Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Finally some news to report: we're going to Korea!
Either today or tomorrow, we'll know in just a few hours - which means we have some frantic scurrying and packing to do!
It's been a topsy-turvy week: Monday we filed for work visas with the Korean embassy here. Tuesday we "found out" - we already knew, that they needed some original paperwork. Wednesday the recruiter, embassy, and Korean Immigration talked things out - apparently the embassy has jurisdiction so no paper no work visa. That means we had to go pick up our passports, sans visa, leaving us sans $120. Now we're going to fly to Korea, enter on a tourist visa, and then go to Japan Monday and Tuesday next week to switch over to our work visas. It's 10:30 am now, at noon we'll know when we're flying out, which will be at 3 pm. Hopefully today, that'd be sweet, though waiting until tomorrow means we can relax for at least a few more hours!
Hope all is well, next post will probably be from Korea! We're working on a comprehensive "best of our trip" list, well, several lists, so hopefully that will be posted sometime soon.
Gotta run

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The recent lack of posting has been due to lack of genuine content, so we hope you'll forgive us :-).

Things are progressing quite well on the job front, on Thursday we received our "pin numbers" from the Korean government, which means our paperwork has gone through and our work visas have been approved. So on Monday we have to go to the Korean consulate (which we finally managed to locate, Kathmandu's address system - by "tole" or square - combined with a lack of maps beyond the main tourist area of Thamel, makes things hard to accurately find), and give them the numbers, an application, and 8000 Nepali rupees. Which puts the total at 12,000 Rs for visas in the last week, including our (we hope final) renewal of our Nepali visas. Of course getting the Korean visa isn't going to be super easy, since we have to go tomorrow and deposit the money into their bank account - apparently, unlike every other consulate we've ever visited, they will not accept cash.
There's a bit of disagreement regarding if we need to have a piece of paperwork with us from Korea, but we've gotten some contact information for the immigration office in Pusan, so we hope that the Korean government's various branches can sort things out between themselves, to whatever degree that may be necessary.
Beyond that we are shopping, mostly for "teacher clothes," which is more fun than you can imagine for Liz while somewhat the opposite for Anderson - something about getting tailored trousers just seems inconsequential to men, while women dream of outfit coordination, accessorizing, etc. Must be a difference of philosophy...

Yesterday we had to renew our Nepali visas, which was pretty much painless to us, though our wallet sorely missed the 3810 rupees the government snatched from us, but by our calculations it will have cost us around 46 Rs/person/day to be here, which comes out to 60-some cents or so. We've definitely been having our daily $1.20 of fun.

Probably have much more to post on Monday evening, so until then enjoy the weekend.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Somewhat due to the Nepali festival Dashain, the biggest of the year, we've been laying low for the past few days. Most people are spending time with the families, so most shops and restaurants have been closed, some for ten days straight. Here's a BBC article about one controversy associated with the festival - animal slaughter, though it also talks about the festival in general quite a bit.
To keep our lives exciting, we went rafting yesterday on the Bhote Khosi river, which was pretty enjoyable. Billed as Class III/IV, it wasn't anything too intense, but definitely more whitewater than the Trisuli River. A few times wave walls hit us pretty hard, and we got stuck for a bit in a "hole" at the beginning of the trip. So we're, like, totally loving the rafting, dude, and feel foolish for not having taken more advantage of the opportunities available to do so in the States. The cost here in Nepal is about 1/4th of that in the US, so it is definitely cheaper here, and probably more beautiful as well in some ways, but this will hopefully be far from our last rafting adventure, though we will probably be taking the next year off :-).
And Kevin, we were definitely thinking of you when we weren't focused on paddling!
No new job news yet, hopefully things will start moving forwards early next week, when our "pin number" is released for our approved E-2 work visas. Then it's off to the Korean consul here in Kathmandu to sort everything else out. Should be fun...
We've found a cheap new local restaurant hidden behind an elaborate Nepali sign - haha - which is where we are headed now, our 2-meal/day plan works great except in the long hours right before dinner.
Hope all is well

