Standing with Nepal

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Updated: May 20, 2015

Today Narayan and the Journeys Nepal team made their way to the village of Halle Kalika, Khani village, Nuwakot. Narayan reported that neither the government nor any relief organizations had been to this village yet, so they have been surviving on their own since the earthquake. He said, “What is most important to villagers now is tarpaulins and mattresses. Our relief team felt so happy to give something to the villagers. People were so relieved to see us arrive (after a two-hour bumpy and scary drive). One 85-year-old woman even invited me back to her grandson’s wedding next year, which was postponed due to the earthquake.”


Updated: May 18, 2015

Journeys Nepal and Narayan made their way to the village of Malung, Tokha (northern part of Kathmandu valley) today and delivered mattresses, mosquito nets, buckets, jugs, and dustbins. Narayan also brought dolls for the children, which were donated by his daughter Rechal.


Updated: May 10, 2015

Today Narayan went to the Sindhupalchowk district the area most affected by the earthquake and where more people were killed then in any other district of Nepal. It’s a small Sherpa village that has received no help from the government or NGOs at this point. All 60 houses plus the monastery and other religious buildings were destroyed. Journeys Nepal distributed tarpaulin, mattresses and some solar panels to the villagers of Lagarche, Okrane and Mulkharka, Sindhupalchok district. From Narayan: “We are so grateful and happy to be here and to supply some donation to this remote area. Thank you very much to Journeys International and all of my friends who are helping and supporting me. I really appreciated your kind help.”


Updated: May 8, 2015

Today Journeys Nepal MD Aanchi Sherpa distributed tents and mattress to the people of Langtang Valley.

We also got some more updates on the Journeys Nepal team: In Thame, our dear friend Pemba’s hometown, most of the houses were destroyed, as was the school and monastery. Pemba’s wife, Anchi, and brother-in-law, Anu, are fortunately safe. We also learned that our long-time guide Balaram’s house was completely destroyed and six of his animals were killed in the earthquake.


Updated: May 7, 2015

Most of the places in the Patan and Lalitpur areas have not had water since the earthquake because of damaged pipelines. The government said it will take weeks to repair it, so villagers are left without drinking water. Today, Narayan and Journeys Nepal distributed drinking water to villagers in Nakhhu Lalitpur. See photos in the photo gallery on this blog.


Updated: May 5, 2015

Journeys continues to be in touch with our lead guide Narayan, who is learning which areas of Nepal were the hardest hit and in need of the most urgent support. Today he used the funds provided by Journeys travelers, purchased supplies, rented a truck, and gathered some relatives to help, then set off to deliver mattresses, blankets, food and water to a small village that was hit hard by the earthquake.

Narayan messaged the Journeys office today and shared this message for everybody who has contributed to his relief efforts: I cry when I see these places, where houses are gone and families are dead. But I am so happy because of the Journeys family, I am able to help some victims. Wherever I go to help it gives me peace. My family is helping me, and my wife and daughter are encouraging me to continue this relief work. 

We also learned more about the fate of the Journeys Nepal team today from Narayan: Everyone from Journeys Nepal has cracks in their houses. But everyone is safe and already back in their homes (except our driver, whose house was destroyed.)


Updated: April 30, 2015

Today our lead Journeys Nepal guide Narayan Kuman Shrestha used some of the funds you have generously given to the Earth Preservation Fund to purchase and distribute food and blankets to people affected by the earthquake, as well as to set up a health camp and provide medical services to people injured in the devastation. Your donations are already making a difference!


Updated: April 29, 2015

Many thanks to those of you who have donated to the Earth Preservation Fund’s Nepal Earthquake Relief Campaign. Journeys is in regular communication with Narayan Kumar Shrestha, our lead guide in Kathmandu and nearby areas, as well as our main contact at the Journeys office in Nepal. The first round of funds is going to Narayan, and he is buying blankets, clothing, tents, medicine and water for the people of the Khokana village, where most of the houses and historical monuments were destroyed. This immediate relief is critical since so many relief agencies are having difficulties getting into the areas that need help the most.


