Sunday, May 31, 2015

Travel - Sometimes Sweetness and Light. Other times, NOT.

This post was composed over a few days, in and out of Internet service. As I complete it, we're camped at Cottonwood Canyon Campground in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  Yesterday we left Yellowstone National Park after a quick visit and an exit via what has to be among the most spectacular drives in the world, the Beartooth Highway. 
One of way too many OMG views from the Beartooth Highway.
Cell service at our campground is 3G, so with my iPhone's Hotspot, I'm able to plug into the Internet. Hopefully the post will be done before power runs out or I get too cold sitting outside. Our campsite along the Little Missouri River lacks electrical or other services. And now on to Yellowstone highlights along with some musings about our privileged travel life.

The awesome power of Yellowstone Falls cannot be overstated. 
Lest anyone think that traveling for prolonged periods means unmitigated joy,   trust me, it's not always so.

Sometimes I feel like I'm giving the wrong impression. True. We are privileged and grateful to see and experience some of the greatest natural and cultural wonders of the USA and sometimes other countries. We're often stimulated, awe stricken, flabbergasted, wonder-besotted. But sometimes, between incredible places, we.....get homesick. Get tired of our close quarters Need our own spaces. Bicker. What I'm trying to on the road is not perfect. Close, but not quite.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone below the great falls. Just wonderful. I lost my sunglasses here, leaning over a barrier to take photos.
Springtime in Yellowstone. Buffalo and bears are on the move with young. The meadows are verdant. The skies are dramatic. The USA's first national park never disappoints. 
Here's another thing. We don't always stay in our camper, in case you got the mistaken impression we're hardcore.  If we have family or friends along the way, and we're invited, we gladly accept. Also, we've learned that if it's raining, snowing or otherwise stupid to hunker outside, we'll get a motel. Temperatures 20 degrees or less also drive us to places with hot showers and wide-screen TVs. We're old, but we're not stupid.
Leaving Yellowstone Park via the Lamar Valley, where numerous photo workshops were being conducted. A workshop was here, searching in vain, with cannon-sized lenses, for an osprey nest. Lacking a cannon-sized lens, I opted for wildflowers with the Lamar Valley in the background.
During numerous trips to Yellowstone, I'd never before hiked the boardwalks at Mammoth Hot Springs. Wow. Just unbelievable. 
Travertine deposits making magic at Mammoth Hot Springs.
We left Yellowstone National Park after a quick two days, one night. It was fabulous, of course.  We camped at Mammoth Hot Springs. Oddly, heavy traffic roared around the campground until well after 10 p.m. and resumed when I was jarred awake at 5 a.m. But you don't visit Yellowstone to camp. You camp in Yellowstone so you can be close to all those amazing natural wonders.

A few of the neon colors at Norris Geyser Basin created by heat-loving algae
Last night PK and I were holed up in a hotel in Billings, Montana, adjacent to a medical clinic treating cancer and other patients. How we arrived at this hotel is another story having to do with my TripAdvisor ineptitude. The clientele was mostly patients on medical journeys, and their families, not recreational travelers like us While we're in our modest room planning where to camp tomorrow and deliberating whether our butts can tolerate another bike ride, the people on either side may be in dread about medical tests, test results, or treatments.

This juxtaposition puts me in the crux of travel ambivalence. We're skimming on the top of life right now, as I see it. But one day, it could be me or PK awaiting test results or unpleasant treatments or a terminal diagnosis.  So before we're the patients and no longer the skimmers at the apex of the life-is-good chain, we're going for it.
That's me, in a photo taken by PK, proving I was on the trip, with Yellowstone Falls behind. This is one of my favorite places in the world.
FYI - I'm pushing the "publish" button at 9:28 p.m. under a full North Dakota moon and with light-seeking insects crawling on the screen with my iPhone providing wifi.  I love it. I'm also getting cold! Time to crawl into the Four Wheel Camper.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Riding The Trail of the Couer d' Alenes

A young moose crossed the The Trail of the Couer d' Alenes bike path in front of us not far from Harrison, Idaho. After a brief stare down between marveling us and the bemused moose, the animal entered the river on the other side of the trail.
As we rolled into our camp at Harrison, Idaho, after a two-day 100-mile RT bike ride, PK dismounted and said, "Whew. I don't know whether we should be relieved or proud of our achievement."

