Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dherai Dherai Ramro Chha!!!!

That’s Nepali for “it is very very good”.  With more elaborate praises unknown to me, it works for everything: food, photos, people, feelings, gifts... these last few days I wore this phrase completely out ;) 
Seeing how my last blog was dedicated to just one day, technically this blog should be 3, because each of my last three days at my little village just got better and better!!!!   With over a week under my belt, I'm now recognizable as “the westerner staying at Bishnu’s”. What this brings about is all sorts of special little things that happen all day: like not being able to walk anywhere without getting called over to sit and chat on a porch.  Like trying to stitch my pants and having Sova take over and sew them up for me :) Like stopping at my normal store for tissues (the closest I can get to tp), casually mentioning I love farsi (pumpkin) and having them instantly go and gather me one from their garden.  Like having crowds gather to watch the crossfit workout everyday (great motivation to do them btw :). Like having a hilarious late night card game session with the neighbors.  Even having a karate Chop! shouting session to spice up the corn field work w/ Bishnu :). This is the way I like to travel. To get in there and blend/merge/get involved!  This is the making of awesome memories :)  
Corn wars!!
Sova fell off her chair at one point :) and the loser had to make a  "jackal" sound. Good times :) 

The first morning I got to watch the sweetest/ cutest/ clumsiest first feeding of baby to momma buffalo cow.  It was adorable. Momma getting pissed and trying to kick baby away, baby hardly able to stand on his new knees and falling a few times, having a hell-of a time trying to find the teats! It took three people before the episode could be called a success: Bishnu holding him up/back, Buba (Nepali for father, Bishnu's) working the milk out, and Sova holding back momma’s kicking leg!  I announced baby’s name later that morning (after corn choppp!). At the suggestion of my sis, (seconded by pal Erin!), I christened the new baby Buffalo “Billy”! Get it?  The funny thing is, a word that is pronounced similarly in Nepali means ‘cat’. Ha!

After seeing this, Im not sure how if happens in the wild ;/!!
I watched a Nepali movie w/ the kids, and then later that afternoon we have a red saree photoshoot!  After Sova’s dress up with me the day before, I suggested we get a bunch of ama’s together for a picture, and it was well recieved! The four closest neighbor ama’s all got spruced up, they gussied me up too, and a million pics ensued!  It was a neat, sweet, fun event, parading around the street, having to take a pic in front of each of their houses:). I clearly see that it’s women and children that I’m better and more suited to interact with. Whereas in everyday life, because of the lifestyle I lead (sports, games, adventures) I tend to find myself keeping company with males. This is not always favorable since the age old ‘When Harry Met Sally’ question comes into play more times than I’d like it to, and typically not on my end ;).  Being a touchy person can get me into trouble with said males, whereas with women/kids it’s a mutual sign of dually understood platonic affection. Especially when there’s a language barrier, and all you can do is smile smile smile! The touch says, “I like you”, “I appreciate you”, “Im equal with you”, and to quote an awesome line from Avatar, it says “I see you.”  It’s too bad it can’t be as innocent w/ men!

Do I look Nepali??!

Love this one... how cute is Ama?
The next day, I walked with the ama’s (umbrellas and all) to the park where an all day and all night Puja was in progress.  If you recall, a puja is any Hindu ceremony to the God’s. This one in particular was a Puja to Indra, the rain god. It’s really dry here, most of the crops dying... so 16+ hours of singing/dancing/praying for rain seems a good course of action.  This was a very notable event for me.  Right off the bat, the Ama’s bring me to the food section and we proceed to cut up veggies. Ginormous plates, bowls, and vats of food being prepared to feed hundreds of people. We didn’t have enough knives so I used a metal cup :).  After my cup reached it’s cutting limits (didnt work so well on cucumbers), I wandered off from the endearing eyes of the amas.  I took a ton of pics, intrigued by the methods and customs of both the praying and the cooking!  All sorts of wood fire stations and bare hand work. At one point I’m watching the “chef” hand mix (arm really) a giant barrel of veggies and bags of spices... I help him hold the lid back and in exchange he drops a gooey handful in my mouth! Who needs a spoon?! Yum! 

Chopping up veggies for the feast!

The "kitchen"!!

