Showing posts with label Nepal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nepal. Show all posts

Jul 2, 2018

Please Stand By...

This last week has been a doozy. The other night after dinner our house started smelling like melted plastic. Then the air conditioning units wouldn't work. Then smoke began filling the rooms. So we shut everything off, called the electrician, and sat in the dark. It seems the Nepal Electric Authority was cranking out an alarming 370V current instead of their usual 220V.

This went on for four hours so we had to completely shut off all electrical items in the house. We've spent the weekend praising Allah that our house didn't catch fire, airing out the house, and replacing all the melted light fixtures, ceiling fans, and air conditioning units. Our neighbors all suffered the same problem and have had televisions and computers ruined too. (Luckily, our computers and televisions are routed through the invertor so they don't seem to have incurred any damage.) Still, I'm surprised there weren't any fires in our district.

All that and two sick kitties too.  We haven't heard anything from the Nepal Electric Authority, there were no lightning storms in our area either. I shall try to get a "real" post up next week. Sigh.

What next?
Hope things are going better where you're at!

Jun 11, 2018

Where the Streets Have No Name.

I want to feel sunlight on my face, I see that dust cloud disappear without a trace, I wanna take shelter from the poison rain, where the streets have no name, oh-oh, ........oooo! Not sure what Bono was blathering on about in 1987 but I really do live on a street with no name!

And slowly but surely it has become a paved street with no name.

Bucket by bucket, and possibly violating every safety, health, and labor law in existence in western countries- we slowly but surely are no longer living on a country dirt road anymore.

A baby steamroller and a few teenagers were employed for the finishing touches. His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan took a stroll over the sticky tar and soon regretted it. I regretted it too after spending an hour cleaning the tar off his royal paws with baby oil for two hours.

Taaa Daaaa! Our street with no name is paved. Unfortunately, the paving stops about 100 feet beyond that bend you see in the distance. The people who live at the end of the road decided they didn't need full paving just an upgraded dirt road about halfway through the project. This was declared amidst a screaming, yelling, heated argument during a homeowners' association meeting. Which is why I don't ever go to homeowners' association meetings nor walk in that direction on our street. Take a look at that rudimentary bamboo fence on the left- big doins' in the formerly vacant lot!

The ongoing saga of the vacant lot: it's being cultivated! Yes, the neighborhood garbage dump, cow pasture, parking lot, vagrant hangout, and nightly den of vice is being farmed. The wall of the drain has been built up with a rickety bamboo fence to keep marauding livestock out. Corn, beans, and pumpkins are growing there now.

Which means we'll probably be seeing less of these guys coming down our street. These are not exactly 'holy cows' but rather swingin' single maverick males. Here they are looking for shade from the blistering noonday summer sun. Although beef is illegal here in Nepal male cows can be utilized to pull a plow. Mostly they are just left to wander the streets aimlessly. Sometimes these feckless males get a little too maverick and charge or gore people. They are sacred, you can't kill them so what usually happens to troublesome bulls is that they get gimped. Often this is done by cutting a tendon on one of their back legs or worse smashing/chopping off one of their back feet with a hammer or ax. I used to wonder why there were so many lame bulls about.  Mind you, I have been charged by some of these bovine miscreants for simply carrying a bag of apples. Having two tonnes of determined steer come running at you is a scary thing indeed. I'm still sorry to see the days of livestock roaming the streets slowly coming to an end in our town as cars take over.

Here's a lady selling a popular seasonal summertime snack. Ears of corn roasted on a fire served with a fiery hot chutney. She's got her super SPF going with that umbrella, long-sleeved shirt, and scarf pulled over her face. The corn being roasted is not the sweet, soft, tender type we Americans like to eat off the cob. Rather it is the starchy, bland, somewhat hard sort that we feed cattle and chickens. I grew American sweet corn here in my yard one year and it was a huge hit. Unfortunately, the worms loved it too.

Looks like the snack lady has some modern competition! This truck showed up on our street a few days ago. I had never seen a rig quite like this anywhere in South Asia. Curious, I asked the owner within where he got the idea and how long he had been in business. Sure enough, he'd worked at a restaurant in my native California and got the idea from the ubiquitous taco trucks we have there. Despite the photos of hamburgers and fried chicken his menu was a bit more traditional featuring momos, samosas, and such. He wasn't doing much business so I suggested he try a busier place with a parking lot like between the airport and hotel across the way.

