Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Not-So-Final Ending for a Goddess (With Bonus: Cute Kids!)

Ah, Dashain. A time for kids, goats and goddesses. And photos, of course. Particularly when we go to our in-laws' village, where I get to pretend I work for National Geographic.

But ... well ... one of the cool things about village life is that it's rustic, and rustic means "not so much electricity," which is richly atmospheric and good for the soul but not so good for camera batteries. (Oh, our village has electricity. It came about 10 years ago. That doesn't mean it's around when needed. Much, come to think of it, like Kathmandu.)

As a result, when the streets filled with indigenous Tharu girls with ceremonial vessels on their heads and people chanting and throwing colored powder as they pulled a larger-than-life statue of the goddess Durga through rain-soaked lanes, my camera died. I bet that doesn't happen at National Geographic.

So you'll have to take my word for it that Dashain came to a splashing end with a wild flash-mob wiggling snake line as hundreds of people did a barefoot dervish squish-dance in the mud all the way to the river, where the Goddess was worshipped with incense and song by Tharu women and I felt the ancient power of Woman's Spirit in Creating Civilization from Chaos before a batch of men dragged her into the water and floated her away. Glub. I'm trying to figure out the significance of this.

Yet, sadly, I can't show it, or the moment when my teenager's feet got sucked into the quicksand-like mud on the riverbank and he stood there flailing while Durga was towed past him by a chanting mob, or a few minutes later when I got my karmic comeuppance for laughing at his predicament and I got stuck too, but actually IN the river, and those girls above with the pots enjoyed themselves as I tried to pull out of the sucking flooping muck that had suddenly become like a pair of cement shoes courtesy of Tony Soprano, so ya tried to cross us didja, well go sing with the fishes, all without toppling into the water (which is not good when you're wearing cement shoes)  ...

Come to think of it, that might not have been the best place for a camera anyway.

But I'll make up for it with other pictures. Like this one, which was the absolute best Durga I found. I swear she's giving the demon a spanking. Dude, do not cross the primordial mother. Even when she's stuck in the mud.

Of course, the Goddesses all end up in the muddy river afterwards, at least (see Multicultural Disclaimer from previous post) among certain groups in our particular area of Nepal. The holy immersing (permanently) of thousands upon thousands of Durgas with their weaponry, lions, buffaloes and vanquished demons can be problematic for the environment, as reported here (from Patna) and here (from Hyderabad) and here (from West Bengal) by journalists who work harder than me.

Also a submerged Warrior Goddess Durga surfaced like a U-Boat while my son was swimming in a lake the next day and nearly torpedoed him. Remember, guys, she's a warrior goddess. She will return. Watch out if you go in the water right now. It's Jaws Meets the Spanish Inquisition out there. Cue Monty Python: "No one expects the Goddess Durga!"

The camera did work some of the time, though. And since holidays are a great time for kids, and these are such cute kids, here's a photo roundup. With, of course, educational context in case anyone who stumbled onto this blog needs it for a middle-school report. (Just remember the proper citation: "Too Lazy for Yoga." That will impress your teacher.) 

So here comes ...

The (Educational) Cute Kid Photo Show! 

The girl above lives in a beautiful house covered with folk art in the Tharu village, home of the enthusiastic goddess dunkers, who are also the indigenous people of the area. (Traditionally forest dwellers of ancient and uncertain origin, they made good subjects for real NatGeo photographer Eric Valli). It's the largest village around by population and is about a 5-minute walk through rice fields from my family's village, which is heavily pahadia (Nepali hill people). 

Tharu speak a different language, but almost everyone in the area, from my old in-laws to the children, are multilingual in Nepali, Tharu and Awadhi (plus Bollywood Hindi and soap-opera Urdu.) This little girl below, also Tharu, is wearing a protective amulet around her neck. Either that or it's her secret language decoder ring. 

