perjantai 30. tammikuuta 2015

One week of series of curious incidents involving some jazz, cows and chicken feet

So I've pretty much settled into my routines in one week. What my first impressions tell me about Nepal: it is a country full of surprises. One evening you are having dinner in a bhutanese restaurant (omg, the food! Soooo good!) with a former Miss Nepal and a British anthropologist living in some remote Nepali village, discussing internationalization of higher education and the next you're in a dive bar listening to local jazz in a place that could very well be a dive bar anywhere in Brooklyn and on the way home, you realize that there is a cow happily running alongside your ride in the twisting roads of Thamel where just a few hours ago the streets were filled with pashminas, pirated North Face jackets, mandalas and trinkets of all sorts. And the next night you are singing Finnish tangos with a Finnish-British-Italian combo as the night falls in Kathmandu.


One week of work behind me - it's a four day week, because tomorrow is Martyr's Day, a public holiday. Of those there seem to be plenty, at least in comparison to Finland. My co-worker from Loo Niva office was sorry that during my volunteer period, there will not be that many festivals. And still, every single month, there will be public holiday of some sort. For most months, it will be two. I think I will survive this lack of festivities ;)

One thing that doesn't seize to amaze me is reading official documents (I've been more or less reading for the first week). The below paragraph is from Statistical Yearbook of Nepal from 2013.

c. Forest Resource

Another major natural resource of the country is the forest resource. It provides more than 50 percent of fodder to the livestock. Several industries in the country are based on forest products for their raw materials. The benefits and the beauty that are derived from the forest and its usefulness to maintain natural and ecological balance cannot be measured in the economic term.

I don't know about the rest of Europe but I'm pretty sure that in no official document released from any governmental body of Finland, would there be a sentence like that last sentence. The furthest we'd go would be to refer to the recreational value of forest. And even that would somehow be linked to the fact that forests make you happy, happiness is good for the economy. So it all boils down to the other kind of green stuff.

Oh, by the way, if you're interested in the contemporary history of Nepal, be sure to check out Forget Kathmandu: an Elegy for Democracy by Manjushree Thapa. The book is from 2005 and it was published just before the incidents that would lead to second democratic movement in Nepal, Jana Andolan II.  A personal account of Nepalese contemporary history, it is a very nice read and at least for me, kind of an exploration into the Nepalese psyche though historical events.

But, there are good things about Finland as well! Did you know that where ever there is a Finnish Embassy, there is a sauna? But of course. And here in Kathmandu, the embassy organizes sauna nights for Finns once a month. I am SOOOO going to go there next Monday and de-freeze my limbs and toes that are by now in a state of perma-freeze. My god, this is why I pay taxes! <3 Land of opposites: during the day, I sat in the sun and burnt my nose, at night I go to bed with two pairs of pants, three shirts, woolly socks, mittens and a hot water bottle. My phone tells me that it is around 10 degrees outside just before midnight but I swear it feels much colder. In fact, I think that I am the one at the office that wears most clothes. Me! A Finn! We dance with polar bears and take naps in the snow and I seem to be unable to take on a Nepali winter.

There are ways however. I keep the cold away with taatoo paanii, hot water that didi brings us twice a day. It sounds a little funny but is actually very nice.

What about chicken feet? The office didi (literally big sister, but used to refer in general to women about your age) prepares lunch for us every day. It has been absolutely wonderful so far. I'm really digging the food here: just the right amount of spiciness and gorgeous flavors. And by the way, it is nothing like what the Nepali restaurants in Finland serve. The food is mostly vegetarian, meat is served once a week. After the three hour planning meeting, which was held in Nepali and at which I mostly spent my time trying to catch words that were repeated often and inquiring afterwards what they were, we had some chiura, beaten riceand chicken. As I was munching away my bit, I came across a funny bone that looked like a twig. And I realized that I was munching away on the foot part of the said chicken. And I thought, while my initial reaction was to be startled, it really is the way we should eat. If you kill an animal, use all parts of it. It was very nice, by the way.


Next week I move into family accommodation up to Sainbu where my office is. Truth be told, I have my doubts about it - not because of how it is or where it is but more about me being able to take in not only culture shock (I am still in the honeymoon phase, but it will come, as surely as the monsoon season) but also adjusting to living with other people in a culture that has strong community values after being my own mistress of the house for the past 6 years. It might prove just a bit too much for my non-traveller psyche all at once. But we will see. I hope everything goes smoothly. But I think it will be good for me in many ways: in understanding where I am, in learning a little bit more of Nepalese. I'm trying to learn 3 words a day. By the time I leave, if I keep this up, I should have a vocabulary of a talented two-year-old...


Today I visited the Boudha Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and one of the seven Unesco world heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. It is the holiest Buddhist temple outside of Tibet.

Prayer Wheels 

We ate lunch at one of the restaurants nearby. It had a direct view from the rooftop to the stupa. There is something meditative about watching the prayer flags dance in the wind. I don't know how long we stayed there but there was no rush. Like there is no rush anywhere in Nepal. Everything happens in its own time. And for now, that is just the way it should be for me. 

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