Friday, January 31, 2014

Tiny tribulations in Kathmandu and…more back story

Getting serious for just a minute…ok….maybe a minute and a half
Shambu in Kathmandu, Nepal (photo: JLewis)
I have landed in Nepal. Now to locate my student. Shambu is the first student I started to interact with here in Nepal. He contacted me about two years ago. He was looking for funding…which the organization I run had none to give. Instead I offered to provide advice…and this is how we started to interact.

I have two students I work with in Nepal (Shambu and Gopal) who are both trying to conserve the Ganges river dolphin. They were the starting point of the inspiration for this film. Both grew up with little money on farms in different areas of this country. Across their lives, they noticed changes occurring to the natural areas in their country, including a decline in the number of river dolphins. This inspired them to continue their education so they could work to preserve this species and its habitat.

Gopal (my Nepalese student) (photo: JLewis)
Both work tirelessly to do all they can, pretty much single handedly here in Nepal where there may be no more than 10 of these dolphins left (there are maybe 1000 total throughout the entire range which extends from Nepal to Bangladesh).

The Ganges river dolphin, while a dolphin….and therefore considered what many biologists like to call “charismatic megafauna” or in lay terms, people want to hug that animal….is well……not too cute to look at.  Focusing a film entirely on it, might not get as much positive reaction. To me…..the story that would be interesting and compelling…..was that of the people who work to conserve it. People like Shambu and Gopal. Who against very high odds, and with almost nothing in the way of resources….say….SO WHAT! I am gonna do all I can to try and prevent this species from going extinct. That to me is a story worth telling. And a story that has, I believe, more of a chance to inspire people to care about saving this species and others on the brink of extinction. So….there you have it! Back story.

Ok….so where were we?   Oh yeah…airport in Kathmandu….need to locate student….Well of course…His cell number won’t connect. All circuits busy. Hmm. But…He finds me! Probably not too hard. :)
 Well…on second thought….with all these other white people de-loading….maybe not so easy either.

We get a cab to go to a restaurant. Immediate impressions of Kathmandu.
Taxi in Kathmandu, Nepal (photo: JLewis)
Heavy air pollution. Throat is actually sore by the time I leave this place later in the day. I can tell you…this alone has to vastly shorten the life span of the people here. Lots of people wear face masks. I even have footage of kids playing football (soccer) with them. I found this….sad.

Ok….I can’t just give that alone as a description bc ….well….its too bleak. On the flip side….Kathmandu was also full of activity and life! I have to say that being on the roads in Asia was really hands down one of my favorite carnival rides ever! For almost nothing (pennies sometimes)…. if you take a cab or rickshaw….you can not only go anywhere!….But anywhere with fast and crazy mad capped adventure action! Sort of like being inside a video game….a video game with no rules! Really wish we had motorized rickshaws in the states (rickshaw built around a motorcycle).  I would be the first to get one! Which…puts a very wrong thought in Jennifer's mind….ask to drive one next trip over…YES!!!!

Anyway my meeting with Shambu is quick. Our reason for meeting between my flights (I am not staying here today) is basically so I can off load the Cpods I brought for his research (underwater audio recorders). We get some tea….I should say this now…hands down…Asia tea….BEST ON PLANET!!! Drank it first here and every single day afterwards….usually many times a day. And I am back off to the airport to head to Napalgunj where I will start to film. Will be back later this week to film with Shambu.

Will I ever be able to pee again?
Back at airport and um…a  little unhappy.  
Source: Wikihow. I know!!!!! They actually had step by step 
instructions! Seems to me pretty self explanatory. 
I mean…..hole in ground….do something…..there. 
I am the only white person now…Why? Because now I am at the domestic airport…going to places other than Kathmandu. Silly Americans. I am also the only person who is constantly falling asleep sitting up. And the only person who CANNOT pee. This is my first “Asian” bathroom experience. I CAN’T DO IT! My mind says just push it out, my muscles say no. They are really getting on my nerves. I must have tried five times. I think everyone thinks I am sick. There goes that white woman with her three large bags again, who can’t stay awake.

