Meeting Tiger in the Wild

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet? (From Tiger by Willian Blake)

January 1, 2016: Tiger is an animal that co-holds the titles of both – the beauty and the beast. Meeting a tiger in its wilderness is a treat – not only for the eyes but for your heart too as someone termed the experience as equivalent ‘achieving orgasm during first sex by a lady’ – a possibility but a rarity.

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Flight RA 2066

“Excuse me, why are you stationary?” An Indian passenger walked back to the air hostesses on the back of the Nepal Airlines place and asked.

“We don’t have any stationery, we only have newspapers,” an air-hostess replied.

“No, no, I am not talking about pen or paper; I am asking why the plane is stationary.”

“I told you sir we don’t have pen or paper in the plane.”

“Wait. Stationary means still and I’m asking why you are still standing here for a long time.”

[A little aggressively] “Look Mr. I have finished all my works for take-off….”

(The conversation was overheard a few minutes before the Delhi-Kathmandu flight of Nepal Airlines took off. The not-so-good thing was that the air-hostess started talking in Nepali with other air-hostesses without finishing with the passenger. The good thing was that after a few minutes of take off, the air-hostess approached the passenger and said sorry and that she would look into dictionary for the word she had heard for the first time.)

***

My flight number was RA 2066 according to my e-ticket.

The flight number was RA 206 according to all display boards at the Delhi airport.

During in-flight announcement both. I don’t know why?

***

The immigration lobby at the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.

The immigration desk with ‘Indian’ board was unoccupied (I don’t see why especially at the time when a flight from Delhi arrived). The Indian passenger and his four friends passed through the empty desk without anybody stopping them or asking for embankment form or identity card.

The passenger suddenly felt that he needed to go the toilet. The toilet was only on the other side so he walked back through the same desk, used the toilet and once again walked through to other side without anybody saying anything.

I thought maybe that’s how we Nepalis are also supposed to walk through. I tried but I was stopped by the immigration officer in the next desk who asked me to be in queue, the same for foreign nationals and submit my embankment form! (Ok! No problem)

And, during my queuing, a foreigner told me that she got the visa in her country for at the airport where they provide on-arrival visa, credit cards are not accepted (only cash – and that many foreigners find it surprising)!

***

Just some observations!

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Six weeks in Oslo

A friend asked me why I haven’t written a blog on my six weeks in Oslo. I pondered on the questions… there was no answer.

Sometimes words just do not come to you and six weeks in Oslo where I attended the International Summer School 2010 at University of Oslo was such an experience that I could not put down in words and do justice to it.

* * *

“What’s ISS for you?” One of my hundreds of friend asked me on camera.

“ISS is six-week of my life that I am never going to forget!” And, they decided to put this small interview just before the end of an eight-minute movie.

It was indeed so. In those six weeks, I met hundreds of friends from all countries imaginable – and talked to them. I met the world at a place.

They not only helped me understand the world, but also filled in me the enthusiasm to work more; work better; study more and help to make the world better.

Some of the friends, I am never going to forget – for their talent, love and compassion!

* * *

The ISS Media Studies 2010 with course leaders!

“What’s best part of Media Studies group?” Our assistant course leader asked me during a lunch. (Yes, our teachers did occasionally join us in breakfast, lunch, drinks and dances – and late night gossips!)

“Friends… like that of teenage,” I told her that once I started my professional career, befriending people for true friendship without jealousy and with the ownership of teenage friends had become very hard.

In my group of 15 classmates, it was friendship that mattered most. There were of course ‘close friends’, ‘good friends’ and ‘friends’ but the way we could talk freely to each other, sometime even making joke of each other, and share a few light moments together was just wonderful!

* * *

In Oslo, we were far and foremost two things – teenagers and tourists!

Teenagers because we attended classes; completed assignments; went out in evenings and nights; and most important were free from any life pressure. Also because we talked how boring the lectures sometimes are and wondered around the city for nothing.

