Monday, July 30, 2012

the third time's the charm

The idea of trekking through the Annapurna Conservation Area in search of birds and rhododendron forests, fighting of leeches and sleeping in musty tea houses tickled my imagination, as we began to solidify the airy plans we had made for adventure back in Kathmandu. The ever-present monsoon clouds loomed above, cutting off any chance of seeing mountains, and threatened to make for a very wet and challenging experience. We discussed the prospect of being rained out over breakfast, and sometime in the afternoon, I began to feel a little spacey. I couldn't focus on conversation— it was as though words had become blunted and fell to the ground, and soon afterward, my body began to ache.

By late afternoon, my joints were burning and by evening, I was feverish. Morning brought with it some rather unpleasant sensations in my belly, and soon, Pedro's too. After two summers of avoiding any stomach issues in Nepal, I finally fell victim to a bad case of diarrhea. It soon became very clear that neither of us were fit to do any trekking, despite a trip to a local pharmacy, and sticking to a diet of porridge and banana lassis. We tried to fight off the disappointment by taking quick sketching walks which did not lead us too far from our guest house.

The second and last photos were taken by Pedro.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

for the birds

When I was a little girl, I had this yellowed illustrated encyclopaedia of animals, which I read with great joy from cover to cover. The pages which got the most attention and careful examination were in the bird chapter. I was particularly in love with the flashy Eurasian Kingfisher and the less glamorous Common Starling. As I have mentioned in an old post, I had never seen a real starling, nor understood that they are as ubiquitous and exciting as a city pigeon, but the illustration was so beautiful with its violets, blues and emerald greens, that I believed the simple starling to be the loveliest bird in the world.

As I grew up, the book was lost behind others, but my appreciation for birds remained unchanged. Since meeting Pedro, fellow Urban Sketcher and bird illustrator, I've begun to finally see more of those birds I fawned over in my encyclopaedia. Though my bird list is tiny, I've seen not one, but two kinds of kingfishers, countless starlings, and many other birds I've only ever seen in drawings. We walked the length of Phewa Lake and explored its parks in search of sunbirds, jacanas and Purple Swamphens.

Monday, July 23, 2012

return to pokhara

We arrived in Pokhara under a threatening sky— sticky, stiff-legged, and hoping the rain would wait until we were safe inside a guest house. It's amazing how much can change in two years; the sleepy little touristy town I remember has spread out, with shops upon shops and restaurants offering everything from Italian food to Mexican. More foreigners than I remember glided around in baggy striped pants, prayer beads, and flip-flops, between zipping motorbikes and the occasional cow. Construction was going on about every ten steps or so, with mounds of earth piled high beside buzzing saws and bricklayers. Pokhara was touristy two years ago, but my initial reaction upon returning, was that it had lost some charm. But there was the lake, the hills and that sky— and somewhere— somewhere in all that boiling grey, white peaks stood.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

a nepali road trip

At seven in the morning, we settled into lumpy seats 15 and 16 on a rickety old bus, and waited with heavy eyelids to leave Kantipur. We felt relaxed and adequately prepared for the six to twelve hour ride to Pokhara— our backpacks crammed with clothes, sketching gear, water, bananas, cookies, and various first aid supplies. I couldn't resist pestering a sleepy Pedro with all my knowledge of the road and terrain, of where we might catch our first glimpse of the Himalaya, and where I ate roadside ramen with Acharya K.S. and Passang last summer. Pedro would nod politely with a mm-hm, his eyes becoming slits.

The Prithvi Highway, which links Kathmandu to Pokhara is notoriously narrow, bumpy, and scarred by landslides and floods. Monsoon season only serves to complicate travel on the highway, and as we witnessed along the way, buses do careen off the road into pits and valleys, and meet with trucks in head-on collisions, backing up the highway for hours.

Though the road is gnarled, and its travellers may seem to have a death wish, what you get to see outside your foggy, smeared window will take the breath you've been holding for the last few kilometres, away.

Friday, July 20, 2012

and a namaste to you

I'm back in Boudha after a little adventure to a very wet Pokhara.
Leeches, gastrointestinal distress, mysterious hooting birds, and rain, rain, rain...
Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

dog, dog, cow


The heat bears down on my body like a thick, heavy blanket, and I can feel beads of sweat trickling down my calf from the back of my knee. I sense the rain gathering above, ready to burst from darkening clouds. Everything is in a state of constant dampness; my clothes, my skin, the bed linen— but somehow one adjusts, and gets used to it. Coming back to Boudha feels like coming home after a long trip— I'm surprised by the number of times I've received a "Hey! I remember you from long time!" and a "So nice to see you again." I've missed this place. I've missed the eyes of the Stupa, I've missed the smell of burning juniper, I've missed the flicker of butter lamps, and most of all, I've missed the smiles on the faces of strangers and friends. Though the Saturday Café has been relocated, an obnoxious, blinking red electric sign announcing the temperature has been erected by the Stupa, and several buildings have risen where once lay muck and wild Cannabis, little has changed. The mornings are still as magical as the first morning I awoke to, two summers ago. Amala still giggles while serving her homemade momos, the crows and pigeons still battle for the mound of the Stupa, and the tide of people circumabulating the great monument remains as strong as ever.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

this is what it's all about

This is my Nepal; the reason for my return— the kids at Shree Mangal Dvip. For a third summer, a third monsoon, it has been my privilege to share my love of art with these wonderful young artists— and thanks to the success of the students' exhibition last year, I've got a new group of eager artists. When I first arrived at SMD in the summer of 2010, if I remember correctly, we were a little group of about twelve to fourteen kids. This summer, we are squeezing over thirty kids onto the benches of the cafeteria's balcony to learn about line, value, and colour. I am continually overwhelmed by their eagerness, dedication, and talent. It is my goal to get these kids sketching their experiences, and expressing something of themselves, to use art to tell their story and bring them joy.

Thanks to the generosity of Laloran Sketchbooks in Portugal, the donations of Kim Marohn and the Paris Urban Sketchers, Orling Dominguez, Jim Richards, and Cathy Johnson, we've got beautiful handmade sketchbooks and a variety of art supplies in these excited hands. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you from the kids. Stay tuned— I will be posting photos throughout the summer of our work.

 These kids are my home.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

from a window

These are from before
the rain coloured the sky
everything is damp or flooded
and my face is stinging

the crows don't mind.