Saturday 27th October 2007
Just thought you’d all like to know that on Tuesday night, around 6pm, I became a vegetarian.
A bit random, but for almost three months I’ve been loving the food here, and it’s been almost completely vegetarian. Then in the last two weeks during Dashain, I have eaten meat almost every day, as I mentioned in my last email, ranging from chickens and goats, to buffalo, mutton and something that was described to me as “sort-of like baby buffalo” – some kind of veal I imagine. Anyway, I was eating my mutton curry for dinner and was literally chewing on a mouthful when the images of all the slaughters I’ve seen recently popped into my head.
I was chewing away on this sinewy, gristly bit of tendon and muscle and I felt utterly reviled and nauseous!
I literally couldn’t swallow my mouthful – I had to spit it out. It was weird cos it was so completely sudden!
I think it’s partly the fact that my stomach can’t take the sudden massive intake of meat after so long without, and also the visual images that one sees here of the actual slaughters and live goats waiting outside butcher shops. Kathmandu is a constant barrage of visual images – everything assaults your senses, smells, tastes, and sights.
Also, the meat doesn’t come neatly packaged like in Tesco’s, but literally just hacked up, bloody and bony, and in a plastic bag, and you have to chew your way through the bones, sinews, tendons and gristle, kidneys, heart, cartilage etc. – They eat it all here – no chicken bones left over!
In addition to which I was subsequently really quite ill for a couple of days after that night – violently ill in fact, as if my body decided to reject all of the meat from the last 9 days all at once!
So, while I have no idea if I’ll be able to keep it up back home, for the time being I am utterly revolted by the idea of meat and will be a vegetarian until further notice!
Also, Aamaa took me to a lovely party last night that her Tibetan friends were throwing in honour of Dashain, and also Lasar (?) a Tibetan festival I think.
The Tibetans are often considered to be very well off around here, mostly because they could afford to move somewhere else I suppose, although a lot of Aamaa’s Tibetan friends are also financial benefactors, so they obviously have a fair bit of money to spare.
Anyway, it was held at a school, which is closed for the holidays, and they had tables and chairs in the courtyard and all the classrooms set up, and great big groups playing cards and Mahjong. They had turned the school storeroom into a bar, and everyone appeared to be drinking away happily.
– The Nepalese I’ve met so far generally don’t drink much – it’s not really a part of their culture, but apparently the Tibetans drink like fishes!
Aamaa’s friend offered me a drink, which I declined, but Aamaa insisted I have something alcoholic (as a westerner it’s assumed that I drink socially – obviously!). I felt a bit embarrassed, as Aamaa doesn’t drink, but she was quite clear on the subject, and it was obviously a special occasion, so I said yes.
They asked me if I liked brandy, and I do actually, but looking around all I could see were bottles of cheap local whisky, which I hate. It occured to me that having asked for a coke earlier and been presented with a sprite, that they may be saying brandy but meaning whisky. They also said they had wine, so I asked for a glass of white.
I went to the bathroom and when I came back saw to my horror an entire bottle of red wine sitting next to my chair!
It was Lindemans, something or other shiraz, which over here is pretty pricey imported stuff, and they’d clearly opened the bottle just for me, as no one else appeared to be drinking wine.
(For those of you who don’t know this, I HATE red wine).
Luckily, our host reappeared with two glasses and was obviously going to help me, as it fast became apparent that I would have to drink the entire bottle!
He poured us both a glass, necked his, and complained I wasn’t drinking very fast.
I was sipping mine painfully slowly, not enjoying it at all (although at that point I really did want a proper drink too!).
I managed to get halfway down the glass, when he immediately topped it up again.
Then someone brought us a plate of cold chips as a snack, and while I know full well that cold chips do not go with any sort of wine, in desperation I took a couple and tried to strain the red wine through the chips to improve the taste.
It didn’t work.
Later on, one of his friends brought a pet baby monkey out, which was terribly cute, but everyone wanted me to stroke it, and I’m really quite afraid of rabies, so I tried to pat it with my sleeve firmly wrapped around my hand. The monkey, being only a baby really, kept “play-biting” me so I’m glad I did, but then I had a brainwave!
The poor monkey was on a leash, and freaking out because some kids kept setting off the loudest firecrackers you’ve ever heard in your life, and kept knocking things over jumping around the place.
So, I very carefully placed my full wine glass on the ground in the monkey’s path, and carried on carefully petting it through my jumper, but the bloody thing would NOT knock my glass over!
Anyhow, I ended up managing about a glass and a half, which I though was pretty damn courageous of me really, and had to leave the last glass he poured me hidden behind the chair.
On the upside, I got the impression that Aamaa really approved – I don’t think she knew that I didn’t like it, I think she just thought I was a cautious drinker (oh if only she knew!), and as a non-drinker herself, thoroughly approved of my slow drinking!
So, on my first day as a vegetarian, I was forced to drink red wine, but overall it hasn’t been too bad! I did have a discussion with Anil about whether or not I could eat eggs – I explained the difference between vegetarian and vegan, and he pointed out that eggs are just unfertilized baby chicken foetuses (foeti?), but luckily I don’t really like eggs much either, so that won’t come up!
I have contacted my veggie guru, who assures me that my second head will barely be noticeable, and I will from this day forth be able to judge everyone else from my platform of moral superiority! Can’t wait!
However, I am starting to wonder if Nepal is slowly having an effect on me.
First, I was considering a meditation course in which I can’t talk for ten days (and may still do it), next giving up meat. I’m also strangely attracted to the idea of going hiking and trekking for days on end up inhospitable mountains. Weird.
I hope I don’t suddenly develop an urge to wear unwashed hemp shirts and stop brushing my hair. There are a few too many ageing hippies in Kathmandu who clearly took too much acid in the sixties and never made it home. Honestly, anyone over the age of 50 who still wears manky, dirty tie-dyed baggy trousers and plaits their beard ought to be politely, but firmly kept indoors.
that’s all for now,
tons of love,
newly vegetarian Maya (who still hates red wine)