These are my stories as a volunteer member of the Sheriff's Search & Rescue team in Coconino County, Arizona. I'll share what it's like to go from a beginner with a lot to learn to an experienced and, hopefully, valuable member of the team, as well as the missions, trainings, and other activities along the way.
About Coconino County
About Coconino County
Encompassing 18,661 square miles, Coconino County, Arizona, is the second largest county in the U.S. but one of the least populated. Our county includes Grand Canyon National Park, the Navajo, Havasupai, Hualapai and Hopi Indian Reservations, and the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the world. Elevations range from 2,000 feet above sea level along the Colorado River to 12,633 feet at the summit of Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff.
May 7, 2010
Namaste From Nepal
I hope to soon get caught up to the present, but, for now, here's what I wrote yesterday (which seems like ages ago) but was unable to send until now....
Sylvia, a solo traveler from Switzerland, gave me good advice yesterday. About Nepal she said, "Expect nothing ... except that things will work out." I realized in less than 24 hours that those are words I will need to live by for the next three months.
Yesterday--it was like living 10 days inside of one. And now it's 2:15am on the next. What will this day of certain surprises bring? The basic plan is that it will take me from Kathmandu to Pokhara, and Sylvia, thankfully, is going there as well. I'm glad to have such a confident travel companion, one who knows I'm unsure of myself and is gracious enough to help.
When I wondered aloud how we'd get a paper ticket--little appears to be done electronically here, and Yolanda arranged for our travel by phone with "an agency"--Sylvia patted me on the arm and said not to worry, it would, of course, work out. I paid Yolanda (cash only, no credit cards accepted) for the ticket but received nothing in return as one would expect in the U.S., where we'd get at least a confirmation email or receipt.
At 8:30am, give or take some Nepal time, which could be a while, Karna and his friend and cyber cafe partner, Dikpal, will return to the guest house to walk with me and Sylvia to the airport. They know a short cut, they told me.
But that's still hours away, so back to yesterday....
Like tonight, I couldn't sleep for long after I was dropped off in the middle of the night, showered and rearranged my belongings. I was awake, listening to dogs bark at 2am and again at 4:30. Soon afterward, the sky began to lighten and a nearby rooster to crow, so I climbed out my window onto the veranda and watched my surroundings materialize and people begin to stir as the morning progressed. A man in a nearby open window began tap-tap-tapping, and the tapping continued for hours. What he was working on, I will never know. Children played with a puppy in an adjacent courtyard, while their mother (I assume) was busy sweeping around them. A motorbike zipped by in the alley. Later, a man carrying a large load of newspapers announced his presence--or perhaps the headlines--as he passed outside the hotel gate.
At 6am, I ventured downstairs. The guest house was quiet, but I found three staff members--two brightly clothed women, one in vibrant blue, the other in fuscia, and an orange-shirted man--sweeping and tidying in the courtyard. I sat at a table, just watching them and two resident dogs, until Yolanda appeared and sat down with me.
"How do you know Ingo?" I asked her. And she explained, "A friend introduced us. I was looking for property in a remote area, and Ingo is trying to sell the resort at Shyauli Bazaar. So I went there in January. It is a beautiful place--you will love it--but it is too big for me alone. Maybe if I had partners. I believe Ingo told me about you then."
Yolanda went on to explain a bit about the Maoist rebels (I'm really trying to understand what is happening here in Nepal) and the current strike, now five days old. For those 5 days and who knows how many more, businesses have been forcibly closed and driving forbidden, with the exception of ambulances, the police, and some leniency for foreigners, of which there are relatively few right now in the city. People can't earn a living with this going on. ATMs are running out of money and people are running out of food. Schools have been shut down for weeks, well before the general strike began.
"Why do they comply?" I wanted to know. And the answer: because they risk certain punishment if they don't. As I also read in the newspaper, the Maoists will vandalize the shops and beat the shopkeepers who ignore the "rules" of the general strike. Same for those who defy the ban on driving.
Later, as I walked with Karna and Dikpal to their cyber cafe, I asked them how everyone knows these rules (and there are others). "They are announced," Dikpal replied. His spoken English is quite good,
easier for me to understand than Karna's. "They tell it on the streets, in the paper and on the news."
"There is more electricity right now, " he added, "because businesses and factories are closed, so it's not shut down as much."
"It must be difficult to run a cyber cafe," I said, "when the power is shut off for hours twice a day."
Karna agreed. "Oh, yes. Very difficult. It makes it hard to pay the rent." He meant both the rent on the shop--about 1000 rupees per month, which is equivalent to approximately US $150--and rent on the nearby 10x10-foot room he shares with several other young men.
I later saw that room when Karna and Dikpal invited me up for tea. (And I must say, I've never had tea as tasty as the Masala I've had in Nepal.) When we arrived, I followed their example and took off my shoes before entering. My trail runners looked out of place among the pairs of flip-flops ... and quite a bit larger. I noticed the big window was covered with cloth, but there was no glass. Inside, I found others seated on the two single beds, watching the news on a small TV. A girl and boy got up, and Karna motioned for me to sit in their place. I felt odd about them giving up their spots for me as they left the room.
