24 June, 2010

heading to Kathmandu...

I am heading to Kathmandu to hang out with Ashley for a few days before I head to the US (via India and Paris).  Not sure when I'll blog again, could be a couple of weeks, so in the meantime, you can reminisce on past blogs...it is summer right -time for all the re-runs?  If I was a big fancy blogger, I could hire a temp -like a guest blogger everyday, but then one of my guest bloggers could get a following and then branch on his/her own and then demand more attention and I would slowly slip away into oblivion and then the call one lonely evening as I sit rocking back and forth in the darkest corner of my mother's basement. The call that my presence is requested on some horrible TV show like "Where Are They Now? -The Virtual Series" or "Blog Brother" or the worst of all a Jerry Springer episode titled "I blogged, er...I mean...'dated' her when she was cool"!       

I just got the chills!  Ick!

I will miss the children here, but will look forward to my Cambodian adventure in Aug and then back to CPH in November!

Peace and Good Stuff,

Melinda Kay

on a strange note:  when ever I typed 'could' it came out 'cold' and then 'could be' actually was typed 'cold beer'!  Do I miss airconditioning, ice cubes, and goose bumps?  Just what is my subconscious telling me!

21 June, 2010

Cheezy Poofs part II




Well the bag has been broken! It appears the contents of the rather large bag of cheesy poofs contained small bags of even smaller bags of the round orange treats. The kids were each given 3 or 4 smaller bags of treats for snack today. Jaya handed me some bags as I started laughing at the kids as they hungrily tore into theirs.


I then noticed Sunil putting them into his juice…Juice is an understatement as it tastes like really really weak sugarless kool-aid. The kids and adults love the juice which just proves the point that if children are not given ‘crap food and drink’ they will never know what they are missing! I just pray that no volunteer ever says “hey, you know how good this would be with some sugar”…
I will try just about anything (that doesn’t have a face) but there are some things I just know…such as a soggy cheese ball will not be appetizing to my palate.

I grabbed the discarded large empty bag that formerlly encased all the smaller ones and demanded that the kids pick up all the little plastic bags that were carelessly tossed onto the ground (still working on the garbage thing), I heard Jaya yell to them to give their bags to “miss” and to clean up around them. At least I have her on my side! Ruplal mentioned, that “It is hard to stop throwing garbage on the ground since that is what Nepali’s do”. I of course, mentioned that regardless of what country you call home, anyone can stop a destructive action…”Yes, Miss” was the reply as a sly grin came over his face.



I then asked them what the Nepali word for the snacks is. Nishan said “cheese” and I said, “yes, they are a cheese snack, but what is the Nepali word for them?” He looked at me and said, “we call them cheese balls in Nepal”. I cracked up and realized that there isn’t necessarily a language committee ready to rename every ‘western’ introduction into their country. Even the ignorant racist Americans who think English should be forced from the mouths of everyone who steps foot in the US calls a burrito a burrito.

20 June, 2010

Is Gluttony ALWAYS a sin??

If so, it’s unheard of at CPH! Last night Bhola mentioned to the kids at Prayer that I will be leaving in a few days and then later that evening, he asked me what my favorite foods here are so they can prepare them for me before I leave. I am very aware that saying “I don’t know” or “Really, I like everything” is not an acceptable answer and will only be met with further persuading to indeed TELL them what you like…so I said…
 
”um…I like that potato and onion thing with green stuff on it…I like Carela (sp?) which is a black long extremely bitter thing; that most hate…I like the rotee with the potato and onion on the inside…I like anything with chick peas in it…I love ‘yellow’ rice.” --I figured that was enough to answer their question.

Well today at brunch (since we eat around 10, it’s not really classified as breakfast or lunch since we won’t eat a full meal again until evening) Steffi was skipping a meal since her stomach wasn’t feeling so hot. As I sat down to eat and they started filling my place, Jaya told me that she had made the rice and Laxmi had made the pickle dish and Chandra had made the daal and Monita had made the saag (greens). I made a point to tell them all THANK you for all pitching in to make such a tasty meal!

