Tuesday, 17 July 2012

My journey since End of May!

This time the blog entry looks a bit different as I wrote some short stories during the last two months! Hope you enjoy them ;)

Leaving Pokhara and my favourite AM/PM coffee place was really tough! They have the best cafe latte, banana lassies and apple muffins for reasonable prices :)

AM/PM cafe :)

29.5. – One night in Boudha

Impressive Stupa in Boudha :)

After leaving Pokhara I arrived in Kathmandu and went straight to Boudha, with the Danish girl I met on the bus. We shared a cab and therefore it wasn’t expensive. But it was a challenge to find an affordable room in Boudha. Lot’s of monasteries were booked out or had no single rooms at all. All the twin rooms we were offered were really expensive! So we ended up sharing a room for one night.
The Stupa in Boudha is massive and gorgeous! So impressive, nice and peaceful to walk around it (doing the chorus), turning the prayer wheels and chanting at the same time.
So the next morning we had one stroll around the Stupa, had breakfast and then took a taxi back to Paknajol, Thamel to the center of Kathmandu.

30.5. – Paknajol, KTM
I found a lovely room in a nice small guesthouse called “Nirwana Peace Guesthouse” for an affordable prize :) It felt so good to have a kind of homely place to stay again. There is a lovely garden in the front in a quiet one-way street and a roof terrace on top. My room has a small balcony, where I can even dry my clothes :) perfect!

Nirwana Peace Home
Sunset from my balcony!

I met Bikram for dinner and we had a really good time laughing so much :) The next day I organized my bus tickets and TIM Card for my next hike! Yes I already posted about that ;)
I met up with Jeanette and Ron in Patan. Lovely afternoon I have to say and Patan is like a suburb. It was good to see another part of Kathmandu and Durbar Square is beautiful as well. 

Ron even offered me that I could come to see his University where he is teaching.
I also got another connection from an Australian woman called Susi. They just initiated a NGO here in Nepal to help victims especially girls or women who were affected by trafficking. She gave me a contact in KTM and I texted him and I will meet him when I am back from my Trek. Let’s see, there might be more opportunities I could discover. Ron was talking about a German company called GIZ, who is pretty big. I just need to network when I am back and let’s see what might come up. You never know :) Maybe I can say and get some work here ;)

Durbar Square

08.06. – Back in Kathmandu
I came back to Kathmandu on Friday, 8th from my Langtang Trek and settled back into my cosy guesthouse. Went to see a movie in the evening with Bikram and his friends. First cinema I have seen in Nepal. Reminded me about Danang and the Big C. It is also located in a shopping center here on the top floor.
After that we went to Thamel to a place called “The factory” and it was such a cool place. DJ playing lovely music, people dancing – Kerstin dancing away!

The next day I visited a monastery outside Kathmandu at Druk Amitabha Mountain with Bikram on his motorbike! It was a lovely trip, the monastery was stunning – really big and the huge meditation hall was just breathtaking! Very special feeling to spend time there :)
View onto Kathmandu Valley from the monastery!

In front of the Meditation Hall

View from the monastery


3 impressive Buddha statues

Children’s World Peace Organization
One evening when I visited Susan in Boudha, we met a really nice man who is running a World Peace program in Nepal. We got chatting and I asked if it was possible to meet his team. So I did a few days afterwards – 20 young teenagers who were all eager to deliver that program to local school in Boudha.
We met that afternoon to practise the program and it was fun, also really basic ;)
The following week I was able to join them to go with them to a local school and deliver the program. 

That was a lovely experience; also the way it was delivered was very poor! I almost felt sorry for them I have to say. They would need proper training, how to do it really effectively, but there is no money available and it seems like also nobody is aware of it or doesn’t bother.
I enjoyed meeting the local children, singing and dancing with them! Very precious experience :)

23.6. – First time teaching English in Nepal
If you believe it or not, but I’ll start teaching tomorrow in the American Language Center in Thapathali! Yes, short notice, completely unexpected – but that’s how it is! Not much money at all, but it will pay for the guesthouse and a cafĂ© latte :)

26.6. – Impressions of teaching in Nepal
It was my 3rd teaching day today and the students are really nice. A lot of things remind me about Vietnam. However some things are very different. The students are not used to pair work or any kind of brainstorming, but they are getting used to it ;) I even have two monks in my class!!!

