Friday, July 27, 2007

Tibet...

Damn excited - that is best way to say it. After a week of double checking and just plain crazy chinese officials... I have it in my hand right now - my tibet VISA. It got confirmed at 6.30pm [2 hrs ago] ...

In true Chinese consulate style it got handed to me at the last minute and my departure was pre-ordained for 5am the next day. Which was absoutely crazy for planning - some crazy items I needed to get before the stores clothes:

Hiking books
- 5 Degree sleeping bag
Rain coat/Jacket - I love this jacket!
Clothes - I need winter clothes after the India summer???- hat, scarf, sweater, wolly socks
Phrasebook
Map
Food
And a whole lot of little gimmicks

Kathmandu is fantastic for finding those items fast and I got everything in less than 2 hrs while running around with my head cut off ...double/triple checking prices...

Unbelieveable I got everything for less than $100 Cdn...Now the trick is to make it all fit with my current partner - she can only carry 17 L

Unfortunately I had to sign up with a tour for 7 days to get across the border, but after that I have 3 weeks to roam around on my own. I don't know anyone who has spent 3 weeks + in Tibet solo and I am sooo excited to just wander around...

This is hopefully going to be part of my tech fast for a month?? - while avoiding land slides, scams, crazy corruption etc... I dont think some of the areas that I am going to have email or phone or even roads...sweet.

I have soo much to share about this trip and the potential but I have to wait until I get back...it's been in the sensitive planning stages for a while and some parts are still somewhat sensitive... so I will share more later...

Have the best month everyone and write me some emails, I have alot of work to do when I get back to Kathmandu, so it's good to have something crazy to come back to...

peace+
jam

--
http://www.freedomizeindia.com/
http://www.whereintheworldisjam.com/

Thursday, July 26, 2007

For the past couple days...

I have been checking out possible NGO's partners/hotels etc that I could hook up for a potential trip next year. The Toronto affiliate gave me a contact and after a quick meeting with last week we arranged to go check out some potential partners yesterday.
 
After my ridiculously early 7:00am Hindi class, I booted it down to the coffee shop to start the long day and she came wandering in with full nepali gear and a motorcycle helmet... I couldn't help but ask her...
"Are we going by motorcycle"
"Yes - it is a better way than taking public transit we have alot of things to see today..."
 
I didn't hesitate for a moment and jumped on the back of the motorcycle and we took off driving around the city. The city looks and feels different on a motorcycle and after 5 minutes I noticed that I was the ONLY guy on the back of a motorcycle driven by a women...probably it's a city thing...
 
The first NGO was fantastic and it's a very cool/unique long term sustainable plan to be involved in...the 2nd NGO was a bit out of the city and well the drive was AMAZING - we passed rice fields, small towns and went through a city called Bhaktapur.
 
The Big B was easily one of the most cleanliest and beautiful historic cities that I have seen in Asia. I kept asking my friend is disbelief "is this real" - "do people actually live here" - "are you sure this is a city" Unfortunately we were pressed for time and I only got a quick motorcycle drive-by..
 
We then proceeded uphill to a town called Nagarkot...which is a very touristy place for watching the Kathmandu valley, again it's amazingly beautiful and we went to tour a local school in the area. It's unfortunate that an area that is sooo over populated with tourist/hotels but has poor educational facilities for children - the government only gave the school enough funding for 5 teachers for over 200 students! This only provides the teacher's salary and there is no funds for equipment etc...
We talked for a bit with the principal and other teachers over chai about potential projects and I can't wait to see what my friend and I come up with in the future for a "sustainable educational trip"
 
This is going to be quite a challenge but I look forward to working with my friend/NGO and see what we come up with before I depart in Sept...
 
Leaving on Saturday for a couple weeks and then heading back to Kathmandu to check out and plan some more projects...
 
peace+
jam
 
 
 
 

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hindi Classes...

Class starts at the ridiculous hour of 8am.

My teacher is in his early 20's who's full of life, he hails from Darjeeling and speaks over 7 languages. He's here vacationing for the summer and taking some extra classes + learning more about Nepali culture since he was born here... He's been studying Hindi all of his life - taking every advance course in college he can take. He says that "Hindi is the most complicated language that he has every learnt - and after all these years he still can't figure it out"

Good choice of words to start the class.

well today I surprisingly found out that I know ALOT of Hindi at least over 100 words + ... The problem is that I can't put them into one full complete sentence. It's funny because I have that same problem in English.

peace+
jam

oh! It was a rainy day today so after class I sat down with some good italian pasta and just read a book "Touching the Void" it's impossible to put down and it's required reading for any human being...
I simple cried at the end.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What do backpackers do all day? + why travelling hurts...

