Thursday, September 16, 2010

A bit much...

Did I tell you found a job?  Well, I did.  I'm now a second and third grade teacher in Fairfax, CA. 
I'm just about done with my fourth week of being back in the classroom and I'm still standing.  After tonight, though, I can't promise anything.  Tonight I am going camping with my students and their parents.  I have a sore throat and a headache to boot.  Ugh.
Tomorrow morning, we head from the campground to the beach for a day of digging in the sand and playing in the surf. 
From there I head up to Sonoma to the restaurant to work.  I'm hoping to get a shower in there somewhere for the sake of the restaurant patrons.   
Then on Saturday, if I'm still functioning, we go to our friends, Brian & Katie's, wedding. 
On Sunday, I will rest.  I'm hoping to take at least three naps before lunchtime.

Off I go!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My poor neglected blog

I’ve been ignoring you, dear blog.  Why?  Well, I suppose I was a little burned out with your neediness—“tell me a story” every day!  And I suppose I was feeling inadequate having returned from exotic world travels back to the in-and-outs of daily life on the Hill.  And yes, I was utterly distracted by this ego-stomping job-search (which, much to my chagrin, continues to taunt me).

But you, dear blog, have done nothing to deserve this silent treatment.  I’m sorry for neglecting you and I’m back (at least for a little while).  So now we’ve got some catching up to do.  Here’s a little glimpse of what you’ve been missing over the past month and a half—a little teaser of upcoming blogs.  Come back tomorrow and the next day to get the full stories.  I will do my best to redeem myself, dear blog.

In early April, we met up with Gideon's family for a Spring ski trip in Colorado.  There were a few dramatic moments involving an overturned tanker truck dangling off a cliff above the ski resort.  And Gideon's sister, Monica, and I had a few precarious runs through the trees.  Good thing we both wear helmets.

Gideon has found a few new projects to keep him busy.  His giant garden ought to keep us fed if we don't end up finding jobs out here in California.

 We've had many dog visitors, including Buddy, the Beagle, and Vinnie, the territorial Boston Terrier.

And of course, NAPPY has been back for an extended stay at Rosemary's Dog Camp.

He's still trying to make friends with Montana... he's got a lot to learn about girls.

Gideon and I both have been baking up some delights.  This is my chocolate peanut butter cake, which no doubt, will make your life complete.

Gideon, Rosemary, and I joined in the wine-tour birthday party of our good buddy, Sam.  No surprise, things got a little out of hand.  This is us leaving Gloria Ferrer, our FIRST stop of the day... 

Here I am teaching My Little Pony (Emily R.) how to appreciate fine wine... a skill I continue to polish here in Sonoma.

So, come on back soon to get the full scoop on our adventures this past month, as well as those yet to come.  Summer is shaping up to be full of shananigans.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Now what?

Here I sit, back in Sonoma, after a month of adventure in Nepal.  It’s been almost a week since we traveled back to the States.  Unfortunately, the trip home was marred by a gastrointestinal upset I developed the last day in Kathmandu.  I won’t go into the details, other than to say it is not fun to be on a long haul flight under the powerful influence of traveler’s diarrhea.  Yesterday, I finally visited my doctor in Sonoma to get a punch of antibiotics.  I’m still waiting for my miraculous recovery.  An old college buddy, Jana, suggested I take a few shots of the hardest liquor I can get my hands on to kill whatever lurks inside my gut.  My upset stomach says no, but I’m starting to consider the suggestion more seriously.  We’ll see…

So, now Gideon and I find ourselves in a strange, uncomfortable limbo-land.  You see, our year of living large is coming to an end.  In a few months, we will be dragged kicking and screaming back to the real world—the world where you have to work for a living.  Yes, we knew it was coming, but we were able to ignore reality quite effectively, especially when we were so far away in Nepal.  Now reality is staring us in the face with its not-so-welcoming raised eyebrows.  “So, you need a job, eh?  Join the club,” it says. 

Our plan is to find jobs and stay here in Sonoma for a few years.  Solid plan, huh?  Yes, except for that pesky “find jobs” part.  Where are they to be found?  Where did the jobs go?  Hello?  Jobs??  Where are you?! 

