Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lots of writing!

Did I mention I got first prize in the photo contest? The picture of me and Manisha carrying down taters on our taaukos got me a 1.5 hour long massage. It was delightful.
We have a winner.
When I showed buwa this picture, he thought it was hilarious. He loved to tell people we met about where I've been, and when he gets to Mustang, he talks about me carrying down this load and does the motion for it.

In the states, when someone doesn’t understand English well, people have a tendency to speak louder and slower. Here, instead of getting louder, their Nepali gets quieter when I don’t understand them, and start talking with their hands instead. So confusing! I asked Kanchan about it and she said that they do that because they think I can’t understand them, but I REALLY can’t understand their sign language. Sometimes when I’m talking to someone, they get quieter and quieter and I can tell they’re about to change to just sign language, so I start trying to repeat what they say so they don’t switch. I caught my step mom doing it and internally I was like “NOOOOO!!! aaaand another one bites the dust.” Luckily my birthdad didn’t do that, he knew he had to speak slowly with me. When we visited other people, he'd often repeat what they said either slowly or in simplified speech so I could understand.

They liked to teach me to write and read in the Devnagari script, which I can do pretty proficiently, just painfully slow. It’s really fun. I would go downstairs and hangout with the tailor and his wife and their one-year old boy. After a few minutes, one of my uncles would come in and steal the show. He liked to shout the few English phrases he knows, like "WHAT ARE YOU...DOING?" or "WHERE YOU GOING?" or "WHERE YOU FROM?"

One time, I was sitting out side with some family, and a bideshi guy was awkwardly standing across the street. They said, "Namaste, hotel daai!" (hello hotel older bro!) He didn't understand and everyone was giggling. Then they realized I could probably speak to him, so they were prodding me "ooh speak to him! ask where he's from!!" So I found out he's from Oregon and he likes to raft yadda yadda. But it was funny seeing his reaction when out of a herd of Nepalis lounging in the street, one of them speaks pretty good English. I really like blending in, then BAM hello foreigner, I speak your language. I definitely get a kick out of using this natural camoflage, even with my friends around. It's the best disguise ever. Anyways, after we were done talking, my family/neighbors asked "ooh!! eh eh what'd he say!?" and I had to translate which was pretty cool.

A few nights after getting back from Sommaya's village, there was another tiny festival. Most of the village went out to the mandir that is on the peninsula where the two rivers meet and danced. It was really fun! Debaki and one of her friends danced with me and told me what the song types were. I knew 2 songs from school: Rusam pheriri (spelling..?) and Simple simple kanchi (learned from trekking.
Mandir where the 2 rivers meet.

Debaki and two of her friends also recently bought a pig. They feed it and clean it and plan to sell it to make some extra money. I spent one night with them wandering around the village asking if people had uneaten daal bhaat, which we collected for the pig. Other nights, I would ride a bike that all the kids took turns on. It was slightly scary because one of the pedals was mostly missing, the front wheel was extremely bent, and the right-hand brake didn't work. I tried to fix the brake but 1) I didn't actually know how and 2) none of the screws seemed to be budging. Buwa liked to watch tv, especially "boxing," aka wrestling. I think it's funny to watch because the acting is so bad. Smita's husband also likes wrestling, so I've seen a lot of ridiculous men in ridiculous speedos doing ridiculous angry,  macho things.

For a little bit, I thought my step mother was really sweet. I was initially really wary of her, I thought she was going to smite me dead while I slept. Back when my birthmother died, she (my step mom) didn’t treat my sisters well - saying ‘these are not my children and they are not my responsibility.’ They also say she might have beaten them sometimes. But, that was 21 years ago, and she was newly wed to my birthdad and with out kids yet. Since then, none of my sisters live at home (2 married, 2 in school in Kathmandu, 1 in the US). She was always trying to feed me. At dinner she’d ask if I want more and I'd say ‘no no that’s enough” and she says “ali keti?” just a little more? just a little? gahh. I gained SO much weight. Daal bhaat bellies ambush you out of no where.

Anyways, I started to get annoyed with her because she started to ask for money. She always did it when I was alone and when buwa was gone which seemed really weird. One time she mentioned how she cared for me as a kid, and then proceeded to ask for money. That bugged me a little because I knew how uncooperative she was at that time and that she was part of the reason I was adopted. I just pretended I didn't understand her or just smiled and nodded. Buwa also mentions they don't have enough money, but never unprompted. It's usually when I ask questions like what he's going to do when the new road comes or what he's doing for work these days. I mentioned to buwa that one time she asked for clothes. He just laughed, said she had enough, and didn't need more. Who knows. I think I'll get her a nice hat.

