Thanks for reading!

A quick note from the mountains, where wifi is spotty, to say goodbye. I leave tomorrow to head back to Canada. Thank you for reading my posts and following along on my adventure. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m grateful I got to share it with you all.

Nepal is a beautiful country, financially poor, but rich in culture, ceremony, and community. When I first arrived, I was surprised by all the differences between Nepal and Canada. We have different languages, holidays, food, and clothes. But as I got to know Nepal and the people, I started to realize that there are far more similarities. We are all people.  Just like in Canada, people in Nepal are interesting and kind. They care about their families and enjoy spending time with their friends. They sing and dance, eat good food, and work hard to make their lives and country better. Teachers are passionate about helping kids learn, and students come to school every day to grow and improve, just like back home. Things here sometimes look a little different, but at the heart of it, they are the same.

The writer Mary Anne Radmacher said, “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” I think this is true, and I hope for all of my readers that when you have the chance to travel and get to know new places and new peoples, you take it. If you do, you will have beautiful, hilarious, and frustrating moments that will help you to grow and give you a new perspective on life. And if nothing else, you may get to see some spectacular views. 🙂

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Standing with the Nepali flag at Yangrima School in Sermathang. Elevation: 2600m above sea level.

-Ms. McDiarmid

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Teacher Training

Hello Readers,

I’m up in the mountains right now, running my last teacher training.

The trainings have been going very well. We have been able to see both private and public schools, and meet with more than a hundred passionate teachers.

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The stage at the private school was full of teachers. Sorry I don’t have more photos, but I was busy working during the event!

 

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Registration at the public school where we ran another workshop.

In my workshop, I have been sharing ideas with teachers about how to use storybooks to teach lessons in any subject. Our favourite activity has been reading Angela’s Airplane by Robert Munsch, and then having a paper airplane contest to learn about flight. This is very different than the textbook work teachers in Nepal are used to, and they have really been enjoying the hands on activities.

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In one hands on activity, teachers use a mechanical arm to move and stack containers to build a tower.

The Nepali teachers have been so generous in hosting us, and sharing their ideas with us. Some of my favourite moments have been sharing songs and dances with the teachers at lunch. We have been sharing Sorry by Justin Bieber, and Rude by MAGIC!. In return, the local teachers have been teaching us a common Nepali song, sung in the Nepali language. I have been learning a little Nepali but I don’t know enough yet to sing all the words of the song. Instead, I sing English words that sound like the Nepali words. So, for me, the song goes, “Resham firiri, resham firiri, I am a donkey, you are a monkey, let’s have lemon tea.” While we sing, we dance with moves that I’ve only seen in Bollywood movies. There is lots of wrist-twisting and hip-swaying!

Check out the real Nepali song here: https://youtu.be/wupWHgg9lng?t=1m7s

During the workshops we have had some beautiful moments. One teacher came to me after a workshop and told me that, although the country is poor and the school is poor, the teachers are now rich in ideas because of the training. It was such a thoughtful and inspiring comment.

I was also moved to tears when, at the end of our workshop at the very poor public school, the principal presented our group with a “gift to take back with us”. He told us that he hoped we would not only take the object back, but the memories as well, and that we would remember them always. The gift was a beautiful golden Buddha statue. I was entirely truthful when I thanked the principal and told him that I would never, ever, forget the experience of teaching at his school.

 

-Ms. McDiarmid

Celebrations

Hello to all!

I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend and are well rested for the week ahead. We’ve had a busy weekend running teacher trainings and I look forward to tell you about it in a future post.

As promised, I’m going to fill you in on some of the celebrations I have experienced here in Nepal.

Nepali New Year

Nepali New Year was a more low-key celebration that I expected. Unlike Canada, where we stay up till midnight to count down to the new year, there were no big celebrations in our area. The only signs of celebration we saw were lights added to the local stupa, and extra butter lamps being lit.

