An Unexpected Home
Part 3 of 90 Days in Nepal
Hiking the Himalayas were beyond expectations. However, once back in Kathmandu Valley with 70 days remaining on our visa, anything could be ahead of us.
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By Kevin McFarland
Visited from April through June, 2018
The Himalayas urge were too great, so we took a couple of weeks away from the dusty streets of Kathmandu to do some trekking in the mountains. Departing the valley was a bumpy and slow-moving affair, but once Kathmandu was left in the dust, literally, the roads were maintained and drivable all the way to Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest city, a journey lasting all of eight hours. Pokhara, with the calm Phewa Lake full of colorful bankas and the Himalayan backdrop (although obscured from the clouds), created a different image of Nepal. We spent four days on the lakeside of Pokhara walking up and down its shops and restaurants, boating around the lake, watching paragliders touch down, and waiting for our permits to trek in the Annapurna Mountains. With everything in order, off to the mountains we went.
Our trek took 6 days with about 14,000 feet total of elevation gain. Our goal was the Annapurna Base camp at 13,600 feet, which unsurprisingly sets up camp at the base of Annapurna. At 27,000 ft high and graced with massive glaciers, deadly crevaces and steep, avalanche-prone slopes, this mountain is the world’s tenth tallest and most deadly to climb. The trek was an absolute joy, despite raining most days, even snowing and hailing, with clouds covering Annapurna all but one hour when we were at the camp. Walking and walking, going up and down and up again was part of the journey. There were wondrous and majestic moments when we stood in awe of the Himalayas. There were horrible moments when all of our clothes became soaked after non-stop rain on one of our longest walking days. There were hilarious moments spent with other fellow trekkers, whether from Italy, India, Australia, or Israel. All in all, with all the ups and downs, it was a good reminder of life. One day it may be shining and bright with the best views, only to be obscured minutes later with a hailstorm.
The trek rejuvenated and lifted our spirits, seemingly ready to tackle anything that may come our way. However, once we were back in the polluted Kathmandu Valley with at least 70 days remaining on our visa, the reality set in. The initial travel appeal and the Himalayan hikes were behind us – anything at this point could be ahead of us…
ONE MONTH LATER
“Thimi Thimi Thimi!” An energetic adolescent Nepali shouted.
“Thimi Thimi Thimi!”
At least 30 passengers are crammed into the micro - a converted minivan for inter-valley transport - with not even room for a backpack. The women are given the few seat selections while the latecomers are graced with a handlebar while hanging outside the vehicle. I was one of those fortunate beings that morning. The traffic is raucous, dusty and noisy as the micro weaves in and out of “lanes” while I hold on outside for dear life. Mary is crammed inside between two elderly Nepali women and one or two chickens. Such is life in the busy Kathmandu Valley as we are headed to Thimi for the hundredth time, the neighborhood of our unexpected home the past month.
Thimi is a place seldom heard of by locals and entirely unknown to foreigners - a poor and dusty outskirts of Kathmandu filled with dilapidated buildings and polluted streets. Nonetheless, thousands of people call this place home - from the always happy milk man, the young barber, the curious market owner, and of course our spirited roommate - the same woman who generously invited us into her apartment during our first week in Nepal.
Following our hectic micro ride, our daily commute involved walking more than a kilometer south through the well-worn streets, often greeted by countless stray dogs. The most locally-revered river runs through the halfway point of the walk. It’s an unpleasant sight as the river water is nearly black from pollution and smells foul - the cremated ashes daily poured into the waterway surely does not help. Following 20 minutes of walking, an unassuming, 2-story concrete box appears to the West of the main road.
This is our unexpected home.
This humble abode was a test of endurance in more ways than one as even the basic staples of life were in shambles - bed bugs infiltrated our mattress which lay on concrete, the brown water had to be boiled for showers, cockroaches found their home in the most unpleasant of locations, and the bathroom toilet when flushed… well let’s just leave it at that. But it was not by choice we live here. When we came to Nepal, we made the intention to go where need was and where God wanted us. Shortly after first meeting our roommate and learning of her physical limitations, she asked us to move in with her to her new apartment in Thimi. Hence the lone foreigners in that forgotten town in the outskirts of Kathmandu.
Life was simple - too simple, here. Our daily routine consisted of walking down the street to buy fresh milk and honey to make pancakes, followed by a late morning walk down the street again to buy vegetables and rice for biryani. Every now and then we went all out with fresh mangoes and curd for a delicious lassi drink. We occasionally went out to the nearby Bhaktapur old town to wander the ancient streets or into the capitol with our roommate to feed the homeless, a ministry that was dear to her. She had a heart of gold, but struggled with some difficulties. Seizures often overpowered her body. This forced us to slow down, accept the poor and unsanitary condition of the apartment, and help her as much as we could.
We had grand expectations and anticipation for our three months in Nepal. The reality was a humbling experience that took years to process and understand. And by no means did it get easier...
- Join us next week, October 17, for the final part of the story "90 Days in Nepal".
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