Happy Birthday Dalai Lama-Dai!!
Now that I've been roaming the streets of Pokhara for about a week, with a week in Kathmandu before that, I am finally starting to get a sense for what Nepal is all about. One thing is for sure; Nepal is not India.
Nepal is much poorer than India and my initial impression is that the Nepali people have lost God and been swallowed up by the cynicism and hopelessness rampant in Western capitalist culture. They may be more saavy than their neighbors to the south, but they have no life in their eyes. But that's just my initial impression. I am so grateful to be here in the off-season, because even though the feeling is sad, at least it's not compounded by the hoards of well-dressed trekkers and their many shopping needs (Northface knock-offs, anyone?). Pokhara is the number two tourist destination in Nepal so next to the beautiful lake here there are a plethora of fancy-looking restaurants and guesthouses. Right now they are all empty and local Nepali and Tibetan people sit in the streets all day long with nothing to do.
I am reminded of Northwest DC, where the meticulously manicured garden estates of the uber-wealthy couldn't mask the desperation and hopelessness of the people living in the slums nearby. Pokhara is a beautifully scenic and completely lifeless shell of a town.
Many things about Nepal are same same in India, but try to imagine this; hygiene levels are even lower in Nepal!! The other morning I went to the toilet in the restaurant where we had breakfast and the sight of the kitchen literally took my breath away. Already I am accustomed to picking various bugs and hairs from my food, drinking from a dodgy water supply, having unpredictable access to electricity, and ignoring small rodents in food preparation areas, but Nepal takes it all to a new level. When the water is working, it frequently comes out a brownish orange hue, and the electricity is a complete crapshoot. So it's really only a matter of time until you get diahrrea (I had it yesterday).
In India and Nepal, we frequently and openly discuss diahrrea and the various stages of diahrrea, as well as the many theories about how to rid ourselves of diahrrea and whether or not an antibiotic is warranted. And of course, everyone has a horror story...like the time my Danish friend had to crap in the streets of Delhi. Takes me back to the time I was in Coimbatore, 2002...but I digress.
There are many Tibetans in Nepal and lately I have been eating only Tibetan soup (Thukpa) and momos. Thukpa is basically just a very bland vegetable noodle soup and momos are Tibetan dumplings...mmmmm, I like. My first days here I became fast friends with a Nepali girl Bedu who is teaching me to weave various things and I continue to spend my time with only Japanese peoples. Atsushi bought me a Japanese grammar book and now I finally understand that there are 4 different kinds of characters. I have started to copy some characters and can read one (It sounds like "ahhh" but I can't reproduce the character here). I am currently learning three languages simultaneously (Nepali, Hindi, and Japanese) and even though sometimes my head is swimming, I am enjoying it immensely..turns out Hindi and Japanese have a similar sentence structure, and that Spanish and Japanese have similar sounds, which is why I am able to sing so well in Japanese...
July is the off-season for tourists in Nepal because most views of the Himalayas are obstructed by clouds. But the monsoon is late this year so early in the mornings we can see some breathtaking views of the peaks; they are like silent, shimmering, snow-capped gods silently watching over us.
Today is the Dalai Lama's birthday, so we are going to celebrate by baking cookies (biscuits for all you non-Americans) using the recipe I pulled out of my head. It's a very exciting treat for our local Nepali and Japanese friends, who have likely never baked anything. Yesterday we cooked Nepali-style subji (okra, string beans, potatoes, carrots) and chapatis (Indian tortillas). While one (male) friend stirred the veggies and I chopped okra, "mama" (the Nepali mother at the guesthouse where we stay) came in and said "No, no, no, no, no! Man chopping, woman cooking!" We quickly obliged.
As a famous musician once said, "It's no problem."
slowly getting to know the Nepali way of life,
and dearly missing all my dear friends and family,
PS; Did I mention that Nepal is officially 15 minutes ahead of India? Please make a note of it..
Lola Bites Back: And Other Inspirational Tidbits
- Name: Lola Bites Back
- Location: Bissingen an der Teck, Baden Wuerttemberg, Germany
Laughing all the way...
Friday, July 06, 2007
Happy Birthday Dalai Lama-Dai!!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Pain is the same as pleasure...right?
I just spent more than two hours writing an update for this blahg, and in one painful moment, it all disappeared. Ahhhhhh...
So the fifteen pages I wrote will have to be summarized for now: I'm in Pokhara. It is beautiful and cynical. I am learning to weave. I got sick but now I am better.
My love for everyone, and most important, Feliz Cumpleanos a mi abuelita y a Hectorin..siempre estoy pensando en ustedes.
Con mucho carino,