Well, I don’t know if it was because Steffi wasn’t there or what, but they loaded up my plate and seriously wouldn’t take no for an answer. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was going to be stuffed! Just when I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, Jaya proceeded to dump another load of yellow rice on my plate. I said STOP! You are going to make me moti (Nepali for fat). Well that didn’t stop her as she said “Miss, little little” –referring to her just giving me a ‘little more’ food. I sighed and started eating again. I thought that there was no way I could waste this specially prepared food as the philosophy of ‘binge and purge’ suddenly popped into my head.

Well after I stuffed the last of my delicious meal in my mouth, I hunted down Steffi and told her that she HAD to eat dinner because they are making me eat her portions as well as mine!

We actually had a late brunch around 11 today, so I was still full when I heard the snack bell ring around 3:00. I thought “oh good TEA TIME” and patiently waited for the knock on my door…well the knock just came and not only wasn’t it tea, it wasn’t a liquid. Instead beautiful miss Lata brought me a plate ½ full of the same potato/chickpea pickle I had stuffed down at brunch as well as a huge amount of ‘cookie dough’. Now I have had my share of sneaking dough while baking, but the amount they have me would have made a dozen cookies easily!

Alone here in my room, I contemplated my option of physically tossing it away, but mentally and emotionally, sigh, I just can’t….so here I sit eating the last of the sweet dough as Monita shows up with my tea; presumable to wash down my gluttonous actions.

I sincerely hope that they are not going to feed me like this for the next 4 days or I’ll have to take to wearing my mala prayer beads all the time as to counteract my action.

Dear God, please forgive them, as they know not what they do – and forgive me as I do know what I do, but am unable to stop! If you look the other way this one week, I promise that after June 27th, I won’t stuff myself with Nepali food until November 1st. Deal?

17 June, 2010

MISS!

The other day about 5 of the kids were trying to figure out this wooden lounge chair thing. I glanced over as they were totally not getting it. I was in a circle of about 6 adults who went on chatting. I couldn’t stand it any longer as I had replayed how to fix the chair over and over in my mind as if I could telepathically help them figure it out. I got up and said “stop”, then made the chair work. The kids immediately took turns sitting in it before handing it over to one of the adults. I sat back down with a satisfied feeling and Aama#2 (Bhola’s other mom –his father had 3 wives, but that’s another story) looked at me with her amazingly wrinkled beautiful face and grinned real big and patted my arm as a sign of ‘good job’.

Later that day I was helping to prepare the tree greens (take off the big leaves and stems) and Jaya said something to Bhola (in Nepali) and the others smiled. He turned to me and said that Jaya said that I was a good person and helper. I could have cried with joy, because you see I kept having this nagging feeling that she didn’t really like me here. Absolutely no reason other than my own insecurities and inability to understand her language. Like one day, I was moving a small table and there was a glass of tea on it with a plate on the top of it to keep it hot. I knew it was there, so I was being careful. Jaya yelled “MISS” and motioned for me to put it down. I was confused and someone else took off the tea cup. I first thought (A)-I knew the cup was there and (B)-I was being careful and (C)-You didn’t have to yell at me. Of course (A)-she didn’t know that I knew the cup was there which would then encompass (B) as if I didn’t know the cup was there, then I may not be careful and it would spill and (C)-she yelled a one word command because if she had said anything else, I would not have understood or responded therefore in her mind I would have accidentally spilled the tea.

There have been other situations like that which my mind initially twists, and I have to try to not have my feelings/pride hurt. Chandra’s actions and words have done the same thing. While making me a cup of tea, one day she left the tea on the gas stove and moved to stir the rice in the fire stove across the room. I was standing there when the tea started to boil over. I took the knob to turn the flame down and turned it the wrong way, initially. About that time she saw me and yelled “MISS” as if I didn’t know what I was doing. As she yelled “my name” I was turning the knob the other way causing the flame to go down and the tea was saved. She was at my side by then and I pointed to the flame and said “down” and motioned with my hand. She just poured my tea and handed me the cup. AGAIN, due to a language barrier, I couldn’t explain myself and she couldn’t either. I walked away feeling low.

