Tag Archives: Karma Project

#buskingforkarma ~ Luke sings ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve’

2014 Was a year of many firsts. While it was a landmark year in many ways, we are looking forward to celebrating the start of a new year and many more milestones for the Karma Documentary. Please contribute to help us reach our next – the official trailer. It is coming later in January!

Please enjoy this special new year’s busking performance.

Check out the video below!

If you would like to donate to the making of the Karma Documentary, please send money to Luke Mislinski Photography via Paypal.

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#buskingforkarma ~ Gandharba musicians from Nepal play Resham Firiri

Next in our #buskingforkarma series, enjoy this performance of the very popular traditional Nepali folk song, Resham Firiri. I met these musicians while taking a break from filming for the Karma Documentary, walking through the Thamel neighborhood of Kathmandu. They are the hardest working buskers I have met. They are members of the Gandharba, an ancient Hindu caste of musicians who travel from village to village, earning their living by spreading news and entertainment through their music.

Today, there is less demand for their traditional services. Like many Nepali people, they are struggling to adapt to changes brought about by globalization and the rise of modern communications technologies. To earn money for their families, they are often seen playing their music for donations from visitors and selling recordings and instruments on the streets of cities in Nepal.

Check out the video below!

If you would like to donate to the making of the Karma Documentary, please send money to Luke Mislinski Photography via Paypal.

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Left to right: Mandal, Petram, and Dambar

Luke ~ What is a Traveler? ~ The Village of Changu Narayan

First, I want to apologize for leaving you without any recent blog updates. Christen and I have been very busy behind the scenes working on storyline development and the official Karma Documentary trailer. The official trailer is not quite finished yet, but expect an announcement soon about its release!

Now that we are nearing this next post-production milestone, expect to see regular blog updates about the continuation of the story. I will share my experiences from many other areas of Nepal, ranging from the hills around Kathmandu to the plains and jungles of the Terai region. There are many more behind-the-scenes photos, videos, and stories to share with you!

What is a Traveler?

Before I left for Nepal, knowing very little about what I would experience in Asia, a very wise friend, Fredric, discussed with me the differences between a tourist and a traveler. He said that, “tourists are people who start at home, create a bubble around themselves, and then go look at other things and compare. Travelers are people who go someplace else and find out things that they never really expected.”

I thought I already understood what Fredric was trying to tell me on that cloudy April day in Washington. After all, I had traveled out of the country many times before. I pride myself on having an open mind and rarely turn down the chance to try new things or expose myself to different cultures. I like to interact with locals wherever I go, try strange food, listen to unfamiliar music, and ask about people’s daily lives. Surely, Fredric was not telling me about the virtues of being a ‘traveler’ for my own benefit. He was just explaining it so that I could use his explanation for the film, right? I was almost four weeks into my time in Nepal before I understood that Fredric was absolutely talking to me.

“Did you hear back from the lady with the guest house?”, I said groggily over my breakfast to Jenn while the assorted noises and smells of Kathmandu wafted in from the street. We had been in Kathmandu for three days, and while exciting and exotic, the noise, pollution, and hectic pace were starting to wear on us. “Yeah, I finally got an email from Amanda confirming the rooms, but the directions seem a little sketchy…”, she replied.

For the next week, four of us – Jenn, Tatiana, Christen, and I – were planning on exploring the outskirts of Kathmandu valley. In search of a quiet retreat from the melee of the Thamel neighborhood, we were all excited to get to the guest house Jenn booked in Changu Narayan, “a sleepy little village outside Kathmandu.”

I was looking forward to the change of pace, but I secretly worried whether there would be enough to see in Changu Narayan to keep us busy for a week. Jenn had originally booked an apartment in Bhaktapur, a popular and bustling ancient Newar city in Kathmandu valley. We learned the day before that the Bhaktapur apartment was no longer available. The property manager, a retired American woman named Amanda, recommended the alternate place. Normally, the twist would not bother me at all, but I was a little apprehensive no longer having the experience of Glen or Karma to guide us. I would soon learn both how wrong my worries were and how right Fredric was about my needing to learn what it means to be a traveler.

“Are we really going to fit all of these bags and ourselves into one cab?”, puzzled Tatiana as we gathered at the front of the Lhasa guest house, my on again/off again home base in Kathmandu. “Well, I asked Nwang to call for a van…”, I trailed off, taking in the almost ridiculous amount of luggage piled up. (Who knew that shooting on-location in Nepal would require so much stuff?). As the “van” pulled up, I said a silent thank you that there was a roof rack. Regardless of it’s vehicle class, the van looked like it would barely fit the four of us, let alone our luggage. We set to work loading our gear.