The girls below live in my family's village, in a neighborhood called Kami Tol, whose residents belong to the blacksmith (Kami) caste. They're Dalit, the umbrella term for people known to Westerners as "Untouchables," and traditionally practiced occupational skills such as metalwork, tanning, tailoring and butchering. Labeling those skills as "low status" was probably not the best strategy for technological development over the centuries, but that's another issue in a complicated topic. They're Nepali-speaking pahadia (hill people) and are basically indistinguishable, physically and culturally, from other pahadia. The clue is the last name: If you're Dalit, your last name might be Kami, Sarki, Bishwokarma, Pariyar, or ironically, Nepali. If your last name is Smith, Cobbler or Taylor, join the ranks. Well, technically, all foreigners qualify. Sorry.

Hey, look. Five cute kids! Count them.

Dalit life has improved greatly in the last decades. In fact, the village's private English school is operated by a Dalit couple, so high-status kids go to a Dalit-run school. There's widespread recognition now that untouchability isn't an integral part of Hinduism, didn't exist in earliest times, and isn't exactly fair or just. Still, if you're born Dalit, you're a whole lot like likelier to be poor, with an illiterate family and fewer opportunities, and to face prejudice from the ignorant. (Who ought to try living without butchers and tailors sometime.) But as I said, it's a complicated topic. This girl and her friends are not starving or destitute, they live in a village that has changed enormously for the good, and she has a kid goat that she thinks is really cool and needs its photo taken many times. Many many times. With as many friends as possible. Maybe that explains my dead camera battery.

I WANT THESE SHIRTS. Hew of Fashion! Free Mi! GEDEOPEED! Someday everyone will speak good English, and then they won't have shirts like this, and it will be a terrible loss to the landscape. I mean, Nepal isn't all mountains and lush scenery. If we didn't have humor around here, it could be a bit hard to take. So huzzah for the ridiculous shirts. 

In the Dressed For The Holidays category, we have this Dashain Beauty, 
my chic niece-type relative (it's complicated), 
who shows the fashionable way to put barley sprouts in your hair. 
The well-dressed forehead will wear yogurt, rice and vermilion powder this season.

You're never too young for a Dashain blessing. The cap keeps the barley sprouts on,
and the rain off. (We got hit by fringe-of-the-Indian-typhoon rain.)

Aspirational dressing. He doesn't actually have a Facebook page. But yes, he knows what it is.

And these Tharu boys do know Gangnam Style.

Which, incidentally, may be one of the coolest videos ever. Think about it. It's a humorous video about the values and norms of Seoul's version of Beverly Hills. It's Valley Girl for South Koreans. A local in-joke about Asian Chic. How obscure can you get?

Yet it beat Justin Bieber for Most Watched Video Ever (1.7 billion views and counting), and now here it is in a village in the middle of nowhere. Not Michael Jackson or Britney Spears or someone rapping about bling, but a dweeby guy from Korea riffing on trying to be cool. Humor about bling and schlock beats bling and schlock. An Everyman from the non-Western sticks beats the Hollywood machine. 

Gosh, it's just like Rocky. It could be a movie. With action figures! And more t-shirts.

And then, of course, there's this classic look. Courtesy of my nephew. Very Calvinesque (of Hobbes, not Puritanism). Somehow it never grows old. 

Oh wait. Yes it does.

Which, of course, brings us back to this ...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dashain is Coming. So Are the Zombies. I Warned You.

In the US, you know the biggest holiday of the year  is coming when you hear carols. OK, they're piped-in carols at shopping malls, but it does fill the air with festive anticipation. In Nepal, the year's biggest festival sounds like this:   


My nephew with his dinner

Which is what I'm hearing right now, from a goat tied up somewhere in the 'hood. That means Dashain is coming and we're heading to the village soon, which is lucky, because I'll be closer to our Designated Anti-Zombie Hideout and hence have a shot at surviving the Zombie Invasion, which has already started. I'll provide the evidence shortly. 

But first, Dashain. It celebrates the victory of the Goddess Durga over Evil in the form of a demon who appeared as a water buffalo -- this makes more sense if you've ever seen an irritable water buffalo -- and the male gods either couldn't do jack or were too busy talking politics or something, so they needed to call on a woman. 

