Friday, September 30, 2011

Bandipur - the land where people do good

bandipur - THE VIEW, originally uploaded by veggy.
Sitting in the town of Bandipur where the time stays still. Old men walk slowly through the streets, and hundreds of children run, play, and joke with each other as they head to school. They are even more excited because at the end of the day they have two weeks off for Dasain, one of the biggest festivals of the year. Before the fog set in the valley the northern view of the Himilayas that hide behind clouds most of the day days take your breath away. Something so majestic hiding behind clouds.. how is that possible?! Ahh but that is weather an the natural pattern that best serves this nature and area. Global warming is changing the climate patterns here as well. Newari archtiecture is everywhere here, short doors with dim lighting, with women sewing school uniforms. You would barely see them if you didn't step closer.
I stayed in a old Newari style place where you have to watch your head to enter or else you will smack it. Most Nepalis have no problem with this as they are naturally short. There are so many people doing good in this town. I met a young man who is helps run the Old Bandipur Inn (a beautiful hotel, with a stunning view that costs $30/night). He also assists on treks in the Everest region. He supports 20 kids himself by buying them the supplies they need to go to school. In a world where people you meet tend to hord their money and use it soley for themselves you can also find people who give a lot. The owner of my hotel would feed one blind man and talk to everyone, this is what happens in smaller towns. Meanwhile this hotel is full (which means 8 rooms), of people from Austria who are helping to survey land for a 150 student school 25 minutes down the road. A older swiss guy named Hanz is the man in charge of building this school and said that instead of playing golf he is building this school. A worthy hobby i would say so myself...if only more people had these hobbies! It was interesting to see the Austrian and Swiss German man really crack the whip on the Nepalese who tend to do things very, very slowly. I was told, and i have seen it also in many of the restaurants i visit that it often takes around 3 Nepalese to do the job of one western worker, of course this is not true for everyone, and it could be said the other way as well. I see skinny, older women hauling massive loads on their heads, wondering how is that possible! Another german guy is there for 4 months teaching english, and shares his stories about the differences between the public and private school kids. Teachers often don't show up for classes, because they are either lazy or have other teaching jobs because it doesn't pay that well. Meanwhile if a student is late for class he gets smacked hard with a stick, but if a teacher is late their are no consequences . I recently watched the award winning documentary "Waiting for Superman" which focused on the American public school system and the corrupt School teachers union where teachers cannot be fired ever . The documentary correlated the difference between having good teachers and having bad teachers, and the same can be seen here. Good and bad education/teachers is a universal issue.
I also met 5 americans who are here for the year, are fluent in Nepali, and working with the locals on proper agricultural systems. I was reading in the local paper that Monsanto is trying to seduce the government here into introducing gmo crops. This is obviously something the local people don't want after seeing how it has destroyed and taken over crops in neighbouring India. It will be interesting to see what happens, if corruption will prevail or if the reality of frankenfood and big money will win.
Nepal is full of interesting people doing good work. It warms my heart to see this so if someone is looking to do something good, this would be a great place to come. Help is needed and goes a long way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meditation, Yoga and discussions from Nepal

