very fun! Raju is very strong in grammar, verb conjugation and pronunciation.

My second teacher’s name is Deepa. Her full-time job is also as a language teacher. For our class, Deepa would come to my house. Just the two of us would study. Deepa is very strong in vocabulary and conversation.

In the beginning, every week, I went to three one-hour classes – one or two classes with Raju and one or two classes with Deepa. At that time, I studied really well. After each class, I would again study and rewrite all of my class notes. Slowly, my Nepali improved. After changing houses, I started speaking Nepali everyday with Tika Dai and Sonu (our house helpers).
Afterwards, I slowly started speaking in Nepali to taxi drivers, shop keepers and neighbors.

The Nepali language is easy to learn! Compared to English, it is simple. Another important thing is that my mother-tongue is Marathi. Marathi and Nepali are not very different. They share the same script, devanagari, and many words are identical. Therefore, for me, learning Nepali has been easy.
After three to four months, my close friend, Houk, and I started taking group classes. How fun it was! She is Dutch but her Nepali is very good. She came to Nepal one year ahead of me and started Nepali one year before me. We studied a few classes with Raju and a few classes with Deepa. Both were enjoyable.

Raju ji and Deepa ji, thank you very very much and I offer my salutations to you. I am very very lucky – I have the chance to live in Nepal, the chance to learn a new language and the change to study with several very nice people…

My Trip to the Kathmandu Zoo by Sajjan Bhave

Today, I went on an investigation to the zoo instead of working in the classroom.

We walked to the zoo from our school instead of taking the bus! On the walk, we walked single-file in our groups. My group leader was Ms. Shrestha, the assistant teacher from my class. There were five groups. There was Ms. Bloor, Ms. Amatiya, Ms. Middleton, Ms. Westlake and Ms. Shrestha. There were 6 kids in my group. Their names were Jack, Kasem, Freida, Suravi, Neenama and me. The two teachers in our group were Ms. Shrestha and Ms. Silwal. At the zoo, we had to finish four activities before we walked back to school. These activities were: a zoo questionnaire in which you had to ask people different questions ; sketch an animal that you liked ; find out information about the animals ; draw a tally chart of how close to extinction the animals are. Right when we got to the zoo, we ate our snack. We played around for a bit after eating our snack and I took a photo of two of my friends, William and Pemba.


Then we went to the deer. One of the swamp deer had horns and the other did not. The swamp deer were HUGE compared to the spotted deer. We found out that the swamp deer’s lifespan was only 19-20 years. I estimated that the swamp deer were only 16 years old. Next we went to the hippo. The hippo only poked its snout out of the water. I got the photo just before the hippo got back in the water.


We were about to go towards the tigers when Jack spotted that we didn’t go to the rhino. The rhino was huge compared to the swamp deer. He was eating grass when we were at his enclosure. The rhino looked very sad because the other rhinos of his type were separated into different enclosures.


Then we went to the water buffalos. The water buffalos were very far away from us. Water buffalos weigh approximately 800 – 900 kilograms. When we were at their big enclosure, they were drinking water from a very dirty pond. There were about 7 water buffalos in their enclosure.


After the water buffalo, we saw the jackals. Their enclosure was very smelly because they use urine to communicate with other jackals!


Then we went to the Asian elephants. They were HUGE compared to the jackal! We found out that the Asian elephant could live more than 70 years long. Later on, we saw someone riding an elephant straight through the zoo. I thought that elephant was an Asian elephant. The man was riding the elephant through the zoo because he was taking the elephant to the area where the people were waiting to pet the elephant. I got to pet the elephant’s ear, it was very soft. The side of the elephant was much rougher compared to the ear.


Next we went to the huge bird section. I spotted a very colorful bird that looked like a tiger! The bird section wasn’t as entertaining as the monkeys, water buffaloes and tigers.

Towards the end we went to the crocodiles. These crocodiles had a very long snout. It looked like a corpse in the sand because it was very sunny and the animals were very still.


After our visit to the zoo, a few days later, we had a debate whether we should have zoos or not. Everybody said we should not have zoos except Gyaljen. Our conclusions were that we should keep animals in national parks instead of zoos because it is cruel to keep animals in cages, but if we let them out into the wild, they might get killed by hunters and they would be extinct. So, we agreed on the conclusion that we should keep animals in protected national parks.
I really enjoyed going to the zoo because of the big variety of animals!

My Adventures in Hattiban! By Sumanth Bhave

Sumanth’s description of his first school overnight trip – outing to Hattiban then back to school for a night in tents!


First we went to school with my big bag. Tika Dai came also because the bag was really really heavy so when we got to British School, we lined up and went inside. Then we met up at Year 1E. Then we went in a line, a big long line, and there are three busses because we are a big big group. Our bus was very very very cool because we are popcorn and our passenger, the guy who is next to the driver, since there are so many uphills he had to get out of the bus and had to put a big stone behind one of the wheels. And then finally we got there and we got into a circle.

There were lots of groups. My group had 4 people – Ariya, Tirel, Akshata, and me. There were 3 boys and 1 girl. Then each group, went to the toilet and sometimes the boys had to go in the girls toilets and sometimes the girls had to go in the boys toilets! And then finally everybody got to go in the toilet. And then, Ms Wiggers read a story to us, it was called “We are Going on a Bear Hunt”. The story was really nice. Then we were going on a bear hunt together! We found a lot of clues and we even found a lot of bear poo! And the bear poo wasn’t even real! It was like a bunch of leaves crumpled up. When the bear hunt was finished, we came back to the hotel and went to the bathroom again. And then we ate lunch. In the middle of lunch we saw some walking bushes! Do you know the walking bushes were actually people carrying leaves to feed their cattle?!?

Then we did some activities after lunch. We started at 5 then went to 6 then to 1 then to 2 then 3 then 4 then we were finished. I think each activity was 5 minutes. All activities took 1 hour. Activity #5 was sketching things you could see around Hattiban. I sketched trees, tree trunks, and sticks and I think that was it. Then, in #6 first we had to clear a big muddy space, then we had to make a picture in the mud using natural things. My natural things were sticks and bark and I used one piece of glass that wasn’t that sharp. The sticks were bridges, the holes were ponds and the piece of purple glass was treasure. You had to find the treasure and make sure you don’t fall into any of the ponds! The sticks were like balance beams and you had to walk over them to get over the ponds.

