Tag Archives: Nepal

check-in

7 Mar

When I originally started this blog a year and a half ago, it was ALL about accomplishing my goals. My obsession with it was actually verging on insane! I was NOT going to turn 30 without accomplishing all of them.

While it is still is a blog about setting goals and making them happen, it has also become a blog about everything that happens in between! All the lovely moments that make up my life.

The other day it dawned on me though…holy shit I am more than half-way through my 30th year?!!?!? WHAT!? Seriously? WHAT?! I’m going to be 31 in four months?!?! With this daunting realization I thought it would be a good time to check-in with myself on my progress with the goals for the year….

– Overseas trip (CHECK!)

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When I put overseas trip on my list I had no idea where we would end up traveling. I just knew I needed to get out of the states and go on an adventure with Brian. We settled on Hong Kong and Nepal and I am so grateful that we did because what an adventure we had!! If you haven’t read about our trip you can below!

Big news / the travel doctor / the toe  / Hong Kong 1 / Hong Kong 2 / Arriving in Nepal / Kathmandu / Patan / the monkey temple / Bhaktapur / trekking: the group / trekking: the water buffalo / trekking: the starry night.

more posts still to come…

– Volunteer as a big sister

I made a bit of progress with this right out of the gate, settling on the organization I wanted to work with and filling out the paperwork. Then the strangest thing happened…I did nothing after that. Life got in the way and I’ve had my application folded up in my date book ever since. But, the good news is I plan on sending it in this weekend once we finally set up our printer and fax! Fingers crossed that they think I am a suitable candidate to be a big sister.

– Artist dates (CHECK!) 

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I haven’t done as many of these as I would like but I have started them! You can read about them here, here and here

– New living space (CHECK! CHECK! CHECK!)

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As much as I loved our little bungalow by the beach I wanted to move on because I couldn’t stand sharing a miniature closet with Brian anymore. That and the kitchen drove me nuts- the oven didn’t work for most of the time I lived there.  Let’s just say it was the perfect bachelor pad!

I was ready for us to have a space we could grow in. So I put this one the list thinking we would just rent another slightly bigger apartment by the beach. But sometimes the universe has bigger plans for you! Because we ending up finding a loft that we loved, made an offer, beat out seven other offers and now have a new home to build a life in. High five, Universe!

– Get a French Bulldog

Frank : inspiration photo

Frank : inspiration photo

We couldn’t get Franck until we moved but now that we have  it’s time to find our little boy and bring him home! I’m thinking we still need to settle in our new home a little bit more before we add a puppy to the mix. Soooo, maybe July? Maybe as a 31st birthday gift to myself!

– Publish my writing 

I work towards this goal everyday with my book agent. But alas I have not snagged the right book deal yet. Maybe in the meantime I should focus on publishing my writing other places. Do any of you have any fabulous leads?!

– Ballet classes 

I start a 6-week course at Align Ballet March 30th!! So very excited to get back to the barre. Posts about the experience coming soon!

– Yoga retreat (CHECK!!)

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Awwwww what a magical weekend that was. In three short days I had some major breakthroughs, adopted the motto “Be Fucking Amazing!“, laughed more than I thought possible and met two lovely ladies whom I now call dear friends. Oh, and came home to a surprise engagement!!!

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Speaking of engagements, let’s be honest, I wanted to put “get engaged” on my list of goals for the year but didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment! I also thought it would be slightly awkward to put such a thing on a public goal list. But it was on my secret list! So check that one off too!

What an interesting, life changing and fun eight months it’s been!

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
C. S. Lewis

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trekking in Nepal : starry night

27 Feb

The starry night in Nepal will forever go down in history as Brian’s best night on the trip and my worst. After an eight-hour day of trekking through the mountains, we spotted our home for the night, a little teahouse nestled in the village of Ghorepani. With an altitude of approximately 9,500 feet, it was very cold but had epic views of the mountains. I couldn’t believe that it was were we would be staying for the night. Was this real life??! It was so breathtaking.

