Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Ping

I took this picture as the sun was setting last week. Local children were waiting their turn on the "Ping" or bamboo swing in an empty lot. These are erected for the Deshain-Tihar season only and kids look forward to the tradition with great anticipation. We have seen adults nostalgically get on an empty ping to swing a bit if they think no one is looking. They are incredibly charming and speak to an innocence so easily lost in the poverty here. The older kids stand on the swing and get horozontal at least 20-30 feet up - heart attack material for their mothers.

Simple pleasures! (And some good engineering!)


Monday, October 20, 2008

Here's to Hoping

Because I am a glutton for punishment we have a new puppy. She is adorable of course - look at that face! Ever met a puppy who wasn't? My children love her - of course. My husband is pretty chuffed about it too because he grew up with German Shepherds. Because of our recent baaaaad doggy karma I am just a little fearful of something happening to this dear little bear of a puppy. So we named her "Asha" - it is Nepali/Hindi for hope.

She is also not going to be an auxiliary dog. She is going to be BIG. Help me. Someone.

Darn she's cute.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Keebler Elf Tree

Admit it - you saw this and the Keebler elves came to mind, no? No one gave me a cookie for just stopping by though.

This scene completely fascinated me. What on earth? Which came first, the temple or the tree? What exactly goes on here? (I actually don't want to know the complete answer to that.)

This is the Dumbharai Temple located in a neighborhood not far from us. It isn't particularly famous. I just happened upon it one day and made a point to go back when I had a camera. I could have included this on a post dedicated to Temple architecture but hey ... this is a one of kind.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Oh, the View!

It is official. Monsoon is over!

I was driving home from a meeting at the kids' school this afternoon and looked up and gasped. There they were! Yeayyy - one of the best reasons to live here. There were the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas jutting out through the clouds. There aren't words to adequately capture the sense of complete AWE these peaks inspire.

This is just the most beautiful time of year in Nepal. The monsoon rains have cleared the air. The clouds part a bit, and for a few months we can see the Himalayas surrounding the Kathmandu Valley. It makes me smile and gives me a jolt of joy every time I get a glimpse.

I also think of someone I used to work with who told of a time when he was struggling with his faith. He won an award that allowed him to take an around the world study trip and he used that time to grapple with the issues he was facing. He told me about his visit to Nepal and while on a trek, looking at these amazing mountains, he had a dramatic deep confirmation of his faith in God that has remained unshaken. Was it that sense of awe, or the majesty of these massive mountains that spoke to him of God's character? I can only guess, but they certainly speak to me that way.

*In the interest of full disclosure (and my dear hubby the ethics police chief strolling by the screen as I write) this picture was taken this time last year - not today. I know you'll forgive me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The SITS Blogathon.

The ladies in leopard skin tap, tap, tapping away. Heather and Tiffany - our bloggy heroes. Do you sleep?

Today these ladies from "The Secret is in the Sauce" (SITS) have cooked up another way to keep one in front of their screen for what I am sure are mind debilitating hours!

Now my instructions include a lot of linking. I am a linking idiot. Actually I am a blogging idiot, but I try. What is all this you ask?

SITS is a growing blogging community I joined last spring. I was a shy cyberlurker - never commenting. No more. These ladies faithfully feature a different blogger every day of the week so others in the community might show them some bloggy love. It was feeling a little lonely out here (OK so I live in Nepal and I mean that both figuratively and literally) and my only Bleaders, my dear family, don't comment. I felt like a yodeler - blogging into the void. (I'm not given to melodrama or anything.) But then some of the SITStas starting coming over to visit and life was just a little bit more fun. As I dared to break out of the cybershell I was in and comment on other people's blogs, I discovered a lot of people with all kinds of stories whom I wish I knew in real life. So thank you Heather and Tiffany for all you do - this blog's for you:)!

If you are interested ... go on over, the Leopard Ladies are always there, waiting to comment.

A few fun SITS blogs (of many - how to choose?) I've found over the past few months:

1. I'm not brown nosing, promise. But let's just give credit where credit is due. Heather at Mindless Junque is not just a commenting junkie but a good writer. Check out her love story.
2. While I am at it - her other half Tiffany at The R Family Diaries needs to get loads of kudos and credit too.
3. A new discovery - yesterday as a matter of fact - Nanny Goats in Panties. THe name alone FORCES you to go click, click doesn't it? This person is just plain HILARIOUS. No pressure Nanny.
4. Another expat to commisserate/rejoice with: The Perlman Update.
5. Last but not least, Rhea at Texas Word Tangle always has a few thoughtful, funny somethings to share.

Enough for today. I linked, I linked! I'm so proud. Couldn't have done it without you SITS. Happy Blogathon and .... Namaste!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dressing the Part

Thursday was another big day during the Dashain festival! Things were closed so we took the kids to a local hotel to swim and play for awhile. On the way back the traffic was backed up as we neared our street with police trying to direct cars and taxis. We noticed people abandoning their taxis to walk - and everyone was VERY dressed up.

One thing I miss about the ol' King is the presence of his "footmen" in their traditional Nepali national dress for men - the Daura Surwal. They used to stand near all the Palace gates looking so sharp, holding a walkie talkie or something. They looked bored, but hey, they looked good!

Back to the traffic jam. Most of the men on the street were wearing Daura Surwal. Something was definitely up.

It seems that our new neighbor, the former King(he moved into his son's place which literally has its long wall on our street) was available to give people a Dashain blessing - just like the old days! Ergo - traffic jam and a bunch of Nepalis wearing their Sunday Best as they queued up outside the gates.