I really liked my half sister and brother. Debaki seems really industrious and independent. Suresh is really cute - he hasn’t quite hit puberty yet, so his voice is still high. I shared a room with them. I got the bed and they slept on the floor. I felt awful. They wouldn’t take the bed. They also didn’t let me help make breakfast or dinner for awhile until I hovered in the kitchen and started snatching potatoes to peel or just peeling garlic.  Sometimes I could also get away with cleaning or doing my own laundry.

My last night there they served me meat. This included the 1/4 inch thick buffalo skin and its fat. I reaaaaallly didn't want to eat this, but it's not one of those cultures where a dad (or dog) can just swoop in and eat your leftovers. Soooo....I did a total little kid thing and when they weren't looking, put the skin and fat into my hand, put the hand in my pocket, and "went to the bathroom" to dispose of the fat. I feel a little bad, but once it was on my plate, I knew they wouldn't eat it. ALSO I justified this by thinking about my food boundaries that have been widened - namely in the category of vegetables. I drew the line at chewy skin and straight up fat.

Today Kanchan asked what the difference between "home and house" were.  This was pretty easy. I said they're usually the same, except home can be more abstract, like somewhere you feel comfortable. A house is usually just physical and not always a home to someone. Just now, she and her friends asked what "insist" was. That was hard. I just used my thesaurus.

Happy belated Thanksgiving! My friends and I got together for a huge dinner at a foreigner restaurant. This was one of our friend's first Thanksgiving (Luna's) because she's from Denmark. We ate everything we were supposed to and were packed full. It was so nice because everyone has been doing research for the past 3 weeks, some of us all alone. So it was a great reunion and I think everyone really appreciated everyone else. The whole group is smart, hilarious, good looking, and interesting. I will miss them all after Nepal!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Miscellaneous village stuff

Buwa's new garden. About a 10 minute walk from home. He grows corn and saag (spinach?).

Up the hill from our village, on our way to Gorsu - Prem's birth village. We could see himals, and as usual, I was ecstatic. No one here appreciates them. I saw them for the first time FROM Kathmandu the other day. So cool, but nobody knows which himals they are.

Some of buwa's old neighbors, beating grass to get the rice out.

Rice terraces

self-administered mendhi

more mendhi on my cousin's hand

the house. almost all the rooms are being rented except for 2 and the kitchen (way up top, not visible).
 The house will be destroyed in the next year when the Chinese build a new road from their border to Kathmandu. It will be a giant highway. The only compensation villagers are getting for their houses being torn down is about $40 USD, and thats only to cover the demolition process. No compensation for a new home or relocation. Many roadside villages will be very changed in about 5 years when the road is done.
Buwa peeling a tater in the kitchen

Debaki and stepmother cooking

Uncle (with dyed pink hair to cover the white hairs- makes me giggle) with pigs. Buwa just told me to follow him and my aunt one day and we ended up in at the pig sty with many hungry pigs.

Everyone was interested in how much I could read, write, and speak. Sometimes I would go downstairs to a tailor who is renting space from buwa. He'd ask me a question in Nepali, then I'd have to write my answer down in Nepali. I think it was the last night I was there, they had me write a page about Nepal. I showed this to one of my sisters and she found lots of mistakes, but I'm still proud of it. It definitely helped when administering the survey because I had to translate questions from English to Nepali, then Romanized Nepali to Nepali script.

Buwa in the garden with some corn

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Elections weren't too eventful, at least in the village. There was about a week long strike, so my friends in Kathmandu had a hard time setting up interviews because everything was shut down. They said there were a few bombs, but I don't think anyone was killed. They were mostly to scare people away from going back to their homes to vote

On election day, I followed Prem, Subarna, and an aunt and uncle up the big hill to vote. They stood in line for about an hour, got fingerprinted and voted with the following ballot. Many people (including my stepmother) are illiterate, which I think is why they only have pictures. They put a stamp for where they want to vote.

Nepali Congress won. My sisters said this was a good thing. I'm sure my baa in Tukuche was a little bummed after all his hard work for the Himalayan party.

Sample ballot

Women's voting line. I thought it was funny that there was so much space, but they were all squished together - chest to back.
Buwa in the men's line - much shorter than the womens, but much slower. Notice the hat around his neck.

After voting. Buwa, aunt and stepmother tired after standing in line for awhile.


Got these as a gift. He loves them!
The next morning, I woke up to him wearing the hat. He wears it all the time.
Buwa's excited for everyone to be back in Nepal. He kept showing me this picture. Youngest to oldest ~20 years ago.

Kanchan and I went to Sommaya's village - about 30 minutes up the road by bus. We stayed there for 3 nights. One day, we woke up early and hitchhiked to Tatopani - about an hour away from Sommaya's house. There were about 11 of us crammed into the left side of the cab of this truck:

11 people in a tiny space.