I didn't know either, but I think it was both. Relief that we were off those torturous bike seats and proud that we'd managed to go the distance. 

Our ride started Tuesday, May 26. Skies were foreboding when I peeked out of the camper at 5 a.m. This was the big day we'd anticipated since we began planning this road trip a couple months earlier and, in a way, five years ago. In 2010 we'd tried the Trail as we were returning from a wedding extravaganza in Montana. It was also our first trip with the Four Wheel Camper.

Then we'd camped at Idaho's Heyburn State Park close to a trail access. We were in a rush to get home, but we managed to do a 20-mile out-and-back ride along the flat rails-to-trails bike path. It was heavenly, and we pledged to return someday. But on this chilly morning we shivered in the cool damp as we hiked uphill to a sweet little coffee and quiche place, The Tin Cup, in Harrison, where we were camped along Lake Coeur d' Alene. Over breakfast, we eavesdropped as the locals discussed the weather. It was going to shower off and on and a thunderstorm wasn't out of the question.

Today's ride was just shy of 50 miles from Harrison to Wallace, Idaho, and once we left Harrison, it would be about 37 miles to the nearest services, or shelter, in Kellogg, Idaho. Did we want to ride in the rain? Or chance a thunderstorm with no where to hide?

Even as we hashed it out, we pumped our tires and stashed snacks and overnight-stay stuff into our bike bags. We were going. What's the worst that could happen? We could get cold and wet?

No. The worst that could happen was we would regret that we'd wimped out and missed an experience and a place we believed to be worth the trouble it was to get here.  

The skies started spitting five miles out, and the dark clouds glowered. The shower was enough to dampen our clothes, if not our spirits. It looked like heavy rain ahead, and we stopped to put on what passes for rain gear in our biking wardrobes. Half an hour later, we ditched the rain gear. Other than an occasional sprinkle, and riding through puddles left behind by the angry clouds that kindly got ahead of us, we remained dry, warm, and mostly happy. I'll get to the "mostly happy" part later. 
We'd made the right decision, and we knew it as we glided through bird-filled marshes along a trail decorated by wildflowers. The Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes is a classic rails-to-trails ride - mostly flat, although our ride was slightly uphill the last 12 miles.
The Trail has water on one side or another for much of its 71-mile distance. (We rode just shy of 50, one way.) This is in the chain of lakes region where lakes, rivers, and marshes, and all the wildlife that loves such places, make for f great scenery and abundant wildlife. Very few people, though.
Still. Fifty miles, even on a mostly flat trail, is a long way for people of any age who aren't in great bike shape and neither PK or I are even close to what we were five years ago when we were training for a 65-mile bike event.  One thing that we are, though, is officially old.  I'm finally beginning to admit that things get harder......

As we rode, I took inventory of my infirmities brought into focus by remaining in a bike-riding (unnatural) posture for several hours. All body parts are affected, but one is paramount - the butt! Mine was feeling crushed and pulverized after only  20 miles with  80 miles to go, counting the return trip. Yikes! 

Somehow, when you ride frequently, the nether regions become hardened off.  Or something. You get used to the saddle. I'm broken in now and maybe in a week can jump back on the Specialized. 
PK just outside of Kellogg. Shall we stay or shall we go? 
We could have stayed in Kellogg and cut about 24 RT miles off, but by the time we got there and had lunch, I was revitalized, curious about the town of Wallace, which was being touted as a way better place to spend the night by Kellogg residents we talked with over lunch. And hell, I can do anything for the hour (about 12 miles) it would take to get there. Since I was suffering more than PK, he let me make the call. He was game either way.

Our first stop in Wallace was the Northern Idaho Brewery, City Limits, where we enjoyed congratulatory beers and were entertained by our exuberant wait person, Andrea Leveque, a total ski babe living the life here in the Idaho panhandle. 
Wallace lived up to its reputation as a town with "character," good food and lodging. It claims to be the "center of the universe." But I know people in Ashland, Oregon, who would dispute that.
We stayed at the Ryan Hotel, a vintage boutique place lovingly restored. This is the "lobby", second floor. We loved our suite, pampering ourselves after a day on the trail. If you're passing through Wallace on I-90 and want a classy yet affordable accommodation, give it a try.

