What am I?

Sometimes I find myself tangled in my own thoughts trying to decipher what group of people in Nepal I belong to. I am not Nepali, clearly. My ghost-like skin always gives me away, though I do like to think of it as aristocratic. But I’m digressing. I am not a 100% expat either. I live in a Nepali household, with a Nepali family. Does that make me half-Nepali? No clue, but in the past year and a half I did move towards Nepali customs more than I expected I ever would.

Let’s examine the evidence:

Exhibit A
My horoscope sign is a Virgo. For all of you who are not familiar with horoscope, let’s just say Virgos are obsessive-compulsive. I also hold a strong opinion that characteristics of a Virgo were tailored according to me. It’s that precise. I cannot be late, or have anything be out of place, untidy, dirty… everything needs to be perfect. But I move to Nepal and what happens!? I start adjusting to Nepali time. In other words, no matter how hard I try, I seem to be late for everything! And the worst part? I’m not even phased by it. What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

Exhibit B
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m bragging, but I’ve always been very polite. I would let people with less items jump in front of me at the cash register, I would let pedestrians cross the road even if I’m in a hurry and others behind me are honking, I would exercise perfect driving culture politely letting others merge into traffic in front of me and wave thankfully to the ones who do the same for me. But I move to Nepal and what happens!? I start driving like I am the only person on the road, pushing and shoving my way through heavy traffic, honking at others angrily and closing every little bit of space between me and the car in front of me so no one can cut in. I also only sometimes let pedestrian cross in front of me. Preposterous! What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

Exhibit C
I am a huge dessert person. Sweets make me enter a state of consciousness unknown to modern science. When I look at, make or eat wonderful varieties of cakes and cookies, I am in bliss. Nepal disappoints in that area. Most of the cakes here are OK, but not very different from one another. There seems to be no creativity in that department. Maybe that’s the reason the most favorable dessert amongst Nepalis is vanilla ice cream. Yes, vanilla ice cream. The same one I at every summer when I was a child and swore I will never taste it again. Ice cream is even served at weddings! Say, what??? But I move to Nepal and what happens!? After being shocked by this discovery for almost a year, I now find myself ordering vanilla ice cream in all shapes and forms – with a brownie, with an apple pie, and I even eat it at weddings. Even in winter! Gasp. What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

Exhibit D
This last exhibit is most probably the most shocking one, at least for me. When I feel under the weather, as if I’m catching a cold, I usually crave chamomile tea with honey and lemon and some soup. Maybe also porridge or something warm, liquidy and easy to digest. I stuck to that even here in Nepal for the past year and a half. And it usually made me feel better. But you know what happened the other day? I was feeling a bit down, sick-ish at work and all I could think of is how I’m going to rush home, warm up a plate-full of rice and daal and devour it. And so I did. And it felt good. Scary good. What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

The only two things I don’t eat for breakfast are lunch and dinner

Before traveling to Nepal for the very first time, back in 2011, I was kind of worried about the food I would eat there. My first days were spent carefully placing each bite of food in my mouth, constantly expecting to get violently sick. It never happened. I was healthy throughout the trip. I was also happy to find out my mother in law cooks very tasty food, and just for me, she avoided using too much chili. Food was amazing (and still is).

Coming to Nepal for the second time, I felt much more confident I will enjoy the food scene here. I was more willing to go out and explore restaurants and different types of food. I shamelessly devoured all my mother in law cooked. I would’ve done the same with mangos, but they were not in season then.

This time around I hardly ever think of getting sick. I do think twice before I eat out, and try to pick places that seem sanitary. I always jump with joy when I see another foreigner sitting in the same restaurant. The other day was my first day not to drink bottled water in a restaurant. Well, actually, let me take that back. It still was bottled water, it just came from a big jug, a water dispenser. I drink that water at home, but when I go out I always order bottled water (conveniently called mineral water here, no idea why) and open it myself at the table. Well, I ventured out and drank the jug water. I am so wild.

Anyways, I intended this post to be about food, so here it comes. As mentioned, my mother in law cooks very tasty food. Every morning before she leaves for work she spends time in the kitchen preparing lunch. Or actually it’s more of a breakfast. Well, breakfast for her and Mr.B. and lunch for me. They eat the whole DBT deal early in the morning, whereas I choose to stick with toast or oatmeal for my early trips to the kitchen.

Daal-bhaat-tarkari (DBT) is the staple food of Nepal. Everyone knows that. For those who don’t, daal stands for lentils, bhaat for rice, and tarkari for vegetables. So in short, every Nepali meal consists of a heaping serving of rice, lentil soup and various vegetables. Sometime there is meat on the menu, but now that the bird flu is claiming lives of innocent chicken, meat has been an even rarer commodity. I don’t miss it much. I am realizing that I could easily become vegetarian, especially here where the varieties of vegetable are bountiful.

One of the all-time favorites on my “favorite vegetable to eat in Nepal cooked by mother in law” list is pumpkin.  You can see it on the picture below. It’s the orange mash. It’s followed by okra in any form or shape, and zucchini. The other day was a holiday here in Nepal which apparently marked the end of summer and first day of winter. On that occasion a soup has been made. And not just any soup. It was a sprouty bean soup. A variety of beans have been soaked in water and then left for some days to grow small sprouts. After that it was made into a soup. A delicious soup that I had today again (for the fourth time in the past three days I believe).

I know you want this

I know you want this

Sometimes I get so tired of eating rice every single day. I wonder how Nepalis do it. On those days I cook my staple food – pasta, or potatoes. But who wants to read about that. This is, after all, a post about Nepali food. Nepalis traditionally eat their food from brass plates (like the one in picture 1) and with their hands. I have to mention though, food, and especially rice, is piping hot so really their hand eating habit is quite impressive. I always choose the fork. Or a spoon, depending on availability.

Look at that - almost all the favorites on one plate

Look at that – almost all the favorites on one plate

There is, naturally, Nepali food I don’t particularly enjoy. But I’ll save that some other post. Right now, I’ll just savor the taste of the sprouty soup. Is there a Nepali expression for Bon Appetite? If so, insert here.

Cheap is the name of the game…

People often ask me about prices in Nepal. I guess everyone assumes that, because Nepal is a third world country, prices would be unbelievably low and everything would be dirt cheap. But it’s not exactly like that. Food here is expensive, and especially if you’re on a western diet you need to be prepared to spend a lot of money in the grocery store. The standard of living here is very low, but the prices are the same as in Croatia or USA. Sometimes even higher! I was excited to have found whipping cream in the store and was reaching for it happily when I realized the price of it is 550 NPR. That’s almost USD 6, or 35 HRK!!! No whipping for me here. However, if you buy local products or go into the local market, you’ll get stuff in a very cheap price (especially if you can somehow mask the white skin).

I have been saying every day that I need to learn Nepali because it is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to get around, communicate with family and sometimes even friends. I have one book that I bought before coming here but it proved to be too much of an undertaking to study from it, so it’s just sitting in my drawer. Yesterday my husband showed up at home with a teach-yourself-Nepali book that is full of useful and simply explained phrases so that I can start practicing my Nepali. This morning I took a closer look at the book and realized the price of the book is 240NPR (USD 2.5 or 14 HRK). Can you believe that? Where in the world can you get a book for 14 HRK??? I’m actually convinced you can hardly get a notebook for that price, let alone a whole book!

Does it get any cheaper than this?

Does it get any cheaper than this?

If the prices of all books here are as low as that one, I might just build myself a library here. Finally I’ll be able to afford to attend to my book addiction.