I ran and got my camera to capture this fashion show of Saris and Daura Surwals. I think a Sari is an incredibly graceful garment. We westerners find it difficult to not only put on but to wear. (Someday I'll show you our "Bill and Laurel go to the Hindi Prom picture" - pretty hilarious). The Daura Surwal consists of a long tunic over skinny pants and a western style jacket. The "Topi" (hat) comes in many different traditional patterns or just in black. If you ask me, these are some sharp dressed men!

And women ...

I can hear it now - "Ama - do I have to get dressed up?" This nice family let me take their picture. The "tika" on their foreheads is a mixture of vermillion dye and rice made into a paste. It is a sign of blessing.

One more Dashain post left ... Namaste.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vijaya Deshami - Happy Dashain 2065!

Well ... not so happy for this guy. Read on.

We are in the middle of the most important festival on the Nepali Calendar. Dashain is a fifteen day festival when, primarily, the goddess Durga is worshipped. I say primarily because the Hindu manifestations of different gods and goddesses and what they represent are mind boggling. There are a couple of days during Deshain (pronounced "Dasai" with a nasal sound on the "ai") when Laxmi (the goddess of prosperity) or some other goddess de jour has their day in the sun.

In religious terms this festival involves a lot of sacrificing of animals to appease the anger of Durga. The festival celebrates good over evil because the Hindu sacred texts say that Durga triumphed over demons. The devout believe that sacrifices appease her wrath and negligence brings it on. Nobody wants to mess with Durga.
A busy temple in our neighborhood.

In social and familial terms this festival is similar to our holidays in the States. It is an annual opportunity to see distant relatives. It is like Christmas in the stores. They are packed (more than usual) with people buying gifts for family and friends and food for the festival feasting (say that ten times fast). People use this time in particular to be blessed by their elders and in turn bless those junior to them. Family heads are busy, busy, busy blessing.

This young woman is in the middle of her "puja" or worship ritual.

One day earlier this week the embassy drivers and guards sacrificed a goat to perform puja on all the vehicles. Niiiiice. I'm a pretty committed carnivore but this is all enough to make a vegetarian out of anybody.

More on Deshain before the festival is over ... Namaste.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My big girl is seven!!!

My lovely, wonderful and earnest first born turns seven today. I know it is trite but where have those years gone?

Nothing like a little attitude for the first day of school!

You've gotta love the crenellated mouth of a seven year old.

Happy Birthday Kit! Mommy and Daddy love you!

Duty calls ...

The phone rang at four this morning. Bill is the "duty" officer this week which means he takes all off hours emergency calls involving American citizens or other issues that just can't wait. So it seems that a young woman decided to go skydiving in the Everest region and had an accident. She was flown back to KTM and was in a hospital with a nasty fractured ankle and cracked vertebrae. Her parents knew she had been injured but didn't know where she was or how she was. You really don't want to be in the hospital here for the most part. Bill and a FSN (Foreign Service National - a Nepali working at the embassy) found her, went to see her and then contacted her family. All before 7am.

I remember when I was 24 I went on a wild trip with my college roommate. We didn't have much of an itinerary (or much money if I remember correctly). We decided to fly to Bangkok from Hong Kong and met some other people who were also backpacking. We then thought that a jungle trek along the Laotian border sounded like a great idea. I promise this was all done on minimum dollars per day. There were leeches. It involved sleeping in huts on stilts over livestock and using the village hole in the ground for a latrine etc. But the thing I remember vividly was trekking through who knows where and thinking that if anything ever happened to me, NO ONE knew where I was. I also vowed to be more responsible in my future travel escapades.

While I am sorry that this young woman got hurt, she will be OK. And I know Bill was just doing his job - but I can still be proud of him. Because if this were my child I would hope and pray that the person taking the call would do the same.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Harmony for Humanity

Promises promises. I have just been too tired to write during my only peaceful writing window in the evenings. So sorry.

Tonight Bill and I went to a remembrance concert for Daniel Pearl. It turns out that not only was he a journalist but a classically trained musician who joined music groups playing violin, electric violin and mandolin wherever he lived and worked. Who knew? These "Harmony for Humanity" concerts are apparently held worldwide in remembrance.

The Public Affairs section at the Embassy was sponsoring this event and it was ... fun ... and funny ... and well, a different kind of date night for us for sure. A Nepali media personality who oozed hipness, had a really deep voice and excellent English emceed the event and introduced the six different artists/groups. All of the artists were well known to the mostly Nepali crowd but we were clueless. Two years of Nepali lessons and I didn't get a single joke. How pathetic is that? After a fair amount of coaxing from HipEngishSpeakingEmcee - people started to dance. Oh yes, the Bollywood moves came out! The hand behind the head, the hand flick - gotta love 'em! I might break out in the privacy of my own home but I'm wayyyyy to insecure to shake my booty before a Nepali crowd. It was fun to go to a cultural event that actually wasn't focusing on traditional music/dance/art but modern forms.

I love hearing about people who moonlight. It turns out that one of the Nepalis who works at the Embassy is a dance instructor/choreographer by night! He was the first one out on the dance floor and the last one to leave - hilarious (in a good way!). The cashier (whom I visit fairly frequently for obvious reasons) was a great dancer and was surrounded by the ladies. Grin. I feel completely okay about teasing him about this for the rest of our tour.

What I didn't do tonight was bring my camera. Dumb, dumb, dumb because I tell you - there were some photo ops. And there won't be a next time! What I would have shown you were Nepali women who were not wearing traditional clothing but western performance attire. By contrast, some of the male artists decidedly did not look like western performers. Last but not least - the scene on the dance floor. Oh Lawsie! I was particularly amused by one of the photographers present who was shooting the one foreigner who was dancing with the crowd - clearly she thought that this was an exotic creature!