Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fine Wine and Dining ... but it can be sketchy

Namaste. I love that everyone goes out of their way around here to say that to you.

Yesterday (Friday) Elise and I took a boat out on Lake Fewa to paddle around and exercise a different muscle group from all the walking and biking we've been doing. We headed to a small island on the lake which is the home to a Hindu temple. It was beautiful to be out on the water surrounded by the mountains. It was also very beautiful and interesting to go on the island and observe the practices of the Hindu people. They're very much in love with their faith and there is no shame to display it not only in public by visiting their temples but also on their faces with the markings. Not that I want to be Hindu but I do admire their adoration for their faith, makes me want to be more bold in what I believe.

After that we were burnt to a crisp from being on the water in the hot sun and decided to lay low. I went off and did some yoga... is yoga in Nepal a hipster thing? I'm not sure but it felt wonderful!

Lucky had Elise and I over later that night for a girls wine night. It was a lot of fun. First of all Nepali wine is very strong! Lucky's sister Dicky joined us and told us the story of how their business was started. They first opened the guest house and restaurant but coming from India they didn't know much English or how to work in tourism. For example one gentleman ordered Eggplant off their menu and they literally put a fried egg on a flower :) She said for the first couple years it was actually western visitors who helped bring their business together by teaching them to cook, work with clients, how to keep an organized office etc. It was interesting to hear how the business began, not by the blood sweat and tears of the three sisters but by a collaboration of supportive visitors who saw the vision of Lucky and the others and believed in them. Nothing we do in this world is completely on our own, and Lucky's story reminded me of that. We all need each other and we can all do something to help out another, even if it's to teach someone how to cook a real eggplant. I couldn't have gotten this far in my own journey if it wasn't for my family, my friends, professors, coworkers. It's good to know that we're not completely alone on our journeys.. and why would you want to be? Dicky is quite the spark, she's so fun and just wants to dance and love on people. Her and I talked a while about how its good to have friends in all places so you're never not at home. She said she has to talk to people and has to make friends everywhere she goes or she loses happiness. She said we're all human so why not dance together?

So we wined and dined.. and I mean a lot of food. They do eat a lot around here so we had homemade salsa, chips, nuts, soup, banana pancakes, falafels, I could go on forever. But at the end of the night it was a great time to spend with the sisters. However, something wasn't right in all that food and I have spent the following 20 hours suffering from it. Yes I got super sick let's leave it at that ;) Fever, bedridden, unable to eat anything ... it's been quite awful.

I managed to work up some strength and go to the local pharmacy to get some much needed medication. Lucky came and found me and told me a film crew was in town and she needed me for the project. Prince William and his wife Kate started a foundation with their wedding and Lucky's organization was in the top three to receive the money. Their film crew was in town shooting a documentary and needed some trekking footage. So I had to put on my happy face and hiking boots and head out to the hills with some of the guides of Three Sisters. It was a lot of fun actually hiking through the jungle with the girls and knowing Lucky's organization was gaining more support. So I'll be on the BBC.. this has been a hodgepodge of a trip! But quite an honor for Lucky and I wish her the best.

Right now Elise and I preparing to leave for the trail head tomorrow! We'll begin our twenty day trek of the Annapurna Circuit and I'm really looking forward to it. Today as I was in town I was able to catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu, the tippy top in all it's glory. It was strong and mighty to say the least! Tomorrow I will be fully immersed in the Annapurna region and am looking forward to being amazed at God's creation that I hear puts the Rockies to shame ;)

We will however be returning to Pokhara after our trekking so my time with Lucky and the girls of three sisters is not over. Besides.. Elise and I are looking into budgeting a rafting trip while we're out here.. Its pretty wild so why not! Class 4+ to class 5... Hell yes!

Well I am feeling better, I managed to have some plain noodles for dinner and get some antibiotics in my system. Let's hope for the better the rest of the time. All part of the journey right? ;)

Tomorrow starts a new chapter of this journey. Hello Annapurna!

Good Night


Thursday, May 19, 2011


Today is Thursday or so I've been told. I thought it was Tuesday. I have really lost the sense of time and date since I've gotten here. It's easy to do when you don't have a watch and you don't have a schedule. Hmmm... how sweet it is to be in Nepal! So this morning I enjoyed breakfast with my traveling partner Elise, porridge banana and coffee. Then I ventured off alone to explore the town, shoot some pictures, and purchase some fresh fruit.