Just now, there was a knock on my door (ironically or not, as I’m busily typing this post) and when I opened it there was Chandra with a cup of tea for me. As I said ‘THANK YOU” and gave her a big smile while performing my usual -patting my stomach –‘sign’ that I LOVE anything that I have eaten here- she gave me a big smile back and said ‘you’re welcome’, Miss’. Now she could have been smiling because I just finished my laundry and there are bras and panties hanging right outside my doorway and in this wind they could have smacked her in the head…but I guess I that I wouldn’t smile if undergarments slapped me in the face even if they were clean…Chandra could have had any one of the kids walk across the yard and up the 2 flights of stairs to bring it up here to my room, but instead she did it herself.

These beautiful women’s remarks, gestures and actions confirm that I am appreciated here and I realize that any ‘stupid’ insecure thoughts that enter my mind should be utterly and completely ignored!

16 June, 2010

I’m leaving one a jet plane (once again).


Well, after 45 minutes on and off with Air France, I have my ticket changed! I will leave Nepal and be back to Kansas in time watch my niece walk down the aisle. That same little niece that would have been my flower girl had I not backed out of my own wedding once upon a time! Instead of “Oh, that’s my Aunt Melinda; I have such fond memories of the time I got to wear a pretty dress and be in her wedding”, it will now be, “Oh, that’s my Aunt Melinda, she’s destined to be an old maid and couldn’t even afford to buy me a wedding present”…


After being in the states for the month of July, I plan to head to Cambodia and work/live at Wat Opot Children's Community a home for vulnerable children whose life has been altered in one way or another because of HIV/AIDS. I will be in Cambodia from August through October and then back to CPH – Nepal in November. Don’t ask me what’s after that because in a place where I rarely know the day or time, that’s about as far in advance I can even fathom at this time!

15 June, 2010

Chickens!




Not always so peaceful at the peace home…The chickens are disappearing one by one! It all started when someone (I won’t mention names) wanted to start raising chickens for food. Of course they started this shortly before I arrived; much to my displeasure. All was going well until the baby chicks grew up and it was realized that there was one female in the pack of males. This poor female was constantly harassed by the males until Chandra decided to, ahem…”take it under her wing”.



This poor female chicken was in constant fright always running to a human for safety from the horney males! It was so funny to see this grown chicken sitting on any lap that it could find, and once ran to Jaya and tried to hide under her skirt. Chandra cracks up because I now refer to it as her baby. Chandra’s baby cookara (as they are called here). It is hand fed by everyone and I have become very protective of it myself.






This chicken now enjoys a posh life; when it’s not being hunted down by the others. One day as I was working on the computer, it moseyed on in and made itself at home. Another time Chandra sat it down just for a moment and out of nowhere a male chicken attacked it, while I chased that one away, another dive bombed her! The poor thing was shaking when I finally got to it and brought it to the safety of the kitchen where it quickly took its position in the corner near Chandra.

The final straw is that the males are now humping the flip flops! With almost 40 people on the premises there are shoes everywhere and given the fact that shoes are not worn indoors, they are laying around mostly by the kitchen as the kids come and go. Bhola had told me that the male cookara’s are going after the red or pink flip flops. I didn’t really believe that a chicken would look at a shoe with love in its beady little eyes, but I witnessed it last night at dinner.

Just as we sat down a chicken jumped on my shoe and started to try to mate with it! I jumped up and chased it off yelling “Stop humping my shoe” which brought about lots of laughter from the kids. I just looked at my poor innocent flip flop and tried not to think of it differently –it wasn’t the shoe’s fault, I was the one that left it all alone susceptible to live fowl. As I sat down, I mentioned to Bhola that it’s getting worse, since my flip flops are black.

After having the chickens around for about a month, the original decision was to not use them for food…after a conversation concerning how actually a ‘peace home’ isn’t so peaceful if it’s killing their animals. I was overjoyed upon hearing this! But I guess under the new circumstances and gang banging attempts; someone thought otherwise and there was chicken on the menu for lunch today. Ever respectful of those of us who don’t eat things with a face, I was not informed prior to the deed…but at meal time it was quite evident, I just politely looked the other way.