PK checking out a Sprinter-type unit  along the bike trail near Kellogg.  I wouldn't be surprised if one of these is in our future.
The South Fork of Coeur d' Alene River not far from Kellogg. It looked healthy enough but locals said it, and all area creeks and rivers, are running at far less than normal flows.
A bit downstream, the Coeur d' Alene picked up volume and one boatload of trout seekers.
That adorable young moose, one more time.
At the end of the day, I had to repack in preparation for the next leg of our journey. Somehow, I managed to bring too much!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Road Tripping in the Four Wheel Camper-West to Midwest USA and Canada

Our Memorial Day campsite along Coeur d' Alene lakeshore  We're upscaling it with water
 and electricity and a million dollar view.
We're at the end of day two of a month-long road trip with our sturdy and efficient little friend, the Four Wheel Camper. We've taken numerous journeys with the camper, and I sometimes post afterwards. But what I have wanted to do is  an on-the-road  travelogue.

This is challenging, one, because we're often without wifi or cell phone service, and two, because I am lazy and undisciplined, a  person who is compelled to write but spends more time thinking about it than doing it.

And then there's the can't-make-things-work-photo-downloading issue that I'm gnashing my teeth over exactly now, as we're parked 10 feet from the shore of beautiful Coeur d Alene Lake in Harrison, Idaho, and rain is pounding the metal roof and we are discussing how to reach our rain gear in the back of the pick-up cab without getting wet, so that we can head over to a nearby restaurant/bar where they advertise $2 Jello shots and Jager Bombs, which we do not intend to order, but are nonetheless amused to see being prominently advertised. (The photo issue is solved but I"m leaving this paragraph in as it demonstrates the  frustration of computer problems and bursts of bad weather, especially at the same time, that drove me write a sentence of almost 100 words.) 

Whew. The rain has stopped. The light on the water is dramatic. I've downloaded one photo and am confident that more will appear. We're ready to see what the restaurant has to offer other than Jello shots and Jager bombs. (The burgers were authentic, smoky and good!)

En route to where are—Harrison, Idaho, which is an access point for the Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes—we had a couple of pleasant surprises. One was the proliferation of wind turbines all over the place in northeastern Oregon.

As we drove over curvy undulating country roads, hundreds and hundreds of giant turbines rose from fields of winter wheat. Often the tips of turbines would peek foot by foot (blades are about 50 feet long) from behind hills as we wound through gullies and over hillocks.

Then was the wonderful Cottonwood Canyon State Park, in its second season. We scored the last campsite on Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Lucky us. The primitive camps - meaning we'd have to survive without electrical, water, or sewage hookups, cost $10 each. The campground is along the John Day River, which was swollen with brown water from recent  rains. A good thing to see while so much of the West is drought stricken.

Entrance to this Oregon State Park includes a museum and interpretive center.

Pinnacle Peaks trail along the John Day River out of Oregon's Cottonwood Canyon State Park in north central Oregon. If you go, bring a mountain bike to navigate the trails. Our road bikes? Not.

The John Day River was muscular, swirling with brown water on its way to the Columbia River.
That was yesterday. Our destination today was Harrison, Idaho, where we're poised to tackle a two-day bike ride up the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes tomorrow morning. Fifty miles up, 50 miles back. But we'll stay in a hotel in Wallace, Idaho, tomorrow night so we have time to gather energy for the return trip. Fifty miles isn't really that much, but neither one of us is in great bike shape. But hell. We have all day to get there. We have snacks. We have t i m e.

This is where we'll start tomorrow. Can't wait!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cutting back on gardening to travel? Really?

That's me planting peppers a few weeks ago in what amounts to about a third of our too-big-for-two garden.  Photo credit - Chris Korbulic
In another lifetime—more than 30 years ago—I wrote a weekly column for a local paper. I could not have foreseen that one day I would be writing column-like pieces on a blog, a then-unfathomable concept, with no one cracking the editorial whip. I miss that whip! My own is made of palm fronds and peacock feathers, but I manage to produce a blog once or twice a month, and here we go.

One of those long-ago "write one no matter what" pieces was about abandoning gardening. It was composed during a mid-life crisis in the late eighties when PK and I had two kids, two jobs, an apple orchard and a significant garden. We couldn't do it all. We decided to keep the kids but ditch the garden.

I remember writing then that we still maintained a small plot, but that it was the size of a king-sized bed.

Now we've been kid-free for years, have ripped out most of the time-sucking orchard, and are fully retired with time enough to be dangerous and out of control. As a result, our 2014 garden was roughly the size of Wal Mart.

This was the July garden a few years back before we unwittingly painted our house the color of garden dirt.  (See photo below.)
We're trying to cut back. But here's the thing, especially in the Southern Oregon spring.  It feels good and right to dig in the dirt under a benevolent blue sky, to tease tenacious crabgrass roots from compacted soil, and stir composted manure into garden rows. I'm romanticizing gardening here, but only a little.

It feels good to plant the baby peppers, tomatoes and eggplants even as they tremble in the wind and suffer sunburn. Soon they will harden off and burst into pre-production vigor, only to go ballistic in August and September and shoot cannon loads of veggies into the kitchen for processing.

Now I'm complaining about abundance, which is such a ridiculous rich-white-person's non problem.

But here's the thing.  I'm struggling with how to live the last third of life—how to strike a balance between loving my home and garden while also satisfying the hunger to travel while I still can. While we still can.

Can we have it both ways? We're trying. We've planted a more modest garden,* but in a few days we're traveling for a month.

Planting a garden. Leaving for a month. What are we thinking? 

Some important adjustments have been made, especially regarding watering, which, thanks to PK, is now mostly automatic via some fancy programmable soaker hose and sprinkling doodads. A gardening friend will stop by to rescue anything that is gasping and maybe yank a few weeds.

Do we really need all these peppers, PK?  I ask in front of our home, painted the same color as our garden dirt.  But not on purpose. Photo credit: Chris Korbulic
*A more modest garden equals, in plants or rows:
  • 12 tomatoes 
  • 26 peppers 
  • 2 zucchinis 
  • 2 butternut squash
  • 3 eggplants
  • 12-15 cantaloupes 
  • 5 basil 
  • 4-6 cucumbers
  • 1/8 row beets
  • 1 row onions, sweets and keepers
  • sunflowers and other annuals to transform the garden into a bird and bee convention center
I know. That's quite a list for a "modest garden," and the cannon will still shoot way too much into the harvest kitchen come early fall.

But change is in the air. Maybe next year I can write that we have finally pushed the reset button and are taking a year off.  

If we do take a gardening hiatus, it will be temporary, because we both love it and need it. But when it comes to size,  perhaps we'll be thinking more along the lines of  "king-sized bed" rather than Wal Mart. 

A glorious bird, bee and butterfly paradise from a few years back.   

NEXT - A month-long road trip in the Four Wheel Camper should be worth a few posts. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Farm Fresh Kale and Strawberry Salad

Tina Arapolu co-owner of Easy Valley (organic) Farm in Southern Oregon, helps produce tons of veggies just a couple miles from where I live. I asked her to show me where she grows kale.  Wow! The hoop house was rockin' with vitamin vibes from all that kick-ass kale. Maybe you don't get as excited about kale as I do? It is an acquired obsession.
PK and I enjoyed yet another potluck party last weekend, prompting me to fiddle around making one more raw kale salad. When a pot-lucker  told me that it was the first kale dish she'd ever liked ,and she couldn't even taste the kale, and a few more asked for the recipe, I figured it was worth a yet another kale recipe post. This will be the eleventh! (Scroll down for links to earlier recipes.)

But this one is really good. It's all about using super fresh ingredients and a homemade strawberry vinaigrette dressing.  I think the dressing would make cardboard palatable.
One bunch of just-picked lacinato kale is $2.50 at Tina's
make-your-own change farm stand. I prefer this variety for salads. And
I love the country feel of the on-your-honor sales approach.