I’m in the market for a teaching position for the 2010-2011 school year.  I will teach just about anything, to any age group, and I am certified to do so.  All I want is a job somewhere nearby (Sonoma County) that has a bit of pay and health benefits.  Not too much to ask for, right?  I just want to teach. 

Gideon is looking for a law position with a firm or company in the area, preferably with a focus on patent law.  He’s casting a wider net as far as location is concerned is looking as far south as Palo Alto.  Thus, the rub.  I want to stay in Sonoma; Gideon would be satisfied to stay in California.  Hmm. 

At the moment, with few prospects on the horizon, we find ourselves moping around on the Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Doom-and-Gloom.  We suddenly feel oh-so-connected to the U.S. economy, or lack thereof.  We are unwilling members of that growing club: the unemployed.  It’s an uncomfortable place to be, and we don’t plan on being in this club for the long haul.  So, now we will throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the job search… just as soon as we get back from one last little foray to Colorado to ski with Gideon’s family.  No sense in rushing back to reality, right?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Recovering in Kathmandu

*** I've updated the trek blogs--all photos are now posted.  Go back and check them out!***

Boy, you’d think I had climbed Everest the way I’ve been milking this recovery effort.  Not really; we are feeling just fine here in Kathmandu.  It's quiet around the house since Mike, Amy, and Ethan are not here.  They are enjoying their first vacation as a family away from Nepal in Hawaii. 

Our first day back was the only day we reveled in doing not much at all, except laundry and hanging out with our American trekking friends at a restaurant in town.  After that, we’ve been keeping ourselves busy around the house and around the Kathmandu Valley.

On Sunday, we made an excursion to the medieval city of Bhaktapur, about an hour east of Kathmandu.  The ride out was long, dusty, and bumpy.  At one point, we literally had to wait for a road crew to finish building the road before we could go on.  Well, actually, Shree lost patience and drove over the pile of rubble that had been dumped in the middle of the dirt road.  We also hit a colossal traffic jam in the very narrow streets of Thimi, about twenty minutes out of Bhaktapur.  Apparently, a driver had parked his car in the middle of the narrow throughway in order to take a call on his cell phone.  At least he wasn’t driving while talking, huh?

When we finally arrived to Bhaktapur, we hired a guide, Rahju, for a three-hour tour.  Rahju, a lifelong resident of the town was a very kind man, and well informed.  His compact build and facial features gave him the distinct feel of a Nepali Joe Pesci.  Rahju spent three hours touring us around the fantastic Durbar Squares, past countless ancient temples, down quiet, impossibly narrow back streets, and to many artisans’ shops.  We got the feeling he was trying to help out his buddies with our visits.  We did break down and purchase a few Buddhist thangka paintings at an art school, but we drove a hard bargain (at least in our minds).

Potters' Square

We definitely enjoyed our visit to Bhaktapur.  Unfortunately, on the way home from Bhaktapur, I had my first bout of culture shock.  I had held out for so long, almost a month, but it finally hit me hard.  As I gazed out the car window on the drive home, everything I saw either shocked, depressed, or just plan annoyed me.  The filth of the streets, air, dogs, children was shocking.  The poverty was overwhelmingly depressing.  The spitting, nose-picking, insane driving practices annoyed me to pieces.  I was spent and just needed to go home and rest.

But no… we had to stop at Bhat Bhateni on the way home.  This Nepali super-store was the last place I wanted to be late in the afternoon.  It was crowded and overwhelming.  Gideon was set on finding some tools for his chicken coop project as well as groceries for the next few days.  Apparently I was being less than cooperative, perhaps even childish (imagine that).  Gideon finally had had enough of me and sent me back to the car to wait with Shree.  I gladly went, bought Shree and myself ice cream cones on the way out, and recovered in the car.

The rest of the evening was quiet as I avoided thinking about the fact that I was in Krazytown (uh, I mean Kathmandu), and Gideon just plain avoided me (not that I blame him).

The following day, Monday, turned out to be a wonderfully relaxing day.  We did not leave the sanctuary of Satya Mahal.

