Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Jan 22, 2018

Technical Difficulties & Some Pretty Birds

"You are, and ever shall be, a perfect reflection of Spirit." - Paramahansa Yogananda 
Having a  few computer issues so my post will be a bit short this week. Above you see a Boreal rose-ringed parakeet (P. k. borealis) whom came to visit me one bright wintry morning. Although these parakeets are native to Nepal, Bhurma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and northern India I'd never seen one here. They have the ability to mimic human speech and are also sold as pets. One of my fondest memories of these birds is when we were newlyweds and sitting  at a rooftop restaurant in Delhi's Khan market. It was a gray, cold, foggy, dreary January day and all of the sudden an enormous flock of these brilliant green parakeets drooped in out of the fog chattering and chirping. There must have been over a hundred of these 16-inch birds covering the huge trees around the market. Everything was covered with tropical green, squawking, shrieking, birds for about 15 minutes. Then off they flew again in a giant green cloud that disappeared into the dense fog of dusty old Delhi. Surreal. I'm not sure if this bird is a lone escapee from captivity or just briefly separated from his flock. He seemed happy and looks well fed and hydrated.

"You are, and ever shall be, a perfect reflection of Spirit." - Paramahansa Yogananda

I have no idea what sort of bird this is but thought he looked perfectly suited to his surroundings. (Can anyone out there in internet-land help me out indentifying this cutie?) A lot of birds from as far as Siberia and northern Europe overwinter or stop here for a bit on their journey southward. Nepal is certainly a birder's paradise with new species arriving every week it would seem. As it gets colder we also see some of the forest birds come down from the mountains. I know the names of all the birds in my native California but no red-winged blackbirds nor Steller's jays here. I think I tested the limits of the dedicated zoom lens on my Samsung Galaxy Zoom phone camera- this was about an hour before sundown and the bird was about 150ft away.


Anywho, the Sheikh has just informed me that we're off on another road trip this week AGAIN. So's I probably won't be back until February 5th! And Baacho the macho muchacho (aka HIMself) will be having a luxurious staycation at the Cat Hotel.

Happy trails to you, 
Bibi

Jan 15, 2018

Kathmandu: The Thamel

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Today I'm going to take you on a little tour of Kathmandu's famed tourist district: the Thamel. Pronounced "taah-mill" (rhymes with sawmill) the Thamel is a backpacker's ghetto, medieval time capsule, environmental disaster, ancient holy site, den of vice, and tourist trap all rolled into one. This amazing amalgam of sophistication and chaos is where most visitors to Nepal's capital begin their journey.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Here we are in the midst of the Thamel's labyrinth of tiny roads, dank alleyways, and mysterious hidden courtyards. Here you'll find bars, budget hotels, luxury hotels, hostels, cafes, bars, massage parlors, souvenir shops, book shops, restaurants, trekking guides, beggars, travel agents, head shops, fake trekking gear, hashish hawkers, sweatshops, holy shrines, money changers, Buddhist monasteries, ancient artisans, sleazy nightclubs, garish kitsch, priceless antiquities, splendid temples, and a working-class neighborhood. The Thamel has been the center of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over four decades, starting in the hippie days when Westerners first came to Nepal seeking to "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Although the Thamel is often disdainfully referred to as a ghetto,  it is still the budget and pleasure tourists' preferred destination. From the sacred to the profane- the Thamel's got you covered!

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Above you see the traffic and mayhem typical in the Thamel during the peak tourist season. In October 2017 all motor vehicles were supposedly banned in the Thamel. Tourists, vendors, guides, travel writers, and Bibi have suggested banning vehicles from the Thamel for the last 10 years to make it more appealing to tourists. Obviously that ban didn't even last 6 months. I could barely walk this brisk January day in the Thamel without being bumped or pushed to the wall by taxis, motorcycles, and other pedestrians. Such is the lack of law enforcement in Nepal. (Actually in all of South Asia for that matter.) When I first came here about 15 years ago only bicycle rickshaws, holy cows, packs of stray dogs, and gangs of glue-huffing street children roamed the Thamel. Now there isn't even room for that!


