Sunday, February 27

On leaving

When I was younger (hell, a lot younger), my mother decided that it was a good time for us to emigrate to Australia. It was right after the communists have fallen and the country was in a mess, etc. Anyway, I was super excited about leaving and traveling and meeting new people and all that. Until we got to the point when it was time to really leave. When I realized that I will most probably never see my friends again. And then all hell broke loose. And i started crying and howling and whoever knows my projection capabilities I WAS MAKING A LOT OF NOISE! and the lift was not working and we had to descend all the nine floors down, and i would grab unto the iron bars of the staircase and cry and shout. Yes, it was that traumatic.

The long flight + the 12 hours transit in Frankfurt really helped to calm me down. Things got a little better after we arrived but still I sometimes would cry myself to sleep missing all those people at home. Of course, when we had to turn back to Romania, it was the whole thing all over again.

I guess these traumatic goodbyes when i was little made me what i am today. I am fully capable of turning my back on my friends, leave the country and never contact them again, without shedding a single tear. And when i do decide to leave, then that's it, i'm packing my bags and i am off.

This time though, I have a feeling it will be different. Not only do the current people i might have to leave behind (mind you, I am not 100% sure i am leaving yet) mean a hell of a lot more to me than most people until now, but also I have become hopelessly addicted to some foods here. Yes, pragmatic I am, but whoever said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach for sure meant "the way through a woman's heart is through durians and tom yam soup".

But what i am really trying to say without becoming mushy is that I will make sure and will try my best (to the point of stalking) to make sure that I do not loose contact with the peeps here, and that hopefully we go climbing or eating even when our boobs/balls have become soggy [vulgarity necessary to reduce the mushiness of the post].

Thursday, February 24

Annapurna Circuit Trek - Part VI

[Read the rest of the annapurna story here.]

Day 11. Muktinah - Marpha
Finally! after that well-deserved shower we headed out towards Marpha.

The first part of the day was very beautiful, especially since we went through the village-fortress of Jarkot.

We wondered around Jarkot and even got lost. We really had to pass that small alley.

We really hated this day also, because the area we passed through was barren and full of dust.

However, the mountains still dominated the valley and river bank:

That and blue-horned yaks:

Our progress was slow because of the wind and the dust so we arrived in the evening at Marhpa. Marpha is a gem of a village, with white-washed rock walls. In the morning, the locals remove the manure from its stone paved streets with a small knife. How is that for cleanliness?

They also had natural apple cider!

And a budhist gompa that offered very nice arial views of the village.

Day 12. Marpha - Kalopani

The scenery improved drastically with Dhaulaghiri our main follower for the day.

Bogdan decided to wash his underwear and let it dry.

I am so sorry we did not go to this gompa.

The road was mostly flat, but, as opposed to the previous day, it had a lot more greenery and less wind. Still, the presence of the newly built road (where road equals a dusty, earthy path fit for a jeep) still made its presence felt sometimes. I am really glad we went at this time since the road changes the scenery for the worse.

Again, the river bank.

We found this little fat boy with very big paws that I so wanted to take with me!

Probably he would have changed into this. We noticed that most dogs in the valley were of the same "brand". Could this have been the father?

And finally, we reached Kalopani! Guarded by Dhaulaghiri on the right and the Annapurna's on the left, this is truly a gem of a village. We ate like pigs but not before going into the forest to do some pull-ups. As we could not find any trees with horizontal branches, we settled for two trees shoulder-wide apart, that we pinched and did many sets of 5. I think we did about 40 pull-ups that day. Jensen are you proud of meeee?

And of course, the Annapurnas made for a fantastic sunrise:

Notice how the mountains are so tall they obstruct the sun:

Day 13. Kalopani - Tatopani
We move towards Tatopani and the promise of hot springs there! Gradually we are saying goodbye to the mountains and hello to tropical lands.

And water buffaloes

Stick insectsPraying mantis:

These were actually the highlight of the day, because otherwise you just walk and walk on that road until you die. Of course, unless you are accompanied by a porter, in which case you are spotless clean (not full of dust like us), and only carry a teensy-weensy little bag.