So really what do backpackers do all day? Well - after 9 years of travelling I kinda upgraded myself from backpacker to traveller - I can't recall exactly when the transition happened but the past 5-6 years have spoke for itself.

So my this is what a day in Kathmandu looks like...it's kinda unlike me to share this much and for very long but for some reason I feel the need to share it.

the crazy 8am wakeup - i kinda need to find my bearings since I arrived late in the evening and I have no idea where in the world I am...

no breakfast - I am training my body right now for the past 2 weeks to eat less - to save money and to prepare for some of the really hard journeys ahead.. I have a handful of muesli and some water...it does the body good..

run out to find a better hotel - I stopped using guide books last year [except in team cases] because they group people together and it's all hippie safe shit - travelling is an adventure.

So instead I meet people on the road and ask them for advice on places to see and things to do - if I miss something or get ripped off - well that's life...

The area I am staying is the hippie/backpacker area and I don't like it - it doesn't really represent Kathmandu - so I went for a 2-3hr walk around everything and found this hotel right on the outskirts of the backpacker neighbourhood- so it's nice if I need to check email or get something different to eat. It cost $4 cdn a day + they network with local NGO's + it's a hub for like minded travellers and I have 2 [that's right 2! ] balconies and the list continues... - [more pics later] - it's a great space to think and write...

So I immediately put down money for a week.

After that I decided to buy a sweater so I look good to meet some NGO's - however my luck isn't great and I am not able to connect with any of the 1/2 dozen contacts here... so I decide to sign up for some Hindi classes - they speak alot of Hindi here because of Bollywood and the proximity to India. I am excited to finally learn it properly but the price of $5 cdn a day is way tooo much and I can only afford 6 classes...

I take a walk to Durbar square and have to admit I am impressed... I now know why everyone loves Kathmandu...the people are fantastic and watching the mixture of religion-modernization and devotion in one place blows my mind...


I sit down to soak it up and I take out my journal to write down some thoughts and I can't find a pen... I look to the left of me and see this amazingly beautiful women - her feet are dirty from travelling, she's dressed in traditional Indian clothing and you can tell that she's soaking the moment up...I can tell that she's not Indian.... people make that mistake with me all the time, so in this case it takes one to know one.


On top of that she has this peacefully inner beauty about her - like the world is her oyster.


All of this from a 4 second glance - that's what travelling does to ya...and I am immediately attracted to her presence which is soo rare for me...

I am tempted to say hello and then ask for a pen but can't sum up the courage...it's my "thorn in the flesh" as they say...

So with this I am deep in thought - and by the time I sum up the courage to even look at her again she's gone. I look down at the square and I see her moving against the flow...

I decide that life is too short and I should run after her - [why not? what do I have to lose? - that's good advice from my friend R.J.] by the time I get down and make a left - it's a sea of people and colour... and she's now where in sight.

This is why travelling hurts - you know yourself and the world always pushes your limits. You are always alone and facing your fears means getting hurt and having few people to talk to about it. Most of the time the world pushes you to learn tough lessons. Sometimes feel like I am 50...

If the world wants me to connect with her then I will - in the mean time I decide to go for a walk to take in more of the "air" and 2hrs later I am still walking and pass a shit load of markets, parks and some damn near cool buildings...the architecture merging is amazing, I wish I knew more... I decide to duck into every alley I see and keep walking until I get lost... I love getting lost...

Eventually I come out to this temple and see a bunch of old men playing chess. I stand beside them looking like a local and watch 'em for about an hr...the games are really intense and everyone looks really happy.
I love it.

Then all of a sudden the seats part ways, the eyes focus on me and I find myself sitting at the table playing a game, it's been a while since I have played chess and I am playing the oldest men of the group who's won the past three games...

My first move is terrrible...the 2nd one even worse and it just goes downhill - people start to leave and I here the word "practice" being yelled out...People are yelling at me to move pieces and I can't understand a single word that is being said...it's sad. I quickly decide that this game needs a bit of life so I decide to just confuse the hell out of the old man than trying to win...

A couple moves and the game gets really excited and more shouting incurs... I am actually putting up a tough fight - it's short lived and the game is over quickly.

