Sunday, March 8, 2009

Highs and Lows

It’s been a while since I’ve written. It’s catch-up time. Here are some things that have made me happy and sad lately:


1. My wool slippers

I bought these from a small man with leathery skin. Everything he wore was knitted. At dinner last week I said of my slippers: “If I could wear these to work I would.” My roommate said, why not? I shrugged. Now I carry them to work and put them on at my desk. Everyone should own a pair.

2. Tiksha the puppy

Tiksha means OK in Nepali. As ubiquitous as “Namaste.”

She entered my life a few months ago. It was puppy season and little puppy puff balls (or puffy pup balls?) were crawling all over the streets of Kathmandu. One day a soft-hearted lady I work with scooped one off the street and brought it to work. My boss named her “Tiksha” and bought her a collar with a bell. She’s been our office dog and mascot since. When my brain gets stiff I go outside and play with her. She jumps, gnaws, licks, nestles, butt-sniffs and bone-chases. She’s better at waking me up than tea.

3. Visitors!

The highlight of my month (year?): visitors! When Seinfeld George’s worlds collided it was a disaster. When mine collided it felt like the planets were coming into alignment. Kathmandu and home! Family and Friends! A fusion of my worlds.

Family and Friends!

Kathmandu and Home!

4. The Daily Yarn

I live next to a yarn-dying operation. Every morning two brothers dunk 100-ish sweaters-worth of yarn into a bubbling vat of dye. They stir it with long wooden poles, remove it, squeeze the water out, and then, around 8:30, they drape it over sunny laundry lines to dry. At night, my roommates and I guess what color tomorrow will be. In the mornings we walk out and smile. (Except for the two days in a row it was black.)

Here's a sampling:

5. The White Blossoms

With the exception of the sticky orange dessert made for festivals, these blossoms give off the sweetest smell in the Kathmandu Valley. And they’re everywhere now. They cover the wall that lines my alley. They hang from the shop where I buy walnuts and chocolate powder. And best of all, they sprout above rotting street trash. Like potpourri in a smelly toilet.

6. Rupesh the Yoga guy

The width of a carrot and the soft-spokenness of a lullaby performer, Rupesh is my new favorite. He pronounces his r’s like l’s (i.e. loll your head from side to side then leach your light arm up to the sky.”). He adjusts my posture how I imagine a potter would adjust the handle of a teacup. Despite his gentle façade, he runs his class like a military camp. The next day my back and toes and every muscle in between are sore.

If I had a picture of him it would look like this:

7. The Pink Lady

The pink lady lives in the fish tank that’s tucked in the walls of The Blue Fox. The Blue Fox is my favorite restaurant in Kathmandu; accordingly, the pink lady is my favorite lady. What is she thinking? Why does she fold her arms? Is she judging us, or jealous of us? Aloof, or catching every word of conversation? This enigma – and the 50-ruppee Paalaak Paneer – is why I’m a regular at The Fox.

Note: It's true: The Blue Fox is actually purple and the Pink Lady is more of a brown-ish pink. (I would be too if I lived amongst fish poo.)


1. The Daily Goat

I live 5 houses away from a butcher. His specialty seems to be goat. Every morning there’s a goat tied across the ally from his counter. The counter is empty. By evening the goat is gone and the counter is covered in dead parts – legs, abdomens, and the centerpiece – a head. Faced outward, the goat’s hollowed eyes stare across the alley at the limp rope that held it’s neck hours ago. My daily reminder of death.

A two goat-day. The worst kind.

The Butcher's Counter

2. The White Dog

Can dogs have bi-polar disorder? There’s a mangy white dog that lives near me with all the symptoms. I see him once a day. Here’s an average week of his moods:

  • M: Indifferent
  • T: Indifferent
  • W: Indifferent
  • Th: CRAZY
  • F: Indifferent
  • S: Indifferent
  • Su: CRAZY
When he’s crazy he’ll rip my roommate’s bag; he’ll hunch his back, show his canines and snarl at me as if I’m trying to kill his babies. Plotting his death is a daily topic of conversation in our flat.

His rear. Wasn't gutsy enough to take his head shot.

3. Darkness

In January the Prime Minister announced an end to 16-hour a day power cuts. He promised they’d be down to 10 hours a day within the week. Two months later and nothing has changed. We’re still in the dark and the cuts are rumored to jump from 16 to 20 hours a day. Lots of grumbling by all, me included. I grumble when:
  • It’s nighttime and I can’t find my keys. My headlamp’s coverage is never enough
  • My computer battery dies at the climax of a movie
  • I hear a word I don’t know and I can’t Wikipedia or Google it
  • I open my email’s inbox and am reminded of how weedy, overgrown it’s become
  • I discover green on the cheese I’d put in the fridge two days before
To be fair, there are benefits of having no power: I read more, tell stories with my roommates, and go to bed by nine.

4. Dirtiness

The other day I was cleaning behind my underwear shelf and I discovered a pouch from my June flight on Qatar Airways. Inside was a toothbrush and a pair of turquoise socks. Halleluiah – I’d been wearing the same socks for three days. Like the electricity shortage, there’s also not enough water. It's the dry season and our tap is usually dry. Lots of dirty underwear and unwashed hair as a result. I’m now on day three of the turquoise socks.

The turquoise socks, three-days in

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