A bit of local colour

Tuesday 23rd October 2007
Well, almost immediately after writing about how lovely the weather is here, it turned really quite cold!
As the orphanage doesn’t have any heating, Aamaa has dished out extra blankets, and I’ve started to go to bed with a full compliment of jumpers, socks and vests.
I’m thinking I may soon need to invest in a hot water bottle too!
It’s alright during the day once the sun gets going, but the early mornings are freezing cold, and my hands and feet are starting to crack and get all chapped.

Anyway, other than that, things are fine, the festival is still going on, so it’s been quiet and lots of Aamaa’s friends have been coming around to cook various different meats (Dashain is primarily a meaty festival) and so far we’ve had chicken, goat, buffalo, mutton and something that was described as “sort-of like baby bison” – some sort of veal probably, but I’m not sure.
Oddly, all of the meat tastes exactly the same, as they cook it all with something called “meat masala” – a specific combination of spices for meat apparently!
And now for a local tale.
Kathmandu in general, like a lot of cities, is really just a collection of villages, and the neighbourhoods are friendly, everyone knows everyone else etc.
However, Alan told me about something that happened out where he lives a couple of weeks ago that shows what happens when the community takes things into it’s own hands.
Alan lives in Kocanna, a rural area south of Patan, out in the hills, and it really is like a village, a very close-knit community.
It seems there were two families who had had an ongoing feud for years, and things had escalated over something.
The father of one family (I don’t know if he actually did it himself or had help) kidnapped the son from the other family.
This boy (who was 8 years old) was taken into the woods, tied to a tree and then stabbed to death.
It was a truly shocking event, and left the village reeling at such a barbaric and horrific crime.
The police arrested the father who was believed to be responsible, and took him to jail, but the community didn’t feel that simply being locked up was quite enough retribution.
The next day, a strike was organised, not just in Kocannna, but for miles around, as word had spread about this monstrous crime, and all the school’s were closed for the day as a mark of respect – even Dom’s school quite a few suburbs away was affected.
The crowd of strikers/protesters very efficiently blocked off the roads at either end of the village and stood in hundreds blocking traffic as a mob burned the man’s house to the ground. The fire engines, of course, were not allowed through.
It’s a terrible tragedy, but on the other hand, it’s easy to see why people felt jail wasn’t enough for the man, and after years of violence and mob rule, it’s also easy to see how such an event could be organised by a village so efficiently.
So, just another little piece of insight into Nepal’s darker side, which I’m slowly discovering, piece by piece.
The gas crisis continues, although it’s trickling in slowly. I bought Aamaa an electric kettle to save wasting gas boiling water all the time, and most petrol pumps will be closed for days, and if they get a delivery, cars and bikes line up for miles, so the pumps are usually dry again by the end of the day.
I think the problem is that Nepal is so physically cut off, they rely on almost everything that can’t be grown to be imported by road, mostly from India.
Not only are there constant border disputes, but a lot of the actual “troubles” are in the south and west, pretty much all along the border, so even if trucks make it through from India, they still often end up getting commandeered by Maoists or other small groups for their own purposes.
There are parts of south-west Nepal that are almost completely under Maoist control, and one of the school’s that Dom was supposed to work in was taken over by the Maoists. They implemented their own curriculum, and demanded a large proportion of each teacher’s pay check each month.
However, aside from all this deep, dark trouble, I thought I’d finish off today’s email with an amusing little anecdote entitled “The one where my pants ended up in the neighbour’s bush”.
Fear not, it is perfectly innocent, for those of you with dirty minds, and does not involve any lewd references, for the faint-hearted amongst you!
As usual, after the grand washing of clothes, they are laid out on the concrete roof to dry, either on the floor or draped over the wall. It works very well, and they tend to dry very quickly (although occasionally my clean clothes come back with pigeon poo on them).
The other day, I had popped up the roof for a moment of quiet and a fag, and I was enjoying the sunshine, and looking at all my pants, neatly lined up in a row along the wall. I was wondering whether they were dry yet, and why there was a gap in the middle of my row of pants.
Then it occurred to me that it was a bit windy and a couple of t-shirts had blown off the wall onto the floor.
It very slowly dawned on me why there was a gap in the pants, and I equally slowly made my way over to the wall in question. And looked down.
Sure enough, as I had suspected, there were my blue rabbit pants, and my brown and pink rock star pants, resting on the top of the bushes in the neighbour’s garden.
Interesting, I thought.
I went and got Sabina to come and look, as I couldn’t sufficiently explain what had happened.
She pissed herself laughing, and I had a nervous giggle, although I was really quite embarrassed and not sure how to get them back!
We went down to investigate, and grabbed a couple of the older boys along the way. They tried to climb over the wall, but it’s too high and has nails and broken glass set in the top. Then we went to the balcony off the girl’s room and tried to locate them from ground level.
Yoann was all for jumping off the balcony, but we managed to persuade him not to just yet. At that moment the lovely old man who works next door doing odd jobs and gardening (he lives in a shed at the back of the house) came out.
He very kindly retrieved my underwear, and although it took a few attempts, finally managed to throw them up to us over the wall.
So, another day in the life of Maya conducts itself with a lot less decorum than I’d like!
I sometimes wonder whether these things happen to other people or if it’s just me, but then, if I didn’t have all you people to relate these little stories to, I’d probably be a bit sad and accident prone, rather than purveyor of amusing anecdotes.
So, I’ll leave you with the image of my pants, nesting comfortably in someone else’s bushes, and a few wise words from the fabulous Kesar Lall.
“It is unfortunate to be hit by a house lizard.”
“If a man sees the breasts of an unmarried woman, it will bring him ill luck during that day.”
Proverb 199: He who is thirsty often goes to the stream.
tons of love
Maya of the bad literary puns
(read more in my upcoming books “Pants Lost” and “Pants Regained”
tee hee

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