The school I started teaching at has almost no resources. Not even a CD player! Can you imagine? I do all the listening exercised on tapes. So, if I want to play any songs, I need to bring my laptop.
Due to regular power cuts, at least twice per day, the school usually doesn’t do any printing or copying during that period, as the generator doesn’t have a big capacity. Thank god the tape recorder runs with batteries ;)

Observing life in Kathmandu
I did observe a lot of things during the last weeks living in Kathmandu. There are many people begging on the street, not just in the touristy area, also on my way to work, where I never see any foreigners really. Some people are disabled and some are homeless.
Most of the Nepalese people are really poor, but still they all seem so relaxed. If you are outside of Thamel (the tourist area), then all is good. Nobody bothers you!

I try to adapt to the locals and use the so-called “micro vans” to get to work or I walk. It is a really special feeling to sit really cramped in a micro van (minibus) where there is usually space for 10 people, but we are in general at least 25-30! You sit on top of each other and body contact is just normal and unavoidable! It is humid and hot, as the monsoon has started. Some people are even spitting out of the open bus window!!! That’s gross!

Power cuts
Everybody was eagerly waiting for the rainy season to start, as the power cuts would go down. I have to say; yes the power cuts got less. But imagine people have to live here with daily power cuts – in the dry season from around 8-12hours per day and in the rainy season for maybe 6hours per day!
I thought Vietnam has a lot of power cuts – well that was only twice per week for 12h!!!
Compare to Nepal that is nothing ;) But I got used to it and you just work around it somehow!

Road conditions 
If you thought the roads during rainy season in Vietnam are bad – well you might be proven wrong! The roads here in Kathmandu are just treacherous. Really massive deep holes everywhere on major roads, and now as the monsoon has started it gets even worse. If you walk on these roads, which are extremely muddy, no asphalt there whatsoever you have to have a shower afterwards and wash your entire clothes! You also need to be really careful, that you don’t slip and fall into that mud ;)
It might sound crazy to some of you, but somehow I like this madness!

Petrol shortage
On my way to work I recognized a lot of vehicles queuing beside the main road, but no drivers in there. Lot’s of busses, taxis and also private cars! First I didn’t realized what was going on, but then around the corner I saw a petrol station! Yes, if you believe it or not but Nepalese have to queue for petrol! There is a petrol shortage most of the time and sometimes petrol stations even have to shut down completely for a few days!

Roads cleared for government officials
Two days ago I wanted to catch the micro van from Ratnapark and was already wondering, why so many people were walking on the pedestrian walk. Very unusual for Nepal, as all Nepalese take busses or motorbikes to go from A to B. Approaching Ratnapark I saw lots of police men in the middle of the road, on the sidewalks, they were everywhere! At the official bus stops, they didn’t allow any minivan to stop. They all had to pass by and thousands of people were stranded there including myself! I decided to walk towards my guesthouse and they had even blocked the road completely further on. Police officers everywhere and finally, after a while, there were an escort of police cars passing by and 2 big Mercedes Benz in-between. I am sure they were some government officials! But imagine – blogging entire roads off, letting people not getting onto busses at all for almost an hour! Unreal! That’s a very different experience so!

Susan had to leave
We had spent lovely times in Boudha, attending lectures with Buddhist monks and having coffees & cake in Flavor’s the last weeks.
Susan just came back from Vipassana (10 days meditation course) and we met up in Thamel as she was going home soon. The people from the course were all really nice! What a cool bunch of people. I met a nice German woman teaching English in Mallorca and a lovely Irish girl called Caroline. She gave me quite a few details about the student visa, which I could get and I wrote everything down.

The next day it was Susan’s last night in Nepal, so I went to Boudha after work to see her! We had some lovely dinner together and we did a few more rounds around the beautiful stupa! It was so hard to say goodbye to her! We had met while trekking the Annapurna Circuit and since then spend some time together exploring Nepal and having a fabulous time! She’s flying back to Australia after 5 years of living abroad and travelling since 19 months! I’m sure I will see her again! She became such a good friend :)

