Something new for me today

in daily life, Food, Kathmandu, rice | No Comments »

I stood off to the side, watching the fun, laughing with them, taking photos. They were working, but it felt like a party.

The thought crossed my mind, “I should try it sometime.” And I told myself that, yes, I would next time I got the opportunity. I’m not sure why I thought that the next time would be better than today, but I did.

She must’ve read my mind, because not a minute later my friend called out, “Have you ever tried this? Why don’t you do it?”

But the mud, my clothes, I wasn’t dressed for this…

The next thing I knew I was kicking off my shoes, rolling up my leggings, and stepping into the deep, squelching mud.

Someone passed me a bundle of seedlings. “Two at a time, two at a time,” they kept calling.

And that’s how I found myself this morning, planting rice.

The mud was not just between my toes but over my ankles and crawling up my calves. The paddy had been dug up before being flooded, and bending over, I stuffed the rice seedlings–which look exactly like long blades of grass–two at a time into the oozy earth, trying to space them evenly.

“This isn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” I thought, “and it’s certainly a lot more fun.” Then I finished my bundle and looked up and realized that the field looked much the same as when I’d begun, and the small paddy was barely a fraction planted.

The rest was taken up by more experienced hands than mine, but I came away with a newfound appreciation for the time-consuming, backbreaking effort that goes into producing a plate of rice. –A job that here in Nepal, is still done mostly by hand, at least in hilly areas, where the paddies are small and often terraced.

Yesterday was National Paddy Day; by this time most of the rice should already be planted. But the monsoon has been patchy so far, inconsistent, so not all farmers have been able to plant out yet. On the cover of today’s edition of The Kathmandu Post there’s a photo of a woman preparing her fields for sowing, but they’re too dry to plant in yet. The Himalayan Times has a happier photo on its front page of schoolchildren playing in the mud while planting rice at a festival to celebrate the National Paddy Day.

The field behind my house has played host to two neighbourhood weddings over the past few weeks, and when I got home this afternoon three men were tilling it — two by hand and one with a small mechanized tiller, removing all traces of the partying and leaving smooth furrows behind. As I watched them the rain rolled in, first lightly and then so heavily that they abandoned their work and ran for cover. It’s been raining ever since and, cozy in my house with a mug of coffee, a makeshift prayer came to mind as I watched the rain fall: A good monsoon, and a good harvest, for all those hardworking farmers that most need it.

The rain is still coming down.


These ladies are experts...

These ladies are experts…


...this one, on the other hand, not so much :)

…this one, on the other hand, not so much :)

Seeds just want to grow

in daily life, gardening, Vegetables | 4 Comments »

I’ve been eating fresh salad from my garden for several weeks now. Mostly rocket, because that’s what grew most prolifically, but a few other salad greens also survived the spate of odd weather we’ve had.

Chatting with my sister a few days ago, I told her I was eating a salad of rocket from my garden for lunch.

Her: I love that you have a garden that grows stuff! One day I’m gonna too

Me: gardens, you know, do usually grow stuff…

She thinks she has a black thumb; I say there’s no such thing. I have little skill or knowledge of gardening either, but I do love watching things grow. And while most of my vegetables don’t make it anywhere near maturity (some don’t even sprout) what does is worth it. There’s a lot of rules people have made about gardening–when to plant what and how often to fertilize and much more–and I forget most of it. Or I’m too busy to do it properly.

But I say who cares. Seeds want to grow. Throw some in the earth come springtime, water them if you remember to, pull weeds when you have time. Some won’t sprout, others die–and some will produce glorious bowl after bowl of salad. It’s fun, it’s delicious; don’t be put off because you’re not doing it “right.”

It’s not rocket science…

Bounty from the garden

Bounty from the garden

Some random cat advice…

in animals, cats, daily life | 2 Comments »

This is likely even more far-fetched than what Seth Godin had in mind in my favorite of his articles, “Delight the Weird.” Which if you haven’t read, you should. Now.