In the bus ride back, I was feeling a bit sick because the roads were really bumpy. Finally we got back to the British School. There, we went to Year 1E’s classroom. We read a book or played. I played legos. My lego thing was a big ship that had lots of cool things on it. Guess what Ariya put on my thing?!? He put a big lego missile on my ship! A missile is like a bullet. Then it was time for dinner. I went to the table. I had pasta. The pasta was very very good. I didn’t not like the pizza that much. I drank water, but I didn’t actually drink it, I left it on the table.

Then I played some games in the playground. I really liked the games. The people were Ariya, Yuvan, Akshata, Prapti, and Siddham, Tirel, Shauriya. Then it was time to brush our teeth. I brushed my teeth. Then it was time for bed. I went to bed with Ariya in a tent. I had to set up my bed. There were only 4 teachers so they had to walk around. In the middle of the night, Ariya had to go to the toilet. Then it was morning. Me and Ariya woke up. Then we changed our clothes. Then we packed our bags with some help from some teachers. Then we put our bags where they were when we came to the hard court. Then we asked Ms Elphic if we could go brush our teeth. Then it was time for breakfast. I had cereal. First I had chocolate loops. Then I had fruit loops! Then I had choco banana cereal. But they were fatter than bananas! Then it was time for the next school day. We lined up and then we went inside. I got to leave early.

I did not miss my mom and my dad. I also did not miss my brother and my sister.

I got scared one time because of the bear. Ms Hutchins was the bear! She dressed up as a bear. I got so scared because her ROARS were so scary!

My favorite part of the whole adventure was eating candy when the bear was finished. The bear was a very kind bear. He left us lollipops and oranges and even he left us treasure on the way back. My treasure was candies. The candies were really yummy.

Wiped out, but happy as can be, after the best FIRST school overnight experience!

Wiped out, but happy as can be, after the best FIRST school overnight experience!

Embracing and ENJOYING a new lifestyle!!

NOTE: I wrote this post months ago and foolishly delayed on posting.  However, it still paints a true picture…


My daily routine is significantly different since we moved from an apartment into our house – all for the better… Main difference is our two amazing house helpers, Tika Dai and Sonu, who enable this effortless and efficient lifestyle…

Prakash and I wake up early, usually just before 6am. I get ready and then prepare a fresh, healthy, hot breakfast — never before have I managed to successfully and consistently do this! I prepare nutritious “parathas” (similar to a tortilla) supplementing the usual whole wheat flour and water with veggies, lentils, nuts, seeds and flours of other grains. I make 8 each morning – one for each of the five of us, one for Tika Dai, one for Sonu, and one for our dog (he is a street dog that the previous tenant cared for and just kind of came with the house – truly a gentle soul…). I prepare the kids’ snack and water bottles, and sometimes their lunch. Since school is nearby, often their lunch is prepared a bit later and taken over at lunchtime. Simultaneously, Tika Dai is buzzing around the kitchen – drying and putting away dinner dishes, making tea and setting the table. While we are busy in the kitchen, Prakash holds down the fort upstairs ensuring the kids complete their morning routine amongst the nonstop horsing around! They all head down, get their backpacks ready for school and we all sit down to breakfast together — again, this never happened in the US, but we are enjoying and cherishing it. Prakash heads out on his bicycle around 7:45am and we follow a few minutes later on our cycles.

I’ll introduce our house helpers a bit before describing how significantly they impact our life… Tika Dai is 52 years old, married and has 3 sons and 2 daughters. His wife lives in their village (Chitwan, which is a 5 hour bus ride from KTM) and 4 of his 5 children live, work and/or study in KTM. He never attended school, but ensured his children studied. His daughters completed up to 10th grade and his sons completed high school and are pursuing further education. Self-taught, Tika Dai learned to read Nepali (Devanagari script) and can manage to read and write, although at a fairly slow pace. His knowledge of English is limited to perhaps a few dozen words, spoken only. He lives in a small, detached room within our compound. I can write pages about his personality but will summarize – cheerful, optimistic, content, caring, thoughtful and hard working.

Tika Dai with Prakash and the kids on a temple outing!

Tika Dai with Prakash and the kids on a temple outing!

Sonu is 32 years old, married and has 1 son. Her husband lives in Saudi Arabia (an astronomically high number of Nepalis work abroad in Asia and the Middle East as they can financially contribute significantly more to their families) and her 16-year-old son just completed 10th grade and now works at a cycle shop as a manufacturing assistant. She also never attended school but has learned to read and write Nepali. Her vocabulary of English is surprisingly high and she has taught herself the alphabet. She and her son live in an apartment 3 km from our home. Sonu is kind, smart, thoughtful and hard working.

Sonu and the kids on her birthday!

Sonu and the kids on her birthday!

Sonu and Tika Dai take care of most household tasks:

* Laundry and cleaning — Sonu takes care of all the laundry (sorting, machine washing, hand washing, hanging to dry, ironing and folding). I only put clothes away where they belong. She and Tika Dai together take care of all cleaning (dusting, cleaning bathrooms, sweeping, moping, cleaning the kitchen). I only help with tidying up — a nonstop task with 3 kids at home! Their efforts to take care of our house simplify my life tremendously.

* Groceries — As I wrote about before, purchasing groceries is a bit tedious in Nepal. Since we don’t have a car and since fresh fruits, vegetables, milk and bread don’t keep for long, frequent purchases are a must. However, Sonu and Tika Dai, do most of the shopping! She purchases produce in the morning on her way to our house. Tika Dai gets grains, dairy and all pantry items as and when we need them. I’ll make a list, written in English, and read it out to him as he rewrites it in Nepali. At the end of the day, we do the “jisab” and he gives me the receipts from the day and I pay him back. About once in two weeks, I’ll go shopping to get items that require some selection or searching. Again, their efforts in this regard greatly reduce my work load.

* House work — There is quite a bit of work to do to maintain a house in the developing world! We do not have a direct line of water to our house from the City Government. Four large tanks hold our water supply (equivalent to 6000 liters). Tika Dai makes sure the tanks are cleaned (about once a year), pumps the water from tank to tank (when the electricity is on), and calls the tanker truck for deliveries (about once every two weeks). Gardening work is plentiful and Tika Dai singlehandedly completes it (cuts the grass with a non-motorized cutter, trims trees and bushes, cares for the veggie patches, sweeps fallen leaves, waters the plants, etc). The list of items that need maintenance goes on and on – but thankfully Tika Dai seemingly effortlessly manages all.

* Cooking — My cooking work has been cut in half! Sonu prepares lunch (for me, her and Tika Dai) and dinner (for Prakash, the kids and me) Monday through Friday. I only take care of breakfast on weekdays and all meals on weekend. Usually, she prepares a typical Nepali meal (rice, lentils and curried vegetables), but once in a while she mixes it up – pasta, fried rice, noodles, chole-puri (curried garbanzo beans and fried bread) and even homemade pizza! Also, baking has become weekly entertainment for all of us – banana bread, peanut butter cookies, date cake and peanut butter ladoos!

I’m sure you are wondering how much we pay Sonu and Tika Dai… First, I’ll tell you that they are well paid as compared to others holding similar jobs in Kathmandu. They, and all others who do this kind of work, do make ends meet but do not have many luxuries in life. Sonu earns the equivalent of $140 USD per month and Tika Dai earns the equivalent of $190 USD per month. Unfortunately, the cost of labor in Kathmandu and most of the developing world is appallingly low. These drastically low rates leave me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is great to have happy employees who are relatively satisfied with their earnings, but on the other hand, it is difficult to digest that we live in the same city and they have to survive on their meager Nepali Rupee salary while we enjoy a salary in US Dollars.

I’m sure you are also wondering what I must be doing with my time. I have no job, very little house work to do, my kids are in school full-time, so what do I do?!? It is a blessing to have so much free time and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself – here is a summary of my activities:

* Exercise — I have never been so fit in my life! In addition to the Tuesday mountain bike rides with other British School parents, weekly, I run twice a week and walk twice a week. These coupled with cycling as our new mode of transportation, I feel super fit, energized, and healthy.

* Nepali Class – attending Nepali language classes is very enjoyable and has enabled me to effectively communicate with Sonu and Tika Dai, in addition to shop keepers, taxi drivers, and other locals I meet. I’ve become the household “translator” – the kids and Prakash use my basic skills to communicate in Nepali!

* CSGN – I am keenly interested in learning about Nepal, Nepali people and culture. The Cultural Studies Group Nepal organizes informational lectures, discussions, walks and studio tours about three times per month. Attending these events has been very enjoyable and educational. From December, I joined as a Board Member and have enjoyed planning and organizing various CSGN events.

* Computer work – I aim to write blog posts, catch up on email, and keep in touch with friends and family while the kids are at school.

* Crochet – A hip and happening group of foreign and local women get together weekly to crochet. Since January I joined the group and two beautiful seeds have bloomed since. Janani’s creativity and skills in crochet has grown and surpassed mine! And several of the ladies are having a go at starting a small business out of our creative spirits – we’ll see what happens!

* Volunteer Project – During our summer holidays in July, I visited an old friend, Ashok Rupner, from Pune, India. He now works with Dr. Arvind Gupta, Creating Toys out of Trash, and he asked if I can help them on a project. They have over 500 videos available for free on YouTube that aim to teach children about science through the creation of simple toys made from basic household items. They have dubbed these videos in numerous languages (Hindi, Marathi, Kanada, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, Telugu, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Uzbek, Tajik) aiming to share the knowledge with children all over the world. Ashok Sir asked me to work on dubbing the video scripts in Nepali! Since my Nepali is very rudimentary (and my accent isn’t authentic), I have found native speakers to work on this project with me. I’m looking forward to notifying rural schools in Nepal of this resource when we finish.

After all of these activities, I cycle over and get the kids at 2:30 or 3:30, depending on whether they have an after-school club. In the USA, I would be trying to juggle ~17 balls at once – preparing dinner, cleaning out containers from the kids’ lunch boxes, listening to each one about their day, mediating arguments between the kids, tidying up the constant tornado, helping with homework, reading paperwork sent home by the school, and playing with the kids too. Thankfully, a few of these balls are taken care of so now I’m able to focus more on being with the kids in the afternoons.

Evenings are about the same. Prakash gets home from work, kids eager to chat with him, evening crankiness and hunger set in, bath-time activities, bedtime reluctance – the dance all families do…

Yes, life in Nepal and the USA are hugely different. At this time, we are enjoying the positive aspects to life here (low cost house helpers; biking as a primary mode of transportation; warm, open nature of Nepali people; huge range of foreigners and expats). There are things I do miss occasionally (libraries; parks, green spaces and well-protected natural resources; traffic lights and civil driving habits; clothes dryer; 80-gallon gas water heater; central heating system). There are tradeoffs. I am blessed that we have the opportunity to experience both…

Vacationing at Two Ends of the Spectrum – Poor Developing Village and 5-Star Fancy Resort

Truly a unique experience… Primarily for the vast difference in the two places we vacationed in and secondarily for the difference in our family constitution…

We’ve never vacationed with only a subset of our family – just haven’t done it before, although we know many who have. But the children have far more days off of school than Prakash has days off of work. Determined to take advantage of the kids’ holidays and see more of this amazing country we now live in, I set off to find other travel companions! Two dear, kind, smart, thoughtful ladies, Pema and Bahar, recently entered my life and we hit it off early on. Brutally honest yet very caring and supportive – this describes the friendship that has blossomed just over the last 4 months. They too have husbands with limited time off work and eager children wanting to DO and SEE more on their holidays. For the first time, we 3 moms and 7 kids set off on a vacation leaving the dads behind. There was a hint of guilt (would he feel left out or mind us having so much fun without him?), but mostly anticipation and joy… Needless to say, our first vacation without the dads was a huge success because we formed a new “family-type-unit” and all members collectively took care of one another.