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(top photos by my fellow trekker Margaret)
As we approached the teahouse, we giggled with excitement over all the things we planned to do when we arrived, but first we’d try our luck with a hot shower! Hot showers weren’t always available due to the fact that the water was solar heated. If you were lucky enough to snag some hot water, it usually only lasted 2 minutes. So Brian and I decided that we would shower together to up our odds!
We were so that we excited we started racing to the teahouse!

When we finally reached it, we learned that there was no hot water and that the power was out. My first question was, “well, when do you think it will come back on?”. To which the answer was, “it’s been out for a few months”. Oh Nepal, you are a special little place.

We decided to skip the cold shower and drink beer in the last rays of sunlight instead. For a girl who’s not much of a beer drinker, I certainly became one on this trip. Really, there was nothing better than a cold Tuborg at the end of a long day. Granted, my options were limited, it wasn’t like they were offering buttery chardonnay up there.

We sipped our cold beers and huddled up by the miniature fire to keep warm. Soon the sky began to darken, the view of the snowy mountains faded and the chill of the mountains set in. Everyone put on their headlamps and another layer of clothing.

We all sat around a big table lit by candlelight and ate our dinner. Surprisingly it ended up being one of my favorite dinners with the group. It was all rather romantic in a funny way. I mean, I was with my new fiancée in the snowy mountains of a foreign land eating by candlelight with people I really enjoyed. As cold and dirty as I was, I was in bliss. I felt like I was really living my life.

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Another name for this trip could have been “the time Kate ate carbs with abandon“. Every single night I cleaned my plate of rice or noodles- sometimes both and sometimes I even started with a plate of momos. If there had been dessert, I would have happily eaten that too. I was insatiable.

With full bellies, Brian and I decided to call it a night. So what it was 8pm! So what the locals were setting up the music in the main room to celebrate the Festival Of Lights! We were exhausted.

We strapped on our headlamps and proceeded to get ready for bed. Let me tell you, brushing your teeth with only a headlamp is harder than you’d think. I pretty much just spit toothpaste on my hand and shirt a few times and proceeded to climb into my sleeping bag. I was so tired I didn’t even care. I hadn’t showered in four days, my hair was a mess, I hadn’t washed my face in two days, my feet were sore to the bone and I am pretty sure I smelled oh, AND I didn’t care. The only thing I cared about in that moment was sleep.

It was then that Brian had a moment of inspiration- night photography! He had to go out into the dark and photograph the stars! I am not one to stand  in the way of inspiration, so I wished him well and he packed up his equipment, kissed me on the head, said he’d be back in 10 minutes and closed the door to our little box of a room.

I laid there in the dark thinking about my day and how lucky I was to be in such a powerful place, how humbled I was by the mountains and the people of Nepal, how nice it felt to be away from everything and it was then that I realized it had been a good 20 minutes and Brian still wasn’t back yet. I also realized I had to pee – a terribly annoying realization considering this meant I would have to get out of my warm sleeping bag, put on my headlamp and pee in a squat toilet in the dark. UGH.

I unzipped my sleeping bag- FREEZING! Strapped on my headlamp- RIDICULOUS, went to the door and pulled. It didn’t budge. Ummm, what? I pulled again. NOTHING. It took me a moment to realize what had happened. Brian had locked the door from the outside. Keep in mind we weren’t working with door handles and keys here. We were in Nepal where you either locked the door by sliding the bolt from the inside or outside. Brian had done so from the outside. FUCK.

I was locked in a dark 10 x 10 room with only a headlamp for light, no form of communication and oh, did I mention I am TERRIBLY claustrophobic. This was probably the worst case scenario for me. Panic washed over me. I sat back down on the bed and tried to figure out what my next move would be. My palms began to sweat. My heart rate began to quicken. I looked around the room for a way out. Instead all I got was the image of the light on  headlamp darting around the room. It was like something out of a bad horror film. I tried banging on the door but nobody could hear me over the loud music. I tried to reassure myself that Brian would be back soon and this would all be over quickly but with every minute that passed I began to go over the deep edge a bit more…and hate Brian a bit more.