I cannot imagine there are than many people who are living in third-world countries where surgery for spaying cats is rather less than high-tech, and are searching for this solution. However, if you, like me, have just taken your fourth female cat in for this operation, and have had to try numerous options to keep her from licking open the thick, black stitches, then this might be useful to you.

As an aside, before you ask, cat-size cones cannot be found and the only ones available, when you can even find them, are made for dogs and so large they require securing with copious amounts of sticky tape to stay on for even a short spell. Even if you manage to secure it, they are so huge they cause your kitty to nearly break her neck every time she tries to move, which she does (move, not break her neck). After one terrifying experience, I abandoned them for good.

My vets–competent, kindly, amazing–suggest a complicated system of wrapping with towels and safety pins. She gets out of that one in two minutes flat.

An elastic wrap, of the sort you might use to wrap a sprained ankle, helped temporarily. Then she found a way to get that off, too. And to nearly destroy it.

The current answer, from my rag-bag: a sock, old but still with a bit of stretch. Snip off the toe part to create a snood. Slip over the head and front legs of your now angry cat. Gently ease over the wound and stitches. If you’ve chosen the right size for your cat, it will hold everything in place while being difficult for her to remove.

It’s not foolproof, but it helps!

Below, Boots modeling this new design.


Kathmandu cats

in animals, cats, daily life | 4 Comments »

This afternoon I was on my bed with my laptop propped up on my legs, when I noticed the room, raucous only moments before, had gone silent.  I moved the computer and this is what I saw down by my feet. Am I crazy? You betcha. But also, so very, very lucky.




Power on, power off

in daily life, electricity, Kathmandu | 2 Comments »

The strange thing, after you’ve lived in Nepal for a while, about getting extra power when you least expect it, is the euphoria of it, the feeling like you’re living on borrowed time or have been given an unexpected gift, and you’d best make the most of it. Tonight–for whatever reason–the power stayed on for an extra eleven minutes past the scheduled time when it should have gone off. It’s usually pretty punctual. Unless there’s been a good rain, or perhaps a special holiday, and they decide that they can afford to just leave it on for the day.

Perhaps this is the moment to explain, for those who don’t know, that Kathmandu has scheduled power cuts, referred to as “load shedding.” The city is divided into groups, with a schedule published that lets you know when the electricity will go off where you live. Mine is Group One.

This state of affairs can be circumvented, of course, with generators or solar panels or UPS devices; and while I can’t afford these at the moment I honestly don’t mind. While there are, most certainly, moments when the power going off is frustrating or interruptive, I’m used to it, and it doesn’t bother me. I enjoy following the rhythms of my neighborhood, listening to the thick silence or surrounding sounds that suddenly seem stark and clear when the electricity’s off, particularly at night, and waiting for the cry of a child, somewhere nearby–“Bhatti aio!” – “Power’s here!”

And even though I miss my fan on a warm night like tonight, when a strong breeze blows in the window and moves across my body it provides a moment of joy, and gratitude, and unexpected bliss.


in daily life, Kathmandu, writing | 1 Comment »

Yesterday a good friend came over and we had lunch together. We’ve known each other for years, and we talked the way you only can with someone you’ve known, well, for that long. The power was off for the scheduled electricity cut, and we ate in the kitchen, a breeze coming through the back screen door there. And I thought how lucky I was to be there, in that moment.

Yesterday I also heard that the anthology I have a story published in, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Alzheimer’s and other Dementias, is a bestseller; not ten days after its release, they’ve already had to order a second printing. And while my part in it is very small, and certainly nothing to do with its bestselling status, as a writer it was an encouragement to my own dreams. It made me happy.

Tonight it rained, a heavy rain that we’ve been needing in Kathmandu for weeks now, to clear the dust and bring down the heat and water the earth. Some might say a small thing, but it isn’t really. None of it is. It’s wonderful, and we should enjoy every bit of joy, large and small, that crosses our path. One of many things living in Nepal has taught me, and for which I am very grateful.