Each face in Nepal that I see has a story of their own. I spent the morning walking to parts of Pokhara I had yet to explore. I met a great young man with a fruit stand and bought some apples, bananas, and a fresh mango. My body was craving some fresh sweet fruit and I found exactly what I needed. I walked into the north part of Pokhara and went trigger happy. Each face I see has a story of its own really even the very young ones. I shared my bananas with some small boys who traded a picture for some fruit, I thought it was a pretty fair bargain. The town is all getting ready for a peaceful protest tomorrow, a strike, about the new constitution that is to be put into effect. All the buses and taxis will be shut down for the next two days.. good thing our plans weren't to leave until Sunday anyways.

I proceeded to the Empowering Women of Nepal building around one to capture the young women trekkers English lesson. The women are in their early twenties or so and are very fun and full of life. They were having conversations on what they like and why they like it. It's funny that no matter what cultural differences or geographical differences we have, at the core we're all human. Their answers were ones I would have given to what I like and why I like it. They are very forward women to say the least and through some sly conversation they found out I spoke a little Nepali so we started to have conversation in Nepali. I felt very comfortable to speak with them because their English is just about as good as my Nepali.. ;) Tomorrow I'm going back to speak with them again to practice. It was fun to have that common ground of learning from each other, isn't that what life is all about? It was a perfect picture of how two worlds can come together and work together. Communication isn't impossible no matter who you are or where you're from. Human is Human and one way or another we'll figure out what we're trying to get across.

I did two interviews today, one with the language instructor and the other with Lucky. What I really got out of these interviews was this idea of empowerment. What does it mean to be empowered? Or to empower? It's a very bold word. Discovering that you are limitless was what the language instructor told me. Allowing yourself to see potential, to take a step forward, and to build relationships. To learn and to teach. To become what you thought you couldn't.

Enlightenment. That was Lucky's answer. But what is enlightenment? Lucky gave me a wonderful interview, she is so well spoken, intelligent, and practical in her approach to life. But really stuck with me is the conversation we had after the interview. She told me that when she first climbed a mountain everyone laughed at her. She wasn't the strongest or the most athletic, but she had an idea and committed to it. Talking with her about her life leading up to the organization she said she was always afraid of doing something different because she thought it could be something wrong. But then through time she realized that without trying you never know what will happen. And if you aren't hurting anyone it isn't wrong. But what is this idea of enlightenment that has brought her success in life, relationships, and business. She told me a story..

There was a man, his son, and a donkey. They were on a road traveling, all three walking. The first village they passed the people asked why isn't your son on the donkey? He's too young to be walking. So the man agreed and put his son on the donkey and proceeded on down the road. The next place they passed the people questioned, why is the old man walking when the strong young man is riding? So the guy thought about it, agreed, and he got on the donkey and rode on the donkey along with his son as they continued down the road. Again they passed another place and this time the people took pity on the donkey, "poor donkey having to carry both those passengers.." What is the man to do? Lucky told me she realized that she couldn't please everyone in life, and she couldn't do everything to solve everyone's problems, but she could do something. Enlightenment is being honest. And there is only three things to be honest to. First she said is God because no one sees you on the inside except for him, and he knows the honesty of your heart. The second is yourself because if you are untrue to yourself then you cannot ever be true to anyone else and cannot ever become what it is you are designed to be in life. And the third is your parents because they are a part of them and your decisions are in honor to them.

It isn't about being the best, the strongest, the brightest. It isn't about going after what everyone else wants for you or from you. It isn't about solving the world's problems. It's about seeing you for what you are, recognizing your own capabilities, loving the gifts and life you've been given, and pursuing purpose, laughter, joy, relationship.. enlightenment.

I sat with Lucky for a few hours over tea, we drink so much tea, and she just poured into me a lot that I didn't know I needed to hear. I've often questioned my motives to use film to address needs, I have also faced doubt from others and resistance to if what I'm doing is important or even necessary but what I learned from Lucky today was I can't please everyone, or prove to everyone my goals, but i can be honest with myself, my parents, and God. And in that I am doing well. Sure there is always room for improvement and growth and we should pursue that. But to not be worried about the world's judgements and doubts.

She said those who have good eyes will see the good in the world and know it is worth going after. Those who have bad eyes will only see bad in the world, and for those we cannot be worried or bothered by their doubt. We can only do the best we can. And to close it, she looked at me and said Actions speak louder then words Anne. I'm not a good speaker but I'm good at actions and I'm good at doing what I believe I can do. I think the loss of words I had yesterday, Lucky was able to give me today. I felt enlightened.

