Truth

in daily life, earthquake, Kathmandu | No Comments »

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Sometimes truth comes via the most unlikely avenues – case in point, the above, seen outside the Kathmandu Guest House, which has recently undergone some post-earthquake renovations. I admit I’m not big on change, being more inclined to love the old, ramshackle things and mourn for what is gone. But it’s true – change is the only constant. I only hope it’s all for the better, as this seems to be.

 

 

Happy Birthday…

in daily life, Uncategorized | No Comments »

My mother, if she were alive, would be sixty-five today. While I wish she had lived to see this age, I admit I cannot honestly imagine her in it. In my mind, she is ageless.

The day before yesterday, I bought this teapot as part of a attempt to complete some of my non-earthshattering new year’s resolutions, one of which is to drink more of the beautiful varieties of Nepali loose-leaf tea that I keep buying. Washing it out for the first time, I remembered a nickname of mom’s was Sunshine.

So here I go, raising a cup to her, poured from this sunshine-y teapot.

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Winter sunshine

in animals, cats, wintertime | No Comments »

These days it’s getting pretty chilly, especially in the mornings and evenings, or when it’s overcast. But when the sun makes an appearance, everyone makes the most of it. Here are Boots and Laz enjoing a “sun-bath” as it is known here. These two sure know how to relax right.

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What to do in Kathmandu: KIMFF 2015!

in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Yep, it’s another film festival! KIMFF stands for the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival, which started in 2000 as a bi-annual event and has been held yearly since 2007. I heard about it recently when my editor at ECS Nepal asked me to write a piece about it, which will be published in this month’s (December) issue. Altogether, 80 films from 25 countries will be screened, though only 14 are actually in competition. I was able to view a few of the films not in competition in preparation for writing the article — Infinite Space by Siddharth Chauhan, a magical short film set in a Shimla monastery, and En route. On foot. Up hill. by Barak Tal, which follows a group attempting to be the first people to reach a remote pass in Arunachal Pradesh. Both were excellent, though I don’t want to repeat myself, so you’ll just have to look out for my article in this month’s ECS Nepal. And if you missed the wonderful Drawing the Tiger that I wrote about in my last post, you’ll have another chance to see it here, as it is also screening out of competition at KIMFF.

KIMFF 2015 is on from December 10th through the 14th, and will be held at QFX Kumari in Kamal Pokhari, with both full passes and individual event tickets available at the venue. For all the details, including the full list of all the movies they’ll be showing, you can check out KIMFF’s site here. See you there!

What to do in Kathmandu: 10th Asian Documentary Film Festival on now!

in children, documentaries, Film South Asia 2015, Nepal, Uncategorized, What to do in Kathmandu | No Comments »

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Today I was invited to attend the opening of Film South Asia 2015, a South Asian documentary Film Festival that is held every two years. As we all took our seats in the cozy theater, there was an announcement, “In the likely event of a tremor, there are two emergency exits there, and there.” This was greeted by a wave of laughter; I’m not sure if “in the unlikely event” was meant to be humorous or not, but this morning at 10 am there was a 5.3 tremor here in Kathmandu, the first one I’ve personally felt in a while, and I’m sure it was on everyone’s mind. While it wasn’t that strong, it seemed quite long. More about it here.

The documentary screened at the opening was Drawing the Tiger, directed by Ramyata Limbu, Amy Benson and Scott Squire, and filmed here in Nepal over a period of seven years. The film follows a young girl from Ramechhap District who comes to Kathmandu to pursue her education, and the ripple effect this action has on her entire family. I am glad I didn’t know much more than that when I sat down, as the film was a beautiful and moving experience, including an emotional sucker-punch I was not expecting, perhaps extra difficult for me as I also have the Humla girls I’m helping to educate so it hit really close to home. If you have a chance to see this film, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough: it’s a simple, honest piece and a great sample of ‘show, don’t tell.’ Even documentaries sometimes get carried away in trying to make a point via omnipresent narrator or other methods, but despite the subject matter, this film did nothing of the sort. The only people you heard from were each of the family members involved, and the result was touching, honest, and surprisingly revealing. More about the film at its website here, though be warned that it also tells quite a bit about the story that I was glad I didn’t know ahead of time.

The festival continues for three full days: tomorrow, Friday November 20th, Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22cond. It’s being held at Yala Maya Kendra, Patan Dhoka, in Lalitpur, with between 8 to 15 documentaries of various lengths being screened on each of the three days. Each film costs just 50 rs. to attend, and are from all over the region–Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and of course, Nepal. The screenings begin around 10 am each day and continue to 5 or 6. For details of which films are shown on which days, you can check out their website, http://www.filmsouthasia.org; unfortunately I had a hard time accessing the site and if you do too, you can click on the high-res picture I took of my programme below to embiggen it and see what the choices and timings are. This is a really great chance to see some of the best recent documentaries from this part of the world and I recommend that if you’re in Kathmandu you take full advantage of it!

And with the fuel crisis and shortages unfortunately still in full swing, the organizers have added a special festival motto: “Walk, bike or take a public bus to the Doc Fest!”