I tried to escape out the window but quickly realized that the only thing on the other side of it was a dirt wall. Thirty minutes passed. Forty minutes passed. Fifty minutes passed. With tears streaming down my face I rocked myself  back and forth on the bed and tried my hardest to forget the fact I was locked  in a dark room with no form of communication. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts.

An HOUR later, Brian walked in and discovered me standing in a corner with my headlamp on, crying. I proceeded to take my headlamp off, throw it in his direction and scream, “I hate you!” hahhahaha. Seriously over the top, right? But it was a really traumatic experience! Terrifying actually. Luckily, we laugh about it now but in that moment Brian had no idea why the hell I was flipping out. Imagine his surprise since he expected me to be sleeping. HA.

Brian’s side of the story- he had gotten caught up in the moment with the gorgeous stars and then watched the villagers perform their “festival of lights” dance for a bit. What a dear, huh?

Really, the only good thing to come out of such a horrid experience are these EPIC photos below by BHG!

the villagers dancing!

the villagers dancing!

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The next morning, as the group ate breakfast, everyone chatted about the sky filled with stars the night before and the fabulous dancing that took place at the festival. When someone asked me if I had enjoyed it, I glanced at Brian, smiled and said, “I missed it”.

More on our adventures in Nepal soon!

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trekking in Nepal : the water buffalo showdown

21 Feb

Well, I can officially scratch “getting charged by a water buffalo” off my list of things to do in this life. It was certainly less fulfilling than one would think. Let me set the scene for you: Shree (our guide), Ann, Brian and I were walking along the winding dirt path. It was another eight-hour trekking day (oy), so we were taking it slow to conserve energy. We followed Shree and his colorful flower walking stick while listening to him sing a song that went something like this…“sometimes trekking, sometimes dating, sometimes a donkey, sometimes a monkey”. I couldn’t really tell you what this meant, so take what you will from it.

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Considering Shree was much more adept at maneuvering the narrow uneven rock strewn paths than the three of us, he quickly picked up speed and his singing began to fade. This was normal though. Everyone walked at their own pace and eventually we all ended up in the same place. We walked along talking about our families and life back in the states. Ann was quickly becoming my favorite.

A few minutes later, we spotted the sweetest looking family of water buffalos walking in a row behind us. At this point into our Nepali adventure, we had seen our fair share of water buffalo. They were a common occurrence on the busy streets of Kathmandu,  mostly they could be found basking in the hot sun on the corners of the streets. But up until this point, I had never seen a whole family of them. How cute! Ever the photographer, Brian had to stop and take photos of them.

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(the above picture was taken by Ann)

We let Ann go ahead of us while Brian snapped away. The water buffalo inched closer and closer and I began to think…well, now what? What the fuck are we supposed to do when they reach us? The path was so narrow and they were so big. I didn’t like the equation one bit.

So, I asked Brian, “well, now what?”

Brian calmly said, “honey, go ahead to the opening on the path and pull off to the side”

For some reason I heard, “Run as fast as you can to an opening and hide.”

So that’s exactly what I did. I was almost laughing as I took off down the path. I mean I wasn’t really that scared of them. In all my other encounters with them they seemed so docile.

There I was running away from a family of water buffalo in the mountains of Nepal! Was this real life?! Such an adventure!

I turned around to share my laughter with Brian but quickly stopped when I saw the head water buffalo, who also happened to be the largest, running, or rather, charging down the narrow path towards us. Poor Bri guy didn’t know what was coming either, as he slowly packed up his camera bag.

So I screamed, “Brian, RUN!!!”

Brian turned around, quickly took the scene in and began running too. Now we were both running from the huge water buffalo and I thought…now what?