This is an example of one of the crappy souvenir shops you'll find in the Thamel. Probably about half of these items are made in China. The incense sticks most likely come from India. The nylon Nepali flags and puppets look to be the only things made in Nepal at this establishment.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Outdoor temporary showroomss of wall hangings, brass statues, and colorful masks made for tourists are also a common sight in the Thamel. Buddha, Ganesh, sadhus, and the demonic-looking bhairabs seem to be the most popular masks. I rather like the lion at the bottom right and the grinning Tibetan-style skull at the bottom left. These masks are made of hand carved wood or a resin made from fish bones. Do not be surprised if on closer inspection you find the marking "Made in China" on many of the masks for sale in the Thamel.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

If you're looking for a souvenir that's uniquely Nepali I'd recommend a paubha. A paubha is a traditional religious painting made by local Newar artists. Paubhas depict deities, mandalas, or monuments and are used as a sort of portable shrine for meditation or for display during festivals. The Tibetan equivalent of a paubha is called a thangka. (You will hear the terms paubha and thangka used interchangeably here though.) Most paubhas portray Buddhist subjects, but a few have Hindu themes. In the above photo are two of my favorite themes: Green Tara on the left and White Tara on the right. Legend has it that both White Tara and Green Tara are born from the tears of Buddha. Green Tara offers succor and protection from all the unfortunate circumstances and myriad dangers one encounters through the cycles of rebirth called samsara. White Tara brings protection, assistance, and comfort to those tossed about in the oceans of suffering of the karmic cycles of samsara. Green Tara is holding a half-open lotus representing the night. White Tara holds a lotus in full bloom symbolizing the day. Green Tara embodies virtuous thoughts and activities while White Tara expresses calmness, serenity, and grace. Together, the Green and White Taras symbolize the limitless compassion of forces who labor day and night to relieve suffering. (We sell these in our shops and that's my best sales spiel.)

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
Kamal Tuladhar
Here are some antique paubhas on display during the alms-giving Buddhist festival of Panjaran. In recent times traditional exhibitions such as this have become few due to fear of art thieves. The Newar artists who traditionally paint paubhas are of the Chitrakar caste. Their skills are famed throughout Asia. The paintings are done according to age-old rules, strict regulations, and specific dimensions handed down traditionally and artists cannot exercise their creativity. The paints are made from minerals and plants. The eyes of the deity are only painted when the rest of the painting has been completed, this is called "mikhā chāyekegu" (opening the eyes). Paubhas are still being painted today and I believe there are three schools of paubha painting in Kathmandu now. Paubhas are variously priced- you can buy a small poor quality one for about $10USD. You can buy a large, best quality paubha for about $1,000USD. Prices vary by artist, pigments, intricacy, subject, and size. They also can be easily rolled up to fit in a suitcase. I have never seen a real antique paubha for sale but hear they go for many thousands of dollars. Be aware that modern paubhas are often artificially "antiqued" by being hung in smoke rooms and rubbed with shoe polish.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
Eventually in your meanderings of the Thamel you'll come to the old Kathmandu Durbar Square. A "durbar" is a royal palace. Before unification Nepal consisted of several tiny kingdoms which all had durbar squares filled with temples, idols, shrines, open courtyards, and water fountains. In the Kathmandu valley there were three kingdoms, each with their own durbar square. This is the most famous one called Kathmandu Durbar Square. The other two durbar squares are in Bhaktapur and the Patan. (You may have seen glimpses of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square in the 1993 movie Little Buddha.) All three durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here I am being surveilled by the female guard on duty at the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square Conservation Programme kiosk. ("Hanuman" is a deity and "dhoka" means gate.)The guard quickly runs over to me and asks me to pay a 1,000NPR entrance fee. That's about $10USD. She did not stop nor ask any of the other fifty or so other people entering the square to pay any fees. I'm about a foot taller than the other people and fair skinned therefore I am singled out. Ten dollars is pretty steep considering my taxi fare from the hotel to the Thamel was only $3USD. As you can see from the sign persons from SAARC nations only have to pay 150NPR or about $1.50USD. This is the typical gouging of Westerners at government owned historical sites you'll see throughout Nepal and India. I ask her if I get a guide or pamphlet included with that exorbitant entrance fee, she looks at me bemused. Truth be told, there isn't even a public toilet in the complex (as evidenced by the stench). I was curious to see what damage had been done to the complex in the 2015 earthquakes and how the repairs were coming along- but I really don't feel like paying $10USD to walk through a construction site so I left.


