Friday, March 13, 2009

Trekking Makes Me Love Nepal (all over again)

So my family, and I’m sure all of you, think all I do is trek… but REALLY, if you look back, I’ve only been trekking twice (this last time included)! What can I say? Nepal is made for trekking (sorry, Peter, that's just what they call it here!). So when Sam said, “Hey, want to go trekking?” I had to say yes! I saw the trip as a way for me to clear my head before really digging in and writing up this thesis (I know, my REAL reason for being here). At least that was my rationalization for taking another week off from work to go have some fun. I AM in Nepal, people. ;)

Sam and I trekked in the Annapurnas before (the Poon Hill – Ghandruk loop), but this time we thought we’d check out the other side of the mountains – the Jomsom – Mukintinath – Tatopani trek. All in all about 103km (that’s like 64 miles, apparently). All of our friends had already been on the trek and from their pictures it looked amazing. Sam and I were both running out of time in Nepal (SAD! :( ), so we decided to venture back to the Annapurnas in the offseason… and oh yeah, it’s winter.

Much like last time, we took an early bus out to Pokhara. This time we had Isa and Camille with us as they were headed up on a short weekend trip to Bandipur. We saw a crazy jeep accident on the road that stopped traffic for a bit and drew a lot of attention from all the tourists and motorists. It freaks me out to ride on the roads here, but there's not much I can do for people driving crazy on the scary roads here. Once in PKH, Sam and I decided to forgo the carbo-loading at our favorite Italian coffee bar and restaurant CafĂ© Concerto (actually, Sam and I only know 2 restaurants in PKH) and went all in for Korean barbeque (Natsuil or something – the other restaurant we know). I still don’t get the whole “oooh… Pokhara!” thing. Sam and I both are just underwhelmed with the place (Can you ever just be “whelmed”? hahahha). So pretty much for us, Pokhara means barbeque pork… which isn’t a bad thing. :) After eating, we went to back to our hotel because we had an early flight to Jomsom the next morning.

Sam, Camille, Isabelle and me on the early morning bus. (Photo by Sam)

This is what we do in Pokhara - eat pork like we've never seen it before.

Day 1: Pokhara – Jomsom – Kagbeni

The flight to Jomsom from PKH is short – maybe 20 minutes, but it’s a beautiful flight since it goes right through the Annapurnas. That means you get to see all the mountains from above before hiking past them on the trek. It was my first time flying within Nepal and seeing that tiny, tiny plane was a little unnerving, but it was fine. I think I trust the pilots more than some of the drivers I've seen on the roads. It's cute though, because they give you cotton to put in your ears because its so loud and some little candies to get you through the flight.

The tiny plane that carried us.

Me in the tiny plane... I was a little worried. Tiny planes and big mountains would scare anyone, right?

The rest of the survivors.

Mountains from above... and still they are big. I THINK this is Dhaulagiri.

Once we landed, we realized that Jomsom was kind of like a ghost town… little did we know that’s how most of the towns would be like on this trek since it’s the off season. Everything was closed... and there were barely any people around. We were also freezing cold… I even put on gloves and my scarf while we were hiking to Kagbeni. I usually never get cold while hiking, but there we were, dressed out in winter wear, ready to get trekking.

Checking in at the permit and registration office. (Photo by Sam)

On the way... at least we know we're headed in the right direction. (Photo by Sam)

It's like walking through a desert... of rocks. (Photo by Sam)

The way to Kagbeni is pretty straightforward. You head out of Jomsom and you can see Kagbeni after some time. Kagbeni is my FAVORITE place in all of Nepal (seriously). The place is just so beautiful and the people are so interesting. Sam and I were walking through town and maybe about 10 people (mostly men) were playing some game by the river. I wanted to join, but boys never let me play here. :( It was also an interesting time for us to be there as it was Lhosar (or Tibetan New Year) and so the whole town had pretty much disappeared to the community meeting hall for drinking and gambling. Another ghost town, but this one's pretttttty.

The view of Kagbeni from a cliff behind the town.

Sam and I stayed in this amazing lodge – The Red House which is owned and operated by some close friends of my next door neighbor here Hari. The Red House is a converted 400-year-old monastery at the edge of town. It has some of the original structure… and it even has a massive golden Buddha tucked away in one of the family’s rooms. Like, seriously... massive. The place is just great… the food is really good… and the owners are SOOO nice! Sam and I had a good time just hanging out in Kagbeni and at the Red House, which is good since we decided to stay there 2 nights!