So, I screamed, “Now WHAT?!!?”

Brian screamed, “Jump in the bushes!!!”

So that’s just what I did. I jumped my ass into the prickly bushes and crouched down. Brian jumped in shortly after me, hitting me in the head with his massive metal tripod in the process, accidentally, of course. But man, did it only make matters worse. Not only was I terrified but I was also seeing spots.

The water Buffalo approached, locking eyes with Brian and me and I whispered, “I’m scared” and Brian whispered in my ear, “Shhh, act small.” So we both crouched down even smaller and turned our heads away from him.

“I mean you no harm buffalo. I mean you no harm buffalo. I mean you no harm buffalo”, I whispered to myself.

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The buffalo walked past us slowly, turning his head every few seconds to make sure we hadn’t moved. He had put us in check. We didn’t move an inch until the whole family safely passed and then we let out a huge sigh of relief.

Brian’s first words were, “Why the hell would you run from them?!?!? Don’t you know that that makes them think you’re being aggresive??!!”

I don’t know, Brian. It just seemed like the best idea at the time”, I said softly

And then we both burst out laughing. We laughed so hard we began to cry.

Only in Nepal.

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favorite things about trekking in Nepal : the group

19 Feb

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After spending five days exploring Patan, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur, it was finally time for Brian and I to meet up with our Earthbound Expeditions tour group and begin the trekking leg of our adventure. Prior to the trip, we had reservations about doing a tour. We’re not really group activity type people. Actually, my dislike for group activities goes way back; it’s the very reason I never went to summer camp as a kid. I knew from an early age that it just wasn’t for me.

But we wanted to do a trek in Nepal and neither of us were willing to do it without a guide- we’re not that idiotic or stubborn!

Orientation was set for 6pm at the Thamel Eco Resort, which would be our home for the night before boarding buses the following morning en route for Pokhara. Brian and I spent our drive there asking each other questions like…What if everyone is in better shape than us? What if we hate them all? What if it’s a group of serious athletes and we can’t keep up? What if? What if? 

What did we get ourselves into?

When I walked into the orientation, I was shocked by what I saw- it was a group of totally regular  people! No hardcore athletes! Holy shit, there was even a couple that looked as if they were in their late 70’s!! If they could trek through the Himalayas, then I could too, dammit. At this point, I still wasn’t sure if I would like any of them but I was quite sure I wouldn’t embarrass myself on the mountain and that was a good start.

The group included Rick and Carolyn, an adorable retired couple from upstate New York. Ann, a gorgeous and  affable (and very tall) young woman from Michigan. She quit her job to go on a three-month trip around the world- I mean, seriously? How cool is she? Paul and Mari, a newly retired and constantly bickering couple from Australia. Sandra and Taiko, an estranged half-brother and sister team from Denmark on an adventure together. Margaret and Kim, a smart, attractive and witty mother and daughter duo from New York City. Maggie, an amiable but quiet young woman from Malaysia, who was traveling by herself. Donna, a middle-aged career woman from Chicago out to find adventure in Asia and Ben, a peculiar little man from Singapore, who made me laugh out loud at least once a day and who ended up buying a donkey to ride for most of the trek instead of walking. Oh and Brian and I, the newly engaged couple (yes that became our “thing”) from Los Angeles.

Oddest group ever. 

As we walked out of orientation, I said to Brian, “Well, hopefully we can steal away a lot on and do our own thing.” Aren’t I positive? But then a funny thing happened, they all became my friends and each and every one of them added something to the experience. Well, maybe not Paul. He took to racing most of us to the finish line each day, which drove me insane. But, the others now hold a soft spot in my heart. There is something very powerful about experiencing such a beautiful, almost spiritual trip together. The beauty on those mountains is unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced. Don’t get me wrong, there were some incredibly difficult times sprinkled in there too. Those moments brought us even closer. We encouraged each other when someone was feeling exhausted by the hill. We shared equipment. We shared toilet paper. We shared laughter each time someone in the group had to brave a new squat toilet. We shared personal stories from our lives back home as we walked along the winding trails. We broke bread together every single night. Even when there was no electricity, we sat together in the dark with only a few candles and headlamps.