Here's a peep over entrance gate at the post-earthquake repair work going on in the square from my distant vantage point. I'm certainly glad I didn't pay $10USD to view scaffolding, walk through sand piles, and risk a brick falling on my head. One of the reasons the reconstruction has been delayed is due to a bit of an argument. The question Nepalis had to ask themselves was whether the damaged buildings should be rebuilt exactly as they were or should they be rebuilt using modern materials and methods so they won't fall down in the next inevitable earthquake? It seems to being an ongoing debate and only resolved on a case by case basis. The delay in renovation has led to some interesting new archaeological surveys being completed. It seems some structures are much older than previously thought. I haven't seen any studies published yet confirming this. Supposedly National Geographic was part of these new excavations. A lot of mysteries abound in Nepal's historic sites. In 2013 a vast treasure trove was uncovered in Kathmandu Durbar Square containing bricks of silver, ancient idols, and jewelry.  I've never heard a peep about it ever again. If you'd like to read more about the continued mess and ongoing neglect of this historic royal square there's a great article here.


I'll bet this guy didn't pay an entrance fee! This is one of the sadhus or holy men you'll find charging for photos in the historic square. Typically these sadhus will approach tourists and daub a tilakh on their foreheads and then ask for money. Or they'll pose for a photo then demand cash. I've seen him here for the last ten years or so, he's one of the nicer regulars and not as pushy as some of the other touts can be.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

An old shrine with a peepal/bodhi/sacred fig tree growing through it sits right outside the durbar square boundaries.  I've never seen much written about it but I find it fascinating. Let's venture down the street to Indra Chowk and see what else is still standing.

This is the temple of Aakash Bhairav whom is also deemed the god of the sky. The temple is associated by legend with the first king of Nepal in 1500 BC  but was actually built by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century AD. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles whiz by within inches of this ancient temple spewing acidic exhaust and shaking the ground with their vibrations. This is one of my favorite temples because of the four metal beasts dynamically leaping off the front balcony. It's rectangular design with the open second story window and balcony is quite unique. The brass beasts are about six foot high and eight foot long and are often described as lions. However, if you look closely the two beasts on the right have beaks and helical horns while only the two on the left have snub noses like a lion would. Aakash Bhairav is said to be the deity responsible for the safety, strength, and protection of the nation and people of Nepal. Yes, as you can see the bottom floor of the sacred temple houses vendors selling cheap souvenirs, ice cream, and chips. The head or mask of Aakash Bhairav is located behind the large open window on the second floor. The temple’s proper entrance is on the right-hand side of the building and is guarded by two more brass lions. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple.

Rabs003
If you are able to enter the Aakash Bhairav temple this is the amazing silver image you would see. The deity is depicted with fierce grin, a crown of human skulls, and and coiled serpents. The image sits atop a silver throne carried by lions. Idols of Ganesh and Kumari Devi are placed on either sides of the throne as auspicious signs. Images of Aakash Bhairav are also seen painted on Nepal Airline's planes. Aakash Bhairav is the deity to which the officials of Nepal's state-run airline sacrificed two goats in appeasement following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 planes in 2007. 

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Strolling right along here's an ancient statue of Garuda forever gazing faithfully into Krishna Mandir. This carved stone statue is said to be one of the oldest in Kathmandu and dates to the 6th or 7th century. It simply amazes me that such a treasure should be left outside, unguarded, in a pile of rubble. I fear that someday it will disappear and become a wealthy person's garden ornament or doorstop. Welcome to the age of Kali where avarice and degeneracy reign supreme, eh?