The dessert station.. yummy

Making chapatis! (Like a tortilla)

There are tons of people here, and since it’s a special occasion, a majority of the women are wearing red (the typical married woman color). I have an “ah ha” moment.... what a perfect opportunity to continue my new photo trend:  the Human Font!  Where in the World is BJ Fromm??  To bad I didn’t have my red saree on still---- I could have been one of the 11 ama’s in red who we organized to spell out N-E-P-A-L!!!! Like India, it was again quite challenging (even with Bishnu and neighbor Shankar helping me translate), but hilarious really, and we probably had 100+ people gathered around, pulled by curiosity, in just the 15 minutes it took to make it happen!  Outstanding!

N- E- P- A- L with Nepalese Ama's :)

I ran behind and took a quick pic of the crowd ;) 

The neatest thing about this Human Font business (can I copywrite this?!), was it gave people that reason they needed to approach me. Me being the ONLY westerner, many are visibly curious.. but for the rest of the afternoon there were knowing smiles, waves and chats, and I got my own personal sidekick out of it! The most adorable little 4 year old named Amrita :)  For the next 2-3 hours, she was holding my hand or sitting in my lap, carrying my umbrella, every few minutes we’d swap smiles (our only form of communication).  At one point we joined the podium where the main Puja was in full swing:  music, chanting and one-by-one dancing to the God Indra. We sat at one end, when a woman insistently waved me over to her side. Unknown to me, she was waving me over to dance and they had already made a clearing in the middle of everyone!!! I could hardly refuse;). I thought what the heck, and spend the next 10 minutes doing my best Indian rain dance!  This was wonderful... I certainly looked a bit awkward, but everyone was smiling and positive, one amazing ancient Ama flashing me the biggest bestest wrinkly smile ever, while demonstrating how to move my hands.  As I’m dancing I’m thinking about this event. All these people, this whole day, wonderful food, painting “Om” on mango leaves, the priests submerged in a little water hole praying all day; all this for rain. So what else to do, but sit and pray like never before. Come on... a little rain for us, eh???  Little Amrita stayed with me those whole 30 minutes which I found so impressive for how little she is. When I finally got up to leave, I was refused exit before I gave another dance. ;) A truly jubilant day!

The main Puja podium... mostly ama's on the stage, the buba's in front painting 'Om". 

Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain!!!!
(Bishnu scores big points for seeing this happening and coming for photos!! )

I love this pic, I'm giving a namaste to the Ama with helpful demonstrations :) 

The men and women divide sides and take turns with the singing

Thousands of mango leaves get painted with "Om" today,
each person needs to do a minimum of 108 (a significant # in Hindu religion)

My cute sidekick Amrita! 

One of the areas of offerings to Indra

The priests submerged and praying
(sidenote: this was an awkward awkward photo moment... I had no idea where we were going,
one guy (my buddy the chef) leading me around and having me take pics all over.
We get to the side, I see in the hole, would never have taken this pic but he's shouting "photo, photo".  Acckk!

On another occasion, I was bonding w/ Billy, and asked permission to make a name plate for my favorite buffalos!  Certainly!  It was real simple sign, on a piece of scrap wood, but doing such wet the whistle of my artsy side!   Everyone here has been so nice and giving and overly wonderful to me... I’d love to give something to everyone, but what? Men, women, children... I hate picking out random gifts and especially trying to not play favorites. Soooo, I can instead make them all something! I scoured the rock laden streets, and with my fav travel accessory, my sharpies, started drawing:).  I made a “name rock” for everyone that I had a personal encounter with.  Double bonus in that I got to be creative and have a lil something unique for each! I looooove homemade gifts (giving and getting)! So much more personal then just picking out something arbitrary the person may not even want. I always feel there’s something extra special about a gift that’s made, or that took thought and effort. It’s backed by more than obligation... it’s admiration :)  
A few of the first rocks... all in all I made over 25!

Bishnu got a special one for making this all happen :) 

It reads, "The Poudel Family Buffalos: Buffy & Billy!"  Ha!