Not only did I fall for the group of people I trekked with, but I fell hard for our guide, Shree and all of our porters. Each one of them had such a wonderful joyful energy about them. They all seemed grateful just to be alive. You know when you meet somebody who’s grateful just to be alive? It’s such a powerful energy to be around. It seemed to be a Nepalese character in general. They were the hardest working group of men I have ever met- I don’t say that lightly either. They easily carried between 80-100 pounds of baggage for eight hours a day- with a smile on their face no less! At least ten times a day I would say, “how can that be humanly possible to hold that much weight on their backs???!!” It was seriously mind-blowing.

Each of us had our own personal reason for deciding to sign up for such an adventure. But the common bond of tackling it as a team made for lasting relationships. We tackled that mountain as one.

More on the trek up next…!

(ALL photos by BHG )

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this fancy bus got us to Pokhara!

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Brian and Taiko enjoying a beverage at the end of a long day

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Ann and Margaret

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taking in the view at lunch

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our guide Shree and his colorful walking stick!

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my favorite porter on the trip

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Carolyn, Rick, Kim and Margaret

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Ann, Le Shrimp (me) and Margaret

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Shree and Brian at the top of Poonhill

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can you believe how much weight they are holding?? Amazing right?

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the newly engaged couple

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Ben and his donkey

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all of our incredible porters

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“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
Mattie Stepanek

Bhaktapur, Nepal

11 Feb

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During our stay in Patan we decided to take a day trip to Bhaktapur. It is the third royal city in the valley- the others being Kathmandu and Patan. It is definitely the best preserved of the three- it was like being dropped in medieval times.

We spent hours wandering the cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, exploring the temples, courtyards, shrines, wells and monumental squares.  Bhaktapur is filled with Hindu and Buddhist religious sites and art. Although the population is primarily Hindu, there are nineteen Buddhist monasteries (don’t worry I didn’t make Brian stop at every one). The city is also home to a large community of potters who proudly work on the open streets, only adding to its rich atmosphere. It was a day to remember…

(ALL photos by BHG)

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Patan, you stole my heart

3 Jan

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(ALL photos by BHG / Facebook )

After a truly exhausting morning acclimating to the frenetic pace of life in Kathmandu, we packed our bags (well, actually our backpacks) and headed to our second stop, the city of Patan. Located in the Kathmandu Valley, on the southern side of the Bagmati River, Patan is one of the three royal cities in the valley, the others being Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Patan, also known by its Sanskrit name, Lalitpur (City of Beauty), is quieter and far less touristy compared to Kathmandu. It’s filled with rich history, ornate architecture, dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples and over 1200 monuments. It is a truly breathtaking city and became our home for the next four nights. You could say we fell in love.

After a sweat inducing drive across the foul-smelling Bagmati River (let’s not sugarcoat it- it was smelly) the rickety, exhaust spewing taxi dropped us off at the gates of Patan’s Durbar square. The friendly driver told us we would have to walk to our hotel from there because cars are not permitted through the square (Side note- it’s incredibly easy to get around Nepal because so many Nepali people speak English) We piled out of the car slowly, weighed down by our giant backpacks; Brian even had one strapped to his chest. He looked like a mule. We paid the driver the agreed upon rate in rupees (no matter how friendly the driver is always work out your rate before getting in the taxi!) and began our walk to the hotel. Before we could get far, we were stopped and asked to pay an entrance fee of seven US dollars to enter Patan, a fee paid only by tourists and used to maintain the city.