I congratulate the man in perfect English and everyone is silent... then the normal questions start to come my way - "Where are you from?" "Why are you here" "Are you married" I realize after 30mins that they thought I was a Hindu/Nepali Brahman caste - it's an upper level caste and priest [which I didn't even know existed in Nepal - I thought this was a Hindu thingy...] so they were initially honoured that I watched/played with them - but later I showed no skill... My friend Dipar and I talk for about an hr about chess, life etc and then the I depart - not before getting exchanging addresses and a cup of tea... a couple days from now we have a rematch and I look forward to it...

I decide to walk back to Durbar square have lunch/dinner at the food stalls - hot dogs never tasted sooo good... on the way home I decided to take another route - I got lost for about an hr and bit, made my way to the phone booth to update my mate CDM on some travels and then I pass by the bakery for the 50% discount on breakfast/lunch goodies...

After I hit my hotel it's late but the New Zealander I meet on the bus - does tantric meditation and has has been living in Sikkim, India for over 8 years+ he says that "I should knock on his door anytime during the nite" - and well I am a curious man so I knock - but I here no answer, and so I head to bed.

So that's a typically day for me...it's fun and I really love being stretched and challenged....

I am here in Kathmandu for a week - preparing for the next phase of travelling - so I decided since I will be on email catching up on life, finishing reports etc - it's fun to take actually answer post and take questions. So the next 7 questions I get will gladly answer em' - no holds barr I promise...

you gotta love the long post and good computers...

peace+
jam

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Internet is slow....

So forgive me if I don't respond for a while... life has been very busy running around and such trying to meet contacts - plans change constantly on the go and it's been very crazy...
My phone doesn't work in Nepal and I have a phone date with several people this Friday to congratulate, catch up and get some advice...
 
speak to ya all soonish... 
 
 
BTW>> Fun times in Nepal: I have a meeting today with an NGO and I went for a quick shave at the barber to look pretty - he spent over 2 hrs giving me a shave and shaving my head. It was a work of art...he scrubbed my head sooo hard with a metal brush that I was in constant pain and then he took a lemon and squeezed it on my head - it hurt like hell...
 
Now my head feels soo clean that I refuse to wear my hat... 

Monday, July 16, 2007

Border Crossing - One simple rule...

NEVER EVER cross a rural border at nite - That's a major travel rule for myself.
 
Sine Morocco+ spanish hippies + border hitchhiking + drug dogs + army = sigh a very bad time :<
 
+ last year at the Thai/Cambodia border all the taxi drivers got together and suddently tripled the fare to the nearest town [they saw a jeep full of foreigners during low season]....and they refused to leave until we payed.... I think we all banded together and waited for 2 hrs for a reasonable rate...then I notice the sun was setting and I reminded people that we would be stuck here overnite unless we left now....
 
This time it was worse....Here is a short run down 24 style[I tried my best to guess the time]:
 
12.15pm: Left the semi-posh hotel for a 3 hr jeep ride to the Nepali border on a pre-booked ticket
 
1:00pm: Jeep is cancelled - it never made it back from the Nepali border this morning.
 
1:15pm: told - [more like shoved] to get on another 3 /12 hr jeep ride to Siliguri and then transfer to the border 1/2 hr - time is precious as the border closes at sunset...
 
3pm: Half way through the trip the jeep stalls on the road and we pull over...
 
3:45pm: Jeep is still in repair at the side of the road but with 2 more mechanics - driver has his shirt off and is under the car..I think the other 2 people are updating him on his stock porfolio...and singing him bollywood tunes
 
4:15pm : Jeep is moving...this time with bollywood music - then it suddenly breaks into Bryan Adams - cuts like a knife...our jeep is packed like sardines...
 
5:00pmish?: Ipods on and I fall asleep - and we pass the sikkim border they let us all through thinking everyone on boards are locals...I NEEDED an exit visa stamp...this is not good.
 
I am thinking police sirens and jail at some point...
 
5:30pm: Just found out we are close to the bus station for buses to Nepal. Unfortunately the last one left - 5 mins ago....however there is one jeep left and it can make it in 30 mins before the border closes...
 
5:35pm: I pretend that I am from Sril Lanka and mix a couple broken Hindi/Sinhala sentences with English [plus i threw in a couple arabic greetings for fun...] the taxi guy and I negotiate the whole jeep ride for 200RS - a damn bargain. I was sooo excited -- must try this often...
 
5:55pm: I learn to NEVER try to cheat the Indian man...  on our way to the border he started yelling out Nepal! Nepal! Nepal! and now the whole jeep is full! We even have people on the roof - plus in the little hindi I know he starts telling people that I paid 200RS for the front seat and people start laughing...I am literally biting my teeth not to swear...
 