My last day had a short corn cutting session, a brutal crossfit session, the finishing up of my rock art, and then off for another play date. There’s not going to be the right words to describe the sweetness of the next 4 hours. The glee of the fingernail painting, card games, and magic tricks aside,  it was the unexpected exchange of gifts that will forever be etched in my memory.  Starting with the giving out of the rocks, this stirred up the emotions of the impending goodbye... they want me to write my name on the back (and I had to redo a misspelling!), so the pens come out.  Two of the younger boys then make me a ‘name rock’, complete w/ drawings of my face :). Debaka comes with a gift of nail polish and tikas. Diwash makes me a paper hat. Sujan signs and gives me his school picture. Asmita gives me a note and a little plastic rose. Deepa makes me (and shows me how to make) porridge and mango chutney. Little Pratima gives me a heart hair clip, her little bear ponytail holder, and a note that I “can’t read yet... read it in secret”!   Sita also gives me tikas, and as a family they give me a jungle scene art print poster :)  The rational part of me wants to refuse, knowing the monetary value (easily fixed with a slip of notes the next morn;), but my sentimental side is so happy, fully feeling and reciprocating that these are gifts of love, something to remember each other by. There are a million photos, they allow me the out of the ordinary hugs, and there’s even a few rare kisses to see me off!!!

The Bhattrai joined family :) 

Jiwan, Sujan, and Sita

Debaka!! I love her :) 

I had a merry walk back to the house, only to be greeted by Santi, towing me off to her place for tea and cucumber, to show me all the pics of her kids. Then it’s to Sova and Shankar’s, for watermelon they bought ‘just for me’.  The next morning is more of the same:  Sova gives me bracelets. Santi comes with a tika and mango for the bus ride. Ama gives me a special tika of rice and red die, hibiscus flowers and a scarf: a blessing for a safe journey. Then they all see me off with waves in the bus smoke! 

A safe journey blessing from Ama

 Feeling girly! 

So I found myself sitting on a bus to Kathmandu, reminiscing about my feelings of the prior two weeks, the last 24 hours especially. Checking out my new bracelets, my 3/4 nail polish job, sniffing on my flower blessings, a new scarf around my neck, and rice tika falling of my head.  A bag full of gifts, chomping on yummy mango jerky, and reading a sweet “secret” letter (I promised I wouldnt show anyone.. so I’ll just say it was adorable ;).  I was so awed. I was so touched.  I am so humbled.  In such a short amount of time there was a very obvious connection.  I felt the same love w/ the women and children in Kolkata... the difference here being that I had the kids as translators, so it could be easier verbalized. One moment, as we were sitting on the floor in their little hallway, Ama Dharmi, (via Asmita) told me 'I’m different than other people. I smile and I’m kind and I care, and so they are happy, and so I’m like family’. Wow, I may never have felt more honored :)  On my last blogs, three people commented about me being ‘an ambassador’.  I hadn’t really thought of it in this way, but I suppose that’s exactly what I'm being in cases like this.  There’s a saying you may know:  To the world you may be one, but to one you may be the world.    The caste system is still very much in place here, and especially for this family across the field I feel it was very significant to have me pay so much attention to them.  I think we all have a very powerful capacity to make or break someone's day just in the way we interact with them.  I feel like I in particular have this great ability to really make someone feel very special (or the opposite I must be careful of).  My closest friendships no doubt, but even a stranger via a smile, and especially the underprivileged.  I do think it’s a gift too, and not just being sympathetic, because it’s not about pity... its a real true feeling of equality, with an awareness of difficult circumstances, and a desire to give someone the love and feeling of worthiness we all deserve.

My showering of wonderful gifts :) 

That’s the wonderful thing about love. It’s free to give. And luckily it’s limitless! ANDDD.. bonus: the more you give the more you get :) Sweet deal!!!!

So for sure, IMHO, this is the way to travel. You can’t have these experiences in a motel, or by just visiting the tourist spots.  You can’t have them refusing to sit on the floor, shake a dirty hand or eat the offered food. Maybe you have to use a lot of soap and have a few spider wars(!)...but you get them by really embracing a culture, dropping your ego, and letting love pour out.  I hear there’s an Elephant Polo tournament around these parts... sounds like a great excuse to come back one day :) 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I need a cow name :)

Today was the bestest day!!!  So fab I must write it all down now so I don't forget anything!!!!

Right off the bat, I woke up to a brand new baby water buffalo, born during the night!!! Soooo amazing and cute too!!!  They don't name their animals (what?) and I'm so astounded Bishnu says I can!!! An American name they want!!! 

Bessy is the first cow name that comes to mind... but it's a boy, soo....

