Archive for the ‘Nepal’ Category

Nepal Retreat (3)

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

The retreat itself was very good.  The location was beautiful and the vegetarian cuisine was outstanding.   We could have taken photos of every meal because the plates were so artistically arranged.  The first day we enjoyed the lovely hills and then the mountains appeared two of our five days.  What a view!

We stayed in small, simple cottages.  We had a toilet in ours but needed a 5 minute hike up and down the hill to get to the shower.  The photo we have of the inside of our cottage actually does not show the sleek lines of design because we brought one of the beds down from the loft so that one of us could be near the toilet- sick for more than a day.

We had sessions every morning with optional activities in the afternoon.  It was a very relaxful, laid-back retreat with lots of time just for visiting.  We learned to know the service workers and the SALT/YAMEN young people.  We met a couple who have been in Afghanistan but are moving to Bangladesh.  Even though few of you reading this will know anyone (other than us!), we have included a photo of the whole group.

At the end of Retreat we travelled back to Kathmandu (by bus) and spent the final night there.  We had a free morning before our flight and again had fun walking the streets.

Nepal Retreat (2)

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

One afternoon during Retreat several of us hiked to the Namo Buddha shrine and monastery.  Again beautiful scenery.

The story of the Namo Buddha: One day a prince was walking in the hills and came upon a starving tiger and her cubs. The tiger was so desperate she was about eat her cubs. Moved with compassion the prince offered his body to the tigers. That prince was later reincarnated as the Buddha.

This shrine is said to be where the prince made his sacrifice. It is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in Nepal.  Recognizing the extraordinary sacrifice the prince made, the nearby villagers buried his bones beneath the stupa at this shrine.

We attended a service at the monastery but were not allowed to take photos.  (This monastery is of the Tibetan tradition.)  There was much chanting and horn blowing.  Fascinating and moving.  The inside of the temple was very reminiscent of the ones we saw in Tibet with beautiful colors and streamers of Tibetan cloth.  The monastery is home to more than 250 monks and includes a monastic college, a school for young monks and a Tibetan Medical clinic.

The following is a description taken from the website:

In the center is the main temple building, which is six stories high with another added by the curved golden roof in the Indian style. Counting from the ground up, the principal temple hall is located on the fourth floor. It has thirty-six pillars, each of which enshrines a gilded bronze Buddha at the top. In the front of the hall are statues of the Seven Generations of Buddhas made in Bangkok. … Behind these seven, a Thousand Buddhas of the Fortunate Era fill the rows of alcoves. Fifteen mandalas from the great tantras adorn the ceiling. Hidden behind the main shrine is a special sanctuary, and outside in the front of the building is a wide veranda.

I “stole” a photo of the larger site since I was unable to get a good one.

Nepal Retreat (1)

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

The MCC service worker retreat for our area was held in Nepal at Namo Buddha Resort in Nepal about 41 km southeast of Kathmandu.  There were about 20 MCCers from Afghanistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, including Area Directors.  We first gathered in Kathmandu.  About 15 of us took a bus about ¾ of the way to the Resort and then hiked 9 ½ km to the resort.  It doesn’t sound very far but it took us about 2 ½ hours.  Some parts were fairly level but more than half of the way had very steep sections.  It was a great hike but tiring!  Most of these photos are from that hike.  Very interesting countryside, villages, and homesteads.

One afternoon an optional activity was to hike through several villages near the resort. There are a few photos from that hike.   But we realize that we didn’t photograph some of the most interesting experiences.  We came upon some women dressed in red and dancing in the street.  We learned that they were still celebrating a wedding – and seemed to have done a fair amount of drinking!  We stopped to see a small Hindu shrine and were able to talk (in English!) with a local resident.

Kathmandu (Pt 4)

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

We have mentioned in previous posts about our walks through the city.  We have really enjoyed exploring the winding streets and ordinary life.  These photos are some of our favorites from our walks.


Kathmandu (Pt 3)

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

We had one day out of the city as we climbed Champa Devi, height of 2278 metres (7473 feet).  It is named for the goddess Devi.  The path was mostly rocky and wound up and down several peaks.  It was a hard climb for us who have had no exercise for a year!  But it was a great day.  Again we could not see far because of the extreme pollution.  Our host said that in clear season you can see most of the Kathmandu Valley and to the foothills of Everest.  Our B & B host and daughter took us on the hike.