14 June, 2010

Food:

As my interests continue to go back to food, I particularly notice food cultures of places where I have lived (or even visited). Here in Nepal the kids eat a large ‘brunch’ around 9:00 before school (which begins at 10:30). This food will hold them over until a small snack, which they eat around 1:30ish. They will not have another full meal until the evening meal around 8:00pm. Upon first glance, this seems like they are not getting enough to eat, but by looking further at WHAT they eat, these children are sooo healthy on the inside.

These children do not eat processed foods, chips, cookies, twinkies, microwaveable foods, etc. (Besides the random Cheezy Poof!) There is no sugary cereal or pop tarts in the morning to give them a quick high before school. There is thankfully no fast food either. Here the children eat pure brain food! They drink milk, pure milk from grazing animals that get their own nutrition from organic grass that grows from god’s good earth. They don’t drink a ‘westernized’ milky liquid resembling pure milk, which, once upon a time, wasn’t bad for you, but today if the Dairy Industry was required to list all the possible ingredients that are in their milk (from the antibiotics and other drugs given to the cows to the pesticide/insecticide sprayed corn that the cows are forced to eat, etc.) the list of ingredients would take up the whole label.


The rural children of Nepal that I am around have rice, lentils, vegetable, potatoes and often beans, chick peas and very occasionally chicken or fish. There is no arguing about what’s for dinner. This is your meal and you eat it because the next meal won’t come for awhile. There certainly are unhealthy children and adults in Nepal as well; but they are unhealthy because they are poor and their family cannot purchase the foods that their body needs, they are not unhealthy because they are eating tons of foods with little or no nutritional value.


On a side note, I find it particularly irritating that my Microsoft word program recognized the word twinkie and actually red-lined it because I didn’t spell it with a capital letter! I thought capital letters were to be used for ‘important words’. I remember writing my MA thesis, “Structural Violence and the Ethics of Eating” and every time I wrote down any fast food chain (need I mention names?) the word program recognized if I spelled it wrong or the infamous ‘capital letter conundrum’. In my world, the word twinkie and names of fast food chains will never ever deserve a capital letter.

13 June, 2010

Some of my meals and snacks!!!

This is a sweet treat served up to me on a homemade leaf dish. It’s a sugar mixture that I refer to as “cookie dough” and very good!
 

Fried roti (bread) with 2 different kinds of Achars (sweet/spicy/bitter mixture made with vegetables or fruit)





Banana Crepes!




This one is not one of my favorites. It’s puffed rice cereal which tastes like cardboard to me. The kids love it and they eat it plain as a snack. On this day I put the cereal in the chai (tea) to give it some flavor but it quickly turned soggy and I had to drink the a slushy mixture. I refuse to waste food here, so I now turn down the snack instead of trying to find a way to enjoy it.





Another fried roti dish with some veggies on the side. I LOVE this roti and when I mentioned that it was sooo good, Bhola said I can have it more often, just tell Chandra. After weighing the unhealthiness of the treat, I didn’t mention anything to her…they love to please here and I could see them making it for me everyday!




Mango!! I am speechless at its glowing beauty…




 
This snack was served first to me during a holiday here. I was perplexed as it was served on a plate without a spoon (in contrast to the one in the photo). It is a mixture of different freshly ground flours with sugar. I watched the kids eat it and they were basically grabbing a handful and putting it in their mouth. I did the same and got half of it down my shirt and the other half was stuck like glue inside my mouth. I took a big drink of water and washed it down. I looked around convinced that they had given it to me as a joke to see if I would indeed eat anything they give me, but nope, everyone was eating it up. I managed to pinch a little bit in my fingers and bring it to my mouth with minimal spillage…but although it was interestingly good, I wasn’t that much into eating sugar flour! The next time they brought it to me, I was alone in my room and they had given me a spoon with it. I took a big mouthful and about choked to death! Half of the powdery mixture got sucked down my throat on my next breath and the other half stuck tight to the inside of my mouth. I then realized that if I was going to be able to enjoy this yummy healthy treat I would have to get creative. I poured some water into the mixture like a porridge (cream of wheat-ish) and it was much better. The third time it was served to me, Bhola and I were working on the computer and I told him of my way of eating it. He tried it my way and said he liked it!



