Zohreh Sadeghi India and Beyond

The Nepal experience

Zahra and I met in Kathmandu on a beautiful and cool Tuesday afternoon in May. I arrived first and checked into the hotel and awaited her arrival. When I opened the door and saw her smiling face I jumped into her arms and hugged her as tight as I could and then showered her with kisses.

Zahra is one of my best friends; I’ve known her for about 14 years now. We went to the same high school in Iran and even though we never became close friends while in high school I always liked her and she always liked me (right Zahra?). Back in high school I used to be the ignorant kid who made fun of everybody else and thought she was the best. I wasn’t mean though, never got into any fights with anyone, was never rude to anyone and never hurt anyone intentionally. I liked everybody but I just thought I was better than everybody else. My partner in crime, Mona and I had lots of fun in high school. We had nicknames for different kids and we had a nickname for Zahra, we called her Sherry, honestly I have no idea why. Zahra had a loud laughter and every time she laughed in class, her voice echoed and it sounded even louder than it was and that’s what we made fun of her for. Funny thing is she knew this all along, years later when I met up with her in California she told me this but she said that she didn’t care and she didn’t hold it against me. I’m glad she didn’t cause honestly who cares how loud someone laughs or doesn’t? We were young and stupid that’s all I can say.

After I moved to the States I lost touch with her until one day I received a phone call from her. She said she was in Canada and that she was moving to the States and knew I was there and wanted to find out what city I was living in. I was living in San Dimas at the time, a small city in Southern California and I was going to Mt. San Antonio College about 20 minutes away from our apartment. She had no idea where that was but she told me she was moving to Pomona cause her brother was living there. When I heard the name Pomona, I screamed and told her she was moving basically 15 minutes away from me. Like I always say, if it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be. So she moved to Pomona, we became best friends and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We quickly got very close to each other and attended the same college for a semester and I spent almost every day at her apartment. We had lots of fun together. We picked a different location for lunch everyday, back then my favorites were El Pollo Loco, Taco Bell, Subway, and Quiznos so I quickly introduced her to the wonderful world of American fast food (or so I thought it was back then). I introduced her to Caramel Frappuccinos at Starbucks (which was introduced to me earlier that year by my very first Mexican friend Geneva), the tasty smoothies at Planet Smoothie across from Mt. SAC campus and so much more. Life was so simple back then, all we did was study, eat, talk and laugh.

Zahra and I grew up together and experienced so much together. We have many wonderful memories and so many we’d like to forget. I remember when I was in Iran almost a year ago and we both got arrested at a party and got thrown into jail. I was sitting in the cell with my head on her shoulder just processing what had happened to us when all of a sudden Zahra said: “Now there’s nothing we haven’t done together, I never imagined we’d experience something like this but we are, and we’re doing it together.” I didn’t know whether I should cry or laugh at that moment but it was true, and I didn’t want to be with anyone else but her.

We spent the first day in the hotel catching up; we had so much to talk about even though we were in touch through email and phone almost everyday. But I’m sure you know how it is when you meet up with a close friend after a very long time. We went down to the restaurant at the hotel and celebrated our first night together with a bottle of wine.

We spent the next 2 days exhausting ourselves by being true tourists. We saw many temples, stupas and other wonderful sights in Kathmandu. By day 3 we were exhausted and decided to take it easy. Our hotel was nice but nothing fancy or luxurious since we couldn’t afford to stay at the Hyatt Regency, which is the fanciest hotel in Kathmandu. But we also didn’t want to stay there, we wanted to experience the real Kathmandu and stay somewhere simple and closer to downtown. So to relax we went down to the Hyatt, had some amazing breakfast and spent the rest of the day relaxing and reading by the pool.

I was keen on the idea of rafting and bungee jumping but Zahra wasn’t a big fan so we settled on Trekking. After days of searching and getting price quotes from different places we finally picked a place and a guide to take us trekking. He picked us up at 5:30 AM; we drove about 2 hours to get to the forest where a 5-hour hiking trail awaited us. What our guide didn’t know was that I walk super fast so the 5 hour hike took us only 3 to complete. I was ahead of our guide throughout the walk and he kept telling me he was impressed by the speed of my walking. I thought he just let me go ahead so I’d feel good about myself but I swear to god when I finally told him we should take a quick break, he jumped on the idea and when he sat down I noticed him breathing heavily. So for a quick moment I felt very proud. That feeling didn’t last long though cause the minute I got up I felt this awful pain in my feet and I wasn’t able to walk after we got back to the hotel. Zahra wasn’t don’t any better, her left butt cheek was sore, just the left one though!

The hike was absolutely beautiful though; I enjoyed the cool weather of the Himalayans, beautiful views of green hills and mountains. We passed by 3 villages on our way, it was so wonderful and everybody greeted us with such warmth. All the village kids would run towards us saying, “hi, hi, give me some chocolate”. Had I known that these kids loved chocolate so much, I would have bought kilos and kilos of chocolate to give them. I was sad since I didn’t have any but I offered everything I had in my backpack, which wasn’t much, a few granola bars, a box of biscuits, a pack of gum and a pack of crackers. They took everything with excitement but I knew chocolate would have made them so much happier.

The day after our hike with swollen feet and soreness, we still decided to go explore the city. Kathmandu is really great. There’s a part of town designed more for tourists called Thamel where you’ll find lots and lots of local shops selling Nepalese clothing and handicrafts plus amazing bakeries, super markets and restaurants. You can find all kinds of cuisines in Thamel from Japanese to Italian to Arabic. And almost all restaurants and coffee shops offer free wireless Internet that makes it easy to search and figure out your next destination. If you leave Thamel and go to the neighboring areas you will see more of the real Nepal, small streets, filled with little shops and crowded with Nepalese themselves instead of foreigners and tourists. You can find much cheaper food at these neighborhoods of course. There are also big shopping malls in Kathmandu, not too many, maybe a handful. We managed to visit couple of them and shop a little. Shopping is a hassle in Nepal just as it is in India because you have to bargain. Everything is priced way over its worth so you have to try to bring down the price by 60% at least or you’re really being ripped off.

We managed to see a few other cities around, since one whole week in Kathmandu is a bit too much so we ventured out and saw Patan, Bhaktapur and on our trekking adventure we explored Nagarkot which is a beautiful district at 2600 altitude with a cool climate, great forests and lovely villages. We ate a lot, walked a lot, laughed a lot and just had an amazing time together just like the good old days.

Pictures:

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