We also considered hiking into Upper Mustang (which is a restricted area - we heard permits go for like $700 or something) but we hiked up to this cliff behind Kagbeni that was past the restricted area checkpost and got a great view of Kagbeni from there. On our way back in, we found out the area's not restricted until past the next town. :( And we thought we were all cool like that.

The Red House in Kagbeni - the best lodge EVER.

The view of Kagbeni from the Red House roof-top.

Day 2: Kagbeni – Muktinath – Kagbeni (or running down the mountain)

Muktinath is at 3700m (the highest I’ve been) and this part of the trek is known for some altitude sickness problems. I was unsure if I wanted to go… but because it’s one of the major points on the trek, I felt like I should (even though both Sam and I were lethargic and headachey – early signs of altitude sickness). The hike there is along a road (no, we didn’t take the special underused trail that everyone told us about) through the desert-y like landscape. It’s uphill (which I don’t really like) but it wasn’t actually that bad… but you can definitely feel the altitude. Or at least, I could. Sam even made me take the altitude tablets because I was unable to concentrate on anything for more than a second and wasn’t feeling right.

Looking back towards Kagbeni on the way to Muktinath. Look at that sky!?

Sam and his fancy camera - I'm jealous.

Yay - we made it! Do I look slightly out of it? It's totally the altitude sickness. (Photo by Sam)

So we get to Muktinath, thinking, cool, we’ll get a jeep back to Kagbeni – easy. We talk to the jeep guy and he says oh, the jeep will leave when we’ve got enough people… probably 2 or 3pm. Sam and I keep walking up to the actual temple. I’ll admit I was cranky… from the hunger (nothing was really open except for one restaurant/hotel which was full of women doing a special puja for something so the owners couldn't feed us too… again ghost town) and the altitude.

The town of Muktinath from the temple... mostly closed except the massive amount of women gathered for a special puja ceremony.

But the temple was really cool. There’s 108 water spouts which you’re supposed to run through and wash your face with each for good fortune or something. Keep in mind… it was winter and at 3700m, there was a bit of snow. The water spouts were freezing cold, but after the hike, we’ll just say it was refreshing and jarred me into a better mood (which I'm sure Sam was grateful for). After checking out the temple a little more, Sam and I headed back into town to search for food… and catch our jeep.

Part of the 108 water spouts - yes, that's snow there.

The food search was successful… but the jeep catching was not. It left half an hour before we got back to the jeep counter. So our plans were foiled and we had to run back down to Kagbeni before dark (as neither of us wanted to or were prepared for night hiking). I like the downhill, but Sam does not. We made it back to our lodge with plenty of time for the sun to set. We even stopped along the way to buy some handmade scarves from a nice old lady. I'm a sucker for talking to old Nepali ladies. I want a Nepali grandmother! Hiking up to Muktinath and back was tiring, for sure, so sleeping that night wasn’t a problem.

The jeep that wouldn't be ours. Jerks. (Photo by Sam)

Heading back down to Kagbeni before the sun goes down. (Photo by Sam)

Day 3: Kagbeni – Marpha (or dust storm and wind burn)

I’d heard about the gale force winds on the way to Marpha… it’s true. Walking from Kagbeni to Jomsom and then Jomsom to Marpha is like walking through a wind tunnel of stone-filled desert. Sam and I were completed rugged up… and still I end up with wind burn. Walking was difficult as I was being constantly pushed by the wind - we were walking directly into the wind. We made friends with a cute couple – an Australian and a Japanese with a cute girl guide from Three Sisters (we called them The Japanese Couple). Gotta say, I’m pretty jealous of the girl guide… I would LOVE to guide treks, but with as slow as I am, I could probably only guide the oldies. :) We made it to Marpha (the apple capital of Nepal!), which is a cute village with cobble stone streets and apple brandy by the gallon. I’ve had the apple brandy before… it’s good, but Sam and I didn’t partake while we were in town. Inspired by the town, I’ve named my sleeping bag (finally!) Marpha.

This is me... maybe you can't tell because I could barely see. Crazy wind. (Photo by Sam)

Sam's self portrait (also dressed up to protect himself from the wind and dust). (Photo by Sam)

Alas, we made it to the apple capital of Nepal. (Photo by Sam)

The pretty monastery in Marpha.