Speaking of Kali, here she is! This is one of the temples of Nara Devi or Mahakali in Kathmandu. Whenever you see a temple built in a triple pagoda style you can be almost certain it is dedicated to a goddess. A beautiful example of the traditional architecture of the Newari artisans of the 15th century.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Two huge and vividly painted lions ferociously guard the entrance to the temple. If you look closely you can see the lions are male and female and anatomically correct in portrayal. Most temples in Nepal have a male and female lion guarding the entrance- although I have seen dogs and monkeys on occasion too. Looking closely you can see there is a gentleman dressed in brown below the bells at the temple door. These temples are all still in use as places of worship.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

A close up of the bronze lintel over the doorway where the gentleman in brown was standing in the previous photo. There's the goddess at the bottom center atop her throne of human skulls. We know she is the Mahakali because she is shown with ten arms rather than four. She is shown with a pantheon of Hindu deities in this beautiful bronze work. The detail is just amazing.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Here's a closer look at the center doorway right below the bronze lintel. In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Mahakali is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses. She is also regarded by her devotees as the mother of the universe. Yet because of her terrible form, she is also often seen as a great protector. Devotees often commission these metal sculptures and donate them to the temple seeking divine favor. The two smaller icons with the wire grate over them amidst the writing are most likely donations made of solid gold.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Looking into the temple door this is what you will see. The arm and red sweater to the left belong to the priest of the temple, I asked him if I could take a photo and he said yes but I could not come inside- only Hindus are allowed inside. I'm not sure when the horrid modern electric lights and tacky wall clock were installed in the temple. I don't recall them being there the last time I visited the temple 10 years ago. The image of the goddess Mahakali is in the center of the white carved triptych with the goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi on either side. The white carved Tridevi (triple goddess) triptych is why this shrine is sometimes called the temple of the Seto Kali (White Kali). The bronze arching plaque over the triptych features a Ganesh which is obscured by marigold garlands. Candles are lit in veneration. You can have a puja (prayer ritual) done for a fee (online purchase is available). The heads of animal sacrifices are brought in as offerings especially during the Dashain festival. I  wonder who decided to put those very sanitary looking white ceramic tiles along the back wall?

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Continuing on next door to the temple here's a good example of traditional Newari wood carving. I'm wondering if this is some sort of place of learning or the priests' door to the temple. The wood used in these lintels, doorways, and window screens is called saal and is a particularly fine-grained native hardwood that is excellent for carving. The reason the metal grate is there over the arched carving over the door is to prevent theft. Thieves actually come in the night and saw off these beautiful ancient carved pieces to sell.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!

Yet another beautiful old temple on a busy crossroads here in the Thamel. This 18th century building is unusual not only because it is entirely made of black stone- it's built like a typical Krishna temple yet it's dedicated to Shiva. The temple's gracious lines are quite the contrast with the ugly modern box tenement in back of it. It seems to being doing double duty in these modern times as a display for a shawl vendor's wares. At least there's a "no parking" sign in front of it! 

This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,


Lastly, here's a sad little lion whom once guarded the entrance to an ancient city square. He's now reduced to neglect and ruin in a parking lot. His mate is to the right and looked equally miserable amongst the rubbish, orange peels, and ubiquitous dust. I guess I find it so sad because I come from a land where something even a hundred years old is a marvel. Here antiquities both spiritual and mundane are treated as ordinary and or ignored. Someone proudly carved this lion, painted him gloriously, and carefully placed him atop his egg and dart trimmed brick plinth long ago. Why are we not proud of him now?

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Meanwhile, in a modern shopping complex in Kathmandu- I guess this is what we'll be seeing more of here in Nepal. All hail the giant happy Chinese panda of consumerism! Chinese merchants were coming in by the droves and flooding markets with cheap goods before the 2015 earthquakes. Then they left after the disaster and Nepal was flooded with NGO's from all over the world. Now the NGO's are leaving and the Chinese are returning. The recent elections that put the Communist party back into power seems to be encouraging this influx. If development is what Nepalis want the Chinese are the ones most able and willing to do it.

