Posts Tagged ‘international’

Uncle Travelling Gjerulf to become uncle again!

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

The days roll by here in the Perhentians, and the FIFA World Championship is on. For about a week I’ve been coughing and coughing to empty my lungs of the stubborn phlegm that just won’t go away.  was really cold one night, and the resulting chest cold is as stubborn as is to be expected in a tropical climate.

Most of my days are spent sitting around the shop, or out chatting to people to see if I can recruit some divers.  It’s quiet here, so I’m not diving quite as much as I’d like to. I guess it’s a combination of the economic recession going on the third year, people’s irrational fear that all of South East Asia is unsafe due to the unrest in Thailand, and perhaps some apprehension about buying expensive air tickets to Asia and then getting stuck in an airport due to volcanic ash from Iceland…  Now that the volcano has calmed down, I have high hopes for July and August, the high season here in the Perhentians!

This is an interesting place for watching international football, because there are almost always someone that has some  connection to one of both of the countries playing. As you probably know, I’m not exactly a big football fan, to put it mildly, but I have actually watched a couple of games, and that says a lot about the mood surrounding the matches! It also makes for some rather bizarre experiences, like one night in the beginning of the group play when I got up in the night to go to the bathroom, and saw two grown men and a lifesize inflatable kangaroo in Australian supporter get-up in front of the TV in the lounge…

In more important news, the oldest of my little sisters is pregnant with her second, and I will get a niece in November!! 😀 Congratulations to Jenny and Tom!

I am also really looking forward to my first visitor from home, my cousin Gaute, who I’ll go to meet after my visa run to Thailand on 6 July!

Trekking in Panchase

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

So. For the first time on my journey, I have backtracked, and am now back at the hotel rooftop in Kathmandu. My plan was, as you probably know, to be in Royal Chitwan National Park just about now, and head for the border on the 23rd, when my visa runs out. I am back in Kathmandu now, though, because I have a job interview here tomorrow. Kathmandu International Christian Congregation has offered me a two month job as a youth worker. The pastor is out of town for a couple of months, so if I accept, I’ll be living in his appartment. They will also pay for my visa, and give me 20 000 Nepali Rupees (1767 NOK) per month towards insurance and food. My travel insurance costs around 900 NOK per month, and if I eat cheaply the remaining 800 should almost cover food, so I’ll come out losing very little travel time.

Yesterday and the day before, I went trekking in the mountains. I took a bus up to the trailhead, about 1500 meters above sea level, and we then hiked about 11 kilometers up to ca 2300, and back down to 2200, where we stayed the night in a tiny village named Bhanjyang (or something similar.) Up there we got a beautiful sunset, lighting up the mountains in the Himalayan Annapurna range, after a rather hazy day. Yesterday I got up before sunrise, and got some more fantastic views of the majestic giants, coloured bright red by the rising sun. As the sun warmed up the valley, the fog from Fewa Lake down by Pokhara, together with mist from the trees and thatch roofs on the hills, rose up past the mountains, and we got a much clearer descent. Much of the path going there was “paved” in big slabs of stone, making for smooth walking on the few flat stretches, and some mean stairs on the steep hillsides. Much of the paving is paid for by communal guest houses where tourists leave their money, but it is not mainly put there for the tourists’ sake, but for the locals. In the monsoon season, the torrential rains wash away the path where there are no big rocks holding it together, and it becomes almost impassable. This is a big problem for the locals, who have to walk at least half an hour from their homes to find firewood every day, and then haul their heavy loads back. There are plenty of trees, but to avoid deforestation, it is not legal to use healty trees for firewood. I asked why they don’t do like the Tibetans, and gather up dung for the fires, since there are holy cows walking around and dropping it everywhere, but the thought was clearly too disgusting to contemplate… 😉

The trek was a welcome break from the noisy cities I’ve been to, with clean, warm air and the sounds and smells of hight altitude tropical forests surrounding us. My guide Harry, (“Jerry and Harry will have chicken curry, don’t worry” was his first words when we introduced each other) had however brought his Nokia N95 with over 500 western and hindi songs, and a battery powered loudspeaker, so it wasn’t quiet ALL the time… When coming back down, the rocks were wet from the night’s light drizzle, and the steps were treacherously slippery. On the most precarious parts, where the path just hung on for dear life to the green mountainside going straight up on our right and straight down directly to our left, I admit to making doubly and triply sure I had good footing before shifting my weight to that foot… I would’ve loved to take a longer trek, but my legs are glad they’re not moving much today. The ascent was hard on my thighs, but the descent was ten times as rough on my poor knees and calves. I was very happy to find that there was a clear mountain stream at the bottom, where I could cool down my aching feet and legs!