Our whole troup!

Our whole troup!

Vacationing in a luxurious 5-star resort surely also played into the successful holiday! Private endless pool, one villa with three spacious en-suite bedrooms (the bathroom was larger than our bedroom at home!), unlimited helpful staff (admiring and engaging our troop of munchkins, providing anything and everything we requested and more, along with radiating warmth and generosity), over the top meals (I think I ate enough for 3 people!), and entertaining, well-organized, amazing activities (elephant safari, canoe ride, bathing with elephants, ox cart ride, slide shows of nature in the jungle and cultural programs of village dance and music).

Cold river water splashed from an elephant's trunk - once in a lifetime experience!

Cold river water splashed from an elephant’s trunk – once in a lifetime experience!

Perhaps one of the best elements of the trip was how little we had to think or plan or organize – it was all done for us (I’ve heard cruise vacations are like this, we just haven’t experienced that before). Everything from meal times, meal item choices, activity times, activity choices – it was already planned out and decided, we just had to show up and enjoy! How simple and relaxing…

Such a neat experience to see wildlife atop an elephant!

Such a neat experience to see wildlife atop an elephant!

Before the kids and I met Bahar and Pema and their kids in Kasara Resort, the five of us – including Prakash – visited Tika Dai’s village. He is our house helper – he gardens, cleans, runs errands, plays with the kids and overall helps our lives operate smoothly and relatively effortlessly. His wife, one of his five children, his 2 brothers and their families, and his parents all live along one lane in a small village in the town of Meghauli in Chitwan. He graciously invited us to stay with them and see what village life is like.

The morning fog is intense in the Terai - doesn't lift until after 11am and significantly impacts crop yield, airport safety, drying of clothes, etc, etc, etc...

The morning fog is intense in the Terai – doesn’t lift until after 11am and significantly impacts crop yield, airport safety, drying of clothes, etc, etc, etc…

Day 1 of a two-day trip to his village was super-action-packed. After the six hour drive, we were welcomed by Ganga Didi and Hari (his wife and son). Quickly his nephews, brothers and sisters-in-law walked over to greet us too. We ate lunch then walked to his parent’s house just a few hundred meters away. Proximity AND independence – truly brilliant in my opinion… Since our Nepali is fairly cursory and their English is relatively nil, communication was limited but our emotions and sentiments were clearly conveyed – they were so happy that we took the time to visit them and their village and we were so happy to meet them and wanted to express our appreciation of the contribution their son makes to our family.  We listened to stories of how Tika Dai’s brother was attacked and killed by a tiger about 20 years ago and how another brother was attacked and severely injured by a crocodile about 10 years ago (he survived but has permanent brain damage).

Tika Dai's Mom, Dad and younger brother (the one who was attacked by a crocodile years ago).

Tika Dai’s Mom, Dad and younger brother (the one who was attacked by a crocodile years ago).

After a small stroll along the creek, we came back for a cup of tea. It was interrupted by an excited phone call from Tika Dai’s mom saying one of the female goats has started birthing her babies! The kids dashed over and we all got to witness birth in a village setting – a very natural, normal, non-sterile, everyday kind of happening. We were hurried off however, as an elephant ride had been reserved for us that afternoon. How amazing to see wild rhinos, crocodiles and deer within 1 mile of Tika Dai’s house – put into perspective how dangerous it can be to coexist with wildlife so close to home. We drove home, freshened up, ate in a flash and in no time about half the village came by for an enchanting evening of bhajans and music (devotional songs and a band composed of all village instruments – harmonium, dholak or drum, and several hand percussion pieces). Prakash sang for the first half and their “village singing group” sang the remaining. What a special, memorable, heart-warming evening…

Music session with villagers - what a special opportunity!

Music session with villagers – what a special opportunity!

All guests were offered a bit of fruits and tea and then they all slowly dispersed back to their homes. We sat and chatted a bit more with Tika Dai and his family – we were all on an emotional high, no one ready to end the enjoyable evening to go to sleep. I was amazed how much it felt like we were visiting family and not friends… Reminded me of fond memories visiting my grandparents and paternal uncle in their village each time we’d vacation in India.

Day 2 was short for Prakash. He enjoyed a long solitary morning walk, visited the 7 new baby goats, said his goodbyes to the whole family and was off to Kathmandu after lunch. The kids enjoyed exploring the house, playing on the swing and watching cartoons in Hindi on TV (yes, they had cable TV and enjoyed it while the electricity was on!). Later that afternoon, we went to the riverside – skipped stones, splashed and scared hundreds of frogs away! Tika Dai’s brother proudly took us around the village on his ox-cart – bumpy and slow, but a pleasant experience. The next morning, the kids and I said our final goodbyes and were off to the resort!

Clean water, stones, tadpoles and hours of fun by the creekside...

Clean water, stones, tadpoles and hours of fun by the creekside…

Two vastly different destinations, only 20 kilometers away from one another, both wrapped up in one vacation. So close geographically, yet so far in many other aspects… Both emanated warmth, generosity and care in their own ways. We are looking forward to visiting again next year – the villagers asked us to come annually as long as we still live in Nepal, to enjoy more evenings of blissfully divine music together :-).

Our Jungle Adventures!!

Our Family Chitwan Trip!  By Janani…

I woke up early in the morning on February 14th, 2015. That was the day we went to Chitwan National Park. Chitwan is near the bottom of Nepal in the Terai region or the flatlands. We were visiting Tika Dai’s family so he came with us. We hopped in the car and drove away. The drive was very bumpy because we were going through the mountains. Even in Chitwan, the roads weren’t very good. When we got there, we saw that Tika Dai’s family all lived in one lane. First was Tika Dai’s house, then his brother’s house, then some neighbors and last, his parent’s house. When I grow up, I want to live like that.

At lunchtime, we had rice and daal (lentils) that Tika Dai’s wife, Ganga Didi, made. It was very yummy. After we ate lunch, we explored around the house. We found a swing, a ladder that goes up to a place full of hay and a ladder that goes up to a big attic. It was very fun playing there and I liked that there were ladders instead of stairs.