Enter Durga.

Durga did what women do, which is to call other women, who in this case were actually forms of herself. This probably cut down on dissension in the Demon Fighting Focus Group, although I can't get all the parts of my personality to agree with myself, so I have to hand it to Durga for her success. Hence, perhaps, her Goddess-hood. Then the nine forms of Durga, including the toughest one of all, Kali, put on a fine show of womanly collaboration and beat the crap out of Evil. The Goddess, united, can never be defeated. This makes it one of the coolest festivals on earth. In spite of the fact that Durga is often depicted as a kewpie doll in Bollywood makeup, she's a toughie. As for Kali, she's not the type for lipstick and eyeliner, and artists know better than to give her a makeover.

And now, if you're a middle-school student who stumbled onto this blog while doing a term paper, here's the ...


Dashain is also known as Navaratri (Nine Nights), which is why, if you're Indian and reading this, you've been saying "What the heck is Dashain?" It's also known as Durga Puja and Dussehra and other names that I won't get into because that's what Wikipedia is for. The Indian Subcontinent has the whole post-modern multicultural thing down pat. Each of the days of Dashain is devoted to one of the the Nine Forms of the Goddess, each worshiped on her day to strengthen her own battle with evil. 

Day One is for Parvati, Daughter of the Mountains.  Her nature is  great beauty, and on her day, Gatasthapana, when the new crescent moon has just barely appeared, you plant barley and keep it in the dark so the sprouts are golden and your elders can stick them behind your ear on the main festival day, because they're your elders and they can do what they want. Parvati also goes by the name of Shailapatri, and some other names too. AND of course she's part of Durga. These are the ideas South Asians came up with before they got into computers. Think of the mandala to the right as a suitably complex concept map:

Mandala from ceremony to the Thousand Names of the Divine Mother.
The ceremony focuses on Lalita ("She Who Plays" or "The Spontaneous One"),
a name for Parvati and a form of Shakti/The Goddess. 

Day Two is for Brahmacharini, The Celibate One, ever unmarried, who leads the way to peace, bliss and liberation. Somehow this makes sense. On so many levels. Although, of course, the opposite does too, because, of course, infinite realities ...

Day Three is for Chandraghanta, The Tiger Rider. Her gift is bravery in the service of peace. Too bad she's not more famous.

Day Four is for Kushmanda, The Warm Little Cosmic Egg, who gives power to the sun and is in some sense a life-giver who created the universe. And her name really means what I said.

Day Five is for Skandamata, Mother of Kartikeya, who gave birth to a six-headed god-cum-demon fighter who was actually created by two males, Shiva and Agni. As the status update for relationships says, "It's Complicated." You could call her a surrogate mother. 

Day Six is for Kathyayini, The Lion Rider, whose story is intriguing given the priority the culture has long placed on sons. She's the daughter of a great sage who prayed to the gods to give him a daughter who embodied Shakti -- not a son, but a daughter/goddess -- and he got the brave Kathyayini. 

Day Seven is for Kaal Ratri, The Death of Time. This is Kali, intense and powerful and fierce. It's a day for flowers and blood. During the day, flowers and leaves are carried to the temple in a ceremonial procession. But Navaratri follows a lunar calendar, and this is a night when the half-moon rises and vanishes around midnight. It's marked in our village by a midnight she-goat slaughter. The goat is communally bought, cooked in the dark and eaten on the spot by participants. Slaughtering a she-goat is explicitly transgressive; typically only male animals are eaten. But Kaal Ratri/Kali does not follow the usual rules.
Durga shrine at Dashain near our family's home in the village 

Day Eight is for Mahagauri, The White One. Depending on who's telling it, she may be an innocent child or a nubile teenager. But she's wise. Bet on her against any demons. Incidentally, the day is called Mahasthami, a day to clean and worship your sickles, plough blades, swords and kitchen knives, perhaps because at this point the battle with demons is moving towards its apex and you'd better be ready. Also there's a really big dinner coming. 

