Odd is not always bad

  1. Goat in the back of the taxi, on a bike, on top of the bus… goat in every odd place (and pose) you could possibly imagine
  2. 4-member family on a motorcycle
  3. Policemen with a bamboo stick instead of weapons
  4. White person on a bicycle in a crazy traffic
  5. Monkey sitting on a telephone pole
  6. Awkward taglines on public transportation
  7. People carrying wardrobe / refrigerator / table / mattress on their back, just strolling down the street (it’s actually very impressive – Nepali people are very strong)
  8. Shops that sell bags and baggage – thank you very much, I think I have enough of my own baggage; I don’t need to buy yours.

There you have it!

 It seems like after staying here for a while, things people do around here and the way stuff functions, is getting less and less odd for me. Stockholm syndrome? Or maybe I am just becoming adjusted, settled, accustomed. Only time will tell. However, I still cannot find a way to accept goats in/on vehicles as something normal. I was in a taxi one day standing at the traffic light while another taxi came to a halt next to mine. I glanced over and I saw 4 people plus the driver sitting in the car. Nothing odd with that. But something seemed off. I glanced again and I realized there was a goat just standing in the trunk. And no one found it odd. Not even the goat. Everyone acted as it was the most normal thing in the world to drive around in taxi with a live goat in the trunk. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at the sight or call animal control.


This is considered a small load!?

Later in the day when I told Mr.B. and some friends about this weird encounter, no one was surprised. All they said was: “Oh, yes, Dasain is approaching”. And that was the end of the conversation. As if that explains everything. Now that Dasain is almost here, it’ll be normal to see all kinds of stunts involving goats, they told me. I am particularly excited to see two guys on a motorbike with one goat in the front of the bike, and the other around the neck of the guy in the back. Apparently that happens too. Nepal gives a whole new meaning to expression “live and learn”.

Monkeys and guavas

When I was a child all I really ever wanted was a monkey. Not a puppy, not a pony. A monkey. I always imagined I would dress it in jeans overalls and a small T-shirt and walk it around the neighborhood holding its monkey hand. I was, however, smart enough to know that would never happen, so I figured the next best thing would be to travel to Gibraltar. Why, you wonder? Well, I read somewhere, I don’t remember where exactly, that Gibraltar has lots of monkeys roaming around in tourist areas. I figured it would be cool to go there and meet a real monkey, outside of zoo. Maybe play with it for a while. Maybe try to sneak one home with me and keep it as a pet. Needless to say, that never happened. Not me sneaking a monkey home, nor the trip to Gibraltar. So I gave up on my monkey dream.

Once I realized Kathmandu is full of monkeys, and I mean this in a literal sense (take this any way you like), my monkey dream was again awoken. I was so excited to go to the Monkey temple where monkeys roam around freely and are not afraid of humans. But, my husband then spoiled the whole thing telling me monkeys are actually quite aggressive and dangerous. When I asked him what could provoke them, he told me it was white skin and shiny hair. That, of course, is not entirely true, but it got me so freaked out that I no longer wanted to see monkeys outside of the cages. We did, in fact, end up going to the temple, but I kept looking over my shoulder and ducking when birds would fly over me thinking it’s a monkey attack in full swing. I was somewhat relieved to see there were people there with lighter and shinier hair, and they are not being attacked, but still I kept my eyes wide open. One thing about these monkeys is they are big. They are not cute little creatures you see in Hollywood comedy shows. No sir, these are some big pieces of monkey ass derrière. And they look mean too, walking around claiming their space.

Usually, we don’t deal with monkeys on a daily basis. You can see them if you go to certain parts of town, like Monkey temple area, or sometimes you can spot them jumping around telephone poles. However, once in a while monkeys get a little lost and they end up in our monkey-less part of the city. And then the fun starts. They jump from roof to roof scaring everyone and pretty much doing overall damage on trees and roofs. Mr.B. told me last time monkey has been in the neighborhoood: “When I leave for work, make sure you close all windows and doors so the monkeys don’t get inside”. Yeah, thanks, that made me feel very comfortable. I went from window to window peeking out trying to see if there is a horde of monkeys moving towards our house. And even though no monkeys got in the house, day after I saw damage they left behind. I looked out the window and saw that the guava tree’s branches were all broken and it looked as if though it was stricken by a lightning. Forgetting about the monkey business day before, I wondered to myself what had happened to the tree. And then I saw a piece of evidence clearly pointing to monkeys – a half eaten guava fruit sitting on the tree. Crazy animals.

