Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Open momo!

Just in case you were curious, there is another way that one can eat momo and they are delicious too. There is a spot that I always go to eat open momo... You can choose from three different sauces to enjoy them with.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chitwan: part 2

Nepal has so many different types of landscapes within it's relatively small territory and I am continually amazed. I've seen mountains, the flat plains of Terai, and now the jungle of Chitwan.

This past week, I went on an elephant ride through Chitwan National Park early in the morning. The forests were so dense and I felt completely removed from my regular life. While the elephant plodded along through the trees (temporarily stopping to pick up branches and leaves to eat) I peered into the wilderness hoping that I might see a rhino. After about an hour I saw a group of beautiful peacocks, a wild chicken and some other brightly colored birds. And then suddenly we stumbled upon a rhino!
The rhino was eating and turned away when we approached, so I only captured it's backside. But we were so close to it and I was just so impressed to watch it eat. The elephant I was riding was clearly scared to be in such close proximity to the rhino - it made some high pitched trumpeting sounds - so we eventually let the elephant turn to walk a different direction. But only a minute later, we stumbled upon a second rhino. It was incredible luck!
This Chitwan trip was so much fun and introduced me another side of Nepal. Not to mention, I had an extremely relaxing stay at the newly opened Jungle Villa Resort. The view from my room looked across the Rapti River to the forests of the national park.

Chitwan field trip

This past week I went on a field trip to Chitwan in order document some conservation work that is being done in an area called Madi. Madi Valley is remote in many ways and I was able to see how many Nepalis live in smaller villages, in contrast to the city life of Kathmandu.

Madi doesn't have any electricity or reliable phone connections. The area is surrounded on three sides by Chitwan National Park and on the fourth side by hills that crossover to India.  People are living in a buffer-zone to the park, making it very isolated and it is typical for elephants or rhinos to roam into the villager's land, destroying their crops.

Everyone I met on this project was extremely welcoming and willing to share stories of their experiences. I was invited inside many homes and I was shown around their farms. I saw goats, tomato patches, chilli farming, etc, and I saw people working to collect water or carry hay.

The lady in the last photo showed me her goat, which she said had been attacked by a tiger this week and narrowly escaped. It had an injury on it's right shoulder and she was getting medicine to treat it.

Some people really enjoyed having their photos taken too. The children were especially excited!! They look a bit nervous in the photo below, but the girl in the red shorts insisted that they all come together to pose for the camera.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tihar part 4: Happy New Year!

There are a few different calendars in Nepal and sometimes I need to use the Nepali calendar, such as for paying my phone bill. According to the Newari calendar, Wednesday, November 14th was the beginning of the year 1133.

My friend and I went to Durbar Square early on Wednesday to see a New Year celebration. The rally began around 8am, with different school and family groups marching though Basantapur. Women and men were dressed in traditional clothing and many people played drums or flutes.
After everyone had paraded hrough Durbar Square, there was also a motorcycle rally with vehicles traveling on a route around the city centers of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. My friend told me that this year there were fewer motorcycles than before...I mainly saw decorated cars and trucks!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tihar, Part 3: Laxmi and Lights

On the third day of Tihar, Laxmi the Goddess of Wealth received special recognition by families and businesses. I was invited to a friend's business, where all the staff did pooja for Laxmi and made a trail of marigolds from outside the store to the inside, to a place where offerings to Laxmi were set up. It was so special to be included in the Laxmi pooja and to learn more about this day.

Everyone also decorates their doorways with patterns of decorative powders and lights or candles. A line is drawn from the street through the entrance of the house or business, in order to welcome Laxmi and the prosperity she brings.

After being a part of the pooja at my friends business, I went for a long walk all around Patan and Durbar Square to see what other families had set up to welcome Laxmi. It is so pretty to see all the streets lit up with twinkle lights and to see the different designs families made outside their homes.
There was one giant design that a group of artists had made completely of the decorative powders, in honor of Laxmi.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tihar Part 2: Cows and Dogs

A part of Tihar, there are different days to celebrate dogs (Kukur Tihar) and cows (Gai Tihar). Garlands of marigolds were placed around their necks and red tikka on their heads. For dogs, the day recognized the special bond between humans and dogs, so they were also treated to good food. I noticed that the dogs that live around my street seemed extremely content and well fed on their day.
Wednesday, the cows were recognized in the morning for their importance of bringing prosperity and wealth. That same evening the Goddess of wealth, Laxmi, is also recognized - but I'll write about this more in my next post, Part 3. 

Tihar Part 1: shopping and sweets

This past week there has been a festival throughout Nepal, called Tihar. Tihar is also known as Deepawli amongst Hindu families and there are specific days of the festival that are dedicated to different Gods. However, Tihar is celebrated by all ethnic groups here and it was fun for me to be able to join with my friends here.

According to the astrological calendar, Tihar was a little short this year, but it is normally a five day festival. On each day, people respect specific Gods and their own bodies, in addition to certain animals - crow, cow and dog.

Compared to the Dashain festival where much of the celebration took place within family homes, Tihar created a very festive atmosphere throughout Kathmandu. Right before the festival started, the streets were packed with people shopping for decorations and family gifts, and a market appeared of marigold wreaths, flowers and decorative colored powders. On Monday and Tuesday, I enjoyed strolling around New Road and Ason market just to see what everyone was buying.
 My friend and I went to buy samosas for lunch at the Tip Top Samosa place, but discovered that it had temporarily been transformed into a sweet shop for Tihar! After a split second of hesitation, we decided to postpone lunch and just try different Nepali sweets instead. This is what I bought:
My favorite was actually the one on the top right, which had a pastry exterior, but we devoured them all.
Throughout Tihar, I ended up eating so many sweets. They were used throughout pooja (offerings or prayers) and were also a part of the meals that I ate.