Chingay Parade

Chingay which means "a decorated miniature stage" originated in China but was adopted by Singapore in 1973. This was in response to the fireworks ban a year earlier which was viewed unfavorably by Singaporeans as many people thought it would dampen the mood for Chinese New Year. The parade with floats, acrobatics, lion dances and stilt walkers was organized to "bring back some cheer to the public."

It has since grown to a very unique multi-racial parade with performances and floats from all over the world. In fact one of our friends from Mexico was a dancer in the parade.

The parade began with a 88 meter long dragon float. The double 8's being a very lucky number.

Next came the star wars troopers...don't worry I still have no idea what they were doing in the parade but some things are better left a mystery! Lets just say, Kingsley was pretty excited to see them!

For the next hour we saw everything from fire breathing stilt walkers to amazingly intricate floats and dances.

And of course no parade is complete without the token "strange man" running through the dancers wearing a bike helmet and knee pads.

Fortunately for us, fireworks are no longer banned in Singapore so we were able to enjoy a colorful fireworks display at the end.

Chinese New Year 2011

This Chinese New Year signifies - one year that Kingsley and I have been in Singapore and one year that this blog has been around. Pretty crazy how fast that year flew by.

We are now in the year of Rabbit, which is great...except for that fact that I am a Rooster. Roosters and Rabbits do not get along so well in the Chinese Zodiac so according to the prediction I can expect this in the year to come...

In a nutshell it says:
- I will get in trouble with the law very easily, so do not take risks or engage in unlawful acts as it will only lead to me being imprisoned.
- My financial star is not shining.
- I must be very careful when climbing great heights and beware of injuries from falling from high levels (good thing I didn't read this before our trip to Nepal!)

Not the greatest outlook for me this upcoming Chinese year...
However, good thing for me I'm not alone... I married a Rat!

2011 is gonna be a great year for the Rat:
- prosperous luck
- all wishes granted
- harmonious married life
- good health

I guess that is what's great about marriage - you balance each other out :)

Lucky Rat!

Kitten update

Recently we got ourselves into a little bit of a bind with the whole kitten fostering. See, I was so eager to take in more kittens I didn't really pay close attention to how long they wanted me to keep them (8 wks). Our trip to Nepal was planned right smack in the middle of those 8 wks which was a bit of a problem. That is until our (Italian) "kitten loving" friends Simone and Lisa agreed to step in and "foster" our foster kittens while we were away. I'm not gonna lie, I was a tinsy bit nervous that things would not work out well. Three kittens are a lot of work, so days before the trip I had nightmares of frantic international phone calls complaining about the wreckage the kittens inflicted on their pristine apt.

Thankfully, Simone and Lisa actually really enjoyed the time with the kittens and it is pretty obvious that the kittens enjoyed their time too. They almost doubled in size in the week we were gone! It must have been all the Italian cooking. The kittens also came back with very cool new names: Panza, Macchietta and Noia. Why cant Kingsley come up with names like that?

Simone and Lisa say goodbye to the kittens.

Future paraglider pilots in training

Nepal - Parahawking

One of the highlights of the trip was a chance to go parahawking with Kingsley. We both flew as tandem passengers and took off at the same time. They then release Kevin an Egyptian Vulture who quickly caught up to us and then took turns flying between the two gliders landing on our arms for a quick snack (raw buffalo meat) and showing us where the best thermals (column of warm air that gives the gliders lift) could be found. It was truly spectacular to see!

Kevin is 5 years old and was found as an infant during the monsoons, he had fallen out of the nest and was abandoned by his mother. The parahawking crew took him in and hand raised him. He has since been trained to fly with the paragliders - to find thermals and to land on the passengers arm for a quick mid-flight snack. Part of the proceedings from each flight go to support the many critically endangered vultures in Nepal.

"Egyptian Vultures are the smallest of all the Vulture species, weighing in at around 1.5 kg, about 40 cm tall with a wingspan of around 1 metre. They are the true scavengers of the raptor world, being the first and the last birds found on a carcass, picking off every tiny morsels of meat from the left over bones. They will also feed off rubbish sites, rotten vegetables and anything else you might consider to be food. But despite some of their unsavoury eating habits, they are highly intelligent birds with one clever trick up their sleeve, possessing one particular skill that no other raptor has. Egyptian Vultures will pick up rocks and drop them onto Ostrich eggs to get at the food inside. The Pharoe was so impressed with the Egyptian Vulture, he vowed that if anybody was caught harming them, they would be punished, this made the Egyptian Vulture the first ever bird to be protected by law. 