i got to participate in a 3 day weekend retreat at the Ganden Yiga Chopen meditation centre in Pokhara. It is a sister monastery to the well known Kopan monastery in Kathmandu. Our schedule consisted of wake up, meditation, yoga, breakfast, teachings with the monk, lunch, break, questions for the monk or discussion, yoga, dinner, and meditation, followed by silence. This is a cake walk compared to Vipassana meditation retreats. In my group i was the only one who had completed a Vipassana sitting, and it was looked upon seriously by the monk Yeshe. Yeshe is an american who has been teaching Buddhist theory for over 30 years. He has been in Pokhara teaching for over 4 years. He was a great teacher asking us questions like: "What did you live for when you where 6, 17, and now? and what has changed?" Also, "Who are you?" which he warned would stress some of us out, and i was glad that i have had this question before in yoga because it is a tough one. How does one define themselves? A lot of us define ourselves by our careers, this is usually the last thing i bring up in a conversation. I find it uncreative. Who i am, it is not what i do to pay the bills. Some people think i have been humble in the past, amazed that i am not bragging about one career path i chose, but it truly wasn't who i am.
I am a being, on the path, seeking, learning, absorbing, and giving back as much as possible. I am constantly changing. You don't see it day to day because we are not aware of the changing, but skin cells are dying and regrowing, brain cells are doing the same thing. I can't quantify what i am either and because science changes constantly, so what i know could be totally false, but i am ok with that.
A fellow student on the course who has come to Nepal to learn how to take care of himself better asked me on the last day "Do you consider yourself a buddhist?"
It was a tough question because i have never liked to conform to titles that would define me. The more i learn about Buddhism, the more i would like to say yes to this question. Buddhism is not a religion but very basic principles which i have unknowingly gravitated to without that much thought.
Buddhism believes in the idea of Karma, something that was discussed heavily in the course, mainly because we misuse this term quite a bit. If someone steals my computer it doesn't mean it is a direct result of my karma in this life (even though at the time i thought it did). The fact that i even have a computer in the first place means i have been born with good karma, unlike most of the people in this world. If something really bad happens to me it can be because of something that has happened in a past life. Buddhism believes we are reborn many, many times, and thus believes in not harming any being intentionally. Of course we may kill bugs by accident, or someones pet, or even a human, that your soul is pure during this action is what matters. If you have the intention of harming someone, this is the where the karma comes into play. There was a bit of debate on the buying of meat for our consumption and how easy it is to get it, and technically you are asking for this animal to be slaughtered but because of mass consumption you don't need to ask anymore, the animal is already slaughtered and in the grocery stores waiting for you. In this sense Tibetan Buddhist have rationalized or maybe not that this is ok and you karma is pure in this because you don't have to ask for it to be slaughtered. I question this theory, mainly because it doesn't make sense to me.
This course is a great beginner course. The yoga teaching was very questionable, and not in a good way. I am not to sure where Nepalis get their training or if it is even considered training, but we did multiple poses i have never seen or heard of before, and many things that could result in both short or long term injury, or turn a beginner off of yoga for a long time.
I was warned about doing yoga in Nepal, but i didn't really understand why. Now i do. A lot of it feels made up and still costs around $7usd (which is expensive for Nepal), which is fine if you are stretching safely, but usually you are not. I have only had two different yoga experiences so far so don't get me wrong, their could be some good teachers out there. The course i am attending with Yogi Nomad is an organization that is part of the Yoga Alliance which from my experience seems to follow a very systematic and strong practice, and outputs amazing teachers.
I have read a few articles over the years where the Indian teachers give western teachers a hard time because they are not following the practice as it has been passed down, and from what i have read (mainly from Iyengar), what i have seen is that the western teachers are more in line with origins of yoga then that of the whishy washy east where anyone can be a teacher.
My experience is limited so i can only speak from that, but if you want to come to Asia and do yoga, make sure it is a reputable organization. If you want to come here to practice yoga, just ask around, but sadly you won't like what you hear. I am missing doing a good practice with my community, but in less than a week i start my 6 week intensive training. I am very excited for this new chapter in my learning, and meeting everyone.
last sunset in Pokhara

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sarangot - sunrise

Sarangot - sunrise, originally uploaded by veggy.

Continuing to live by the seat of my pants i hitched a ride up to Sarangot with the paragliders, not to para glide at 100 euros a ride, but to spend the night and watch the sunrise over the Annapurna mountain range. It has been cloudy the whole time i have been in the Pokhara valley, but for some reason i knew it was going to clear. I spent the night in the Mountain view hotel whose owners had 4 daughters and one baby boy. WOW was the view amazing when the clouds parted the next morning. I spent two hours sitting with people from all over the world watching as the clouds blew away, planes took off to Jomson, and ultralights buzzed by.

Some things i have learned while talking with the local:
School is free for children in Nepal, but you still have to buy them the uniform. I have noticed an abundance of girls going to school which contradicts some of what i have read about girls being the first to have to quit school because they need to help support their families. Education is now seen as a way to get a better job, and in turn be in less poverty. Girls and boys are both valued, but i am sure that the age long impression of having a boy is more important to a family is still alive.

I visited the Hijan Tibetan settlement outside Pokhara for the afternoon chanting, a magical experience in itself. I was able to get some video before i realized i wasn't able to record. Repitive chants continued for an hour and a half that cumulated with banging of drums, blowing of horns and clanging of symbols. Small monks (boys), sat in front of us and joked and played while some of the more serious ones tried to keep up with the prayers.
I learned that Tibetan women are allowed to have more then one husband. She will take a husband who is farmer and busy in the fields most of the time, a soldier who is away serving most of the time, and a business man and collects all the money, and works out a schedule for them. Often brothers will share a wife when there has been shortages of women in the pat, but rarely anymore. Tibetan women are smart business women, working hard themselves and selling their beautiful trinkets for tourists all over town. Women are known to work harder then men, and you will often see them hauling heavy bags and baskets of dirt or rocks in bags that wrap around their heads and down their backs. Obviously this work is not preferred but if you want to eat you will do it.
Another thing i learned is that 15% of the world goes to bed hungry every night, another 35% goes to bed hungry a few nights a week. These people who work so hard look like they go hungry often. So skinny, often dirty, struggling in a culture that gives some people no opportunity to get out it. Their options are limited if your children don't get a good education and help to support you. I met one women who invited me to her home and showed me all her childrens photos. Her daughter got a good education and moved to NYC and married there as well. Her son was studying in India on a scholarship. In her home she had all the things she needed, thanks to children. Her husband on the other hand was not welcome back in her home for cheating on her. So it happens everywhere. Suffering from attachments, lack of basic nutrition, and other ailments.