We found all kinds of interesting things up here!

We found all kinds of interesting things up here!

Then we went to Tika Dai’s parent’s house. The day before, baby goats were born, so we got to see 1-day-old baby goats. One was a girl that was brown with white spots and one was a boy that was just brown. I liked the boy because the girl just sat and pooped. The boy was more active and he was trying to find where to get his mom’s milk.

They are just a day old!

They are just a day old!

The next day we saw another goat give birth to 5 babies. There was a big orange sack coming out of her body and all the baby goats looked slimy and wet. It was so interesting. By the next day, they looked so different and soft. They were very cute.

On Sunday, our Dad went home. On Monday, my Mom, my brothers and I went to a very fancy resort called Kasara. We met two other families. They had four kids all together. Nitesh is 7, Maanav is 7, Sharanaa is 4, and Zoya is 2. There was nobody my age, but it was still fun.

We soon found out that we had our own private SWIMMING POOL! We couldn’t believe it! Unfortunately, the water was cold because it is February so it was hard to get in. Later, we went on a canoe ride. We saw so many pretty birds but in the end we saw about ten man-eating crocodiles. We were so scared! The next day, after breakfast, we went on an elephant ride. It was just like the last time I went to Chitwan with my class. It was so bumpy. We saw 7 or 8 rhinos and one was a baby.

Sometimes, when all the kids were playing, instead of playing with them, I would crochet with the moms. The other two moms taught me how to make hexagons and circles and they even taught me how to turn two hexagons into a sweater for a little doll! The last few weeks, crochet has been one of my favorite activities to do.

Crochet, crochet and more crochet!

Crochet, crochet and more crochet!

We also went on an ox cart ride. There were 2 oxen that pulled a cart and we sat on planks of wood in the cart. We rode to a museum about Tharu Culture. Tharu is a type of people. In the museum, we saw Tharu toys, fishnets, and a drum with peacock feathers on it.

We rode on Shivratri - children in the villages held strings across the road so we couldn't cross.  They asked for money and then released the strings - similar to our Trick or Treating in the USA!

We rode on Shivratri – children in the villages held strings across the road so we couldn’t cross. They asked for money and then released the strings – similar to our Trick or Treating in the USA!

That night, we saw a Tharu Culture dance. There were about 12 ladies dancing in a circle to the music of a 2-sided drum called, dholak. They were dancing with sticks and they could hit them with the sticks of the person behind them without looking back. It was amazing.

The next day, we went to the river. In the river, there were 4 elephants. I climbed on one and the skin of the elephant felt very rough. The man on it said some commands and suddenly the elephant sprayed me with its trunk! The water was much warmer than I thought it would be. I think that’s because it was warmed by the inside of the elephant’s trunk. I was splashed like 10 times! I didn’t want to be splashed anymore. But when I got off, I almost felt like getting back on.

Soaking wet but happy as can be!

Soaking wet but happy as can be!

Kasara and Tika Dai’s house are so different. Kasara is much bigger and it has a proper bathroom. But Tika Dai’s house is very small and they only have a squat toilet, no sink and no shower room. At Kasara we can eat as much as we want, but at Tika Dai’s house, we can only have firsts. If we ask for seconds, someone won’t get their firsts. But in the village, there are many things to play with. There is a swing made out of rope and wood. I found it very cool that the two grooves that were cut on the sides of the wood made it so that the wood could stay on the rope without falling off! There was also a ladder that went up to a pile of hay. We could climb up and look around. In Kasara there weren’t very many things to play with though. Village life is very different from normal life.

Chitwan… By Sajjan…

The Departure
“Wake up!” my mom said, “it is time to go to Chitwan!” I got up sleepily and walked to the car. We drove for six hours on bumpy roads and alongside rivers. Finally, we got to Meghauli, Tika Dai’s village.

We immediately started exploring the fascinating village house. Sumi found an amazing swing. The swing was so resourceful because it was made from string and wood and was hanging from the attic. We played on the swing for so long.

Hidden village treasures...

Hidden village treasures…

Suddenly, Tika Dai’s mom phoned and said a goat was giving birth to babies. We all rushed over there in time to see a black goat give birth to five babies. They all looked slimy and goopy. The next day they looked so soft and different.

There were a lot of Dais (big brothers). We played football (American soccer) and volleyball for at least one hour every day. Higher from Tika Dai’s house, there was a huge, dirt, open land. Sometimes we played up there and sometimes we played down on the narrow road that led to Tika Dai’s house and sometimes we played in his front yard. The ball wasn’t very hard because they don’t have the materials to make them in the village.

We met the whole village by the end of our trip!

We met the whole village by the end of our trip!

In the kitchen, they used milk from a buffalo. It was very sweet and fresh. Unlike other village farmers, they had a refrigerator in their house because Tika Dai is working so hard in Kathmandu and earning a lot of money.

It was a very long drive from Meghauli to Kasara. We had to ask at least five people which way to go. Finally, we got to Kasara. We sprinted to our villa and found out that we had our own private swimming pool! Unfortunately, the swimming pool was extra cold because we are still in winter.

Our own mini pool right next to our villa... the COOLEST thing.

Our own mini pool right next to our villa… the COOLEST thing.

When it was lunch time, we discovered that the food was very good. There even was a buffet. The popcorn before dinner time was also very good. Breakfast was my favorite meal because they had cereal every time and I really like cereal.

We loved the pasta, cereal and desserts!

We loved the pasta, cereal and desserts!

We went on an amazing canoe ride. We saw the long-nosed gharial crocodile and the deadly mugger crocodile. We were especially scared when we saw 3 deadly crocodiles slip into the water near our boat.  When we went to all of the activities, we rode on a jeep, but it wasn’t a normal jeep, it had 10 seats on the top with no roof so the wind blew in our faces!

The moms kept thinking we were going to fly off, but we didn't!

The moms kept thinking we were going to fly off, but we didn’t!