Original post: April 27, 2015

Dear Friends,

The earthquake on Saturday shattered our kindred Nepal. Hearing the news; grasping for details about villages beyond Kathmandu or Everest Base Camp; wanting to DO something… it leaves us feeling powerless against the mighty Himalayas. It feels personal this time, even as we stand so far away.

Many of you have traveled there. Many of you also recognize the streets on CNN. And many of you have contacted Journeys to ask about friends you met in Nepal — and to offer your help.

Here’s what you should know:

  1. Everybody in the Journeys Nepal family is safe. Some have evacuated their homes, but all have shelter.
  2. Our team is sharing Journeys International camping supplies to help provide aid to others. 
  3. The Earth Preservation Fund (EPF), the nonprofit arm of Journeys International, is continually assessing evolving needs to determine the best recipients of funds to benefit the largest number of people.
  4. You can donate through the EPF. Journeys International covers all of EPF’s overhead and admin fees, so 100% of your donation will go directly to relief projects.
  5. No amount is too small! Seriously. $5 goes a long way.
  6. We will continue to update this blog post on local developments, how we are distributing the funds, news sources we find reliable, and any other information we are able to gather from our on-the-ground partners. This blog post is also accessible from our homepage, and updates will be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Share your comments, and join the conversation.

We are grateful to stand alongside you in a global community. I know your care means a lot to the Journeys Nepal family, too.

Yours,

Robin Weber Pollak

President

You never know what’ll happen on a Journeys trip

Sometimes on a Journeys trip, the unexpected happens. For Richard Hunt, who recently returned from China, this was especially true. While walking through a city square in Dunhuang, he stumbled upon an English speaking competition for local primary and middle school students. Next thing he knew, he’d been talked into judging! He had to ask simple questions in English, and the kids answered them in English. Later, the entire competition was shown on Dunguang TV. Richard said the kids were very good, considering they had only been learning English for a couple of years.

You never know what’ll happen!

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The intrepid judges

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The contestants

Spirit Houses and the Crocodile Society: Life in PNG

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Bob enjoyed his trip so much that he fancied he’d make himself a PNG native… by superimposing his face into one of his photos!

Bob Rosenberg wrote stories during his adventure in Papua New Guinea, where he was off the grid for ten days….no news, no phone, no email, nothing at all. After returning, he sent Journeys pages and pages of fascinating stories, some of which are excerpted here. 

Today we begin sailing “up-river” on the mighty Sepik River, the world’s third largest after the Amazon (#1) and the Congo (#2). We are on a small river boat, not that much bigger than Bogie’s African Queen, in quest for our own Colonel Kurtz. 

Our journey will take us into the heart of Papua New Guinea and to about eight different stone age tribes (Conmei, Manjamei, Mumeri, Tungunbut, Kabriman, Minimbit 1&2 and finally, the Tambunan, the best artist in PNG). This last tribe we visited in the Sepik region, the Tambunan, was where Margaret Mead did her pioneering anthropological studies in the 1930’s. 

There are two weather seasons here. There is the “hot” season when the weather is hot and wet. Then, there is the “wet” season when the weather is “hot ” and “very wet”. So far, we have been incredibly lucky with bright, hot, sunny days and the rain coming only in the early evening, when we are back on ship. (Could this be Camelot? Nah, don’t think so with the temperature at 96 degrees and the humidity at 100%.)

The villages we visited are quite authentic… No Disney-like tourist traps….No electricity in the multiple-family open houses, all built on stilts to avoid the river’s seasonal floodings. These 20 X30 ft, raised platforms are like giant lofts with each family allocated it’s own section of the floor for their hammocks, cooking pots and private possessions. In some, the roofs were low to keep in the heat of the fire during cool nights and to contain the smoke of the fire as an effective anti-mosquito device.

At each village, we were shown a different slice of their customs and everyday life. We might see fishing or hunting techniques here, cooking or weaving there. If we were lucky, we would be invited into the men’s “spirit” house to see an initiation into manhood or into the woman’s “spirit” house for their equivalent rites. 

