. Oh what luxury! How soft we live at home, and how easy it is to become accustomed to it. The food in town has been interesting and has given us a few more options than most other places that tend to focus on what seems to be the Nepali national dish (if by default due to no other foods being eaten) of daal bhat. It's essentially lentils with rice, and some boiled vegetables. The majority of Nepali's eat this for 2 big meals a day. Everyday. Every year. Their whole lives. And maybe a couple mo mo's here and there. There's of course some lovely alternatives offered especially for us traveling kinds including tasty fried pakora, some noodle dishes down from China, and in very international places like this some Indian curry, creative mexicanish dishes, a nepali take on burgers and fries, as well as some approximately accurate Italian pasta's. All of it's made fresh, from scratch, after you order it, so often what it lacks in let's say "familiarity" it makes up in freshness and quality. Portions are reasonable, if a little small for us bigger folks but it certainly puts into perspective the way we eat in the States. You get a meat dish, chicken or water buffalo you don't expect to get a pound of meat. The chickens aren't 30 pound hormone beasts with calves as big as mine, but they come right out of the yard and taste pretty good. I think breaks like this trip, immersion that's slow and free from the invariable rush, bluster and to some degree fatalism of your typical vacation due to it's always impending end, I think really let's a person soak in the differences of a place
. It's doing this that lets one really reflect back on how one behaves within their own culture, and how what's around us really shapes and directs what is our own will and our natural tendencies. Part of me misses the 3 piece chicken dinner with 4 sides and a roll, part of me can see it how so many other parts of the world see it; just maybe a bit over the top... I'm still getting a yack burger for lunch though. So, Pokhara has been nice. It's given us enough down time, enough time free from the stresses of constant movement and barrages to the nervous system, we've had a bit of time to process I think, and relax. We've stayed busy in the meantime as well with bike rides to some bat caves (no dark knight, and in fact only one little bat - mating season takes them elsewhere we learned) which was lovely and had a fun little chimney climb culminating in a bit of a squeeze to exit, and a cave with an interesting Ganesha formation (elephant headed hindu god - son of Shiva) where we got a little blessing. We also rode bikes up to a small settlement sitting atop what I would love to describe as a mountain but around here is really probably just a big hill that overlooks the valley and the lake. It was a bit of a grueling ride, taking us about 3 hours to battle to the top of and the 4 minute long downhill ride to get back was a lot of fun. In the following couple days we did a hike up to a World Peace Pagoda on a ridge line on the far side of the lake opposite the city here, and yesterday we hired a motorcycle for the day to ride about
. We rode up to another lake about 10k (7 miles) away, where we had a bit of a snafu with the bike. I'm still uncertain if it was an act of malace, a joke, or simply an equipment malfunction but when we returned to the moto after a bit of a swim, the throttle was working in reverse (rolling forward gave it gas), and the electrical system was no longer working. Now the bike was old and shotty, not working that great electrically from the get go, and in the end the throttle has simply jumped out of it's track and needed to be realigned, but how all this went wrong in our absence is still a mystery. Some nice gentlemen helped us out with a screwdriver and it was a pretty easy fix, and we haven't experienced anything similar to such an act so I am a bit at a loss but will chock it up to either an accident or malfunction and on we go. After dropping by the rental spot for a different bike, we headed out of town again, headed up valley and found some beautiful open areas, and small villages. The kids are always friendly and willing to try out their English a bit, and the fields (and streets) were filled with goats. Apparently the month long festival which is just starting, Dashaine, includes the sacrifice of many animals but as I understand it most, families do up a goat. Goat curry with... daal bhat! Awesome. Sounds a little archaic until I think about all the turkeys, pigs, and cows that get the axe around our holidays, we just prefer not to be so hands on I suppose. On our way back from seeing those ill fated little shagballs, we stopped in a small Tibetan settlement with its monastery to watch and hear a daily afternoon chanting session
. Nepal is a Hindu country, but there are many area's of Tibetan refugee's who have come south since the Chinese occupation. The Tibetan people are typically Buddhist, with what seems a rather unique style of Mahayana buddhism. The huge horns, chanting, big drums, and tinkling symbols made quite an interesting effect. This type of religious (though the Dhali Llama himself would refute buddhism is a religion) ceremony made me think very much of our own religious traditions and ceremonies. There is so much the same and at the same time so many differences from our culture just about anywhere you look. I'm currently reading some Richard Dawkins which I would highly recommend to the believer and infidel alike, even if you disagree with everything he says I feel like an honest person must at the minimum recognize the validity in the reasoning. Perhaps what is striking a chord particularly strongly right now is its insistence on examining something (religion) that is so deeply ingrained in many our lives and certainly the American and South Asian cultures that we don't often step back and take a larger perspective on it. In fact in matters such as these, matters of belief particularly it seems the easier, and more comforting path is to immerse ourselves completely and solely in concordant materials, ideas, media, and even conversation. It's natural perhaps, but I wonder if it doesn't in some ways limit us in the breadth of understanding attainable on matters that we as people directly or indirectly assert are of the highest importance in life
. If all our efforts are spent furthering and refining our own lines of thinking, and openness is not there to question, to absorb dissenting views and points I think we do ourselves a great disservice even unto our own ends. I think I will leave it there, but if you have idea's on this I'm always open to input and you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or the ever present facebook... So thanks for sticking with me, if you did, through all the reflective babble, but I feel that if travel is simply entertainment, you might as well save yourself the diarrhea and just watch some TV.
E for E and D
(E) So I think maybe what we'll do is add a little (D) or (E) to indicate who's typing. It's been a bit of both of us so far but mostly D. surprise... Pokhara has been a wonderful little trap of a place. It's a fair sized town, maybe even large by Nepali standards, and it has a pretty touristy little section nestled up right along side a rather scenic mountain lake. There are plenty of restaurant options along the main strip which runs just 30 or so yards off of, and parallel to the lake front. The fact that each restaurant has essentially the exact same menu is only mildly disconcerting, and still there's always the excitement of never knowing exactly what you're gonna get. We've been here 5 days already and compared to the pace of our travel up to this point it feels as if we've settled in and lived here a year. Our bus tickets for tomorrow are purchased already so we have to leave now, but it wasn't easy getting out. I think a big part of that is the German run hotel we're staying at. 350 rupees a night (about $5), very clean room and bed, with a wonderful view, big ceiling fan and hot water in our own bathroom