At the end of each of my visits to Nepal, there is usually a collection of ridiculous, entertaining, and lovely things that haven’t found a home in any of my blog posts, but deserve to be known to the world. Herewith is enclosed this winter’s box of treasures.
1. Grab Your Desire
Signage is a very reliable source of amusement in Nepal. This is definitively the most awkward hotel welcome sign ever, surpassing even Hotel Touch Nepal, a winning entry from last summer. And yes, the hotel is actually shaped like an octagon, which under the circumstances I assess to be both logical and insane.
2. All the Religions at the Same Time
Because Santa suit and Nepali pop song and traditional (Tamang?) dress. This is how we do the Christmas street fair, y’all.
3. The Power of Power
For the entire decade and a half I’ve spent in Nepal, there’s been an ever-increasing amount of load shedding due to lack of electricity. The flashlight and solar power industries are enormous; our own office has $2,000 worth of back up battery power just so we can keep the lights and computers on. Everybody simply takes scheduled power outages to be a fact of life, familiar as rush hour traffic–in the winter when hydropower is lowest, load shedding lasts for up to 16 hours a day.
So apparently, just this fall, a new minister was appointed to the Energy Department, and revealed that the load shedding problem is, well, entirely due to collusion between the government and the energy industries. ENTIRELY. Therefore, he simply declared load shedding to be over. After fifteen years, the lights went back on, and that was the end of it. I am telling you, there wasn’t more than 5 hours of load shedding this whole month, in the dead of winter.
I asked my friends why everyone isn’t absolutely up in arms about this. The answer was simple: everyone’s just glad the lights are back on. And besides, if anyone gets annoyed, they will probably be turned off again.
4. KP’s Dental Technician Henna Tattoo
On the closing day of our university screening program, we discussed lessons learned, watched a slideshow of our week, and traded contact information. I had asked our technician Anita to bring some henna, and I did henna tattoos as people filtered out. Our technician KP demanded to have one placed on his chest, so obviously, he got K.P. and a tooth. His biggest UCSF fan, Helen, approved.
5. The Power of Catching a Goat
My last morning in Kaski I got up and, as per routine, wandered outside to brush my teeth. As I was puttering around in the yard and splashing freezing water on to my face, I looked up to the terrace behind the house to see our 11 year old neighbor Amrit creeping up behind his goats, trying to catch and tether them to their posts, while muttering in a sinister tone: “DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF CATCHING A GOAT.” He would pounce just as a goat slipped through his hands and clomped off a yard or two away before losing interest and lazily looking around for something to chew on. Then Amrit would creep again, intoning, with intense focus: Don’t underestimate the power of catching a goat.
I highly recommend this as idle morning entertainment while brushing one’s teeth.
When I woke up the next day in Pokhara thinking about Amrit and started giggling hysterically in bed, Aidan and Pascal explained that there’s an action hero called the Blue Cat Man, who apparently goes around saying, “Don’t underestimate the power of the NILO. BIRO. MAN.” It’s like the power of power, but with blue cats. I unfortunately didn’t take a picture of Amrit with a goat, so here’s me with a goat. You want to catch a goat now too, don’t you?
6. Paragliders in the Mirror
On Saturday afternoon following the closing program of our screening camps, when our field staff left to go back home, I went for a run to clear my head. The paragliders who we often see sailing down from Sarangkot make their landings in various spots by the lake in the valley, and every now and then I happen upon them at the moment they float down to the ground. That afternoon, as they drifted out of the sky, they were perfectly mirrored by other paragliders rising to the surface edge of the lake. The paragliders came down and attached themselves to their own feet, like Peter Pan and finding his shadow.
7. It's My Shit
During their week of clinic audits and past patient assessments, Bethy and Keri came to spend a day in Kaskikot, and in the evening, we got to singing with Grandma. Thanks to Keri’s choice to blast “Holla Back” off her laptop, we ended up teaching Grandma to say, “It’s my shit,” and I did post a link to this before, but I am embedding it here because when you watch Grandma declaring that her shit is hers and not to be messed with, you will see why this is an absolutely brilliant thing to have happened.
8. The Prime Minister on a Tractor
The other night I looked up to see an evening news broadcast of Nepal’s Prime Minister inaugurating this tractor. He is covered in celebratory marigold malas far past the tops of his ears, making it hard to achieve either neck rotation or peripheral vision. In the TV broadcast, the gathered audience shuffles tenuously along on the muddy ledge around the paddy, clapping admiringly as the Prime Minister drives the tractor for about a full minute on the evening news, with no background commentary or voiceover whatsoever from the news anchors. He stops and disembarks, and then the segment ends, while I squeal and point at the TV, my dinner forgotten on my plate, and the rest of the family is going…”What?” I present you the photo that was published in the Himalayan Times, with its caption.
I mean, What?
8. The Power of The Stage
Our sweet Pascal is 11. He is named for the little boy in The Red Balloon who makes a strange and magical friend that leads him to see the world. While Aidan is our Joker, Pascal is serious and perceptive. He and I have always had the bond of The Observer, that sensitive creature who is perpetually catching up with the world on the outside, but seeing a little more than the next guy on the inside. One night during this year’s holiday street festival in Pokhara, Pascal came to the hotel to find me and we spent some time walking around in the crowd. We came upon a stage where kids where dancing until the scheduled performers came out. Pascal paused a moment, and then jumped up and…he’s on the back left in the striped shirt.
9. These extremely uncomfortable mannequins in Kathmandu Mall.
Why, world? Why? Who approved this?