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When the fuel runs out, you get a bicycle

in daily life, fuel crisis, Nepal | No Comments »

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I imagine that for many of you who read this, it’s hard to imagine living in a country that is almost completely dependent upon its neighbours for most basic necessities. But that’s Nepal — landlocked, we share borders with only India and China, and that northern border is pretty much the Himalayas, with only one narrow road in. So, much of what we need–and all fuel/petroleum products–come in through the Terai, from India. When the new constitution–years in the making–was finally ratified over a month ago now, it triggered protests in the south and a near complete border closure from India. We kept thinking that things had to get better, any minute now, but they haven’t; they’ve only gotten worse. Gas bottles, petrol, diesel, kerosene–none of this is available to buy, unless you are one of those who can afford to pay the black market prices, which friends tell me run at 5-10 times the normal rate. And of course, the people that suffer the most are the poor, particularly those who have been affected by the earthquake. Any appliances that can be used for electric cooking are flying off the shelves, and even here in Kathmandu I see people cooking on the sidewalk using firewood.

By comparison, I’ve been fortunate, so far just inconvenienced and not suffering, as so many are. I’m pretty used to short-term shortages, so I always keep a little bit of petrol saved for my scooter, but as I want to keep that for emergencies, I just bought a cheap bicycle (possibly too cheap, it already rattles :) ) and, looking on the bright side, it’s helping me get some exercise. I’m not sure how much cooking gas is left in the my cylinder, and my spare is empty, as I changed it right when the shortage first began last month and have been unable to refill it since. But I do have an old but trusty little electric oven and a kettle, and I’m experimenting with how much I can do without having to turn on a gas burner. When I go out, if a restaurant is open, I eat there — the new logic of “eat out, save your gas” overriding the former logic of “eat at home, save money.” And besides, I figure they could use the business. But every day, more and more businesses of all sorts are staying closed when they can’t find the supplies to stay open. And now shops are starting to run out of certain things, too, because the vehicles that usually supply them don’t have petrol to move around, either.

Winter Is Coming, and that means the ubiquitous long power cuts that will rule out the oven and kettle, and no kerosene for heating. I haven’t wanted to write about this, because I feel like there’s been so much bad news out of Nepal lately that I hate to add to it.

As always, I am amazed by the cheerfulness and resilience of those around me. But they deserve better, and I can only hope the end is in sight.

And here’s a picture of a baby goat I saw the other day when visiting a friend, because it’s adorable and makes me smile.

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A Simple Curry of Leafy Greens and Soybeans

in Food, recipes, Vegetables | No Comments »

A few weeks ago a wonderful friend — who is always trying to feed me — gave me a container to take home. It was full of a delicious and unusual “spinach” and soybean curry. And then when the neighborhood lady who regularly shows up at my gate with little bits of vegetables to sellĀ  came with a bag of greens and soybeans, I decided to try to recreate it. She is really friendly and what she brings is always so cheap, I pretty much buy whatever it is, even if I have no real plan of how to use it. Actual spinach is rarely found in Nepal — rather, all greens are called saag, and can be the leafy part of pretty much anything edible. I think what she brought me was mustard greens, but I’m not completely sure. You can use any green leafy vegetable you have to hand, but this is best with smaller and slightly more bitter greens. The most time consuming part of making this was shelling the soybeans – if you can get them preshelled where you are, more power to you. This is a lighter curry, a kind you often get here in Nepal, as opposed the heavier, saucier type some people might be used to thinking of as a curry. The original dish had no potato, but I had one lonely one on my counter that needed to be used and I like potatoes in my curry so I added one – but you don’t have to.

A Simple Curry of Leafy Greens and Soybeans

500 grams/ 1 lb greens of your choice

250 grams/ 8 oz soybeans

1 medium red onion

3 – 4 cloves of garlic

2-3 plum tomatoes

1 medium potato

1 heaping teaspoon of cumin (jeera in Nepali)

pinch of cinnamon

several whole dried chilies, to taste (or chili flakes)

half a vegetable or chicken stock cube

salt to taste

oil for frying

Parboil the soybeans and shell them. This is best done while listening to an audiobook or watching TV so that you won’t notice how slowly the beans are accumulating. If you get too bored, boil twice the amount and eat half of them Japanese style (edamame) as you shell. :)

Wash the greens well to remove any grit and lose the roots, if there are any. Roughly chop if the leaves are large.

Chop the onions and garlic and fry for a minute or so. Add the cumin, salt, pinch of cinnamon and the dried chilies. If you don’t have whole ones, you can use a pinch of chili flakes.

Cut the potato into small cubes so it will cook quicker and let it fry with everything for a few minutes while you chop the tomatoes, then add them to the pan, and let everything cook together for a minute or two more. Then add the greens and soybeans and stir well, and crumble in the half a stock cube. Cover and let cook over medium-low heat until the potatoes (if using) and greens are done — it depends what kind you are using, some greens can be rather tough. You might need to add a splash of water to loosen things up and help everything cook, but see how much liquid your tomatoes and greens give off first.

I served this over brown rice and topped it with a fried egg, but it would also be good with rotis or other flatbread. This is enough for two people if you eat it as a main meal like I did, or four people as a side dish. It reheats well and I happily enjoyed it for several days.

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DIY cooler…

in daily life | No Comments »

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When your fridge has been in the repair shop for nearly two weeks and you really want a cold beer – a sturdy garden bucket sure comes in handy… :)