Too-riss! Too-riss! A group of nurses from the Netherlands came to visit our neighborhood and the specialty clinic on our street. Any westerner coming to Nepal is an instant celebrity! Nepalis often ask me why westerners dress so weird when they visit here. I try to explain that they are on vacation and this is like their "play" clothes. "What is a vacation?" I am often further asked. "It's like a non-religious holiday when westerners take a break from work," I reply. "What for?" seems to always be the next question. Eventually, I've realized that in a country where there is no "weekend" nor regular workday and the only reason to travel is to make religious pilgrimages or visit family- it is really impossible to make the idea of a western style vacation relevant or understandable.

Here's a trend across Asia I don't understand. Buying a huge purebred dog is considered a status symbol for the ever-burgeoning middle class. Since pet ownership is new here in Nepal many of the animals wind up deserted on the street when they are no longer puppies and their care and feeding become too time-consuming and costly. I think it is mean (or at least stupid) to have a dog like this St Bernard in such a hot and humid climate. Although he looks well cared for I'm certain he's suffering miserably in the Subcontinental heat.

A magic bus belonging to a curiously named institution called the Dream School was parked in our neighborhood for a few days. Love, excellence, and wisdom are certainly worthy educational aspirations. I'm curious as to whether this is a Christian school because of the cross on the left. There aren't many Christian schools in Nepal. Their motto "Love + Excellence + Wisdom" is certainly better than my Christian school motto which was the rather anticipative, terse, and tenuous "God With Us."

And in the cool, cool, cool of the summer evenings, the ChaCha Convention convenes. ( a "chacha' is an old uncle.) They've relocated from the Tibetan refugee school's bus stop to the new sitting area at the crossroads of our neighborhood. In a few years that tiny peepal tree will shade those iron benches completely.

A studied game of chess is ongoing in the shade of the taxi stand next to the local cold store. A cold store basically has a refrigerator and or freezer so you can buy milk, yogurt, cold soda, and beer there. They also sell many other things ranging from eggs, matches, cigarettes, potato chips, candy, onions, potatoes, fresh bread, fresh Chinese noodles, ramen, hard liquor, soft liquor, drinking water, cooking oil, and chickens butchered upon demand.

The first gardening casualty of the season. I planted three simi (green beans) plants along this wall in April. They were growing beautifully and had entirely overed the triangular trellis and the spiky wrought iron decoration above the cinder block wall. I was picking a basketful of beans weekly. One evening at about midnight a swarm of 40-50 huge winged beetles came and devoured all the leaves of the upper part of the vines as you see in the photo on the left. I hurried out and sprayed my DIY peri peri hot sauce and garlic pest prevention gunk on the remaining leaves the next morning. The beetles must have thought my spray was seasoning as they came back the next night and ate ALL the leaves as you see in the photo on the left. What is weird is that the beetles did not touch any other plants in the garden!

I don't know about y'all but when the weather turns steamy and sultry I go to Rio! From classics like the Getz/Gilberto album and Piano de Bossa to Ultralounge's Cha-Cha de Amor and Bossa Novaville. Although I might not have a lovely view of Corcovado I do have quiet nights of quiet stars and an iMac with upgraded audio quality. The lyrical fusion of samba and jazz is what Bibi swings so cool and sways so gently to in the summertime. O que é felicidade meu amor!

This is the newest member of our family, Spotty. He is now nine months old and really full of himself. This is how he sleeps, on his back with his tongue sticking out. He is our first "indoor only" cat. But Spotty sees his older housemate Baacha Khan go outside and thinks he should go outside too. So one day last week he pushed the screen door open and took off. My husband and I chased him for two hours over walls and through the neighbors' yards. Baacha Khan tried to talk him into returning home. A stray cat smacked Spotty in the face (that is what the dot on the right side of his face is) and chased him even further away. Eventually, my husband and I gave up and hoped Spotty was smart enough to find his way home - we had our doubts. About 30  minutes later I received a call from the hospital down the street wanting to know if we had a black and white kitty. As I was putting my shoes on to walk over to the hospital I looked out into the yard and there was Spotty. He lazed in the shade for a bit then wandered in the front door behind Baacha Khan. I guess we underestimated our bratty baby.

And Ramadan is going on and on and on. It has been absolutely sweltering here ranging from 90F/32C to 95F/35C daily. The humidity is from 80-85% making it particularly muggy. Normal temperature for this time of year is around 85F/29C. Monsoon rains do not start until August. We only have air conditioning in the bedrooms and there have been brownouts daily due to the heat. Ugh! I have to cook for iftar starting at 4 pm. Other than that I avoid the kitchen because it is the hottest room in the house. One more week.....

Anything exciting going on your way?
What are your favorite albums to listen too when it gets miserably hot?
Calmly currying on,

May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing a happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

To moms who appreciate budding fashionistas...