We want to conclude these blogs about Kathmandu with miscellaneous photos.  (There will be one more blog!)  Sally Jo celebrated her birthday and we had a dinner with some of the MCC people in the city.  They even provided a cake.  We stayed at a B & B for our 5 nights.  The grandmother is an excellent seamstress and the 14 year old daughter is a talented artist.

To be continued!

Kathmandu (Part 2)

Monday, February 20th, 2017

From the Thamel area (last post) we walked past the Kathmandu Durbar Square which was heavily damaged in the 2015 earthquake.  We could see that previously it was an impressive area.   (“Durbar” refers to a term used for the place where Indian Kings and other rulers held formal and informal meetings.  There are three main Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu area, all of which are World Heritage sites.  Kathmandu Durbar, Patan Durbar, and Bhaktapur Durbar)

Another day we walked to Patan Durbar Square.  Again fascinating scenes along the way and many religious sites.  Much of the architecture in Patan Square is from the 1600s but historians know that the place was a more ancient crossroad.  The city itself is a center of both Hinduism and Buddhism with 136 religious courtyards and 55 major temples—most within the Square.  Here we saw a lot of reconstruction from the earthquake.

We visited the architectural museum in part of the old palace.

A good museum is located in another part of the old palace and we spent time there also.

We visited the Golden Temple, a Buddhist temple from the 15th century not far from the Patan Square. It is a Newari Buddhist monastery.  (Newari are the original inhabitants of Kathmandu valley.)  The “gold” is mostly polished brass but is beautiful.  Two large lions guard the entrance and two large brass elephants guard the temple area.  There are small brass monkeys holding jackfruit as offerings as well as many other artifacts and the statue of Buddha and other gods.

To be continued!

Kathmandu (Part 1)

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

A new city, a new country.  Fascinating people, history, and scenery.  We are able to sample only a small part of Kathmandu and an even tinier fraction of the country of Nepal in our 12 days here.  We spent the first 5 days in the city on our own as tourists.  We visited many, many temples, walked miles and miles of winding busy and quiet streets, and saw lots of damage – and repairs — from the 2015 earthquake.

The first temple we saw was one of the largest and is a World Heritage Site — Swayambhunath Temple or commonly known as monkey temple because there are many monkeys living in parts of the temple.  We climbed the 365 steps to the top.  At the bottom of the steps is a brightly painted gate and a very large prayer wheel.  There are three painted Buddha statues from the 17th century at the beginning and part way up are three more Buddha statues from the 20th century.  Along the stairs are carvings and stones with Tibetan mantras.

The temple complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, a Tibetan monastery, museum and library.  The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on.  Wikipedia says this about some of the symbolism of the stupa:

The dome at the base represents the entire world. When a person awakes (represented by eyes of wisdom and compassion) from the bonds of the world, the person reaches the state of enlightenment. The thirteen pinnacles on the top symbolize [the feelings that humans have to go through] … of spiritual realizations to reach enlightenment ….

There is a large pair of eyes on each of the four sides of the main stupa which represent Wisdom and Compassion. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye. It is said that when Buddha preaches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye which act as messages to heavenly beings, so that those interested can come down to earth to listen to the Buddha.

The yellow paint that you see in the photo, represents petals of a lotus flower.  According to mythology, the valley was filled with water out of which grew lotus.   A gorge was cut to drain the water so that the land could be used for settlement.  The lotus was transformed into a hill, and the flower became the stupa.   (Science has found evidence that this valley was under water at one time.)  All in all it was a fascinating area.  Too bad that we could not see out from this hill.  We understand usually one can see mountains and the city of Kathmandu.  The dust pollution from dry season and construction has been particularly bad the last several months (so said our B&B host).

We walked from  Swayambhunath Temple to  the Thamel area along interesting and windy streets.  It seems that one cannot go more than 50 metres without seeing a temple, stupa, or other religious site.  We also recognized the great Tibetan influence.  We saw much that reminded us of our time in Lhasa in 2009.

We visited Kaathe Swyambhu ShreeGha Chaitya in the Thamel area.  This is a popular Tibetan pilgrimage site with the stupa a small copy of the great Sayambhunath complex we had just visited.  It has a busy courtyard.  To the side is a Tibetan monastery which has a lovely temple and a very large prayer bell.

To be continued!