And of course, the hot springs!

Tuesday, February 22

One picture Tuesday

And of course I said that I wanted to come to Europe and as such I will be (hopefully) joining the University of Adelaide, Australia as a lecturer. I mean, isn't that normal? It's gonna be for a two-year period first, while Marian finishes and we decide what we will do with the rest of our lives.

Also, it is VERY VERY close to singapore, and i suppose Marian, San, Doris, and Jensen will want to come to climb next year in Australia. For san and doris: this is mandatory, yeah?

Sunday, February 20


While flying back from adelaide, I watched a documentary called "stress, the silent killer". It documented how people and baboon lower in an hierarchy have higher stress levels than the chief enchiladas. And how higher levels of stress lead to high blood pressure, increase in the bacteria that causes ulcer, and to clogged arteries, in other words to many visits to the doctor, etc. This is all old stuff and it is not what I wanted to talk about, but something else.

The stanford prof doing the baboon study was saying that a zebra in the savanna has short moments of very high levels of stress, and its two hormones, adrenaline and another one, whenever it is being chased by a lion and running for its life. After the chase is over, the zebra is either dead or has survived and the stress is gone, and therefore the zebra is no longer stressed. 

However, the same high levels of stress have been identified in humans when they are, let's say, stuck in traffic or have a report deadline of some sort. Therefore, the prof was saying that the zebra in the savanna running for its life would NEVER understand how people stuck in traffic can be as stressed as it.

So my little piece of Aussie wisdom: remember the zebra!

Thursday, February 17

Stupid is as stupid does

I now have 79.45 AUD. This is ALL I have for my 3 day stay here in Adelaide, Australia. This is because before, I had 104 SGD. By accident, in my brand new wallet that I luuurve. Yup. My cards do not work - that is, I cannot draw money from an ATM. I normally change money before I go to a place, but this time i decided to follow Marian's advice and just draw from the ATM (please notice how i subtly made it sound like it was his fault. Because IT IS, THAT'S WHY!)

Anyway, I can't draw money from the ATM - i think it is because it is a debit card or something, and they only have withdrawal from credit cards. Luckily I had 104 SGD in my wallet. Or else. I bought bulgarian feta cheese (OMG IT'S DELICIOUS) and fresh baked bread, plus fruits, so this left me with almost 80 bucks. Sadly, i think i have to pay for the intewebs, unless they are covered too (15AUD for 2 hours WTF?!) Hopefully I will have enough money left to buy prezzies and ahem, cheese.

Tuesday, February 15

One picture Tuesday

And ladies and gentlemen, yesterday, to celebrate V-day (I guess), Marian has cooked for me!! I am very excited about this, since the extent of Marian's average cooking is ... toast. With butter and honey. Oh. And he sometimes cooks me breakfast: fist of oats with cold milk dumped on top. His french fries are amazing though, and he can whip up most potato based dishes in no time. Which is why I told him when I sensed that he was going to cook for me: "only mashed potatoes, please! :)"

Anyway, he totally outdid himself and surprised me: 5-Beans Chili! Totally vegetarian and mostly from scratch (the beans were already boiled). The picture is totally crappy because we were very very hungry.

Monday, February 14

Ah well...

Grrr. I have never had a proper job interview in my life. All the jobs that I had were either "come on, we just need some people, can you program? yes? ok, you'll do!", or were "do you want to join our group?" or "i will take care of you until you find a job - kinda thing". I had phone interviews. I failed 66% of them, which means that i had 3 and failed 2. In one it was not my fault, in the second i was came out as too noob. I passed the third in the sense that I got invited to come on site. But then again, the third was just a "let's see if you can speak english" kinda thing. Looks like i can speak English!

Anyway, tomorrow I am flying off to Adelaide, for my first, ever ever ever proper interview in my life. I am almost 30 for crying out loud!!! Anyway, I have never been more scared in my life, not even while I was contemplating death on the face of the matterhorn. And now I know what our school really needs: a post-graduate career office, to help graduate students find jobs!! I most probably will fail this interview, but the experience i will get will be priceless I think - also, Adelaide will be my second Australian city (for free some more!)