6:10pm: Even Sri Lankans need an exit Visa for India - which is good...so I take my small bag out of the jeep - tell the driver to wait 5 minutes and run off to get it.
 
6:20pm: I get the exit Visa and run back to the jeep - it's gone...now I am stuck in the middle of nowhere it's dark and i need to cross the border...because my visa is stamped
 
6:27pm: Army officer spots a bicycle rickshaw [ I am not a big fan of em'] he tells them to take me to the border and I am half heartidly jump on...
 
6:30pm: The border is beautiful - the sunset, the clouds, the river and the beginning of the himalayans mountains.... I sit still and soak it up with the slow bike speed and couldn't ask for more...
 
6:33pm: The rickshaw gets to the end of the border and drops me off with another passenger. I realize that I don't have any small bills...the passenger pays for me. I am stunned - wow Nepali people are very generous! I take this as a sign to a good start of the nepail adventure...
 
6:33pm: The man grabs my bag and we both walk across the border - nobody stops us and we keep walking and talking...
 
6:35pm: All of a sudden we are in the middle of a town - and I am confused...
I ask my friend :
 
"Where are we?"
"Nepal"
"No my friend we are not in Nepal- we are at the border - where are we?"
"This is nepal"
"No"
Silence...
"But where is the border?"
"It is there" and he points to way back there...
"But why didn' they stop me for Visa?"
"Oh because you are Indian - Indian people don't need Visa"
"But I need Visa - I am not Indian I am foreigner"
"Oh... come let me take you to my friends hotel - you can get Visa later"
 
6:36pm: My stomach turns flips and I feel really sick, it's been sick for a while - but now I have to go the bathroom...damn this local drinking water...
 
6:36pm: We grab my bag and walk to the hotel...I run upstairs and head to the dirtiest toilet I have seen in months...
 
6:38pm: Sitting there not touching anything and trying my hardest not to breathe in any air...I contemplate it all - Do I need a Nepali Visa? It will cost me $30 US - I can save that money and leave right now... seriously what harm can come to me? ------ ohhhhh what happens when I leave the country? I need an exit visa - do I even want to risk it? What happens if I have to fly home for an emergency? Crazy thoughts come to mind and the Indian leader mood kick in...
 
6:4-pmish: Walk downstairs - breathing clean air slowly...
I gently tell my friend "I need Visa"
"You can get Visa tomorrow - it is late. The border is close now"
 
I look outside - it's dark the sun has completely set. I am screwed.
 
6:50pm: I grab my bag, quickly give my friend my email address [everybody wants it but nobody writes...sniff sniff] and head to the border to see if I can get this Visa.
 
6:52pm: I realize that nobody runs in this town. Everyone is staring at me and border pimps [they want sell you everything from hotel, bus rides and bad beer] are asking me if I need help...I tell em that I need a Nepali Visa...
"No No India people don't need Visa"
"Do you need hotel"
"I am foreigner I need Visa"
After a LONG repeated talk - they point me to a house at right side of the border - it has no signs, the doors are locked and only one light is on.
My pimp [I love that term...] starts yelling at the place in Nepali..
 
6:53pm: ....after a while the only light goes off...
 
6:54pm: Now I am nervous..I start yelling in a full Canadian/British accent..the one lights goes on...and a man yells for me to come inside.
 
My pimp walks me inside, it's completely dark - he waits until the an officer appears and then says "I wait outside - I give you good price on hotel"
 
6:57pm: The officer who is wearing his officer hat is dressed in a lungi and white shirt...he looks extremely upset..
"Why not come get Visa at border?"
"Sorry Mistake - I didn't get stopped at the border...everyone thought I was Indian"
"But you are not Indian"
"No I am Canadian...this is my exit Visa I left India today - 1/2hr ago..."
 
This man started to grab some big books and papers and we start filling out the forms
 
7:00pm: The one light goes out...power is gone from the whole town...I grab my phone and we fill out the rest of the forms with my phone light
 
7:15pm and $30US later: I have my Visa. I run out pass the pimp to the grab the last bus...too late it already left at 5pm...I was screwed even before I got here...
 
7:20pm: Stuck at the border town for the nite, tired, exhausted and hungry... I decided to suck it all up and take the walk back to find a different hotel.
 