Student Visa in Nepal
My first experience with a Nepalese Language school, which can help people to get Student Visa’s in Nepal, was interesting shall we say! Officially run as an International Language school, unofficially the place in Kathmandu to get a legally valid student visa!
The building was really old; almost falling apart and there was a strange atmosphere in there. It took me a while until I found the correct room. The two women sitting there were not friendly at all and didn’t like what they were doing. I asked to get some information about the Nepali classes and the Student Visa. “Student Visa – yes – 300Rp Application form!” What???? Could I please get some information about the classes? How many times per week, what time etc.? “We don’t know yet!” Ok, and how much is the Tuition fee? 400US$ for 6 months, but you are late for enrolling so an extra 100US$! You need to go to Nabil bank and pay the tuition fee there! Wow!!! So much money and on top of that the actual Visa fee, which is another 360US$ for 6 months!
There was another woman behind me, waiting to get some information as well. So we got chatting and decided to go for a drink afterwards. She is French and lived in the Netherlands for 10 years before she came to Nepal. We chatted about the Student Visa, the strange institution we had just left and I invited her to the InterNations meeting for the next evening!

Back in my guesthouse, I read through the checklist, which needs to be completed and my stomach almost turned upside down! It reminded me about the Vietnamese processes to get a work permit. On top of that the costs are outrageous really and you even need to pay for the application form! That’s more than a rip-off!
But “what to do” as the Nepalese would say, if you have fallen in love with a country?!

“InterNations” meeting
I recently became a member of InterNations, thanks to Denis who actually invited me! It’s is a great idea to meet other expats in the city you have chosen to live!
Most of the people were all expats who were send to Nepal from their home countries – basically they are all spoiled, earn heaps of money and don’t really have an interest in Nepal. Most of them have never even been trekking!!!
When I told them that I’m here since 2.5 months and was trekking for 30 days they almost collapsed. And you carried your own backpack??? OMG!!!
But I met one lovely woman from Australia who was fun. We might go for a run on Saturday with a group called HHHH.

Sharyn & myself
Raissa, the girl I met the day before at the Nepali school called me: “ The trekking girl with 3 dresses in town!” They were all amazed that I just stayed here with my backpack and even started teaching. Well, what do they expect?!!

My visit at the German embassy
The embassy opens at 9am, so I just arrived on time and I almost didn’t believe my eyes!! There were so many people waiting in front of it – and all Nepalese. I was no. 36 and I was the only German person! Thank god they did let me through as no. 5 or so, I guess, as I was a German citizen. It took me in total 1.5hours to get a no objection letter to study in Nepal, but only because I convinced the woman who was helping me to actually issue it on the same day. Usually you need to come back another day! But I had to work every afternoon and the embassy was actually a one-hour walk away from my guesthouse! So glad she was so kind and helped me out!

Opening a bank account in Nepal:
After the embassy visit I went straight to Nabil bank to open a Nepalese Bank account! This is another requirement to obtain a student visa!

Well, this is what you actually need:
- 1x Passport photo – yes, not sure for what really ;)
- Write your Grandfather’s name on the application form. I asked which one, mother’s or father’s side. Strange looks and the answer was: “Of course your father’s side!” Wow, I was almost offended because I loved them both!!!
- Draw a map from the bank to your residential address! I was confused and clarified what I need to do. The staff told me: “Draw a map from where you live to the bank!” I couldn’t believe my ears really. Well, but that’s what needs to be done. The lady at the bank was so nice to help me to draw it! OMG! What an experience ;)
- But I managed after one hour, to walk out of the bank with an open bank account in my name :)

My first wedding in Nepal

I actually got invited through the trekking guide Ganish from the Danish girls I was trekking with in Langtang. A relative from the trekking company got married and we all got invited. I was curious if it would be similar to a Vietnamese wedding, and it was indeed. The dinner was in a big hall with finger food and buffet incl. the local Nepali Dish Dhal Bhat! For dessert we had really tasty Vanilla Ice-cream and cones ;)

Shocking Saturday in Lazimpat
Saturday is like Sunday in the West! All schools, offices and most of the shops are closed. It’s usually a very quiet and peaceful day. However, this Saturday was completely different! I was on my way to view an apartment in Lazimpart, another part of Kathmandu. I discovered that morning that the government had decided to widen the roads! They had informed the resident people and there were also protests going on earlier in the month, but the decision was made: Streets will be widened, but you cannot imagine how!!!!
The main road was blocked and lots of Nepalese police around. People had to knock down their houses, staircases, shops, restaurant entrances and hotel driveways! The whole street was a mess! Destroyed & demolished bricks lying around everywhere, in-between cut down branches from trees. It looked like a war zone! Imagine the government tells you, you have to remove your staircase leading to your front door because they decided to widen the street! Unbelievable!!! It was shocking to see what I have seen that day! I didn’t take pictures, as I thought it wasn’t appropriate!