That's all for today! Next time I'll show you some of the hidden gems in the private courtyards of the Thamel.
Calmly currying on,
Bibi

Jan 8, 2018

Whew!


Stay tuned for all the thrilling details of Bibi's madcap adventures in the city of temples!  
(Which will probably be a lot more exciting than her ramblings about dodgy margarine, cute cats, or miscreants in the vacant lot.)
;)
Bibi

Jan 1, 2018

We mean it maaan...


Happy New Year! 
So long 2017!
I doubt 2018 will be much better but ONWARD!


What did I do this week? Well, I spent an afternoon learning to put graphics on my blog! I found a free site called PicFont that allows you to resize, crop, and or add graphics to any online photo. (Above is one of Bibi's dazzling creations along with the imitation album cover at the top of the page.) You can also design memes or ads for social media platforms on the site too! I found it quite easy to use. (I do have a little graphic design experience as I design our business cards every year.)


We had a few festive visitors! Above is one of our neighbors little Ms Parvati all decked out in her finest. Ms Parvati wins Bibi's award for best Winter holiday glam outfit! I wish I'd gotten a better photo so you could see her little boots better- they have caterpillar faces with yellow antennae sticking up on the toes! Anyhow, Ms Parvati was off with her mom to fetch her sis from the bus stop. I sent a bag of baked treats with mom so the young ladies could enjoy them later. If you look closely at the field in the photo you can see the drama unfolding that I'll be describing in the next paragraph.


Ongoing drama in the vacant lot: Uh oh! It's the police! I'm not sure what's going on here but it all started with two guys sitting out in the vacant lot on plastic lawn chairs drinking chai about two weeks ago. Then it was 4 guys playing carom and drinking chai until the wee hours of the night. Eventually it grew to six guys drinking who knows what, sitting on benches, playing cards, talking loudly, urinating, and setting rubbish-fueled bonfires 24 hours a day. I'm not sure who called the cops on them. I think it was the mean lady neighbor that hates me. The new Chinese uniforms the police are sporting are quite dashing, aren't they? The uniforms look to be very practical with all those pockets too. As you can see the police radioed for the "Control Room Vehicle" (a pickup truck with more policemen and a fabric camper shell) and the boys were hauled away. I'm not sure what they were charged with but I've not seen them again. My only concern was that they might start a grassfire with a carelessly thrown cigarette or an errant spark from a bonfire (grassfires are a huge fear if you're from California.)


And of course we had to take advantage of the Christmas sales! Christmas is a legal holiday in Nepalthough few celebrate it. Nepalis are just as fascinated with Christmas-related decor and western-style consumerism as the rest of he world. This tree was in the parking lot of one of the stores we visited. Considering most Nepalis have only seen pictures of Christmas trees I think they did a good job. The store also had 10% discount on everything! Therefore I bought double the amounts of cleaning supplies and non-perishables I usually do. The Sheikh was his usual toddler-like, "Mr Fussypants" shopping self and complained I was buying too much, he was hungry, and he wanted to go home. "But everything's discounted so we're saving money and a trip downtown," said I. The Sheikh simply rolled his eyes and grumpily stomped away.


I bought a curious product called "Delicious Fat Spread" from India whilst shopping. It came in a 500g brick in the refrigerated food section and I thought perhaps it was some sort of what we call margarine. Margarines and vegetable shortening have not become popular in South Asia (not sure if they ever will with poor quality products like this). Certainly no one in any western country would buy anything called "Fat Spread." Well, it tasted like candle wax mixed with vaseline and chalk. I was hoping to make vegan cookies with it for some vegan friends but upon closer inspection at home I found it contained milk solids. I made some gingerbread with it anyway hoping the spices would hide the petroleum flavor- that worked! It bakes beautifully but the texture is so waxy I'd hardly call this a spread of any kind. A butter replacement it ain't! In short, it was not delicious, not fat, and not spreadable. I sure hope we get past this farce of cholesterol being evil that the United States has falsely indoctrinated the world with. 


