Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Paragliding - Vipassana Meditation - Teaching July/August 2012

Final teaching day at the American Language Center
One month ago I actually finished teaching my 2 classes at the ALC here in Kathmandu. It was a really fun time and I loved my students.
On my last day, one of my students told me: “Teacher, we did not only improve our English with you but you taught us how to be more confident!” Wow, I was impressed and almost speechless. That was such a nice compliment!
Have a look at the pictures of my two classes :)

Paragliding in Pokhara

Fly like an eagle, flying so high, circling the universe, wings of pure love!

Pokhara Phewa Lake

I decided to leave Kathmandu and to head towards Pokhara to have a few days to relax and to celebrate my birthday there.
Had a lovely time and decided to go Paragliding for my birthday! 

Wow, that was such a nice experience. I felt like an eagle flying above Pokhara Lake. How stunning it would have even been if you could have seen the full Annapurna Range. I cannot even imagine how impressive that must be ;) Maybe another time! We flew around 30min and the guy I flew with was from Rumania. He definitely had experience and I felt really safe. We did an amazing landing on our feet, no falling around or any other incidences. Stunning, I loved it!

Evening light at Pokhara lake! Beautiful :)

My birthday :)

Serious Meditation Experience – Vipassana for 10 days
Well and the real reason why I came down to Pokhara was that I actually registered myself for a 10 days Vipassana course in Begnas Thal, 18km outside of Pokhara. I have done some meditation in Plum Village last year, but this was a completely different set-up and very serious!

Reflection of Vipassana August 2012 
This was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life!
I was thinking back when I did my Degree in Marketing, the Diploma in FM in Ireland, the IBM Sales School, the CELTA Certificate – this wasn’t a challenge compare to what I went through these 10 days, well actually almost 12 days! If you were wondering if I wanted to leave – YES, I was asking this myself a few times. People, who know me know, that I am a fighter! Usually I never give up. But these 10 days showed me my personal boundaries. I’m not made or the purpose in my life is not to live like a nun or be kept like a prisoner. I need the possibility to walk, go, run and move – just being free! Exercise wherever or how often or whenever I want!
You know what kept me there? Curiosity and the beautiful location!

Outside the meditation hall

Our garden
We had really heavy rainfalls on the first day and the second day in the morning it cleared up and you should have seen that Panorama! This was even better than on any postcard! I have done 3 Treks now in Nepal, but this was the best view I had onto the Himalaya’s by far! Beautiful, gorgeous, breathtaking, inspiring, lovely, fantastic! We had a break between breakfast & the 2nd meditation, so I sat on a bench and glowing in amazement at these mountains! These pictures will stay in my head forever. Unfortunately I cannot share it with you, as we weren’t allowed to keep our cameras.

Day 0 – Check in/Chitchat
We had to arrive latest at 12 noon to check-in and we were allowed to talk to the other students for a bit. This was nice, as we got to know each other at least a little bit until the noble silence was starting. I chatted to a lovely girl from Holland and another woman from France. We were a really multi-cultural group, which felt nice. Men and women were strictly separated for 10 days. We were 30 people in total, 13 women and 17 men. The men were half Nepali and half Western. The woman were 80% Western and only 20% Nepali!
In front of our room

I shared a room with a French girl called Amandine. We got Dal Baht for lunch (typical Nepalese food for lunch and dinner), which consists of rice, lentil with some sauce and vegetables and a tiny dinner this evening. Then the first meditation started and bedtime was at 9.15pm – lights off at 9.30pm.

My bed with my mosquito net :)

Day 1 – Starting with the actual course at 4am
Yes, we had to get up at 4am and the first Group Meditation sitting was at 4.30am for 2 hours. Then we got breakfast at 6.30 and had time to rest until 8am.
Another 3 hours of meditation until 11am, when it was time for lunch!
Some more time to rest until 1pm and then 4h of meditation until 5pm. This was the hardest time for me indeed. I missed my Café Latte to stay awake for sure!
Dinner at 5pm and they officially called it tea break, which was maybe a better description! We got a tiny little bowl of dry rice crisps (no milk or anything to add) and 3 tiny slices of Mango! This was all :( I was starving every single evening, as I was just not used to eat almost nothing. I usually have my main meal in the eve! At 6pm another meditation for one hour and then we were allowed to listen to some DVD Dharma talks for one hour! That was almost my highlight of the day!
You cannot imagine how often I was asking myself that day if I should maybe just leave. I had problems to sit for so long in one position. I felt uncomfortable to not move, exercise or walk for a longer distance.

