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!