It was a good cup of tea, a much needed reassurance to continue down my own path. Leadership is about learning and teaching. Today I was definitely a student of a great leader.

So my challenge to you is to find what empowerment means to you. I too am processing it. But realize that we're not called to conquer the world, just to take a look at the practical and simple things we have at hand, and feel empowered to contribute what we can. That in itself is enough.

I am lucky to spend this time with Lucky.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Storytelling is Hard To Do When There Are No Words

We arrived in Pokhara Tuesday afternoon by bus. The next challenge was to find the Three Sister's base in the town. Pokhara is much quieter then Kathmandu, much more peaceful and content. No one seems to be lacking, the community is very polite, outgoing, and happy and the scenery is breathtaking.

Elise and I eventually found the Three Sisters house and were invited to have a room in their guest house which is right outside the center of the town. The most exciting part of the day was finally meeting Lucky and her family. They live in a beautiful home on the hill of the mountain surrounded by wild tall green plants. Just down the hill is her training school, children's home, and office. Lucky and her sisters are extraordinary women. I can't wait to share her story with you, but I'll let her do the talking.

Wednesday (today) morning I woke up and had breakfast then went on a walk around the lake and rice farms. As I was shooting pictures and video, I couldn't help but wonder how I was ever going to capture the sites, smells, and emotions I was experiencing. How do you tell a story when words just won't do? A part of me believes there is much more to share and learn then I had originally anticipated, and I don't think one trip is enough to cover it all.. :) life in Pokhara is very graceful and effortless yet there is a lot of work being done. I have met many wonderful people already and everyone moves to their own beat, yet the music of the community has stolen my heart.

I was given a tour of the Three Sisters building and met with their volunteer English teacher. Her and I had a long talk about life, passion, purpose, and Nepal. It's funny how all those ideas are brought out in conversation out here.. must be that free Himalayan air ;)

Elise and I were invited to Lucky's beautiful home to have lunch with her and her family. Meal time is a very important and intimate time here and no meal is spent alone. We ate like kings which they tend to do for every meal. And they are really creative with menu options and dessert. I really enjoy traveling because of the food, and I told Lucky that and she agreed there's nothing better then finding new friends and enjoying the culture's cuisine. I enjoy the energy and presence of Lucky and her sister. They are very much brilliant and strong women, but yet gentle and motherly.

After lunch Elise and I decided to rent mountain bikes and go exploring. We went to the south side of town where we ran into a riot in the streets.. so we turned around and wondered outside of the town into the villages and farms. Not to long after leaving the town the rain moved in and we were now riding through the hills of the villages in a nice cool afternoon shower.. or that's at least how it started. When we had gotten pretty far out of town, the thunder and lighting moved in and it was down pouring. Completely drenched and too far to make it back to our guest house, we sought shelter in a couple's small guest house and sat as the rain poured into the rice fields and roads. It was refreshing, wild, beautiful, and exactly what I needed to finally feel at home here. My body felt rest in the storm and even now as I sit in a coffee/cyber cafe and listen to the rain flood the streets I feel peace here, like this is a place I'm to belong to. Although I may be the only one in the town feeling that way.. even the cows are running for shelter and complaining about the rain ;)

Tomorrow I'm going to sit down with Lucky and some of the other women and interview them on the organization, life, and the past present and future of women in Nepal. She is amazing and so full of life and insight. I'm completely in awe of her simplicity and her heart to serve these women. We'll probably stay in Pokhara for a few more days and begin our trekking on Sunday. We've met some friends (one being from Colorado) who have just completed the Annapurna Circuit and have been telling us wonderful things about it that have me completely pumped to start exploring. Except for the stories about the leeches which have been brought up in conversation, especially now that the rains are hitting! The people I'm meeting both foreigners and the locals are what is making this journey so special. And I've been working on speaking Nepali, which is getting some great reactions, they are impressed.

So closing thought, I met a young man named Kissem, and he runs a local cafe called Anne's Cafe.. I was out on a walk and he joined me and was telling me about his family and his restaurant.. mero naam Anne ho! I was said to him.. and then he told me Anne was a boy's name and he named his place after his nephew and then laughed that my name was Anne. Can't win them all I guess!

I'm enjoying my time here very much and am gathering a lot of great footage. Lucky is going to take some of the video to Paris with her in July to share with some other women who are working in neighboring countries on women employment initiatives. I'm excited to be welcomed by these women to share my work and hope that it'll generate a long lasting partnership.