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The light in the foreground is coming from hundred of small lamps made of wick placed in a dish of butter. In the background is the same stupa from earlier photos, decorated with lights.

We did read in the paper that many groups of family and friends like to picnic on New Year’s Day as a celebration. Picnics aren’t just about food. People usually bring speakers and musical instruments and have a dance party too.

I have been wondering if the lack of hoopla on New Year’s is because Nepalis celebrate four new years every 365 days. The different new years happen because different groups use different calendars. The four calendars used and celebrated in Nepal are the Gregorian calendar which we use (current year: 2017), the Nepali calendar (current year: 2074), the lunar Chinese calendar (current year: 4715), and the lunisolar Tibetan calendar (current year: 2145).

Birthdays

Mlle Dent celebrated her birthday this weekend. We went out for a big dinner and we brought a cake along to cut and share at the restaurant. We all got a bit of a shock when the restaurant turned out all the lights and everyone sat in complete darkness as the servers brought out the cake with lighted candles.

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Mlle Dent with her white, red, orange, and green khatas.

One difference we noticed in the birthday celebration is that the birthday boy or girl is given khatas, or ceremonial scarves, by everyone who attends. All of our Nepali friends brought a khata for Mlle Dent, and even a Nepali woman at the table next to ours came over to offer a khata. You might remember a photo of me looking tired and wearing a khata when I arrived in Nepal. Khatas are given on many special occasions, from the arrival or departure of a guest, to birthdays.

Biskaa Jatra

Biskaa Jatra is a celebration for Newari people – the cultural group living in the Kathmandu Valley. The celebration happens mostly in the city of Bhaktapur, which I visited last weekend, and  lasts 7 days. It celebrates the union of two deities or gods. The gods are put into large wooden chariots which stand in the city’s palace square for the week. Every day different types of celebrations take place, including poles being raised and lowered, and the two chariots being smashed together.

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Teachers in front of the chariot.

I was only in the city for the first day of the festival. The first day is celebrated with a giant tug-o-war game. The north and south sides of the city form teams of dozens of men. The men attach ropes to the largest chariot, and complete to pull the chariot across the square and up the road.

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A young boy playing with the ropes before the tug-o-war contest begins.

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A crowd in the palace (Durbar) square waiting for the action to begin.

This year, the men were pulling with such enthusiasm that the top of the chariot started to wobble off and we were afraid it was going to fall onto the crowds below!

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An action shot of the wobbly chariot top.

We were shocked by how many people came out to see the celebration. The excitement in the crowd was palpable, and as the teams made progress, the crowds would start to yell and cheer.

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Thousands of people came out to watch the event.

The funniest moment was when a goat wandered into the crowd. The goat started to get agitated with all the people around so it ran at a man and knocked him down. (Don’t worry, he was okay, just surprised!) In an instant, the pushing, jostling crowd moved back to form a ring around the goat. I couldn’t believe how fast everyone moved. With some help, the goat quickly left the square and everyone was back to pushing and shoving in every available inch of space.

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The enormous crowd parted for the goat.

The pulling went on for hours. Eventually one side won, and that’s when the action really started! Out in the square, the two teams started to argue and fight each other. Talking to the locals, we found out that this happens every year! The police came to the square in their riot gear to try to calm everyone down, but it looked like the teams were very intent on fighting each other. Many of the crowds stayed to watch the fight, but we decided it was safer to head back to our hotel. Biskaa Jatra was certainly the most energetic celebration we witnessed in Nepal!

-Ms. McDiarmid

Nepal’s 2015 Earthquake

Namaste Readers!

Buckle in for some exciting science (my favourite topic!) because I’m posting today about an important event in Nepal’s history: the earthquake of April 25th, 2015. I’ve referenced this quake in previous posts and I wanted to give you some background information and context to understand it better. The earthquake was huge – a 7.9M magnitude – and shook large areas of Nepal. The impacts and still highly visible today, so it’s important to know about.