Local berries, one mile away, are the BEST! Our berry
crop failed this year so I frequent the strawberry stand. 
Let's get to the dang recipe! This is a non commercial blog and lacks a "print" button, but you can do it the old-fashioned way: select and copy the recipe to a word processing program.

Kale Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

6-8 servings

1 bunch of farm-fresh kale, de-ribbed and chopped
1/2 head (small-medium) organic cabbage, chopped
1 small-medium sweet spring onion with some greens, sliced
1 handful of arugula, chopped (optional, I just happened to have some)
1/4 to  1/3 cup dried cranberries (dried cranberries have a lot of sugar. They taste great in the salad, but leave out if you're diabetic or avoiding carbs.)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese 
1/3 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds (or slivered almonds, roasted pecans or another roasted seed or nut)
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced

Chop the kale, cabbage and arugula, if using. Add the white parts of the sliced onion and the cranberries. Mix in a salad bowl and cover, or store in a plastic bag and refrigerate, if making several hours in advance.

An hour or so before serving, assemble the mixed kale, cabbage, arugula, cranberries and onion and toss with dressing in a salad bowl. Start with 4 tablespoons of dressing and add more as necessary.

Let it marinate. refrigerated for at least a half hour. Before serving, sprinkle the feta cheese on top, followed by the nuts or seeds, then the sliced strawberries.  Sprinkle with the sliced green onion tops, or substitute chives. 

Strawberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

I reviewed a dozen or so recipes and finally came up with this, which turned out great. 

1/2 cup strawberry vinegar*
3/4 cup oil. I used half avocado oil and half olive oil
3 tablespoons honey, or to taste. This yields a light to moderately sweet dressing. Low-carbers can choose Splenda, stevia or other low-carb sweeteners. 
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard

Use a wire whisk or a food processor to blend ingredients. The oil may separate, so shake or stir before dressing the salad.

*Strawberry Vinegar

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious. It is the essential ingredient in strawberry vinaigrette dressing. It is incredibly fresh and strawberry-tasting.

Make it a couple hours, or even a day ahead. Don't freak out! It's easy! You can use this fruity vinegar for a week or so, according to Epicurious. I tripled the recipe because I was making salad for 36 people. One recipe would have been plenty! The ingredients below make about two cups of vinegar. Adjust accordingly.

1 pound strawberries, trimmed (3 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar (or low-carb sweetener)
2 cups white balsamic vinegar, or, as adapted by me who lacks access to white balsamic, 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar and 1 cup balsamic

Using a food processor, pulse berries with sugar until finely chopped and juicy. Lacking a food processor? Try a potato masher. Transfer to a bowl and add vinegar. Stir. Let stand one hour or more. Strain vinegar through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. This can take 30 minutes or more. Discard solids. Refrigerate, covered, in a glass jar. Stays fresh tasting for about a week. 

Why bother eating kale? 

Curly kale. Great for kale "chips", soups, frittatas etc. 
Lacinato kale, AKA  dinosaur or Tuscan. Mild.
Siberian kale, mild and also good for chopped salads.

More kale recipes from Ordinary Life

Kale chips!
Asian Mexican Fusion Kale Salad
Creamed kale with dried tomatoes
Kale and Yoga Eggs Fritatta
Killer Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing
Savory Eggs, Kale, Prosciutto Breakfast
Kick Butt Kale Soup
Key to a Happy Marriage (includes kale!)
Spring Smoothie
Quinoa Kale Salad

Spring Salad - Asparagus, Avocado, Kale  and Cabbage
The potluck party that inspired this recipe. (spring salad)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Heartbreak and Hope - Voices from Nepal

Just a week after an earthquake devastated much of Nepal, the headlines have gravitated to newer, fresher, disasters. Such is life in the 24-hour news cycle and the accompanying national attention deficit disorder.

PK and I spent a few weeks in the fall of 2014 in Nepal with the founder and five members of the Bright Futures Foundation. 

BFF is a small non profit that helped build and staff a village clinic and also provided a top notch 12-year education to around 25 kids from impoverished Nepali families. It is safe to say that many of the relationships that developed over the past 14 years, both at the clinic and with families whose children were lifted from poverty, are as tender and enduring as any enjoyed within close-knit families.