Monday, October 15, 2007

We've returned from our weekend, which consisted of an unbelievable quantity of trance music. Don't get us wrong, we love our techno, but the party's system cranked out rather monotonous beats virtually 24/7. So we got to dance a lot, which fortunately was our primary intention, though the second night got pretty intensely rained out. The location was beautiful though, in the woods a few kilometers short of Nagerkot, and despite a general lack of flat ground we found (for our small rented tent) a semi-level patch down a slippery slope behind the stage, with a nice view through the hills into the Kathmandu Valley. That turned out to be the only view we really had, as clouds/haze denied us any chance of seeing Everest from Nagarkot , even in the painfully early morning.
The music was exclusively psychedelic trance, with the only exception being a Japanese DJ that played each morning at 10 am, so during his 2 hours of house/electro we danced our hardest. Also, apparently on this continent, when a party is advertised as Oct. 11/12/13, that means the music starts late in the day on the 11th - we arrived on the provided transportation around 5 pm - but ends by noon on the 13th. Though, honestly, 2 days of repetitive electronic music (which by its very nature is going to be mostly repetitive anyways), we were quite tired and sore from dancing. And our tent leaking on the 2nd night, soaking the majority of our clothes and blankets, really livened up the party. We had to sleep under a main tent area for a while until the rain stopped, before we could slog back down the muddy hill, dry our tent, and return to bed!
Anderson also magnetically attracted leeches, which was made more impressive by the fact that Liz avoided them entirely. While dancing on Thursday night, his sandal started getting rather sticky - much of his foot was covered in blood, from at least three leaking leech wounds! Rather hilarious, really, but when you're on leech ten or so in a day it starts to lose much of the appeal! Thankfully some of the Nepalis we'd been dancing with were very helpful, so locating the nearest water source wasn't too difficult.
There was some rather ridiculous dancing that we witnessed, "natives" trying a bit too hard to fit in... is techno dancing something that is ultimately culturally-specific? The crowd was, overall, international, although mostly consisting of Israelis. We were the sole Americans, but there were a variety of Europeans, and a large contingent of Nepalis. Mostly couples, except for the Nepalis which were, per the usual, large flocks of men. Its interesting how Western culture is not-so-gradually being adopted, but the subcontinent generally seems to struggle with escaping its traditional gender segregation. The result here is the Western women usually had some eager Nepalis dancing around them, though Anderson, in a truly hilarious moment, got what can only be described as "gay-grinded" by one dance enthusiast. We are still laughing... :-)
So overall it was a good time, food was cheap and tasty, sound system was quite solid, ultimately, weather aside, the lack of musical diversity was the biggest frustration. For food the fried buff momos were the best we've ever had, and the potato sticks, before a mid-party price increase, were also delicious. And fortunately the still-pounding psy-trance at 6 am couldn't faze our highly-effective ear-plugs!

Now we're back in Kathmandu, same same but same, our documents have arrived in Korea, so employment is moving forward gradually, still will be a few more weeks before we can depart, most likely. We are looking at going on a rafting trip, one-day, on the Bhote Khosi River, although currently the prices we've heard are all ridiculously high, so we shall see. At least our almost-nightly rooftop-yoga sessions, with kites flying high in the wind all around us, are free. Being cheap is still our primary goal, since we don't yet know our departure date, but we know of a variety of cheap restaurants (last night was "sekuwa" - meat/potato kebabs), drink boiled/filtered water for only 5 Rs/liter, eat half-price pastries (after 8/9 pm), and mostly engage in cheap activities (reading secondhand books, practicing Korean, walking aimlessly), so being frugal is practically second nature at this point.
Found a cool link for our nerdier readers (we know, that's all of ya'll :-), it allows you, in theory, to send free SMS text messages anywhere in North America. Hopefully it works...

More news when there is news,

Monday, October 08, 2007

Things are moving along on the job front, we've heard back from the recruiter, and with some assistance from Anderson's mother our documents will be on their way, via FedEx, to Pusan. We need to contact the Korean consulate here in Kathmandu again to determine visa timing and such, but the whole process will probably take at least a week, and probably two.
We will probably be going to this party this coming weekend... should be a good break from "boredom in the big city," looking for a job, etc.
An "annual black moon trance festival" sounds like a good time, and hopefully some of the DJs will be good. We'd actually postponed going to Nagerkot previously, so this will work out nicely, since the views of Everest (and its neighborhood mountain buddies) are supposed to be sublime. Plus, it has been WAY to long, since Prem Joshua in Vagatore, when we've been to a concert that was "danceable" - and that's giving Prem quite a bit of credit!