Tea and biscuits still served even though I had overslept an hour :).  On to the veggie garden for weeding, which I was happy about as I prefer this over the corn chopping;).  Once in, our good ol' traditional breakfast served!  Delish :). Then my sati (friend) Soba asks me to go to her house, she wants to dress me in a saree so I can take the pic home to America!!! Awww love her! 

Aren't we cute??!
Back to the house, I’ve got 4 people waiting to do more exercises! Turns out the boys have come a few times looking to do it when I wasn't around!  The 5 of us go at it for 45 sweaty minutes. Music, a photographer, and a crowd makes me feel almost like a real trainer! Armando, my awesome crossfit coach back home (quick plug: of Miami Fit Body Boot camp) would be so proud ;) 

Farm version of box jumps = Brick jump overs :) 

No crossfit routine is complete without planks!!!

Tortured them a bit with this one... hold it, hold it :) 

Pratima is again there waiting for our scheduled play date, so I rush ‘shower’ and head across the field.  I’ve brought my computer, and their curiosity means that’s the first order of business... Photo booth fun! I love this moment. All the kids and ama’s gathering on the bed, giggling to death, so great :).  Then it’s game time. They want to play the human hand tangle again (said they’d practiced but couldn’t get it right, cute).  Nepali tag again, which is brutal for me this time... I was “it” for like 15 minutes. I chased one girl all the way thru the corn fields even to no avail. Fast little buggers:). The mothers took pity on my sweaty mess of a self and fed me papaya after (it wasn’t very good but it’s the thought that counts) :). The kids (technically teenagers I should say) want more game! From my brain's very important game databank, I teach them thumb war, dizzy bat, ha-ha belly game, airplane, and some of the funkier yoga moves, all successful if measured by laughter :).  A bowl of corn gets spilled during one unsuccessful attempt, and I seize the opportunity to grab the sifter I’ve seen used back home (farm home:), and even this is a riot. It works similarly to flipping a pancake (which I can't do either) so everyone laughs :).  I'm quite the entertainer it seems!  There are about 5 amas sitting around watching and laughing now, and the kids are apparently pleased, seeing that they all keep asking me to come tomorrow and the next day and every day till I leave before I’ve even left ;0)  While I’m french braiding one of the ama’s hair, Pratima has even ran back to ask Bishnu if I can stay for longer! aww :)   After a few more braids (including mine), another photobooth session, and ‘you-must-stay-for’ tea and snacks (flattened rice) I head home. Wow, such a greeeeat afternoon! 

"London Stop" the start of tag.  I had to sit this round out... wearing me out these kiddos are;)


Frog faceee! Photo booth is so amazing :) 

Purty hairdo's :) 
The fun doesn't stop there. Back home for a quick afternoon job of moving rocks for the new road’s entry drive, Bishnu and I decide to cap the day by playing badminton.  I haven’t played this in who knows how many years (maybe junior high even) but it’s neck and neck, Nepali vs Americana!!!:) I love being an athlete :)  So nice to just be good at stuff, thank you lord (and dad) :)   We’re out in the middle of the corn fields and as we head back the sun is setting in my favorite rainbow fashion :) Beautiful.  

New entry to Eco-Village almost complete! 

We're currently tied 1-1.... winner takes all pride tomorrow :) 

Upon arrival home, there’s a dude with his arm shoulder deep into momma buffalo! Whoa!  Remember how we have a new baby? Well placenta needs to come out!  This morning I’d thought it was too bad I hadn’t seen the actual birth, but after seeing this placenta thing, maybe it was a good thing! It was pretty eww.  I was trying to hide that thought, but it pretty hopeless. Like when you eat something bad, your face gives you away? I was decently grossed out! And that’s not a typo above... it was a dude, not a doctor!  Full on beer belly hanging out of his tanktop, sandals, sunglasses on his head... no glove! ha! THIS is farm life!!!!

I felt a bit shameful for taking this pic... but I just couldn't resist!
Sorry if you're grossed out too!  

Sweet moment between mommy buffalo (who I've cleverly dubbed Buffy) and new baby!!! 