I did find some real cheese though! I had heard there were two Frenchmen in Nepal trying to organize a cheesemaking factory "et voila" indeed there is! It's called the Himalayan French Cheese Pvt Ltd and according to their website:

 "The company has aged and matured along with my cheese, and now, from those humble beginnings, 8 years later, 10 Nepalis, 2 expert French cheese makers and a family of dogs all work enthusiastically together towards runnier, smellier cheese."

Hooray for runny, smelly cheese! European-style stinky cheese is the one food I miss terribly from the West. So I bought the premium yak cheese (I bet it tastes like Gruyere), Belkot (deemed a blend of Cheddar and Chantal), and Alpha (a creamy, mild, semi-soft French cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk). All I need now is a baguette and some fruit and I shall be set for my "cheese fix." (I'll probably have to settle for saltines rather than a baguette- oh well.) Several other cheese varieties are listed on their website that sound yummy too like Raclette and a yak milk blue cheese!


There was a scam in our town resulting in several residents being swindled out of about $100,000USD. Apparently four Indian nationals from Tamil Nadu started a business called "Oxygen Traders" featuring electronics, furniture, and home appliances at amazingly low, low prices. After they'd completely sold out of goods the Indian nationals began taking money for preorders. The case came to the police’s attention when the customers contacted police after they found the shop shuttered one morning. According to the Kathmandu Post:

“They sold some goods for a while to create a market buzz and earn people’s trust. But their motive was to ensnare as many people  they could, take their money and run,”  said Deputy Superintendent of Police Khadga Bahadur Khatri.

Police suspect that the four men will most likely try to leave the country to avoid capture so photos of the perpetrators have been circulated at all Nepal-India border points. This sort of scam happens a lot in Nepal. Not only with merchandise that's promised but never delivered but bank employees disappear with huge sums, doctors disappear without performing prepaid operations, etc.


I spotted the municipal pothole patrol in our neighborhood for the first time. A four man team rolled up in that spankin' new British designed JCB Mini Tandem Roller (Model no VMT 330) hauled up to the Himalayas from Delhi. One man jumped out with a shovel and filled the pothole with dirt while another man supervised and two men drove the thing. Whatever it takes! I want a JCB Mini Tandem Roller (Model no VMT 330) simply because it looks like Fred Flintstone's car. 


Innocent, innocent, only when they are sleeping. HIM the Baacha Khan and his sister Tikka have been busy napping in the afternoon sunshine. As soon as dusk comes they bring us tidings of comfort and joy in the form of dead rodents and reptiles. Baby mice and lizards are the mainstay but the highlights have been a two foot long rat snake and an enormous rat-like thing with a scaly tail. You have to admit- they're the cutest pest control system ever!

To all of my friends, family, and faithful readers, may you have a healthy, happy, prosperous and spectacular New Year!

Bibi

Dec 11, 2017

Everything I've Learned about Life: It Goes On


Despite unabated violence here in Nepal-  political freedom prevailed, my garden's growing, cows are mooing, my smartphone got fixed, California's aflame, and elephants don't play polo anymore! Yes, life truly does go on.



Nepal's first post-war parliamentary and provincial elections concluded last Thursday. The two-phase election lays the groundwork for Nepal's transition to a democracy- after the end of a civil war in 2006 and the abolition of the country's 239-year-old Hindu monarchy two years later. According to results released by the Election Commission, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist–Leninist (CPN-UML) has won 59 seats while its alliance partner CPN Maoist- Centre gained 22 seats out of the total 165 seats under the first-past-the-post election system. The new government will likely reinstate Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli (pictured above) as prime minister. The ruling Nepali Congress (which was the largest party in the last election) managed to win only 12 seats according to preliminarytallies. The two winning parties are also considering merging to form the largest communist party in Nepal. Voter turnout is estimated at a "satisfactory" 67 percent among the 15 million eligible voters.



On Monday the winning parties' victory marches and rallies blocked streets and roadways across the nation. Unfortunately there are reports of over 5,000 ballots deemed invalid due to ineffective voter's education. (I'm guessing that means the ballots were improperly filled out.) The final result of the election may not be known until mid-December according to officials. Nepal has suffered a succession of governments over the last 10 years that have been mostly short-lived due to political infighting.