The next day, we went on an ox cart ride. Oxen are white or brown. We went on a tour around the whole village pulled by two oxen!  We even went on an elephant safari. We saw a samba deer, a hug deer – the one with spots – and a crocodile. We got on an elephant like this – there were steps up to a platform but there was no slide, there was an elephant to climb on!

The elephant "driver" rubs his feet behind the elephants ears to steer - no kidding!

The elephant “driver” rubs his feet behind the elephants ears to steer – no kidding!

We saw the Tharu people do a dance with 4 parts. The first part was with a stick that produced loud noises to scare away the animals from eating up the crops. The second part was with this scarecrow drum. The third part was with two sticks. The fourth part was my favorite. It was played with an instrument that made the noise like a tambourine.

Trishuli River
On the way back home, we stopped at the Trishuli River. I wrote people’s names using black stones and another sharp stone. You use the sharp stone as a pencil and the black stone as a paper. When we got back home, it was so different from Kasara and Meghauli.

My Chitwan Blog… By Sumanth…

Chapter 1 – Meghauli
We woke up early because we needed to go to Chitwan. The drive was long. I had breakfast in the car. Finally we were at Chitwan. We saw Hari Dai’s dog, his name is Hero.

Hero is such a cool dog!  Playful, protective and affectionate...

Hero is such a cool dog! Playful, protective and affectionate…

There were seven Dais – Tika Dai, Hari Dai, Milan Dai, Ram Dai, Lakshman Dai, Tika Dai’s younger brother and Hari Dai’s friend. I had so much fun on the swing. We saw a black goat give birth to five babies. After the two days at Tika Dai’s house, we went to Kasara.

Chapter 2 – Kasara
We had a private swimming pool! After 4 hours, our friends came. We played army! Finally we were at our rooms. We watched Motu Patlu in Maanav’s room. On the last day of Kasara, it rained. We ran to our villa. That next morning, we went to the café to eat breakfast. After breakfast, we went to our bus. The bus ride was so bumpy. Finally, we were at our first break. We ate vegetable cutlets – they were yummy! I had five of them. Finally, we were at our second break at Trishuli River. I found so much beautiful stones. I put my stones in a bag. After I found all of the beautiful stones that I liked, we went to the bus stop. Pema Aunty called the bus. Now the bus ride was not bumpy and not long. Finally, we were at our normal house.

Skipping rocks and collecting a few to take home.

Skipping rocks and collecting a few to take home.

The End…

Surviving Winters in Kathmandu

We were warned by locals and seasoned expats that surviving winter in Kathmandu will be one of the toughest parts of this experience. I am a spoiled San Diegan, a true desert creature – I grew up in a climate where they said the local weatherperson had the easiest job in the world. It was consistently “sunny and 70°” almost all year around! I spent a decade in mild North Carolina where I got used to wearing a coat, gloves, scarf and hat in winter. I found winters difficult, but managed and eagerly anticipated the arrival of spring. Upon hearing the warnings for Kathmandu, I knew I was in for a BIG challenge. The difficulty here isn’t outdoor temperatures, but rather INDOOR temperatures. There is NO centralized heating in residences, schools, offices and most commercial establishments.

Winters here are significantly milder than conditions in latitudes and altitudes higher than here. These are the average stats:

• Outdoor daytime highs: 55 – 65° F (12 – 18° C)
• Outdoor nighttime lows: 32 – 40° F (0 – 4° C)
• Indoor daytime highs: 52 – 55° F (11 – 12° C)
• Indoor nighttime lows: 50 – 53° F (10 – 12° C)

I’ve had to readjust my lens of “normal winter behavior” to survive winters here. What is considered “normal” is so foreign from winter back home, but so ordinary here…
• I wear a ski hat, gloves, scarf, sweater and jacket all day long.
• I only bathe about 4-5 times per week because the bathroom is so cold and I don’t feel dirty or generate much sweat in between.
• I drink hot water instead of room temperature or ice water (as we did in the US).
• I sit outside in the sun for hours in the daytime. I make sure the laptop is charged up in advance, and sit outside with any work that is portable and can be done outside – soaking up the natural, reliable, consistent heat from the sun.
• I avoid going to the toilet unless absolutely required because the seat is so cold.
• Changing clothes (nighttime into pajamas or morning time into day clothes) is painful, like putting layers of iciness on top of my warm skin.
• Prakash and I usually sleep by 8 or 9pm because it is too cold to stay up chatting, watch a movie, or playing a board game.
• The floor in our house is so cold – it is uncomfortable walking barefoot or even with a layer of cotton socks. House slippers are a necessity in Nepal (outdoor shoes are not worn inside the house in Asia). Many people even come with their house slippers in tow when invited over to a friend’s house!

Kids getting ready for bed - footsie pajamas, woolen hats, fleece jumpers, and warm Nepali felt house slippers.

Kids getting ready for bed – footsie pajamas, woolen hats, fleece jumpers, and warm Nepali felt house slippers.

At the coldest point in winter, we could see our breath as we exhaled while inside the house, and steam emanated from the toilet while the boys did their business! We live in a 50 year old house with single pane windows with up to ½ inch gaps and wooden doorways with up to 1 inch gaps. Even the thickest of curtains block only some of the draft.

Ah, centralized indoor heating – what I currently miss most here in Nepal… Oh I remember the days I could walk over to the thermostat on the wall and adjust the gauge to 65, 70, or even 75°F (when I really wanted to warm up!) and the temperature would quickly adjust – I really miss that. Given that there is no central indoor heating, we have several other devices to keep us temporarily warm indoors:

• Our family’s current best friend is our wood stove… Now, I understand why SO many locals’ jaws dropped in awe when we mentioned that our house has a wood stove (not a common feature). We can temporarily heat our formal dining room (aka eating room, sitting room, playing room, computer room, work room, nap room… we do everything in here except sleep at night!) up to 80° F (26° C) ! Toasty, warm, temporary bliss… Firewood is relatively plentiful because in the last few months, Tika Dai trimmed several trees in our yard, removed a bamboo wood fence and dismantled an old dog house. We are slowly eating through our supply of burnable wood. In general, we light a fire at breakfast time for about ½ an hour and again at dinner for 1-2 hours. Prakash despises the smoke and pollution we are sending out, but takes comfort in the fact that it’s only for a couple months.