Unfortunately recent studies in India have shown that the Egyptian Vulture numbers have dropped by around 80% in the last 10 years. It is assumed that the cause of this massive decline is the same which has decimated the population of three other Vulture species in Asia - the White Backed, Long billed and Slender billed Vultures - which is the poisoning from the drug Diclofenac, the pain relieving drug which is administered to sick livestock. The Egyptian Vulture has now been placed on the critically endangered list."

Not only was the paragliding flight beautiful but having the experience of a beautiful bird of prey landing on your arm is truly incredible. Kevin looks heavy but he is actually very light weighing only 1650g. At one point during the flight I looked the other way for a moment and when I looked at my arm a second later, Kevin had already landed and was happily eating away perched on my arm. I hadnt even felt him land! I estimated that Kevin landed on my arm apx 10- 12 times during the flight and each time was incredible.

Nepal - World Peace Pagoda

The World Peace Pagoda is a "buddhist stupa designed to provide a focus for people of all races and to help unite them in the search for world peace". There are several peace pagodas around the world.
On our last day, Kingsley and I hiked up to the Peace Pagoda in Pokhara.

First stop on the trip, bfast at Mike's an Organic Cafe. Sat at little table in the sunshine right on the lake. From there we took a small boat across the lake to the start of the hike.

On our way up the mountain we walked through several villages and came across a bunch of kids sprinting down the mountain - late for school. They did pause ever so briefly to wish us Namaste. Namaste is a common greeting in Nepal but the meaning of the word is actually very deep "that which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you".

Made it to the top.

View from the top looking back down at Pokhara.

Nepal - Immunization Clinic

I was fortunate to be able to do some medical volunteer work while in Nepal. A Nepali friend of ours was able to set up an opportunity for me to work in one of the small government hospitals in Pokhara. This hospital serves the people from the surrounding villages.

I was involved with the BCG immunization for newborns. This is the immunization against Tb- which is actually no longer given in the US. The women showing up for the clinic brought their infants often only hours after giving birth.

It was really amazing to be able to do some medical volunteer work again but a little bit of a shock to the system as well. They have very different medical standards which took some getting used to.
Many of the mothers looked very old, in fact at one point I had to ask if it was the mother or grandmother with the baby (it was the mother). Its amazing what years of working outside in the sun will do...

I came across this board while touring the hospital. The price is in Rp. the charge for a general normal delivery is 300 RP which is $4.13 USD. Crazy!!

Having red Tikka placed on my forehead to bless me and bring me good luck

Nepal - Paragliding

One of the main reasons for going to Nepal was for the paragliding which is world renowned. We joined a group of 9 other pilots from the States, many of whom we knew from Seattle.

Paragliding crowd checking out the launch.

Kingsley getting ready for his first flight

I have to say it makes me so happy to see Kingsley doing something that he loves.

Nepal - Vulture Restaurant

While in Pokhara, a rare opportunity came up to watch a vulture feeding. Many of the vulture breeds in Nepal are endangered at the moment. There is a program that was started to feed the vultures in hopes of increasing the numbers. The way it works is the organization buys old or sick cows from the local farmers for 200 RP ($2.77 USD) then they let them roam around on the vulture property till they eventually die. Once dead the cows are skinned and put out for the vultures to eat.

I'm not gonna lie, it was a little gruesome to watch but also pretty amazing to be able to observe.

We got to see 11 different species of vultures during the feeding, several of which are critically endangered.
Within an hour there were only bone left...

Nepal - Pokhara

After meeting up with the rest of the paragliding group and spending the night in Kathmandu we all headed to Pokhara. This resort town is a 20 min flight from Kathmandu but a grueling 7 hour drive. We opted to fly and so got to experience Yeti Airlines, actually it wasn't so bad but I was happy when we were finally on the ground.

Mount Everest

This was the view from our hotel room, the mountain in the background is where the paragliders launched, at the base of the mountain is Fewa lake.

Fewa lake which is beautiful. I came to this spot a few times to sit and read while enjoying a cup of tea.

Pokhara is the third largest city in Nepal and is considered by many to be the most beautiful place in the world. It is also one of the most popular places for mountain trekkers. Anapurna mountain range base camp is a popular trekking destination.

The climate in Pokhara is sub-tropical so during the day it was often warm (apx 70 degrees). But the minute the sun set it was freezing (mid 30's).

This is the main road through town. Notice the large cow walking down the street. Cows are sacred here so pretty much go wherever they please. While driving if you have the choice between hitting a human or hitting a cow, you go for the human.

I loved this creative baby playpen, the baby was given a packet of chips to rattle around and play with. Just goes to show you that you don't need all the fancy baby toys to entertain a kid.

There were a few good restaurants in town and lots of these little shops selling yak wool sweaters, shawls and blankets. Again electricity was only on a few hours each day so most people put their goods on the sidewalk for people to see.