MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM EGYPT!!! Today is Christmas day and we have had a wonderful time in Cairo, Egypt today. We hope that you have had an amazing day as well. We spent our day wandering around in the area known as “Old Cairo” and boy was it ever old! Many buildings were 1,000-2,000 years old. Old. Old. Old. Beautiful, frail, and quite charming also. The only bad part about it all is that it has to be here and not in a country that would understand the significance of these places and take care of them. We walked through a 1,000 + year old cemetery and were appalled by piles of litter around the tombs. We saw a church built over a crypt that supposedly housed the Holy Family (a young Jesus included) that was absolutely about to cave in on top of it. So sad. UNESCO, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN THEY NEED YOU? Not to detract from the amazing-ness of being in a place of such significance on this most significant day. It was a great time. We visited several churches including “The Hanging Church” and ”St. Sergius’ Church” before heading to The Coptic Museum to look at 1,500 year old artifacts illuminating the history of Christianity in Egypt. After all this, we SKYPED our families and best friends for Christmas, and had a nice Mexican/Egyptian/Lebanese dinner at the Hilton Hotel…It seems we couldn’t make-up our minds! Tomorrow we’re off to see the GREAT PYRAMID! Should be fun. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!
Jen and I recently watched a movie (to tell the truth, we’ve watched around 20 movies recently) in which the most distinctive line was a little girl saying “My wish was to have one perfect day and it is just ending”. This line came to mind last night as I was trying to get to sleep. It stayed until I awoke this morning and continues to permeate my soul as I write. You see, yesterday was my “perfect day”, and last night was the end of it. Let me explain: Since we arrived here in Pokhara, we have volunteered at a local orphanage called Rainbow Children’s Home. We found the place by accident. One day as we walked to breakfast we saw a sign pointing down a small side street and followed it to talk to Goma, the owner, who quickly encouraged us to volunteer a bit of time during our three weeks in Pokhara. The next day, we found ourselves helping with English homework, playing with amazing kids, and even helping cut vegetables. Rainbow Children’s Home (RCH) has been in service since 2006 and currently houses 19 children from ages 2 to 12. It is headed up by Goma and her husband Harry, two friendly, caring Nepali citizens who have been involved in social service for many years. The children come from throughout Nepal. Some were orphaned because of parents who died or are considered mentally incapable of caring for them. Others have lost family as a result of past political and military conflicts in Nepal. Still others were simply abandoned out of convenience.
This is the case with our little boy, Sagar. I say “our little boy” because we have decided to sponsor him by providing money for him to attend private school, get new clothes, eat substantial meals, and have any other needs met. Yes, before anyone points it out, we are currently homeless, jobless, and generally considered lunatics ourselves by everyone back home in Mississippi. But, and I must make this a strong “but” by repeating myself: but the children here NEED help and Sagar has grabbed our hearts more each day over these past couple weeks. You see, we will return to the USA and find jobs that pay more in a week than most Nepali’s make in a far greater time. No, money isn’t everything, but it sure does help. Not to mention the various other benefits we enjoy such as clean streets and homes, varied food choices, quality education, Christian influence, a government that at least cares for its people, and a lack of powerful fanatic groups that go about murdering people. Yes, we are lucky in the USA, even blessed.
—To find out how you can help, click on “Help Them” on the right and go to their website.
Anyway, back to “one perfect day”. We decided to take Sagar out for the day to celebrate our new sponsorship and to give him what we hoped would be an amazing, splendiferous day! We arrived at RCH at 8:30 a.m. and Sagar was ready to go. Well, except for the shoes. He was barefoot and searching for shoes to wear. We finally determined that he had only sandals and his dress “school shoes”. “What?!?” I thought. “A little boy with no tennis shoes? To steal from another movie (in which Mel Gibson wore a rather ill-fitting skirt), “This, we shall have to remedy”. Slipping on his sandals, we were off to paint the town. “The world is our oyster” I said to Monkey (Sagar’s nickname) as we walked up the street. “What first?” We headed towards our favorite restaurant “The Asian Teahouse” for breakfast and stopped off at the internet café first. You should have seen Monkey’s face when we fired up SKYPE and video-called our parents! He sat staring at his face on the screen, then touched the faces of our parents. He typed his ABC’s and numbers on the keyboard, blew kisses to the camera, and spoke to everyone through the microphone. It was great! He seemed so amazed and excited! So was I.
