Friday, December 28, 2007
The list could go on and on. It was great to be back home for the holidays. Have a barbie, swim in the Pacific, get annoyed by seagulls while eating fish 'n chips at the beach, enjoy a mince 'n cheese pie or two...
Simple pleasures are always appreciated that much more after a long abscence.
Kiwiana, you just gotta love it!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Take the Mexican bus driver for example. Usually too busy talking to his mate perched on the side of his seat or that front part of the bus, to really give a damn if you have actually boarded the bus or not before he takes off. If he's not in the middle of a chin-wag or chatting up his missus he's racing against his fellow drivers for bonuses. Don't ask me how this works but apparently if they do their run quickly it's a good thing, safety... hmmm... what's that again?
The opposite of the manaical demon-driven driver is the driver that wants lots of dough. This particular breed will park in the middle of the road waiting for passengers, and they will wait and wait and wait...
Both breeds of driver appear to have gone to the same driving school or learnt the same method of driving- there is no clutch. This is the truth that runs through the bus driving community.
A clutch does not exist, the gear box is an alleged apparatus in the general vicinity of the front of the vehicle, passengers had better get a move on or get left behind, money ruleth the run and all this is sanctioned by Jesus.
Yes Jesus. The young lad in all his pitiful suffering poses is in all buses, sometimes accompanied by the "driver's prayer". Yep. The driver's prayer. There's a prayer for everything and everyone in this country. Quite phenomenal.
Feel sorry for ol' JC though. The poor bugger now also has crazy Mexican bus drivers to account for. Must be tough being the messiah.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
We opted out of that type of celebration and instead headed for sunnier parts- Metepec not having had any sun for quite some time at that stage, September- near Cuernavaca. Tehuixla is a teeny, tiny place but we managed to find a wonderful spot to spend a weekend in the sun.
The house belonged to an ex-US military man and his wife. They live upstairs and rent out the ground floor. Bloomin' wonderful! A lovely pool to spend the days lazing in (or beside depending on your preference), a huge kitchen to test your culinary skills in, and an equally large shower to soothe the sunburn pain away. Yes we all got toasted quite well that weekend. Even ol' Maori here coming from NZ and knowing better than to stay in the sun without sunblock, time away from the constant warnings about "burn time" and "slip, slop, slap" and you get just a wee bit arrogant. Shocking.
I can't say that I complained too much bout the lobster colour tho'- it was nice to be back to a healthier looking skin tone, instead of the pasty, porcelain, dead-for-a-week colour that I had been.
A relaxing weekend away, oh how I wish it had been longer!
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
One was for a wee girl who was turning three and apparently here it's a big deal because it's their presentation to the church. Or I just reckon a damn good excuse to get a whole bunch of people together to down the bevvies as quickly as possible and have a laugh.
The second was a farewell do for a mate. Mexican dude headed off to France to study English and practice his French. The party was at his boyfriend's place and strangely enough we were the only foreigners there! Hmmm...
Both fiestas involved food, booze and music. The wee one's had a cake that I swear was bigger than her! It were ginormous! With hot pink icing and a Cinderalla picture on it. The picture was closer to the size of the young thing than the cake was. There were also two piñatas that the kids got to try and bash all hell out of, before the paper-machier burst and spilled all it's goodies. The kids enjoyed it and the adults were having a good ol' laugh.
I tell you though, these Mexican fiestas are just like the Maori ones back home. Too much food, lots of laughs, loads of alcohol and enough of the right kind of music to get you singing or dancing (or both).
And if you drink the locally brewed drop (as my fellow foreigners did- silly, very silly) the hangover the next day actually has you believing you mean it when you say "I'll never drink again, this time I mean it, I'm never drinking again"...
After seeing all the fun the kids had with the piñata, I've decided that's what I'm having for my birthday next year. I mean why is it that the kids get to have all the fun huh?! (My Mexican friends think that this is very strange by the way- a grown woman with a piñata??? What is the world coming to?)
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
There were gruesome pictures of devils and demons, witches and goblins, the odd mummified fairy and a fair few potions thrown in for good measure.
The confessions of witches (women undergoing torture) were an interesting read- well what I could understand at least, nothing like being dipped head first into water for days on end or being strapped to a nail studded chair to induce even the most innocent of people to confessing to whatever is thrust in front of them.
The whole exhibition was interesting, but what held most people's interest was the phallic display. Yep, a whole bunch of dildos and other sexual pleasure apparatus. The array of dildos was intriguing, mostly made of wood, some with church leaders carved on them, others bearing a striking resemblance to bike pumps or tree branches. Then there were the statues with scrotums where the chin was supposed to be and well... you can figure out the rest.
It wasn't all about sex however, there were the love potions, the potions to help heal, the potions to bring on death, lots about the relationship between nature and women. Oh, and a personal favourite- something to do with "black magic"- it was a "trap" with a lizard/gecko crawling out of it. The trap was a very hairy representation of female genitalia, displayed alongside an example of a vagina with teeth. Ok, so maybe there was a lot of sex stuff going on...
Nevertheless it was interesting and if it's ever in your area, check it out. It's an example of how the view of women has changed little over the years.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Vietnam and Japan provide a countdown to let motorists and pedestrians alike know how much time is left before they can cross the road or intersection. In Japan the pedestrians dutifully wait for the counter to reach zero before crossing the road. In Vietnam motorists cross when they deem it safe enough, countdown be damned.
In Nepal and India there were lights for the pedestrian but they were largely ignored. Foot traffic crossing whenever they pleased, very reminiscent of the hugely popular eighties game "Frogger". Dodging traffic becoming a necessary skill in order to cross the road.
However, the best crossing the road indicator is to be found here in Mexico. You have your bog standard looking "Little Green Man" who is lit up when it is safe to cross the road. He is not just some chump tho', this Mexican version.
He starts out with a very nonchalant stroll, almost a strutt, much like John Travolta's from Saturday Night Fever. As the time for you to be across the road draws near, he slowly picks up speed. Almost as if he's looking over his shoulder to check where the traffic is for you. Then just before the traffic lights turn green, he breaks into an all out sprint to the finish line, as if the hounds of hell are chasing him. And you can just picture him, hands on knees gasping for breath and dreading the next inevitable round. Makes you feel sorry for the poor wee fulla!
It's worth crossing the road just for the entertainment. Yay Mexico and it's little green men!
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Well yesterday was by far the blondest day of my life so far. We had just moved house. I spent the night alone in a house the size of a small cave (echoes included if one so desired), with no hot water and a very dodgy front door lock. The door has two locks; a "security" lock that must be locked with the key from the outside, yet cannot be locked from the inside. Inserting the key into said lock is an exercise in futility, driving yourself (and the key) round and round and round... in never ending circles. Sigh. The other lock is your bog standard, no frills push button type thingy. Now I say "type thingy" because usually these things disengage when you open the door from the inside. This one didn't. Fancy that. I'm outside, the door is locked and I can't get in. I had a key for the security lock which was useless 'cos that was not the lock that was engaged. A key for the bog standard lock did not exist.