No electricity tonight so I take a candlelight ‘shower’.  Maybe this is a better method since I can’t see as much :).  Dinner time with one of my favorite sides (potatoes and lady fingers) and then it’s neighborhood gathering time.  I'm sitting there and I have an revelation.  This is EXACTLY like an after hurricane party back in miami!  After said storm, when there was no power, we always would sit outside and chit chat w/ our flashlights, it being too hot to sit inside, can’t do anything anyways, so why not have a party?  The difference here being there’s no cooler of cold drinks, and no hope that maybe the power will be back on tomorrow. Once again, we are so lucky America!  
I’d already been reminiscing about what a great day it had been, when the excitement continues! All the sudden Soba, sitting next to me, starts screaming and jumping. What else to do but follow suite, so of course I start screaming and jumping too :). Its a snake!!!! and it’s just slithered over her foot! ackkk!  Sanjay whacks it over the head a million times as I'm asking if it’s poisonous. It’s pretty little, but the unanimous response from the 3 english speakers: ‘Very'.  So very in fact, that they make the effort to even burn it’s head before burying it in a hole!!!  Since it rained last night, it makes the ground very hot so they’ll start coming up for cooler air.  Whoa.  Guess what we’re doing first thing in the morn? Plugging snake holes w/ rocks :)

Herpatologist friends... what kind is it? 
Fantastic day :)  It's just past 12 (fan has been working the past hour!!!) but I don't know if I'll be able to sleep for a while.  I'm giddyyyy!!!! What am I gonna name that little calf?!?!?!?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

FarmVille.... not the Facebook kind :)

Nope, this one's the real deal! I’ve been in Nepal for a little over a week, staying in a little village community at a old farm house, complete with their own cows, corn fields and a sweet, tiny Nepali mother who cooks all day :).   I found this place via the website Have I mentioned it’s awesomeness before? ;)  By rules, you’re supposed to work 4-6 hours everyday in exchange for free room and board.   This particular place asked for $5/day.  Not too shabby... especially when I’ve only been working 1-2 hrs a day, have been pampered with tours/introductions/ fun, and.. for someone like myself that can eat eat eat...they feed me so much I literally everyday am asking my host to pleaseeee tell his mother not to make me so much (it’s rude not to finish your plate).

My main Ama (Nepali word for mother). She's like 4'-6" and adorable :)


Another Ama (they are all called ama, which is nice since it's hard to remember names!).
She's dekernaling corn to feel the cows :)

Typical morning scene! We brought the wagon over via the buffalos, let them eat while we fill it with corn stalks.  There hasn't been rain for a long while, so all the crops are dying. This family in particular doesn't sell their corn, so it's not catastrophic, but for many it is.  Not a good year :( 

It’s nice here. Birds chirping, fresh veggies, sunny, flowers, smiley people.  Overall I’m a fan of a cracker-barrel life... but I think it’s more about the reality of working hard, being grateful, and enjoying the simple things than it is actually about being a farm-hand! I could use a bit more mental challenge a few less blisters! Certain things that to us seem a necessity deserve far more credit than they get....  Namely AC and bug free! It’s real real real simple life here.  There are small bouts of electricity throughout the days, 2 times of maybe 3-4 hours, but it’s always different times.  It’s the BEST when it coincides with when Im trying to fall asleep- the fan being a critical factor in that happening! No refrigeration, so on these crazy hot days, I’ve never craved a cold drink so much.  Yesterday was the first day I got one, I bought a sprite from a little vendor stall. Heeeeeeaven! :).  Luckily I have a mosquito net over my bed, because once again there’s the ubiquitous monster spiders... and no one telling me they are harmless like in AUS. They make me real nervous, especially when I have to go to the bathroom at night.  No one wears shoes in the house (although technically no one has told me not to so I sneak mine sometimes), and with no electricity, I have to take my little headlamp and crawl barefooted thru the little hole in the wall that leads to the bathroom. The spiders giant reflective eyes are glimmering away, I swear watching my every move.  Dang my small bladder ;)  There’s the cockroachs too, but they are less of a concern for me because I only fear for their nastiness, not for my life :). One night though, I felt a lil crunch under my foot when I had no light.  I cringed and hoped it was only a piece of corn.... nope.  Morning light proved I had squashed one w/ my barefoot... yuuuuuuck!

