Saturday, February 17, 2007

Day of Rest

It is a lovely, sunny afternoon here in Pokhara and we are taking our first full day off since I arrived four weeks ago. I left Dinesh, Rekha and Ritesh watching TV and Diksha taking a well-earned nap.

Last night we had our test dinner with the house staff and they performed admirably. The power went out about 6pm, which compounded the effort required but they put the whole meal together with tremendous grace. In fact, Rekha had asked them to prepare three food items, but, as if to show they were up to the task and more, they prepared six, so there was plenty of food.

Ranjit and his family joined us--so that made for 12 guests in all. We had dal bhaat, of course, chicken ("Nepali style," Rekha says. With the bones.), sog (spinach), and, I believe, chunna (soy beans). Because it was the first meal, I had less luck that usual in resisting seconds.

Typically, when you are full, you place your hand over your plate and say "pugyo" or "bhayo." Everytime I did that I seemed to get another spoonful. It reminded me of the Ray Romano bit where his friend comes to dinner at Ray's mother's house. Ray tells his friend that if he truly cannot eat another bite he'll have to kill her.

Nonetheless, everyone seemed to enjoy the food. Rekha said afterwards that she thinks Indreni's "haat" (cooking hand) is more delicious than hers. I don't think that's true but it's high praise coming from Rekha.

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Yesterday was also Shivaratri, a holy day, that celebrates the life of Shiva, but also, I learned, has a passing resemblance to our Halloween in that young people are free to create mischief into the wee hours.

Dinesh told me that when he lived in Okhaldunga, he and his friends would stay up all night tending a bonfire, stealing firewood from the neighbors to keep it going. (Because nothing says "holiday" like children playing with fire.)

In like fashion, there were bonfires visible around Pokhara, though they smoldered rather than roared because of the rain.

Unique to Pokhara is the addition of sugar cane to this celebration. Apparently when you heat sugar cane, the actual cane, it boils the juice inside and when you slam the heated part of the cane on the ground it gives off a bang like a firecracker. As we walked home last night you could see people coming down the street with carts full of sugar cane. At dinner I mentioned that I wanted to try the sugar cane trick. Ama Gurung offered to go upstairs and get me some.

Incidentally, I heard the former King had rocks thrown at his car yesterday. Times are a-changin'.

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The admission committee is going to meet Monday. If all goes according to plan, Dinesh and I will go out on Tuesday and

Thursday to bring home the first children. I cannot wait.

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So I redeemed myself (and country) this morning in tennis, winning my first match. I played with Ranjit, who has (to

his chagrin) become my regular doubles partner. The other guys call us "Baa" and "chhoraa," which means "father" and "son."

Much to the credit of my opponents, they discovered the key to beating us lies in hitting the ball to me repeatedly, and waiting for me to screw up. This usually takes no more than two or three exchanges at which point I blast one long or nub it off the racket frame. This morning, however, I was able to tame my swing somewhat and even hold serve a few times. We won 6-3, 6-3. I felt the urge to modestly celebrate so I wrapped an American flag around my shoulders and took a few victory laps around the court and then sang, a capella, "Proud to Be an American." I don't think they minded. Hey, it was the first time I didn't have to buy the tea.*

We have more photos to share. Thanks for all the notes.

CB

1 comment:

Jells said...

Chris, you were always better on the hard courts of Dover Center than the clay you are playing on now. My advice, charge the net and go for the kill shot. That way you limit the risk of hitting into the net or blasting it over the fence.

Ivan Lendl