I'm late for work, haven't had a shower because I've developed an aversion to cold water bathing since leaving Nepal, and I'm locked out of the house, oh and it's bloody cold. Well let's just say that had the door and I been friends that relationship would have disintegrated rather rapidly after the language I was throwing at it.
Then came the fun part- I had to tell Wineera-the-Younger that we were locked out (I was the one in possession of the sole set of keys). Not much of a problem really unless you have to actually get into the house to start making it habitable, and get ready for classes. No problem! So we waited for the locksmith in the sun outside, designing (theoretically) the layout of the house and the garden. Laughing at my stupidity and (me) pointing out that if I hadn't done it first it would have been her.
The locksmith arrived, fought with the lock, and finally opened the door. He then took the offending piece of metal away to his magic little shop and bought us back two keys. Hurrah! No more being locked out!
Seems I spoke too soon.
Yes. I locked us out again. This time after I had sworn at the kitchen utensils (which at the moment are impossible to store because there is no storage space in the kitchen), tidied up the bathroom and had generally been impatient with the progress of moving in. I was late for work (what a surprise) and just grabbed the nearest set of keys. Forgetting that the new keys were not attached to the others. So when I arrived home, happy in the knowledge that I would be sleeping on an actual mattress and blissfully unaware of my mistook, can you imagine the language that was spouting from my mouth in a most un-ladylike fashion (not that I've ever proclaimed to be a lady mind you)?
Again I had to inform the Younger-one about our predicament. Impressed is not a word I would use to describe her mood. It was dark, no locksmiths were open, and where the hell were we gonna find a ladder at that time of night? (I had left the bathroom window open- foresight perhaps?)
Then who should come wandering down the road but our knight in shining amour. The poor young fulla. He'd probably just had a date with some hot young chica and then gets accosted in horrendous Spanish by his new neighbour. He told us (me) he didn't think he had a ladder and even attempted to wake up another neighbour in his efforts to help us (me). When the neighbour failed to materialise he went inside to ask his parents (I think) for help. He's got a nice dog too- I'm not a dog person, but this dog was pretty cool. Some time later he emerged from his house with a ladder in tow. My hero!!
Then it was up to my sister to perform some death-defying antics on the wobbly wooden contraption (which was too short to reach the 1st (2nd) floor window) and let us into the house. This is what you get if you are the taller one. After a couple of tries she made it in ok and the nice young man bid us a fond buenas noches and retired to his home.
I let the youngster reprimand me, had a laugh, went for a feed, had a beer and finally relaxed into my bed. Sigh.
Today has been designated cleaning day. And there are now copies of the keys.
Maybe I should just dye my hair blonde and get it over and done with huh?!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Our hopes were that it would be at least somewhere near authentic. After having worked in one of the best Indian restaurants in the world- Talk of India- and then galavanting about the actual country for awhile, I knew it wouldn't be 'up there' but I had hopes. The poor younger sibling who hadn't had any form of Indian cuisine in almost 4 years, was looking forward to a meal with a difference. Thus we embarked on our little adventure to Restaurant Tandoor
Different it was. Memorable it was. For all the wrong reasons.
Now I admit I am no connaisseur, but good Indian food I know. And this quite frankly just didn't cut the mustard. First of all, nigh on all the of the dishes had curry powder in them. Now since when has Indian food been made with the equivalent of Edmond's Curry Powder I ask you? It didn't stop there. The Paneer Palak had Panella (a Mexican cheese) in it instead of Paneer (an Indian cheese) AND it had Mango Chutney already added! Falmin' Nora!
The Butter Chicken was ok but nothing fantastic. The Dhal Makhani was the strangest looking Dhal I've seen, and tasted nothing like any Dhal Makhani I've ever had either. The chai... Sigh. The chai was utter shite. It was simply black tea with milk and minus the spices that make chai the wonderful taste sensation that it is.
There was a plus side tho'. The chef's recommendation; the Bhuna Murgh was good. It tasted authentic and was a hit with one and all. And the boss's mum who never really eats anything but Mexican food loved her introduction to Indian cuisine.
Dinner over and bellies nearly full, we headed to GianDolce to indulge in some gelato heaven. Oh. My. God. The icecream here is just friggin mind blowing! Ok, so that may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but believe me when I say its bloody good stuff! The array of flavours are set out before you in a very regimental manner, side by side in their little silver containers, inviting you, demanding even, that you give in to temptation and discover how delightful they truly are. So give in we did. But as the medium cup only has enough room for two flavours (white chocolate with brownie pieces and chocolate were my picks) and there are obvioulsy waaaaaay more than two flavours available, that means I'll have to pay another visit. What a cryin' shame.
Friday, June 08, 2007
We had headed into the big smoke- locally known as Mexico City- to pick up some books for the school. It started out as a jolly jaunt. We supped at an Italian establishment that strayed somewhat from your traditional fare; I for example had fish with a goats cheese sauce nestled on a bed of mushrooms. The sauce was both plentiful and delish, the mushrooms a good partner but, I could not for the life of me taste the fish. It was there under the smothering weight of the sauce, but when you tried to taste the fish all you got was goat's cheese. The sauce/mushroom combination would have been absolutely divine with a (thick) cut of red meat, on the fish however, it was completely wasted. Sigh.
After the exotic meal we picked up the books, which also included a bit of drama. Drama and Wineera seem to go hand in hand at times. The credit card machine was down so the boss tried to pay with a cheque. The bookstore didn't want to accept a cheque for that much money. Arguments ensued, the manager was called, identification was required, assurance that the school was real was demanded, and finally the books were handed over. One of the lads who worked there carting them out to the car for us. Splendid! But I mean seriously, I may be naive but surely when someone buys eighty books and shows their ID and business card along with their cheque, you don't really need to worry that its all going to go to pot do you?
Anyway, bellies full and books tucked away in the boot, we headed out of the bustling metropolis. On one of the main roads out of town (Paseo Reforma), near a major intersection, we spotted a few lads with their shirts off and in what appeared to be their daks (undies, jocks, underwear etc). Somewhat strange but it was a hot day so it didn't really warrant a second thought. Then what do you know, we rock up to a bunch of traffic lights and there are chaps (and lassies) sans vetments (without clothes) but the men did have some modesty- they had strapped a photo of a senator infront of their "bits". They were protesting against the confiscation of their lands by the senate. Quite a unique way to go about it I thought, and there were a few of them aswell, the chaps ranging in age from teenager to grandfather, and the ladies from mother's of youngsters to grandmothers. It was quite something to see a well fed lady my mum's age in all her glory going from car to car to get donations let me tell ya. The chaps would wander in front of the cars when the light was red with their banners and drums, singing for all the world to hear, like parading naked was an everyday occurence. Perhaps it was.
I don't know the details of this dispute, I just know they were an indigenous group protesting something they felt was unjust, in a literally jaw dropping way.