 At Tatopani, we took hot showers which was really nice. Across the river, Kanchan casually said "um, over there, that is China." Huh!? I was trying to figure out if there was a bridge or something so I could say I made it to China, but there wasn't. Close enough. I think this part of China is the part that used to be Tibet.

Sommaya, Kanchan, me, and China behind us.
After Tatopani, we walked up the road to Lhasa -  a border town. Kanchan and everyone else crossed the border to Liping to do some shopping - apparently it's cheap. I couldn't go because I didn't have a Nepali citizen's card. My Passport copy didn't work because Americans have to make reservations or something to cross. So I stayed with Sommaya at her husband's apartment (he does border security stuff). Sommaya was tired- she's pregnant. We both took naps until the others got back.

See the bridge way back there? That's going from Nepal to China. This is the view from Sommaya's husband's apartment.
Sommaya has a 6 year old girl named Prathana. Buwa calls her a monkey, and with good reason. She has a ton of energy and can't focus. Her husband is really nice. I actually like all my sisters' husbands. Right now I'm living with Smita and her husband, Rajan. Rajan is pretty funny. Kemy, Kanchan's future husband is more quiet, but he's really nice. Rajan and Kemy drive me around on their motorcycles which is really nice of them. and really FUN. Motorcycles are awesome. Slightly terrifying at first, but they're great. And I know how dangerous they are - usually when we go fast, I'm thinking, "WHEEeeeeee!!!" or "Mom would kill meeeeeeeee!!!"

Sommaya and her tailoring/sewing shop

Bhaai tikka

Prem with the plates of sweets he'll receive from his sisters

Suresh, excited for his day. It's like his own Christmas.
Buwa with his fancy tikka
Me putting tikka on my cousin and Suresh

Buwa and uncle after puja
Suresh with all his flowers. The box next to him is full of plates of sweets and fruits.
Cousin, me, Debaki on a walk, observing people singing and looking at the village's Tihar lights.

First day in the village/ Ma puja

First day in the village, it was still Tihar. So, I got to see family that normally don't live there.

Aunt, Uncle, Aunt, Cousin

Janaki (my oldest sister) and an aunt.

Suresh (half brother -13 years), Prem, and Debaki (previously Sumita. Half sister - 20 years).

Aunt, me, Kanchan

ma puja (me prayer/worship)

ma puja: Great uncle, me, cousin. My cousin was eager to get the celebration over with because he had a party to go to.

Lots of flowers were thrown on us

Cousin, great aunt, aunt, Suresh
Me and Buwa

A little Tihar

Tihar (Diwali in India) is the festival of lights. There's a puja day for dogs, cows, Laximi (the big day), yourself, and brothers. These photos are from the kukur puja and Laximi puja.

My puppy got tikka'd

Lots of candles made by my helping didi for that evening.

Rangoli and candles for Laximi puja

Luna and me on the last day at the program center before the ISP perod

Host family lunch: My aamaa, me, didi, and buwa =]

Monday, November 25, 2013

Leaving Tukuche

We took a bus from Tukuche to Ghasa, then walked from Ghasa to Tatopani. We spent another evening in the hot springs because we knew the next day was:

We climbed all day to Ghorepani, somewhere between 2700 to 2900 meters. estimates vary. somehow there were hot showers there. I passed on the shower because it sounded like a lot of work (take my clothes off? in the cold? no thanks)

Rhododendron forest. These trees were so cool and gnarled. In the spring they all bloom pink.
The next day, we woke up around 5 am, climbed up a hill for about an hour and reached:

POON HILL (yes, that’s really its name)

But it was worth it. The view and the sunrise was incredible. We could see so many many mountains HIMALS (I have a picture with labeled peaks somewhere) and when the sun came up, they turned orange. There were SO many people there. I didn't realize there were so many tourists on the trail! While hiking, we're not all clumped together, but I was still surprised at the crowd.

One of the Annapurnas

Cool clouds

All the girls at Poon Hill (except Ajita who was unfortunately extremely sick).
That morning was Ghorepani to Poon hill. After we saw the sunrise, we trekked to our next guesthouse.
Me and a buffalo - not a yak :( but it was still a giant animal, just chillin on the trail.
Some friends I ended up hiking with: Luna, Adarsha, Ajita, Mitu, moi
I believe it was the next night that was really fun. It was basically our last day of trekking and everyone broke out the apple brandy their host families gave them (and had been trekking with this whole time). Somehow we ended up with a dance party: my class, our teachers, the porters*, and some of the guest house staff. It was great. 

*We had about 4 porters carrying our textbooks. We could give them 1 kg of stuff, otherwise we had to carry everything else.

Group selfie at dinner
spontaneous party
Eventually we ended up back in Pokhara and we took a 20 minute flight from there to Kathmandu in the morning.

The tiny plane

View from the plane! So many mountains. Before landing in Kathmandu, we saw Boudha from the plane. Pretty cool!