It wasn’t easy at first but after a while I got used to it and now I can fondly say that I will miss Chetena Kendra (CK) and the town of Banepa.
During our 3-week stay, we have battled nagging colds (which turned out for some to be allergies), stomach viruses/diarrhea (welcome to Nepal), and very cold winter nights (since there was no heating in our rooms). We also experienced electrical load shedding for the first time (getting used to not having power and inhaling diesel generator fumes), monotonous food (after 6 straight meals your mind starts going crazy), and our first Nepali toilet (oh what a natural feeling). It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in Nepal… but we all got through it together.
The food and the friendly faces
Ram Hari and his wife Shobha K.C. own the facility and have been very accommodating. Ram is always, always fun to see and Shobha runs the show like clock-work behind the scenes. The twins are great and easy going and you’ll find Nearazim to be your reliable contact. Our first introduction to traditional Nepali food was also at CK whose standard menu included rice, dhal (hence dhal bhatt), cauli and potatoe takarri, saag, papads, achaar, and beans for lunch AND dinner. For breakfast, toast, jam & cream, hard boiled eggs, massalla chickpeas, pancakes, and cornflakes with warmed milk (yup, warmed milk). Wow, I never would have ever thought I would write a blog post about what I ate.
Outside the western-friendly confines of PGH/Kathmandu, we experienced many firsts at CK as well as learned the bulk of our Nepali language and culture. We didn’t have any of the distractions that we would get from the big city or the chance to speak much English around town except amongst ourselves. As well, I think the VSO November ’08 group got to know each other pretty well. In the end, it was a worthwhile, growing experience that I feel prepared us very well for our upcoming village stay.
Some memorable moments included:
- Udaya’s Juhto skit.
- A half day session on using the Nepali toilet and bathing during our village stay.
- Morning races to the shower in order to use the remaining hot water (tato paani) that was left.
- Sinta Klause
- Two against Gord in table tennis.
- Watching Man U vs. Wigan with Jimmy.
- Coining a new usage for “dhal bhatt”.
- Walking around the local village for the first time.
- Buying keras (bananas) and suntalas (oranges) for the first time.
- Meeting the GX Volunteers and hearing their experiences.
- Playing Manjhong with Tlell while listening to Christmas music.
Tips for future guests
- If you have allergic reactions to dust (or even mold) bring your own blanket or better yet your own sleeping bag (sutne jolaa) to help you sleep during the cold winter nights. We also found the provided electric warmers extremely comforting as well.
- There is one western style toilet on the second floor of the Gramelin Kendra building. I suggest finding it when you are not in the mood.
- A portable radio or music player with speakers is always great to have during the night.
- Table tennis (TT) was always fun (especially playing in pairs) and was a great distraction from language class.
- Hanging your clothes over the railing over looking the courtyard is a great way to dry your clothes really fast in the sun. In doing so, it does make the place look a little trashy (especially if you hang your pink underwear on the hand railing). Hang your undergarments in the privacy of your own room.
- Pragati Cyber Cafe (Rubin was our friendly contact) is THE BEST place for fast Internet access with over 10 computers for people to use. You can also bring your own laptop and plug it into the network as well.
- There is an educational book store called Pragati Pustak Bhandar (Subin and his father own the store) that also has a great variety of stationary and sports equipment for a reasonable price (frequent visitors will usually get a discount). We bought our football and badminton sets there.
- If you are craving western food and a modern dining atmosphere, head to MP3 cafe which is a block or two past Pragati Cyber. As well, just above there is a small department store type called E-Z shopping (or something like that) where you can buy snacks, toiletries, and even clothes.
- Across the main road from Chetena Kendra you will see a small mountain (or hill) that takes about 45 minutes to hike up and that will lead you to a Shiva temple (mandir). Just past that at the top of the hill you will also find an observation tower with spectacular views of the Himalayan Mountains.
Honestly, I am truly missing their daal bhaat.