Friday, April 25, 2014

Sorry About the Rooster

Dear Person Whose Rooster Was Tied Up by Tibetan Camp Road,

I didn't do it. Neither did my dog. It was the other dog, the one the Teenager calls Pooh because he is a big bear-ish dog of little brain. Also there's another reason, which is why our dog, Sandy, is often annoyed at him. I'll get to that later. Along with a glimpse of human kindness. But first, Pooh.

A few months ago Pooh was a pathetic skeleton of a homeless puppy near the veggie bazaar. Thin flea-ridden coat, barely enough fur to cover his tail. A neighbor felt sorry for him and gave him a cookie, at which he perked up and followed her home and sat by her gate being skinny and hopeful. So she put out some meat, and there he sits to this day. Fatter and happier.

He's clearly part Tibetan Mastiff, or Bhote Kukur, which is kind of rude in Nepali (since bhote is a slang term for Tibetan-origin people like Sherpas or Tamang, so it's like calling a Japanese Spitz a "Jap Dog"), but that's what they're called and this blog just reports the facts. People come from the hills with armfuls of fuzzy black puppies and try to sell them on the street for a lot of money, but I've seen Tibetan Mastiffs in Mustang and the street-sale pups are to them what Tyrion Lannister is to The Hound. The ones that don't sell are often abandoned.

Pooh is now a shaggy tank of dirt and hopefulness, and he's still a puppy although he's already bigger than most other dogs in the 'hood, what with being a sort-of Bhote Kukur. He's moving slowly from being a Street Dog to being a Whoops dog, since he now sleeps in the neighbor's compound at night and she doesn't kick him out until dawn. She's even given him another name, Panther, although I still prefer Pooh.

So let me explain the categories of Nepali dogs and how they come into people's lives. If you're in Kathmandu,  it helps to appreciate them, because there are a lot of them and they bark all night and you may end up with one.

1) A Haute Dog. In other words, a "breed dog," which means it's fashionable and pricey and had its brain bred out of it. At least that's the case with our landlord's German Shepherd, who was so dumb she ate her own puppy. Although she does know how to ride on a scooter, so I guess she's not always dumb. Just a fun-lovin' single gal who intends to stay that way. These days the status-conscious Nepali wants a "breed dog," so as long as you don't look too close at the pedigree and don't mind getting a Jerry Springer Production of a dog that is it's own cousin, you can have a sort-of German Shepherd (big and chained), Japanese Spitz (white, fluffy and yappy), Dachsund (long, thin and yappy) or of course a Tibetan Mastif (bearish and chained). There is a hysterically funny blog post from a Bengali guy that shows that Nepalis aren't the only ones who think a "breed dog" is today's haute urban accessory. But some folks didn't get the status memo, and they end up with ...

Sandy, the Reformed Street Dog,
is now under the impression that
she craves organic lettuce.
2) A "Can We Keep It?" Dog. That's a street dog that followed your kid home, or was found in a trash heap covered with fleas, or otherwise started life as one of Kathmandu's 35,000 street dogs. Our dog Sandy is a Can We Keep It dog. You can also acquire a dog after the neighbor's dog had puppies. But you will never have to pay placement fees or get home visits from a dog adoption agency to determine if you are the right match for a dog. It'll just appear, usually with your cookie in its mouth.

Khoire, a Whoops Dog
shedding her winter coat.

3) A Whoops-It-Lives-In-Our-Compound Dog is a street dog that decides it likes your house. First it'll hang around outside your gate, and then it'll jump your high brick wall because they're all Superdogs, and one day you realize it's been in your yard for a year. There's a dog like that in our yard. Apparently the landlord even took her away in a car once and dropped her off somewhere, but she came back and now she has won. The landlady feeds her and the landlady's son built her a den of spare bricks with a little tin roof and we got her fixed and give her belly rubs. Her name is Khoire, which depending on pronunciation is either Brownie or Mangy, and she's Sandy's BFF.

4) A Community Dog is a street dog that gets fed by people because they're there. They hang out at butcher shops to increase the odds. Most dogs you see on the street -- which is a lot of them -- have achieved the status of community dogs. They're dirty and often pelted with rocks and may be limping from a fight or an encounter with a car, but they're free, and kind souls will generally toss them scraps of meat and the occasional cookie to supplement their diet of garbage pickings. Life may be short, nasty and brutish, but at least they're not chained. (Many of the owned dogs have it worse. They're on chains or in cages all day. That should be another category -- Jail Dogs.)

5) A pure Street Dog is just waiting to find a friendly butcher shop that isn't guarded by other dogs.

Anyway, back to Pooh Bear and the rooster.

Pooh looooves Sandy and wants to play, mainly with his nose to her butt. Which is the problem. He shows up whenever she goes outside because he really wants to be friends, and the first thing Sandy wants to do is pee, because she lives inside and knows that peeing on the floor is bad for her career, and he sticks his nose closer in appreciation, Hey I like your pee, let's be friends!, and although Sandy appreciates the canine bonding value of a good sniff, still, she's busy, and so she does what you would do if someone walked into the bathroom to make friends while you were on the toilet, which is to say GRRRRRRRR, but he's too much of a twit to listen, and it gets old. Today, I kid you not, he wiped his nose on her butt while she pooped. He is an actual brown noser.