The first thing you need to know is that all the land we live on is actually sitting on tectonic plates. The plate are like rafts floating close together on the surface of the earth. Underneath is a liquid-like layer below, deep within the Earth. The plate rub against each other and sometimes one plate will start to move on top of another. When these things happen, energy starts to build up between the two plates. The energy builds and builds while the plates stay in one place and then finally, BAM. The plates give way and all that energy that had built up rumbles through the earth, creating an earthquake.

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The black lines on this map show the borders of tectonic plates. Can you find Nepal on the edge of the Indian plate? Can you find Ontario on the North American plate? Which location do you think would have more earthquakes?

You might have heard of the scientific law “energy cannot be created or destroyed”. This is true, and it means that all the built up energy goes into the land – it can’t disappear. While the energy travels through the land, it also travels through everything on the land. You can think of the travelling energy like vibrations, and the vibrations will go into buildings and the materials that buildings are made from.

Imagine that you built two buildings – one made from dry spaghetti and one made from cooked spaghetti. (Silly, I know! But stick with me here, I have a point!) The plates that the spaghetti houses are built on shift causing an earthquake. Tons of energy and vibrations move up into the buildings. The noodles are shaking and shaking. Which building do you think would survive? The dry, brittle noodles, or the flexible, cooked noodles?

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An example spaghetti house. Is anyone else getting hungry?

Science tells us that the cooked noodle house would survive because the flexible, cooked noodles would be able to absorb the energy without breaking.

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A more practical flexible building material is bamboo. The bamboo on this building in Kathmandu acts as a support during construction.

In Nepal, one of the most flexible building materials is bamboo, so buildings that used bamboo were able to survive the earthquake well. Another building material that helps to absorb the energy of earthquakes is rebar. Rebar is steel bar that is put inside concrete and helps absorb energy, like that from an earthquake. New buildings that are being constructed after the earthquake use rebar and concrete to help make them safer.

 

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A house on the road to Bhaktapur bring built using rebar and cement. The rebar is the metal sticking out from the white concrete posts. 

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A school building in Nagarkot made of bamboo.

The earthquake destroyed many buildings, so people had to construct temporary shelters out of the materials they could find. Most have tin roofs and wooden or tin walls. Some locals coat the sides of their houses in mud to help insulate them from the cold of the winter.

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An example of a temporary structure made of tin.

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Tin roofs on temporary structures. The bricks sitting on the roofs keep them from blowing away.

Rebuilding takes a lot of time and money for materials. The government pays for some of the reconstruction work in cities, but it doesn’t have enough money for everyone. Most of the reconstruction in rural villages has been funded by donations from international aid organizations and foreign governments. Canada gave $4.16 million dollars. This has helped, but the damage is estimated at $10 billion dollars, so there is still a lot of need.

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Rebuilding takes lots of supplies!

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This is the equipment most people have access to as they rebuild.

Another impact of all that energy and vibration running through the mountains was that the land started to give way. Land on the mountains tumbled off from the top and rolled down in a landslide, killing many people and destroying homes. In the mountains, the vibrations shook loose snow, causing avalanches. 19 people died on Mount Everest during the earthquake, making it the deadliest day on the mountain ever.

To prevent landslides, retaining walls are built along the sides of the mountain. This helps keep the land in place, even when an earthquake causes it to shake.

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A newly built retaining wall, drying in the sun. 

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A crew rebuilding a retaining wall.

Even though this earthquake was catastrophic, the citizens are rebuilding and improving the infrastructure in their city. With the rebuilding, people will be safer from natural disasters in the future.

Happy long weekend! Enjoy your celebrations this weekend and look forward to a post on Nepali celebrations next Tuesday! (I’ll try to do another Q&A in the next post too. I love all your questions!!)

-Ms. McDiarmid

Bhaktapur

Day two of our adventure in the mountains started with an amazing view of the Himalayan Mountain Range where the highest mountain in the world, like Mount Everest, are located.

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Can you see the snowy peaks of the mountains?

