Finding Peace in Pokhara

Pokhara, the final destination of our trek and the second largest city in Nepal.  When we arrived, Gabe, Willem, and I searched for a place to stay in the Lakeside district.  The first two places that we came to informed us that they were full due to the street festival that was going on all week to countdown the New Year.  So we made our way further down the alleyways until we finally came to a hotel with one triple room available for 900 rupees a night.  Grabbing the room and setting our stuff down, we explored the street festival outside.  All of the local restaurants had set up tables outside on the sidewalks and different street performers lined the streets.

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The Pokhara Street Festival, filled with food and cultural performers.

With celebratory beers in order, we grabbed some Nepal Ice’s from a local convenience shop, (they’re almost the equivalent of a 40 oz bottle and are somewhere around 7% abv), and let the golden goodness refresh us as we walked down the street, eventually posting up in a nearby pavilion.  Next to the pavilion sat a stage which quickly filled up with local kids beating drums, crashing cymbals, and dancing around.  We watched the different acts for a while, downing another beer each, and explored the main street.  After two beers we had a surprisingly decent buzz going.  After not drinking (aside from a couple drinks twice on the trip) for three weeks, our alcohol tolerances had plummeted, making us cheap dates.

On New Year’s Eve we decided to grab dinner at a nice Chinese restaurant, eating way too much food.  All the rice in our stomachs seemed to soak up the whisky we were downing as we walked the streets along with the rest of Pokhara.  The streets were flooded with people, both Nepalese and tourists alike.  Around 11:45, we entered the Old Blues Bar, grabbed some beers, and listened to the live band play covers of English songs and a few Nepali favorites.  As the clock struck midnight, the band stopped for a second, shouted “Happy New Year!” to everyone in a toast, and resumed their playing.  There was no countdown or fireworks as the Western New Year is not celebrated as much in Nepal.  In fact, the current year in Nepal is based on a lunar calendar and is 56.7 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar.

Two days later, Willem departed to trek back to the local village near Besisahar where he was volunteering as a teacher for the primary school.  We were sad to see Willem go as we enjoyed his company immensely and wished him the best of luck in his future travels.

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Willem on the walk to Pokhara.

At this point we were scheduled to meet up with our friend Kate who was flying into Kathmandu on the 5th.  With time to kill, I decided to enroll in a reiki certification course at a place called Om Family.  Over the course of two days, I performed a series of meditations under the guidance of Swami Sagar, learning about reiki.  The night of the second day, I received my attunement, a process in which the reiki master opens up the energy channels of the recipient, allowing reiki to flow freely through the student (I’ll explain more about reiki in the next post).  In talking with Sagar, I mentioned that I was certified to teach Ashtanga yoga and he excitedly offered for me to stay at the Om Family, teaching the morning yoga classes in exchange for a room, two meals a day, and the chance to practice my reiki.  I enthusiastically accepted his offer after receiving assurance from Kate that she and her roommate Alex could survive in Kathmandu without us.

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Advertising for the yoga class.

For the next 7 days, Gabe and I lived at the Om Family and developed an incredibly strong relationship with the family there.  They really took us in as one of their own.  It wasn’t until a few days before we left that we learned that Patrikshya, Anita, Yuvi, Labin, Sagar, and Maya weren’t all related.  But they were doubtlessly a family, and we were honored to join their family.  Our days consisted of teaching yoga at 9 for about an hour and a half (Gabe taught at the Yeti Guest House down the street), eating a delicious organic breakfast of rotis coated in honey or marmalade, a salad of fresh sprouts from the garden, tea, and sometimes homemade curd with fruit and nuts.  My class consisted of anywhere from 3-8 students, including some regulars like Michael, an Aussie, who we actually met on the trek.  After breakfast, we joined Yuvi for an hour-long dancing meditation, dancing freely to some great Indian/Nepali music and then listening to discourses by the revered Osho.  In the afternoons I would practice giving and receiving reiki with a 60 year old German reiki master named Gelinda, who had just moved from Kathmandu to the quieter Pokhara.

One of the posters on the Om Family wall.  Its message couldn't be put any better.

One of the posters on the Om Family wall. Its message couldn’t be put any better.

One afternoon we decided to hike across the lake to the World Peace Stupa, a large pagoda situated on top of a large hill, providing excellent views of the lake, the mountains, and Pokhara.

The view from the World Peace Stupa.

The view from the World Peace Stupa.

We would play soccer with the 7 year old Labin, an energetic whirlwind with a constant smile on his face.  We tried to teach Patrikshya to ride a bike in the back lawn to mixed results.  Gabe would give massages to Anita while I practiced reiki, and Maya, Labin’s mother, would throw an 8 inch knife down to him from the third story.  He used this knife to cut open grapefruits and papayas growing in the backyard.  (I don’t think my mom would trust me with a knife that big even now, let alone toss it to me.)   The freshness of the grapefruits and papayas was amazing, providing the best afternoon snacks one could ask for.  Our dinners consisted of dal bhat (what else?) prepared by Anita and Patrikshya, which we devoured in the Nepali style, sans silverware.  After dinner we would hit up the Old Blues Bar, watching live soccer matches, talking with locals and tourists around the campfire, shooting pool, and listening to music.  A couple of times I hopped onto the house drum set and jammed along with some of the Nepali guitar and bass players, losing myself in the bliss that only playing music can provide.

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Hanging with our didi Patrikshya and our dhai Yuvi.

Living with these awesome people, we developed very strong relationships and were very reluctant to wish them farewell.  We had come to view Anita and Patrikshya as our didis (older sisters), Yuvi as our dhai (older brother) and Labin as our bhai (younger brother).  Wanting to show our deep gratitude to the family for all their love and support, we hit up the local bakery where we had our daily cake and brought some dessert to our last dinner.  Armed with slices of cheesecake, black forest cake, white forest cake, butterscotch cake, mocca cake, and chocolate mousse cake, we enjoyed one last meal.  With the promise of “Feri bhetaula Americama!” (See you in America!) we caught a bus to Kathmandu, bringing to a close one of the most peaceful and rewarding weeks in our lives.

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