Good on them. I hope it works out.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
It was a barmy day. I was with Wineera-the-Younger, chatting, walking and generally chillin', when lo and behold we stumbled across an oddity in the KFC drive thru. The first thing that caught my eye was the chap in the back seat facing the wrong way. Hmmm. The second; the chap in the front having aviator-type galsses on and something beside him up against the door. Switch back to the backwards facing dude in the back seat. He also has something beside him sticking up and visible for all the world to see. (It sounds somewhat perverse at the mo' but believe me it ain't) And of course seens as I'm the world's fastest weapons recogniser, it took me a little bit longer than most to realise these two were carrying very visible automatic or semi-automatic weapons/assault rifles/whatever they are called. Following this slowly acquired insight, I registered the huge, black, tinted windowed vehicular monstrosity in front of them. Aha! Lightbulb! Someone who thought they were important was being followed by his (or her) well-armed bodyguards. Doubtless the chap driving the black vehicular monstrosity was not the "important" one, just another lacky. Needless to say we didn't peer too hard at the dudes with guns, or try to look in the car (not wanting to prove that old saying "Curiosity killed the Cat" to be true by being shot whilst being curious). Just a somewhat casual galnce in their direction and we were on our way. But come on, if you were that concerned about your safety (or that paranoid) where was the lead car with the well-armed-tough-guy-looking bodyguards, or indeed the convoy of your protectors. I mean if you can afford 2, why stop there?
That was my introduction to the well armed contingent of bodyguards. There are however very visible (but not visibly well armed) bodyguards hanging around the place "babysitting" rich parents and their kids. They look and carry themselves like your typical Hollywood Secret Service Agents or Hollywood FBI dudes. Slicked back hair, sunglasses, steely look and all.
It can be fun playing "Spot the rich kids' bodyguard".
Sunday, May 13, 2007
This wedding was of the brother of one of the security guards that works in the plaza where the office is. It was awesome! Course I started the festivities almost falling on my arse and landing on the wedding present in front of a handful of witnesses, sober I might add, but it got better from there.
The food was never ending, homecooked by the family and delicious. The beer was free flowing, bit warm but cost nothing. The Tequila if you were keen was bountiful, and the Piña Colada simply delish.
Accompanying the food was a Mariachi contingent. This is the main reason I was bummed about not bringing my camera. I thought they were pretty cool, doing their thing and everyone was enjoying their performance. Which only made the lack of a camera all the more annoying.
On the bright side tho', some poor sod decided to sell balloons. The helium inflated ones that have cartoon characters on them and foam hands or feet stuck to them. Well the chance to be a kid again is never far from my mind, so I just had to have one. Persuading the boss that it would be a good idea to buy one for me was a lot easier than I thought, so "Sponge Bob" and I become inseparbale. Even when I coerced some poor young Mexican lad into teaching me how to dance- Mexican style. Old Bob kept getting in the way everytime I was being spun around (yes I'll balme it on Bob not my two left feet) so I called it quits, and gifted the balloon to a young girl. The lack of manners is a global thing- her father made her say "thankyou"- but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt 'cos she looked real gob-smacked when I gave it to her. My lack of a balloon was short lived tho'. The balloon salesman turned up with more, and this time there was one with a cow with lipstick imprints on it and "muchos besos" (lots of kisses). That was the signal for me to start bashing everyone at the table on the head and saying "a beso for you, a beso for you..." etc. Some people thought it was funny. Some didn't. Oh well. Anyway, Wineera-the-Younger decided she needed a balloon aswell, so off I was sent to get another "Sponge Bob". Returning to the table triumphant, I challenged the youngster to a war. Seeing two grown women fighting with balloons must have been quite a sight for the somewhat conservative audience I'd wager, but it had us collapsing with laughter. I'd just like to point out that it was I that was victorious. Her balloon disentegrating with a most satisfactoryly gratifyingly explosive bang. Choice bro!
Hometime saw us (me) hiding a bottle of Tequila under my jacket. Not 'cos I was nicking or souveniring it, but 'cos the securtiy guard had given it to me and told me to hide it from my boss. Turns out that she had turned it down, as had my sister. Not this Maori! Free alcohol (free anything) and I have no shame. I'm sure I can find a use for it somewhere, sometime.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
And of course, being the sibling of one of the pieces of furniture that occasionally functions as a teacher comes with its perks- the boss took pity on us and took us out of town. Superb! We ended up in a place called Cuernavaca. Nice little spot, good weather, also known as Eterna Primavera (Eternal Spring) and friendly people. Bit of a pain in the bum to get there though as we had to go through D.F (Mexico City) which even when you are one hundred percent sure of the route can be a gamble with getting lost or not. There's a road that's called Periferrico which is similar to the M25- circling the city. There endith the similarities. Where the M25 has sign posts and fair warning before your exit, the Periferrico will anounce your exit at the exit or just after it, the road will fork unexpectedly with no signs as to which direction you should head to continue on the same road. Its fun, unless you have to be somewhere by a certain time to pick up your holiday home key. Nevertheless we made it. Drama and all.
Chilled out for a day or so by the pool- yes the pool- ate some good food then toddled off to the cheap Silver Capital of Mexico (well at least of this area of Mexico) to do a spot of shopping.
The streets in Taxco are lined with silver. Every street you walk down has more than one silver shop on it. Shopping was to be done, and the feat was accomplished quite well and very expensively (relatively speaking of course). Course this meant (means) that the welfare bill I now owe my sister passed ridiculous with the purchase of the first ring. With the purchase of the second ring, ridiculous looked as tame as "a liitle bit". Sigh. What can you do? When things are just begging you to buy them and they look fantastic on you, how can you in all good conscience refuse? You just can't. It wouldn't be right. Besides someone poured a lot of themselves into the making of such a wonderful piece, and you would be doing an injustice to, and not supporting the artisan (and his or her family) if you decided not to buy it now wouldn't you? (Do you think I'd do alright as a sales rep?)
To recuperate from the added pounds of silver, we decided to "do luch" in the centre of town. Bit of a boo-boo that one. Turned out that Dr Simi- a chap that has made millions selling dodgey drugs to the poor of Mexico- was taping something for his TV channel. This meant that for the duration of our meal we were subjected to some horrendous wailing that was apparently someone singing. It did not however diminish the certain glow that I had acquired after spending a lot of someone else's money. Thank goodness!
Tuesday saw us return to Metepec and the real world. I had to start work at seven in the morning on Wednesday. Yes my run as a bludger had officially come to an end. I was now gainfully employed. Again. Butchering the English language and getting paid for it. Again. Sigh.
Bring on the next holiday I say!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Amongst the collection of arts and crafts, trinkets and baubles, bags, shoes and wot-nots, were more than a few areas set aside for the adventurous. Adventurous meaning getting a piercing or tattoo under dubious conditions. If I had've had any money left I would've joined in the fun, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), there were only pennies jangling in my pockets. Sigh.
The Aztec display was quite intriguing. We had no idea what they were wishing to protray but it was interesting to see. And quite different to kapahaka that I know from home. (check out this one for a slice of Maori improv)
A wonderfully relaxing finish to an exhaustingly energetic day (well energetic if you're exercise impared like myself). Cold beer. Entertainment. A taxi ride to the station. What more could a girl ask for?
Nothing like starting the day with a boob or two. Not the feminine anatomical kind, but the kind that make you feel like a complete prat when you realise what you've done. The first belonged to a travelling companion who herded us to the wrong rendez-vous point. But this was easily and painlessly fixed. The next was all mine...
I was stopped at the entrance to the Pyramids and told that "we" had to pay here because "we" weren't from Mexico. Now I say "we" cos I was in the group but I was never asked to pay. Course me in all my blind honesty fronted the entrance fee (which was double the bus fare from the city) and we continued on our way. It wasn't until we were within striking distance of the Avenue of the Dead that I realised that I'd paid uneccesarily. D'oh! Being a darker shade of caramel does have its advantages in this country, they think you're native. Being of a white chocolate complexion however does you no good at all.
The sun was shining with some ferocity that bonny april Sunday. The sky was brilliant in all its azulness, the clouds were suitably white and candyfloss-esque. And it was under this blanket of a fine autumn morning that we made our way towards the beckoning pyramids. Still not appreciating their giganticness in this early part of our outing.
Now I readily admit I am a pain in the preverbial when it comes to visiting places of interest. I may stroll in everyday life, but when it comes to areas where there may be plenty of photo ops, not to mention things to see, I become positively tortise-like.
The Sun Pyramid was the first sight to see on our agenda. Well it couldn't really be missed, being that it dominated the skyline when looking down the Avenue of the Dead. The stairs were a much better work out than any stair master could possibly give you. And the view from the top was superb. Which was of course appreciated at length, considering you practically induced a heart attack climbing to the pinnacle.
The trip back down is not quite so cardiac arrestish, but you are very aware that if you trip and fall, its one helluva long, bumpy and very painful arrival at the bottom that would spell the end of your holiday. Upon reaching the bottom of the Pyramid, we were greeted by a collection of panama-hat-adorned vendors plying their wares. But in a manner most reminiscent of vendors in Nepal, they delivered their sales pitch half-heartedly. This could have been due to the sun and heat (by this time I was becoming a two tone shade of strong coffee and milk tea with a red cherry atop my shoulders that used to resemble me), or just the general laidback attitude of the local populace. I personally think it was more of the latter than the former.
By now I had also developed some very impressive blisters on my feet so my pace slowed to that of a geriatric tortoise. Good for taking pics and admiring the scenery, not so good when trying to avoid being slow roasted by the sun or when there are four other people waiting for you to get a move on.
But get a move on I did (painfully aware that anything resembling normal speed spelt doom for my tootsies) and we proceeded onward and upward. To the Moon Pyramid. Thankfully which is either still being reconstructed or they've given up and you can only get halfway up. Hurrah! I found a comfy spot (hard to do on solid rock), parked my but and let the others walk around, take photos and do the touristy thing.
Back down on the ground- the Moon being much more blister friendly- we made our way to the exit where one of our party had been waiting for some time. I gave up many opportunities to buy a bow 'n arrow (of which I'm quite proud, I was dead jealous of the kids shooting each other) but couldnt resist the cowboy hat. Yes. A cowboy hat. Made from corn leaves. I love it. Course my mates (especially the Mexicans) thought it was hilarious, being that I bought it after I had turned a lighter shade of crispy. Well what can I say? Yee-hah!
Friday, April 13, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Easter in Mexico. It's usually Thursday thru Sunday for the working masses and of course the whole week for the students (oh to be a student again). My guide (sister) taking me to see some Mayan pyramid ruins in Teotenango and Malinalco. Bloody typical of most indeginous peoples that they built these things on top of a ruddy hill. Great for tactical purposes but absolute bollocks for lazy tourists like myself. However the space up there was great and the view on a fine day pretty spectacular. Back in the day there would have been no chance of a "sneak attack" on these places. While in Malinalco we were witness to a parade of sorts. Young and old "Roman" Centurions were ambling around the streets with "Jesus" accompanied by music. Some of the centurions looked more than a little bored, and the kids amongst them looked somewhat baffled by the whole thing. The village of Malinalco is pretty cool, quaint and idyllic although the "river" is a bit odorous, and the icecream is superb!
Also on the agenda was a day trek out to the capital city to have a look around. It was dead quiet, everybody having headed off to greener pastures for their long weekend. There was only one thing that I was dead keen to see and that was the Frida Kahlo museum. I first came to know about her at uni and I figured why not? I'm in Mexico, she's Mexican and her house is the museum, so what the hell. The house is fantastic. With a courtyard that now serves as a garden cafe, two levels, lots of exposed stonework and wood. The kitchen is huge, they've kept her and her husband's studio, her body cast is on display and the beds are so tiny. We were wondering where the original dunnies (loos, latrines, lavatories, toilets) were tho', there being no plumbing in the house and everything...
The long weekend was finished off with a veg day on Saturday (pizza, beer and loads of junk food) and a fantastic meal out on Sunday at Otro Barrio. It's a Uruguayan cum Italian place and the food... Oh. My. God.
If you come visit me we are going there. Come hell or high water. That is the place to eat.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
It was my sister's boss's mum's birthday (try and get that grammatically correct when English grammar is not your forté) and we had a barbie. In the rain. The Mexican weather gods deciding that the old dear had better be inside in the warm for her big day. My sister and I were the cooks (and let me just say that if we haven't cooked for you, you have been missing out on extraordinary culinary skills) and it was up to the others to keep us suitably liquored up. Which they did with exemplary flair and panache (ok so pouring glasses of wine does not take a whole lot of imagination, but it was free flowing and without pause).
As the whanau (family) didn't speak English, Spanish was the language of communication. And it was dead embarrasing realising exactly how much I have forgotten in the years since I graduated uni with Spanish as my major. I could understand it (a bit) and speak it (even less than a bit) but most of the time I just nodded and smiled and tried not to look like the dopey relative who drools in the corner at family gatherings.
All in all tho' it was a fantastic day and a great introduction to Mexican family life. I look forward to the next fiesta where hopefully there'll be a piñata!
Well you know, simple things...
Thursday, March 29, 2007
So many long months without my beautiful Pumas. So many long months without cooking. Oh glory be! Hallelujah! And all that other tosh. I can cook again. I can wear my shoes again. I feel whole. Huzzah!
Its also nice to see my sister again after so long of course. But did I mention my shoes and the cooking? I'm cooking again. This is fantastic. New ingredients. New styles to learn. Old styles to integrate. Yes I'm a foodie and a damn good cook (as is my sibling). We enjoy our food, we enjoy cooking and of course food is always well accompanied by vino, and I'm glad to report the youngster has not let us down in that department. Sorted!