I wouldn't bored you to death with the rest - and to make things short...
My hotel owner is super friendly - we spent 3 hrs talking about life, marriage and cool sights to see tomorrow around town... 
They have a german beer here called tuborg [one of my faves]...
I got a semi posh hotel with a tv, no free soap but it has a fan...
Unfortunately it has bed bugs and lice.
 
I love travelling and the adventure of it all --- one of my fave hero says it best...
 
"How much better has all this been than longing in too great comfort at home"
Robert Falcon Scott
Died South Pole Circle, 1912
 
Unfortunately and fortunately for me - this is peanuts compared to the journey that awaits for me over the next month.
 
loving it all
jam

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My journal...

- Journal @ Gange In Rishikesh - these moleskins rock. Everyone on my team has em and the crew who put them together did a good job...

I found a pretty decent computer here in Gangtok and after spending 7 hrs in front of it writing emails, working out budget shit and reports...i started the process of backing up my India pics before I leave India and head to Nepal. It's good to back up pics before leaving a country - last year I lost 6 months worth of podcasts, pics and most of my electrical devices when it got stolen in that crazy thai hotel.

I hope this work - with the random thunder storms the power randomly goes out and I had to start re-writing things over several times...its been fun.

oh yeah lisa and sue - I love those random "where in the world is jam questions?" I am leaving for Nepal tomorrow - actually been trying to leave for the past three days and I keep packing my bag in the morning, heading for a random walk or to check email and then I keep wandering around this amazing town.... man I really love it here...

So tomorrow at lunch I pre-booked a shared taxi to the border. Not going to see any more parts of Sikkim. I have to leave or I wouldn't...

Nepal is going to be damn exciting - will share more it of tomorrow when I finally get to email all the shit that I worked on today - wow I now have a computer hangover - I need a drink.

Friday, July 13, 2007

so now I know why the world likes CSI...

The team is gone - the work for the past 9 months is almost finished and so with that i decided to treat myself and move to a very semi -"posh" hotel for 2 nites > any hotel with free soap, star movies and an electrical outlet is posh for me.... but according to people in the west they would say my hotel has "character"

It's weird to be somely alone with my thoughts because I have been surrounded with people for the past 2 1/2 months...hyowever saying all that it's been good to think and breathe...

For the past two days - I watched ALOT of Tv and organized a crap load of paperwork for freedomizeindia [now that this season is closing I started to think of it's beginning and I really miss LTK - her post toronto life is CRAZILY fun...]

It's been cool to watch some tv shows that everyone talks about for the first time - like CSI, arrested development, scrubs and alias - TV is sooo fascinating - but I can only do short spurts before I get bored again...

Now I must wander around Gangtok looking for a good interent cafe to actually write up these reports...because this post so far took about 15 minutes to write because the computers/cafes are some of the worst I have used in India - but I will gladly make the trade any day of the week becasue the people here are super friendly, the mountains are intensely peacefully, the food fanatastic and the culture is amazing! This is easily my fave state in India - it's changed alot since my last visit 5 years ago and for the better.

I can talk ALOT OVER AND OVER about their new laws- no smoking in public places, banning plastic bags and spitting - huge fines for dumping garbage, daily evening road closures that turn into public pedesterian walkways and a tourist system that is less tolerant for those hippie backpackers...but I should save that for another post and a better keyboard...

wow what a random post...peace and love
jam

Sunday, July 08, 2007

In the mountains on the team debrief....

Internet is a little slow and so are my thoughts right now....its good to be in sub cold weather amongst the mountains and MAN I have a tv, hot water and three good meals a day!! I feel like a prince - a real prince.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Light emerges...



It seems that Light is emerging thru it all...I feel physically better - but, mentally it's another thing...problems emerge and converge daily...which have very little to do with my india life but they are overwhelming life problems.

School + funds + family + the fall = wah wah wah wah - I should add my tear drops to the flooded calcutta streets...

However some ridiculously cool things have happened in the couple days with the team. Community Dinners are AWESOME! We had one a couple nites ago and it rocked. We just invited everyone from every diverse background we knew to come join us for dinner and well people started to show up - One American volunteered showed and said "Sorry I was late - just came back from adoration, but look I brought a Polish navigator!" Man I love the diversity of Kolkata backpackers.

Then our Austrian hotel-neighbour pulled out his poi strings for the crowd, did and insane fire show and then it involved into a spontaneous crazy talent nite of jokes, African storytelling and singing {Rent included!}. I loved every minute of it.

Best part of the job is the behind the scenes planning - then sitting back and watching it evolve.

Just feel in awe and when it was all cleared away we ended the nite with worship.

peace+
jam