Oct 30, 2017

Rest in Peace, Ms Chinger

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of the great matriarch of our kitty clan, Ms Chinger.  Our very own mother of the multititudes was taken from us on Sunday afternoon after a brief illness. She will be fondly remembered for her cantankerousness, fearlessness, bravery, badassery, and love. 

Last Thursday night Ms Chinger suddenly took a turn for the worse. What we thought was just a mild case of the sniffles careened into severe vomiting, diarrhea, a sudden drop in body temperature, jaundice, and a marked lack of appetite. All the vets' clinics were closed in our district until Sunday so we had to improvise. We gave her the standard SC and IV fluids and an IM dose of antibiotics to see if we could revive her or at least stabilize her until we could get to a vet. Above you see Bibi's jugaadi (makeshift) hydration station. A window over a comfy sofa or chair makes a great IV bag hanger.

On Sunday we took Ms Chinger across town to the Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust (HART) when they opened fearing the worst as she was not improving. Her temperature had dropped and she had become unresponsive. The vet determined that Ms Chinger was suffering severe kidney failure that was not treatable. We choose to have her euthanized rather than have her endure a slow and painful death.

Here's one of the last photos of her in good health from last week. Ms Chinger and her son the Baacha Khan are accosting a baby snake. The snake lost. The Baacha Khan was bored after about three minutes with the snake, Ms Chinger pursued it for about 20 minutes before snapping it in two. Despite her diminutive size Ms Chinger was not afraid of anything. Dogs, buffaloes, snakes, crows, loud noises- nothing fazed this cat! I've seen her run underneath buffaloes, smack snakes in the face, and even swat dogs around.

Ms Chinger is yelling at me here, "It's time for LUNCH!!!" in all her crabby glory. Regardless of her myriad health problems over the years she loved to eat. She never missed a meal! It was amazing how much buffalo meat she could eat- more than our other two cats combined. Smoked chicken breast was her favorite food. She was also very vocal. If the water dish was empty, a meal was late in coming, or she needed the door opened you would be told LOUDLY.

Ms Chinger came to us in the most peculiar way. Two giggling little girls tossed her over our front gate when she was a kitten then ran away. Cats are considered bad luck in Nepal, black cats especially so. Little Chinger was so small I wondered if she'd even been weaned when I found her mewing in the driveway. Her hair was missing on her tail and nose due to some nasty mange-like skin infection. Her scaly and bald nose and tail made her look more like a rat than a cat so we named her "Ratty," or "Chinger" in Nepali.

Little Chinger allowed me to put medicine on her nose and tail and soon she was healed. She ate like a champ even though she was barely bigger than the palm of my hand. At about 8 months of age she went into heat for he first time. I explained to the Sheikh that we needed to get her spayed or she'd start crank out babies nonstop. The Sheikh did not believe me. Responsible pet keeping and care is not yet  popular in South Asia.

And so Ms Chinger cranked out litters in rapid succession. We had kittens up the wazoo. The kittens had kittens. The neighbor complained about cats coming into their houses. The hospital complained that cats were coming into patients' rooms! Ms Chinger herself routinely got stuck upon the neighbors' roof and would yowl until rescued- usually between midnight and 2 AM. I was tired of cleaning 5 litter boxes daily. We called the Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust (HART) but they did not spay cats, only dogs. We begged and pleaded with them to spay our ever growing kitty clan. Finally they had an American doctor visit that would neuter our cats! Our cats were the first ever in our town to be spayed.

Tikka and His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan are the only two surviving children of Ms Chinger. There was a distemper-like virus that killed about half of them. I gave three of them to the children of the owners of our local cold store. Some nasty neighbors strangled 5 of her kittens when they were about 4 months old and wandering in a nearby field and threw them in our driveway. 

Here's Ms Chinger in happier times snuggling by the heater with her son and daughter. This was taken last Winter. Ms Chinger was not our first furbaby but was the kitty that had been with us the longest. (We had another black female cat named Gooli but Ms Chinger beat the crap out of her regularly so she ran away.) As mean as Ms Chinger could be to other kitties and varmints she was quite gentle with children and allowed them to handle and pet her quite readily. She loved a good chin scratch too.
Seems kind of fitting that our spooky little black cat should leave us around Hallow's Eve.
Rest in peace, Ms Chinger.