Our meditation hall

Day 2 – Dutch girl left
The timetable was the same for every single day. However today around noon, the place next to me in our dining area was empty. The Dutch girl, whom I was chatting to just 2 days ago, had left. I felt awkward as she was even sitting directly in front of me in the meditation hall. This made it even more difficult to stay. But today I felt a bit better and thought I will give it a go until day 3!
The meditation technique of Vipassana actually starts only on day 4. The first 3 days are just used to focus on your breath! Yes, you read correctly! You do nothing else all day than focusing and concentrating on your breath. It changes a little bit day by day, but not significantly really!

Day 3 – Serious struggle
Everything felt just uncomfortable today really. Too much sitting, I felt like I was locked up behind bars! Yes, it did feel like you were in prison. I think the only thing, which kept me there was curiosity. They told us Vipassana would start on Day 4, so I thought I would give it a try! My roommate struggled as well. She even talked to the teacher about leaving. I thought, if she is going I’m going with her. Thank god she stayed!

Day 4 – Another person left
This day was a bit more exciting I have to say as we finally started to practise Vipassana. You need to observe all your sensation throughout your body by not judging them. It sounds easy, but it isn’t I can tell you ;) You should think or judge that they are good or bad. Imagine you have serious pain in your legs as you were sitting in a meditation position for hours and you are not allowed to judge the pain that it is bad or feels bad?! Difficult thing I can tell you.
This afternoon another person left, the French girl I was chatting to on the first day and I liked her. Pity really, and it always affects you, when people are leaving.

Day 5 – Yoga & Misery
Memories were starting to come up and ideas about the future! I actually went through lots of happy memories, not really bad one’s.
Another beautiful view onto Macchapuchhre (Fishtail in English)! My favourite mountain so far in Nepal :) When I was looking at Fishtail a thought came into my head! Imagine having a Yoga Studio with a view like that onto Fishtail. Even a name popped into my head!

Fishtail - so beautiful!!!

However the whole day the Vipassana Meditation was about misery and I don’t like to be miserable. I’m a very positive and happy person in general and thinking and listening to these CD’s where they were always talking about misery was a bit annoying really. That’s why I was actually close to leave even on the 5th day! But then I thought it is almost half time and I decided to stay on more day ;)

Day 6 – First serious meditation
Nothing major happened on Day 6 except that I had my first serious meditation, where I was able to concentrate for a full hour not moving any parts of my body. I was impressed an a bit proud of myself that I was finally able to do it. Maybe this gave me the strength not wanting to leave!

Day 7 – Homesick “Irish flashbacks”
Wow, what a day really! Can you believe it, but I actually felt homesick!!!
When I meditated from 4.30am until 9pm this day I had millions of flashbacks about my life back in Ireland. This day was somehow devoted to Ireland and it just didn’t seem to stop. I was simply and clearly homesick that particular day! Missing the beautiful West Coast, Donegal, Westport, Achill Island, beautiful white sandy rocky beaches, Clontarf, Howth, the tasty food in the Sand Bar, Cottages, the blowing wind, wearing woollen hats, my apartment, friends, colleagues, neighbours, favourite coffee places, a run in Phoenix Park, a swim in Portmarnock, my favourite Irish ring, which I had to give up going into this course.
If you think this stopped on the eights day, no it didn’t. Only slowly in the afternoon of the 8th day it started to get weaker…what an experience really! Not sure what to make out of this, but seems like Ireland has made quite an impression on me!

Day 8 – Another 2 men left
Nothing major happened on that day except that after lunch 2 more men were gone and our two so called servers as well! I couldn’t believe it really! Why would you leave 2 days before the course is over when you already made it to Day8?!
After the course had finished I heard, that these guys were actually caught smoking and speaking, so it seems like they were asked to leave!