There will be more news from the Mexico front once I've got over myself. Gotta go create!
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I landed in the City of "Image is Everything" stink, tired and maybe a little hungover, and greeted my absolutely angelic friend with all my pungentness as I collapsed into her car.
I was about to enter the "ghetto". As you can imagine I was expecting busted cars, graffiti everywhere, hookers on the corner, drug deals going down, the odd shooting, the occasional car chase, and the constant ear-splitting peal of sirens. Imagine my disappointment when we pulled into America Suburbia. I was to be denied the excitement of the movies! And here I thought film was a correct representation of the world. Such a rude awakening.
My time in LA was all about accomplishments. I ate Chinese take out from a box (yes I know for some people this is no big thing but where I'm from Chinese takeaway comes in a flat plastic container), I ate a hotdog at Pink's (where a "Martha Stewart" dog turned into a "Mushroom" dog. Dammit! Its not like I have an accent or anything!), had my first chilli cheese fries (also at Pink's, and it didn't get lost in translation), had my first taquitos on Olvera St, went to a LA bar (which was so suffocating in that everyone there was all about how they looked, how they looked when they danced and how much fun they weren't having. Ol' Maori here tho' just got on with it and had a bit of fun, much to the horror of some onlookers I suspect. But I did see some taking the piss on the dance floor as we were leaving. Hurrah!), got my Japanese cellfone unlocked (thanks Chinatownland), and went to the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show (he's pretty funny) and saw The Kooks (a bunch of British lads). Oh, and I got told by some Irish chap at another more fun bar, that having short hair was brave and empowering for a woman. U-huh. LA does some funny things to foreigners I reckon.
I visited Whittier Blvd, which architecturally speaking looks like you've stepped back in time. Very 1950's ish. Fantastic! Apparently its one of the main shopping streets for East LA* (the predominantly Hispanic part of LA) and once upon a time the young fullas (or perhaps not so young) used to cruise up and down the Boulevard. It must have been a sight to see in the 50's- all the guys in their Caddi's and Buicks and wotnot, with their hair in that duck tail thingy that was popular back then, their stove pipe jeans, and the girls in their puffy skirts, bouffant platinum hair and bright red lips. Ok so this is obviously Hollywood influenced but it still would've looked cool.
Leaving LA was just as bad as leaving anywhere for me. Stood in line for ages before figuring out that I was in the wrong one- I'd been standing in the line for passengers with boarding passes and I hadn't even checked in yet- typical! I'll blame that on the alcohol and lack of sleep as opposed to obvious stupidity. Once in the correct line, it was all about the wait. Various flights being called to various parts of the counter. My turn came and the dude disappeared! Just stepped out for a minute or two. This was at bout 12 (ish) and our flight left at 1300. When he came back he was gonna make me buy an onward ticket 'cos Mexican authorities require it (yeah right, like anyone cares about NZ passport holders), but in the end let me go without forking out any money. Success! Then up to the horrendously long line that I had been a part of before, where I got pulled aside for the pat-down explosives check thing. Sigh. Bright side tho', got on the plane more or less straight away.
LA. The non-touristy way. Latino flavour everywhere. Wonderful!
*its a good idea if you don't have an address for immigration to not put only "East LA" 'cos they want an actual street address. if you put only a vague whereabouts in that space you get pulled aside; like I did. American Immigration know how to complicate even the most simplest of procedures; you get shown a movie before you arrive in the US telling you what'll happen when you get there and being assured it'll only take a few minutes. Bollocks! Utter rubbish! and any other expletives you'd like to add.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
And after being on the India sub-continent where 200 NC (Nepali rupees) or 200 IC (Indian rupees) is enough to get you a decent feed and/or a decent drink, but when converted to a stronger currency amounts to pennies, you get stuck in the mind-frame of triple digit prices are really not that expensive. Then you arrive in Hong Kong where 200 HKD is a whole helluva lot more that "pennies".
Course ol' on-to-it Maori here took a while to figure this out being a FOB or FOP (fresh off the boat/plane) and was spending like she was back in Nepal/India. Funnily enough it was a rude awakening when I figured out how much I was handing over for that bowl of noodles or whatever.
So what does one do when one realises they've got less than the minimum ATM withdrawl amount left in their bank account? One goes and gets a tatto then gets blind drunk of course! Yeah me and money never did have a really "committed" relationship.
I didn't mean to go out and get "happy", I figured I'd try and be "responsible" with my remaining pennies. I had it prioritized. Money for the bus; sorted. Money for my cellfone which I was trying to get unlocked; sorted. Money for beer; kinda sorted. Money for food... well I always did think food was over rated when beer fills you up anyway.
After getting my tatt, I wandered back into the hostel and met some of my room mates. We then went out to watch the lazer show down at the harbour front and came back to have a "quiet" bevvy or two. We had two Man U supporters in our midst who were dead set on watching their team play. Fair dues. So we went on a mish, found a bar, scored an awesome deal on some drinks (110 HKD each to get trollied for the evening) and plonked ourselves down in front of the tele to watch the game. We were quite a collection- two Brit actresses (the Man U fans), a Kiwi, a German, an Irishman, a Guatemalean, two other young Brits and during the course of the evening four young Hong Kong chaps who got caned in a drinking game by one of the actresses.
We ended up at home round 830am and I had to be at the airport by 1230 (ish). No worries. Had a bit of kip, woke up at 12 and went in search of my cellfone. Nothing is ever simple when I'm leaving a country. Nothing.
The buggers didn't have my cellfone. It was in the "office" which was just "in the back" but for which only one key existed (apparently) and that was with someone else who funnily enough couldn't be reached. Sigh. So an hour later, stink from sleeping in the same clothes I went out in, hoha from all the stares I was getting, and fed up with the chap with stink breath who was trying to keep me company,oh, and tired as hell, my fone arrived. Huzzah! I bolted amidst apologies (they couldn't unlock my fone) and other nonsense I'm sure they were saying, said some hurried goodbyes and caught the bus to the airport.
One day I will learn not to leave things to the last minute. One day. I just don't think it'll be any day soon.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I left Japan with long tresses. Got to China and chopped 'em. Got to Bangkok and decided to dread 'em. Got to Kathmandu, kids tried to comb out the dreads, so shaved 'em. Yup. In the space of 3 months I went from Rapunsel to Coolio to Sinead O'Connor. Ok, so Rapunsels a bit of a stretch but you get the picture. And Coolio is no stretch, 'cos my dreads did resemble his freaky-arse do of the nineties.
Coming to Nepal one realises that hair is important, if you are female. Some how or rather beauty is tied in with the state of your hair. I'm sure its not that shallow, but the amount of times I've had to explain why my head is covered by what resembles a salt 'n pepper swimming cap, is almost in the triple digits. So I shaved my head. Its only hair, it grows back.
My host mum just burst into laughter when I rocked up with my new look. And it sustained here for some time. When it was "number 2" the kids loved to rub my head- well at that length it does feel velvety.