©Luke Mislinski - Taking a cab in Kathmandu is an adventure on par with those in cabs in any of the world's most exotic cities.
©Luke Mislinski – Taking a cab in Kathmandu is an adventure rivaling a cab ride in any city.

“Can you take us to Changu Narayan?”, I asked the cab driver, hoisting the last bag up to him on the top of the van.

“Changu? Hajur (yes). Where are you staying?”, he grunted as he deftly hopped off the roof of the van.

I glanced at Jenn. “Amanda said in the email to call when we get to the village, and she would give us directions”, she replied. “We can use Tatiana’s phone. She picked up a Nepali SIM card.”

“I guess we will have to get the location of the guest house when we get there”, I explained to the driver. With that, we all crammed into the tiny van and started off on our next phase of the adventure.

©Luke Mislinski
©Luke Mislinski – Changu Narayan is home to the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu Valley.
©Luke Mislinski - Changu Narayan, the oldest temple in Kathmandu Valley, hosts several good natured dogs. They only seem to be peacefully quiet during the day...
©Luke Mislinski – The temple hosts several friendly dogs. They only seem to be peacefully quiet during the day…
©Luke Mislinski
©Luke Mislinski

Changu Narayan, located high on a steep hillside overlooking Kathmandu from the east, is home to the oldest temple in Kathmandu Valley. It is believed to date back to the 4th century. As our taxi labored up the frighteningly narrow and twisting road, Jenn tried calling Amanda. “That’s weird”, she puzzled. “The call won’t go through. Here, listen to the message.” We would later learn that Changu was experiencing one of their regular coverage outages. We could not get through to either Amanda’s mobile or land lines. There was a message playing that made no sense to me.

“We can try again when we get there”, I said, wondering if we would have to wander the streets of a remote village, struggling beneath more bags than anyone should ever try to carry. I asked myself, “What would Glen do?”

At that moment, I remembered Fredric’s words. I realized I had only come part way on the journey to transform from a tourist into a traveler. The experiences high in the Himalaya kick-started me on that path. Yet, having Glen, Karma, and the rest of the staff there to call the shots when plans went awry prevented me from fully letting go of my western-bred travel tendencies. Christen just shrugged and said, “So, we will just ask people when we get there where the older white lady lives.” (She learned the difference between being a tourist and a traveler years ago while traveling solo in Italy.)

As we pulled into the bus park at Changu Narayan, the villagers welcomed us with open arms. After some local kids pointed the way to “Grandma’s house” (Amanda had made quite the impression in the village), we settled into our next little paradise. Amanda welcomed us into the guest house with the perfect blend of good old American Southern Hospitality (she retired to Nepal several years ago from Arkansas) and Nepali reverence for guests. I can see why she calls this place home now.

I felt my earlier apprehensions melt away, as I strolled onto the rooftop terrace at Amanda’s guesthouse and took in the sweeping views of Kathmandu valley. Over the coming days, I would make new Nepali friends in Changu Narayan who would prove to be pivotal in helping complete filming over the next five weeks. Most importantly, they would help me discover the path to complete my personal journey,  transforming me from a tourist into a traveler.

©Luke Mislinski - Amanda, manager of our guesthouse in Changu Narayan, enjoys the sunset from the rooftop terrace.
©Luke Mislinski – Amanda, manager of our guesthouse in Changu Narayan, enjoys the sunset from the rooftop terrace.
©Luke Mislinski - View of Kathmandu to the West from Amanda's guest house rooftop.
©Luke Mislinski – View of Kathmandu to the West from Amanda’s guest house rooftop.
©Luke Mislinski - Double rainbow over Changu Narayan
©Luke Mislinski – Double rainbow over Changu Narayan

If you would like to donate to the making of the film, please send money to Luke Mislinski Photography via Paypal.

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You can also send a check payable to Luke Mislinski Photography at
14821 SE 181st Street
Renton, WA 98058

#buskingforkarma – St Dominic’s Trio Returns

Once again, at Nye’s Polonaise Room, here is the next of several #buskingforkarma songs that St. Dominic’s Trio was gracious to perform for us. This is one of their original songs, titled “Bike Ride on 35W”.

Enjoy!

If you would like to donate, please send money to Luke Mislinski Photography via Paypal.

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#buskingforkarma – Scary Numan plays Cows

Our next Minneapolis band to volunteer for #buskingforkarma is the band of my longtime friend, Dax. They are called Scary Numan, and they play a mash-up of older hit pop and rock songs. Here is their first of several #buskingforkarma songs that they recorded with us one night at their band practice. This is a song by the band the Suburbs called Cows. Unfortunately, not everyone in the band was there this time.