Oct 23, 2017

Over hill, Over Dale, As we hit the dusty trail...

Yes, we hit the post-Monsoon dusty trail to visit the in-laws in Kashmir for a VERY special occasion. Right at the start of the tourist season and during the Hindu high holidays - the absolute WORST time of year to travel in South Asia! Above you see the miserable traffic, dust, and non existent road entering Kathmandu.

Well, it started out all sunny and beautiful anyway. Here's the new bridge they're building at the tiny riverbank town of Mugling. No hard hats or safety harnesses for these guys!

Then the road sort of turned into a partially drained riverbed replete with boulders and bathtub sized potholes. After the Monsoon the roads are always partially or completely destroyed. The Sheikh calls these stretches of road "camel rides" as we get tossed about so much. Traffic was horrendous due to most Nepalis returning home to their villages from big cities to celebrate the festivals. If you are a tourist planning to visit Nepal please be aware that although October is lovely for mild weather and enjoying the local festivals most banks and markets will be closed. You'll be most likely stuck eating at your hotel as restaurants are closed too. (Yes, this is the start of the prime tourist season - but holidays must be properly observed lest divine favor be denied!)

And then we flew to Delhi into even more traffic and airfares jacked up to exorbitant holiday prices. Yes, in the above photo that's Delhi traffic trying to go three ways at once with no stoplight or police officer guiding it. If you're wondering how we get around in Delhi we have a favorite native Delhi taxi driver with an unglamorous but comfy, reliable, and air conditioned CNG powered cab that costs about $30-$40 daily. It's important to get a native Delhi driver because they know their way around the city well. If you get a newbie taxi driver that just emigrated to Delhi you will end up lost or going the long way round and paying for it through the nose.

And then we flew to Srinagar to the Sheikh's ancestral home. Which was rather subdued despite the attack near the airport the day before our arrival. 

Here's why we went to Srinagar during this horrid time to travel: my niece's Nishaani or engagement party. Getting married is the biggest, most important event in your life in South Asia. The engagement and all things leading up to the big day must be celebrated auspiciously and with great pomp and circumstance and so on... (I'll fill you in with more photos and great detail on the Nishaani later).

Remember these two little guys? These are the little kittens whose mother died and left them orphaned living under the stairs at our family home in Srinagar. I posted several photos of them on our visit to Kashmir last year.

That's who these handsome brutes are now! Wow, what a pair of bruisers they've grown into! They're living a lavish lifestyle now feasting upon chicken scraps from the neighborhood butcher and sharing the TV room inside the house with my brother-in-law.

When we returned from Srinagar we spent 2 days shopping in Delhi. We usually go shopping twice yearly in Delhi but have avoided going there due to the hassle of the demonetisation scheme and now the new Goods and Services Tax. Prices have gone up considerably in India. Cosmetics are now taxed at a whopping 30% so I won't be buying makeup in India anymore. I did find a new (to me anyway) shop featuring the Korean beauty line called Innisfree. Innisfree is the #1 selling beauty brand in Korea and is owned by the famed and very $$$s luxury skin care company Amore Pacific.  Innisfree favors a 'value' pricing system with lots of buy 5 get 2 free sort of deals like you see in the US frequently. I don't think Indians like the buy more and save 'value' deal model of retailing as much as us Americans do. I picked some masks and some products from their Green Tea line, Perfect 9 line, and Golden Olive line for my spa days. I really love Asian beauty products as they are usually better quality, produce actual results, and are more elegant to use than Western skin care and makeup.

I did my twice yearly clothing shopping in Delhi too. Despite the new GST on clothing I purchased 10 pairs of pants (churidars, patialas, and palazzos) and 20 tops (kurtis, kaftans, tunics, and thobes) for about $900. That's about $30 an item (including GST) which is still dirt cheap considering the luxury fabrics and lavish embellishment on each piece. There's everything from satin-lined velvet to hand loomed silk! Even some modern fibers like tencel and modal. The detail on the tops is amazing. I love my Indian clothes. There's a style to suit every figure in Indian traditional clothing. So elegant and comfortable.