I spent the day in the kitchen with Sunita teaching her some American recipes.  We made oatmeal raisin cookies.  “I think I will have dreams about these cookies,” Sunita swooned upon trying her first one.  We also made French bread and goulash (hamburger macaroni casserole), a good basic American recipe that can be doctored in endless ways.  Sunita taught me how to make Nepali milk tea (like chai).  She also let me in on the secret that milk tea is an appetite suppressant--definitely a good thing to know!

Gideon spent the day outside with Shree and Kashav (the gardener).  They made excellent progress on a chicken coop for Ethan’s pet chickens, Chicky and Chicklet.  The birds marched around in the yard all day, observing the progress of the construction of their new digs.

Today we paid a visit to the family of our friend in California, Mangal.  We met his beautiful wife, Asha, and his nephew, Maita.  Asha made a delicious Nepali lunch for us (with the best chicken I’ve had in Nepal).  Maita is a charming trekking guide and we enjoyed sharing our trekking experience with him.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in Thamel, the main touristy shopping area in central Kathmandu.  We put on our bargaining hats and bought all kinds of Nepali souvenirs.  We got some great deals, as well as some not-so-great deals, but all in all, we were happy with our shopping excursion.

On the way home, Gideon and Shree made a number of stops at hardware stores (more like hardware hole-in-the-walls) to purchase a few more feet of chicken wire and a sheet of corrugated tin for the roof of the chicken coop.  Man, shopping for building materials and tools in Kathmandu is an experience in and of itself.  There aren’t Home Depots around here, not even an equivalent to Ace Hardware.  You just have to drive around until you see what you need in one of the little open storefronts along the narrow side streets.  Eventually, their search paid off and we headed home with all the needed supplies for Gideon to finish the chicken coop tomorrow.

By the time we made it home, a great thunderstorm had blown over the city.  Poor Shree and Kashav were utterly unprepared to drive home in the storm on their motorcycles.  They looked nervous about the prospect, so as the lady of the house, I ordered them to come in and share the pizza dinner Sunita had prepared earlier for us.  Okay, I didn’t “order” them to join us, but I strongly encouraged them, perhaps even pleaded a bit.  They gave in after a few very close lightening strikes shook the neighborhood.  We all ran into the house together before being blown away or struck by lightening.

We had a good time talking and eating, and learning a bit more about Shree and Kashav.  After salad and pizza, the rain seemed to peter out.  “Can we leave?” Kashav asked.  Man, I felt like we had been holding them against their will, force-feeding them.  “Yes, you may go,” I replied, a bit taken aback.  They thanked us for dinner and rumbled off on their motorcycles.  But before they left we invited them for dinner again tomorrow night, since it’s our last night.  We’ll see if they stay.  :)

By the way, Nima is still in the mountains with his son.  He had some things to take care of out there and he's supposed to fly back tomorrow.  We hope to see him before we head back to the States!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 15 Back to the ‘Du

We woke to gray, overcast skies… not a hopeful sign for our 7am flight out of Lukla.  I was convinced we would be staying in Lukla for at least another day, as countless flights had been cancelled over the past few days due to limited visibility.  But Temba insisted that we get ready to go.  “You never know,” he said.  I was doubtful.  We walked the few minutes to the airport where we met up with Temba’s father-in-law.  He helped us get checked in and assured us we would be flying out.  I still wasn’t convinced. 

It took a while for the sky to clear sufficiently, but finally, at 9:30 we boarded our Tara Air flight, along with 12 other passengers, two pilots and one flight attendant.  In a matter of moments we were hurtling down the shockingly short, steeply declining runway. 

A moment later, we were soaring over the gaping valley, which dropped thousands of feet off the edge of the runway, and were making our way over the mountain tops.  A bumpy forty minutes later, we touched down in Kathmandu. 

Amy and Mike’s driver, Shree, who had been waiting for us for four hours, was glad to see us and escorted us to our home-away-from-home in Kathmandu, the Satya Mahal.  The rest of the day was spent doing nothing… a welcome change of pace for these tired trekkers.

Day 14 The long walk back to Lukla

After many hugs and well-wishes from our new friends in Namche, Gideon and I set off for Lukla, where we are scheduled to catch the first flight to Kathmandu tomorrow morning.  Over the past few days, our new friends had blessed us in the Sherpa fashion with dozens of scarves, each one draped around our necks with a blessing of good luck and safe travels. 