With our Lonely Planet book and map in hand, we navigated our way through the bustling Durbar Square and to The Swotha House, a restored Newari home that now acts as a six-room luxury hotel. We were warmly greeted by a gorgeous French woman named Camille. I immediately liked her energy. She had long messy hair, big brown eyes and a hippie sensibility. After we chatted for a bit, she led us up four flights of very very very steep stairs and to our room, the attic room. It was on the top floor, the size of a small apartment and came equipped with its own private patio overlooking the city below. Then minute we walked in we both looked at each other with big smiles and agreed we would be canceling our other night in Kathmandu and staying here until the trek began.

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Over the next few days we walked the city, explored the Hindu and Buddhist temples, laughed, had romantic dinners in our hotel, bought treasures, visited the Patan museum, drank turborg beer by candlelight, ate an exorbitant amount of momo’s and were asleep every night by 9pm. It was heaven. Here are some of my favorite moments and places captured on film by my talented photographer fiance

The Golden Temple– Finding the Golden Temple proved to be very hard for the two of us. I’d like to think we’re pretty savvy but when it came to navigating the Lonely Planet walking tour maps, we were dead in the water. For being a huge golden temple it was incredibly hard to find. It was hidden among the buildings. After passing it a thousand times we finally gave up on finding it and went in search of something else. Of course we ended up finding it that way. I’m so happy that we did because it was insanely gorgeous. It’s a Buddhist monastery, adorned with a golden facade. The Golden temple was built-in the 12th century by King Bhaskar Verma. It’s so incredibly ornate and fabulous and breathtaking that I felt moved by standing in its presence.

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Patan Museum- Formerly the residence of the Malla kings, it now houses one of the finest collections of religious art in Asia. Partly funded by the Austrian government, the Patan Museum is considered a national treasure. As beautiful as the art was, the view of Durbar Square from its windows took the cake.

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We climbed to the very top of a hotel and found this view of Patan. I couldn’t get over how jam-packed the buildings were and how polluted the sky was. You could barely make out the mountains in the horizon!

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This gorgeous photo taken of a sun drenched rooftop taken from our hotel balcony…

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we happened to be in Nepal during harvest season so the below photo was a common site. A local Nepali woman turning her rice to help dry it…

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everywhere we turned there were stunning whitewashed temples adorned with the all-seeing eyes….

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intricate stone carvings with Buddha…

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these little meat or veggie filled dumplings called momo’s became a fast favorite for us…

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Durbar square in the quiet of the night…

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Brian looking handsome by a Patan reservoir…

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and me by the same reservoir…noticing what was living in it…

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Patan, despite what lived in your waters, you stole my heart.

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thanks for the fun 2012!

28 Dec

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Firstly, I want to say thank you so much, truly, for reading 365 til 30. It means a lot to me that you take the time to come here and 2012 wouldn’t have been the same without you guys! So, thanks.

I’ve been reflecting on 2012 the past few days. Tis the season to take stock, right?! 2012 was a year filled with blessings. I don’t say that lightly either because 2009-2011 were years filled with struggles, uncertainty, loneliness and fear. As I approached 2012  things started to shift. I started this blog in the summer of 2011 and regained a clear focus, light heart and grateful attitude. Things just started to flow, click and move. I have many hopes, goals and wishes for 2013 which I will get to in a later post but in the meantime I wanted to reflect on my favorite moments of 2012. Above is the vision board I created last year on January 1st. When I look at it I see so much that came to fruition – 2012 was an embarrassment of riches. Thanks 2012 for putting a huge smile on my face.

My top moments-

traveling across the country with One Part Gypsy

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turning 30 and watching my baby 365 til 30 grow…

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getting engaged to the man I love…

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traveling to Hong Kong and Nepal with my new fiance…

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And lastly we have some exciting news to share (no, I’m not pregnant)!! We bought our first place!!! Now I can cross “New Living Space” off my goal list for the year. We hopefully move into our new home next month. Not a bad way to start the New Year, huh? Be prepared for an influx of cooking posts because this kitchen inspires me….

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What are your top five’s from 2012. Please share below!