Thus  it was that news of the recent earthquake was received with anguish. Earthquake victims aren't nameless, faceless masses, but loved ones. The flow of information between BFF, especially founder Catherine Wood, and Nepali people, has been at once healing and heartbreaking.

Below are messages and photos sent from Nepal, as well as pictures taken during happier times.

The following April 30 message was emailed to Catherine Wood by Samip Bhatta, the first student whose education was sponsored by BBF, and directly by Catherine and her husband, Michael. The Woods continued to support Samip as he received his bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering. He now works for an airline in Kathmandu and is dreaming of a master's degree. He calls Catherine "mom" because the bond between them is akin to mother and son.  

Catherine asked for a photo, and this is what Samip sent of himself, his parents Anita and Raju and Grandmother. The Bhatta family is back in their home, but life is hard.

Samip's words, April 30, 2015 
Mom, everything is getting back to normal and so I'm sorry I couldn't email you on time since we were out of electricity and had no communication.I really can't imagine the day that shook the whole world. I was on my bed, grandmother was watching television and Raju and Anita were on roof to water the  plants. Then suddenly we got hit. I was completely blank. I didn't know what to do. I took grandma, then Raju and Anita followed me out of house.
Then it strikes again. This time i can see my house moving as if it is going to touch the ground. We thought this is over and our house is gonna go down. Our eyes were full of tears and we can't speak a single word. But thank god, Mom, nothing happened.  But my laptop and cellphone broke into pieces because they had been charging.  I asked my parents, it's not safe to stay at home so we headed to the street along with one floor mat. On the street I can see kids crying, families praying for their lives, and people's eyes full of tears .I cannot explain mom, ooh god ......
We just had one floor mat so i asked Grandma to sleep on it. We didn't eat anything expect biscuit and water. No rescue team NO relief. No food. No shelter. Mom, right now my eyes are full of tears. We don't have blanket to put on us .It was cold and it was raining too. We all prayed god, and we actually remembered you and Michael. We chatted and talked and tried to remember good things and actually recalled our times with you. The first night was over. 
It's early in the morning , still raining. Could not go back into house to grab some food because it's all wet and walls may fall down, so we just have to satisfy ourselves with water and some biscuit. Everyone is scared. And no food. Nothing. We were so hungry so i decided it's better to go inside and get some bitten rice and water and peanuts and jam. As we were eating, it struck hard again.This time our water tank was destroyed and i can see the leakage on tank.
Mom, just imagine no food no electricity no communication no shelter and no water for four days. But then things got better and we can at least drink water and eat some boiled potatoes.
Mom, everything is so expensive. Even one noodle costs you 50 rupees when actually its price is 15. And the Government is like a stone. They don't care about us.
Right now we are planning to fix the water tank since it's almost out of the roof and we can see some  serious holes. We need to replace it.  Apart from that everything is fine and don't you worry, mom. Nobody can challenge Nature. 
Samip and Catherine Wood, October 2014.  
Thank god you are there for us, even your email gives us force. Wanna hug you so tightly, mom.
Your loving son, 