Day Nine is for Siddhidatri, Giver of Enlightenment. An enlightened person, of course, would realize that all of the goddesses are really aspects of Maha Shakti, the Great Energy, also known as Durga.

Dashain technically goes until the Full Moon, or Purnima, and Nepal's government used to shut down until then when it was a Hindu kingdom. But now they've added Eid and Christmas as public holidays, and if you've got any other holidays to be inclusive about I'm sure they'll add them too (on paper, anyway, and because otherwise the groups will call a bandh), so Dashain has lost some days. At any rate, the big celebration has always been on Day Ten, Vijaya Dashami ("Vijaya" meaning "victory"), since Durga in all her forms has finished her nine-day battle with the demons and it's time to party. That's Monday, Oct. 14 this year.

Disclaimer: Remember that multicultural thing? The foregoing has been the Nepal version. I mean the My Family's Ethnic Group In Their Part of Nepal version. It's more or less close to other Hindu versions, since there are an infinite number of realities and also, I suspect, because South Asians like to talk a lot. So explanations won't necessarily match up in the details. Celebrations vary, too. I gather that Kathmanduites often have big fancy family parties with hundreds of guests for days and days before Dashain. What to wear, what to wear? But that's their problem. We do things The Village Way.

Anyway, The Big Village-Wide Party. On Dashain, that means goat. And there's no pussy-footing around in a village: If you're going to eat meat, you will not escape the death-and-blood part.  Vegetarians like my father-in-law -- who is also a pandit, or priest, and appropriately observant -- sacrifice a pumpkin with full ceremony. But as tends to be the case in Hinduism (at least in my experience), your own choice is yours alone, and while he took a vow many decades ago not to touch meat or harm animals, he wouldn't insist that his choice is the only right way. For him to eat meat would be a sin, because of his vow. But the rest of the family eats meat or not, as they prefer, and for the most part they're keen on their Dashain goat.

Goats by the score are brought to the Durga temple,
where they're garlanded and consecrated to the Goddess and tied to a flower-topped sacrificial pole
 as people hang out and bang on drums and go about their worship.
 Without, I'll add, either the grave propriety of Western tradition
 or the imagined symphonic intensity of exotic ancient rituals by Others (Hollywood style).
People just do things. It is what it is. Bring flowers.

After the goat is asked if it wants to be sacrificed and shakes its head "yes" (helped by a sprinkle of water),
 the head is duly cut off and the body dragged around the pole several times to encircle it with blood
 as an offering to Durga/Shakti in all her forms.
Then people take their goats home to eat, because The Goddess is only interested in the blood.

Then it's time to EAT! (After a drippy blessing.)

The central activity of Dashain, its ceremonial raison d'etre, is to get blessed by your elders by having them plaster your forehead with yogurt, uncooked rice, and red powder. Why that's a blessing I do not know. It seems like a ritual invented by the Three Stooges when they couldn't find a cream pie. Is it marking the harvest? Is it reminding us that we're all ultimately part of the food chain? 

No one I've asked could ever explain it. Oh, they could theorize, but the genesis of the smeary wet blessing is as vague and speculative as the origins of Christmas trees and Easter eggs, and no one thinks about the origins anyway when they're doing it. It's just what people have always done. It's fun. It's Dashain. And it's got that whole Hindu too-much-of-everything-is-just-enough vibe: You want a blessing from me? Well, here's a LOT of blessing! It's dripping off your forehead and onto your new Dashain clothes! 

From top left: Young family members waiting for the feast and peeking in at the kalash, a ceremonial vessel to welcome goodness and fortune to the house, generally filled with water and leaves such as mango and pipal; Getting tika (blessings) from my husband's sister; Son getting a blessing from a great-aunt; Happily dripping niece. 

BUT, you ask ... 


(Other than the blood and gore part. And the part about Evil let loose in the land. And the fact that trying to do design in Blogger is turning me into one.)