We got up early (well, Sam earlier… I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of bed on the trek) and walked around Marpha before heading out for our next stop - Ghasa. There was a really pretty monastery at the top of town. And Marpha is just a cute town. I love Kagbeni, but Marpha is also cool. Apparently there is a movie called ‘Kagbeni’ but instead of being filmed in Kagbeni was filmed in Marpha. Two completely different towns (there’s not much similar about them)… so the people of Kagbeni are supposedly pretty pissed that this movie with their name was never even filmed in their town.

Day 4: Marpha – Ghasa (or we’ll get there before puja)

Sam and I had originally planned to hike from Marpha to Tukuche (but that was only like a 2 hour walk), so we changed it up and pushed on to Ghasa (based on the map, supposedly a bigger town – but not really). During the hike, Sam and I were both pretty tired… and hungry. We didn’t stop for lunch because there was NO place to stop. Seriously. The hike that day felt incredibly long and we had no idea why! Both of us were struggling that day (probably from the not eating). Eventually we stopped in Kalopani for tea at this great lodge where the lodge owner’s son served us tea and talked with us the whole time. He didn’t even charge us for tea because he was so happy to meet us. He was a great kid! We wished we could stay, but we had to push on.

Early in the day's hike... the way to Ghasa.

Later on during the day, looking back on the way to Ghasa.

We still needed to reach Ghasa and it was starting to get late. Along the way, I asked a couple of old ladies how many hours to Ghasa (in Nepali) and they assumed I was Nepali and told me I’d make it in time for puja (blessing ceremony which is done at sunrise and sunset). They were super cute old ladies - again, a sucker for talking to oldies. We did make it to Ghasa (and in time for puja if I did that kind of thing). And we found out that Sam was reading the scale wrong on the map… and we were actually walking double the amount of kilometers as we originally thought. Totally explains why were exhausted… we thought we were hiking 12km but instead it was like 24km.

The lodge kid at our place in Ghasa was also super nice. Found out that he was from Chitwan and was living in Ghasa because there was work there and not in Chitwan. Kind of odd since Chitwan is another big tourist-y area and there should be plenty of work there. I really like talking to the kids that work at the lodges because they’re interesting – leaving their homes to find work somewhere else and trying to get into the tourism industry. It's a little sad. The lodge wasn't so nice. However, we did get a chance to do some sightseeing of the Taj Mahal from our room since there was a big poster of it on the wall!

Sam and the Taj Mahal... who knew it was Ghasa, Nepal! :)

Day 5: Ghasa – Tatopani (or Hot Springs, here we come…)

The second major point of our trip was the hot springs at Tatopani (literally, hot water). We decided the day before that we would stay in Tatopani for two nights because we hiked longer during the days and had some extra time. Sam and I were pretty stoked that we hiked so far and in a short time (for us). We had planned for the trek to be about 6 days or so… and we cut off a whole day and that's without realizing the map's scale. The way to Tatopani again was ghost town-y and so for the second day in a row, Sam and I hiked on without lunch.

The town of Tatopani from the Hotel Himalaya's roof-top.

The great staff at Hotel Himalaya. These guys were so nice to us! (Photo by Sam).

Tatopani itself was pretty nice – we stayed at a cool hotel (The Hotel Himalaya) where the lodge kids were super nice and loved talking to us (so I got to use my Nepali). We even sat and watched some soccer with them. How is it that I always end up watching sports with the guys?? The food was good. And it was close to the hot springs. We went to the hot springs soon after our arrival and met up with Team ABBA (our name for this annoying couple or brother/sister – difficult to tell – with a matching annoying guide/boyfriend - again, difficult to tell) who were annoyed we beat them to Tatopani after they caught up with us with an hour later start. Once we were all in the springs, though, Team ABBA definitely drew in the stares as the girl was in a bikini (hello, scandalous!) and getting massaged by both her brother/boyfriend and her guide/boyfriend. I was happy to have the local men’s attention diverted to Team ABBA instead of on me. The subsequent times Sam and I went to the hot springs, it was a little uncomfortable as I was the only girl and looking Nepali, I confuse everyone. We met some great Nepalis (one was a helicopter pilot!) and just had a good time hanging out. Our two days in Tatopani were great – soaking in the hot springs and just relaxing. Getting back to reality was going to be a challenge.

Enjoying the time off... relaxing in Tatopani. Look how brown I've become (and windburned)!

Day 6: Tatopani – Pokhara (or a day full of travel)

Sam and I decided to forgo the boring and dusty hike from Tatopani to Beni and opted for getting a jeep and then a bus. This day started Sam’s 3 full days of travel to get back to HTD. Our bus back to Pokhara was stopped for a bit because of a bandh but what can we do? We were back on the road after some time and we picked up some young Buddhist monks who decided to play like ninja fighters on the roof of the bus. Seeing their shadows as we were driving was so funny! We ended our trek as we began with a pork feast at Natsuil (again, highly recommend it).