We hiked out of Nagarkot towards a bus depot where we could catch a bus to Bhaktapur. The hike was more than 12km, but we thought because we would be going downhill it would be easier. I also felt better prepared to hike.

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But in Nepal, nothing is ever simple. Downhill doesn’t mean all downhill. It’s just more downs than ups. Here’s a photo I took of one part of our path. You can see where we hiked down, and you can see how high up the photo is taken from. This is because we had to hike back up even further, before coming back down again.

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Adding to the challenge was the extreme heat and the altitude. Like I said in my last post, we are about 2km higher up in the mountains than we are at home. At this altitude, the air starts to change and there is less oxygen. Hiking might be a breeze at home, but when you go to a higher altitude and take away some of the oxygen from the air, suddenly you are panting and red in the face. (Sorry, no photo to accompany that!)

We took our time hiking and stopped many times to catch our breath and enjoy the spectacular views. As we descended, we got close to the city.

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Getting closer to the city.

It was such a relief to finally board the bus that would take us the rest of the way to our destination. We enjoyed the bus ride not only because it allowed us to rest but because we got to learn how the bus system works. Each bus has a team of two: one person drives, and one stands at the open door. The driver’s job is to navigate around traffic on the narrow roads, honk his horn when we is entering a village to alert residents that the bus is arriving, and stop when he is told someone wants to get off. The person who stands at the door has an equally important job. He yells out to people waiting on the street where the bus is going so they know if they want to get on or not. He also watches the people in the bus to see if anyone wants to get off, and if they do, he whistles so the bus driver knows to stop, and then collects payment from the rider on their way out. It was amazing watching the team in action and see how efficient the bus system is. It’s no wonder there are so many buses in Nepal; the public transit system is excellent and very inexpensive.

We arrived in Bhaktapur and entered the old city. You might notice in the photos below how different the architecture is in Bhaktapur compared to Kathmandu. The ond city is full of historic wooden buildings, most with intricate wood carvings on the exterior. You might also notice a lot more scaffolding and supports on buildings. This is because the earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015 damaged many more buildings in Bhaktapur than it did in Kathmandu. In fact, everyone who enters the old city has to buy a ticket. The funds from the ticket are being used to repair and restore buildings that were damaged and destroyed in the earthquake.

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Bamboo scaffolding on the city entrance.

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The tower at the top of the steps was destroyed.

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The sunken area where you see the green water used to be a clean outdoor bath, but the earthquake caused the water to stop flowing.

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You can see the supports keeping this building from collapsing.

While touring through the city, we found out about some of the area’s major industries. Workers in the city are famous for producing many products including clay products like bricks and pottery, wood carvings, and paintings.

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Handmade paint with some intricate artwork in the background.

 

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The famous peacock window which was carved from only one piece of wood.

We also noticed that Bhaktapur is mostly Hindu, while the Boudhanath area of Kathmandu is mostly Buddhist. This means the religious practices and symbols in the two areas is different. For example, there are no stupas in Bhaktapur and the wood carvings on buildings in Bhaktapur show images of Hindu deities. This is compared to Kathmandu where we see many stupas and Buddhist images like the mandala or circle of life.

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Religious images carved into  a temple.

It was exciting to see Bhaktapur but the most excitement we experienced in our time there was during the festival of Biskaa Jatra (pronounced Biscuit Jaw-tra). I’ll tell you more about the festival in an upcoming post!

-Ms. McDiarmid

Nagarkot Adventures

Hello Readers!

I just returned back to Kathmandu from a trip into the mountains surrounding Kathmandu Valley. I set up posts to go live on Monday and Tuesday but it looks like I miscalculated time zones and posted early, so you had lots to read yesterday!

Luckily, I have lots to write about today after our three-day trip! We started our journey Saturday morning. We left Kathmandu and our little hotel on the stupa to venture out of the valley to Nagarkot and Bhaktapur. We started the drive in a minivan and had a lot of fun looking out the windows at the changing scenery and singing along as Mr. Rappolt played the ukulele. When we meet the Nepali teachers we are working with, they will be sharing some traditional songs and dances with us, and we are hoping to have fun songs to share in return. The minivan ride was great singing practice.