Here's the thing. My son, who of course is always reliable, reports that in the last few days he has seen several men -- not one, not two, but at least three -- wandering the neighborhood, growling and grimacing and acting like they wanted to bite. I told him he was either totally exaggerating or they were drunk or crazy. Mental health care isn't exactly state-of-the-art here.

He said, "Watch out. The skeptics are always the first to get bit."

But see, luckily, we're headed within walking distance of our Designated Anti-Zombie Hideout. It's not our family's current village, which is too flat to keep away zombies. But as you surely know from World War Z, zombies cannot climb and are particularly stymied by the Himalayas. So our destination, in event of zombie breakout, is my mother-in-law's family village, which isn't far, relatively speaking. It looks like this: 

18th c. painting of Durga fighting
the demon Mahisasura. 

You see that she is well-positioned 
to hit zombies in the brain,
where it counts.

We just have to get there, block off the lone dirt road (conveniently edged by sheer cliffs), and bide our time eating home-grown rice and lentils and guavas until the Zombie Apocalypse ends. Hopefully Durga will help out. They've got a lot of goats to thank her with.

So if you don't hear from me for a while, I may be celebrating Dashain in the village, or the zombies may be coming and we saw them first and have headed to the heights and I'll be able to say "I warned you." 

Either that or my son is right and I'll be saying AAArrrrgggROWL CHOMP.

Nepal's main "highway" and the best road out of Kathmandu -- 
almost the only one --
crowded with travelers at Dashain on its two cliff-hugging lanes.
An excellent terrain for evading zombies. Unless they're in the cars and buses,
in which case it will be a zombie jam. And we'll all be jam for the zombies.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shake the Tree and Pour the Rum, It's Guava Season

In Nepal, we live seasonally. Mango season is over,  but now it’s guava time. We're lucky enough to have two trees at our house -- well, not "our" house exactly, the landlord's house, but it'll do -- which means I can pick guavas from the balcony without going to the trouble of putting on shoes. Alternately someone can climb the tree, which is not my option of choice, or hit the branches with the mutilated leg of a camera tripod.

As most people don't look at a tripod and think "Guava Retrieval Stick," this requires an explanation. One day my son was filming at the sprawling and forested complex of Pashupatinath Temple when two monkeys, showing a capacity for teamwork and collaboration and goal-directed thinking that would make an aid agency trainer proud, grabbed his tripod and ran off with it. My son, being a teenager and hence having forgotten to pack his brain that morning, ran after the monkeys, down the steep slope and into the tangled underbrush that was probably full of snakes, none of which fortunately bit him as he ranted and raved at the monkeys and the monkeys bared their teeth and fortunately didn't bite him and inspected the stolen tripod and did their own version of ranting and raving when it turned out not to contain any food, and then threw it back at our son in disgust. 

That's how we have only a tripod leg. But it’s good for knocking down guavas. Next time any monkeys come around, we're armed.

Monkey thinking deep monkey thoughts. Watch out for your bag. Or tripod. 

As a presumed 99 percent of the audience of this blog already knows (because you know me personally which is why you're reading it, thank you, I'll read your blogs too now!), my husband is Nepali, and although we lived in the U.S. for years, he grew up in a small village without anything fancy like electricity or running water or a toilet. Not even an outhouse. People just took a morning trip to the riverbanks to do their duty, with the Brahman and Chhetri men looping their janai, or sacred thread, over their ears as they did their business and then not un-looping it, so that you knew who had just taken a dump. Village life isn't big on privacy. 

This relates to guavas because the encircling jungle, where you went anyway to cut firewood, was also a popular place for nature's business. The result was an abundance of whatever seedy things people had eaten, particularly guavas, chili peppers and tomatoes. They all grow wild in the jungle. 

Son and friend at the fringe of our family village, where the jungle, although heavily cut, can still be seen:

Children pick the fruits wild and also become adept at stealing the fruits from neighbors’ trees. I see it here, too, on my lane in Kathmandu. The other day I passed a group of boys who paused guiltily in the act of climbing a wall and knocking down guavas from a tree not their own. It's the kind of Tom Sawyer, Norman Rockwell-ish activity that would get a kid tagged as a delinquent in the U.S. 