I've also had people think I'm a Buddhist nun. Which I loved by the way. Imagine! Me! That was worth the hoha of the explanations right there.
- "Nepali" time
- "Aunty" and "Uncle" for older people, related or not
- men standing around in groups drinking tea after (or before) work that needs to be done
- inviting people into your home after knowing them only a short time
- not taking "No" for an answer from a guest with regards to food or drink
- quick to laugh and have fun
- quick to sing and dance (even if a bit of alcohol is needed first)
- family gatherings are important
You could take any Maori out of NZ, drop them into Nepal and there would be no problem. The natural friendliness and love of a good laugh of both cultures would break down any barrier that might arise due to the language thing.
Oh! Not to forget that whole "love of a good feed" thing too. If you were to venture into a Maori home or a Nepali home, there is NO WAY you would leave hungry. Absolutely no way.
So how say you? Long lost cousins or what?
Sunday, March 18, 2007
A country of surprises.
A country where a movie is shot just down the road and shooting has to be interrupted because cars/bikes/animals/pedestrians are using the public road they are filming on.
A country where there are computers and cell phones, yet, where your laundary is done by hand.
A country where a lack of tact is not a bad thing (luckily for me).
A country where Maori time exists aswell (huzzah!).
A country where a herd of goats walking down the mainstreet of town is the morning ritual.
A country where children can run around unsupervised and enjoy the freedom of being young and energetic.
A country where having nothing is the same as having everything.
A country that is full of friendly faces and welcoming hearts.
A country that I love.
Perfurgulate. Perfurgulatory. Perfurgulation.
My time in Nepal. Fan-bloody-tastic!
A goodbye to the kids that was only supposed to be a couple of hours but ended with me spending the night with them. I mean seriously, how is it humanly possible to resist rumbuncious boys and doe-eyed girls when they ask "You sit here tonight sister?"? I tried to resist. Really I did. But in the end they won me over. Like they knew they would. I know, I'm a complete sucker. Gimme a cheeky grin and I'm wrapped round your little finger.
Next on the agenda was achieved with little fanfare- printing out my ticket confirmation thingy for my Indian visa. Absolutely unexciting in its extreme ease of accomplishment. Course now obtaining said visa was a little less straightforward.
It was Sunday you see, and unlike any other governmental office in Kathmandu, the Indian embassy was closed. No biggie. I'll just rock up on Monday morning, get the visa and bugger off that night. I should have learnt by now that any plan I tend to make seems doomed to failure.
You can picture it can't you... It's Sunday night, I've got nothing to do, nowhere (really) to be, so lets have my farewell do! Fantastic idea! We hung out at my mate UV's place for a bit, had a feed, had a couple of cocktails* and then hit the local club for my belated birthday lapdances. The locals couldn't help but piss themselves laughing at the shinaniggins. My mates dragging some poor pommie lads into the lapdancing ensemble. T'were hilarious!
You know where this is heading don't you? Got home in the wee hours and then rocked up to the embassy round 1130am. They closed for visa applications at 12 noon. There were a lot of people waiting for the same thing as me. A LOT of people. So I flagged it and decided to go see my other kids (Hattigauda Kids) and say goodbye. But it started to rain. That idea got flagged aswell. I know, the queen of procrastination. So I hung out. Again. But this time there were no late night lapdances. In bed early and out to the embassy, application filled in, money paid, just had to come back and pick up the passport and go to the bus stop. Easy... Whatever.
Still had to say goodbye to the Hattigauda Kids, but I totally wussed out. Ended up just giving a letter to their new guardians and blah, blah, blah.
Headed back to UV's bar to drown my sorrows and discovered a French chap we had meet the night before was heading to India the next day in a car and didn't mind if I tagged along. Well! Do you really think my rubber arm needed to be twisted very hard to get me to stay? Hell no! A free ride to India- are you kidding me!?!? So I spent the night drinking UV's mates under the table. I mean seriously, I was the nana (grandmother) of the group and I was the only one still up and running at 530 in the morning when I had to go meet Jean (the French dude) to pick up my ride. Pasang (a newly acquired drinking buddy) played the role of the gentleman (having just woken up) and carried my bag to Jean's hotel and kindly asked Jean's driver if I could join the "party". Driver agreed and we where off!
Nepal. Good times. Great friends. Great memories. A lot of love. I will miss not being there.
Turns out the driver didn't have the authority to give me permission to get in the car, so when we rocked up to Varanasi, Jean's travel agent tried to get USD140 out of us. Me having no money, I thought this was bloody hilarious. Jean refused to pay and we ended up in the cop shop. I was never really worried bout paying (arrogant I know), and turned out we didn't have to. The cops thought it was quite funny (I think) and after getting in front of an officer and explaining both sides, and the travel agent not handing over a bribe, the officer told us to go. Grumpy old bugger that he was. So 16 hours driving with some dude who was chomping on beetle nut to stay awake, followed by 1 hour trying to sort out the "permission" drama, and I was finally in India proper. To be continued the next day with another long arse journey by train to Mumbai (Bombay). Whistle-stop tour of India. Bring on a holiday!
*there are vids of UV flairing on the Vimeo link
Sunday, March 11, 2007
He was my travel companion for the last week. Introducing me to "roof of the bus travel", Bandipur and Pokhara by motorbike. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.
But by far the most impressive thing that mero bhai (my younger brother) did was get a Maoist propaganda car to relinquish one of their flags to him. If you don't know the situation here in Nepal, the Maoists are the "opposition" but you can find out more details if you google them, 'cos I can't be bothered going into it. So the day before a rally cars go up and down the streets advertising the "where and when". They are all decked out with flags and posters and loud speakers. We were eating lunch and young Craig wondered aloud if they'd give him a flag. I told him to go ask them, so he did. He stopped a car and asked them for their flag. Would you believe it, they handed it over! Tin Arse! With instructions to come to the rally the following day and to hand out flyers. We were planning to go anyway, but the flag added that extra incentive. Way to go kiwi boy.
The next day we headed off to the rally. Craig waving his flag proudly and receiving smiles and laughs and pointing fingers along the journey. We got to the stadium and I began to feel like a travelling interpretor. Craig not speaking a helluva lot of Nepali and the gathered masses not speaking a helluva lot of English. The "official" number of attendees was 500,000 or there abouts. We didn't stay to hear the leader speak, being bored well before he was due to arrive, but we had fun getting there and being there.
Politics in Nepal. Oh the fun to be had!
Saturday, March 10, 2007
A good way to explore Pokhara is to jump on a bike (motorized) and zip around for a few hours. A good way to end up with some bruises is to zip around off road on a road bike with some young whipper-snapper who has grown up doing the dirt bike thing. His version of "gravel" and mine were vastly different. Same goes for "small slope". We rounded a corner of perfectly good tarmac, and he indicated a road that was heading straight up the bloody hill. Needless to say, I stalled the bike. And this was the easy part! And seens as it was a kick-start contraption, I had to yell at him to come down and start it again. That done, we started up the hill again, the small stones ie. gravel quickly turned into mini-rocks or huge friggin' stones! And the small slope quickly got steeper.
