After several days, we feel quite settled into life at Boudha! Our current home is Dragon Guest House, a 5 story tall building set back in the winding alleys to the north of the Great Stupa. It's a great vantage point, and the kids LOVE getting up on the roof early to see "if the mountains are out." Our hosts are Chimi-la and her daughter Sonam, who are originally from Mustang. They run a very relaxed, welcoming, and happy hotel with lovely gardens, tasty food, and simple clean rooms. We are definitely in the monastery part of town, with several golden roofed "gompas" visible from our balcony. This area is home to many gompas that house monks and nuns from several different schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and their chanting, drumming, and horn blowing can often be heard before sunrise...
The walk down to the Stupa is wonderful, down narrow alleys, and winding streets... past small momo-shops, handicraft workshops, veggie sellers, cute dogs, gardens, and countless prayer flags, we emerge in the circular courtyard surrounding the massive Boudhanath Stupa. A constant river of worshipers circle the stupa in a clockwise direction, spinning their prayer wheels, thumbing prayer beads, and chanting Om Mani Padme Hum. Butter Lamps burn everywhere, strings of prayer flags flutter in the breeze, and the especially devout perform ritual prostrations on a smooth boards just inside the courtyard of the stupa. At morning and evening, the air is thick with incense, and the sweet pungent smell of burning juniper needles. Our girls love to walk the "kora" around the stupa, along with the flow of humanity, usually in respectful silence. There are also massive prayer wheels to turn, always clockwise with your right hand, in nearby rooms and side chambers... some of these are 10-15 feet high!
After a few circuits around the stupa, you can head up onto a rooftop cafe for a nice (and overpriced) meal with amazing views of the stupa, the worshippers, the Kathmandu skyline, and the distant Himalayan peaks fading pink into the sunset... Our first night was quite idyllic with a fantastic sunset, tasty momos and thukpa soup, and then the full moon rising over the "hills" surrounding the Kathmandu Valley. Generally we frequent the momo-shops in the back alleys near our hotel, as they are packed with locals, and much more reasonably priced! This area is SO much quieter and peaceful than the across town traveler/backpacker area of Thamel. Most of the buildings are residential, and all the shops close down just after sunset.... There isn't a late night dance-party scene, nor are there swarms of hawkers selling Tiger Balm, Kukhri knives, and carved elephants. It is quiet, friendly, relaxed, with very few cars and pockets of green open space. We are so happy to be here!
We visited one of the schools that we'll teach at, and where the girls will likely enroll for 1-2 months. It's just a 5 minute walk away, and has 330 kids aged 4-13. More on "Manosarovar Primary School" later... We just picked up "uncle Marcin" from the airport, and will soon leave town to to trek around Annapurna for a few weeks. Then we return to a long-term rental at nearby Tharlam Monastery, and settle into 2 months of volunteer teaching, home-schooling, and day trips around the Kathmandu Valley.