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After an hour and a half of driving through heavy traffic on bumpy, dusty, city roads, we were finally outside the urban area, entering green, wooded mountains. Locals would say that this area is actually full of hills rather than mountains. The “real” mountains, they say, are the Himalayas, where Mount Everest is located. However, I’m going to continue to call the area mountains because they are so high – some are as tall as Whistler in British Columbia!

 

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Amidst the greenery and woods were acres of terraced land. Land is terraced when the continuous slope down the side of a mountain has been changed to look like steps or terraces, creating many horizontal pieces of land on the side of the mountain. Terraces are an innovation that allow people to build and farm more easily on the land. Another innovation that the Nepali people have used in the mountainous landscape is the switchback road. Switchback roads are narrow and wind back and forth across the mountain with sharp turns at each end. The mountain is too steep to drive straight up, so switchback roads make it possible to reach further up the mountain by vehicle. We loved seeing the different ways that the local people innovated to make the best use of the landscape they live in! (Keep reading for a great photo of terraced land further down!!)

We drove on the switchback roads towards our destination: Nagarkot. Nagarkot is a great city for trekkers or adventurers and is one of the highest cities in the area that is accessible by car. Unfortunately for us, we were not able to access it by car! After only a short drive on the mountain, we came to a standstill. We got out of our bus to find fifty vehicles all stopped on the road with their passengers milling around. We walked up ahead and saw a huge tour bus tipped on its side, with one back wheel hanging off the road and over the side of the mountain! Thankfully no one was hurt, but it was scary to see how challenging it is for vehicles to drive on the narrow roads with such sharp turns.

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A police officer was helping a digger move dirt underneath the van. Eventually, there would be enough dirt to support the van, and it could continue driving, but in the meantime, the road was impassable. Our van was stuck! We only had one option if we wanted to visit Nagarkot. We had to walk.

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We looked at our big trekking packs and checked the map. It was only about 7km to Nagarkot, but we would also be hiking up the side of a mountain. We knew it would be a challenge trekking uphill with our packs in the sun, but we decided to go for it! As we started walking, the tourists from the stranded tour vans started taking pictures of us. I guess we must have looked like quite a sight trekking along the road with our big packs!

Walking was a challenge and a workout, but it was also an amazing opportunity to see the scenery up close. We encountered many interesting plants that we probably would have missed looking out the window of the van.

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As we walked, we kept looking up the mountain side to see how high we were climbing. During one of these looks we saw colourful prayer flags, like the ones on Boudanath Stupa. We were so intrigued that we had to climb up and investigate why the flags were there. You can imagine our delight when we came upon a beautiful monument…

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…and an equally beautiful view.

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The views continued to be spectacular as we hiked.

 

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After a few hours of walking and some help with directions from friendly locals we found our hotel. We were all tired but we wanted to make the most of the day we had in Nagarkot, so we went on one more hike up to the highest point in the area which is 2,300m above sea level (compared to KW which is about 300m above sea level). There was a lookout tower at the top that was popular with locals.

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We had another chance to enjoy the views and see the beginnings of the sunset before we headed back to our hotel for a much needed rest.

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Stay tuned for more coming up on our visit to Bhaktapur!

-Ms. McDiarmid

Animals in Kathmandu

I’m going to start this post with a mystery. Can you guess what the grate in the picture below is used for? Here’s a hint: it has something to do with animals, which is also the topic of this post.

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The mystery grate!

Animals are about as common in Kathmandu as they are in Kitchener-Waterloo, except instead of seeing squirrels, crows, and the occasional rabbit, we see some very different animals!