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Our cousin has just finished her first week of teaching English outside Bardia National Park. If you are interested in reading what she has to say, here's a link:

An Email From Reannon

If you want to contact her directly, or do anything to help out BBAS Memorial School, please let us know. We plan on establishing a website about the school, once we're in Korea, with photos and videos of the students, plus information about volunteer teaching and making direct donations to help out. We're going to call our project F.R.I.E.N.D. - catchy acronym, eh? - Funding Rural/Indigenous Education (in) Nepal Directly. The annual cost of education, at the best private-school in the area, costs around $50 US, for tuition, books, and testing.

Pretty much as soon as we arrive in Korea we'll be getting a Mac laptop, and developing this website will be one of our first projects, so be on the lookout soon for much more information very soon! We had a wonderful time teaching in Thakurdwara in April, and going back to visit in September was highly enjoyable, so we're very happy that Reannon is one-upping us and teaching for an entire month! We know that the children are very grateful, and that foreign teachers can genuinely make a large impact by donating their time, knowledge, and abilities.

That's that from K-Town, come correct
Nothing new to report, except that we've signed a contract for teaching in Korea :-)
We haven't heard back from the recruiter to confirm, since it's the weekend, but we've been offered a couple position, to use the correct lingo, that is exactly what we want.
Once this has been confirmed, you are all invited to our Employment Party here in Kathmandu!
In reality we will have to get E-2 work visas arranged, which involves a bit of effort coordinating our documents in the US with the recruiter in Korea while we're in Nepal, but hopefully that won't be too complicated.
Overland via Tibet is dually infeasible, financial reasons and time constraints have deemed it an impossibility, which leaves us in a quite jealous state of Iain & Claire, who are departing on a semi-delayed trip hopefully on Tuesday. The Chinese consulate has been closed for the last week, so no visas have been approved, so their Oct. 6 start date has been postponed. They will do a package tour to Lhasa, then travel by train to Shanghai, via Chengdu.
We may go to Chinese airports at least, there are 4 main flight options to Korea (direct, via Thailand, via India, or via China), but getting confirmed tickets is difficult since it is the high season right now, so we will take what we can get. Thankfully our employer will cover the flight cost, but coordinating it is primarily our responsibility.
Hopefully more news tomorrow, until then we plan on laying low, since we're in economic conservation mode until things are completely guaranteed. We want to go rafting again, and ideally at least one other activity as well, if we can afford it, before returning to the land of the employed. We've been managing to live quite cheaply, under $15/day total, which is spent on lodging, food, and internet. That means lots of reading, wandering, window-shopping, and relaxing between meals! Rough life...
More news when there is some,

Monday, October 01, 2007

Yesterday was fairly routine, though never dull, until we arrived in the Durbar Square in central Kathmandu, where the final night of the Indra Jatra festival was going on.
We'd missed the giant carts being pulled through the streets earlier in the day (though we waded through the packed streets in search of sustenance), but at around 10pm we joined the massive crowd waiting outside the home of the Kumari. The Kumari, a 10-year-old girl (or so) is believed to be a living goddess, so being able to see her is an extremely big deal. In one way the biggest dignitary there was the Prime Minister, since he had broken with tradition by going to see the Kumari, although the crowd certainly reacted much more strongly when the beleaguered Nepali King "became a commoner" to see the Kumari. Then everyone else is allowed, in cramped crazy queue fashion, to see her one-by-one, receiving her blessing in the traditional form of the tikka (wet colored powder placed on the forehead, symbolizing the awakening of one's third eye).
At times the revelry nearly turned to riot, as there was intense pushing by the crowd, surrounded by a heavy police presence. Machine-gun toting guards and the riot squad were both there, but all and all things were calm, with the main exception being that many a Maoist yelled at the king when he quickly emerged from the house of the Kumari, before escaping into a SUV. From our Western perspective it wasn't the most exciting event, but with only 51 days before Nepal is due to have a historic election, this might have been the last time the Nepali King sees the Kumari in his current political and religious role. Plus, our brief second of King-spotting was exciting, in that ridiculous sort of way, and the sekuwa (kebab) meat we had, though served over puffed rice, was quite delicious!
The job search is progressing, we have an interview with a school tomorrow, and more presumably on the way very soon, so hopefully we'll get to "have to" choose between a couple good options!