We have had a pretty hectic couple of weeks here, trying to establish good connections in the new province government and chasing meetings that sometimes materialize with little advance warning. There’s been a lot of dashing about, creating documents that seem like they should be important to somebody, getting signatures and holding coffees with the hope that these activities are all adding up to the “right process.” The general pace of the office workflow is that the four of us disperse to our desks, and periodically throughout the day we magnetize together in our common area to touch base, update one another on who has had calls with whom Out There, and pump each other up before expanding back out of the common room to our desks.
It has been really nice for me to have this time here to get a feel for the flow of our office without the glare of a tight visiting timeline or imminent program. This has revealed, among other matters, the primacy of snack time. Each day Sangita didi arrives around 1:30 and begins a poll on what we want for snacks. Discussion ensues, various viewpoints are considered. I advocate strongly for buckwheat or rice flour rotis with Nutella and peanut butter, an argument that has recently been strengthened by the purchase of a jar of jam (although, honestly, since when do Nutella arguments need strengthening?). Others point to the benefits of salty foods such as chowmein and charput (trust me, I realize this should be a non-starter when there’s a vat of Nutella in the kitchen). There are only four of us, but this deciding is nevertheless a substantial process.
In the last three weeks, snacks have been enhanced by the arrival of my friend Ann from Israel. In the first few days, after I advised her that snack time was the best time to visit our office, and Ann turns out to be a quick study: she arrived promptly on time for the snack poll. Then–just hours after Ann’s arrival in Pokhara–Sangita put her to work and they hit it off immediately. Ann set learning to make buckwheat rotis while Sangita taught her Nepali words by announcing snack-related vocabulary extremely loudly and waving her hands. As I mentioned, our office isn’t that big, so from our respective rooms we were all treated to a live cultural soundscape while the two of them, who have an overlapping vocabulary of about two words, tried to communicate the nuances of slicing potatoes and dropping hot batter on to a sizzling frying pan at Sangita’s base-level volume. Ann, who has the patience of a monk, rose to the occasion by not only making some spectacular rotis, but also by picking up a whole set of Nepali phrases (largely related to eating) amazingly fast. She continues to come over regularly at snack time to help cook rotis while Sangita ecstatically yells words at her.
Who said that Nutella and peanut butter couldn’t get even better?