Or future gymnasts...

And motorcycle mamas...

And tired moms...

And furry moms...

And doting moms of dollies...

Happy Mother's day to moms all around the world!

Apr 23, 2018

April 25th, 2015 - The Earthquake in Nepal

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

On Saturday morning, April 25th, 2015 at 11:56AM an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8Mw or 8.1Ms hit the tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal. Its epicenter was east of Gorkha District at Barpak and occurred at a depth of approximately 8.2 km (5.1 miles). It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. In total, nearly 9,000 people were killed and nearly 22,000 injured as a result of this horrific natural disaster.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
We are in Pokhara to the northwest of Kathmandu, most of the force of the quakes went eastward from the epicenter in Gorkha towards Kathmandu and  Mt Everest.

What started off as a beautiful sunny day soon ended in disaster. I was just finishing cooking lunch that morning when I heard what I thought was a large truck driving by. Then the house began shaking and I knew it was an earthquake. Being a native Californian I am quite used to earthquakes so I wasn't particularly panicked. In fact, I was living in San Francisco during the M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake. Earthquakes are not uncommon in the Himalayas and this wasn't the first one I'd felt since moving here. But the shaking continued and grew more intense. I braced myself in the doorway between the kitchen and the pantry as we were taught to do as schoolchildren in California. The shaking continued and grew stronger. At that point, I grabbed a cat in each hand and ran out the door into the middle of an empty field. I recall watching the power lines and the concrete poles carrying them swaying. I saw the neighbors running out of their houses too. After what seemed an interminable length of time the shaking finally stopped.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

If you've ever experienced an earthquake the oddest thing is the silence afterward (unless things are still falling down I suppose). No birds chirped, no dogs barked, no vehicles honked for about five minutes after the earthquake finally stopped. Just eerie and complete silence. Gingerly I walked around our house checking for damage before entering. The house's foundation was seemingly undamaged. I called my husband. THE PHONE WORKS! My husband said there was no damage where he was at either. WHEW. Ten minutes later the phone stopped working but I was able to go online. There was no local news coverage of the earthquake. I watched the nightmarish damage in Kathmandu on CNN Asia two hours later. Kathmandu reportedly shifted 3m (10 ft) to the south in a matter of just 30 seconds. Continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal at the intervals of 15–20 minutes.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

We took a drive around our town and surprisingly there was little damage. The wall of one house fell causing an elderly woman to suffer a heart attack and a freestanding garden wall toppled. No sirens, no billowing smoke, no piles of rubble as there had been after the Loma Prieta earthquake when I was living in San Francisco. Within four hours of the devastating earthquake, the Indian Air Force swung into action and routed one C-130J aircraft, two C-17, one IL-76, 295 NDRF personnel, 46.5 tonnes of relief materials, and five sniffer dogs to Nepal. Just before sunset planes from the Indian Army began arriving at our local airport to survey the damage near the epicenter up at Gorkha.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

Because the aftershocks were still coming so strongly and frequently most Nepalis stayed outside. Tables, chairs, umbrellas, cots, and even tents were set up outside nearly everyone's house. Streets and yards were filled with people too afraid to go back into their homes. I wished I'd taken more photos of this. (I did not have a smartphone then.) Invalids who hadn't seen the light of day in years were brought out of homes and set on charpoys and makeshift beds along the street. People were chatting amiably and taking meals in fields and curbside. I met neighbors I didn't even know I had! People remained outside their homes like this for months, even if their homes were undamaged out of fear or yet another huge quake.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

The day after the earthquake my husband gathered donations from local Indian businessmen to send two large trucks full of supplies and a small team of doctors to the quake epicenter in Gorkha district.  Gorkha is quite steep and the roads are rudimentary at best. He came back covered head to toe in mud and said he was surprised that in spite of the damage he saw very few injuries.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

The second day after the earthquake more Indian Army helicopters and planes arrived at our local airport. In total the Indian Air Force and Army flew 2,223 sorties, shifted 11,200 people to safer places, and transported about 1,700 tonnes of relief materials. Eight medium lift helicopters ( Russian made Mi-17 V5's and Mi-17's ) from the Indian Army carried out relief and rescue operations from our little airport. The Indian relief and rescue mission was deemed "Operation Maitri " and continued until June 4th, 2015.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
One of the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft taking off from the airport in Kathmandu.

