Saturday, February 10, 2007

Love in Tennis Means Nothing

Rekha left for KTM today. She will be completing the final step of our registration by taking our official documents to the Social Welfare Council. She hopes to be back by Wednesday, giving her three days to get through the byzantine halls of the SWC, but you just never know. I could listen to Dinesh talk about the needless bureaucracy here forever. Cracks me up. He doesn't find it so funny. Imagine that.

This afternoon, Dinesh and I went to Sam's House because the carpenter had called in the morning to say he was installing the playground equipment (slide/swingset) today. We got over there and they had already dug the holes for cementing the bases into the ground. Only thing was they hadn't asked Dinesh where to dig those holes. Sure enough, Ranjit came downstairs and wasn't pleased with the location so they had to dig brand new holes and move the equipment again. Dinesh muttered under his breath, "Buddi pachhi aunchha."

We sat awhile with Ranjit Gurung and his wife, who everyone calls "Ama" or mother, as is customary. I should say here that we are very fortunate to have found our home with them as landlords. They have a genuine interest in Sam's House that goes far beyond our rental agreement. A few days ago I ordered tea from across the street. Ama came downstairs and saw us drinking and asked Dinesh why we hadn't come to her for tea. He told her that I ordered to which she responded by calling me, jokingly, "ne rammro manchhe" (bad guy). But that's typical, she's always bringing us tea and snacks and Ranjit inspects the goings-on as closely as we do.

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Sam's House sits right next door to the northern gate of Tribhuvan University (Prithvi Narayan Shah campus, home of the Fighting Gurungs). Many college students pass by every day. They wear uniforms just like in high school and grade school.

For some reason, and this is not uncommon anywhere in Nepal (banks, supermarkets, some restaurants), they have security guards at the entrance. There's not much to secure except for expelling wandering mendicants, so it appears to be a pretty horrible and horribly boring job. Oftentimes the security guards are women small in stature, or men even smaller in stature.

Ama Gurung recently had a conversation with one of the women security guards at the northern gate. She is recently widowed with two children and moved to Pokhara from the village so that she could earn money for her children. The children live in the village with her sister. Apparently this woman had heard an orphanage was starting in the house and she asked Ama to arrange a conversation with Dinesh.

When this conversation started, I was on the roof of the house taking photos. I could see Ama and the woman approaching Dinesh for a sit down. Like a coward I stayed on the roof because I knew this was going to be a rough exchange.

What this woman is asking is just the kind of arrangement that, unfortunately, we cannot support. She was basically asking us to take her children and raise them until they were old enough to support her. That certainly makes a lot of practical sense for her but if we accepted children on those terms, we could raise probably 1/3 the children in Nepal. The woman began crying as soon as the discussion started. Dinesh explained how we prioritize for true orphans and abandoned children. Moreover, her children were too old for our criteria. Dinesh (who I've come to realize as my language improves, has incredible people skills) listened a while longer and the meeting adjourned. And, again, this is just another of the challenging distinctions we have to make when admitting children.

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If you haven't deduced by now, we will not make our opening date of Shivaratri or February 16th. As I said at the time, I shouldn't have put that in print. The difficulty with hiring house mothers put us back a week at least. The house staff will report this week to start living in and we'll start processing children at the same time.

Incidentally, for your trivia-minded people, Shiva is the great god of Hinduism and though he stamped out evil everywhere, he also liked to indulge in marijuana. So, in honor of Shiva, the Nepalese government allows you to smoke marijuana in Nepal on Shivaratri. Could be an intersting day in the tourist districts.

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The Rajbhandari's car has been named the "Rhinestone Cowboy." Thanks to Sheila and Jells for their submissions.

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At 7:30 this morning I jumped on the back of Ranjit Gurung's motorcycle and we sped off to the local gym. It was spectacularly clear in the north and I kept looking back over my shoulder to see the Himalayas, thinking how wonderfully bizarre it was that I should be riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by a 75 year old ex-Gurhka soldier with diabetes, who was as close to a tennis pro as they have in Nepal, and who was bringing me along to play tennis at one of only a handful of courts in the country.

When we arrived there were four guys on the court hitting and another four socializing on the sidelines. Ranjit brought an extra racket for me.

Like most things around Pokhara, having a bideshi participate in Nepali activities always draws a lot of friendly smiles and greater than usual interest from passers-by. The guys working in the metal shop next to the court took a few breaks to watch my lack of prowess.

Ranjit and I took the court next to another pair and started hitting. I haven't played in at least 10 years, probably more. That was quickly obvious as I fanned shots left and right--into the path of the other players, onto the sidelines, over Ranjit's head. Freaked out by this, I started swinging stiff-arm, which only exacerbates your problem, thus I began hitting into the net rather than the fences.

The guy hitting next to me asked, "Are you ready?" I must've looked quizzical because then he said, "It's your serve." Apparently we were playing doubles and this guy (Basint, I would learn) was my partner. So, having not played in 15 years, I was going to start the game by serving. Fortunately I managed to not double fault once that game though my serves could have been timed on a sundial.

For the few of you who have had the pleasure of watching the poetry in motion that is my skiing, you should know I play tennis in a similar style--lots of spastic jerks, too much speed and wasted energy, and I fight for every last shot when I know I should probably, gracefully, let it bounce past. In other words, all energy and no finesse.

Ranjit, as expected, was really good. Though he doesn't hit very hard, he returns every shot cleanly. A "push player," as my cousin Kevin would say. My play actually started well and gradually worsened as the set went on. We won the first game but would go on to lose the set 7-5, thanks in part to my 106 unforced errors. We sat down and let the next foursome take the court, a foursome which featured an Indian doctor from the local hospital playing in a wool sweater and jeans. On the sidelines, the guys consoled me by saying they could tell I was rusty and that I was responsible, due to the loss, for buying the first round of tea. I was all too glad to do that--it cost 25 rupees, or about 40 cents. Not a bad fee for breaking into the group.

We played again, this time I had Ranjit as my partner. I was downright awful. I tried swinging through and hit everything long. I started cutting my stroke down and hit everything into the net. Ranjit was extremely gracious about it all. We lost 6-1.

So that was it. I actually had a great time and it was the first true exercise and sweat (minus the flu bug) that I've had in four weeks. I was hoping to be invited again but worried my play had nixed that possibility. But, sure enough, I'm being picked up tomorrow morning at 7:30 for another couple sets. I'm hoping Ranjit will doctor my swing.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

After a few games you will, no doubt, get your swing back. Maybe you can just play one-on-one with Ranjit to practice.

Excellent name choice for the car! Maybe I'll send along some nice blingy wheel covers to make it really shine.