Dogs and humans have our differences in regards to etiquette, but we seem to agree on the non-desirability of a wet nose as toilet paper. She gave the dog version of what the HELL?!?, and he backed off but kept wagging friends friends hey let's be friends, and dogs are more forgiving than humans in situations like these, so she shrugged it off and they walked along together, and he bumped into her and sniffed and she wagged wanly in return and all was fine. And then they saw the rooster.

He was tied up by one leg on a narrow dirt lane that opens onto Tibetan Camp Road. Sandy was leashed and couldn't go too close. Pooh, though, was as free as ... well, much freer than the bird, that's for sure. He circled around and wagged excitedly and lurched at the rooster with his big brown nose and from his perspective probably hoped to sniff something, hey let's be friends, and the rooster said SQUAWK FLAP SQUAWK squaaawk SQUAAAAWK FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP

and broke the string and flew off into the great unknown.

Pooh looked confused. Sandy and I send our condolences to whoever was hoping to eat that rooster for dinner. It probably didn't go far, although you might have to climb a tree to find it. Lesson one: Roosters can fly surprisingly well. Lesson two: Roosters only stay tied up because they have nothing better to do. Lesson three: It's really dumb to tie up roosters on the street in Nepal. There are dogs like Pooh here, who will put a new idea in the rooster's brain, which is to break that wimpy little string and go someplace dog-free, like the sky.

I'll finish today's ramble about Nepali dogs with a really neat moment I caught outside a butcher shop (a.k.a. Street Dog Gathering Zone) ...

This boy is a street kid. He's probably one of many
who sleep on benches by the Jawalakhel micro stop.
He had a cookie, and he offered it to this street dog ... 

... who then licked his face.
They played like this for a while.
Two homeless guys, living on the street,
giving each other a moment of love and kindness.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yoga is a Spectator Sport

I've decided to rename my blog in honor of the Nepali New Year, and also because constantly fiddling with the name of my blog is a very good procrastination strategy, and I believe we should always practice what we're good at. Up until now, I've called it Too Lazy for Yoga, which is quite true, but I might like to show my blog occasionally to folks who aren't my family, and if they're Nepali they might think I don't like yoga, which is kind of like an American not liking baseball and also might get my visa revoked.

Whereas I love yoga. For other people. But I can't do it because I'm not that cool and also I fall over.

Still, if I had to pick between a Nepali sport like yoga and an American one like baseball, I'd pick yoga. Even to watch. Because at least I could follow what's going on. Plus it happens at my speed.

See what I mean? It's a spectator sport.

Except that if I ever did yoga, I wouldn't do it Western-style, with all the mats and meditation music. I'd do it Nepali style, on the dirt in the village, because then when I fell over I'd just be an American who didn't know any better and everyone would smile cheerfully and feel good that I was trying, whereas if I did it Western-style with other Westerners I'd just be an uncoordinated dork and when I fell it would make a big thump and the mellow groove would be totally ruined.

My father-in-law has done yoga for years and is as limber as Gumby would be if Gumby could twist into a pretzel shape. He's still limber even though he has arthritis, which he got while he was visiting us in the US back when we lived there and we thought my in-laws might like to live there, too. We think the arthritis happened out of boredom. Nobody but us spoke Nepali in the 'hood, and so he had no one to philosophize with, which for an old pandit from the village is like being put into a sensory deprivation chamber.

So first he discovered a talent for art and filled an entire book with colored-pencil mandalas. And then he read a book over and over in Nepali that's basically like Creationism from a Nepali Hindu perspective, wherein it's proved that everything in the world begins in Nepal, is invented in Nepal, and proves the central importance of Nepal to everything, ever.
The best thing about America,
according to my father -in-law

He said he liked America. Particularly the whipped cream. And then he got arthritis.

So we took him to see the doctor, which he never does because he always cures himself with meditation and whatever his dreams tell him to do, which usually involves lemons, and he lay down on the checkup table, and she said that his arthritis could improve if he did leg lifts, and I translated this to him badly so he thought it meant right then and flipped his leg straight up in the air and almost kicked the doctor in her nose. I didn't think the leg of a 74-year-old man could go up that straight. Or that fast.

He went back to Nepal and when he got off the plane his leg felt better, and when he got to the village he was bounding around like a spring Gumby.

So yoga is good. And as long as I could do it without actually moving, like a meditation yoga where you just think about doing amazing things with your body, it would be the perfect exercise.

Anyway, here are some pictures of Patan, where I live, with students at Pranamaya, which is our local yoga studio, which had the cool idea a little while back of hosting a walking tour of Patan in which they let ordinary people like me from the community tag along. It was fun and I met some great people. I know they look  normal, but they're not, because they can do camels and half-frogs and one-legged king pigeons and other gentle yet somehow unnatural-sounding poses without throwing their backs out. And if they ever get arthritis, they'll still be able to kick the doctor in the nose.