The trek was great… seeing a different side of Nepal. It’s alien and not what you expect when you think of Nepal and it made it that much better. I love Nepal and trekking has made it more so. Amazing how the Annapurna region can look completely different on either side of the mountains. My next trek will be Mount Everest Base Camp (hopefully… if the weather is good), but I’ll be doing that one without Sam. He’s back in Australia now so I'm in seach of someone to continue my adventures with...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Break from KTM - Visiting Hetauda

So a few weekends ago, I went to Hetauda – and seriously, I really like the place. I’ve been before, but this time I did a lot more and hung out with great friends instead of attending focus group discussions. My housemate, Isabelle and I had been trying to make it to HTD for awhile (she’d never been) to visit with Sam and Nat (our Australian friends). It was a great chance for me to also meet up with my friend Jiwan (he does M&E for Equal Access out in the field). It was a great weekend… I definitely needed a break from KTM. Sometimes I forget how exhausting it is to live in KTM and then I go somewhere else and realize how nice it is outside of the valley.

our jeep before it broke. (photo by Isa)

Isa and I left on Saturday morning and had a pretty uneventful trip… except for our jeep breaking an hour and half outside of Hetauda. I had never actually seen a wheel break off of an axle until that day. I felt bad for the driver, because he was being SO careful the whole trip. Usually drivers around here are speeding around corners, honking way in advance to let everyone within range know to clear the way. Also they tend to look suspiciously young (like 12… but all Nepalis look really young, I guess). But our driver was nice to Isa and me, seemed a normal driving age and drove at an appropriate speed. And then there was a horrible noise and it was like one corner of the jeep just fell. So there we were, stopped in the middle of the road (keep in mind, it’s what we in the states would deem a one way road), with the driver jacking up the car under the running board. Makes no sense at all… but maybe he knows something I don’t. Like he’d listen to a girl tell him how to change a tire… or just how to jack a car. (I'm missing some photos... but there is one where you can totally see the bigriyo jeep!)

Luckily, jeeps were aplenty on Saturday heading towards HTD, so Isa and I had no trouble hopping into another one and finishing out our curvy, uphill/downhill, bumpy 4-5 hour journey to Hetauda. Once we finally made it into town, Nat and Jiwan came to meet us at the Motel Avocado, where Isa and I were staying – Lonely Planet says that the Motel Avocado is a quirky resort, but then again they also say there’s no reason to stop in Hetauda except to change buses. (Sam was out riding around on a 200 cc Pulsar motorbike for his friend’s birthday.) It was SOOO nice to see everyone. We walked a bit around HTD (there’s not a whole lot of town compared to KTM of course) and then went over to Nat’s house to make a Nepali dinner of daal bhat, tarkari, saag, etc. Nat and Sam are great cooks and together they would make a really good Nepali girl ;) Jiwan is also a great cook… and he surprised me by actually knowing how to cook! The food was great and it was just a lot of fun to hang out.

Cooking Nepali food at Nat and Sam's - Nat's manning the daal and Jiwan's got the saag covered... me, I'm not sure. (photo by Isa)

A typical Nepali meal (cooked with only 2 Nepalis present). (Photo by Isa)

Nat says (and like I said, Lonely Planet agrees) there’s not much to do in HTD, but there’s at least enough to get us through a weekend in town. Sunday morning, after a late(ish) breakfast at the Avocado (yum, banana porridge!), Nat, Sam, Isa, Jiwan and I went for a short hike up to Manakamana temple. All steps. Seriously, you all know how I feel about steps. It wasn’t that bad, though. And the view of Hetauda from the temple was nice… except for the foggy haze covering most of town. I’m not really much for temples (being a non-Hindu and pretty much just not being religious), but I do like a good hike. Jiwan never admits that he’s tired or needs water. The rest of us were happy to reach the top and sit for a bit. :) I like that I’ve been getting some chances to walk and hike the past few weekends. Gives me the chance to think and just not do work and enjoy Nepal more. And get ready for my upcoming trek with Sam!
Manakaman Temple - it was closed, but its not like we could go in anyway (well, I guess Jiwan could)

After the hike up, Sam and Jiwan resting for some minutes.

Enjoying snacks at the temple. (Photo by Sam)

Back in town... Isa and Nat taking a rickshaw to the hotel.

