postheadericon KUIRE KO KURA: On Being Away From Home...

It’s hard to write about Nepal today, being thousands of miles away and holed up in a University dorm room somewhere outside of Bangkok. Writing anything meaningful about living in Nepal, when I am away from Nepal, just dribbles out like a homesick sobbing.

For example, I miss Nepali dogs - real dogs. My dog, and the other dogs that live vicariously on the love bestowed from the denizens of Dhobighat, make my heart ache when I can’t hear them yowling all night long. The dogs here in Thailand are not near as exciting, nor full of spit and vinegar. They are virtually silent. Walking by a street dog in Thailand is like walking past a corpse... they just lie there as if dead, fat and full on whatever they’ve managed to scavenge for dinner.

And perhaps it is the dinner that makes Thai dogs so complacent and unexcited about life – plain white rice bores me to tears as well. The rice here tastes flat without the common accouterments of dhal, achar and a nice curry. But don’t get me wrong, some Thai food is wonderful: the fresh seafood and fish, the peanut pad thai, and those cute little sandwiches with the crusts all cut off are certainly grand. But the plates of plain white rice, in minute quantities, are a bit standoffish and totally unsatisfying.

And most food served here in Thailand is in mini-format, and I’ve discovered why - Thais eat non-stop all day and night! If the quantities were any larger, they would all look like fat Americans - instead of the slender trim beauties that they mostly are. I say mostly, as the Thais that I see hanging out at any one of the millions of McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Pizza Huts, do appear to be gaining weight on the average American, if you know what I mean.

But maybe the cause of youth weight gain is not solely due to the fast food chains that are sprouting up like young stalks of summer bamboo, but instead is caused by the love that Thais have with white bread. This soft mushy “milk” bread covers everything in the food stalls, and I gotta say, I don’t mind a bit. There are tuna muffins, sausage rolls, and a plethora of other tiny buns stuffed with who-knows-what, all for 10 rupees or less... which adds up for me, ‘cause I have to have a half-dozen or more to make myself a mini-meal.

I asked the Ama running one food stall (where the menu postings were written in halfway decent English) what was the favorite food sold at her stand, as there was such a wide variety piled onto the oversized cart. She replied by showing me a photo of her and family on a river cruise in NYC, with the World Trade twin towers still standing in the background. The photo was dated 7/12/1990, and she excitedly pointed to the towers saying New York New York over and over.

I found out only by observation that the big seller at this food stall was chilling in a large Styrofoam cooler containing a huge block of ice and hundreds of tiny plastic bottles. It was plain yogurt - white, thick, cream and delicious - served with a tiny straw. I bought four.

But Ama told me that was not enough for lunch, so she pulled a small tin from another cooler nearby that she said contained “Le Zah Ya.” Lasagna? Nodding, she yelled back “Le Zah Ya!”

Okay, give me two of those as well. That, and a bag of homemade fried banana chips and I was good to go. It’s a bit hot here at the moment, so I headed back to my classroom with lunch, where I knew it would be chilly cold with at least two huge air cons blasting away. But before I could get there, I was struck by another food cart piled high with fresh fruit, slowly melting away huge blocks of ice. I just had to have some of that luscious pineapple and watermelon...

Perhaps it’s the Nepali lack of refrigeration and ice that makes me homesick when anything opulent is thrown in my face while abroad, to include the unlimited spray from a showerhead. This full on, all day public utilities heaven is what makes me pine for the chaos of a poorer Kathmandu, where everything is hot, dirty, crowded, crazy – and limited to an arbitrary schedule.

I know, that sounds nuts - but ke garne?

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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