The U.S. Marine Corps arrived in Nepal on May 5th. As part of Operation Sahayogi Haat, the U.S. military contributed three Marine Corps UH-1Y Huey helicopters, four Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, four Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, four Air Force C-130 Hercules, and four Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft to the relief effort. On 12 May 2015, U.S. Marine Corps Bell UH-1Y Venom, BuNo 168792, 'SE-08', of Camp Pendleton-based HMLA-469 was declared missing in the Charikot region while conducting humanitarian relief operations in the wake of the 7.8M earthquake. The Nepalese Army discovered the crashed aircraft on 15 May 2015. All 13 occupants were found deceased. A news release from III Marine Expeditionary Force stated that the chosen route, which may have been made because one or more of the injured were in need of urgent treatment, took the UH-1Y Huey helicopter for a brief period over unfamiliar terrain in unstable weather. The unfamiliar terrain they were flying over in Charikot was a near vertical gorge covered with thick rainforest. Unstable is an understatement when describing Nepal's sudden, violent, and capricious storms.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
Rescue crews with sniffer dogs searching the rubble after the avalanche at Langtang.

The high altitude valley of Langtang was buried in an avalanche estimated to have been 2-3kms wide. Contact with some of the remote areas of Nepal is often tenuous even under the best of circumstances. It was weeks before we learned that the entire village of Langtang and many smaller settlements on its outskirts were buried during the earthquake. The area suffered an estimated 310 deaths, including 176 Langtang residents, 80 foreigners, and 10 army personnel. More than 100 bodies were never recovered.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
The wrong side of an avalanche on Mt Everest.

The earthquake triggered several large avalanches on and around Mount Everest. Between 700 and 1,000 people were on or near the mountain when the earthquake struck. At least twenty-two people were killed, surpassing an avalanche that occurred the previous year as the deadliest disaster on the mountain.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
A modern home collapsed in Kathmandu. I spoke to a Japanese engineering team surveying the earthquake damage who told me that most of the houses that collapsed like this were built on sandy soil.

In Kathmandu, most modern buildings remained standing after the quake. Several centuries-old temples and towers were destroyed though. The nine-story Dharahara Tower, a Kathmandu landmark built by Nepal's royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800's and a UNESCO-recognised historical monument was reduced to rubble. One hundred and eighty bodies were pulled from the rubble of Dharahara Tower.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
Dharahara or Bhimsen Tower prior to the earthquakes of 2015.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
Dharahara or Bhimsen Tower after the earthquakes of 2015.

The ancient city of Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu was particularly hard hit. Around 90% of buildings in Bhaktapur were structurally compromised if not reduced to rubble. You can see what Bhaktapur looked like before the earthquakes in scenes from the 1993 film Little Buddha. Most of its beautifully preserved yet fragile brickwork temples, palace courtyards, and temples were destroyed.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

The continuous aftershocks made rescue and relief work difficult if not impossible. Then on May 12th, 2015 a second major earthquake occurred with a magnitude of 7.3. This earthquake occurred along the same fault as the original magnitude 7.8 earthquake of April 25th but further to the east. It is considered to be an aftershock of the April 25th quake. Minutes later, another 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal with its epicenter in Ramechhap, east of Kathmandu.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

These aftershocks caused mass panic as many people were still reeling from the devastation of the April 25th earthquake. At least 153 people were killed and more than 3,200 people were injured by these huge aftershocks. I ran screaming from the house with a cat under each arm and Ms. Dawg in tow myself!

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
For months after the earthquakes, we would see huge clouds of dust from ongoing avalanches off in the distance. The dust you see to the left of the photo and near the center is from avalanche dust. Some of these dust clouds were so huge they turned the sky a deep khaki tan for days.

And so, 2015 was quite the year. We were unbelievably fortunate that our little town was spared. TV crews and rescue teams from around the world continued to flood into Nepal. To add to the already monumental problems there was an unofficial border blockade between India and Nepal in September 2015 that caused a shortage of fuel, medicines, and seeds. Prices skyrocketed due to this ongoing political crisis. Amazingly, most of Kathmandu was rebuilt by 2016. Nepalis are quite accustomed to natural disasters and seem to take it all in stride. Unfortunately, many of the damaged and destroyed ancient temples and historic sites haven't been rebuilt yet. There's a bit of a disagreement as to how to rebuild them. Should the ancient sites be restored exactly as they were or rebuilt using modern earthquake-resistant materials and techniques?

Candle-light vigil in 2017 for the victims of the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal
Nepal is sure to suffer more earthquakes in the future, just when is the only question. This Wednesday will mark the third anniversary of this natural disaster that killed thousands and injured many more in the Himalayan nation. Amazingly,  tourist bookings are higher now than in 2014 before the earthquake!