Me and a bangle cart... seriously, it's like a sickness for me. (Photo by Isa)

After getting back into town, we went around HTD again to see the market and get some snacks for lunch. Then I headed over to Jiwan’s house for tea and to meet his family. I really like meeting Nepali people and the families of my Nepali friends. I just wish I could do more talking with them. I should really practice my Nepali more, I know… It’s just so hard for me to formulate what I want to say quickly. Besides, my Nepali is bad and I hate to disappoint people that think I’m Nepali anyway. Jiwan’s family was super nice and I got see all of his photos. He’s been ALL over Nepal, so seeing his photos only made me want to stay in Nepal longer to explore all the districts. We talked a lot about Nepal and about Equal Access and SSMK. So I actually got some work done while hanging out which looks like the trip was actually thesis-related. Yay!

After a couple of cups of tea (Jiwan drinks a lot of tea… he is Nepali after all ;) ), he took me for a motorbike tour of Hetauda. He’d been telling me about all the cool things to see in Hetauda and Makawanpur district, so it was nice to get the Jiwan tour. Even though it was getting dark, he drove me up to the Martyr Memorial Park just outside of town. I just read about the park in the English social studies textbooks I’m freelance editing here, so it was cool to get to see the park. The funny thing about parks here, and also in Uzbekistan, is that they tend to be THE place to go for boys and girls to hang out alone. The park was pretty clean, though (as Martyr’s Day was coming up) and cute. At the park there’s a big rock inscribed with the faces of 12 martyrs from the conflict time. The park also a has a zoo, where Jiwan and I went back and forth on one animal that looked very much like a guinea pig to me, but which they just call a bigger rodent. I think they were guinea pigs which I LOVE, but even now, people in my office don’t know what they are called in Nepali.

It was nice to ride around with Jiwan on his fancy new bike – a 150 cc Pulsar. Nat has named it Prerana which means inspire. She’s named her bike, too – Sriste which means universe in Nepali. Gotta say, I wasn’t into motorcycles before (since Jen’s friend Carl had his accident in the states awhile ago), but seeing as it’s the fastest mode of transport around here… I’ve grown to like them. I feel a hell of a lot safer on a motorbike than I do in any car, taxi or bus I’ve ridden in here. And it is WAY safer than riding on top of a bus or microbus, for sure. Besides, I check with anyone that offers me a lift to see if they’ve had any accidents. If I was staying around Nepal longer than my 7 months, I’d probably take up learning how to drive a motorbike. For now, though, it’s just fun to ride on the back of them and see cool things.
The bikes - Sriste in front and Prerana in the back. (Photo by Isa)

And Jiwan is a great tour guide in Hetauda. Having grown up there, he knows everything about the place and he’s seen a lot of change happen. I asked him about the conflict time and what it was like. He opened up a little bit about it. I don’t really expect many people to just start talking about that part of Nepali history, but I am incredibly curious about it. I just can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to grow up in such a crazy time – bomb blasts, abductions, and curfews. As an American, we have no idea what it’s like to constantly worry about what’s going to happen next. From what I’ve heard from Jiwan and from others it sounds terribly scary. Coming out of those dark times, it’s no wonder that Nepalis have such great hope resting on this new government (even though it’s the Maoists in control).

While I was excited to spend some time with Jiwan and to get his thoughts about life in Nepal, it was also super awesome to hang out with Nat and Sam. They spent the holidays with me in KTM and I’ve missed them a lot since they went back to HTD. Nat and Sam are so much fun to hang out with. Monday was Australia Day (think July 4th for the US, but with Australian football and less of the sparklers), so we spent the morning before Isa and I had to leave eating vegemite on toast (it makes you as bright as bright can be!) and playing Australian football. It was fun to just play… made me miss playing catch at home or throwing the football (the American one). The vegemite I could do without… but I’m not Australian, so it’s not like I’ll ever really have it. :), It’s sad to think that Sam and Nat will be leaving Nepal soon. Nat’s been here living here for the past year for research for her PhD in anthropology and Sam came for the last 5 months to provide moral support. I’ll be sad to see them leave as they are SO my favorite Australians. Both are them are super sweet and just so fun to be around. I don’t think I would have gone on as many adventures as I have here if it hadn’t been for Sam.
Vegemite... yum. I think they use the stuff to brainwash Australians. ;) (Photo by Isa)

All of us after some Australian football. (Photo by Sam)

Nat and Isa on Sriste. (Photo by Sam)

Our trip to Hetauda was just a nice time to get out of the city and relax for a bit. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed lately about the thesis. I just can’t seem to concentrate enough to sit down and write the damn thing. And things at Equal Access have been hectic as well. It’s been months full of proposal writing for me, which isn’t really what I was hoping to get out of my time here, but I’ll take it. It’s definitely a good skill to have and one that all NGOs and development orgs need, so maybe someone will give me a job.