Another Everest Tragedy

in climbers, Himalaya, Mount Everest | No Comments »

Last night I read the news on the BBC’s website, and woke up to it on the cover of Nepal’s newspapers: 15 Sherpas dead in an avalanche on Everest, the most people to die there in a single accident, ever. I scanned the names in the paper, looking for any I knew; I didn’t find any, and felt relief and then guilt for being relieved. Those who died were all hard-working men with families at home waiting for them. Dawa Tashi Sherpa, the survivor airlifted to Kathmandu, has his wife — five months pregnant with their first child — waiting in the hospital to see him, and for her joy there are at least 15 families who will never see their loved ones again.
In the days to come the old topics will probably be rehashed: overcrowding on the mountain, and over reliance on Sherpas in the all-important task of rope fixing. But I hope this doesn’t overshadow the memory of these men, most of whom were not climbing for adventure or glory, but to provide for their loved ones. May they rest in peace.

The Himalayan Times and Kathmandu Post newspapers for April 19, 2014. The discrepancy in the number of the dead is due to The Himalayan Times counting only the bodies that had been retrieved to date, while The Kathmandu Post included those still buried in the snow, not yet dug out.

The Himalayan Times and Kathmandu Post newspapers for April 19, 2014. The discrepancy in the number of the dead is due to The Himalayan Times counting only the bodies that had been retrieved to date, while The Kathmandu Post included those still buried in the snow, not yet dug out.


Sprouts are up

in daily life, Vegetables | 2 Comments »

The peas came up days ago, and are now lush and lovely looking. And finally, today, I spotted the tiniest seedlings of what I hope is lettuce. Of course germination times vary from one vegetable to another, but it also got me wondering if the peas sprouted so early because they’re local, fresher seeds that I dried myself here, rather than the others which were from commercial seed packets that I’d purchased years ago while in the US and England. I’ll have to research that. But something simple, local and Nepali working better is an idea that makes me happy. A potato has also sprouted, and in the back of the house by the two avocado seedlings, I just planted basil, round zucchini, green beans, and a few other vegetables that I can’t remember at the moment. I’ve also begun planting out bits of mint from my pot in a border back there that’s too thin to grow much in. It’s so tiny that only weeds flourish there. Mint has the honour of being able to grow like a weed, and also, you can never have too much mint.

Gardening Thoughts

in daily life, Kathmandu, Vegetables | No Comments »

A few days ago I dug into the garden. I’d just got home and went out there and started pulling weeds and turning soil. I think I’ve been subconsciously putting it off because it hasn’t worked out so well for me in the past. I’ve always rented here in Nepal, and I’ve often had to move abruptly and unexpectedly. Sometimes it was my choice, of course, but often it wasn’t; a true example: “I have just bought this house from the owner. Can you be out in a week?”

So even though I love planting and watching things grow, it’s hard to commit when I don’t know how long I’ll be living in this house. And I remember how I felt when I saw the new tenants of a place rip up the avocado sapling I’d planted. Of course my many pots of flowers, herbs, and small trees always come with me when when I move, but I haven’t had much success growing vegetables in containers, and I want to grow more of what I eat.

I’ve come to love this little pink house, and I hope to be here for a long while. Last year I planted out two small avocado trees in the back patch that I’d grown from seed, and it’s time now to get serious with vegetables.

Two lettuces and some garlic survived from a half-hearted attempt a few months ago, and I think they were happy to be free of their weed-bed. For starters this time around, I planted a bunch of mixed salad greens, and two different kinds of peas and some sprouting potatoes. The salad was from a packet, but the peas were local varieties that I’d saved and dried. The potatoes; tiny ones that I’d ignored while cooking and which had begun sprouting all by themselves in their bowl on the dining table.

There’s more to come; I’ve determined not to let worry and uncertainty stop me from leading the life I want. If and when I should have to move, I will have enjoyed this time in my lovely pink house to the full.