Our next stop was for breakfast at The Asian Teahouse. He had apple juice (which he drank with the delight that one would expect to see from Moses during all those years in the desert), a pancake dipped in honey, some of my egg and potatoes, and some of Jen’s bread. It was a magnificent breakfast! It was Sunday, so our next stop was church, of course. We attended Zion English Fellowship for about 30 minutes. We made it through the song service (which was tailored to Monkey with songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and “Silent Night”) and a bit of praying and preaching before he started getting a bit restless. One of the other church members gave him a small New Testament Bible in the Nepali language. Probably, well definitely, his first experience in a Christian church.
Our day continued with a stop at the movie store to rent “The Lion King”, the grocery store to get a Mars bar, and a local shop that personalizes t-shirts. Then we were back at the room watching the movie. He loved it! To tell the truth, we loved it too! Gotta love that silly Timon and Pumba, ya know? Anyway, after the movie we headed to lunch. Nepali lunch generally consists of dhal bhaad. Dhal bhaad is a mixture of curried vegetables and white rice. It’s good, but might get old if eaten everyday for years. So, we decided to try something different: PIZZA! Every little kids favorite food, right? Monkey loved it! He ate more than Jen and I, and then had three HUMONGOUS scoops of ice cream! Chocolate blast, chocolate chip, and strawberry. Good thing we’d have a busy day so some of that energy could wear off. Lunch was followed by a short taxi ride into the less touristy part of Pokhara for some shopping. First priority was tennis shoes. We quickly found some that he liked and since he wanted them on then, he got socks too. Next, we found a soccer ball and a toy police car, followed by a bag of candy for Monkey to share with the other kids at RCH. He grudgingly agreed to the last part.
A short taxi ride later landed us at the lake where we took photos, looked at the beautiful surrounding mountains, and took a short boat ride. He seemed to be having an amazing time! So were we! After our boat ride, we kicked the soccer ball (which, being a soccer guy myself, left me supremely happy as I noticed that he passed and trapped with definite skill). We then took some more photos and were off to eat leftover pizza for dinner. He had 7 slices! Did I mention that he is only 5 years old? Anyway, that left one for me and one for Jen. Oh well. I ran down to the shop to get his shirt which now had a large monkey stitched on the front and on the back read “JEN AND CRAIG LOVE ME!” He was so happy and excited to get the gift!
With the day drawing to a close, we left the room and went to look at Christmas trees and lights which I am happy to say amazed Monkey and gave good opportunity to explain the significance of Christmas. Then we were back at RCH and our “one perfect day” was over. No, this could not be considered our only “perfect day”, as we remember a little day a few years ago that we like to call “Day 1″. It was December 17th, 2005. Our wedding day. That being said, this “one perfect day” was about Monkey and about this trip and about life. It was the best day we’ve had on this trip and we hope the best day he has had. The three of us will hopefully have this day in our hearts for as long as we live. Did I mention that it was really great day?
The family at our favorite restaurant (The Asian Teahouse) here in Pokhara needs our help! We found the restaurant on our first day here in Pokhara. It is a small, one table restaurant down an alleyway that serves delicious $0.50 meals. The other restaurants on the main strip cost 5 times that amount for the same thing! We’ve come back at least once, sometimes twice, a day for the past 12 days. The reasons we keep coming back are more than just because of the cheap and great food (though it is amazingly cheap and oh…so…delicious). Each time we sit down for a meal, we feel a part of the family. The dad sits and practices his English with us. We discuss life, love, politics, healthcare, family, and a multitude of other things. He even gives us recipes to their best foods! We play with the children as they are always sitting at the table doing homework in the evenings. It’s an amazing find in this place where we know no one and miss our family dearly.
