Reading the daily paper here has the potential for so much amusement. I can’t think that you’d find something like this on the front page anywhere else…
The Himalayan Times, Thursday, 12 February 2015
These might not be the kind of mountains most people think of when they think of Nepal, but at this time of year, heaps of the white daikon radish, known locally as mula, appear on the side of the road in certain parts of the city. I’m always in awe of the quantities there are. Nepalis love to pickle or ferment mula and serve it as a flavourful accompaniment to their dahl-bhat dinners. There are so many variations of mula achar; the word achar is often translated as pickle, but it is not a pickle in the way we know it–rather it almost serves as a seasoning to the plainer tasting dahl, and can be made with a wide variety of vegetables. A common version of mula achar involves julienning it before drying it in the sun, and then tossing with spices and oil before packing it into jars to mature.
Makes me hungry just thinking about it. I don’t think, however, that this farmer would sell me some in less than gargantuan proportions, so I’ll have to get some from my local vegetable seller. Ah, the local vegetable sellers I buy from–they’re a colorful cast of characters and that’s a whole story in itself!
On Wednesday, I was at Baber Mahal Revisted on a writing assignment for Friday, the weekly paper I do regular restaurant reviews for. While there I took a few minutes to check out the new photo exhibition that had just opened the day before at the Siddhartha Gallery.
If, like me, you are fascinated with Mustang, the remote area in northern Nepal with a unique Tibetan culture, you should make the time to visit and see these photos. Taken by Italian photographer Luigi Fieni, they are are a record of 16 summers he spent in Mustang while working with conservation projects there. There are stunning photos of scenery, beautiful gems of local people, and on the top floor a photographic record of the restoration of ancient murals by ordinary people.
The exhibit runs through November 12, 2014, it’s free, and well worth a visit: Siddhartha Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited, Kathmandu. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday 11 am to 6 pm, and 12 noon to 4 pm on Saturdays.
It is really hard to believe something like this has happened again this year: first with climbers on Everest in the spring and now trekkers in the Annapurna. I think this is the worst year, ever, at least since I’ve been living here in Nepal. My thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones in this terrible disaster.
This morning I took Mr Kitty to the vet. Thankfully, it was nothing serious, and after her checkup I climbed into a tempo with her safely tucked into her basket.
A tempo is a form of local transportation–a metal box on three wheels, open in the back, with a padded bench down each side. They operate on electric batteries or bottled gas and each number, painted on the front and back, indicates which route it’s running. I far prefer them to local buses, as they (usually) don’t try to stuff in extra passengers; just 6 on each side, or 5 for the smaller variety, and one in the front with the driver.
When Mr Kitty and I boarded, early on this foggy winter’s morning–the first real fog of the winter–the tempo was nearly empty. One man sat opposite me, and on the other end, a second man with a goat. Goats are pretty commonplace here; and while they don’t board public transport every day, it’s also not a rarity. I saw several stuffed into a taxi just the other day.
But was this ever a goat! Certainly not your daily Kathmandu variety! The size of a large German Shepherd, it had long hair, mottled with several attractive shades of brown, a white face, and brown and white spotted ears.
Mr Kitty meowed a little in her basket, and the driver turned around, startled.
“What’s that?” He asked in Nepali.
“Just a cat,” replied the man with the goat.
Having two animals in his tempo seemed to amuse the driver to no end, and he muttered something I took to mean first a goat, then a cat.
The man opposite me soon alighted, and the goat owner and I struck up a conversation in Nepali.
“What a nice big goat,” I complimented him. It was true–I rarely see them so large.
“It’s forty kilos,” he said proudly.
It looked much bigger, and I made suitable impressed noises, and he assured me that they could reach eighty or a hundred kilos.
Then he began to inquire the usual things–where I come from, how long I’ve been here, do I like Nepal, am I married, and so on. It was only a few minutes until I needed to get off, and I was smiling as I walked home.
The friendliness of everyday people combined with unusual circumstances–this is one of the many things I love about Nepal. The man and his goat won’t be soon forgotten.
Yesterday I enjoyed a late breakfast at Mike’s Breakfast’s new location. For anyone who lives in Nepal, Mike’s needs no introduction. For everyone else, the short version is that it’s an eatery–specializing in American style food, especially breakfast–that has been around longer than I’ve lived here. It was opened by Mike, a US Peace Corps volunteer who loved Nepal so much he stuck around for decades. He passed away some years ago, but his namesake restaurant continues.
The lease on their old location in Naxal was up this December, and they’ve been slowly moving to their new place in Baluwater for a few months now, while still keeping the old place open. When I drove past their old location this week, though, it was empty. Sign gone, construction for something new in full swing. Even though I knew it was coming, it still hurt a bit. I know change is supposed to be for the better, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. In the last year, a lot has changed–in big ways with friends moving and family illness, to the trivial of places I love in Kathmandu being demolished by the ongoing road expansion, or just closing, never to be seen again.
This time, though, I knew where Mike’s Breakfast was moving to. So I went there yesterday. And guess what? It was great. In some ways, even better; larger, more peaceful, just as much if not more greenery. Some construction is still ongoing, and those unique mosaic benches still need to find their place, but it felt right.
I had what I always have–a large mushroom cheese omelette with toast, and coffee made fresh from local beans, both of which are wonderful, unpretentious, simple things made well. And while I ate I thought that perhaps I need to give change a chance. While I won’t ever not miss people and things that are gone, sometimes what’s new can be even better. Here’s hoping!