It looked something like this, described by Farsighted Fly Girl

It looked something like this, described by Farsighted Fly Girl

Change is fun

It’s amazing how the weather here changed, what it seems, overnight. One day it was gloomy, dark and rainy, and the next morning I was awoken to sun peering in through the curtains and deep blue skies. Rain has given way to the sun. Monsoon has given way to the dry season. Yes, there still is occasional rain, but days have become significantly cooler, sunnier and spring-like. And the best part of all – there is a constant breeze that makes the air cleaner, clearer and cooler. It also drives all the kids up to the rooftops with kites in their hands. Have you ever read that book “The Kite Runner”? I have. It’s a good book. I’m not mentioning it because of all the bad stuff that happens in the book, but rather because of the tradition of kite flying. Apparently that does not happen only in Afghanistan. It seems kids here cannot wait for this time of the year when they climb their rooftops and fly kites all day long. When you look up to the sky, all you see is colorful kites making circles in the wind.

Didn't snap any photos myself so I used this one  from ExploreHimalaya.com

Didn’t snap any photos myself so I used this one from ExploreHimalaya.com

The other day was Nepal bandh here in Kathmandu. Bandh is essentially a strike called by whoever is not satisfied with something (usually political parties) which stops the life in the city completely. No vehicles are allowed on the roads, and all the markets and major businesses close for that day. It’s extremely inconvenient and annoying because it doesn’t really do much in achieving the goals of whoever called the bandh, but it significantly negatively affects the life or normal people who still need to get to work, this time walking all the way to their offices. I think the only ones happy because of the bandh are kids. There is no school and they are free to play all day long. As I said, the other day was bandh, which meant all the kids stayed home from school. When I looked out the window I saw kites whooshing out in the sky and I realized that almost every rooftop had a kid on it, playing and running around. It was an amazing sight. Apparently, Dasain time, which is coming up in December is the time when people get together, eat, play cards, celebrate and fly kites. I am excited to witness it myself. I noticed we have a kite up here in the attic waiting for the right time to be released towards the deep blue sky. I think it’ll be an awesome day when that happens.

What Nepal taught me so far

Staying in Nepal has brushed up on some of my personality traits. More specifically, patience and ability to compromise. Yes, yes, both of those are required in a marriage, but living in Nepal really puts extra burden on a person. Compromise is a big one. No oven – OK, I’ll make mug cakes in the microwave. (Post continued after microwave mug cake devoured). Sugar is too coarse – OK use mortar and pestle to grind it down. Bird flu threatening to wipe out the chicken population in the Valley – OK, become vegetarian. Or eat pork. You get the deal. It’s impossible to survive here without being willing to compromise. Most of the time things will not go the way you want them to. Weather will screw you over, traffic will make you late, people will let you down. Plans will change so fast you won’t even be able to keep track of it. Kathmandu is definitely not a place for a notebook calendar. You might as well check yourself in the mental institution right away. Kathmandu is a place of improvisation and on-the-spot decision. The sooner one accepts that, the easier it gets.

I have always been a very determined person and when I wrapped my head around something, it needed to be done right away. Like if I wanted to paint my room, I would get up that same second and run to the store, buy paint and by nightfall, room would be painted. Here, it’s a bit different. I cannot just run out to the store and buy the paint. There are so many other things to consider and most of the time things I want to do need to be postponed for later or indefintiely. At first, it annoyed the heck out of me. But I realized that me getting annoyed won’t change anything – I will only end up having gastritis. So I let things go. I go with the flow. And it’s working well for me.

Another important trait to have, kids, is patience. As mentioned earlier in my blog, Nepali people live on their own time, Nepali time. It’s usually give-n-take 45 minutes behind real time. There are two ways to deal with it: accept it and patiently wait for your friends/acquaintances/business partners to arrive; OR, go with it and be late for 50 minutes and let them wait. I seem to be siding with the latter. Despite their casual lateness, Nepalis seem to be rather impatient people. Especially when it comes to forming lines (you know, like in the store, in the bank…). If you’re not claiming your space confidently, they will cut in front of you like you’re not even there*.

On my first independent trip to the store, that’s exactly what happened. I skipped happily around the store glowing in the aftermath of crossing the road without getting myself squished like a fly on someone’s windshield. Oh, I was so proud. I picked up all the stuff I needed and strolled to the cash register. I stood patiently in line with my basket waiting to unload (the groceries, of course), when a guy bearing a single can of shaving cream walks right past me and stands in line in front of me. “Surely he must be just asking for the price”, I thought to myself, looking for excuses for the guy cutting the line. But no, he was there with his shaving cream as if though I do not exist. OK, I am white, maybe a tiny bit transparent, but come on. There was clearly a line. And I was clearly in it. I have no idea what made him think I wouldn’t mind this utter rudeness. I wanted to argue. I wanted to yell at him and tell him he’s an ass.  And then shove the shaving cream up his nose. But then I remembered I am in someone else’s country. I don’t even speak the language, and I didn’t want to get myself in an awkward situation without anyone I know around me. So I just gave him a glare. A hard cold glare. I thought he winced, but I’m not sure, maybe he laughed. I decided it’s best to let it go and practice my patience skills. It seems like I might need them more than I thought.

*although it might seem like I am generalizing here, I really am not. Most of Nepali people are actually really nice and polite and I have made some great friends here. So don’t take this as a trait of the whole nation, but rather individuals.