Returning to Lakeside from Pokhara I managed to squeeze in a Yoga practice on the roof before we went for dinner at Manu's house to spend time with her two sons and to meet her sister-in-law, Amrita, who thanfully speaks fluent English.
I must admit it puts us to shame the way children and teenagers can speak English so easily over here. Even Abhanaya, who is 5 years old, can recite A, B, C etc and count to 80 in English. In fact Sushant, 10, is so good at English that his Nepali is suffering - my aprents sponsor the boys to attend private schools (not unusual out here) and in such schools all lessons (except for Nepali) are conducted in English. It is different in the government schools where children are taught in Nepali.
Anyhow we enjoyed the evening as Amrita, who is only 16, was a fountain of knowledge and makes me realise how easy we have it in the West. Here she goes to college between 6-10am each morning to study commerce and then she has to look after the house, do washing, cooking and cleaning and help Sushant with his homework, and here they have a 6-day week so there is only ever one day off a week and that is the day when everyone catches up from the week and prepares for the next and there is this constant pressure to get good grades so you may stand a chance of getting out the country to study abroad.
This going abroad thing is a big deal in Nepal. As it happens about 500 men leave the country every day to go and work in the Middle East or in Korea or Malaysia, or wherever else manpower is needed. Bijay - despite having a new wife and a 6 month old baby - is in the process of trying to get a visa to go and work in Korea as he knows he can earn so much more money over there than he can earn here.
To be able to stand a chance of getting the visa, which is organised by the government, he has to learn Korean (he is 3 months in and is finding it hard work) as well as put up some initial chas. if he gets the visa he will be away for 2 years before he will get the chance to come home and visit family. Can you imagine? And this is so he stands a chance of earning up to $800 a month which he can then use to get him set up back in Nepal.
So we enjoyed another Dahl Bhat, in fact Manu was very generous and we both left feeling really full - so silly really as they have so little, but you feel obliged to eat more so as not to offend anybody. Again Manu would not eat until all the rest of us had eaten our meals.
The next day was our last day in Pokhara and so we got up early and headed to Yoga and stranegly there were other people there so we got to enjoy a final class with Devika. This was followed by the usual breakfast by the lake before meeting Devika to discuss various aspect of the Trust and to have a look at the website together. More shopping and more tea, more Namaste's and more smiles.
We decided to make the most of the afternoon sunshine and hired someone to paddle us across the lake so that we could climb up to the Peace Pagoda at the top of the hill, which provides yet another vista of the Annapurna range. This was another hard slog, all up hill for 30 minutes, thankfully shaded by the trees! Coming down was another matter as we managed to get lost in the forest and it was the strangest thing as we ended up at the edge of the lake where we would have had absolutely no chance of getting back to the mainland if it had not been for 2 guys waiting for us (like guardian angels) in a boat who very kindly paddled us back across the lake!
We met Devika for a final tea down by the lake and then enjoyed salad for dinner before watching yet another DVD and another early night!
Saturday and we were up super early to pack before getting the Greenline bus back to Kathmandu. This was a particularly tedious journey as it took an hour longer than it was meant to and it suddenly dawned on me that we have spent quite lot of time on buses in the last week and generally on the same road too!
Anyhow not exactly great to be back in Kathmandu as it has a harder and angry energy in comparison to Pokhara but at least we were treating ourselves to a fancy hotel, which was actually a Rana Palace and all rather impressive. Mind you we didn't waste much time in taking a taxi 30 minutes up into the hills to Kopan Monastery, home for studying and retreating Tibetan Buddhists. This is such a lovely place, so calm and serene and such a contrast from the city below.
Back in town we did go into Thamel for dinner but we were both keen to get back to the hotel as soon as could, as it just didn't feel right somehow, people have an edge to them, they are not so friendly or open as they are in other parts of the country (not surprising perhaps, given the conditions of life in Kathmandu with its crazy traffic and noise).
Sunday and we got up early for breakfast beforre heading into Thamel so Ewan could find a guidebook for Cambodia. Snow causing chaos in Heathrow meant that his friend was not getting away to meet him upon arrival in Cambodia so now he needed to sort himself out. We then sat by the pool at the hotel for tea before it was time for Ewan to leave for his flight to Delhi, where he had a 9 hour wait, before his flight onto Bangkok and then Siam Riep in Cambodia (lucky thing!).
Of course this was not ideal, but then it has been so long in coming that it was almost a relief. So Ewan left me in tears at the hotel (poor guy) but I quickly pulled myself together and even managed a swim in the hotel pool with the water a mere 9 degrees celcius (the pool attendant thought I was mad, as did I, when I realised how cold it actually felt and I only lasted 10 lengths!). As it happens I only had a fw hours to kill before my own flight to Bahrain and onwards to London Heathrow. Well in theory!
Thank you Nepal and all my friends over here and all the people we met for making this such a wonderful trip. Neither Ewan nor I wanted to leave and I have every intention of trying to get back there again next year.