They are a family of 5: A mom, dad, 2 beautiful little girls, and a 14-year old son. The dad was released from the hospital yesterday to come home and help in the restaurant. During his stay in the hospital, his wife stayed to tend the restaurant alone since it is their only income source. She worked there alone from 5am until 10pm as the family has for a long time. One of the little girls missed her birthday during her dad’s stay in the hospital. Now the family has no money to get her a cake, a TWIX, or anything. The dad, Shiva, seems to have the same ailment that Jen had last year when she had to have surgery on her left ear. He will have to have surgery on both ears within the next 6 months. Last night he found comfort in knowing that Jen had been through the same thing. He sat at the table with us throughout our dinner and asked questions concerning the surgery that he will have soon (January 13th or 14th), the medications that his doctors prescribed (as we had informed him that Jen worked in healthcare), and about recovery time and when he could return to work at the restaurant. He is attending the teaching hospital here in Pokhara, which, by all accounts is the best around. In order to have the surgery by an experienced ear surgeon, it would cost too much for the family to afford. So, he is putting off the surgery until January at which time he can participate in student final examinations. A student will complete his surgery as part of their final grade for 1/2 price. This is still a massive amount for a family that scrapes by here in Nepal. Jen, having had this surgery, can only imagine (in absolute horror) how scary it must be to know that one can only have a necessary surgery if performed by a student in a third-world country…And that you have to do it twice! Because of this, we feel led to do something to help.
The good news is that healthcare is relatively inexpensive by Western standards here in Nepal. The surgeries that Shiva has to have will cost around 12,000 rupees. Currently, $1 USD = 75 rupees. This makes the total cost of both surgeries $160.00 USD. The cost of his hospital stay over the past five days is around 5000 rupees or $67.00 USD. We are on a mission to help with these expenses, if not totally cover them. This family has given us so much already: A taste of home when we really needed it 5 months into our trip, warm conversations on an otherwise cool night, laughter when the children have done funny things, great food at prices that have spared us our usual budget worries while here in Pokhara, and special soup to make Jen feel better when dealing with a bout of the “yuk, I feel awful’s”. So, after all that, here’s what we are asking of you, our friends, family, and faithful readers: Help us, help them. Give this family a Christmas gift that means more than any tube-socks or Polo shirts that we can give one another. We realize that money is tight around Christmas time, but we ask for a small amount to us in the Western world that is a HUGE amount to people here. We would love for you, the reader, to send us the whole amount, but realistically what we ask is $5, $10, or any amount that you see fit. You can rest easy knowing that this Christmas you really did something worthwhile, and this family can have an amazing one knowing that Shiva will be okay. Here’s how to help:
1. Decide that you want to help someone this Christmas.
2. Click on the DONATE Paypal link on the right side of the screen.
3. Enter a donation amount and press “Update Total”.
4. Fill-in your credit or debit-card information and press “Review Donation and Continue”.
5. Follow onscreen instructions from there.
6. Give yourself a pat on the back and go off to do more good deeds this Christmas season.
THANK YOU in advance for your time, consideration, and donation. And for being a reader, of course!
So, we’ve found a wonderful orphanage in which to work while here in Pokhara. The only catch is: these places all seem to be the same. They all seem to want you to pay them in order to work for them! In all of our research before we left on this trip, we found hundreds of websites that asked for an “administrative fee” in order to place people in a volunteer position at this or that organization. “Why pay someone to work?” we thought as we scoured these sites. We decided to just show-up and take our chances on someone being willing to let us work for free. Well, we have found this on occasion, such as our teaching experience in Fiji, but this has generally not been easy to do. It seems that no one wants our skills, our ability to encourage and brighten a childs day, or even our hard labor. They just want our United States American Currency! Which is what we are currently lacking, since all of our money is spent ahead of time on all of the places that we will travel. What we have is time! No one seems to want that though. Our white Western faces have turned into a burden in this respect.
