Joni and I are enjoying some time away from Kathmandu, traveling to Pokhara during the Dashain Holiday. While Dashain is a Hindu, not Buddhist holiday, our school is closed for a couple weeks. It seems that everything in Nepal is on the Dashain schedule during these 2 weeks. It feels a little like Christmas Holidays with people going home to be with family and friends, buying special gifts and giving thanks for what they have.
When we return, we will begin a new term. While we have only just begun our work, it is great to have time to experience another aspect of Nepal. There are many similarities between Pokhara and Kathmandu, but we are enjoying some stark differences. Most striking is that the traffic is 100 times more tolerable. Pokhara doesn’t have the jams and break neck passing and weaving that is constant in Kathmandu. The result is that I feel safe to walk down a side walk (they actually have sidewalks) and cross the street without taking my life in my own hands. The side street that we are staying on is even more relaxed – so much so that Joni and stroll down the middle of the street on occasion. One of the things that helps the pace and consistency of traffic is that the streets aren’t filled with potholes (and outright pits) so cars don’t have to navigate around things. I must admit that we are staying in a particularly touristy area of Pokhara (in the Lakeside area) so I can’t attest to the pace in other areas of Pokhara. Pokhara is definitely a large and busy city (Nepal’s second largest). It’s size was made real to us this morning when we climbed above the city to enjoy the Peace Pagoda.
It is hard to believe that we have been in Nepal almost 6 weeks now and “on the road” from Colorado for 2 months. In this time we’ve experienced an incredible amount of diversity and variation; people, language, landscape, accommodations, climate to name a few. There’s been variation from our routines in Colorado and an added level of variation between the places we visited since. There has been so much diversity that last night we both commented about how dreamlike this experience feels. You may have heard the expression “dream travel” or the “dream vacation”. I don’t think this is what those expressions are meant to convey but they certainly are apt for our current experience. Travel has put us in a state of mind that is akin to dreaming.
Traveling in our own culture, moving from place to place, meeting new people, negotiating unusual situations and environments can bring on this state of mind. Traveling in Europe increases another level. But when we were in England we had our language (most of it) in common with the people around us. The organization of services were also fairly familiar. While life there was a little surreal, traveling in Asia takes us to an even more ephemeral level.
Dreaming in sleep takes us into a realm where scenes changes rapidly and unexpectedly. Unless you are a skilled “lucid dreamer” you have no control over the experience. At the mercy of the stream of consciousness and the manifestations that appear, our emotions are on a roller coaster. While there are obvious differences between sleep and my “travel dream”, the extent and pace of novelty during travel significantly stretches my sense of reality. For example… In a matter of 72 hours I have been transported across Kathmandu by a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, passed through an area of town that I’ve never seen, stood in front of the Tribhuvan Airport drinking coffee while watching and listening to travelers from around the world, squeezed through airport security (that wasn’t all that secure), figured out how to negotiate my baggage and secure a seat on my plane, squeezed through another airport security portal (a little more secure), sat in a waiting room that felt more like a bus station than an airport boarding area, rode a bus across the tarmac to my flight, flew past the Himalayas and into Pokhara, found my hotel taxi driver (who thankfully had Joni’s name on a piece of cardboard), settled into new sleeping quarters, and negotiated my way around a new town to eat, shop, and visit local attractions (I’ll spare you some details).
In the lobby of our hotel where I am writing, there are 5 clocks showing the time in Germany, England, US, China and Nepal. It is 1:47 here in Pokhara. 11:20 in the US (must be Eastern Standard Time). In Colorado it is 2:00 am. Given that it’s the middle of the night in Glenwood Springs, perhaps I am just dreaming 🙂
Click on the link to view the Pokhara Album in Google Photos: