Katmandu living

the van de Wiel/Schou Hansen family blog

Today we left the kids at home with Lilly and climbed a mountain - or that is at least how it felt. In reality we only climbed 780 meter, but it was very tough as most of the climb was on "stairs" that was cut out of the path and was only over 4,2 km making it almost 20 degree climb on average. On the top of the hill (or mountain - I am not sure what it takes for an elevation to one or the other) were was a small shrine to Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche in Tibetan) and a viewing tower offering the best view of the Kathmandu and on clear days of the Himalayas.
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Monday was Maha Shivaratri or the festival of Shiva - Here in Nepal the festival is traditionally celebrated at the Pashupati Temple and should be an incredible spectacle, with devotees paying tribute to Lord Shiva by smearing their bodies in ashes and praying until they fall into a meditative state. It is the only time of the year there the smoking of hashish is legal as this should help getting in the right meditative state. As I visited Pahhupati a few weeks ago, I didn't feel like going back (there should be more then 100000 people there on this day) and I therefore decided to explore the area just west of where we live where there is one of the old villages of the Kathmandu Valley called Kirtipur.

Down towards the river I passed the Dobi ground, the area where all the washing men (or Dobis as they are called here) come to wash and dry their clothes - I am not sure i want all my underwear to be hung out for all by-passers to see.

With the lack of water many of the people go to the local well to get collect water. We should keep this in mind as we ran out of water for 36 hours last week (I had to wash in a cup of water). In the end we had to pay double price to one of the water trucks to come and fill our water tank. One of the traditions of Maha Shivaratri is that the local kids can extort money from people by putting a rope over the road. Only after paying 1 or 2 rupees are you allowed through. One Rupee is of course only 1 Euro cent but when there are kids every 100 meters or so you run out of coins pretty fast.

Kirtipur is on a hill overlooking the whole of Kathmandu and the Himalayas (pretty much like our own house so I am not sure why I went all the way to Kirtipur!) - It was the scene for some serious fighting between some king and the locals 600 years ago - the king ended up winning and as a punishment cut of all the noses and lips of the local men. Like most Nepali towns it suffers from Urban sprawl (as much sprawl as a mountain permit) with the old city center occupying the top of mountain. The old city through, had some nice traditional Nepali Architecture and three nice temples.

With our car arriving some time during this spring both Lieke and I are getting a bit stressed out over the narrow streets of Kathmandu. Though we have driven in both Mexico and Yemen, it seems like that Nepal is the country where they have used the least land on transpotation infrastructure. The main road, which is about 50 meters from our house, is by Nepali standard quite OK - on that road is possible for two cars to pass each other easily. However, the road leading up to our house is quite a challenge. Not only is it very narrow, but the climb up to our house is extremely steep - on the top of this our drive way is going in the opposite direction than the road so you have to make a 180 degree turn at the same time as you go up a 30 degree climb - this often result in cars spinning and only touching the ground with three wheels. Luckily we have had quite a few visitors so we have been able to study how they have gotten up to our house and have after a big case study found out that you have to drive to the end of the road, turn around and access our house from this end. Quite a hassle but still a good idea to avoid ruining our new Toyota RAV4 when it arrives.

The school is having activity week this week and today it is PJ (Pyjamas) day for the pre schoolers. Thank god we checked yesterday as we thought it was PJ day for the whole school and we therefore had already made Livas PJ ready - As it turned out Liva had celebrety day and she ended up going as a tennis player (which one was not quite clear but being Danish I would say she went as Caroline Wozniacki). Joop really likes her night gown so she was quite happy that she could have it on the whole day. On the photo above you see Joop waiting for the school bus. As the Lincoln School is quite far away from where we live both Joop and Liva is being picked up every morning by bus. Joop is lucky, as she is starting an hour later than Liva and is only being picked up at 8.40. Liva on the other hand has to be by the road at 7.35 and though it has gotten a bit warmer in the last few days it can be rather cold this time of the morning.

Today we had guests over for lunch - It is now the third weekend in a row where we have guests over on Sundays. Besides having to make the food (which I do not mind too much), it is really no hassle having people over as one of our Didis are normally doing the dishes. These days it is also really nice in our garden in the middle of the day so we can sit outside looking at our beautiful view - Today we could see the whole mountain range. I however hope that our grass will soon get a bit greener. Right now our garden is somewhat dusty
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We have been pretty busy since arriving to Kathmandu and the last couple of weeks I have been busy getting my CV out to NGOs and the UN in search of work. However, today I decided to take a break and explore Kathmandu a bit. So I drove the 10 km or so through Kathmandu to get to the Pashutpatinath temple complex. This is one of the holiest sites for Hindus, not just from Nepal but also from the rest of the world. Some of the temples are only accessible for Hindus but there is still plenty to see. On the picture above, a Nepali wedding couple is emerging from the most important temple.

Pashupatinath is one of the most important cremation grounds in Kathmandu.When I was there there was four fires going. There is a whole hiracy to where you get cremated. This photo is of the expensive side of the bridge where a cremation cost 6000 Rupees (around 80 dollars) and up, so this is for the richer part of the population. On the other side of the bridge there is a platform that is only used for high ranking military people, a platform specially for the Dalits (the Nepali version of untouchables) and a platform for Bramins (the priest caste)

This platform is only used by the royal family - Now that Nepal no longer has a royal family it is not clear who will use these platforms - the white building behind is a hospis.

However, you do not only go to the temple complex to get cremated. On the top of the hill on the other side of the river there are a number of temples that is dedicated to fertility where you newly weds go to prey for many health children.

From the top of the the hill you can see the whole temple complex with the small fertility temples in the forground and the big shiva temple on the right hand side
On my trip home I came past our local cremation ground in Patan - However, as it can be seen on the photo there was not as much action as there was on the Kathmandu side.

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This afternoon has been nice and warm so we have spent some time on one of our terraces with a game of Twister. Liva is getting really good at reading - I have been really impressed how fast it has gone - she can now read beginners books on her own - the only thing stopping her is that she is a bit lazy at times

The last couple of days Liva has had a wiggly front tooth and this morning it was clear that it would not stick around much longer. So when Liva’s classmates Nanna and Markus were over for brunch today they convinced her to give the tooth the last twist and it finally came out. Now we are just waiting for the other front tooth to come out as it has already started to wiggle.
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