Shame on me that I’ve kept silent for so long! My lame excuse is that I’ve been busier than ever in the past half year. But now, in the midst of the heatwave in Budapest, let me give an account of at least one of my recent trips.
Who hasn’t dreamt of visiting Nepal? Anyone? Well, I’m no exception. So when I was invited to the NELTA conference last autumn, I didn’t hesitate for a second to say yes, yes, yes! I was aware of the devastating earthquake the year before, but seeing is believing. Many of the wonderful sights of Kathmandu had been seriously damaged, but not all of them, thank God – as I witnessed during my sightseeing trip. It was an eye-opener to see how harmoniously Hindu and Buddhist temples live together, as do the people of the two major religions in Nepal.
Now here’s a quiz. Let me show you entrance tickets to two World Heritage Sites. Your task is to tell which one is Hindu and which is Buddhist.
1. Pashupatinath: 518 temples and monuments are huddled together. Hindu or Buddhist?
2. Bhaktapur: the ancient capital city of Nepal until about six hundred years ago. Hindu or Buddhist?
The corrrect answer is: 1. Hindu – 2. Buddhist. Well done! Never mind!
Then there’s Swayambhunath, built on top of a hill. This is probably the only smog-less place in the Kathmandu Valley. It is also known as the Monkey Temple – and indeed there are friendly monkeys hopping around all over the place. Here, I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy this wonderful singing bowl at half the price the shopkeeper asked for.
Now, what you have to do with the bowl is to place it on your flat palm and circle its rim with the stick. Soon enough, the bowl begins to vibrate and produces a beautiful sound, which is said to help you meditate and relax. At home I tried the trick many a time – to no avail. My son, however, managed to get it going at first try. And then he said, “Dad, you’re hopeless.”
Click the ‘Play’ button below to listen to the sound of the singing bowl:
What do you associate Nepal with? Mount Everest, of course, the top of the world at 8848 metres. Upon arrival I looked at several brochures advertising a one-hour flight around the Himalayas for about 90 dollars. So I asked the receptionist:
“Which airline company would you recommend for me to see Mount Everest?”
“To see the what, sir?”
“Mount Everest… Chomolungma.”
“Oh, you mean Sagarmāthā. In our language it’s Sagarmāthā, you know.”
Now I know. Yet I decided not to go. A visitor commented that the sky was so overclouded up there that he couldn’t see a thing from the window. I’m no fool to pay 90 dollars to see nothing but clouds. (This reminded me of a trip to Switzerland where the landlady took me on a day trip by car. With the mountains shrouded in fog, I joked that Switzerland was just like Hungary: flatland.) But now I regret I didn’t go. Never again will I have the chance to see Sagarmāthā, or at least the clouds around the peak.
Oops, I nearly forgot about the conference! To sum it up, it was great. Just like anywhere else in the world, English teachers are wonderful. Aren’t we lucky to live in such a close-knit family?
If you don’t believe me that I attended the NELTA conference, here’s the evidence:
I’d love to continue to talk about the other conferences I attended (Graz, Birmingham, Valencia, Kosovo) and inservice training courses I ran (Erbil, Barnstaple), but I have to go back to work on the third edition of… (I won’t tell you now). I’ll be back soon, inshallah.