This is where my fun began. I think I held my breath the whole way up, only getting chucked off maybe 3 or 4 times. I reached the top and tired to get off the bike looking all cool, calm and collected, but my legs had turned to jelly, and my hands had developed quite a shake. Sigh.
The reason for the insane journey was a visit to the Peace Pogoda, from where an awesome view of Pokhara is laid out before you. Also a chance to get a bit of a tan, read a book and chill out before even contemplating the trip back down the "gravel" road.
The trip back down was uneventful by comparison. I got chucked off a few times, and this time was going slow enough to realise that it was a long way bloody down if I arsed off my bike. This of course was followed by thoughts of "I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die. I'm gonna die", and "If I don't die I'm gonna get hurt REAL bad". Ok I admit it I'm a wuss. But quite frankly the size of those rocks, I'd much rather be dead than bleeding and broken.
At the bottom, on the tarmac, there was a quite religious moment for me. There exists a photo of me kissing and worshipping the asphalt. If I could have become one with it, believe me I would have.
Other than this one day of excitement, Pokhara is just like any other tourist town. Fun to visit, have a laugh and leave.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Yes like all good pozzies, the buck has rolled in and they are making it more "comfortable" for tourists. Read here remodeling, loads of hotels, and now a cobblestoned road through town. Commercialism. Damn the mighty buck!
Anyhoo, we stopped off here for a night or two. Beautiful spot to snap a pic or two of the mighty Himalaya or chill out with them as your backdrop. Course its a beautiful view if you can see them. Alas the days that we were there, the snow capped peaks were playing hide 'n seek with the clouds, mostly hiding.
Being a small town/big village, you wouldn't expect that having "a night on the town" was an option. It usually wouldn't be I don't think, but add a very friendly hotel owner and a couple of kiwis with some rakshi and fun shall ensue. The night started harmlessly enough, bite to eat and a glass of the local hard stuff. Then Krishna-Dai (dai meaning older brother in Nepali) joined us and the flow of rakshi began in earnest! Add a bit of music, and us being ushered into the back room, and a bit of a Nepali traditional music disco was on the go. Huzzah!My God tho', my night was quite an experience. I woke up with the most violent shaking I've ever experienced, followed by clambering up and down the stairs in the dark in a mad rush to get to the toilet! Needless to say my days of rakshi indulgence have come to an end.
If you ever go to Bandipur, stay at Pradhan Guesthouse. Meet Krishna-Dai, listen to some stories and have a great time!
Thursday, February 22, 2007
By living every day, enjoying every day and celebrating every day on your one "special" day.
Well at least that's what I did anyway.
The kids greeted me in their usual boisterous manner when I went into their rooms to say "Good Morning". Some shyly offering me their birthday cards, others thrusting them into my hands and running away giggling, but all of them wishing me "Happy Birthday" and receiving their hug and kiss in return. I mean how cool is that? Before 7am in the morning, 29 laughing, smiling kids wishing you a happy birthday and some breaking into song as well. Kids rock man!
After the kids left for school, I had my birthday dhal bat with didi (the older lady who cooks and helps round the orphanage) and Prakash (the manager) in the sun and enjoying the quiet.
It was a beautiful morning and once in Thamel, after a hot shower, myself and Anna headed out to find some new bars to venture into in the evening. We had no plan, we were just strolling. So we strolled into a book shop that had hidden depths. At the back of Pilgrim's, behind the books, was (is) a restaurant and a whole lot of Nepali crafty things. But don't you hate it when the interesting things are on the lower shelves and you have to stoop to get to them? Not this Maori. Stooping be damned! I (we) plonked ourselves on the floor in front of said shelves and took off anything that took our fancy. And when this involved buckets of jewellery being tipped on the floor, the staff seemed to get a bit nervous. Turned out tho' that the interesting stuff wasn't really that interesting so we moved on. The "mood" music inspired us. So we danced our way around the shop. Again the staff seemed uncertain about what to do. In the end they opted for the best defence- to laugh at the foreigners. Funnily enough the other foreigners in the shop behaved as if we weren't there. Sigh.
After purchasing two garish felt rings (one for Anna, one for me) we headed back into the bustling metropolis to resume our search. And we were justly rewarded. Huzzah! We found a garden bar down a little alleyway that had cheap beer and a good pozzie to enjoy the waning sun. We enjoyed our beer and the music (which again inspired dancing, much to the amusement of the staff and fellow patrons) and congratulated ourselves on a job well done.
Dancing was to be the theme of the evening. We went back to the same garden bar for dinner with the rest of the crew, then headed to a less frequented establishment on the main strip. We commandeered the raised seated platform, and again inspired by the (this time cheesy) music, all seven of us broke into dance. It was a short lived moment of revelry . The management complaining that our combined weight dancing in an energetic manner on his floor would break it. He asked us to stop. We didn't. He turned down the music. We complained, as did other patrons. But we couldn't be bothered with the hoha, so we buggered off. And into another "chill-out" bar, (cushions on the floor, short tables etc.) where I was shouted some very strong cocktails and we danced some more. With all the dancing fueled by very little alcohol, it was unanimously decided we should head to the local club and I should receive a lap dance from everyone present. Fate, however, had a different plan. She wanted to keep my birthday PG rated, and had the club closed early due to some poor bastard getting shot. So we headed back to the previous bar where we met some Nepali chaps who insisted we help them polish off their fourth bottle of Vodka for the evening, then wandered home past the sandwich shop, had our sammies in the courtyard of the hotel where we got yelled out by a guest who we woke up, had a night cap beer and wandered off to bed.
A relaxing end to a fantastic day. Begin as you mean to go on huh? Love on ya.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Before the youngsters toddled off to bed we shared a fire and some kheer (Nepali rice pudding), and some sugar cane with them. The sugar cane was heated in the fire for awhile, and then slammed into the ground making a noise not unlike that of an exploding fire cracker. Once "exploded" the kids were rushing up and grabbing at the still hot and sweet treat. I didn't think much of it myself but apparently it was wonderful!
Living with 29 kids can make indulging in the herbal side of this festival difficult, but as luck would have it, we had "load-shedding" (a set time for a blackout) that night, so after the little blighters were off to bed, we snuck away with some locals and had a bit of fun.
The fun did not only include the herbal indulgence. Some locals preferring a local beverage. But all willing and eager for a bit of a boogie, Nepali style, around a fire. It was a good laugh and a helluva lot of fun.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Picture it would ya...
