Monday, December 31, 2012

Update: 2012 in Review

2011 was admittedly a hard act to follow, 2012. Still, you managed to deliver, keeping us on our toes with highs and lows as we adjusted to a new home. In that sense, 2012 mirrored 2011; in many other ways, San Francisco could not be further from Kathmandu. As we reflect on the last year, we want to take the time to share some of what we have been up to since our return to the US.

Claudine kicked off her job at Kiva and wasted no time heading to the field to identify new field partners in Africa. In April she traveled to Uganda, Kenya, and Somaliland with a Kiva colleague, conducting due diligence on innovative organizations such as Grameen Foundation AppLab and Solar Sister.

Uganda captured her heart...

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Village outside Kampala, Uganda

...with colorful markets that reminded her of Nepal.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Village market outside Kampala, Uganda

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Nairobi impressed, with its size and height and delights (sushi! decaf Americanos! Belgian beer!).

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

And the orphan elephants (and their caretakers) at the Shedrick Wildlife Trust...well, there are no words.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

She even spotted giraffes in the wild during a beautiful hike in Kenya's Rift Valley.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Mt. Longonot, Kenya (do you see the giraffes?)

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

And Somaliland had its own allure with its stark landscape and peculiarity.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Abaarso, Somaliland

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Not to be outdone, Brian turned 30 in June. It was impossible to match Claudine's amazing birthday celebration we shared in Nepal, but hiking in Big Sur did not disappoint.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug  
Big Sur

Point Lobos State Park

To say that we have enjoyed exploring our new home would be an understatement. The Bay Area offers convenient access to excellent hiking, both nearby and far flung. Here is the view just a 15-minute walk from our apartment:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
View of downtown and the San Francisco Bay from Twin Peaks

One of our favorite activities is to take lengthy urban hikes around San Francisco to explore new neighborhoods. With so many hills, this can be more strenuous -- and rewarding -- than it sounds. Thankfully, San Francisco offers plenty of eye candy.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Golden Gate Bridge hovers over morning fog

Looking southwest from the Marin Headlands (Pacific Ocean on the horizon to the right, distant San Francisco street grid on the horizon to the left)

View of San Francisco looking south from the Marin Headlands; Golden Gate Bridge playing peek-a-boo

Good morning: sunrise in the Marina

We even found some very authentic Nepali places in Berkeley across the Bay.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Is there anything more beautiful than dal bhat? And look at that tablecloth -- they nailed the Nepali authenticity.

Farther afield, we spent a glorious weekend with friends at a friend's family home on Fallen Leaf Lake, abutting Lake Tahoe.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Note to self: procure family home on Fallen Leaf Lake or maintain this friendship.

Our first trip to Yosemite National Park stunned us. Claudine mapped out a 14-mile hike that left me delirious thanks to the views and exhaustion. Hiking in the fall and getting an early start, we had the trail largely to ourselves.

Our first glimpse of Half Dome

Okay, Yosemite: we get what all the fuss is about. We are excited to return in the spring when the waterfalls are gushing full-bore. And again. And again.

Have you heard of Alex Honnold? I had not either, but someone pointed him out as we passed by him in the park. I went home and watched videos of him online doing things that blew. my. mind. Here he climbs the northwest face of Half Dome with no rope and no harness:

His next feat: wrestling a feral tiger into submission. Not really, but I wouldn't be surprised given what this guy does on any given Tuesday. It's inspiring.

And that is what 2012 has been about. Finding inspiration in the big and small. Riding the highs (weddings, summits) and enduring the lows (funerals, failures) together. Learning lots along the way and doing our best to embrace every moment. And in this sense the spirit of our Nepal adventure stays with us.

To answer some common reader questions: Yes, we miss Nepal. Yes, we are happy back living in the US. No, we do not regret a thing (other than perhaps drinking chhyang). Yes, we do miss keeping up with this blog and hearing from and meeting our readers (okay, no one has asked us this question, but thought you should know). And yes, we will always be the Kathmanduo, no matter where we go.

If the last couple of years have revealed anything to us, it is the frustrating, awful, delightful, and amazing path your life can take when you invite some unpredictability into it (and even when you don't).

For 2013 we wish you health, happiness, and unpredictability.

The Kathmanduo