There are many people who are doing good things here though, more to come on that later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Tibetan settlement - Hijan - flag, originally uploaded by veggy.

The deep, resonant Om is all sound and silence throughout time, the roar of eternity and also the great stillness of pure being... The Mani is the "adamantine diamond" of the Void--the primordial, pure and indestructible essence of existence... Padme is the world of phenomena, samsara, unfolding with spiritual progress to reveal beneath the leaves of delusion the jewel of nirvana. Hum has no literal meaning... Perhaps it is simply a rhythmic exhortation completing the mantra.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quantam Physics and Intuition

Quantum communication 2/9 by motioncrapper

I recommend watching this documentary on Quantum physics and communication. When i named my blog "listen intuition" a few years ago it a subtle reminder to myself and maybe one day others that all we have to do is listen. I used to always wish i had a crystal ball where i could have the answers. I don't guess anything anymore, i know them. It is nice to see that science is backing me up on this, and even Einstein was tapping into this later in his life. It is crazy to think so much is hidden from us. Even within our education system we aren't taught consciousness, mediation, awareness, or yoga. Such important things in a world programmed only for a few to succeed as we see so drastically as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Of course we are discovering these things ourselves now, making the world clearer and clearer. Did you know that the only thing the majority Physics students study now in university is Quantum Physics?


Well if there isn't a time to get superstitious and pray to some sort of god, then i better get started. Firstly, Indra the god of thunder and rain is quite busy with his monsoon. The monsoon is a bit of downer because with it, it brings extreme heat (hotter than the Amazon rain forest) and crazy, drenching rains which usually only happen in the evening, today was the exception. The monsoon also makes trekking difficult, with slippery trails and clouded in valleys. Those beautiful vistas i have seen so many photos of are all hidden from me right now. I now understand why people don't travel during this time.

Secondly, a 6.9 earthquake! The biggest in 78 years according to the local paper. The fault line that brought this region the stunning Himalayas is still jamming itself higher and higher. Earthquakes are not to shocking to me coming from Vancouver and living on the San Adreas fault line. This was a good rattler though. The fear with earthquakes here is that nothing is built to code. Earthquake proof buildings don't exist. I was luckily only under a sheet metal roof enjoying the company of a fellow couch surfer who is here hanging out writing a book. Other people i met who where in Kathmandu told me that they where inside the hotel and when the earth started moving all the employees ran outside. There is no 'duck and cover' here, it's RUN! Collapsing buildings and mudslides are what resulted in 60+ deaths across India, Nepal, and Tibet so far. There is no earthquake preparedness which is complained about heavily in the newspapers.

Thirdly, a scooter crash! Thanks to the monsoon rains and the one day i decide to rent a scooter and go out the Bengas Tal, a less touristy, beautiful lake. I picked up the scooter which looked like a hunk of junk, which thank god it was because after i crashed it, it barely looked any different. Almost dying a few times at the hands of other Nepali drivers on the road, and random dogs haphazardly running into the street. The slick street was no match for me with a deaf man who didn't hear my horn and didn't move. Luckily i wasn't going to fast but my bald tires, and locked breaks where a combination for disaster, if the road was dry i would have been able to stop in time. Off i slid, luckily not badly at all. As soon as i hit the ground i had about 25 people picking up the scooter, helping me up, women brushing off my pants, checking my hands. Meanwhile the deaf man was still walking in the middle of the road and was oblivious and i was warned to avoid him. Police were there in 30 seconds to help me and take me to the local hospital which wasn't necessary. My right arm and thumb feel a little wonky but i am sure i will shake it off. A nice scratch along my leg but nothing really that bad. Good luck or bad luck? Who's to say. Good luck for it not being worse. Bad luck for bailing. My track record for scooters is actually pretty bad so i think i will stick to walking, biking, and buses.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pokhara to the Peace Pagoda, an adventure and a half