 Chindi, the two staff girls, Mingma, Ang Chhiki, Tashi, Emily, Buddha Raj, Newang Phinjo, Gideon, Nima

With our scarves and blessings, we started the long walk back to Lukla.  Nima accompanied us for the first hour and a half before turning back to Namche where he will stay with his son for another day.  Mingma, our porter, accompanied us all the way to Lukla.  The poor guy just about had a heart attack when Gideon asked if he could try carrying the heavy duffle bags across a cable suspension bridge.  Mingma laughed nervously as Gideon adjusted the carrying straps, porter-style, across his forehead and heaved the 100 lb. load into position.  I headed halfway across the bouncing bridge to capture the effort, laughing all the while as Gideon acted as the porter and Mingma spotted him from behind.  After reclaiming the bags on the opposite side of the bridge and exclaiming some unknown, highly agitated but amused words with witnessing porters, he walked on, continuing to laugh his nervous laugh for the next ten minutes.

About an hour later, I spotted a man huffing up the trail.  What caught my eye was the fact that he was a huge African American guy, the first African American I had seen since coming to Nepal.  He was wearing a University of Michigan t-shirt and it looked like he could have been a football player.  I was also intrigued by the fact that a man walking backwards in front of him was filming him with a high definition professional camera.  I said hello and walked on wondering who he was. 

It turns out it my instincts were correct.  It was Dhani Jones, an NFL linebacker who has a show on the Travel Channel called Dhani Tackles the Globe.  He was trying to tackle Nepal, just like us, I suppose.  I wish him luck!

After endless hours of walking, our friend Temba, from Sonoma, met us at a teahouse.  He traveled to Nepal with Nima and is visiting his wife and daughter in Lukla.  We walked the last hour with Temba and his wife and arrived at her family’s inn in Lukla, the Namaste Lodge, in the late afternoon. 

The highlight of the inn was having our own private bathroom, complete with a shower right in our room.  After making use of the shower, we spent the evening with new friends and travel bloggers, Dave and Deb.  I was totally inspired by this couple who are living the dream, having their world-wide travel adventures funded by advertising on their blog, The Planet D.  We shared travel tales and laughed heartily until bedtime.  Be sure to check out their site.  Deb is the writer and Dave is the photographer—a dynamic duo, to say the least!

Tomorrow, if the weather is clear, we fly back to Kathmandu.  I’m hoping we do, only because we are down to our last few rupees and there’s no ATM until Kathmandu!

Day 13 One more hike for good measure

Today we made our final excursion from Namche to Thamo, a small town to the west of Namche.  The good news about our hike is that we had a net elevation gain of zero feet.  Thank god!  Our guide today was Chindi, as Nima decided to stay back to visit with his mother-in-law.  Chindi’s daughter, Tashi, came along, and Mingma, the porter, joined us as well.  The walk led us along a relatively level trail through the forest skirting the hills separating Namche and Thamo. 

The two-hour walk to Thamo was put to good use when I asked Tashi to teach me some Napali words.  I learned a lot, but I’m afraid I was a dim-witted language student, or perhaps Tashi was a hard-nosed, uber-particular teacher!  Shouts of “No, no! Not sar, TSAR!  Not punch, BAUNCH!” rang through the peaceful hills for over the course of the language lesson. 

The highlight of our visit to Thamo was climbing up to the Buddhist monastery.  Home to approximately 35 Tibetan nuns, the monastery was recently constructed.  The nuns are now busy painting the very intricate, colorful d├ęcor of the interior. 

Until the monastery is finished (in a few years, most likely), the nuns continue their meditations in the tiny building that has served as their monastery for years.  We were invited into the ten-by-twenty foot room for tea with a couple of the nuns.  I was touched by this kindness, especially when the younger nun found a tin of popcorn and crackers to share with us.  “Shee, shee!”

Our walk home was long, and I ended up crashing for a two-hour nap once we reached Namche.  Although today’s hike was not all that difficult, my body is exhausted from the constant exertion of the past few weeks.  When I finally woke, we all enjoyed our last evening in Namche huddled around the woodstove, laughing and eating until it was time for bed.