My room! Blue and blue, perfect!! :) 

Ackk! See how it's eye is glowing?!?!?!  Night time double scary!
These concerns are fundamentally trivial. Not enjoyable, but not the end of the world.  The thing I'm having the most difficulty adjusting to is the bathroom. I can spend all day out in the mud and be happy, but unsanitary in a place I associate with getting clean, not so much. I think it has to do with the fact that when I purposely get dirty, I know I can go to the washroom after to change that.  It's really hard to feel hygenic in this one, especially my hands and feet!  Imagine an abandoned bathroom that no one has been in for 20 years: cobwebs, spiders, old pipes, rust, broken tiles, paint peeling walls. That’s what it feels like even though it's used daily!  I don’t touch the buckets cuz they are really oobery looking, and there’s no shower head, so I just kindof wiggle and splash my way around under the 4’ high spout. And there’s nowhere to put your stuff! The whole floor is wet, no toilet seat cover (it’s Indian style, hole in floor type) and the only little shelf is barely big enough for a towel, not to mention not wanting to put it there! (Since then Bishnu has added some nail hooks for me thank goodness). My ten weeks in India weren’t exactly the picture of perfect hygienic, but they weren't like this. I feel like I'm in a scary movie... and if you know me you know I loathhhhh scary movies!  I do like simple living, but clean simple! I feel a little guilty to describe it here, as it’s not that the people don’t care. They are kind and friendly and very accommodating, it’s just the norm. The conditions don’t really allow for anything to be spotless, “airtight” is a far off dream in their construction methods, and its kind of hard to keep bugs out while needing to let fresh air in. This farmhouse in particular is one of the more established, but around town most of the houses ARE dirt. The floors, the wall, everything. When a working man’s full day wage is less that one subway sandwich, priorities change:(.  It’s simply my (our, really) American conditioning to live at a different standard.  When we no longer have to concentrate on mere survival, we start nitpicking about inconveniences, and lose all prospective about our blessings (great insight from my momma:).  In reality it's fine, it's mostly my arachnophobia that is the issue. I just need to keep bucking up!  My best defense is just to enjoy the overall experience, everyone else here uses this room too and the spiders haven’t eaten them yet ;) 

The infamous bathroom...
...scary cobwebby, spidery corners....

....and the opening we crawl thru to get there! 

Every morning we have tea and biscuits at 6:30am.  Then we do our ‘work’:  Weeding the garden, whacking down corn for the animals, gathering leaves for compost (which we drove a water buffalo drawn wagon to get!).  Then we come back in for breakfast at 9:30.  Breakfast and dinner are interchangeable words, both consisting of white rice and dal (lentils) always, then either a potato, cucumber or pumpkin side (this one my fav!). Everyday, twice a day.  I love to watch the women cook in their peculiar kitchens.  This home and the neighboring ones are Brahmin families, so typically more well off, but they still cook on the ground with little gas stoves or better yet real wood fires! I offer to help, but because these are the Brahmin kitchens, I can’t enter. I cut up veggies outside instead.  

Bishnu's got the corn stalks, me the weeds.   These are our two most common jobs. I like carrying
the goods this way,  makes me feel authentic :) 


Neighbor Ama making me rice pudding! 

My ama serving up my breakfast plate!

Local Nepali cuisine!  Pretty yummy! 

We also have tea and biscuits mid day :)  At first I was nervous I’d get hungry since the two meals are 10 hours apart, but it’s been quite the opposite. They are stuffing me like a pig and it hurts!  People are super kind and loooove to share food... all of them and all the time! The fact that its usually super filling rice or potatoes doesn’t help. I have to accept (it’s rude not to), although every instinct in me is like stopppp eating!  If I had more communication skills I might plead my case a bit more... Im working on it :). One night the neighbor Ama (her name is Santi, but you call older women Ama for respect) invited me over for rice pudding (yummy) but she made instead a whole meal! I literally though I was going to puke (and thats saying a lot for me)! We do our own dishes always just after, at the hand pump well. I don’t mind this (I kind of like doing dishes)... but the splashing of the feet I’m still grinning and bearing.  If you need water for anything here, you get it from the well (dishes, laundry, animals, to drink, wash up, give yourself a cool down). Thing is, it splashes all over feet/lower legs in the process! I’ve always had this funny peeve about being splashed. I’d really rather be one of the extremes: dry or soaked- no middle man.  Being splattered is a bit irksome... especially when there is dirt all around so pretty much you’re going to get mucky! There are no towels, so it’s get wet, dirty, air dry, repeat all day!  Ackkk hahhh!  That’s okay though, Ill survive because of the awesome stuff that happens the other 16 hrs of each waking day:

Bishnu doing some dishes.. the notorious well :) 