So we headed home from Delhi. The Delhi airport was cheerfully decorated for the grandest of the Hindu holidays- Diwali! The festival of lights. After a short flight to Kathmandu we had another miserable road trip on the Highway from Hell home. We'll be buying a new set of tires and shocks accordingly.

Diwali or Deepawali as they say here in Nepal was in full swing. This year our little neighborhood had a venue of outdoor concerts and dance from 9 am to 9 pm during the festival. The stage is just a red carpet thrown down on the intersection and the sound system is powered by a kerosene generator. We've been treated to everything from blaring rock, rap, and rave to acoustic traditional performances and even a drum circle. I'm still in 'grumpy old git' phase after galavanting across the country so I've not attended very many of the shows but it's surprising how much local talent we have here! I'm a big fan of music no matter how loud over those @#$%! crackers blowing up randomly all over.

Ms Dawg went over to the neighbors to be properly propitiated on Kukhur Tihar. She ate her holiday meal, got her festive garland and left with out a tilakh on her forehead. Not the most ladylike gal but we love her.

I also heard about the California wildfires while on my trip. A number of friends in California emailed to tell me that my former home in California burnt down. (Actually the entire subdivision it was in burnt to the ground.) In an odd quirk of fate I sold that house in 2006 to a family from Gujarat. I have emailed the family from Gujarat and they are all okay but had only hours to evacuate and lost everything. That was a beautiful home that I designed myself on a hilltop overlooking the valley. I lived there for 10 years. Before I sold it I spent the majority of my time planning and planting a Mediterranean-style garden on that river rock terraced quarter of an acre. Gravel paths twisted among the native oaks with patches of lavender, rosemary, Matilija poppies, sage, Italian cypress, catmint, and my English rose collection. Now it's all goners. Ah well. Attachment is suffering and truthfully- that big house, garden, and pool was a major pain in the butt to take care of.

So, that's all that's been going on with me. My phone camera is broken and I'm unable to focus it. But all the repair shops are closed for the holidays! I have sooo many photos from the Nishaani to process anyway that I'll be busy for awhile anyway.
How's your Fall going where you're at?
Are you ready for the holidays?
Calmly currying on,

Oct 2, 2017

Isn't it Romantic?

Yes indeed, it's a brand new trashcan! The Sheikh (my husband) saw this in our local upscale departmental store and bought it immediately. Woo hoo! I think we're the only ones in our district with a rolling rubbish receptacle like this. There it sits proudly at the end of the driveway by the front gate ready to go. Ain't it grand? It was the only one in entire the store too. Nothing says love like a modern, sanitary, durable, stylish, and easily transportable waste bin!

If you're wondering why all the excitement about a rubbish bin it's because this is how we used to deal with trash. We'd hang our bags full of a day's trash up on the back fence with the mops and such. (Bin liners are not widely available for purchase in Nepal so we make due with used shopping bags.) This kept dogs, rodents, monkeys, yetis, or whatever from getting into the trash until the rubbish collectors came. Unfortunately the rubbish collectors only come to pick up garbage maybe every two weeks at no set time or day. Because we have three cats we generate at least one bag of litter a day. That means there might be like 14-15 bags of stinky, vermin attracting trash hanging on the back fence before the next rubbish pick-up. Then when the rubbish collectors came honking down our street my maid and I would have to grab like 6-7 bags of trash each and run to the front gate carrying the smelly mess. Now we can store the full bags in the bin and just roll it out the gate to meet the garbage truck! Yippee!

It's been hot as Hell here this September. Like between 90F/32C to 100F/38C daily. Fall has definitely not fallen and the Monsoon rains are lingering longer too. I've taken advantage of this decidedly Indian summer (pun intended) to dry some mint. Above you see our garden table covered with mint sprigs. I pick the mint early in the morning and give it a bit of a light rinse before allowing them to dry and wilt a bit for a day in the sunlight. I then place the wilted sprigs on aluminum cookie sheets and allow them to dry for about a week on top of the fridge. There's one of the cookie sheets on the chair in the bottom right corner. Our gardener Khashi is waving to the camera in the upper right corner. Yes, Khashi is wearing an insulated vest as he trims our tiny patch of lawn with a hand shears even though it's 90F/32C.