KeshavThapa is BFF's only paid employee, the foundation's liaison with the school and clinic. A Kathmandu resident, he has a master's degree in population studies, an endless capacity for  handling myriad details, and a huge loving heart. He has gained the respect of all who know him, and that's saying something. Below he's speaking with BFF sponsors, October 2014.
The email below was written to me. I met Keshav in Nepal in 2002 and we became brother and sister in a two-hour ceremony filled with flowers, food and ritual. "Didi" is a term of endearment. I've lightly edited his email.
Didi, we skipped from mouth of death. It was unimagined events suddenly. At that time we were eating lunch,  but suddenly vibrate the home and we quickly run away on the ground and we saw everywhere clouds of dust because many houses were collapsed. Aaryan and Susma were crying. The electric pole was down and telephone lines, electricity line was cut off. So I was not able to call to any one. But after a few hours the mobile started to work so I called to Galaxy. (He lists the people he was able to contact and those he could not, and tells of continuing interruptions in cell service and electricity.)
 Fortunately my neighbors helped me to charge the mobile from their inverter so I was able to contact Catherine didi and my mama Karen (Moss) I feel so happy and relieved when I heard from them and I feel that I have people who are loving us from very far.
That night we stayed on the open ground without any shade or food because we could not get anything from our house due to the continuing earthquakes. But soon we made common shade and we feel quite comfort. But then rainfall came so it was unimagined difficult situation. (He tells about contacting people from the Bhotechaur clinic.)
Susma, Keshav, Aaryan
We returned home morning of 29 April, but again that night also have earthquake, but it was 4.2 and less affecting. This morning also have 4.5 earthquake centralized in Kathmandu.
I was just able to rejoin the landline telephone and internet cable. As of today’s news (April 30) around 6000 people died and 14,000 people found injured but still doing rescue in the far area of Sindhupalchowk district where 100 percent of mud houses are collapsed. (The Bhotechaur clinic is in this district.)
I estimate that around 15,000 people have died because many buses, cars and motorcycle were covered by landslides on the roads, so nobody knows how many were there.
Still do not know how many people are in the houses of many parts of Sindhupalchowk district survived because it is very hard to rescue even from helicopter because of rain and clouds in the mountainous area. 
School buildings, official buildings are also collapsed in the Sindhupalchow district. My family house in my home village is also collapsed and my nephew and her mother were covered but rescued after three hours. They are OK, no injuries. I heard that the wood (in the house construction) saved them.

Within Kathmandu Valley, all historical temples except Pasupatinath and Krishna Mandir in Patan, collapsed. Historical places and museums are also collapsed.  
The government has announced that all schools are closed until 14th of May. Now we are OK. But the possibility  of communicable disease is very high because of open defecation by the people who were in the open ground, dead animals etc. Presently we are having water problems rather than food shortage.
 Didi we have new life. We are ok because of your prayers and love. Susma and Aaryan are going to Susma's home village because there is no problem there now. I am thinking to go to affected areas with a relief material distribution team.
OK didi  I will write you again. 
Yours loving, Keshav, Susma and Aaryan 
Prajwal Simkhada, pictured with Aaryan Thapa, 6, Keshav's son, in Patan, Kathmandu, November 2014. He wrote the email below to a BFF child sponsor. Prajwal, in his mid-20s, is among the first BFF-sponsored kids to have graduated from the Galaxy school. Thanks to his education, he is an IT entrepreneur in Kathmandu. 
From Prajwal Simkhada 
I'm doing OK. The ground still shakes sometimes. There are cracks in my house, I feel so unsafe to stay here. My mother is at my uncle's house. I have asked her to stay there for as long as it takes and not to come back. I went to my school yesterday. We cooked some food and had planned to give it to hungry people who are out of help. Just as we were about to leave I got a call. A good friend had lost both of his parents and his house. So I told my friends that I would be joining the team the next day and headed for the hospital where his parents' bodies were kept.  
Cremation scene at Pashupatinath in November 2014, when our guide said cremations continued around the clock every day. Traditionally, bodies are cremated with a few hours of death

It was a tragic scene, we took the bodies to Pashupatinath for the cremation ritual.
So many people are dead, there was no place for new bodies to perform the ritual. The place was so crowded. I feel like this is a bad dream and hoping somebody will wake me up. I feel very lucky to be alive and to know that people close to me are safe. Even though I cant feel totally relieved. I feel like the ground is shaking even when I'm walking, I get scared of loud noises. People are fleeing away as there might be shortage of food, clean water. Hospitals are flooded with people, very less room for people. I have promised to myself that I will stay here and do my best to make this place the way it was. We are receiving donations from many places, but all of our political leaders are corrupted and the needy are not getting any help. If you collect donations, I advise you never to send it to government or any government related organization. I'm so waiting for everything to be the way it was. I'm so happy that we are getting support from you and everybody. We have no hope that our government will be any help but you guys (BFF) are what gives us hope and make us feel that we do have someone who thinks about us and really are there for us. Thank you so so much, Alexia. I love you.

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Pre-earthquake posts about Nepal:
Feeling the Love in Nepal
Fear, the the Truth About Ziplines