The reporter was speaking Nepali, but I didn't need to understand the language to understand what I was seeing. It was amazing what had been going on in the city just a short time before, some of it right outside the cyber cafe while I was tucked inside. The storefront was closed, but we'd entered through a side door from an unlit hallway. From inside the small, dim space, where I found several computer cubicles but nothing that resembled a "cafe" as I know the term, I occasionally heard commotion out on the street--sirens and shouting and chanting. Karna and Dikpal would go out to look.
"Come see," they urged, but I shook my head and continued looking through my email, which was comforting. It was my connection to what I was familiar with.
While I waited for my video to upload--slow, slow going in Nepal--I asked the boys .... well, they're 24 and 26 years of age, so despite their much younger appearances, I should call them men ... I asked them about how they came to know Ingo.
Karna did some of the explaining, but, thankfully, Dikpal helped me understand what he said. (I think he'd realized I was having trouble making out Karna's words.)
"We are grateful to Ingo and respect him very much. If it were not for him, we would not have this education. Maybe 2nd year only. Ingo found us in our village not too far from Shyauli Bazaar and brought us to his school. It was wonderful there."
I wanted to ask the young men more details about their lives before Ingo came into them, but I admit I was shy about what felt to me like prying. I'll have to get over that, I suppose, if I'm to write the book that is the main purpose of my time here.
"When the Maoists came, when we were young boys," Dikpal explained, "we had to hide in the jungle, so they wouldn't take us."
I asked if the Maoists still do that--force children 12 and over to join them ... or else--but Karna said no, not since the end of the war.
After a few hours, I gave up my cyber-connection to the world at large and, despite their offer of free service, I paid Karna and Dikpal the going rate for their internet and a bit extra for their help, coming to get me from the airport and today from the hotel and walking with me through the city. We talked some about how far foreign currency goes here in Nepal, and I told them the equivalent in rupees how much we'd pay for certain things in the U.S. Of course, things are at least somewhat relative to income levels, but Karna and Dikpal looked quite surprised.
Karna and Dikpal wanted to take me to Boudha Stupa, a nearby Buddhist temple. Dikpal explained that he and Karna are a combination of Hindu and Buddhist (if I understood him correctly) and pointed out a Hindu god portrayed at the temple. We couldn't go inside, but large numbers of people walk clockwise around the outside as a form of religious observance (I'll have to find out more about that practice) and some lie on the ground--"prostrate themselves," Dikpal said--especially in the morning and evening. Amongst the many awkward things I said throughout the day, I replied, "I guess people have to be careful not to step on them." Karna and Dikpal laughed.
We walked in the rain for a bit, then spent a couple of hours at Karna's room. While I was there, a taller young man came in, and I recognized him from Debra Kaufman's documentary, "A School of Their Own," about the Riverside School whee Karna and Dikpal also grew up. I'll have to find out his name, but I was shy to talk to him, and he seemed not to notice me. He was quiet, intent on watching the news of the strike. He smiled only when a little girl came in and danced in what little floorspace there was. Maybe I'll have the chance and courage to speak to him when I return to Kathmandu at the end of the trip.
Why does asking so many questions feel strange to me? How do I draw people out and encourage them to tell me details about their lives--lives SO much different and difficult than my own. Will they feel like I'm judging? What questions should I not ask? What's too personal? If they know I'm writing a book, will they be reluctant to share things with me? Will they tell me the bad with the good? And how do I get used to the idea of exposing people's lives like that? Yes, I have much to learn and get used to.
At 6pm, Karna and Dikpal deposited me back at Yolanda's guest house, seeming unsure about being there and hanging back when I went inside the building. After speaking with Yolanda and learning the few details about the flight to Pokhara, I made arrangements to meet the young men in the morning. They laughed when I suggested a time--far too early and too much in advance of the flight, I'm sure they were thinking--but agreed with a smile to come fetch me and Sylvia too.
Well, I suppose I should try to sleep again for a while. I'm anxious for the sun to come up and can't wait for breakfast. I realized too late yesterday that I'd not eaten anything but a little Nepali snack of dried rice and some kind of bland but appealing, crunchy , flour-based thing (thanks to Karna) since breakfast yesterday. Amazing how you can completely forget your hunger for a while when your other senses are close to being overwhelmed.
Here's a video I made when I got up my first morning in Kathmandu and went out onto the veranda. I uploaded this at Karna and Dikpal's cyber cafe, where the connection was pretty decent. If you can't view it here, visit YouTube.
So awesome! Your words and the video give a great impression. I love the painted colors and those of the nasturtiums... and the sound of the rooster.... how quiet it is! I am virtually travelling with you to a place I want to go... Please keep sharin
I can´t wait to read all your experiences! I feel as if I was there, too.
Maybe I can manage to come there in August but it´s not sure so far.
Have a good time in Nepal!
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