We flew to Kathmandu on our favorite airline, Jet Airways, where the hostesses managed in one hour to hand out free beer and serve a meal. They are, indeed, of Olympian quality! I sat next to a man with whom I had a heated discussion about the rights of married women (in most families in India husbands still handle the finances, and wives have to give over their earnings), abortion of female fetuses by the rich, killing of unwanted newborns by the poor, and the need for social change in India. This was the first of many such discussions during the coming weeks.
Arriving in Kathmandu is like coming home. Yes, I feel as if it is my second home. We headed for our old stamping ground, the Shechen Guest House in Boudhanath, which fortunately had not been damaged. The next day began with the usual great cappuccino (as soon as the electricity was on) and our favorite entrée, cheese/potato rosti with garden vegetables. Served, I might add, at a table in on the green, surrounded by flowering bushes.
I know I repeat myself each year, but to arrive in November and find such floral beauty warms my heart. So I share a bit with you.
In the afternoon, as we made our way to the stupa, the impact of the earthquake was immediately evident. We passed the Shechen Monastery to find the grounds torn up, the temple cracked, and several buildings completely demolished. Repair is ongoing.
When we reached the famous stupa, the “eyes” were no longer staring at us. The top had been removed, and sections had been moved down to be repaired. Scaffolding abounded and piles of bricks lined the various levels. It may take two years to finish the reconstruction.
We came back later in the afternoon and had a happy reunion with Pasang and his two children, Aashika (6) and Aasmika (2). You may remember that his home was destroyed last April and I wrote about it in my blog post HERE. It was wonderful to see that he was smiling, again. Nepalis are very resilient people.
I’m especially fond of Aashika and have watched her develop over the years. She is a crackerjack student. Here are a few shots of her studying. It’s amazing the work these children do and how seriously they take each subject. Today there was math and English.
Before taking you into the mountains, let me share a few photos of our tuk tuk ride through Thamel and on to Durbar Square, one of the World Heritage sites in Kathmandu, where ancient temples and landmarks crumbled. Much of the debris has already been cleared away, so you can get a better idea of the destruction online HERE.
I was amazed that so much of Thamel, the student hangout in Kathmandu, and the commercial areas, remained intact. I was sure the old Newari buildings, leaning against one another with their balconies jutting out over the street, would be gone, but not so.
When we return from our trek I’ll show photos of our visit to Patan and Bhaktapur, but first, let’s get into the mountains.