Now on to the meals!


This is a typical meal with Bhat (rice), vegetable and potatoes (mixed with sprouting beans) on the plate and daal in the small round dish. Daal is used like a gravy for the main meal and are typically made from lentils. This meal we also had homemade yogurt on the side. Basically you pour the daal over the rice mix with your hands and then add some of the other foods to the rice, mix again and eat!




This meal was very filling! In addition to the Dhal baat, we had potatoes/beans, a vegetable and also greens and ROTI (bread)! YUM! There is also a glimpe of ‘pickle’ under the roti.






A couple more same, same, but different meals.

12 June, 2010

New Clothes!


While Steffi was in Kathmandu she managed to snag 3 Nepali ‘dresses’ or ‘cortas’ She brought them to Dang and lent me one to wear last Friday -we went to school in style! The reception we received, first at CPH and then again at HVP was a bit overwhelming. I don’t care how vain a person may be, being told over and over “Miss, you look beautiful!” gets old fast. I mentioned to Steffi that if we were ever feeling low we should just wear a corta and our spirits (and ego) will rise.

Steffi and I in our Nepali glory!

Now these clothes do nothing to flatter the figure, which is actually nice in its own special way. I came here without a mirror and didn’t have one for the first month and a half. I used the reflection of myself in my bedroom window to see if my hair was doable or not. Basically I have had to come to terms with my thin-fine-super straight hair. There’s nothing I can do with it here. No blow-dryer, no product, basically no style. It’s ponytailville for me every day. I snagged a small hand held mirror that an overnight guest left in the bathroom we shared. Putting in my contacts became much easier! But now I could see what I looked like every day; life was easier without the mirror, but I grew to appreciate its reflective presence.

Wearing the Corta (which is actually the name for the top, the pants and scarf each have names too, but I’ve yet to firm them to memory) is like having the freedom I had before Little Miss Mirror entered my life. The corta is made to cover your butt. You can have them made to be a little shorter, but the butt shield is mandatory. No full length mirror is needed with these babies!

I loved wearing it so much that day! It just felt right on my body. So much so that today I went to the cloth store with Bhola and Steffi and bought enough material for 3 of them! It will be really nice to wear them to the school since my personality wants to fit in more than stand out…






In the cloth store, I was right at home! There were so many beautiful choices! I told Bhola that I would like to have 3 corta’s (tops) that have similar colors and then get 3 pants that could be worn with all 3 tops; interchangeable outfits. Bhola looked at me and said a very quizzical “Why?”. I had previously realized that that’s not the norm here so instead of explaining my reasoning, I just said,” never mind, help me pick some cloth”. All boxes aren’t meant to be looked outside of…or not at least at this time. I picked 2 top fabrics, 2 pant fabrics and 2 scarf fabrics and then one nicer more detailed set of all three already cut and ready to be made all for the whopping price of about $25


This pile of cloth will now be 3 authentic Nepali outfits!







Can’t wait to get my new digs tailor made for me!

11 June, 2010

Bitter Sweet

I have less than 2 weeks here in Dang before I head to Kathmandu and then to the US. I am really feeling sad about it. It seems that I am always saying goodbye… This is the life I have chosen. I revel in the Hello’s and torture myself with Goodbye’s. It doesn’t seem possible that I have been here almost 3 months! Life passes by so quickly. As I reflect upon what I have experienced during my time here I find that I have witnessed over two and a half months of no negativity (aside from some stuff I read on Facebook; which I now only check weekly instead of daily).

Maybe that is why I choose to go to faraway places. To experience life without complaints (or complaints voiced in a language I do not understand), while I constantly try to remain in the now. I have begun to meditate; it’s not going so well as my mind has a problem with stopping (imagine that…) but I will keep it up. My mind will get it sooner or later; I have learned the art of patience and waiting!
As I sat in the shade of the mango tree watching the comings and goings of the home, I thought of Bhola and Jaya. I really sank in that they have devoted their life to vunerable children. They used to live in Kathmandu and then the town of Ghorahi. A comfortable life with probably more modern things. They then moved back to Bhola’s village and in the home he grew up in. He mentioned to me once that others thought he was crazy! He’s giving up the life of luxury (so to speak) and will be ‘going backwards’ as they say it here.



Let’s see, they moved back to a small village. They gave up materialistic things. They gave up a fast-paced money and comfort driven life. In turn they have opened their hearts to children much less fortunate then their own 2 children, who are grown and currently living in Kathmandu. They are now surrounded by 31 sweet amazing children. Children who otherwise would more than likely be statistically dead, prostitutes, alcoholic, child laborers, beaters or beaten, etc… For the life they have chosen to lead, some view them as ‘backwards’. I guess it all lies in priorities in life. Inner and outer happiness. Fake and genuine happiness. Stress or relaxation.


I guess it is no different in any country. Success is measured materialistically and financially, but without both, I am richer than I have ever been! I have traveled across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans by private plane and across Nepal by public bus. I have lived in a gianormous mansion with a full house staff and a fleet of security guards as well as a congested children’s home with a ‘security staff’ of 4 mangy albeit friendly dogs. When I left the “lap of luxury”, I too was told by “friends(?)” that I was crazy; they questioned why I would want to give everything up (even though these “friends?” knew that I wasn’t happy). At the time, I couldn’t articulate why I needed to change my lifestyle; why I needed to escape the materialistic clutches that had imprisoned me for many years.


In reflection of my ‘jet set’ life, no one told me “You are doing a wonderful job” or “You are changing the world one child at a time” and NO ONE said that they were proud of me…and why should have they, I wasn’t proud of me then, either. I felt empty back then. I tried to fill that emptiness with more things (or different boyfriends). I didn’t appreciate many things (or even people) back then like I do now. For me simplicity is the spice of my life. When I’m sad, I cry. When I’m happy, I laugh. Sad-happy, goodbye-hello…facts of life. I am not yet ready to make the commitment Bhola and Jaya have, but I am doing what I can to find my place in this world.


For now I will just look forward to seeing the wonderful faces back in the US that I love! (before I tell them goodbye once again…sigh…

10 June, 2010

FUN on the School Bus!

















The new bus now has the school name applied to it! And the ‘old’ bus is still chugging along bringing us safely (with the help of our master driver) to and from school. Since it’s impossible to quickly and quietly take a photo without 100 pairs of eyes catching me, I only got in a quick shot of Jyoti crashed out on the bus –and our driver who had to keep glancing at her to make sure she didn’t all of a sudden jerk her foot and hit the gear shift.




















After that I just handed my yet-to-be-broken camera to the boys in the seat in front of me and said, ‘have at it’.




They snapped one of Jyoti on my knee after I removed her from the engine plate thing since it would have burned her eventually and I was afraid that the driver would crash since he kept looking at her. She was so knocked out that she wouldn’t wake up! 



I am happy to also have a shot of Me and Bibek! I know it’s not good to have favorites…so let’s say, he’s ONE of my 31 favorites!

08 June, 2010

The stooges clean up!


After the chalk fun the stooges spied my bathroom and decided to wash up…REALLY wash up. They cleaned every body part that wasn’t covered up by clothes. I finally had to say, “ OK, enough, you are all clean!!” They then trotted down the stairs to find a new project.


07 June, 2010

You TOO can play with CHALK!!

The Three Stooges were following me around the other day like baby chicks following a hen.  At a loss for what to do with them; I was tired of the 'happy/sad' or 'mine/yours' game.  I also know the Nepali words for eyes, nose, hair, etc...so didn't feel like that either....then I remembered my stash of CHALK!

They pecked along behind me while I went up to top floor. We started with the alphabet and they really got into it but it wasn’t long before they were drawing portraits…portraits of who, I didn’t ask!








 
When they exhausted my chalk supply, I stepped back to observe their artwork.  You have to love the mentality of 3 and 4 year olds!  Do we really look like a centipede in their eyes?

How about the bat looking human with super skinny long legs?