The first animals I saw in Kathmandu were dogs. They are everywhere! Some have owners but many are strays. They spend most of the day lazing around in the sun and they will lay just about anywhere. Remember when I told you about the hundreds of people who walk circles around the stupa every morning? Well those walkers have to avoid a dozen or more dogs who lay on the pavement, despite all the feet that might step on them. I would have guessed the dogs would move or get stepped on by a careless walker but I haven’t seen it happen yet.

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A lazy dog enjoying the sun outside a local private school.

All the dogs, even the strays, look well-fed and healthy. They are given food by locals and tourists, and they sometimes catch their own food. I found this out last night when I saw a stray dog chomping on another common animal in Kathmandu: the pigeon. Countless pigeons fly around in the area of our hotel, and I’m always afraid of being pooped on!

Another animal you may be surprised to see frequently in Nepal is the monkey. I thought it was very exciting to see them climbing the powerlines in the city and roaming around temples in the area, but most locals consider them a nuisance. They make a lots of noise, something break the things they climb on, and if you leave your food out they will steal it!

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Monkeying around on the electrical wires.

The final common animal I’ve seen in Kathmandu is the cow. In the Hindu religion, cows are sacred, just like gods. They are so revered and respected that they can pretty much do anything they want in the city. They go wherever they want; there are no fields or barns that they are kept in. This means you will sometimes have to slam on your brakes while driving because a cow has decided to walk across the road. You might honk your horn at him to hurry him along, but ultimately you will have to sit waiting for the cow to move until he is ready.

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A bull with an itchy nose, looking for a place to scratch it.

One of the funniest moments of our trip so far was when a bull (a male cow with horns) came walking down the street looking for something to rub his itchy nose on. The bull snuck up on another teacher, Mr. Rappolt, and decided that Mr. Rappolt’s backside looked like a good option. The bull poked Mr. Rappolt right in the behind, causing him to jump about a foot in the air!

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The bull, immediately after he scared Mr. Rappolt. He looks a little smug, doesn’t he?

Cows in the city are also known to eat whatever they want. If you are a fruit vendor on the street and you see a cow coming, you better hide your goods quickly or the cow will help herself.

Have you figured out what that mystery picture is yet?

You might be surprised to hear that it is a “cow grate”. They are installed into the ground near important areas like markets or stupas to prevent cows from entering. Cows are afraid to cross the grate, so the vendors or worshipers in those areas are safe from roaming cows. If only Mr. Rappolt had had a cow grate to protect him!

-Ms. McDiarmid

Nepali Food

If you’re like me, food is a big part of your travelling experience. I have been trying lots of different foods and here is some of what I’ve learned about Nepali food.

An important thing to know is that Nepali food is influenced by it’s neighbours: China and India. At most restaurants, you can find Indian foods like aloo ghobi and tikka masala, as well as Chinese foods like fried rice and dumplings.

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Indian tikki masala (flavourful chicken) with rice and buttery garlic naan.

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Savoury Chinese chow mein with egg noodles and vegetables.

Nepal has their own version of the dumpling called the mo-mo. You can order them filled with vegetables or meats like chicken, buffalo, or mutton.

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On the right is the round Chinese dumpling. In the centre, a fried veg momo,. On the left is an Indian dosa, which is like a crepe filled with curry.

Most of the religions in Nepal limit the types of meat one can eat. Hindus do not eat cows so there is almost no beef in the whole country. Many Buddhists are vegetarians or vegans like me, so there are lots of vegetable options for every meal. Momos usually come with flavourful dipping sauces.

Outside Kathmandu, there are fewer restaurants and people have less money, so they often cook for themselves. Almost every meal consists of dal bhat, or rice and lentils, and mixed vegetables. The meals are very flavourful and often very spicy!

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Dal bhat. The lentils are in the bowl and the rice is on the plate. Also on the plate is mixed vegetables. This meal was homemade by a local Nepali friend named Nema.

Pahari, or Southern Nepali, food is also popular in Kathmandu. I loved the traditional kati rolls. The filling can be meat or mixed veggies, plus peanuts, lime, and sweet chili sauce, all rolled into an oily Indian flatbread.

