I awoke with the most wretched raw throat. Fortunately, i packed my Dr.Chris bag of meds and hopeful remedies, we’ll see…
A Nepalese token of friendship
My garlands from yesterday’s pujas and the girls are a pleasant memory. The garlands consist of 2 small neck ropes and a red cloth rope and I realize these are girls’ own prassad for puja. Yesterday, on the bus home, the Reija and Latika asked if i would be their friend. When I affirmed it, they shook my hand and gave me 2 bobby pins to put in my hair. First, I thought that my own bobby pins had fallen out & they’d picked them up for me. Looking at them today, I notice it’s NOT mine but theirs & this is a token of friendship! It’s amazing how 2 bobby pins can feel so precious.
How to decipher buses in Nepal
- Village bus (village to village): these tend to look like regular school buses- short or long- but with festive décor, especially on the inside. It’s what I recently took here.
- Inner city bus: ranges from car vans, shuttle vans or small wagon trucks
- Long distance (city to city): look like your standard Greyhound.
Greeting people in “Namaste“
I say with a slight head bow and folded prayer hands. It collects warm smiles from villagers.
“Hello- How are you?” is the giggled response from children, who know a little English and are excited and curious to speak to a foreigner.
I ask directions from an older woman returning home from her morning work at the quarry. She notices my hair in braids, then shows me her own to let me know – “We are alike! “ I ask her if I can take her picture and with bursting pride she tucks her work bag under her armpit and raises her cigarette to strike a pose!
Kritipur is a small city town and is nowhere near as hearty as Chobhar and its neighboring villages.
It’s larger, busier, less smiles, less warmth and its dusty. Ads and marketing billboard signs are plastered everywhere. Nice and new apartment sectors crop up in the middle of open fields. Kids here are a bit more street smart with some understanding that a tourist camera might draw rupees. There is something a bit colder in this environment and people are a bit more weighted. If there is a charm, I don’t have patience to figure it out….
Still celebrating Dusain, kite flying is a popular activity all around. If you’ve seen the movie The Kite Runner, you’ll know that there’s more to kite flying than innocent play but it’s also a friendly competition of trying to cut your neighbor’s strings. While I haven’t seen this activity in full blossom, I see its occasional trail of kite flyers, abandoned kites whose strings are cut, the popularity of spool and kites being sold at shops. I was at a buddhist temple in Kritipur when a child’s kite had gotten cut. The nearby kids squealed and eagerly raced to catch newly fallen kite.
The Nepalese woman and cranial power:
In Nepalese culture, married women are housewives but also handle a shocking amount of manual labor that you would normally attribute to being a man’s job! It is not surprising to see a sari-clad woman, working at a construction site, piling bricks into a basket strapped to her head or transporting enormous sacks of grains and sticks back to the farms. In the quarry, women workers have little simple stick tents to shield them from the sun as they hammer down boulders. Life has never been easy for a women; here, it’s physically demanding!
Hollywood to Bollywood, to… Nepali-wood?
At the base of the hill, I notice crew trucks and bounce boards which lets me know that either filming or a photo shoot is taking place. In the quarry, a Nepalese action film is shooting a fight scene while passing locals hang out to watch. It’s a bit humorous to me that I’ve left my entertainment industry environment only to travel several thousands of miles to a developing country only to find it again. However, Nepal’s film industry is still in its seedling stage due to its struggling economy. It’s a young industry that began around 1965. Well, this isn’t quite Bollywood but perhaps someday…
Palaces & Momo Cafes:
On the climb back to my room, Shankar, the guesthouse manager, hailed me down to kindly invite me to his house for chai. Wednesday is his one day off, yet I am not one to decline this kind of invitation. It is such a welcome treat to spend time with him and his wife. His house is “palace-like” next to his neighbors’ and he has servants to maintain his property. His wife prepares chai for us and he gives me a tour of his house. It is obvious to me that he and his family are much more fortunate than the Chobhar staple; yet, their living is still simple, minimal and basic.
Back at my guesthouse, everyone- manager, groundskeeper, cook…ALL quietly wait for me while I eat and it makes me mildly uncomfortable that there aren’t more people to spread this attention around. It’s hard to believe that this entire house, the cafe food, resort people and the gorgeous view that’s greeted each morning is there for me to embrace! I feel privileged, safe, welcome. Their hospitality feels extravagant for me.
The food here is prepared with care, is quickly “made from scratch” (which is probably why the simplest foods can generate mouth orgasms for me) and makes a non-foodie like me look forward to these thoughtfully cooked meals after a long day. While the menu is surprisingly extensive and versatile for any hotel standard, I’ve consistently only eaten the same thing. I have a Nepali momo mouth and secondly, am addicted to their tomato onion soup. “Dumplings” are common to asian food culture but here, dumplings are called Momo’s. In Thamel, Momo Cafes are a popular replacements to Noodle shops that exist in popularity in other countries. Momo cafes and cafes in general here, however, don’t invite much of the light, airy feel but that of a dark basement (not sure why that is…)
It’s been a long day trekking through the villages and now I must hurry back to my room and prepare for 6PM when night falls and all the power goes out!