Pranamaya students on a stroll through Patan,
peering at things and taking pictures.
I'm the un-svelte one at upper left.

What they usually do. It looks very calming, but if I try it, I am not calm at all
because I am either about to fall over or actually falling.
This would be particularly un-calming in public like this.
Although fortunately it's near the hospital, which I'd need for my concussion.
Probably taking notes on poses from the guy in the foreground

A pose I can do

This is the part of yoga I like. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Happy New Year Vampire Story to Welcome 2071

I've been so behind in posting these days that I should call this Too Lazy To Blog. Which really would be a new high (or low) in laziness. But fortunately, a new year is coming, and so I can turn over a new leaf while I thank a vampire.

This is a non-sparkly Hindi TV vampire.
And yes, this is related to New Year's. Which is this weekend,
in the same part of the world in which this cheery fellow is considered
to be a fun character for a children's show. Who needs Big Bird?

OK, I know what you're thinking. "I'll let the vampire part slide for a minute, because you've clearly lost it, but what do you mean, new year? You may be a bit slow on the uptake, girl, but it's been 2014 for a while now." That's where you're wrong. Here in Nepal, we're almost done with the year 2070. This weekend, it will turn 2071. Here's proof in the form of a real Nepali New Year's card with a Nepali New Year's Unicorn (or maybe a New Year's My Little Pony) for those who don't find my New Year's Vampire sweet enough:

Our calendar is called the B.S. calendar. It doesn't stand for what you might think. And it isn't one of those calendars that just get trotted out on special occasions, so that people can go to a Chinese restaurant and say Happy Year of the Rat without really leaving 2014. No, it's pretty much NEVER 2014 here. Or January or April. Today, for instance, is Chait 27, 2070, not April 8, and if you're going to a government office or planning a meeting you'd better remember it because no one else will be paying the least whit of attention to April 8 and you will be 56.7 years late.

Of course, our confusing calendar does mean that this guy ...

My father-in-law, dressed in his Junior Soprano outfit in Mustang, near Tibet.
He knows the appropriate words to ward off vampires,
and since I'll post more pictures of them it's good to have him around for safety.

... was born the same year as this guy:

Teenager who doesn't like sparkly vampires
checking to see if cannon is loaded 

So what is the special occasion that is marked by Year One in the B.S. calendar? Well, uh, people aren't sure. The B.S. stands for Bikram Sambat, or Bikram's Era, and was supposedly established by a ruler named Bikram a.k.a. Vikramaditya -- alert readers may notice the V, but that's close enough to B for us here in the land of random spelling -- who may have created the calendar to mark his victory over the Sakas. They turn out to have been nomads from Kazakhstan. I have no idea how an Indian king ended up in Kazakhstan, but maybe that's why he needed a new calendar, along with a new map.

Anyway, some people see this as the same King Bikram who carried a vampire around. There's an old legend, dramatized in a classic children's series on Hindi TV, in which, listen up children and gather around the TV for your bedtime story, Bikram goes to a cremation ground where he meets an evil old sadhu who will give him a wonderful gift if he brings him a corpse. So Bikram finds the corpse and it turns out to be a vampire, ha ha it's not dead after all, and each day the vampire tells him a story that involves a riddle that Bikram has to answer correctly or die.

Bikram with the vampire.
I think I'd want a new start, too.
I'm picturing the production meeting. A story a day, for 25 days! Children love stories!

The first story involves a bride who tries to commit suicide after her husband dies. There is also a bandit attack and a beheading -- great, that means pretty bridal costumes for the girls, action for the boys! -- and then a mistake in which the husband's head is put on the wrong body and reanimated, and in the end there's an interesting educational riddle for Bikram and the kids to solve about whether the bride's real husband is the body with the wrong head or the right head with the wrong body.

I wonder if there are any action figures. They could have interchangeable heads.

Although at least our South Asian vampires could beat the crap out of any sparkly Twilight vampires. And the kids who grew up with Vikram Aur Betaal can be counted on to be able to cope with absolutely anything that life may toss them. Which may be the point. No electricity? No water? Third world politicians? No problem, I grew up with vampires at bedtime.

At any rate, everything in Nepal runs on the Bikram calendar: the governments, the schools, the fiscal year, the bus schedules, and apparently this blog as well since it's been so long between posts. I'm going to blame it on the whole B.S. thing.

So now, on the occasion of 2071, I think we should all have some drinks and thank a vampire. Because in the end, he teams up with Bikram to kill the evil sadhu (who my husband informs me isn't really a sadhu because they're never evil but a tantric, in case you've stumbled onto this blog while doing research for a term paper), and I guess the two live happily ever after, coming up with a new calendar or something. If you'd like, you can even download the Android app:

Happy New Year 2071, kids!