First off there’s looooottts of sitting around and ‘chatting’.  I say chatting but it’s really them chatting and me watching :)  Sometimes it happens around me, when Im already doing something... or nothing. My iphone, camera and laptop are big entertainers, unabashedly explored by anyone that comes by. If I’m on the computer, rest assured someone comes and ‘reads’ over my shoulder, whether it’s easy to get there or not (like leaning up against a wall)!! I love this!, It's that same frankness that I experienced in India!! Luckily I know they cant read it ;)  They want to see pics of America. I don’t really have any though! :( Pics of family?  That I do :).  The one of my dad, step mom and step grandparents causes big chats over his “2nd” wife, that means divorce. Ohhhhh... this is not the case here!!!  Ive had multiple discussions about this cultural difference:  There’s no dating, just get married directly, whether arranged, or you just like someone. Divorce or bastard children are extremely frowned upon, and as such, rare. Once married you stay married. Bishnu’s (my host)  mother and father have been married 50 years. Ama is only 59 years old. Yep, she was married at age 9!  Whoa. Also big news? That I’m thirty and not married! hah! If I was insecure at all this might bother me, but we turn it into a cultural conversation.  Unscrupulously searching thru my phone, one day they found a pic of my ex’s sexy chest/abs/arms. Where’s the face? They ask. Yeahh, about that head!  Luckily they found my answer funny, and everyone was giggling. Just then, I remembered “photo booth”, the Mac program that distorts your face in all sorts of hilarious ways! OMG soooo funny! We were all in stitches laughing! I only got a few good ones, but just imagine a bunch of local Nepali people, who rarely ever see a picture, and all the sudden seeing ridiculous distortions of all our faces.  Great moment ;)
Typical backyard scene at our place!


My first 3 days in Nepal were actually at the border town, stuck there because of a strike and no transportation.  It wasn’t bad at all though, I split a room w/ a Chinese girl and wrote lots! One night even watched a great Indian movie (“1947”, about the most horrendous relocating of people in history during the partition of India) w/ a super nice French/Argentinian couple.  Good movie if you're looking for a reco!

 French, Argentinian, Chinese & American watching an Indian movie :) 

The ATM’s weren’t working either, but my hotel guy wasn’t worried at all. I promised I’d send the money once I found a working ATM, but luckily it came on just in time. Wow, that amazed me. The third afternoon the buses spontaneously arrived, and I was on one headed to Naryanghat 5 minutes later!  I am met there by Bishnu, who has been acting as my personal host this whole time.  This was a bit of a surprise as I was cooresponding w/ his wife entirely before arrival. Although he’s very nice, and has been more than generous w/ my duties and entertainment alike, since its mostly just the two of us it feels a little awkward at times. It's a lot of time to spend with a new person, and I find myself becoming insidiously impatient.  I vow to be more compassionate my last week here, as he has been totally with me. I can do it! :) 

He, his wife and their 2 kids live in Kathmandu, but 2 months ago he decided to come back to his childhood home for a new venture. We travel 1.5 hrs by bus to his parents farm in Meghauli (at the edge of Chitwan National Forest!).

To say the buses were packed is a gross understatement! First day they are running after the strike and everyone needs to get somewhere! Our 1.5 hour ride not only looked like this, but have FIVE guys hanging/holding out the door!

Bishnu is very loyally Nepali, and has a quite noble plan to start an agricultural education center here. Complete w/ historic housing, temples, learning centers, community hall, etc.  Bishnu’s afternoon schedule for me includes “idea/design time” for part of my volunteer work. He’s a business man above all else, and when he saw I was an architect on the website, it’s quite obvious his brain started churning! That’s working out pretty nicely for me, cuz, yaaaaa it’s really hot here!  We’ve come up with a master plan thats pretty sweet I think :). Also as part of my “work”, he takes me around in the late afternoons, introducing me to people, taking tours of their homes  (who are always overly accomodating, even spur of the moment)... I think it earns him clout to have an american architect here to work on his project.  Initial advertising you see :)  Fine by me! 