If you would like to donate, please send money to Luke Mislinski Photography via Paypal.

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Busking for Karma – Luke sings Lorena

For this installment of #buskingforkarma, I decided to sing one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite performers, Bob Schneider. He is a long-time Austin artist, and I used to see him play with his old band, the Ugly Americans, every week at Antone’s while I was in school.

If you would like to donate, please send money to Luke Mislinski Photography via Paypal.

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Luke ~ After the Trek, Kathmandu

Kathmandu. Capitol City. Urban center. Cultural hub. Gateway to the diverse and mysterious country of Nepal. The cultural stew of this city bursts forth with a beautiful cacophony that assaults the senses.

My eyes, ears, and nose were filled with a litany of new sights, sounds, and technicolor smells. Our late night arrival into Kathmandu weeks before meant that I was experiencing this exotic and hectic city for the first time as I climbed off the little puddle jumper from Lukla.

It is an understatement to say that experiencing Kathmandu is like taking a hyper-charged journey into the human condition. As I wandered down the streets of the Thamel neighborhood, the central historical, cultural, and tourist district of Kathmandu, I quickly learned a simple truth about urban Nepali life. Personal space does not exist in this city. And that is perfectly ok. Locals, international tourists, vendors, cars, rickshaws, motor scooters, cows, dogs and chickens all interact in an intricate symbiotic dance on streets the width of Seattle’s Post Alley. Vehicle horns blurt from every direction. Shopowners call out from every door. A diverse swath of humanity flows throughout. And, almost everyone offers a warm smile and a courteous “namaste” as you cross paths and share gazes.

A mother and her daughter sell flowers in the Thamel Neighborhood of Kathmandu. © Luke Mislinski
A mother and her daughter sell flowers in the Thamel Neighborhood of Kathmandu. © Luke Mislinski

After settling into our rooms at the Lhasa Guest House and cleaning up a bit, the group of happy trekkers converged on a middle-eastern restaurant for dinner in the more touristy part of the Thamel neighborhood. Even though we were seated traditionally on the floor, and the power went out halfway through the dinner (during which time the staff seamlessly restored the ambiance with candles), the cozy and casual atmosphere felt luxurious compared to the typical rustic surroundings we had in the Himalaya.

I puzzled over the paradox of material security and creature comforts as we ate. Had I had my first full experience with Kathmandu before going on the Himalayan trek, it would have definitely felt like I was in a developing nation. The water is undrinkable – you can not even brush your teeth with it for fear of spending the next couple days violently ill. The electricity goes out for 6-hour periods a few times a day when Nepal’s sale of power to India peaks, and the schedule is typically different every day. The air pollution is tragic. The streets are managed chaos. The bathrooms in some buildings make the sets of all seven films in the Saw franchise look like European spas.

Yet, I felt after having a cold shower in my hotel, drinking a cold(ish) beer, and sitting down in this restaurant that I was in the lap of luxury. What’s more, the hospitality I received from everyone I encountered was the warmest, most genuine I have received anywhere. Nepal may be an extremely ethnically and geographically diverse nation, but their hospitality never wavers. Even though Kathmandu is crowded, polluted, and has significant basic infrastructure challenges, seeing the contrast in lifestyle between this rapidly developing city and that of the people in the remote villages in the Himalaya was striking. Life in Kathmandu has significant challenges for the locals when compared to American standards. Yet locals in the capitol city were the first to tell me just how amazed they are at the difficulty of life in remote parts of their country. Those who have been lucky enough to travel to those areas talk about it as though it is like visiting another country altogether. I have to agree.

While reaching Kathmandu meant that some of our group would part ways for other parts of Nepal, it also meant reunion. As soon as we made it to town, I was able to meet up with my old friend, Tatiana, who had been spending the prior several months studying to become a Yoga instructor in Thailand. Tatiana and I then welcomed Jenn into the sleepy early-to-bed city of Kathmandu when her flight arrived late at night. The three of us sat up for hours having a couple beers, reminiscing, and planning our next few days of exploring the art, culture, food, and architecture of this amazing city.

One of our first stops was the famous Kathmandu Durbar Square. Durbar Square is home to many temples and palaces, and was the location of the royal Nepalese residence until the 19th century. More importantly, there are no cars allowed in the general area. It is a fabulous place to enjoy the classic architecture of the city.