Guavas are pulpy and semi-tasteless before they're truly ripe, but when they're ready, they’re heavenly. And they're surprisingly potent, health-wise, much like blueberries. A study on fruits common in India, which I have been scholarly enough to link to, at least in its game-of-telephone newspaper form, concluded that the guava, "exotic in Europe but a poor man's fruit in India," is "the ultimate superfood," with the highest concentration of antioxidants in the study.

The guava is a so-called "poor man's fruit" in part, perhaps, because they're known (at least among rural people) to grow from poop, which doesn't tend to give them an elegant reputation. And they're ubiquitous. Kind of like crabgrass or McDonald's in America. I'm in the city, but we're knocking guavas off the tree daily. The landlady was just sweeping the yard and complaining about all the guavas littering the ground. The dogs use them as balls. One almost conked me on the head today. 

In fact, unripe guavas make excellent weapons in the hands of monkeys. If you throw something at a monkey, it may well throw it back, since monkey do know how to use their opposable thumbs to achieve their goals, such as whacking village kids on the head. A monkey can supposedly kill a person with a guava. 

Here's what you apparently get from a guava, aside from a possible conk on the head:
  • 209 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C.Take that, orange juice. Not just 200 percent, but a 9 percent bonus.
  • Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. Funny, it doesn't look like a carrot.
  • Some research suggests they can help fend off diabetes. A healthy sugar? Cool.
  • It can be used against diarrhea and other intestinal problems, which is good to know when you live in Nepal.
  • More potassium than an equal serving of bananas. Although a monkey is less likely to use a banana as a weapon. 

Having a superfood at arm's reach to provide us with anti-oxidants is helpful in Kathmandu, for reasons you can see.

And yet it's not all smoke, dust and asthma here. Politicians come to the rescue. Yes, because of politicians and wannabe politicians, there are strikes (bandhs) that shut down the city with some regularity as political parties protest other parties and try to make people do what they want and only what they want. It's rather like snow days in Washington DC. Actually it's like other things in Washington too. But it does have benefits. This is the city without traffic, on a lovely clear bandh day.                                                            

Now, since this is a blog and you've already scrolled down all this way, and endured terrible newbie blogger layout to boot, it's my ethical duty to offer some recipes. Besides, every woman who blogs and mentions her kid and isn't crafty must at least give recipes once in a while. I believe in Rule of Law.

So here comes the recipe section

These are some Laziness Approved Recipes for using fresh guavas. If you're reading this in the northern realm of the blogosphere, like Cleveland or Helsinki, then you can use packaged guava juice and think of us in exotic Kathmandu, plucking guavas in the shimmering shadow of the Himalayas. Nyanyanya. Cough cough. Whoops, that shadow was actually diesel smoke.


8 ounces Guava nectar
4 ounces tequila
4 limes

Juice three of the limes, to get about 3 tablespoons juice, and slice the last lime in round slices for garnish.
Mix and shake with ice cubes (Recipe says "in cocktail shaker," but we don't exactly have one here. Luckily the human mind can figure things out.)
Strain, garnish, enjoy

Guava Lime Coolers

7 cups guava juice (not pre-sweetened)
  • 3 cups white (light) rum
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup grenadine (pomegranate-flavored syrup)
  • Ice cubes
  • Lime slices or wedges, or fresh guava slices
  • In a large pitcher, mix guava juice, rum, lime juice, and grenadine. Pour over ice in glasses and garnish with slices of lime or guava.
West Indies Guava Barbecue Sauce

1 guava - peeled, seeded, and chopped (seeded? What, OUR guavas? What'll be left?)
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons liquid smoke flavoring (Ha! Just where would I get that here? Yet we will survive.)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon habanero hot sauce (Something tells me it doesn't absolutely HAVE to be habanero.)
1 teaspoon molasses 
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder (Whatever. I could pulverize some onion instead.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

In a large saucepan over low heat, stir together the guava, tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, and brown sugar until well blended. Stir in liquid smoke (sic), fresh lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, habanero sauce, and molasses. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Cover and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Enjoy! If you have guavas that is.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Will Anything Blow Up If I Post This?