At the Post office
If you think bureaucracy is mad in Vietnam, come to Nepal ;)

I had decided to get all my remaining clothes shipped from Vietnam to Nepal. So lovely Trang back in Vietnam helped me to get 2 boxes shipped by normal post. I thought it will take at least up to 4 weeks, but to my surprise it took only one week!!!
So I had to go to the main post office at Ratnapark, Room No.29! Oh well, first of all there is only one entrance for the entire huge area, where the post office is located and that means you need to walk around the entire area to find the main entrance, which is actually located on a side street and not visible at all if you don’t know where it is ;)
Anyhow, I was finally in the right area. The 2 buildings are divided in National and International Post offices. I finally reached room 29, where I was send into another room. There we found a piece of paper where it said that there had one parcel arrived from Vietnam. I tried to explain, that I’m expecting two, but that was difficult to get across. But finally the Nepalese post officer got another “log book”, handwritten all parcels which reached the post office, noted down when they arrived and where they were from. There it said: 2 parcels from Vietnam! Thank god! Ok, he then kept looking for the 2nd paper and finally he found it! With both papers I had to go back to room 29. No problem. Then I had to sign the back of the paper (who knows why?!) and then I got another form to fill in – all written in Nepali ;) 

I had no idea what to fill in really. Thank god there was Nepalese man waiting for his parcel and was able to speak English. He helped me and explained to me what I had to fill in! Ok, done that I was told to go to room no. 32. When I arrived there I had to get a stamp, it had to be registered in another book and then I had to go to room 30 to pay a fee – 20Rp! Ok, no idea why but I just did what I was told. 

Next, back to room 29! Then the guy finally brought my two parcels and I was already so happy to imagine how it would be to wear my lovely clothes again! But not yet!!!!
Now I had to go into another room and ask for Miss XXX to come with me. I did so and a woman got up and followed me. Then both of my parcels where unwrapped and the woman looked through my entire staff. I tried to explain to her, that these are my personal belongings, but she didn’t speak English. Ok, I thought you better be patient and just wait what is going to happen. She filled in a lot of information on a form and asked me to follow her! Back in room no. 32 I was asked to wait and then I had to pay tax! Thank god it was only 5US$! I had heard stories from other expats who were asked to pay over 200US$! Finally with my receipt in hand I made my way back to room 29, where my two parcels were waiting for me! But it was still not enough. I had to sign another paper, pay another 20Rp (Nobody knows for what!) and then I was finally able to collect my two wonderful parcels with so precious things inside!

I took a cab back to my guesthouse as I had already spent 1.5hours in the post office and I actually had to teach in an hour! What an unforgettable visit!

Likeminded friends
Since I’m in Nepal I have met so many likeminded people, it is amazing, fascinating and I really appreciate it. It feels so good to chat with people who are thinking alike, share similar interests and you can have proper and enriching conversations. Lot’s of people inspired me and I also found that people help each other here on the way! I love it! Reminds me about Dublin :)
That’s one of the main reasons, why I’m so tempted to stay here as well as the beautiful mountains and the relaxed Nepali people!

The big question
Should I get a business or a student visa and stay in Nepal? Should I move on to India and deepen my Yoga practice?

What’s next? What will the future bring?

Well, first I’ll be finishing my four weeks teaching experience on Friday.
Then I might head down to Pokhara to think about what will be next as I love this place. It’s just so peaceful and inspiring!
From the 1st of August I will be attending a 10 days Meditation course called Vipassana also known as silent retreat.
And then? Who knows ;) I’m sure I will find out soon!


  1. Loved reading these glimpses into your life in Kathmandu Kerstin! What a lovely insight into the gripes, pleasures and joys:) makes me 'nepal' or 'boudha' sick a bit...

  2. Fantastic. Great stories and brilliant pictures...Truly living the dream ;-)

  3. Dear Kerstin,

    I am planning to travel to Nepal towards the end of next August (around the 20th) for 8 days. I will be visiting kathamandu, chitwan, pokhara, and nagrakot. I won't be trekking, only sightseeing with accommodation and transportation pre reserved through a company I found on the internet.

    I am very concerned about the weather and the monsoon season, can you please advise about that during August? I do not want to end up not seeing or enjoying the purpose of my trip. I might cancel the trip if I will miss all the great scenery.

    Thanks in advance.


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