The people in the poorest, most needy places that we have ever seen have generally been spoiled and stricken by a little disease we like to call “whitey fever”. “Whitey fever” comes upon the diseased in the following manner: First, their eyes become large and their palms start to sweat. Second, they get the ants in your pants, can’t hardly stand still, itchin’ in their feet so that they are compelled to run/stumble towards us. Third, they begin to blabber out anything that comes to mind that always includes the words “buy”, “this”, and “hello, where are you from?”. It seems that “Whitey fever” also affects administrators at orhanages. Today, to our dismay, the administrator of our orphanage announced that we needed to fill out some paperwork…Da Da Dummmm…As we filled out the papers, she began to tell us that the usual volunteer fees required are $110 USD per person, per week. “I COULD LIVE LIKE A KING IN NEPAL ON $110 USD/WEEK” I thought. Then she told us that we did not have to give it all in USD. We could buy groceries or gifts for the children…Whatever happened to just being able to do some work for which they would otherwise have to pay someone?
The point of this rambling discourse is this: If you own/run an orphange or charity, please don’t charge people for working for you. You should be ashamed of yourselves! Free labor should be just that…FREE! Just be glad that people care enough to come. There are plenty of people who are not willing or able to come and work in person…Hit them up for cash. Ask volunteers if they have any skills such as, um I don’t know, maybe FUNDRAISING!!! I’m sure they would love to help organize something to help raise money. Hey, we may even come up with something while here to help our place. It’ll sure beat paying to work…
Hello again faithful (and not-so-faithful) readers! We have made it to Nepal! Land of the Himalayan mountains, cheap cheap food and hotels, and sadly, Buddha’s EVERYWHERE! We have thus far visited Kathmandu, the capital, which we found to be an amazing (sometimes sickening) concoction of blaring Indian music, littered and busy streets, and warm welcoming people. Our first impression of Kathmandu came as we drove away from the airport and were instantly choked by the various chemicals that appear to be trapped in the air there. We drove past cows grazing on litter piled high enough to cover a great dane, markets overflowing with knock-off North Face, and buildings that have needed a good scrubbing for the past 100-or-so years. We found respite though with a nice Couchsurfing host who took us in and helped us through the first days.
Next, we decided to go hike the trail to Everest Base Camp, and hike we did! The gear we hired in Kathmandu was perfect, it kept us relatively warm during the cold days and nights. The people we found along the trail (Sherpa families mostly) were equally warm and inviting. The only problem was that our useless southern bodies would have none of the elevation (we started out at well over 9,000 feet, a higher altitude than we had encountered before) or the continuous cold (high temperatures of around 34 degrees fahrenheit and lows in the teens)…We subsequently became rather ill (I felt more ill than I have ever felt, actually) and had to turn and make our way back down the mountain. Ah, the elusive Everest beat us before we even got half-way! We saw her though. Everest, I mean. For some reason I picture Everest as a stubborn woman…We climbed to the viewpoint in Namche Bazaar, a small trailtown at around 11,500 feet, and gazed upon her peak. Not bad for such an Amazon woman, was she. Beautiful! We stayed a short time (since it was freezing!), then headed back down to a safer elevation. One last scare (the Lukla runway that we had to take-off from to get back to Kathmandu was like a roller-coaster, ALL DOWNHILL!) and we were back in Kathmandu.
Now we are in Pokhara, Nepal. We plan to stay here for about 18 days and to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary here before flying out to United Arab Emirates on the 19th. It’s a small town beside a lake with views of the mountains surrounding it. Ni