December 19, 2011

Good News! My "Adopted" Nepali Family Will Soon Be Reunited Here.. . . and Part 1 of "My Nepal Decade"

Here's a picture taken a few years ago of my "family" in Pokhara, Nepal -- my second home for much of the last decade. From left to right:  Laxmi, Rahel, Ramesh and me.

Ramesh arrived in Washington with a green card in January 2009.  Earlier this month we learned that Laxmi and Rahel have been issued their visas to join him here.  They probably will arrive here early in the New Year, marking the successful conclusion to efforts I began nearly 10 years ago.

This has prompted me to look back and revisit my Nepal Decade which I plan to do in several posting during the next week or two.

My Love Affair With Nepal: Some Background
I've explained before how serendipity pops up in my life, sometimes turning a difficult time into a bright new adventure.. That's the case with my Nepal connection. When I retired at the end of 1994, I expected to spend lots of time in the U.K. Two of my best friends -- Terry Munyard and Richard Cooper -- lived in London. On my many visits to the U.K. (once or twoce a year from 1980 throgh 2000) I'd always stay in Richard's charming flat in a mews between Paddington Station and Kensington/Hyde Park.

If you can afford it, London is like New York City: an ideal  place to live in retirement. There's so much to see and do, and none of it requires a car. Like me, Richard enjoyed the British countryside, so we'd often head out of town. We both loved Scotland, especially the Borders. These fun U.K. rambles were highlights of my first five years in retirement and I was looking forward to it continuing,

Then Richard tried to start a gourmet fast-food business, ran into trouble, and commited suicide. After a week mourning Richard's death with his many friends, Terry and I, along with Patrick -- an Anglo-Indian pal -- decided to do something dramatic to celebrate Richard's life... and to lift our own spirits. We pledged to spend a month touring India the following year .

And a year later, we did just that. My son Todd, an avid backpacker and mountain climber, had spent time in India, but then had gone on to trek in Nepal. He told me that if I was going to India, I really should add Nepal to the itinerary. So we did.

We only had time for a few days in Nepal and we split the time between Kathmandu, the capital, and Pokhara, the city that caters to tourists heading out for treks in the Annapurna range of the Himalayas.

I fell in love with Pokhara. Set on the lovely Fewa Lake, it reminded me of Ithaca, NY -- where I'd grown up -- similarly set at the foot of Cayuga Lake. Ithaca and Cayuga Lake are surrounded by hills, but Pokhara and Fewa Lake are surrounded by majestic, snow-capped mountains.

Mike's Restaurant
On our first day in Pokhara, we discovered Mike's Restaurant, which has a terrific dining terrace right on the lake.I didn't know it at the time but Iwould end up spending hours sitting on that terrace, having breakfast there almost every day I was in Pokhara, staying in the early years in the lakefront cabins connected with the restaurant, and becoming good friends with Mike Frame, the American owner. Mike came to Nepal as a Peace Corps volunteer, fell in love with the country and its people, and stayed to create two of the most popular tourist restaurants in Nepal -- Mike's Breakfast in Kathmandu and Mike's Restaurant in Pokhara. He built a house for himself in Pokhara just down the road from the house that would become my home away from home.

Here's Mike being driven to work by his chauffeur and wearing his ever-present railroad worker's cap:

Here are a couple of the dozens (could be hundreds) of photos I've taken over the years, sitting on the restaurant terrace. Every morning while having breakfast, I'd watch the school kids who lived on the other side of the lake arrive by boat:

Then soon after the school children landed, the water buffalo would arrive for their morning swim. They would saunter down the middle of the main street in Pokhara's Lakeside tourist section and head down the alley leading to the boat landing next to Mike's.

I usually ended my day back on the terrace for a final coffee and perhaps a piece of Mike's apple pie.

I met Ramesh on my first visit to Nepal when he was working as a waiter at Mike's. In the pre-internet days the acquaintance would have ended there. But we exchanged email addresses and began a regular correspondence. Later that year I got an invitation to return to Nepal and join Nimesh in climbing up to his mountain village and meeting his family. That adventure was ten years ago and, at age 72, I was barely able to complete the climb. But it was one of the high points in a lifetime filled with travel. And it was the start of a decade in which Nepal became my second home and Ramesh and his family became my second family.

I'll continue the story in the next installment about my Nepal decade.

1 comment:

Larry E. Evans said...

Thanks for sharing this, John.  I am looking forward to the next installment.  Congratulations and Good Luck to Ramesh and his family.  O Happy New Year . . . .