Day 9 – Thoughts about the future
It seems like that day was devoted to think about the future. Things I wanted to do or accomplish or experience.
The first thing, which came up, was I really wanted to volunteer for Room to Read to teach the staff there. I already prepared my lessons in my head, which I was supposed to teach for Room to Read.
Then I was having the craving to do more Yoga – so maybe 2 more months in India somewhere.
Before that I still would like to trek the Everest Base Camp as I’m still here in Nepal, but I need to wait until the monsoon is over! Only one more month to go :)
Finally surprise surprise, my deepest desire for years and years came up – to finally travel to Australia & New Zealand! So I was thinking about finally celebrating New Years Eve in Sydney with a view onto the Harbour Bridge to celebrate into 2013!
Then I could travel onwards to New Zealand. Maybe some fruit picking in-between ;)

Day 10 – First words spoken again
Noble Silence was over at 10am! We were finally able to talk after 10 days. But you know what, it actually felt so difficult. I guess it took a while to find your own voice again. As female and male were strictly separated throughout the entire course, today was the first day they opened one specific small area to meet up altogether and to talk to each other. As we didn’t know much about each other it was a bit of an awkward situation at first, and some people were more hesitant to share their experiences or thoughts than others.
I had a bar of Milka chocolate in my backpack, even if we were not allowed to bring any food. But just in case I thought for emergency situations ;) I didn’t touch it until the 10th day, when the noble silence was over I opened the bar of chocolate and ate it with Fiona and Amandine! We all enjoyed every bit so much!!!

Day 11 - Day to leave ;)

I’m a free again!!!

This is the website if you want to find out more about Vipassana Meditation:
They are having Vipassana centres all over the world.

When in our life’s are we really given the opportunity to stay with ourselves for 10 days? I certainly never before had been with just myself for 10 days, not being able to talk to anyone, no reading or writing and just meditating.

Now even after finishing the course I didn’t have an urgent need to talk to people somehow for the first 2 days. It felt completely ok to stay just within myself. Very interesting observation I think!

It is a good experience, but if you think that it is a walk in the park, think again! It isn’t really, at least not if you take it seriously!

Meeting some Vipassana people in Pokhara for dinner

Back in Kathmandu
After another week of relaxation in Pokhara and reflection on my Vipassana experience I decided to come back to Kathmandu. I love Pokhara, but it was just not the right time to stay there any longer. Even if I loved my AM/PM coffee place and the locals there, it was time to move on. Lovely people and greatly missed here in KTM. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about my Leeches attack!

Leeches bites
One morning in Pokhara I decided to walk up towards the World Peace Pagoda. As I didn’t want to take a boat again over the lake I decided to walk the other way from Damside. A local Nepalese showed me the way a day beforehand where I could start. So I did and I walk a small little trail in the middle of the forest. After around 30 min unfortunately the trail was not a trail anymore and you really didn’t know where the right way was to walk towards the Peace Pagoda. I always found some smaller paths and thought it would be fine. There was always the like kind of visible through the trees to my right, so I wasn’t lost. After an hour I had to admit to myself, that there was no trail anymore at all and I was in the middle of the forest, with only monkeys on top of tree. I decided I need to get out of there and I saw a boat with a local at the lake. I tried to make my way towards the shore. I finally was there and I waved at the local over on the left side. But then another boat came to my right, with two tourists in it. They were so kind to pick me up! I got onto the boat and shortly I realized that there was something inside my sandals….Oh no! Then it hit me! There might be leeches! I forgot all about them. Well I removed my left sandal and you should have seen my foot! I tried to get them off, at least 10 of them and threw them into the lake. Then I removed my right sandal –OMG, so many leeches! It was disgusting, but nothing I could do about it, I just kept on removing them as well as I could. The right foot was much worse, at least 20 of them!!! Anyway, the Italian people on the boat and the boatman were very nice and brought me to the small restaurant where the trek to the World Peace Pagoda usually starts. I set down there and got some salt to put it on my wounds. Apparently it will help to stop the bleeding. If you remove leeches, the wounds are bleeding for a while and yes they did!!!

Almost 2 weeks later you can still see the red dots on my feet and I finally decided to get some cream from the pharmacy here in Kathmandu! It seems like they get better slowly but surely! What a stupid adventure that was in the end ;) But anyway, sometimes we have to learn some lessons and that was one for me. So I decided to only go trekking after the monsoon has stopped, as I don’t want to have more leeches on my body anytime soon!

1:1 English student
After being back in KTM for 2 days, the American Language Center rang me and offered me to teach a 1:1 student for 4-5 weeks. I had exactly 4 hours to decide what to do and I decided to go for it! It is only Mo/Wed/Fr for 2 hours, but I like the new challenge and experience.
I actually started today, and it is a woman from Tajikistan. She can hardly speak any English, but we had a good start. I’m looking forward to help her to get more confident and fluent :)

What will the future bring?
Well, in 4-5 weeks time I’ll finish teaching my private student. It will be almost End of September and the right time to finally trek the Everest Base Camp!!! 

That might take around 20 days I think as I don’t wanna fly into Lukla. Instead, I’ll take a bus to Jiri and trek straight from there.

What will happen after that? Let’s see, maybe straight to Australia or a stop in India? Nothing is set in stone yet.

Hope I can celebrate New Year's Eve in Sydney!

If you have any tips for Australia and New Zealand, how to travel on a budget, cheap accommodation, where to go to and if it is possible to find some work even without a work visa it would be greatly appreciated! As I’m already 39 years old, it’s not possible to apply for a Working Holiday Visa – this is only valid until 31 :( Pity really, but let’s see if anything else might come up!
Please let me know if you have any idea’s or thought on that!

New Zealand


  1. Right, well, I suppose as experiences go, it would be worthwhile, but physically I don't think I could stand it. I also suspect I would start giggling into the silence at some point. Either that, or I'd start crying. Either way, I'd be asked to leave for sure! Did you have to walk in an exaggeratedly slow way, being aware of every movement? I've seen that and had it described. Not my kettle of fish...

    1. Vipassana meditation is something very good which help us be mindful all day. I met a guru who practice for over 30years, he is Venerable Vimokkha and did share his teaching in MP3 files in my blog. His teaching is recorded during our Vipassana meditation retreat. Feel free download it for free at:

    2. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Deine Fotos sind BENEIDENSWERT. :)

    Schöne Grüße,
    die andere Kerstin

    PS: Sorry, totally just stumbled upon your blog.

  3. A colleague of mine was looking for my blog and typed "Kerstin + CELTA + German + blogspot" into Google. He then e-mailed me wondering what I was doing in Kathmandu (I'm in San Francisco...). And voila! Instant blogspot connection. :)

    Es sieht echt toll aus, was Du da machst (die Blutegel ausgeschlossen). War noch nie in Nepal, aber die Landschaft erinnert mich a bissl an Taiwan. :)

    Anywho, alles Gute nachträglich and good luck on New Zealand!


    PS: ...I'd feel ridiculous if you weren't German.

  4. Hi Kerstin!

    Pleasure to read your blog post, very inspiring and we have a lot in common. :) I also live in Ireland, and am now doing my first trip to Nepal. I am looking into the Vipassana, and I think you have convinced me! Am choosing between to do it in Kathmandu or Pokhara, but you seem to really have enjoyed Pokhara, so I'll follow your advice, and also do the paragliding, looks amazing!
    EBC is actually my plan after the Vipassana, and will be a good final part of my trip.
    Let me know if you have any other recommendations!
    Thanks again and hope you fulfill your dreams! :)


  5. Thanks so much for your comment Milo! When are you going to Nepal? I have just started working in Kathmandu :)

  6. Hi Kerstin! That's so nice to hear! I'm very happy for you that you liked it that much! I will be arriving on January 24th in the evening, and will be volunteering the week after in Kathmandu. I'd love to meet up for a coffee or dinner one day if you'd like? :) Would be great to share some stories!

  7. That sounds good Milo :) If you could send me your email I will send you a private message and my Nepali phone no. Would be great to meet over coffee to share some experiences!

  8. Hi again! Sorry for delay in reply. Now I am fibally on my way to Nepal! :) please do send me an email and I'd love to meet. I'll be volunteering next week, so not sure if my schedule but I'm sure we'll find time. :)
    Please email me at marielouisedahl @gmail .com
    Looking forward to hearing from you!