Sitting next to it now as I type this blog post!  The most effective indoor heating device, our wood stove.

Sitting next to it now as I type this blog post! The most effective indoor heating device, our wood stove.

• We purchased 3 gas heaters from the previous tenant of our house. However, at this time, we are not using any. Unlike in the West, there is no constant government supplied gas supply piped into each house or business. EVERY residence and business uses large, heavy gas cylinders and changes them out as the supply depletes. Every winter Kathmandu suffers from a gas shortage. Midway through the season, poor families who have run out of gas turn to kerosene for cooking. It is nearly impossible for the average person (i.e., one without personal connections) to get a cylinder of gas at this time. To meet the extreme spike in demand in wintertime, there simply isn’t enough supply (it maybe actual supply or what the government chooses to provide… however, that is another topic). Given the extreme shortage, we don’t use gas for heating the air. We do use gas for cooking and heating water for bathing (solar heated water is tepid during winter, but I like REALLY hot water and am willing to splurge for it!).

Truck getting loaded with gas cylinders - people hold their's in queues for days, sometimes weeks!

Truck getting loaded with gas cylinders – people hold their’s in queues for weeks!

• One of the 3 gas heaters we purchased is dual-featured and runs on electricity, too. This is our family’s second most prized possession at the moment. It has 3 parallel rods and can heat a closed room up to a comfortable 65 degrees (18 °C). All 5 of us are sharing the single bedroom where this heater is located. The main issue in using this heater is that, in Kathmandu, the government supplies electricity for only ~12 hours per day during winter. If there is no electrical current, our invertor/battery system can power the lights, computer, TV, refrigerator and wall outlets. However, heating devices (electric heaters, irons, hair dryers) cannot be powered. We hear a BEEP when the electricity switches on and off – either excitement or disappointment follow each of these beeps 4 times a day.

Our electric heater - kept in the bedroom as much of the night, the electricity is on and we can use it!

Our electric heater – kept in the bedroom as much of the night, the electricity is on and we can use it!

• We purchased a few hot water bottles before coming to Nepal. Locals recommended placing them underneath the bed covers about an hour before sleeping to alleviate the pain of entering an icy cold bed. We tried it for a day or two, but simply weren’t organized enough to boil the water, fill the bottles, go upstairs and place at least 5 of them (one for each of us) in our beds – and getting all of this done around dinnertime.

The streets of Kathmandu are noticeably different during winter too. Shops are now inundated with warm-weather-gear. Every morning and evening, lower-income residents light fires in front of their homes and shops and in vacant lots. Burning everything from wood and dry leaves to egg cartons and newspaper, the air fills with a thick smoke. Although early mornings are the best time to walk or jog in the absence of vehicle traffic, the pollution that has built up overnight creates toxic unpleasant conditions (later in the morning, afternoons and evenings are better times to exercise outdoors).

Puffer jackets, and anything you can imagine made from fleece or wool -- jumpers / sweaters, shawls, scarfs, hats, gloves, wrist warmers, leg warmers, socks, pants... the list goes on and on...

Puffer jackets, and anything you can imagine made from fleece or wool — jumpers / sweaters, shawls, scarfs, hats, gloves, wrist warmers, leg warmers, socks, pants… the list goes on and on…

Prakash finds the ICIMOD building quite cold too, where a central heating system exists but operates very infrequently. The late mornings are pleasant as the sun shines through his office window for a few hours, but gets very cold in the afternoons and evenings. When Prakash’s fingers get too cold to use the keyboard, he exhales on them, rubs them vigorously, and occasionally visits the bathroom to use the hand dryer. There are gas heaters scattered throughout the building, but he opted not to get one for his office. The conference rooms are SO cold that they often have meetings up on the terrace in the full sun! The cafeteria dining area is also frigid, so they eat on the roof terrace. His morning commute is reminiscent of the early spring in North Carolina, with temperatures in the 40s (< 10°C). He wears a balaclava mask, thermal leggings, and lobster gloves. His evening commutes are in complete darkness (streetlights are rarely operational), so he has a flashing red tail light, handlebar headlight, and fluorescent reflective jacket to make himself more visible.

In the kids’ school, each classroom has one gas heater. Thankfully, The British School has access to sufficient gas to keep the kids warm at school. Overall, our kids have dealt with the cold very well… they seem more immune to small adjustments in temperature than I am – they live in the present and are able to focus on their current activity and remain unaware of their cold fingers or ears.

Janani wearing a "head warmer" I crocheted for her.  She also learned and made a few more!

Janani wearing a “head warmer” I crocheted for her. She also learned and made a few more!

We often feel like this is one long CAMPING trip. It has been a true challenge although we have acclimated well. The other day, I was reading in our unheated living room after the kids went to bed and looked up at the clock (thermostat read 55° F / 13° C) and was taken aback at how oddly comfortable it felt.

One of the coldest mornings this winter - 50.9 degrees Fahrenheit in our upstairs living room.

One of the coldest mornings this winter – 50.9 degrees Fahrenheit in our upstairs living room.

Keep this in consideration when you plan your visit to Nepal… We’ll visit YOU at Christmas time and ya’ll can come here during a different season!

My Shivapuri Trip

by Sajjan Bhave

I'm all set!

I’m all set!

Day 1:
On the first day I woke up and I was very excited to go to Shivapuri. I did my morning routine fast and then I went down and ate breakfast fast so I could go to Shivapuri. Then I went to school.

My brother learned how the porters in the Himalayas carry heavy bags!

My brother learned how the porters in the Himalayas carry heavy bags!

At school, we waited in the main area until the bus came to pick us up.

Getting ready to get on the bus.  They tossed all the bags on the top.

Getting ready to get on the bus. They tossed all the bags on the top.