365 til monkey temple

19 Dec

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 (ALL photos by BHGfacebook page)

Swayambhunath is an ancient Buddhist site atop a hill in Kathmandu Valley. It is also referred to by many as the “monkey temple” because it’s swarmed with wild monkeys! For those of you who don’t know, “play with a monkey” is written on my Wish List for Life that I wrote when I was nineteen. I also happen to appreciate the Buddhist philosophy even more so after my stay at Tassajara last year. So, this was pretty much as good as it gets for me. When the taxi dropped us off at Swayambhunath we were greeted by a massive set of stairs to get to the top- 365 to be exact! This fact made me fall in love with the place even more. 365 til monkey temple! We both bought a gorgeous yellowish-orange marigold necklace from a street vendor before beginning our climb to the top.

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Mid way up the stairs we found this exquisite Buddha to take a little break with.

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As we approached the top of the stairs, I had my first run-in with the wild monkeys. See them up at the top of picture below?!

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Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by monkeys and my excitement quickly changed to fear. I didn’t expect them to get so close to me! Now what, I thought?! All of their little movements started t make me anxious. One quickly slid down the bannister by my hand and I heard Brian’s voice in my head reminding me not to touch the monkeys because they could have rabies. Well, great. I was also afraid that if I moved quickly I would scare them, so I slowly backed away to safety.

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Once I found a safe place to watch them I was back to being my happy monkey loving self. They were so comical with their human mannerisms!

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After recovering from the run-in with the troupe of wild monkeys, we finished our climb to the top of the stairs and were greeted for our efforts with a sweeping view of Kathmandu Valley. It was refreshing to gain a new perspective of the city. I finally got a glimpse of the mountain range in the distance, although they were still hard to distinguish under the dense haze of pollution. The wind swept through my hair as a little monkey scurried by me.  I glanced up at the huge ancient stupa that stood before me and was struck silent. The sight of it against the blue sky was stunning. Swayambhunath is said to be the most profound expression of Buddhism in Nepal and its history dates back to 5th century. The eyes on the stupa represent those of the all-seeing Adi-Buddha. I could have stared at it for hours without taking in all of its complexity.

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As a practice of meditation, Brian and I decided to walk around the stupa rolling the huge prayer wheels. Other than having to dodge a few monkeys, it was quite relaxing.

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After watching the Buddhist monks pray and chant we wandered the surrounding shrines. Everywhere we turned incense filled the air . A feeling of calm did too. We found some treasures as well- new prayer beads and a Tibetan singing bowl that makes a beautiful sound when used and has quickly become Brian’s new favorite toy.

On the way out I saw an inscription that read, Om mani padme hum, which means “hail to the jewel in the lotus”. Love this.

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first taste of Kathmandu

18 Dec

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(ALL photos by BHG / facebook page )

Since we arrived in Kathmandu in the dark of the night, I wasn’t sure what to expect the first morning. Once we made it out of the confines of our hotel, I was immediately overwhelmed by it. It was an exhilarating shock to the senses. The narrow streets were packed with people, rickshaws, stray dogs, cows, traffic and new smells and sounds. I had read in my guide book that most travelers develop a throat infection the first few days due to the heavy pollution. When I read this I thought…how bad could it be? Well, I learned it was that bad. My eyes began to burn and my throat itch as soon as we walked out the door. This was the start of my love/hate relationship with the city.

Equipped with our Lonely Planet guide-book, Brian and I decided to take the recommended “walking tour” to see some of the major sites. Problem is, there aren’t street signs in Kathmandu. It was incredibly confusing and Brian and I began to get frustrated. As we stood on a street corner, dodging traffic and stray animals, going back and forth about the direction, a sweet smiley young kid in his teens approached us. He struck up a conversation with us in his perfect English. Where were we from? How long had we been in Kathmandu? Did we like it? He said he was a student and an artist. This was my first real taste of Nepali people. They are wonderfully open and friendly people. We answered his questions happily and made polite small talk, but after a few minutes we tried to keep moving- we had stupas to find! It was no use though, because he just walked with us and kept talking. In pure Kate fashion I kept the conversation going because I didn’t want to be rude. Brian, of course, was less engaged, opting instead to take pictures of me making conversation.