A van the size of those little Suzuki things that flip when you sneeze too hard next to them, filled with a haphazard crew of passengers. Sardines. Human ones. Packed into a disposable moving object. With what sounds like a funked up Nepali version of "Flight of the Bumblebee" playing over the speakers. I would like to say "deck" or "radio" but maybe that's being overly generous. Hurtling (no embellishment here) towards our destination, weaving in and out of bigger disposable moving objects also carrying people and or inanimate objects. A constant sing-song from the open door as the young conductor is yelling his stops at people on the side of the road. The occasional whistle or a frantic banging which is his signal to the driver to stop. However, I still haven't figured out when he's whistling to stop or just vocalizing his admiration for a female passer-by. Its a credit to his vocal chords I tell ya. I've only been on one "bus" where the conductor who looked like he was 12 started out with a high voice, and ended up with something a baritone would be proud to own.
This day tho' it wasn't the conductor who brought everything to a halt- it was the driver. He interrupted his hurtling to bring us to a screeching halt to pay a social visit to some chicky on the side of the road. We were sat there for bout ten minutes while he (I imagine) tried to charm this lucky lady. Fair dues to the passengers, no one got mad or yelled or sighed or gave any indication that they were miffed. Me, I thought it was bloody hilarious! And couldn't stop giggling to myself.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Anna and I were lucky to be invited to Ram Krishna's place for this festival. Ram owns and runs the local chiya pasal near the orphanage with his wife. With his limited English and my bad Nepali we struck up a friendship almost immediately. His wife is as lovely as he is and they welcomed us both into their home.
So at 10am (11am in reality) we set off towards Ram's childhood village and his mum's home. Although its only half an hour out of central Kathmandu, the pace is as slow as if it were 30 miles away. His older sisters greeted us warmly but shyly on the roof of the house where rice mats had been laid to sit on. They spoke no English so smiles, gestures, and bad Nepali had to do. One of his sisters summoned her young son up to the roof with the purpose we think of being translator. At the tender age of 12 however, he collapsed in a fit of giggles whenever we spoke to him. Part of the celebration is to get "oiled". The mother putting oil on your head and slapping you a couple of times. We also had oil put on backs and massaged in by Ram's older sister. It was like being part of the family. Sitting around chatting, laughing, eating and taking photos. And my god! The food! It was never bloody ending!
First we had what we thought was lunch, but which we later learned was a snack. The best buffalo meat I've had in Nepal- spicy and so tender! Some beans and salty small fish thing, a potato salad concotion, chiura (bitten rice, not that nice really), and some typical Newar sweet which tasted like burnt molases. Our plates were full of this stuff, and after finishing it we were full aswell. An hour (at least it felt like that) or so later we had lunch. Dhal Bat. A meal which usually consists of rice (by the moundful), a lentil soupy thing and a veg curry or sometimes a meat curry. This is the staple Nepali meal. Most families will eat it twice a day for the whole of their lives. Sometimes its good. Sometimes its not. This dhal bat though was fantastic. But we couldn't eat it all, and in Nepal the hosts take exception to that. They thought something was wrong with the food. Through lots of pidgin Nepali and miming though we think they understood that the food was great but that we had useless appetites. This food was washed down with rakhsi. A usually rice based wine. Its usually potent. And Ram's mum's was no different. It was smooth but bloody hell it was like swallowing liquid fire. And Ram was swallowing huge mouthfuls while Anna and I were sipping at it. His big sister took control of the bottle, because according to her, after he has rakhsi Ram likes to fight. He of course vehemently denied this. Anna and I just laughed.
After the lunch Ram took us on a tour of his childhood village. Showing us the house he grew up in and introducing us to his cousins and childhood friends. We made the mistake of saying "yes" to an invitation to stay. This meant we had to eat more food and drink more alcohol. I was very nearly violently ill at the thought of it, but manners are manners, and we sipped and supped as best we could. Ram then took us to the family's plot of land where one of his sisters was picking saag (kinda like spinach). He then loaded us up with it and informed us it was for the orphanage. How cool is that?
Leaving was fun filled. The ladies of the house smiling and laughing. The kids running and playing and everyone promising to meet again. We had a great day, but if we thought it was over we were sadly mistaken.
Upon arrival at Ram's shop we were ushered into his home and rakhsi and snacks were placed before us. The thought was no longer there. At any moment I was about to bring up the entire day's scrumptious food and drink. I was only saved by the fact that Laxmi (Ram's wife) was working and Ram had a friend and child visiting. What should have been a 20 minute visit however took well over an hour as I refused more drink and tried hard to poison the potplant next to me with the stuff I already had in my glass.
Eventually we were allowed to leave and Ram joined us at the orphanage. The kids were happy to see us and the manager was happy with the saag. Ram then cemented his place in the kids' hearts when he went back to his shop and returned with typical festival sweets for them.
This is what I love about Nepal.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
There were truckloads of boxes filled with clothes from this German band. Sweatshirts. T-Shirts. Football (soccer) jerseys, football (rugby) jerseys, singlets, wife beaters (white singlets). You name it, it was in there. In all sizes. In all designs. For the kids... And cold volunteers.
Our kids at Hattigauda were freezing so we gave them some jumpers and t-shirts, taking photos for the band back in Germany (although we are unsure if they are aware of how generous they have been).
The kids at the new orphanage which has the poxy name "Shining Star", have had a lot of new things given to them but in the name of photos for publicity, we gave them some clothes to don aswell.
And let me tell ya, their sweatshirts are soooooooo comfy! I "borrowed" a hoody from the box to keep me warm as I'm seriously lacking in the warm clothes department, and I shall be sad to see it go when I leave here. Its just too damn heavy to carry onwards. Interesting point; I was waiting for a bus one day, I've never seen these sweatshirts for sale anywhere in Kathmandu, but lo and behold if the bus "conductor" wasn't wearing one of our sweatshirts. He looked too old to be one of our orphans, so I've no idea where he got it from. And its one of the nice ones!! A zip up hoody! Dammit! I missed the boat on that one!
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Once again the motley crew assembled in Thamel to celebrate the coming of the New Year. This time round no one was sick, we had lost a couple to onward travels, but the food was good and the atmosphere chipper.
My recollection of the evening is hazy, but, I know that there were bars and dancing galore. Not necessarily graceful dancing but dancing nevertheless. One new volunteer lasted til the wee hours of the morning, completely forgetting that he had to be up and at training by 9am that day. Ah bless!
The general mood in Thamel was happy before the midnight countdown. After however, as the morning wore on, the locals began to get restless and more than once a fight broke out. It was amusing I must say- Nepali people are not that big, and seeing them having a scrap for me was like watching over grown children at play. It seems when fueled by alcohol, the normally friendly, smiling Nepali male, needs no excuse to start throwing his weight around. All of the scraps I saw (at least six, on the road and in the club we ended up in) were between Nepali, no foreigners involved. Apparently when Nepali men scrap its because of a woman (as told to me by a Nepali man). Of course the alcohol and the excess of testosterone would have absolutely nothing to do with it.
We volunteers stayed out of the way and out of trouble. We had a good time, welcomed the New Year in style, and hoped that the various illnesses would keep away at least for the first month of the year.
Onwards and Upwards!