How did I solve? Ummmm. I cheated. They have a bucket with water and a scoop in the stalls. Probably to flush toilet. It suddenly dawned on me….Hey! You pee in cups at doctor’s offices! Maybe I can pee in this ….um…..cup? It worked! I know!!!!! All cheating and totally wrong…But I had to go. And I picked up the cup with a chlorox wipe. So ….no harm done right?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

White People…Are Silly. ☺

So….where do white people go when they go to Asia? Kathmandu! All of them! Be forewarned.

Last vino for t minus….
too many days. 
So…I locate my gate in Istanbul. Whole group waiting are white people. All of them! All look like Everest wanna be’s. And they all look so ridiculously nervous. What is up with that? Come on. Man up Americans!

We have about 4 hours to go…so…to hell with this crowd. I am heading to the place with internet and wine. And I have no idea why I am the ONLY one who has considered this.

I take this time to record the before shots of my boots. Its kinds funny…Here I am getting giggly from wine taking iphone pictures of my boots …while my flight buddies are all sitting on the floor at the gate probably reading their Rick Steve’s guides to Nepal. Who is the stupider….yeah….probably me….BUT….who is the happier less stressed? I rest my case.
Before…..many things

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

About to enter Asia proper and I still need MORE stuff!

Shopping List
So…have about a day to spend in Istanbul…But I have a list of to do’s. I have a monopod with me…I got a tripod for this trip…but……well….. it was just too big. And heavy. I had simply no place to carry it. So…I have this monopod but I need a pivot head for it (attachment at top that is basically ball and socket that allows you to change the angle that the camera is facing while monopod is stable).

US-Asia adaptors
I also need some thermals for this trip. My Nepali student has warned me that I will freeze at night there (there being Nepal). I know….why didn’t I buy these in the states? I…..don’t know…I just didn’t think I would need them. But now….I do.

And finally…another….never dawned on Jennifer until…now…Um….let’s see….you have….how many magic bits? And…these magic bits….they all require battery power?….and that battery power goes away unless recharged at night? Yeah duh…I understood that part. What didn’t occur to me was I would need multiple adaptors to be able to plug all these bits in each night. So….US to Asia adaptors. I need those also.

Corn and Cats
So what stood out in Istabul? Well, its seems the people of this city have two loves, cats and corn! I know! Interesting combo! Cats at every doorstep. Corn in every food cart.
Food stand in Istanbul, Turkey

Backpack from hell test one
Ok. So giant backpack on. Let’s start practicing the art of trying to get through a city without knowing the language and needing to find needles in haystacks. I should note here…that….this is NOT as bad as you would think. In FACT….the whole trip was fairly easy from that perspective. I actually only learned two words the whole trip….. Thank you and Hi…..Yep! That was it. OK. DON’T look at me like that!!! I would have tried others!!!….but let’s just put it this way….I WAS REALLY F’ING BUSY!!!…WHICH we WILL cover soon. So anyway…even with no ability to say anything outside of English…I did fine. How was this possible you ask? a) Someone around usually does speak English…everywhere…even the most remote locations and b) Miming is universal!!! 

What was problematic as I started hiking through the city…was …..THE BACKPACK! OMG! The pain was horrible. Within about 1.5 hours I could not bear it anymore. And I had to stop. Oh no! Again….I am getting worried. What in the world have I done? How will I carry this thing with me? It has to be on me at all times because 1) I will need all the equipment and 2) if I don’t there will be certain risk of it being lifted away. Inside I have ALL the film equipment plus my laptop and some other odds and ends…like my try to rehydrate quick and not die tablets….my glasses…a tampon (PS…ASIA does not sell them) ….

So I did what should be done in situations like this. I sat down and ordered pizza and ….diet coke. :)  And got into my first of a million conversations across the next few weeks which went like this….so…are you married? your not married? Kids? Why not married? Divorce? Oh. YES! DIVORCE…OH! Where are you from? You are here alone? ……This was what freaked people the most. I dunno…but I am surprised that a lone traveler female is worth a surprise. I am certain it has been done before..a lot. 

So…I haul the backpack back on and finally find my way to the electronics area of town. I locate what may have been the one and only pivot head! Then with a little help from a friend abroad (thank you friend abroad) who helped google search stores for me, and suggested I bite the bullet and spend the cash to get proper wool thermals…I find an outdoors sporting goods place and mime somehow enough to get the thermals I need. Happiness! I think I had to wait till I got to the airport to locate the adaptors. But I am good to go! Cab back to airport….next stop…Kathmandu! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Entrance to Asia!