Today I allowed myself the luxury of taking the tourist bus back to Kathmandu, instead of the local bus. The main differences were that the seats were just far enough apart that I could fit my legs between them, there was no stereo blaring Bollywood love songs at 110% volume, we didn’t transport any goats, chickens or other livestock and the trip took about 8 hours instead of 9, as we didn’t stop at every one-horse-town on the way to drop off or try and squeeze in a few more passengers. The price difference, you ask? Up from 300 to 400 Rupees (from 26,50 to 35,40 NOK)

Gobi

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Monastery museum of Choijin LamaThe past few days I’ve explored UB at a rather leisurely pace. I reunited with Michiel and Rick from Holland. We met in a CS meeting in Irkutsk, and had a day trip to Lake Baikal together the next day. When I left for UB, they stayed on for another day in Irkutsk, and then went to Ulan Ude before they too continued on to UB. Michiel is a Buddhist, and is  staying in Mongolia for a month, to do volunteer work. He’s working at a soup kitchen, helping set up a play with local orphans and street kids, and making a short promotional video for the buddhist centre he works at.

In UB, I’ve been to the National Museum of Mongolian history, and the Mongolian Museum of Natural History, which among other things has a quite good collection of dinosaur bones. An old man I met at a restaurant took me to an art workshop funded by the state, where many of the great artists of Mongolia do their work. His son is an artist there, and he showed me how he worked, and I got to look in an album with pictures of his work. I assume he must be rather well known, because I recognized quite a few of his pieces from various places around Ulan Bator!
Gandantegchinlen KhiidI’ve also been to the Monastery Museum of Choijin Lama, the Winter palace of Bogd Khan, and to the Zaisan Memorial, a Soviet phallus of a monument in honour of unnamed soldiers in various wars. On Sunday I got up early, and went to Gandan Khiid, and witnessed the morning ceremonies of the Buddhist monks there. It was a pretty fascinationg affair, with the monks chanting different texts at different pitches, and all of it mixing together into a cacaphony which was sometimes emphasized by frantic blowing in horns, ringing of bells and banging on drums. Some of the layity also took part in the ceremonies, by holding some of the religious objects used in various rituals.

On Sunday afternoon, I met with a Norwegian couple and their three kids. The couple have lived in UB since 1994, and the kids grew up there. They work for a Norwegian mission, with local economic development. A few weeks ago, the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon was on an official visit to Mongolia, and he also paid a visit to one of their projects. We had a burger at the State Department Store, and then we went to worship service at the international interdenominational fellowship in UB. There were Christians from all 5 continents, and I got to talk to quite a few of the people there. Not all of them were foreigners, though; quite a few were Christian Mongolians who were interested in improving their English. For those who didn’t understand something from the sermon, or just wanted to talk about it, there was a small gathering after the service, where people could ask questions about everything from “what does that word mean” to deeper religious questions. It was nice to be part of a fellowship off Christians, where I even understood all that went on!

My host after I came back from the Ger camp, an outspoken and kind satanist-neo-nazi-metal-head (!) who calls himself Degi, spoke very little English, and frequently used what little he knew to proclaim things like “I hate jews,” “I hate all black people,” “kill all the Christians and burn all their churches” and similar outrageous statements. It was difficult to understand where all the hatred came from, and we had trouble connecting. One night, however, he told me about his mother, who died from stomach cancer last year. He told me that he always sided with evil, because it made him feel brave, and not fear death. He didn’t know, or couldn’t explain why, but he said that Satan lives in his heart, and makes him do it…
Last night was my last night in UB, and we were talking about everything and nothing. Suddenly he tells me that he wants to be rid of Satan’s power because he can feel him destroying him on the inside, but he was worried that Satan would retaliate if he denounced him! We talked about it for a while, and it turned out that he’d been given a new testament at the Christian hospits where his mother had spent the last of her life. She was there, because nobody else would take in a dying woman. He’d read the whole thing twice, and wanted to know whether Jesus could protect him from Satan, if he stopped being Satan’s servant. I told him that the battle was already won, that Jesus defeated the power of Satan when he rose from the dead. He was still apprehensive, but he wants to talk to someone who can help him understand more about what he’s facing. He was very sceptical of Mongolian Christians, because he’d met with a lot of judgmentalism and greed, but I promised to put him in contact with the pastor of the church I went to on Sunday. When I said that I’d pray for him if he wanted me to, he thanked me, and then didn’t want to talk about it anymore, because he thought he might start crying… To those of my readers who believe, I ask that you pray for Degi and what he’s going through.

This morning (Thursday Dec 11) I got up at 6, and I went with Degi to the restaurant where he works, in the Narantuul Hotel. There he made me a big English breakfast before I had to head to the train station.
Press secretary of the President                               As I write this, I am sitting in the restaurant car of the train, watching the sun set over the Gobi desert. There is so much I’ve left out from the last days, like the joint Dutch/Norwegian vegetarian cooking experiment, the night in a seedy Mongolian karaoke pub, the drunk secretary of the president’s press corps who tried his darndest to get me wasted and gave me an autographed copy of his recently published collection of nomad poetry, meeting with Tsolmon, Leonid (the hitchhiker)’s web-friend, my first real blunder when it comes to crashing cultures, but if I keep writing, I guess nobody will have the stamina to read it, so this’ll have to be it for now. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in Beijing, where I’ll try to get this posted.

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