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Which Nepali food would you try if you had the chance?

-Ms. McDiarmid

Nepali Schools – First Impressions

Our first teacher training session isn’t until next week, but we have started to visit schools to get prepared. We are trying to learn about what schools are like in Kathmandu so we know how we can best help the teachers we are working with.

The first school we visited was a public school. Public schools in Nepal are free for families because the government pays to run them, just like in Canada. Unfortunately, the government of Nepal doesn’t have as much money as Canada, so the public schools don’t have many resources.

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Moura Bauddha School. There are three stories of classrooms with open-air hallways connecting them. This photo is taken from the field where students play.

The school rooms we saw were small and completely filled with long benches and tables where children sit. Classes at this school have forty students per class! There is no room for book shelves, carpets, or tables for small group work. The only other things in the classroom are a whiteboard and a stage at the front of the class.

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Forty students sit on these benches and work at the desks.

The teachers need a stage because they teach differently. They stand at the front of the room and read to the class from a textbook, or write information and questions on the board that students must copy into their notebooks. Most of the work students do is individual, silent desk work.

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Mlle Dent reading the advanced work on the whiteboard. Do you see the stage at the front where the teacher stands?

We noticed that teachers had left information on their whiteboards and we were impressed with all the material students in public schools learn. We saw classrooms teaching biology, accounting, and advanced math. One grade five student we talked to was doing math that students in Canada do in grade 7 and 8!

School days are the same length as in Canada for public school students, and students here will walk or take a bus to school too. One difference is that students stay in their classroom for learning time and teachers rotate into the room to teach different subjects. Students may leave their classroom to visit the computer lab, but there is only one set of computers for the whole school. Students also leave class at break time to play outside in the school yard during breaks. Do you notice anything different about this public school’s yard?

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The schoolyard where students play. Do you notice the visitors to the yard?

For students whose families can afford to pay for school and believe education is important, there are private schools. The price for private schools varies. Some are only $30 per year, but high quality private schools cost $1,200 per year or more. The more money that students pay, the more money the school has to run. Private schools often run for longer hours. One student we met goes to school from 8am – 6pm. In the morning and evening, see does extra-curriculars or clubs at her school. Popular activities are traditional Nepali dance, karate, singing, games, or music lessons.

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This is one of the private schools where we will be running teacher training. The blue roofed building is one of the two buildings that hold classrooms. There is also a covered outdoor stage hidden among the trees. You can see the paved schoolyard and the yellow buses that the students take to school.

Q&A

 What’s the vegetation like? – Owen

There isn’t a lot of vegetation in the city because there are so many roads and buildings, but we have seen a few unique plants like this poinsettia tree below. You might have heard of poinsettias because they are popular Christmas flowers. This weekend we are going into the mountains where there will be a lot more vegetation and I can tell you more about it then!

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Can you describe the size of the stores, compared to ours? – Lily

There are large and small stores just like in Canada. However, in Kathmandu there are only a few large stores (the size of a department store or grocery store in Canada) and many small stores (the size of a Canadian convenience store). There are also some VERY small stores the size of a walk in closet. The owner of the shop sits in the middle and can reach all of their products in the whole store from where they sit!

Is the food spicy? – Owen and Nathan

The food has lots of flavours and spices in it. I haven’t eaten anything bland while I’ve been here! Sometimes those flavours are spicy which I really enjoy. Some of the other teachers don’t like it as much though and their faces get very red from the spice as they eat!

Please describe the Nepali New Year. – Marcus

I’m really looking forward to the celebrations next week! I don’t know much about it yet, but I’ll make sure to take some pictures and talk about it in a blog post next week.

What food do they use turmeric in? – Mrs. Wright

They use turmeric in all sorts of food here, including tea! You can even get fresh turmeric roots to cook with. I also like turmeric!

Have a happy weekend readers and I look forward to updating you again on Monday!

