Pokhara, though exotic, seemed familiar to me: I grew up in Ithaca, New York, on Cayuga Lake, surrounded by hills -- one of our country's prettiest spots. Pokhara abuts Phewa Tal (lake). A gateway to the world-famous Annapurna trek, it's surrounded by snow-covered mountains.
The tourist section of Pokhara is called Lakeside, on the calm waters of the stunning Phewa Tal. On my first visit, I spent a lot of time on the dining terrace of Mike's Restaurant's at the water's edge . . . with my British friends Terry and Patrick. I spent hours there during later visits, usually in long conversations with its Minnesota-born owner, Mike Frame, who became a good friend. See Remembering Mike Frame.
Nothing reveals the cultural richness of Nepal more than its festivals. Ramesh, a waiter at Mike's Restaurant, said he was going back to his mountain village -- Warchok -- for the festival and invited me to join him. He warned me: the trip involved a three-hour bus ride to the end of the line, then a long climb up the mountain.
I'm glad I said "yes." The climb was difficult (for me; Ramesh's elderly parents still manage the Pokhara-Warchok climb). I might not have made it even a year later. We arrived in Warchok late in the afternoon. That evening, I was welcomed by Ramesh's extended family and other villagers outside his parents' house with singing and dancing. Though I'm not a dancer -- wish I were -- one of Ramesh's sisters did her best to get me to join the fun.
The next morning, we walked around the village. I particularly enjoyed meeting two senior citizens:
Tika is a paste made of vermilion-colored powder, rice, and yogurt --applied in a smudge to the forehead. Getting a tika is a blessing and expression of love . . . a centerpiece of most of the festivals that enrich Nepali culture.
|Terry with guide who spotted an elephant|
Ramesh has an older brother and sister, two younger sisters, and a younger brother. Ramesh and his younger siblings -- like so many young villagers throughout Nepal -- left their home after finishing school and headed for the nearest big city -- in their case, Pokhara.
Residents of Ramesh's Pokhara house, when I stayed there, included his wife Laxmi, son Rahel, younger brother Suman, the son of Ramesh's older brother, and the daughter of his older sister. The older brother remained in Warchok and the older sister lived in eastern Nepal.
Here are a few rooftop photos I've take through the years
My Pokhara Family Moves to Washington
Late in 2008, Ramesh finally obtained his green card. Then in January 2009, he arrived in Washington where he quickly found Nepali friends Here he is with Nimesh on the drum and Madhav cheering him on in the background. Madhav and Ramesh had been best childhood friends back in Warchok and now were reunted in my living room.: