Sunday, June 27, 2010

What is a Dress Code?

I sometimes wonder. Yes I know it is monsoon and hot and sticky, but REALLY! Do crotch busting denim cut offs really keep you cool? Honestly, some of the outfits the young tourists wear in a conservative Hindu country have to be seen to be believed; tight revealing shorts, skirts and dresses that stop before they start. And they wonder why the guys leer at them. This is a country, girls and boys, where people live with their parents till they get married (and often afterwards too!). PDA (Public Display of Affection) is frowned upon, and nice young ladies don't drink, swear or smoke. And the accepted national outfit is 6 metres of material for ladies (a sari), or the 'pyjama suit' Kurta Salwar which covers from neck to ankles. So please, have a bit of respect for others if not for yourselves and at least cover those thighs.
That's my rant for the day.
Well the book launch was lovely but SO hot and sticky - lots to drink and lovely snacks and about 100 people turned up. The traffic to get there once again was god-awful so we were melted before we got there - but so was everyone else.We all rehydrated at the bar as quickly as we could before the formalities began. By this time Robin was starting to suffer from a tummy bug - very common this time of year - but managed to get through his speech and meet and greet a few people before we came home, and had to give the newlyweds party a miss. Just as I had convinced Robin to take some tablets the power went off for 2 hours - no TV, no light, no fan and no mozzie killer. Phew it was HOT but there was Robin wrapped up in his blanket. Sure sign of illness. Swift application of Cipro has put him right though and he is fighting fit again.
Saturday was a bit of a dud as Robin wanted to stay close to facilities.... but we went out last night for a cool refreshment and some food before meting up with a friend in Sams, where we were sharing the terrace with a bunch of young British volunteers on 'day release' - and boy were they making the most of it. I have never seen so many different types of shots going out there - I think the worst drink I saw was vodka and fanta but there may have been some other awful ones. Lots of Sambucca and Baileys - just the thing for a hot evening. By 8pm most of them were smashed and dancing badly. Oh dear. Then some of them decided to talk to us while they were ordering drinks - poor darlings. Not a very enlightening conversation but there you go.
Today was Sunday Roast at the British Club - the beef was apparently very good and I enjoyed my lasagne and beer. We had a few friends along: Rafi, Sarah and Robin had beef while Kathryn, Stephen Darling and I had lasagne - except that SD was having a personal drama (as usual) and 'just couldn't face it darling'. So we divided up his meal and ate that too.
Everyone is desperately hoping the monsoon rain which is 2 weeks late finally arrives as the humidity is about 89% right now and you can't move without drowning yourself in sweat. Noice.

Here's me looking hot and intelligent at the cafeteria on the way up to Tigers Nest in Bhutan, with the naughty cat who just about took my arm off when it heard me open the energy bar!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bubbly company

Last night was dinner at the embassy, in charming company too! We had champers to start (after sinking a few beers at the Radisson with Simon, Miriam and her mum Lucille) to toast Julia Gillard's PMship, then our friend Lisa's accession to the Hon Con for New Zealand, then it was just a general cheers. We were in fact Aussies together to celebrate before the launch of the book by Miriam on the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Nepal and Australia. I think I can safely say a grand old night was had by all, except our poor driver who was waiting outside for us to put our glasses down and go home.
Speaking of which we had a delightful trip to get to the embassy from the Radisson. Being a bunch of cheapskates we decided to get 5 of us plus driver into one car. OMG. I sat on/perched on/squashed Robin's lap in the front seat, while getting a gear stick in unusual places, and having my legendarily bad knees jammed up against the window winder, while my neck was at an angle that usually indicates death by falling down stairs! And on the way home we very kindly gave everyone a lift and I had to do it all again. Needless to say there are bits of me today that don't feel too good!
This afternoon we have the official book launch, where Robin is going to make a speech along with Simon Balderstone (who is a hugely entertaining chap), the Ambassador, the deputy tourism minister and Miriam who wrote the book. I do hope the bubbly stays locked away.... The book has turned out rather well, but it is not for sale so I can't get you a copy, no matter how nicely you ask.
Depending on when the embassy asks us to leave we are then due at a reception on the other side of town at our niece's new home with her in-laws. I think it is really a party for the younger set so we may not stay too long there.
I got absolutely drenched on Wednesday in a storm that went on for about 90 minutes so I think we can say that the monsoon has arrived.
The streets are filled with ladies in sparkly saris as the wedding season is in full swing, and the touts are getting very insistent as there is hardly anyone out and about anymore.
Here's some pics that have nothing to do with today's story:

Robin and I at the Tigers Nest Monastery in Bhutan.

The funky room we stayed in at the Gangtey Palace hotel in Paro, Bhutan. The room above us was haunted - and there was nobody staying in it when we were there but you could hear footsteps and furniture moving anyway. EEK!

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Misfits and Idiots

Not quite sure which category this fellow fits! Anyway, Robin came up with the notion that Kathmandu in particular is full of misfits and idiots at this time of the year. Says a lot for us doesn't it! it isn't trekking season, the weather is stinking, the water is brown (if you can get any) and the salads come with amoeba dressing.
But it is good to see that locals are recycling the water bottles in new and interesting ways.
Thamel is awash with World Cup experts and we are managing to avoid most of them since we have  almost less than no interest in the World Cup. Everywhere you go there are people glued to the telly - even the tiny book shop round the corner has a telly, and the shopkeepers from even tinier shops around that don't have telly all stand around outside watching. It all seems very strange.
The newlyweds visited us yesterday with an invitation to a reception at his parents place this Friday, which clashes with one of our Embassy functions. So I guess we will be doing a lot of running around that night. At least we might escape the blasted football.
Excitement in the street yesterday when some powerlines across the street blew up rather spectacularly in a shower of sparks and with sufficient noise to get everyone out of their places and hanging over balconies. Luckily somebody yelled at them to turn off the electricity before they started throwing buckets of water! And just up the road someone banged into a supposedly safe cable and ended up in hospital with burns.
Well, we're off for Robin's reflexology now so more later!

Monday, June 21, 2010

OMG it's Wedding Season

On Friday morning I went off to Miss Junie's Hairdo Emporium for a quick colour to discover that there were already about a dozen bibis there getting their hair wedding-ised - a sort of bun on the side affair with dangly bits. Of course they were horrified when they heard someone with such short hair was off to a wedding in a few days! Anyway, got that done and even managed to fit in a swim that afternoon.
Saturday was taken up with a round of social visits around the valley before meeting up with an old mate and heading to a pub with no air and white vinyl seats - how delightful in the monsoon humidity!
So yesterday we had to be at the Party Palace by 8am. UP at 6.30 for a shower and a bite to eat before installing myself in the Christmas fairy outfit. By the time I got to the bottom of the stairs I was already hot, and felt like a right wally standing out the front of the hotel waiting for the car to arrive. Once inside the PP we were met with a ceremony that was mystifying to say the least. At one end, on the concrete floor, was constructed a large grassy canopy thing with tinsel all around it and a fire in the middle. The bride was sitting there with some priests getting what we figure was some sort of purification thingy. The groom eventually arrived and there was some more strange stuff, including something with twigs and an umbrella (folding). We ran into a whole bunch of people from the village of Jamrung, where the family originally hails from, and had a good old gossip. When the dal bhat buffet appeared we got a leave pass and headed to the British Club for lunch before going back for the rest of the fun. The place was a sea of sequins and georgette (so lovely in this weather) and it seemed like a good time was had by all.
And of course as the bride disappeared off into the Ring Road traffic jam in a flower bedecked car, mum lost it completely and had to be helped into the minibus sobbing her little head off. At 5pm we finally made it home where I managed to extricate myself from the sweaty sequinned affair and went out for several well earned drinks.
Here's some photos for you:

Me and the happy couple!

And here's Robin with the kids we've watched grow up for 15 or so years.

Happy Days!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blast the World Cup

I'm sure that because everyone in Nepal is watching the World Cup our load shedding hours have GONE UP. Disgraceful.Thank goodness Sam's seems to be the only place in Thamel that isn't showing the soccer, so we can go there and enjoy a relatively quiet drink - except for the cheering from across the street.
Robin thinks that there is a plot by the Nepal Electricity Authority to switch off the power just when there is about 15 minutes to go in a game. I would not be surprised.
So what is happening in the 'du? Well life is fairly quiet in general, except for the people across the road knocking a couple of floors down - and it's after 9.30 pm. They should nick off and watch the soccer.
Robin had a wonderful reflexology treatment from Ilse the other day, and we had a go at packing up some stuff to leave here, complete with Excel spreadsheet inventory. Let's see how accurate THAT is when we get home and I can't find something.
Yesterday was Billi's birthday so we all met at Sam's for drinks, which went on a bit, before heading out for Italian. It was an eclectic bunch, and I think the quote of the night has to go to Caroline, who was talking about a person here who shall remain nameless, but has "an amazing capacity to tolerate incompetence". Which is pretty handy here if you have to deal with NGOs. I say no more.
Excitement is building for the wedding on Sunday - I collected my outfit today and then discovered that our presence is required at the Swoyambhu Party Palace from 8 am Sunday - and me dressed in sequins looking like something that has been stuck on top of an Xmas tree! That should be a sight for sore eyes.
God, now the dog across the road is playing on the cement roof with his tin can - ghastly noise.
My excellent news is that I got my temp job back for a month or so which means at least I can pay some bills and eat. So the email order I sent the butcher for sausages and bacon will be OK!
Everyone is thinking the monsoon might have started as the weather has been really cloudy and muggy, but the heavy rain just hasn't come, only an annoying pizzle. Not enough to even break out the brolly.

Here's a photo of a sweet old dear in Thimphu at a temple.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Back from Bhutan

Well here we are back together again in crazy Katty. The trip to Bhutan was certainly eventful - especially the bit where I got to Katty airport at 8am for the 11am flight which NO LONGER EXISTS. ha ha too funny NOT. Nobody in Nepal knew anything so I had to call Bhutan to find out that Druk had changed their flight schedule but didn't bother to tell anyone - except I guess the pilots! So I had to wait till 1pm to actually leave the country - the first time I've had an international flight in a prop plane. Great views of the Himalaya.
So then I arrived in paro and ended up grabbing the wrong bag....
It was great to see Robin again and notwithstanding the cuisine I thought that Bhutan was pretty good. Although we didn't have much 'free time' we got to see all the stuff I had always wanted to see and the weather was fine - in fact since I turned up there was no rain at all, much to Robin's delight.
I don't think I'd ever seen so many flowers in one place, and the valleys were a delicious green with all the rice growing. The forests are fantastic and the buildings are definitely photogenic. But I felt like I was in Munchkin land - almost everyone was a good 10cm shorter than me and I spent a lot of time ducking! The Bhutanese food in Bhutan is better than the Bhutanese food in Katty, but I still wouldn't rave about it.
 The famous and very large Punakha Dzong. At least it didn't involve too much climbing like going to the Tigers Nest monastery in Paro. Yes I did make it all the way up and it was HOT. My camera gave up so you will have to wait for photos from Robin's camera.
When we got back here yesterday we got some bad news about a friend, Joel. He worked with our mate Jamie and was leading a bicycle tour through Ladakh when he had a heart attack and died. The place just won't be same without him.
Well it's time I finished breakfast and let Robin have a go at the computer. See you soon.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time for a new country

That's right, tomorrow I go to my first new country in years, Bhutan, to meet brave sir Robin (who should actually be renamed dripping wet sir Robin). It will be lovely to meet up again after such a long time. The last 4 or 5 days he's had no views, unappealing campsites and walking along roads to add to the joy of the almost constant rain (which I might add is forecast to stop tomorrow). Hopefully I won't have to sit on my luggage outside Paro airport for too long waiting for them to emerge from the trail, bouncing along in a car that will undoubtedly have no legroom and be full of equipment. And of course Robin will be hairy and smelly. What a treat!
So what else has been happening. Well the big mystery of Thamel at the moment is where is Verena, who is usually behind the bar at Sams. She hasn't been spotted since Saturday evening and the word is she is either having a shopping trip to Bangkok, has run away to the circus, or having a beach holiday. Probably none of them are true.
And after I wrote on Sunday I started to go downhill rapidly - so much so that  could barely walk. I made it out for one drink (which as anyone who knows me will tell you indicates that I was probably only seconds away from death) and a quick snack before being back home BEFORE 8pm. At least I got to watch the French Open men's final.
We've had not a drop of rain since Friday and it is becoming stifling in town. No breeze, no rain, no relief although the met office confidently predicts that the weather will change tomorrow. Yeah right.You're better off trusting the priests zany predictions.
Looking at the itinerary I finally got for Bhutan it seems I can anticipate lots of monasteries, handicraft centres and museums. Oh joy. And of course the food as featured recently in this blog. In fact, I am passing on a birthday party tonight because it is going to the restaurant here that serves the weird cheese curry thing.
All of the wedding invitations are finally done, now they just need to be delivered.
I don't expect to be in touch in Bhutan so you will just have to wait till next week to hear all about it.

This is why it takes so long to get anywhere in this crazee place.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Another fun weekend...

First off was drinkies in Sam's - had some business to discuss about maps on behalf of Robin. Can't say more right now but if you know robin you know how important maps are.
Had a BIG storm early in the evening - good thing I was safe in Sam's.  Oh, got approached by a drunken old Nepali man who took a fancy to me, especially when I told him I was princess Mary of Denmark. I don't know why I did that. So I ran away for dinner and when I got back he was gone.
Was back home later that night when a HUGE storm blew in and rained all over my bed (which is in the middle of the room) so there I was at midnight trying to mop up and most importantly close the windows which had been blown wide open. I was pretty soaked by the end of that escapade.
Yesterday was World Environment Day and as I left the hotel I got stuck in a demonstration of Clean Up Thamel people, who were picking up rubbish, and spreading white powder around. DDT, cocaine, or explosive? I have no idea.
I like Saturday in Thamel- it's quiet because everyone is hungover! Maybe they need some of this! And doesn't the pot plant look healthy! This is the front of Crazy Burger, where I got a meal last week. It is actually not too bad.
The plans for next week's trip to Bhutan keep changing - so much that it is almost sending me batty. Now looks like Robin will meet me at the airport as he finishes his trek that morning, and we will all go together to Thimphu. Or not. Stay tuned for updates. So once again I have to start packing some clothes (remembering to take stuff for cool weather and torrential rain) and I'd better remember the dehy and a bit of cheese and some rum.
Today I had another reflexology treatment from my friend Ilse. We were kept entertained by the constant chattering of her little boy Dominic - who is cute as a button (whatever that means). So I am just relaxing for the moment and under her instructions I am only allowed to walk as far as Sam's tonight and maybe across the road from there to Mandap for some Indian food. Guess I'd better do as I'm told.
Oh no, Star World telly here is just about to air one of the most god awful programmes. I remember when it came on in summer no ratings season back home years ago. VIP starring the overly gifted Pamela Anderson and a bunch of bimbos in some sort of security firm. Dreadful acting (can you believe it), shorts that stop before they start, and way too much lurex and lycra. And I especially love chicks in high heels and shorts running while holding out a gun and yelling "Stop or I'll shoot." Excellent entertainment.
Sunday night is Book Club at Sams' - well I think it is just a ruse for some people to get out of the house and have a drink, but everyone in the small group exchanges books.
I'd better go now and rescue my laundry from the inevitable storm.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Invasion of the Bone Harry Highpants Brigade

Yep it's that time of year again when the oldies arrive. I don't know where they have come from, and I have no idea where they are going but they are here every June in their sensible bone slacks (nicely pressed) and travel shirts. The ladies always wear make up and the men are clean shaven, They are so annoyingly perfect! And I think they are trying to recruit me. I keep being approached by them in restaurants where they point at my meal and say "is that nice?' or 'do you ever get sick from eating here?' I've told Robin that if I ever admire a pair of bone slacks and say something like 'oh dear, don't they look serviceable.' he is to shoot me without further ado. And don't get me started on Crimplene.
So apart from the scary slacks people, I have been busy swimming and networking, I guess you could call it. We've had a fair bit of rain, though probably not as much as Robin, and it looks like it will start again soon. It's really bad when you get trapped by a downpour in a bar!

Oh I have been busy sticking invitations into envelopes - it isn't as easy as it sounds as they are stupid shaped.

The gold thing is Ganesh, the elephant headed god, who is the symbol of weddings.

Robin is having an enforced day off today as they had to wait for fresh horses which were in the middle of a delivery to a village further away, so he went to the gompa which was closed and nobody had the key, the post office which was also closed (though frankly what he was planning to do in there I can't imagine) and then went to the school where he found some kiddies to give one of his magnificently interesting geography lessons to.
No hot water at the hotel today as the boiler blew up. In order to fix that they also had to disconnect the wireless so I am out at Chops in Mandala Street - a Korean place that does great milkshakes and is currently playing Layla. Very pleasant.
Did I show you the garden at the hotel where I go for a swim?

Enjoy the weekend

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

massacre anniversary

hard to believe it's 9 years since the Crown Prince Dipendra went nuts and shot his family. And it seems that so many things in this country went downhill after that. The King of Nepal was considered a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, and to have a reincarnation of a god shot by his son just didn't make sense to most people. Still doesn't. The conspiracy theories are still flying around. It's Nepal's much bigger version of Princess Di.

Our niece of about to get married fame is studying IELTS so I have been helping her. In preference to enrolling her in this place:

Meanwhile, the fruit and veg men are offering fabulous streetside bargains on tomatoes, mangoes and delicious litchis right now. Very hard to resist. And I haven't told you about the newspaper seller in the street. He is I think what might have been called 'simple'. Anyway, he rides his bicycle and brandishes the Nepali language papers, and gives a hilarious commentary on the big news items. Like' Those stupid b@stards on the hill are fighting again. I didn't vote for them. Did you?' or 'Shorty told the Big B where to go.'. I love to hear the locals laughing out loud as they rush to buy the papers. Shame I don't understand more Nepali.
And speaking of which, I have graduated from the Secure Facility in Delhi to the sheltered workshop in Katty. There are 600 wedding invitations to be addressed in Nepali. Since I can't do that, I get to stick the invitation in the envelope. 600 times. Oh dear!

Perhaps I will need to eat some of this: Spicy Instant Fish. What?

Robin had a short day today as they got over the pass in cloudy weather but as I predicted no rain or snow on them. They found a lovely grassy campsite with a not ice cold river to wash in but as I was talking to him he said that snow was falling at the end of the valley. I think he must be at Chebisa but he said they were at Shakya Kharka which I can't find on my map. I do know they are just north of Jhomolhari Base Camp. Anyway, it's all good except for his sore knee, toothache at altitude, broken boot laces - don't ask me why he doesn't carry spares - it isn't like they take up much room.
Oh here comes the hot wind - lovely! It's good for drying my swimmers on the balcony and that's about it really!
Today the deadline issued by the Maoists for the PM MR MK Nepal to resign expires. We all know that the PM is firmly glued to his Pm seat so we shall see later today or perhaps tomorrow what is in store for us. Probably nothing as doing nothing about anything seems to be popular right now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

and then there was electricity

I have no idea if it is because the Constituent Assembly voted themselves in for another year, but our load shedding has been slashed to only 6 hours a day. BLISS.
Sunday lunch at the club with Sarah was terrific - such a lot of food and so cheap, and sitting in the garden away from the mayhem outside is always a delight. Then I checked out my outrageous wedding clobber at the tailors and I've gotta say contrary to all expectations they did a fantastic job - head for Fashion Mantra opposite the former palace if you want something special.
Since then it's been pool and internetwerke, except today when I got to see my friend Ilse who is on the reflexology blog I'm linked to. She is back in town for a while and did me a great favour by giving me a treatment today - I think she has managed to get rid of the headache I've had for  a week now. So a big hug and thanks to Ilse. By the way, Markus says namaste.
The climbers have just about all left now, so it is just us regulars and the youngsters who come here on gap years (whatever they are) - we had a good laugh about the 'school bus' turning up tonight at the bar!
I have somehow managed to delete the operating software or something for photoshop on my laptop (I have NO IDEA how) so I can't smallerise any more pics just now, so I will have to put some old ones up. Sorry.
Robin has been busy going over passes every day, and no the weather has not improved, but he is almost at the end of the Bhutan mission. It seems strange to say that I will see him next week. Has it been that long already?
It seems that the monsoon is imminent, and I have checked my brolly to ensure it works, and have my monsoon chappals at the ready!
The doctor I told you about last week still hasn't appeared, so it seems that the 'investigation' wasn't much chop! No surprise there.

Wow that worked! That's the 'bar delivery' box of a Chicken Roll from Crazy Burger that I had the other evening. I just love the crossed plastic knife and fork sticky taped into the box. And yes it was OK and no I didn't get sick!

Right I'm off to do a late night weather report ( it's 11.30pm now) and hit the sack. Mito sapanaa.