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Archive for September 26th, 2009

Toilets and respect

9-26-09
Bamboo to Thulo Sarabru 2120m
My new lodging is perched atop a vertical agricultural landscape. In the distance the mountains loom, where in the foreground terraced fields of millet and corn proceed forever down the valleys. Corn dries throughout the village, while men, women, and children chop winter feed for their precious livestock.
Electricity can be a good thing and this village, although I do not know how, has it. Deforestation is a major issue in Nepal as wood is still the primary heating and cooking fuel. Here, propane and electricity serve that role and the forest, thick above us, appreciates that. Now, I am certain that a wild river is moaning its new and restricted role of producing hydroelectric power. Electricity also means a sustained hot shower and as the sweat and rot of the jungle washes away, I feel anew.
About squat toilets; they work. It is like this – many are actual built in units that mount flush to the floor with a hole in the bottom of a basin.  They often have foot platforms on each side that are designed to “properly” align you placement to ensure a successful drop (note: these are designed for short people and if you are tall like myself, you MUST adjust your placement forward or you will miss the target hole; effectively shitting on the floor). After your payload is out the door, you dip water from an alga growing bucket with a, typically, broken ladle, cup, pitcher, spoon, or what ever is provided, and you pour water down your bomb crack with your right hand while you “clean” with your left – thus why you do not touch people or bring food to your mouth with you left hand. Many of these are very clean yet some far exceed your wildest gas station restroom stories. For my Mexico biker friends, well “Big Brown” and that overflowing porta poty in Ensenada has nothing on a nasty squatter in Nepal. Take your own soap as there is none provided, and use the same alga water to wash your hands.  I find that Purell, once outside, makes me simply feel better as well.
“You can buy anything in Nepal, even the Government”, is a phrase I have heard here often. But like everywhere you can not buy respect…it can only be earned. In a land of unrealistic tourist expectations, I earned a bit today. My clothes were filthy and so I walked to the communal water station and drew up a rock to the bewildered looks of the locals doing their clothe and dish washing. Angin quickly ran over and tried to insist on doing my wash. “You are my porter not my maid”.  The soap was passed around and we washed.  Later that evening, while drafting this journal, a plate of momo showed up in front of me.  I tried to explain that I did not order but was assured they were indeed intended for me.  The next morning when I went to fill my waters bottles from the normal stream source, a young women ran out and grabbed my bottles with no explanation. Moments later she returned with them full of water.  I went to put my Iodine tablets in the water, and she put her hand over the top of the bottles; “No need sir, good water”.
Angin was a bit surprised today when I showed him our tentative plan I had developed from the crude map and description in the guide book.  This will not be an ongoing program, but felt I needed to demonstrate that I was perfectly capable of leading as well as following; both key skills.
Met a fellow Californian named Emile Baizel who hails most recently as a software corporate jock from San Francisco. Like me, he is trying to discover if there are more pressing priorities in life.  He recently stumbled upon, and stayed a month, a legitimate Nepal orphanage. Here he put his talents to work developing a Web site and a PayPal donation site. “We got a hundred dollar donation right off, and people are inquiring about coming to volunteer. In 30 days I did something really meaningful, we really can make a difference“. I did not know him before, but I think he is a changed man.
I am officially off the Langtang trek and now am on the Gosainkund trek which leads to the sacred lakes of one of the worlds great religions, and the annual pilgrimage of thousands of Hindu holy men each August. We continue to see less and less foreign travelers.
One advantage of electricity is the ability to recharge my Ipod Nano. I typically leave music and books behind in the mountains, but this trip is different, and spending an afternoon overlooking this valley while listening to Summertime by the Decembers is pretty fantastic.
Bamboo to Thulo Sarabru 2120m

monistary iwth old women

Monastery women

My new lodging is perched atop a vertical agricultural landscape. In the distance the mountains loom, where in the foreground terraced fields of millet and corn proceed forever down the valleys. Corn dries throughout the village, while men, women, and children chop winter feed for their precious livestock.

Electricity can be a good thing and this village, although I do not know how, has it. Deforestation is a major issue in Nepal as wood is still the primary heating and cooking fuel. Here, propane and electricity serve that role and the forest, thick above us, appreciates that. Now, I am certain that a wild river is moaning its new and restricted role of producing hydroelectric power. Electricity also means a sustained hot shower and as the sweat and rot of the jungle washes away, I feel anew.

About squat toilets; they work. It is like this – many are actual built in units that mount flush to the floor with a hole in the bottom of a basin.  They often have foot platforms on each side that are designed to “properly” align you placement to ensure a successful drop (note: these are designed for short people and if you are tall like myself, you MUST adjust your placement forward or you will miss the target hole; effectively shitting on the floor). After your payload is out the door, you dip water from an alga growing bucket with a, typically, broken ladle, cup, pitcher, spoon, or what ever is provided, and you pour water down your bomb crack with your right hand while you “clean” with your left – thus why you do not touch people or bring food to your mouth with you left hand. Many of these are very clean yet some far exceed your wildest gas station restroom stories. For my Mexico biker friends, well “Big Brown” and that overflowing porta poti in Ensenada has nothing on a nasty squatter in Nepal. Take your own soap as there is none provided, and use the same alga water to wash your hands.  I find that Purell, once outside, makes me simply feel better as well.

“You can buy anything in Nepal, even the Government”, is a phrase I have heard here often. But like everywhere you can not buy respect…it can only be earned. In a land of unrealistic tourist expectations, I earned a bit today. My clothes were filthy and so I walked to the communal water station and drew up a rock to the bewildered looks of the locals doing their clothe and dish washing. Angin quickly ran over and tried to insist on doing my wash. “You are my porter not my maid”.  The soap was passed around and we washed.  Later that evening, while drafting this journal, a plate of momo showed up in front of me.  I tried to explain that I did not order but was assured they were indeed intended for me.  The next morning when I went to fill my waters bottles from the normal stream source, a young women ran out and grabbed my bottles with no explanation. Moments later she returned with them full of water.  I went to put my Iodine tablets in the water, and she put her hand over the top of the bottles; “No need sir, good water”.

Angin was a bit surprised today when I showed him our tentative plan I had developed from the crude map and description in the guide book.  This will not be an ongoing program, but felt I needed to demonstrate that I was perfectly capable of leading as well as following; both key skills.

Met a fellow Californian named Emile Baizel who hails most recently as a software corporate jock from San Francisco. Like me, he is trying to discover if there are more pressing priorities in life.  He recently stumbled upon, and stayed a month, a legitimate Nepal orphanage. Here he put his talents to work developing a Web site and a PayPal donation site. “We got a hundred dollar donation right off, and people are inquiring about coming to volunteer. In 30 days I did something really meaningful, we really can make a difference“. I did not know him before, but I think he is a changed man.

I am officially off the Langtang trek and now am on the Gosainkund trek which leads to the sacred lakes of one of the worlds great religions, and the annual pilgrimage of thousands of Hindu holy men each August. We continue to see less and less foreign travelers.

One advantage of electricity is the ability to recharge my Ipod Nano. I typically leave music and books behind in the mountains, but this trip is different, and spending an afternoon overlooking this valley while listening to Summersong by the Decemberist is pretty fantastic.

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