Jiwan and me waiting for the jeep to KTM to leave. (Photo by Isa)

Sushil Villa girls before Isa and I leave HTD! All that's missing is Sam (our Sushil Villa guy!). (Photo by Jiwan)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Living in the Dark

I’d heard about load shedding before coming to Nepal, but I didn’t think it’d become such a big deal since I dealt with no power situations in Uzbekistan. I thought, hey, that’s cool… at least Nepal gives out a schedule of when the power cuts will happen. Now, with Nepal facing 16 hours a day without power in KTM (and up to 20 in Hetauda, I hear), looking at the load shedding schedule is actually a little depressing. Seeing how many hours without light (and internet) is nothing to look forward to. We’d be better off if they just showed us the hours when there will be electricity.

Load shedding, or constant blackouts due to insufficient electricity supply, has been changing lives here in Nepal. In my house Sushil Villa, we’re considering a mini generator to power our once fancy and now pointless wireless internet. We’re also considering solar panels, inverters, and UPS back up systems. My work, which is running over 40 computers including the recording studio, is also considering a generator… however, it’s a little late in the game, isn’t it? Considering we knew 16 hours of power cuts a day were staring us in the face a couple months ago.

So what do people do during load shedding?

If you’re at my house, we plan on watching A LOT of DVDs. I will probably watch all of my movies at least 3 times over (on top of the numerous times I’ve already watched them). My roommate Isa and I have been watching Men in Trees, a recently cancelled ABC tv series which will at least take us through the next week or so before we have to find a new series to entertain us during the dark times at Sushil Villa. We just bought these rechargeable LED emergency lanterns and are excited like little kids on Christmas when we stare into the bright, bright lights. The lanterns shine SO bright and are able to light up a whole room (not like regular electricity, mind you, but we’ll take it)… plus it’ll take us off candles – which we seem to go through at least 10 a week. And since Kirill came to visit us last week all the way from Darjeeling, we've now started to use our fireplace. Spasibo, Kirill!

making the best of load shedding with wine, real swiss cheese, and good company. Isabelle, Kirill, Camille, and me. (photo by Kirill)

If you’re at my work, it’s a little more ridiculous. As I’ve mentioned before, I work at an NGO that designs and produces social development radio programming for underserved minority and disadvantaged groups. All of our work is done on computers as we use Adobe Cool Edit software to mix and edit our radio shows. Our recording studio needs electricity for our voice talents to read the dramas our staff writes (on computers) and for our recorded interviews to take place. All the proposals we write are all written on desktop computers (except for me and the Country Director) that need power. So what happens during load shedding hours? A whole lot of nothing. People go to the roof to enjoy the sunshine, have some content meetings, and then just hang out and chat for a good long while. We've had to change our production schedules to coordinate with when there will be power at the office. Some production teams are working on Sundays and are off on Tuesday, while others are coming after lunch and working until dark. I think the most ridiculous thing for me was staying at the office until 7:30pm and sitting in a completely dark room with only 2 faces illuminated by dying laptops and others using their cell phones to read or write notes for the meeting.

But load shedding is affecting all of Nepal... so take my personal examples and multiply it by 29 million (the estimated population of Nepal in July 2008). For having the 2nd highest potential in hydropower, Nepal doesn't seem to be producing as much as it can. In fact, Nepal seems to be forgetting about its hydro potential and turning to burning fossil fuels as a quick fix for the power crisis.

I thought for sure that there would be nationwide strikes when we got put up to 16 hours of load shedding a day... but was surprised that for once, people didn't stage super huge protests. Why not? Instead, Kathmandu has a trash problem (like seriously, trash overflowing and taking up more than half of the road) because a Maoist cut off the leg of someone, so trash wasn't being collected for awhile.

I read in the paper today that the NEA (the state electricity agency) has cut back the load shedding hours to 14. That means TWO extra hours of light! Of course one of those hours is probably in the wee hours of the morning when no one is awake, but I guess we'll take what we can get.

I'm ending this post now, because the electricity is about to go off. Enjoy your electricity, wherever you may be! ;)