I am finally starting a blog. This is a sure sign that blogging is going out of fashion. I am not an early adapter. When I first heard of Hotmail, I thought it was a porn site. I still can’t move my music onto my new iPod because I’m afraid I’ll hit the wrong button and everything will vanish. I once had a computer blow up on me. Really. It could happen again.

I should have started a blog when we moved to Nepal in 2010, dragging along a reluctant teenager and giving up great jobs in Washington D.C. to Follow Our Dreams.

Me following my dreams:

Teenager following his dreams. Well, not really. That would be a picture of him at a computer screen with a plate full of nachos. But this is him anyway:

That would have been a logical time to start blogging. But my friend Lois Lane didn’t let me. I'm calling her Lois because I don’t know yet if I can edit blogs after they’re posted (yes, I’m that clueless), and I don’t have her permission to use her name. Lois has been a White House correspondent and rode on Air Force One with George Bush and Bill Clinton and doesn’t like blogging because it’s giving away your work for free. Which is true. So I listened to her, since she’s the kind of person you listen to. Except as it turns out, after three years in Nepal, I don’t have any work to give away anyway. And so I’m starting this blog by blaming Lois, because I have a teenager and I’ve learned a few lessons, such as that when you don’t do your work, come up with an excuse.

See how I've already dropped in some wonderfully searchable terms? Bill Clinton! George Bush! If you're a student writing a term paper, this is not the blog you are searching for. Go back. In fact, go back before you see the next picture. Here's what George does now. He has become an artist. Mostly he seems to paint his dogs, which is a worthy occupation. And then there's this one. 

George W. Bush in the shower, by George W. Bush:

Feel free to print it for your own shower. I will too, as soon as I can figure out 
how to get a picture of George into a Nepali shower. Like this one. 
Here's my husband, following his dreams: 

Anyway, back to this newborn blog. I thought of other titles. Exotic ones. Beautiful evocative ones that I can use for my imaginary-someday-clothing business if it ever happens. Titles that might not make people think I’m going to give exercise tips. (Hah. As if.)

But the sad truth is that I'm lazy. I live in Nepal, which is Officially Cool, so I ought to be doing yoga and meditation and hiking over Himalayan passes until I'm supple of body, shining of face and peaceful of mind. Nepal is full of incredible stories and experiences, and I do speak Nepali so I'm not actually clueless about what's going on around me. But I have not yet written My Amazing Insightful Book. I haven't even sent any tidbits to international news agencies, because (Mom of Teenager Excuse Alert!) I don't understand the virtual world of blogging and tweeting and whatever journalists do these days, plus they might make me write about Nepali politics and I'd go insane.

Follow this diagram to understand Nepali politics. Each staircase represents a party. Copy into hall of mirrors. Repeat until you reach The Shining Sustainable Ethnically Inclusive Future of The Democratic-With-No-Constitution-Yet Federal-With-No-Federal-States-Yet Republic of Nepal.

So don't ask me about Nepali politics. In our house, we have a division of labor. My husband keeps track of the politics, perhaps because he never got into football and its fulfills some deep-seated male need for watching people bash each other pointlessly. What I follow is the richness and absurdity and rabbit-hole complexity of life here in Nepal; the gulfs of misunderstanding that are sometimes funny and sometimes not so funny (aid projects, I’m looking at you); and important topics like The Need for Education Reform and Why South Asian Clothes Are Amazing and Why My Dog Needs a Facebook Page.

At any rate, you can tell I have quite a well-defined niche here. If you’ve logged onto this blog, you probably know me. Thank you. Encourage me to keep writing, and to write something sensible next time. It just might happen. Unless I take up yoga.