Tourists because we had such a busy schedule given by ISS in the early weeks that we felt like they are not going to give us time even for shopping. They were guided tours including that of Oslo city – all of which no one could attend, and there were an excursion tour (I went to Telemark – that was the only one left for me when I went to register) where we were made to feel like tourists rather than students.

* * *

And, of course, we were also made students.

At ISS, not only did I attend four-hour-long lectures every weekdays but also asked to do assignments that needed visits to library.

Looking at Media Studies schedule which had the last week free for take-home exams, we had thought ‘yes, here we have free time’. But it turned out that nobody from our class was seen around for long time during the week because they all were busy in the 15-page essay. It turned out to be the most time consuming part of our stay; and everyone sighed long and smiled at each other after the deadline passed.

* * *

I have no words to explain, but it was wonderful experience, just perfect!

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Falling in love with Norwegians

After two weeks of stay in Oslo – Norway’s capital – for a six-week study at the International Summer School 2010, University of Oslo (UiO), there are a few things I am amazed about. But one thing that I like most is the Norwegian people.

I have always heard about the ‘smile of Nepali people’ and many foreigners find it amazing that Nepali people are so smiling and hospitable. It’s true [we always tend to smile at people and believe guests as god].
Norwegians are different than Nepalis – they are more happy people.

Why I am saying so? Because I find at least three very good characteristics of those people: firstly, they seem to very simple, secondly, they enjoy what they are doing and finally, almost all of them have a sense of humor.

Yesterday, I attended a Norwegian Cultural Evening. It was an evening to remember – of course more for the performances that were truly amazing – for people displaying all those qualities I like.

A professor at the UiO was the MC and was making us laugh at every sentence. He came up with this brilliant idea of giving away a ‘prestigious award’ to somebody who had helped to save the ‘dairy industry of Norway’. Dressed up as a cow, he brought this empty container with a string and announced the person ‘who had in desperate attempt to save the dairy industry have helped consume 5,000 liters of milk in last few years’.

The award winner was the ISS 2010 director and he received the award; wore it around his neck throughout his closing speech and even later.

This is something unthinkable in Nepal. People like Einar (the director) – professors or directors or something like that – will probably consider such an act as an insult (and I have never seen a professor or people of that level becoming an MC).

And, at Natadal Farm House, where we spent a night during our Telemark trip, the owner (who also happened to be a professor of tourism at Telemark University College) briefed us about the farm, the old life and why houses were built in the way they are (of course with a lot of humorous tales – ‘I tell a lot of lies and I have a license to tell lies’.)

We also had two sisters – from the minority Sami community – who presented us their traditional dresses and chanting. And, I enjoyed watching them talking to each other and smiling (even laughing) shyly. That was always evident whenever there are formal programs – it feels like simplicity (or being informal) is the formality of Norway. I just love it.

And, those seven people who presented us the traditional Norwegian dances were all past their 60s but they were enthusiastic and happy to perform for us. Probably they missed a few steps but who cares of steps – all I was watching was how happily they were performing and how proud they were to do so.

Performing people – musicians and dancers – did perform in front of us but I know they were more playing instruments and dancing for themselves – the satisfaction on their faces (rather than strains) was satisfying to us as well.

And, how can I remain without falling in love with Norwegians?

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The Hostel Life… at UiO

Hostel life is not an alien for me – for I had stayed almost year in hostel during my final year at school back in Nepal. The hostel was 10-minute walk from my house and I was staying in the hostel because my parents want me to study, rather than play and stroll around, during the last days for the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations.

Right now, I am housed at the Blindern Dormitory – a student house in the area of the University of Oslo (UiO) where I am studying at the International Summer School (ISS) for six weeks.

And, though there are lots of similarities; the hostel life here is an amazing experience than that of my old hostel days.

The prime reason: because the Dormitory is also housing many hundred people from all around the world whom I could meet everyday during breakfast, lunch or dinner. And, amazingly, even after six days here, I always see a few totally new faces.