Durbar square in Kathmandu is home to many of the city's temples. © Luke Mislinski
Durbar square in Kathmandu is home to many of the city’s temples. © Luke Mislinski
© Luke Mislinski
© Luke Mislinski

As we walked through the square, enjoying the scores of pigeons that were fluttering everywhere (they are seen as a positive sign and are treated with respect by locals), we were approached by a very friendly, soft-spoken Nepali man. He introduced himself as Ram and explained that he has been a cultural tour guide for 17 years. He asked us if we would like to hire him for a very modest 200 NPR (about $2.10) per person for a tour. I could see the usual American skepticism start to creep across Jenn’s and Tatiana’s faces. When someone approaches a group of American tourists offering a product or service out of the blue, I have noticed a natural tendency for us to say things like, “oh, that’s ok. I just want to wander around and look at stuff myself. I am just casually passing through. No thank you.” Thankfully, we swallowed our western-bred reticence this time and took him up on his friendly offer. 

Durbar square is a location where many Kathmandu locals go for a break. © Luke Mislinski
Durbar square is a location where many Kathmandu locals go for a break. © Luke Mislinski
© Luke Mislinski
© Luke Mislinski

Ram, as it turned out, gave one of the best historical, cultural, or religious tours I have ever had. After we had spent two hours with him, he was even inviting us to his home and offering to arrange any possible trip we would like to take in Nepal. I was quickly learning that one of the best ways to experience Nepal is to fully embrace the locals and take them up on their offers. Sadly, we were not able to take Ram up on his, as we had already made plans for later that day. He taught us an important lesson in trusting the locals, though, that would open up amazing opportunities time and again throughout the remaining trip.

The next day, Tatiana was feeling a bit ill (she did not previously know about the danger of brushing teeth with tap water), so she elected to rest while Jenn and I visited the Garden of Dreams. The Garden of Dreams is on one of the busiest streets in Kathmandu. Once inside, though, the sounds and smells of the city melt away into a serene oasis. This garden, originally built as the Garden of Six Seasons in 1920, was restored with the help of the Austrian government between 2000 and 2007. It is a meticulously manicured garden of terraces, pavilions, and nooks and crannies for the most discerning pair of lovers looking for a romantic escape or a weary tourist looking for a quiet place to enjoy a cup of tea and a book. They even have wifi…

Lotus flowers in the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski
Lotus flowers in the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski
© Luke Mislinski
© Luke Mislinski
A couple enjoys the quiet of the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski
A couple enjoys the quiet of the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski
A maintenance worker at the Garden of Dreams pauses to photograph the lotus flowers. © Luke Mislinski
A maintenance worker at the Garden of Dreams pauses to photograph the lotus flowers. © Luke Mislinski
Door in the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski
Door in the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski
A security guard in the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski
A security guard in the Garden of Dreams. © Luke Mislinski

Busking for Karma – Driftless performed by Martin Dill

This next guest appearance on #buskingforkarma is a treat for all of us, but it will be especially fun for those of you from the midwest. Martin Dill, whom I (Luke) have known since I was a kid when he would come over to my house to hang out with my older brothers, asked if he could do a song. Those of you who know him, know that Martin has amazing vocal talent. As front man for Janitor Bob and the Armchair Cowboys, he put many smiles on faces over the years.

Thank you again for sending the video, Martin!

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For more information on the Karma Documentary and how you can help the people of Nepal recover from the recent earthquakes, visit our GoFundMe campaign and watch the video below.

Busking for Karma – Jenn sings Landslide

Jenn volunteered to be our first guest busker for #buskingforkarma! Here is what she had to say about why she braved her fears to volunteer her beautiful voice to the cause:

“I felt the need to help you, because I see you come home every night, late, exhausted, and not in the same way that you did with other work. You’ve given up and changed just about everything in your life to make this happen. I see how hard you are trying and wanted you to know I support you and want you to succeed. I know how hard it was for me to do this. I can’t Imagine how terrifying it must be for you to do what you are doing. 

I say if we all do something every once in a while that scares us in the name of friends and support, the world would be an amazing place. This also excludes me from karaoke for the rest of my life.” – Jenn

If you like the video, please donate.

If you would like to learn about how you can contribute your musical performance, check out this post.

Finally! Some footage…

Many have asked to see some footage from the trip. While there is still a mini-mountain of files to go through, we wanted to share some moments from the first third of the trip, so you can see what it was like on the trek. We figured this would be a nice compliment to the regular blog posts.

There will be more footage coming soon, including the official promotional trailer. Stay tuned!

Karma Documentary Teaser from Luke Mislinski on Vimeo.