Gardening update: Marigolds are blooming! I planted a large packet of marigold seeds from Kashmir in my garden this Winter. Everything from solid pom pom's to single, double, and triple blooms.  As you can see in the above pics every seed has produced a different flower. The seeds weren't labeled as any particular breed so I'd guess their open pollinated and field collected. Marigolds generally repel soil pests like nematodes and not many insects will eat them so I like to plant them every other season as sort of a natural cleanse for the garden.


Roses in December? How weird is that? These local roses in my garden are almost more like camellias in form. Their color is just as eye-searingly beautiful in person.


This is mallow. When I was last in Kashmir I was served a tasty stir-fry of mallow leaves. I had no idea the mallow plant is completely edible. Mallow is a common weed seen by freeways in my native California. An online search revealed that several Middle Eastern cultures eat mallow served stewed or stir-fried. Where have I been? Anyway, my in-laws sent some seeds from Kashmir and I planted them - recipe soon!


In the ongoing drama of our local vacant lot: This lovely lady and her extremely vocal estranged child have been spending the better part of their days in our neighborhood vacant lot. I went out to see what all the ruckus was. I brought some leftover rice as a peace offering. With those pointed horns atop half a ton of possibly peeved bovine it's best to be careful.


I'm guessing the problem is that Madame Pointy Horns is not allowing Junior here to nurse any longer. The reason Mdm. Pointy Horns no longer wishes to feed Junior is that's she's due to have another calf in a few weeks. Junior is voicing his protestation to this situation LOUDLY. I brought another bowl of rice, cut up fruit, vegetable trimmings, and stale biscuits for him. He now shows up at our front gate at 8 AM every morning demanding his treats and a neck scratch LOUDLY.


In other news: Chitwan, Nepal will be celebrating it's 14th annual Elephant Festival on  December 26th through 30th. The five-day event features an elephant walk, elephant calf football, elephant beauty contest, elephant picnic, and elephant painting. Elephant polo will not be played at the festival this year as it has been deemed to be animal cruelty. Elephant polo originated in 1982, the bizarre idea of two British entrepreneurs, Jim Edwards and James Manclark. Edwards had established Tiger Tops, a tourism venture which offered elephant safaris in 1961, and which has since become a family-run ecotourism lodge in Royal Chitwan National Park. It was a rather slow sport which seemed to truly annoy the elephants. About three years ago they had to switch from using soccer balls to regular hockey balls. The elephants figured out if they popped the soccer balls by stepping on them the game would stop. And if more soccer balls were provided the elephants popped them also. The long and flexible bamboo mallets would often break too. I agree with the elephants: GAME OVER!

Mr Gardner I presume...

I fixed my phone with a little help from a friend! My Samsung Galaxy Zoom smartphone developed some glitch that would not allow me to use the camera about 3 weeks ago. We took it to the local Samsung dealer whom said he needed to send the phone to Delhi to be fixed. Two weeks later the phone wasn't fixed nor did the dealer send it to Delhi. I bravely took matters into my own hands and tried to Google how to fix the blasted thing. Eventually I ventured onto the maelstrom of YouTube and found some videos by a Mr Ricardo Gardener on how to fix various gizmos from phones to laptops. (No this is not THE famous Jamaican footballer Ricardo Gardner.) Not only did I fix my phone using a video on his YouTube Channel but I sorted the neighbor kid's HP laptop that wouldn't start. Woohoo! If you're in need of some DIY repair work on home electronics I highly recommend Mr Gardener's YouTube channel.



California's on fire again. Not surprising after many years of drought and subdivisions being built in forested and overgrown areas that are no longer grazed nor control burned. For some reason my friends in California all wish to email me photos of my former home. Here's the latest photo of what's left of my former northern California house. The front lawn still looks fairly decent. Apparently the houses just across the street were untouched. Fortunately the Gujarati family I sold it too escaped unharmed. Over 2,000 residences were destroyed on this fire in October, 2017. Un-freaking-believable!

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. 
-Omar Khayyam

Ciao for now,
Bibi
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