Today started with monsoon clouds enveloping the Pokhara valley. I knew they would burn off so i decided to start my day early. I started my stroll down the main strip and stopped to purchase a really low quality North face rain jacket for $20usd (which has since been a blessing), and a fresh pomegranate juice. I tried to follow the directions in the Lonely Planet book on how to do the scenic hike to the Peace Pagoda and managed to meet two very interesting girls. One from China, the other from Bhutan. The girl from Bhutan is actually the duchess of Bhutan and wise and calm beyond her 19 years. Either that or she's secretly recruiting for the sex slave trade. She has accomplished a civil engineering degree she started when she was only 16 in Kathmandu. As we weaved along the Dam, through rice patties, and people homes, we started our ascent through the jungle. I don't know why i thought Nepal was going to be a cooler climate, it definitely wasn't cool today. It is supposedly the end of the monsoon, when people say its the end that doesn't mean is a gradual cool off, it means it's still happening. From the bucket loads of Indian novels i have read over the years, supposedly one day the monsoon will end and it won't come back and you can tell by the relief in the air. There is no spring or fall like in Canada, just monsoon or no monsoon. Dripping in sweat from the heat, we climbed up the hill, until we realized leeches were attaching themselves to our feet. They even made their way through my running shoes cloth through teeny tiny holes into my shoes. After removing my socks and going through my shoes i couldn't find them though, i still don't know where they went. My chinese friend was loosing it because she worse open toe sandals and the leeches had easy access to her feet. At that point we where almost running up the hill. I was able to ask many interesting questions of my new friend from Bhutan. She loves Nepal because she is able to enjoy a real life here. In Bhutan she has security guards a little access to the public because of the 'celebrity' status that comes with being in a monarchy. She invited me to join her in Bhutan and she would be able to take me across the border without a visa because of her monarch powers. I would be her guest, and than she would bring me back to Kathmandu (a 36 hour bus ride each way). I would LOVE to go to Bhutan but 72 hours of bus in one week is really not attractive enough to me. Plus we would have to cross India and i don't have a visa for that either. After many freak outs from the leeches, mosquitoes, falling on the wet washed out ground, and hiking uphill for 3 hours (Lonely planet says it takes 2 hours?!) we made it to the top where the views are stunning. We relaxed and realized that we just had an adventure of a lifetime together. We also had one pissed off bull almost charge us which i haven't had happen before. Dirty, sweaty, and seemingly not covered in leeches! Hurrah! Then comes the decent that says it takes 20 minutes in the Lonely Planet book for the quick route. It took 45 minutes and we took steeper shortcuts. This walk isn't for the unfit, and not reachable by vehicle. I was surprised that motorcycles didn't offer their services because it seems like this would be a good business, even though the 'shorter' road is rough. In the 45 minute walk down i managed to give myself the worst sunburn i have had in years. Usually i cover up, but when i left it was cloudy and so unassuming. On returning i visited the Olive Cafe which was recommended to me by my friends Jen and Jon who where here recently. I indulged in the ice coffee which was so refreshing (or i was just dehydrated), i even ate the ice cubes as well. Now it's time to relax and meet up with some couch surfing friends. What a day!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nepal vs. Buddha

As my eyes begin to cross from barely sleeping over the 21 hour journey to get to Kathmandu, i am forcing myself to stay awake to get onto this 12 hour time change as soon as possible. It's hard to begin when you come to a place like Kathmandu. It's a city with it's typical Asian smells, touting selling and guides, and packs of street dogs but there is something so obviously different about Nepal. Buddhism prevails with it's imagery, monasteries, and followers. Buddha was born in a town named Lumbini in Nepal near the Indian border, he didn't stay here but the energy of mindfulness has been left behind. One thing i don't understand are the rituals though. Buddha never believed in blind faith per say, yet there are so many rituals here. Today i should have good luck forever and never have bad teeth (that's a hindu blessing actually). Lighting candles, giving food to monkeys will bring you "more". Buddha would say that is foolish but this is what 'religion' becomes unfortunately over time. Buddha never wanted to be idealized, turned into a religion, gurufied or cast in gold thousands of times and be bent down too. So Nepal and it's beliefs aren't perfect, but what country is?
Ever since i did Vippassanna (mediation) i am not attracted to big cities, i see things and people a little to clearly.. so i am leaving Kathmandu after one whole day and taking the 7 hour bus ride to Pokhara, a lake town, closer to nature, but also the starting point for a few stunning treks in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. It also seems like a place where i can get to know some locals.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

double rainbow

double rainbow, originally uploaded by veggy.

Every day, God gives us, as well as the Sun,
a moment when it is possible to chance anything
that is causing us unhappiness.
The magic moment when a “yes” or a “no”
can change our whole existence.
Every day we try to pretend
that we do not see that moment,
that is does not exist,
that today is the same as yesterday
and that tomorrow will be the same too.
However, anyone who pays close attention
to his day will discover the magic moment,
It might be hidden in the instant
that we put the key in the door in the morning,
in the moment of silence after supper,
in the thousand and one things
that appear to us to be the same,
This moment exists,
a moment in which all the strength of the stars
flows through us
and allows us to perform miracles.

-Paolo Coelho