Pictures to follow I promise.. although this not having a phone or computer by my side all the time is quite liberating.. I think I'm going to call Pokhara home, I'll post my new address in the next blog ;)



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Namaste from Nepal

After a 17 hour nap on the plane, quick tour of beautiful Hong Kong, and a lot of hot tea & coffee, Elise and I finally made it to Nepal. We stayed two nights in the busy city of Kathmandu. Like clock work (even with jet lag) I awoke our first morning at 5:30 a.m. and looked out our window. Running across the roof was a baboon chasing birds.. I was definitely not in Colorado anymore!

Our first day in Kathmandu was spent traveling about the city. Wow. The culture and the people are absolutely beautiful. I must have walked miles all over the alleys and busy streets trying to wrap my head around their day-to-day life. We went and toured the historical Durbar Square and was able to observe their crazy bazaar and their beautiful spiritual practices. I felt though as if I was watching this all play out on a screen and not right in front of me. I feel as though I'm unable yet to fully immerse in this country and with these people. They have so much to teach me and I am ready to learn.

Elise and I decided to head out of Kathmandu after two days and head to Pokhara to prepare for our trek but most importantly to meet Lucky. And that is where I am now. We just unloaded from a long bus ride through the country side. The road was crazy busy with buses and cows, and the road laws in Nepal are nonexistent much like my experience in Haiti. Its best to just take a nap and hope when you wake up your bus isn't falling off the mountain from being run off the road. We did however blow a tire.. all in a day's experience!

This is a short post as we have to head out into the city to find the organization and a place to stay for the night. I'll post more, and hopefully some pictures when I'm able to.. I've taken about 500 so far. I'll leave you with this.. I feel at home in Nepal and know I'm here for much more then I can reason with now. My eyes are being opened to so much and I'm having a hard time sleeping because I want to see and hear and learn everything.

Nepali momo's are amazing by the way.. and so is the chai & naan =)


Friday, May 13, 2011

Is it too cliche to sing John Denver? "Leav-ing on a jet plane.."

Passport and Visa.. check
Clif Bars.. mmm... check
Camera... check
Anticipation and eagerness to trek the Annapurna Circuit while shooting a film about women's rights in Nepal.. check.

I just sat down to punch out a quick blog, but first, out of habit, I clicked into my email account like I do 8,000 times a day. I had a new email from a wonderful young woman who too is working on spreading information and education about women's rights in Nepal. She had discovered my video and contacted me. Even better, she's out of Denver and is the Executive Director of a non-profit that helps in supporting initiatives about women's rights in developing countries... what perfect timing.

When I started the planning of this journey a year ago with my pal Elise I didn't know exactly why I was going to Nepal or what I would be doing. It took me months to decide if this would be a work related opportunity or just an adventure. But as I processed this trip I kept thinking to myself, It is amazing to be a young white woman in America who can just pick up and go across the world and do whatever she wants. But when I found out about Lucky and the women of Three Sisters Trekking Adventures I quickly realized when I was being called to this beautiful area. It doesn't matter if your a young adventurous woman in the United States or in Nepal, we all deserve the same opportunities of education, appreciation, employment, and empowerment to pursue life. So that was it, I was going to Nepal and I was going to learn from these amazing women who are tackling mountains much higher then I could ever conquer. Mountains of social barriers, traditions the limit what woman can do, not being able to earn an education or earn the respect of the hard work they endure day after day.

It is truly my belief that we're all given gifts and opportunities in this life so that we can come alongside our brothers and sisters either next door or across the world and share life with them. I'm taken care of here, I have the most wonderful support system of employers, friends, and family I could ever ask for. And now I want to use my gifts of production and mountaineer skills to support the efforts of my sisters in Nepal. I know and appreciate the free gift here in the United States to go out and be a women in the mountaineering community, in the work force, and in every day society. I want to be able to help in the effort of creating that gift for more women all over the world. So my bags are packed, my passport is right next to me, and my heart is racing to board the plane.

This trip is dedicated to you, all my friends and family who have listened to my dreams, encouraged me when I get on my soapbox, helped in my raising of support, and most of all believed in me. Elise and I will be trekking the entire circuit and maybe even going off course now and again, just because we can. We will also be in Pokhara with Lucky and her organization where I will begin to work on the film and take time to listen to their story and learn from these women. My only expectation for this trip is that I'm going to completely be changed for all the right reasons.

I hope to blog as much as I can, although I do a terrible job at it when I'm in the US and have 24/7 access to the computer ;) I will however make a better attempt while I'm over there to share my stories and the stories of others with you. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me, I couldn't have done it without each and everyone of you.