-Ms. McDiarmid

Outside Boudhanath Stupa

We took our first excursion out of the Boudhanath Stupa area today. It’s hard to describe what it was like to be outside the walls of the World Heritage Site because the experience was an assault on the senses. The air was dry, dusty, and hot. The smell of incense and the sounds of traditional Nepali music reached us from the tiny shops that lined the streets. The music mixed with calls of “Hello! Hi!” from locals hoping to practice their English with us, and the near-constant honking of motorbikes, cars, and overcrowded mini-buses. In Nepal, honking is a way to say, “Look out. I’m coming through!”

 

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It might look like the cars are about to run into each other, but, with lots of honking, they manage to navigate around each other.

Dozens of colourful shops lined the streets, full of both exotic and everyday goods. I loved seeing the spice vendors whose small shop fronts feature huge canvas bags of red chile peppers, yellow turmeric, and rocks of pink Himalayan salt. We wanted to look at everything but we had to keep our eyes on our path. There was no sidewalk, and rubble, garbage, and stray paving stones littered the ground. More importantly, we had to be on the lookout for the motorbikes that constantly zoomed past.

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The shiny ribbon strung across the road is a more durable version of the prayer flags. Do you remember seeing the prayer flags hanging from the stupa?

While we explored, we did some shopping. Shops carry beautiful clothing made of traditional materials like hemp, felt, and silk. There are also lots of shops that carry “trekking gear” which are the supplies adventurers need to travel through the mountains of Nepal. Nepal’s most famous mountain is Mount Everest and climbers who hope to reach the top need special equipment and clothing. I bought a coat that is made for Nepal trekkers that was handmade in Kathmandu. Lots of people in Nepal have jobs making things by hand.

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This is the workspace where my coat was made. The brown fabric hanging on the wall is the pattern. The worker puts the coat fabric on the large table, then puts the pattern on top and traces the outline in chalk. He can then cut out the right shapes that are sewn together to make the coat. You can see “bolts” or rolls of fabric under the table.

We also visited a book store and I found some new picture books with Nepali stories. My favourite is called, “Yak and Nak go on a Trek”. It’s about two yaks who carry loads through the mountains of Nepal.

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After shopping, wearing my new silk screened scarf. Do I look less tired in this photo, Room 5?

It’s been a wonderful day full of excitement and new experiences. I’m so happy to be exploring Kathmandu! We have one more day here before leaving for the mountains on Saturday. I’ll keep you posted on our next adventures!

Q&A

What the population of Kathmandu is?? What is the name of your hotel?? – Chris

One million people live in the city of Kathmandu and 1.7 million live in the District of Kathmandu. (For comparison, we have 105,000 in the city of Waterloo and 535,000 in the Region of Waterloo.)

What your favourite food is so far?! – Lex

Stay tuned for a whole post on food!

What type of culture do they celebrate? – Evangelia

Nepal’s culture is influenced by China and India, their neighbour countries. They celebrate lots of different holidays from the Hindu and Buddhist religions. One holiday that is happening while we are here is the Nepali New Year.

Do the buildings ever collapse while being built, because they’re made of bamboo? – Madelyn

I’m not sure but I don’t think I’d be brave enough to walk on the bamboo scaffolding!!

Do they speak a different language and, if so, what is it called? Celina and Brook

The official language in Kathmandu is Nepali, but there are nine common languages in the city. There are even more languages spoken in the mountains! Most Nepali people speak at least two languages.

Can you understand any of the language? – Anas

Alli alli. (That means a little!) We say namaste to greet people, and I know “donni-a-bud” is the way to say thank you. My favourite expression is “kay-garnay” which is like saying “what will be will be”. It’s similar to the Arabic word inshallah.

How hot is it there? – Quinn

At night it’s cool and you need a jacket, but during the say it’s HOT! I’m wearing lots of sunscreen and drinking lots of water everyday to stay safe in the hot weather.

-Ms. McDiarmid