A particularly fascinating rite was the initiation into the Crocodile Society, something we were not permitted to see (thank goodness!). The crocodile is the most powerful spirit on the river and is believed to be immortal. Young boys as a rite of passage to manhood and a manifest sign of personal bravery are invited into the spirit house for this revered ceremony. There, held by their uncles or some other matrilineal male elder, they are permanently scarred by razors and mud is then rubbed in to make the wounds pucker and to prevent them from healing. By constantly scraping off the scabs, as the cuts try to close, it puckers the skin further, giving their torso the rough texture of crocodile skin. Sometimes, the boy’s sister will simultaneously volunteer for a mini-version of this very painful procedure as a sign of filial devotion and personal bravery. By personal observation, only a handful of the villagers were so “honored.”

After our experiences in the village and on the river, we will slowly wind our way through PNG by charter plane, boat and four-wheeler up into the Highlands and beyond. Our final stop and the purported highlight of our trip is the Goroka Sing-Sing.  Here all the tribes will compete with each other for awards and bragging rites for the best costumes, facial painting and adornment, music and dance. It promises a fabulous photographic opportunity. 

Someone once asked me why I spend so much time putting these blogs together. Here’s your answer: Besides it being fun to do, it dramatically enhances the enjoyment of my trip. By using my camera and video phone on site, I add one layer to the texture of the experience. By then writing about it, I then add another layer on top of that. Visually, think of it as going from “hearing” a singular instrument to a concerto to a full fledged symphony. Lastly, sharing any great experience with the person you love, your family or friends, is one of the great privileges and needs of being human.

Journeys Nepal Earthquake Relief Photos

The Ultimate Mother’s Day Gift

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My mom meeting a koala bear in Australia.

As Mother’s Day approaches, Sally Grimes, Director of Marketing and Family Programs, shares what she’s learned from her own adventurous mom. 

My mom is an inspiration. When my dad died 11 years ago, we were all devastated. After almost 40 years of marriage, my mom had to figure out what was next for her. It would have been easy for her to do nothing, to fall back into old habits, to become depressed. But instead, a year or two after my dad died, she called me up and said she was going to try something new. She bought a RoadTrek campervan, joined a women’s RV group, and took off down the road to explore the country. 

But the US wasn’t big enough for her, so she started gathering our entire family (20+ people) in Mexico every year. She also took my nephew to Australia for three weeks and headed north to Canada a few times. 

This year, my kids and I get to explore the world with her. On June 22, my mom, my 8- and 10-year old daughters, and I will land in Hong Kong, a new adventure for all of us. It’ll be the first time in my life that my mother, my kids and I will all be experiencing something new for the very first time, at the same time. 

I love that she and I are reading the same book, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, to prepare for our trip. I love that the four of us will share the dreaded long-haul flight, tour the Lantau Islands, ooh and aah in Guilin, climb Moon Hill, enjoy a leisurely boat ride down the Li River. I love that we will visit the giant pandas, attend a ‘Changing of the Faces’ performance, see the Terracotta Warriors, pretend to sleep on an overnight train. And I can’t wait to be overwhelmed by the Forbidden City, experience life in the hutongs, and last but most certainly not least, stand in awe at the Great Wall of China. 

I love that the four of us will share these experiences together. We’ll all be excited about the trip, exhausted by long days, curious about new people, intimidated by new experiences, broadened by new cultures, uncomfortable in new surroundings, and energized by new knowledge. 

But what I love the most is that my 8- and 10-year old daughters with have this experience with their 72-year old grandmother, learning an invaluable lesson that no matter your age, no matter what life hands you, it’s always the right time to try something new and explore the world.

This lesson I’ve learned from her, and that we are now sharing with my daughters, is the best Mother’s Day gift I can imagine.

(Haven’t planned your family summer vacation yet? There are still a few spots left on the June 22 departure of Enchanted China for Families!)