We then got in the bus and I started on my friend’s Rubik’s cube. I finished one face of the Rubik’s cube and then everybody was so excited and surprised that I finished one face. After that, we played “I Spy”. I didn’t want to participate much, but I got lots of the answers right. After that, we stopped in Budhanilkantha for snack. Then we did the following activities in this order: Sign Spotting (restaurant signs, Gods, computer signs, jewelry signs), Traffic Survey (we counted how many vehicles there were like car, truck, van, motorcycle, bicycle, tuk-tuk and others ; motorcycles won by far!), Shop Survey (there was mostly grocery shops or clothing shops and there were only two chemists in the whole Budhanilkantha!). My favorite was Sign Spotting because you needed your eyes a lot and the Traffic Survey because it has lots of action. After that, we had lunch.

Traffic survey at Budhanilkantha - there were SO many motorcycles!

Traffic survey at Budhanilkantha – there were SO many motorcycles!

Then we walked from Budhanilkantha to Shivapuri. We always had to be in a single file because it was a road and that’s what lots of people had trouble with. When we reached Shivapuri Heights Cottage we got in our rooms and we started unpacking. Mr. Swift said that whichever room was the most tidy after unpacking would get a treat! There would be one girl room and one boy room that would get the treat. Luckily, our room got the treat! Then we got into two groups. One group did sketching of the valley first.

We're sketching the Kathmandu Valley.

We’re sketching the Kathmandu Valley.

The other group did tree planting first. I was in the first group. And then after 40 minutes on our activities, we swapped and got the same amount of time on the other activity. My favorite was tree planting because in the future, we could come back and see our tree.

Nishchal, Yulo and me watering the tree we planted!

Nishchal, Yulo and me watering the tree we planted!

After these activities, we ate dinner at the cottage. The food was yummy, especially the dessert! After that, we watched a Tin Tin movie. It was called, Tin Tin in America. We noticed that we had more time so we watched Tin Tin and the Cigars of the Pharaoh. Everyone liked the second movie because one character had got a poisoned dart inside him so he acted very funny! After that, we got ready for bed and went to bed. This was our first night of sleeping without our parents.

Day 2:
On Day 2, I woke up fast! I had to stay in bed until 6am because I didn’t know I had accidentally woke up at 5:30am! When it was 6am, Mr. Swift came into our rooms and told us that we have 30 minutes until breakfast. We got ready but we were a bit late for breakfast. The girls cottage was a bit further to the breakfast area than ours so we got there first. The girls came after a very long time and then we started having breakfast together. We started with hot chocolate and then I ate plain cornflakes and toast with honey.

After breakfast, we made sandwiches for ourselves and walked to a Tibetan Temple. A monk showed us around the temple. The temple had 3 huge Gods. The one in the middle was Buddha – on Buddha’s lap was a special scarf with all of the important Tibetan symbols. The scarf was called a Katha. The Katha was very important to the Tibetans too. The God on one side was Norbu – Norbu is very important to the Tibetans and Bhutanese people. And I forgot the name of the one on the other side. There were 751 little God idols on the left side of the temple. Approximately 584 Gods were Buddhist and the rest were Tara. In front of them were lots of symbols that were useful to the Tibetans. Then we ate lunch on the grass. My sandwich had cheese and tomatoes. We had Oreos, bananas, oranges and chocolates too. After everybody had finished, we had 2 minutes of silence to respect the monks. Then we walked back to the Cottage.

Our lodge - Shivapuri Heights Cottage.

Our lodge – Shivapuri Heights Cottage.

In the Cottage, we had a little bit of quiet time where we had to do something like yoga, coloring, or a word search. Then we walked to a Hare Krishna Temple. First, we learned about the religion. Second, we did some dancing. Then we walked downstairs and the temple guide told us some stories. One of the stories went like this: Once upon a time, there was a saint praying in the forest and a little rat came up to him, “lots of cats are chasing me, can you turn me into a cat, please?” So the saint turned him into a cat! Then the same cat came back and said, “lots of dogs are chasing me, can you please turn me into a dog?” So the saint turned him into a dog! Then the same dog came back and said, “lots of tigers are chasing me, can you please turn me into a tiger?” So the saint turned him into a tiger. One day the same tiger was looking for food. He found the same saint and tried to eat him! But right before the tiger’s jaws touched the Saint, the Saint turned him back to a rat! The moral – be grateful.

Then we walked backed to the cottage. When we got back, we went to a briquette factory. A briquette is made out of little strips of paper, water and saw dust. It is something that you can use instead of firewood. We made our own briquettes. I put mine in the fire so I did not get to bring it home.

We learned how they make briquettes.

We learned how they make briquettes.

Then we ate dinner. We had pasta and beans and salad. Everyone at our table took seconds! Then we had a campfire! The campfire was ready after dinner. Some people put their briquettes in like me. And then while the fire was blazing, we watched Tin Tin and the Ottokar Sceptre. Everybody thought that was the best movie. We each had one marshmallow in the middle of the movie. Then we settled down to our second night without our parents.

Day 3:
On Day 3, I woke up and we had to pack. We got one hour to pack so we had to wake up at 6am. We all got ready and were late for breakfast again! We ate together and then we took our bags down to be brought to the bus. Then we split up into four groups and each group took turns doing a treasure hunt while the others had time to finish their Shivapuri Activity Sheets (word searches, Tin Tin coloring, Tibetan coloring). My favorite part of the whole trip was the treasure hunt!

We were the last group to start the treasure hunt. There were 13 clues and the last one lead you to the treasure. Then we found one group that was on the same clue as us – Clue #3. We worked together until we found it. The clues had words on them and it showed you which clue it was. There were no pictures. Then we all were stuck on Clue #6 together. Clue #7 was so hard! We knew where it was, but it was so hard to get out. It was under the dog’s collar! Finally, we got it, read it and moved on to Clue #8. We kept going until we found the treasure. The treasure was chocolate! After we ate the treasure, we ate lunch at the cottage then walked to the Hare Krishna Temple to get picked up by the bus. We started playing “I Spy”. Then we played a character game. Then we reached The British School. We had to wait until everyone’s bags got down from the top of the bus and then we found our parents. I never missed home on my trip, but I was so glad to be back!


Our class picture at the lodge.

Our class picture at the lodge.

Sonu Didi made me a cake to welcome me home!

Sonu Didi made me a cake to welcome me home!