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After twenty minutes, I realized that not only was he not going stop talking to us but he was also now taking us on a tour of the city himself. I wasn’t quite sure how this happened but I was pretty sure it was going to cost us something. Two hours later we were buying his family groceries and let me tell you, a two ton bag of rice isn’t cheap. I’ll admit it- we got taken. We must have had a huge sign on our head that said “these two idiots just got off the plane and are totally overwhelmed- they’re primed for the taking!” Our unrequested tour wasn’t all bad though and I doubt we would have found our way around town without a little help!

My first taste of the history and culture of Nepal was intoxicating. Mixed in with all the chaos, grime and dirt, you find beautiful medieval alleys, Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas. Ancient history lives on every corner. You’re walking down a dilapidated street and all of a sudden you’re in front of a golden temple.

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Swayambhunath up next!

Arriving in Nepal…

6 Dec

The flight from Hong Kong to Nepal was seriously painful. Genius over here (yes, that’s me!) thought it was only going to be a quick two-hour flight. I should have looked it up before because when I found out it was a four and a half hour flight with a stop in Bangladesh, I almost cried. Did I mention that I was tired? I was so tired in fact that I fell asleep with a full cup of water in hand after take off. I can only assume that I was mid sip or something, and just fell asleep. Brian said he was pretty wowed by my new-found talent of balancing a full cup of water and sleeping until I jerked and threw the whole cup on him.

The only good thing about this packed, thankless, freezing, loud flight was…at least I can say that I’ve been to Bangladesh now!

When we landed at the Kathmandu International Airport, it was 10:30 pm and I was ready to climb into bed. We had arranged transportation through the hotel and were supposed to meet them outside. A BED WAS AROUND THE CORNER! We breezed through customs while staring at the other poor fools waiting in a long line because we had taken care of our visa’s before departing LA. Yeah, that would be my future husband’s doing. I could almost feel the cozy warm bed at this point.

When we got outside the airport doors, I was immediately hit with the energy of Kathmandu and it was chaotic. There were people hustling everywhere. Signs for various hotels were waved in front of my face at a frenetic pace. A stray dog scratching himself by my feet. It was quite a scene.

We finally found the sign for our hotel and were led to a large van. There was a young couple, roughly in their mid 30’s, waiting by the van. It was colder than I thought it would be. The hotel employee announced we’d be waiting on a few other guests and to stay put. We introduced ourselves to the young couple. Enter, Sue and Adrian from Australia, Melbourne to be exact, and they had been traveling the world for the last six months. Nepal was the last stop on their tour and they would be there for 52 days. Thirty of them they would spend separated while Sue was at a buddhist retreat and  Adrian was trekking through the Himalayas. Coolest couple ever. I immediately loved them and envied them.

The four of us waited in the cold for an hour chatting as the parking lot started to empty out. Where were these other people we were waiting for?! What was the point of getting our visa’s early if it just meant waiting in the cold?! Finally, after an hour and a half, our driver came back and apologized saying the others never came.

So we piled into the van and took off into the night.

This was my first taste of driving in Nepal and it woke my ass right up.

Why are we going so fast?! Why aren’t we driving in a lane?!? Are the lanes here?? There’s so much honking and swerving and dust and fumes and holy shit, was that a yak we almost hit?!

I’m still not sure how we made it to the hotel alive because I closed my eyes after the yak situation and before I heard someone scream monkey!

When we finally made it to the room, it was 1 am and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a stiff drink or a sedative.

I climbed into bed clutching a hot water bladder for warmth and wondered…what the hell is tomorrow going to bring?

I was terrified and thrilled. Overwhelmed and excited.