Bibi ;)

Mar 26, 2018

Taking the High Road...Literally

Paving our little dirt road has truly begun here in Nepal. Trucks filled with building supplies have been arriving daily and a crew has been working dawn to dusk. Construction is going surprisingly quick even though most everything has to be done manually. Above you see a truck full of river rock being unloaded by the basketful.

These cone-shaped baskets are how most large loads are carried here in Nepal. You will often see porters going up and down the mountains carrying all sorts of things in these baskets like produce for markets, bricks, firewood, and even trekking gear for tourists. It's a very simple but brilliant design that leaves the arms free and alleviates pressure on the shoulders. Large and bulky items can easily be transported on the steep and narrow trails that crisscross the Himalayas connecting towns and villages using these conical baskets. The young woman in the above picture is using a shawl looped around the basket and across her forehead to carry it.

When it comes to hard, physical labor men and women work side by side in Nepal. These two ladies are digging a trench with pick and shovel for the drain on the new road. The woman on the left is about 3 months pregnant. She will work up until she gives birth and then only take one day off. The maintenance and clearing of trails in the mountains are considered women's work also.

Here they're placing a layer of river rock along the bottom of the drainage trench dug by the women. If you think that drainage trench looks a bit shallow you'll see how they've chosen to deal with that in the next few photos.

A layer of concrete is placed over the river rock in the drainage trench.  Once again the concrete is both mixed and transported by hand. No fancy concrete mixer. A simple slurry is mixed on the ground with shovels and carried by the bucketful to be smoothed over the river rock.

On top of the layer of concrete over the river rocks, two low parallel walls were built. These are to be the walls of a tiny canal that will drain the road. It is my understanding that the road will be built flush to the height of these walls. If you look to the left of the photo you can see how high the top of the drainage canal is compared to the land and houses bordering the road. It is a lot higher!

In fact, this is what it looks like through our front gate! The road is going to be a full 23 inches higher than the land our house and yard are on.

His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan demonstrates the alarming height of the future road. As you can see this means using our driveway will be impossible without some major modifications. I really hope this drain works to keep water away from our house during the Monsoon and that our yard doesn't become a drainage pond!

And then some folks were just delighted with the new drain! Little Mr. Raju jumped right in while his sisters looked on in amusement. Or disgust?

After two weeks of road building, the crew decided to have a celebration of sorts. Anytime you see an animal tethered by its front foreleg in a field it's fairly certain there's going to be some butchering. The man holding the ax will hit the water buffalo on the head with the back of it which will stun it. Then he will either deliver the final blow by severing the spinal cord with a chop to the back of the neck or by repeatedly striking it on the head until it falls to the ground. Then the animal's throat will be slit. Sometimes the initial bonk to the head does not entirely stun the animal as desired. I have seen times when an errant blow glances off of a buffalo's head which only enraged the animal. You do not want a horned beast that weighs a metric ton mad at you. Tying the animals front leg to a post will cause it to fall down if it tries to charge you or run away.  Hopefully.  About a year ago I heard horrific screams midday coming from this very field. I looked out the window to see a water buffalo with an ax hanging from his forehead making the most horrific sound I had ever heard. Water buffaloes make grunts and groans like Chewbacca when they call to each other, when distressed they make a screech that is bloodcurdling!

The buffalo was soon skinned and dismembered on a plastic tarp. Every part of the animal will be eaten or sold to the tanners. Water buffalo meat tastes like lean, good quality beef. It is not as fatty as beef nor does it have any of the gamey taste of goat (mutton), lamb, or venison. It can be a bit tough and requires marination making it great for kebabs. We rarely eat it because Kashmiris feel it is inferior to lamb. Although Kashmiris think goat (mutton) is inferior to sheep (lamb) also.

Butchering a large animal like this is usually only a once or twice a year event for most people in Nepal. Any meat that is not eaten in a few days will be salted, seasoned with timur (Szechuan peppercorns), and dried to make a sort of jerky.

And lastly, our beloved cat Tikka passed away. Tikka was Ms. Chinger's first daughter and they were very close. When Chinger died last October Tikka became very sad. Tikka was very shy and did not like to be touched by people but lavished her affections on her brother, Baacha Khan and her mom Chinger.

Poor Tikka had suffered many a mysterious feline virus these last few years but I think Chinger's death really affected her for the worse. I was not Tikka's favorite person as I was the one administering her medications. But when she wanted anything she had no hesitation to voice her requests to me. Tikka always wanted to be a mom and would even steal kittens from other mama cats and bring them home. We will miss you Tikka.

Any major construction going on your way? 
Have any of y'all in northern climes thawed out yet?

Ciao for now,

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