I shot this photo of a little egret (Egretta garzetta) with the zoom on my Samsung Galaxy phone. I'm amazed at what great quality pics this phone takes. This egret is one of a pair that regularly nests in the sacred fig at the hospital across the street from us. It looks like this photo is taken in some lush and tropical riparian zone doesn't it?

Well, it's actually the vacant lot next to our property. This is taken with the 10x zoom. See the tiny white speck of a bird in the water near the center of the photo? That's the same bird at the same distance as the other photo! This vacant lot/unofficial garbage dump becomes a festering swamp during the Monsoon. The frogs and bugs sing raucously and gloriously around it all night long. It's so filthy the water buffaloes won't even go in it. I'm sure there's all sorts of nasties breeding in there from leptospirosis to typhoid. Blech.

And the tomatoes finally came to an end. This is the typically spindly and diseased mess that you end up with at the end of the season no matter what variety you plant here. That's an old mop handle, a split of bamboo, and some kite string that was a jugaadi (make-do) trellis when the tomatoes were full of fruit. Scale was the predominate pest this year. Our gardener Khashi says scale was a big problem all over Nepal this year. He also says he'd never seen scale in Nepal before 2 years ago.

Rainy weather makes for strange bedfellows. This is how Ms Dawg mostly spends her days during the Monsoon. On the front patio bench. As you can see our Ms Dawg is a gal who really knows where her towel is. Granny Chinger (our grand feline matriarch) is the kitty trespassing on Ms Dawg's bench. 

When Ms Dawg's away the kitties will play! Here the kitties have completely taken over Ms Dawg's bench. 

The kitties make themselves quite at home on Ms Dawg's bench when she's away. As you can see they've spread themselves out strategically in order to occupy the entire bench. Ms Dawg looks on in great disgust but does not bother the kitties when they usurp her bed.

This week was Dashain or Vijaya Dashami here in Nepal. It is the longest, most popular, and most auspicious Hindu festival in Nepal. if you'd like to learn more about Dashain in Nepal I did a post on it here. The air has been rife with the scents of fabulous feasts being cooked and the fragrance of incense for poojas. Above is a photo I took of a pooja being performed at the base of the sacred fig tree at the hospital in back of us. Dashain is sort of a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one. It's become a big shopping event like holidays in western countries too. All the stores in town are bringing in extra merchandise, having big discount sales, and special offers for the big holiday. We got a free pressure cooker with the purchase of a kilo of butter! 

Since it's been so blasted hot we decided to take a drive up into the mountains. Above is the view of our valley from the tiny village of Sarankot. Cloudy, lush, and green is what late Summer and early Fall looks like in South Asia. In my native California everything is dry, brown, dusty, dead, or burnt this time of year. It was considerably cooler at this elevation even requiring a jacket as the sun set. 

In fact, it's so much cooler up in the mountains the winter vegetables were coming in! That is asparagus you see in the above photo. Asparagus in late September? You can grow just about anything in Nepal because of all the different microclimates at all the different altitudes here. There was also bok choy, spinach, daikon radish, kohlrabi, turnips, and cauliflower. The Sheikh bought 3 kgs of turnips and 6 heads of cauliflower. I don't think there's another ethnic group on the planet that gets as excited about turnips as Kashmiris. Guess we'll be eating rajma gogji (Kashmiri style beans and turnips) and curried cauliflower all next week.

And here's Jigme and his twin sisters playing on a derelict cart of some sort in the vacant lot/dump/swamp. Jigme must be the youngest Nirvana fan ever. Every time I see him he's wearing yet another Nirvana t-shirt. He's quite the little badass with his gang signs and surly air.

Sigh. Of all the American holidays I miss Halloween the most. My friend in California sent me an email of her thrift store finds. This one deserved a cackle. I do not miss all the hype and frenzy of working in or going anywhere near retail establishments in the US during the Holiday season. 

Granny Chinger and her striped daughter Tikka look about like how I feel in this photo. The maid has gone to Kathmandu for the week to celebrate the holiday with her family. That means in addition to cooking meals and doing the laundry I get to do the maid's chores like mopping and washing dishes  too. It's so blasted hot that after lunch is served I just want to go siesta in the air conditioned bedroom till dark. Oh well, the maid will be back tomorrow and hopefully things will cool down soon. It's October already!

Has Fall started on your corner of the world?
Are you looking forward to the holiday season?

Bah humbug,
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