Future Eco-Village
One day I need to do laundry... Nepali style!  3 buckets of water, a bar of soap and scrubby brush, and a butt stool!  When you’re not in a rush (took me two hours!), this was quite enjoyable actually, sitting in the shade, looking over the corn fields, practicing my nepali squat :)  

Probably won't adopt this style, but it's was amusing :) 

The next day I decide I need to make exercising more of a priority (Waaay too much food, not so much activity, and an 18 day trek coming up soon!) despite the strange looks I know I’ll get. Running isn’t an option (bumpy is a vast understatement for the roads and fields) so I make up a lil crossfit routine.  There are two teenage boys around and I ask if they want to join me.  45 minutes and a crowd of 12 later we were massively pooped!!  They had no clue what they were getting into :)  I’m drenched in sweat (typical), them just barely!  If someone could bottle up and sell those dry genes I would pay a lot for them!!!   
 I love Plank! They hate plank ;) 
Two young girls were there as part of the crowd, waiting for me. They had asked me to come to their house the day before and had come to fetch me :).  I “shower” quick and we head across the corn fields for an afternoon of nail painting, makeup, hair braids, and lots of photos! I taught them the hand untangle game, and they taught me a Nepali version of tag (6 kids and they went for me evvveeeerrry time;).  I played chess with the eldest boy, 16, and he whooped me!  Deepa, the eldest girl at 19, made me porridge and showed me how to make “pickle” (not the pickle we know at all, it’s a potato, cucumber, onion mix) a super common dish here. Yum :).  

The boys took over the camera most of the day so I have about a million of these type shots ;) 

The girls kept speaking to him in Nepali.... no helping!!

Deepa making me "pickle" :) 

And then today!!!!! Today was reaaaaaallllly momentus. Not only did I get to see a rare one-horned rhino from about ten feet away (on my second “lucky chance” safari encounter, recall the scarcely seen tiger on my bday!) but I also got to take a bath with an elephant!!! This was suchhhh a neat experience!!!! Ranks up there with my starfish mecca encounter!  Her name was Sijanna Kalla, 32 years old, so we’re practially sisters :)  I show her that I have Ganesha (the elephant God, given to me by Vicky in Rishikesh) around my neck, trying to bond you know ;).  And..since she weighs 10 tons so I also give a quick prayer that she doesn’t accidently squash me!  She splashes, rolls, blows bubbles. I cling, try to hold on, fall off, jump off, climb up her trunk, even do an elephant plank :).  Super super super loved this :)  Her trainer, Mahendra is quite gentle with her, which is a big plus since Ive heard they can be brutal :(.  During the safari she stops and knocks over young trees for a little bite, and blows a little snot on me... a sure sign of affection dont you think? :) 

Heyyyy One-horned Rhino!!!!
Nice Ass :) 

Heyyyy look at me, "Im on an elephant"!

My far from graceful attempt to climb up her trunk! 

Elephant hat!

Me and Sijanna Kalli! 

When Elephants fly :) 
Besides my bathroom phobia, childish peeve of water splashing, and the ginormous burn I got from absentmindedly kissing my calf against the motorcycle exhaust, all is quite swell :) 
The people, always the people, are great.  Its so interesting to me to see how pheromones or intuition or natural connections work, being that I can’t talk to any of the adults (except Bishnu), but certain people you still bond with.  I’m so glad Im a touchy smiley person... you draw other touchy smiley people to you :)  My fav lady is the Ama a couple houses away.  B’s dad is a priest, so people congregate here a lot just to sit.  Her name is Soba, she’s 41, with 5 kids (only two left at home) and has been described to me multiple times as the one that talks and laughs a lot, no wonder I like her :). Sometimes if the electricity is off, it’s better to just stay outside until you get sleepy.  Last night she motioned me to join her on the bigger bench and we laid together silently and looked at the stars :). Im learning more and more that words are overrated (I doubt that slows down my chatter any, but still ;)  

I love this. Soba came to check out what I was doing and decided to take a nap right there :)
I love the bike rides because every few seconds someone is waving or yelling helloooooo!!  I get the occasional kiss blow from kids who watch too much tv ;).   I feel some sympathy for celebrities.  Im getting maybe a 1/100th of what they get, but it can be overwhelming, trying to give a good impression for all westerners!  Sometimes my cheeks get realllly tired from smiling at everyone! hhah. I thought I’d have lots of time to write, but if Im outside it’s conversation/ game/ photo time! Considering the heat of the house when the fans are off, I can only last an hour or so :). A lot of the kids speak english, and they loooove to practice.  That day described above with the kids? I think every one of them asked me to come back the next day :). Deepa even told me I can sleep there, “Im family now”. Awwwww :)