Friday, February 11

Doing what you love

While mindlessly surfing the web today I just found an amazing story about somebody doing what they love. Maid Marian is a baker and a seller of muffins in Brooklyn. Nothing special with this, but get this: she is selling them off her bicycle. Pedaling through brooklyn, selling muffins. ZOMG how cool and inspiring is that? I instantly had a feeling that I could also do this! Bike through brooklyn and sell TOM YAM!

Here she is on Brooklyn bridge!

[I love to teach. and climb. and do research. and eat. cheese]

Wednesday, February 9

Annapurna Circuit Trek - Part V

[Read the rest of the annapurna story here.]

Day 9. Yak Karka - Thorung Pedi
We left early in the morning and took it as slow as possible to Thorung Pedi, 4500m.

We are moving slow and steady to ensure that we acclimatize properly.

Even with the slow walk, we still manage to run out of breath sometimes. Was it the beauty of the trek?

At last, after 3 hours or so we manage to reach Thorung Pedi.

We settle quickly in one of the basic rooms and proceed to enjoy the mid-morning sun.
Marian takes out his solar panel which immediately makes him the target of curious stares, questions, and even requests for charging.
Some people near us do not feel so great, they have headaches and are grumpy. We are doing nice and dandy, although a bit short of breath. Claudia is complaining of headaches and at times we lie down inside the room.

We eat dinner around 5 and go to sleep quickly, not before selecting the music we are going to hear the next day.

Day 10. Thorung Pedi - Thorung La - Muktinah

We wake up at 4 am and I would have slept for at least two more hours- because Marian's sleeping bag was less thick than mine, we put his underneath and cuddled up with mine on top. Of course, both of us slept bad like this.

At 4 am, we quickly packed our bags and left the room around 4:30 am. At first going up was hard for me, because as we all know by now I am a bit of a sloth when it comes to early morning exercise. It did not help that it was cold as hell so when we stopped at high camp (4800m) one hour later, we all decided to drink some tea (without even having discussed this before). After high camp follows an exposed hill face where the wind greeted us with all its might. My hands, face, feet were frozen in a matter of minutes. Claudia's face was swelling pretty bad.

We stopped again at a high tea-shop where we met an old man with his guide. He really inspired us as his guide said that he was over 70 years old. Way to go!! The tea-shop (basically just some tin plates against the wind) induced us to eat some breakfast. I had a cereal bar although I did not feel like eating.

And of course I should have stopped eating it but the glutton in me persevered. Needless to say, the cereal bar proceeded uphill in about two minutes after we started walking again. However, to my credit, I managed not to puke it out.

By this time Claudia was feeling pretty bad so we had to stop every five minutes or so for her to rest. These breaks were more than welcome for the rest of us as well ... you know how it is ... the reason why weaker members are welcome in a trekking team is that everybody can say they are waiting for them when it's actually themselves resting ... It was a good exercise for Bogdan too, because I don't think he was used to helping her out in these situations.

We walk, we stop, we take pictures... We settle in the altitude routine, only disturbed by some Chinese kids who find it funny to shout and laugh and then nearly faint for lack of breath.

We next see the tibetan flags flapping in the wind and we know we have reached the pass. Marian makes a fatal mistake and tries to dash for it, but stops five steps later with a monstrous headache: altitude victim number 2! We are happy to arrive and take lots of pictures. 5416 m UHA!!!

The descend is horrendous. Our knees are tired, and the two victims are slowly recovering from their plight.

After 1300m descent, we stop at the first sign of civilization. A coffee shop where water is heated by natural means as well.

it takes us another 4 hours from Thorung La to reach Muktinah, a holy city with hindu and buddhist temples.

One cannot stay in Muktinah but right next to it is Ranipauwa, were we stopped at the first hotel that caught our eyes:

Good thing we did stop because it was the first hotel on the trek that had HOT water! Hot enough for me to sort of wet-clean my hair after 10 days.