Secondly, the food is always curiosity. At breakfast, I can now assume what’s there but at lunch and dinner, it could be a plateful of food items for me or just a quarter-full of (that’s because I don’t eat beef). Two dinners were something like ‘rice and sauce’ for me (good thing is they always have tea/coffee, juices and breads).

And, there are always a few people in the courtyards – either talking in couple/groups or drinking coffees or sitting/sleeping idly. The lure to walk down to the courtyard, saying hi to a few people and watching others or sitting with friends is always inviting.

Fourteen years ago, when I was in hostel, it’s felt almost like a prison because we were required to study for most of the times and play for only an hour a day. The breakfast, lunch and dinner were served at time, and of good quality, but then there were only a dozen fellows on the table – all of whom I know very well.

I hadn’t played much in here (I used to write poetries 14 years ago, but not here). Once I played football with a few friends from and it was quite interesting. I have seen others playing volleyball, table tennis, badminton and pool (ahm – why they have always programs/meetings in the evening so not letting us play much of the sports?).

I still have five weeks more at the Dorm and I hope that the experience here will prove a memorable one.

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From Oslo, with love…

“Ujjwal from Nepal. You?”

That’s the sentences I have repeated most in last five days. At the Blindern Dormitory, near the University of Oslo, where I am currently housed for six weeks along with a few hundreds others, similar sentences are still buzzing.

Officially there are nearly 600 students from 91 countries studying various courses at the International Summer School 2010, and it’s obvious that all are trying to get introduced to as much as friends as possible – for friendship and for information about their countries.

For me, many faces have already become known – and many others remain un-introduced. I believe that within six weeks of our courses, I will at least exchange a couple of warm sentences with everyone else!

* * *

The ISS seems a great program. The ISS brought in so many diversified people from around the world to make it really a global forum – a forum where all smiling faces probably reflect the happiness we could have enjoyed hadn’t there been any conflicts among the nations. (I asked if a Indian friend of mine can warmly meet a Pakistani friend, share the lunch table and talk warmly, why the nations fight?)

The ISS is also great because all the courses we all are doing are credited course – so it’s not just fun but also some serious studying.

And, personally, I liked it most because it took me back to a few years – the life of students. Although there are contrasting differences between my college life and here, I am actually enjoying the routine life (of going to classes, reading books and trying hard to understand whatsoever –ism the lecturers talk about) without the job pressure (so can walk around freely, visit library, computer lab, sit by the fountains, play football and just gossip with friends).

This is fantastic (at least for a mid-career professional like me!)

* * *

Oslo is beautiful.

The jewelry of Oslo is greenery! Everywhere there is green and I am told that within 20 minutes from anywhere in the city, we can reach woods. I believe because I can chose to take a little longer route to my class from that needs some walking in the woods.

I have been to Vigeland Park (the naked park or the park of angry child statue) and the Opera House overlooking a harbor. I had not taken many photos in those places because I know that I will be returning to those places many more time in coming weeks – they are just beautiful.

Oslo is a relaxation city. No matter what amount of work I do or how many kilometers I walk, I feel relaxed because I could see people in the parks, grounds and almost everywhere relaxing – by lying around or picnicking and that’s a striking difference from many other developed countries where everybody seems to be in hurry.

And, probably because it’s summer time here, it’s always bright outside from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (I have not been awake the other hours).

[I am in Oslo, Norway for six weeks studying Media Studies at the University of Oslo’s International Summer School and I will be writing quite a few blogs from here.]

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A Day at Ghalegaon

I spent almost 20 hours at Ghalegoan, Lamjung – a popular tourism destination for community based rural tourism and left wondering why exactly the village is so popular during the return trip on a jeep through rocky risky road (that took almost three hours to reach Besisahar – the district headquarters).

Ghalegaon, Lamjung

To say, the village is nestled on the lap of mountains including Lamjung, Annapurna II, Macchapuchhre and Manasalu, the village is at 2,070m (well, Nagarkot which is at one-hour easy drive from my home is at 2,175m), but the scenery I was offered was, well, not breathtaking.