Umm….those bags.
Well… at the very last minute….as you may recall….I added some camera equipment to my already ton of … (for Gopal, my student from Nepal). In addition, I also added two audio recorder pods for another student of mine (Shambu Paudel), which are..BIG and HEAVY. So now…I have not only my 70 pound back pack…but this yellow duffle which weighs also about 70 lbs and has NO wheels. So…..eventually….in the airport in Istanbul…I break down…and begin a long habit of just letting it drag behind me…pulling it along. I keep thinking….OMG….how can I make it? I cannot do this. It is all too heavy. I am soo exhausted already. When I get to Asia they will see me…the weakest animal and also the STUPIDEST in the herd….and they will pick me off immediately. Shit! I gotta figure out how to play this so I at least can pretend to look tough and strong.

Istanbul (on my way!)
Of all the cities from this trip and trips taken prior….this one goes down in top ten! When I bought my tickets, I had to pick a layover some where. So I
OK. This is taken next day. But have to start explaining 
why Istanbul is MUST SEE!
looked through the list of possibilities and….well…..24 hours in Istanbul seemed like a good choice! OK…..I am being way nonchalant about that……I was over the top STOKED that it was one of my choices!!!! ISTANBUL! As my first port of entry! Hell YEAH! And then I realized….oh wait….off plane….walking into country…. equals need for …oh man! Another visa. :(
 But guess what!!!!! Turkey loves giving VISA’s! And for the low low price of I think it was like 30 bucks….and a few quick clicks on the turkey web site….BOOM! Turkey VISA!!!!! LOVE it!!

Istanbul (sleeping here)

Already I am seeing how much farther my US dollar will go in Asia (if you
First ever selfie? Night one in Istanbul, 
Turkey. Last western look for..t minus
about….35 days? 
can consider this the edge of). I stayed at a great little hotel in the old part of the city. Cost me nothing (about 40 US) and was an unbelievable first entry stop. I was woken early in the morning (still dark) with my first Muslim call to prayer! This is going to sound like such crap…but it was like I woke up and I had been transported back in time. This was one of the most amazing sounds I have ever heard! So ancient and haunting and beautiful at the same time. So I am sitting in the dark…listening to this….when I finally get ungroggy enough to think…SHIT!!! RECORD !!!!! RECORD!!!! I go stumbling over the room for my backpack….where is the recorder???? Argh! Got it….Fumble….turn on….takes forever to start up….and…they are done.
 I was sooo bummed. I had no idea what that sound had been for…I didn’t yet understand that I would hear this….daily…multiple times for the rest of the trip at most of my locations.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My credit card companies think I am ….riff raff ☹

So today all my credit cards were shut down for fear of fraud after I tried to purchase a bus ticket…IN THE UK!!!!
It is so funny actually what they worry about with me as potential fraud. So far it has been McDonalds and a bus ticket. Not exactly high priced items. I am not sure which end of the spectrum they are profiling me at.... Really wealthy person who would no f’ing way eat at McDonalds.... Or that I am so absolutely destitute poor that eating at McDonalds would be way out of my league.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

And we are off!

Goodbye US!
Circle lighting thingy
So…I squeeze all my stuff together…dash to camera store…get still camera and lens for Gopal, one of my Nepali students, (electronics are much cheaper in the US, and he needs one for his field work)….bought some smaller circle lighting thingys (which by the way…..I never used)….drive to my brothers place where I drop off my car…and ….I’M OFF!!!!

Hi UK!
So I start this with a cushion….a few short days in UK to …thank GOD!…practice using these magic bits. I have been working now for days pouring over manuals, and tutorials on the web. Now I gotta see if I can really pull this off. Off I go….trampsing around….and….um….now I am really scared. I have this little cheat sheet with me…..but… well. ITS HARD! ….Still….the more I practice….and this is pretty much all I did as long as there was daylight here…it got a ….little easier. I should note…I also began drinking more….beer here. Much more.

PS. I did practice before I got to the UK

My first practice character. Meet…. the UK cat.
While super cute…yeah…yeah…yeah…He sucked!
He simply would not take direction. Constant whining.
Always thought he knew what the better angle would
be which resulted in his near constant out of focusness.
This is when beer began to happen. After cat.