For me, it looked almost foolish to travel/trek/ride that far for the views of the mountains that are offered better at many other easy destinations.

The homestay facility is something to look for. The food/night at a Ghale home was worth experiencing but I like it, I am not fond of homestay. However, my first experience of homestay at Goljung, Rasuwa felt much better (even the mountains).

The traditional-ness of the village is somewhat intact (despite the fact that the traditional Gurung house photo on the brochure is the only one of such type in the entire village).

And, the thing I was expecting but did not get was the briefing. Despite being a member of 30-member team to visit the village, the local tourism committee did not brief us on anything. We were left with hours with nothing to do other than roam around the village.

* * *

Welcome offered at Ghalegaon.
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Daman, I’ll come again!

daman1

At 2322m, atop of a hill on the old Tribhuvan Highway, 80km from Kathmandu through winding/old/narrow road, Daman has nothing much if you do not stop. It could pass without you even noticing if you happen to be in the one of very few vehicles that plies on the almost forgotten highway.

But, if somehow you spend a few minutes looking around; you will fall in love with it.

I spent a weekend there with a few of friends and family members: the choice of time was not very good as there was only a glimpse of Himalaya peaks. But nevertheless, the journey was a worthy for without the white peaks too, the green hills were majestic.

daman2

The greenery and wavy landscape, with a few groups of houses afar and clouds moving all over and fogs convering everything now and then provided us a beautiful view from a View Tower at the View Tower Daman Resort: a budget place to spend a night (Rs. 1,000 for a room with attached bath /Rs. 600 for without attached bath with 33 per cent discount/no AC). The manager told me that the tower, with a eating space plus viewing space, was build 53 years ago.

If I had been there in season/got the clear weather, I would have seen mountains peaks on three side, from Annapurnas and Machhapuchhre on west to Mt Everest on east along with all peaks of northern side. The Lonely Planet Nepal says it’s arguably the best place to view of Himalayas: wow!

There is also a short hiking on offer. We walked some distance on road to a cemented gate to the temple of Risheshwor Mahadev. Thirty-minutes of moderate jungle walk brought us to a peaceful place [the temple is combination of natural big stones but considered holy].

daman3

On the way, seeing a small water fall, three of us deviated from the normal route to take photos; and on the way back, I slipped off a stone and fell into a small pool of water injuring my left knee. Lesson learned: never deviate from normal hiking route.

60 kilometers from there is Hetauda which is two-hour away from Sauraha, the tourist point of famous Chitwan National Park. If we had time, we would have gone there but we had to return through the same windy road with majestic views of habitats and slopes of hills.

Just as we left, I thought: I will come there again in September/October to view all the white peaks; to absorb the pious of Daman.

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Chisapani: the coolness of hiking

Height: 2194m from sea-level
Distance: 14km walk (mostly uphill) from Sundarijal, Kathmandu

Walking uphill, especially on stone steps till you reach the end of Mulkharkha, is not easy but the rewards you get then after – almost three more hours of walk through the jungle of Shivapuri Wildlife Reserve and the place called Chisapani on a hilltop – are lifetime experience.

The most important thing not to miss on the way is the Kharka [plain grazing land on the hills] just five minutes uphill from the last house/teashop of Mulkharka.

cp2

The plain, with greenery and beautiful green hills behind, is somewhat hidden from the hiking path but it’s walking on it was one of the best part of the hike.

During the uphill walk, the local life and the Kathmandu Valley down below are something to watch.

cp1

I saw no animal on the jungle walk but the peace it gives to soul made me forget the aches on legs.

Chisapani itself is not a big village, only a few houses – half of them lodges. No mobiles. But it’s cool – for the cool breeze, for the fog that comes and goes covering hills.

From Chisapani, though my team walked back, we could have walked six hours to reach Nagarkot.

“That’s nice of you, we all Nepali should see our own country,” a villager told us after knowing we hiked to Chisapani. And, I agree.

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