Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nagarkot, A Little Dust, and Some Hiking

So last week Helen and Marc invited us to go up to Nagarkot for the weekend with them, which is something that we had been wanting to do since we got here. For those not familiar with the Kathmandu area, Nagarkot is a resort area that sits about 35 KM (roughly 20 miles) from the center of Kathmandu, at the top of the valley rim. It has become a popular destination because it has sweeping views of the Himalaya and is the closest place to Kathmandu where you can see mountains as far away in the west as the Ganesh Himal and in the east as far as the famous Mt. Everest. Normally you get great views between September and March I had read, but we were not that lucky. With only having two rain showers that I can recall in the last month, it is quite dry here at the moment, and it being the end of the dry season kind of compounds this issue. As a result there is a ton of fine dust in the air, and almost like a fog it reduces visibility all over the country.
Above is a picture showing the kind of limit we had due to the haze of dust. Despite the dust we made the best of it and had a good time. Our taxi had no idea where Nagarkot actually was and dropped us about a kilometer past the town proper, which is just a simple road junction with a few restaurants and shops. So our first goal was to find the hotel Marc & Helen had booked called Peaceful Cottage. We made our way back to the village and then half a mile down a road that followed a ridge to the hotel. The Peaceful Cottage had an interesting octagonal tower from which I'm sure you could normally get some great views. The food was typical of uninspired Nepali imitations of what they think foreign food (or Nepali food for that matter) is, and was fairly over priced. The rooms were also nothing to get excited about and where somewhat dank. That all said it did have a great location, the staff, if a a bit pushy at times, was nice enough, and the potted plants and eclectic setting where really nice. We also got some drinks and apple fritters at a restaurant in Nagarkot proper that weren't bad at all and the prices there were much more reasonable. We also walked by some very nice hotels up in the area, though I'm sure the rooms were attached to package tourist style price tags. The freash air outside of Kathmandu, watching the Eagles drift about on thermal winds and just hanging out with friends made for a good time.

On the following day we decided we would trek down to the valley floor and take a bus or taxi back to Kathmandu from there. Above is a picture of Helen, Kim and Marc as we got near the top of the ridge before heading down to the valley. We ended up being a little confused after this as we ended up being pointed down a road that went to where we were going, but not the way that we expected, and thus we were constantly looking for turns and such that just did not exist. The good news is that when ever we asked someone the direction to where we were going they pointed us down the road that we were on.

Above is a picture of Kim with some local school children, her camera as popular as ever. These kids were not quite as sweet as they looked and prior tourists had allowed for a bad habits. They blocked the road asking (demanding?) chocolate, pens or rupees. We got out of it with some photos, but not before a girl tried to grab stuff out of my pocket and they generally acted like brats. Oh well. You can also see somewhat in this picture the very fine almost silt like dust that covers the trail. This stuff has a consistency almost like water it is so light, and with every step you send a plume of it into the air, while sinking up to about an inch or two into it. Still the terraced countryside and the small villages you hike through are really attractive, and I love walking through the Nepal countryside, dust or no dust.
This picture was taken as we came into the village we thought we might end the day at. It was still decidedly rural and there were no signs of taxis and the buses we did see leaving town were so full that we would have had to ride on the roof, something none of us were to keen on doing. So we walked on to the much larger city of Banepa, just to the west of Bhaktapur.
As this photo shows the main road in Banepa was much more urban and there were several buses heading into Kathmandu here via Bhaktapur, there were however fairly few taxis. The problem with the buses again seemed to be that they were packed and the only available seats were on the roof, which we still were not that interested in. As we were all a bit tired from walking in the sun all day, and weren't having any luck finding transportation we went ahead and got some drinks and I got a snack at a local diner like establishment. Feeling a bit more refreshed we set out again looking for transport. A guy in a van offered us a ride back to Kathmandu and we got him down to 1,500 NRS for the four of us. The poor guys vehicle must have stalled half a dozen times and he clearly was uncomfortable driving in the thick Kathmandu traffic. To compound matters he had no clue where Lazimpat was, but once I knew where we were I was able to direct him and we got home safe and sound.

Big thanks to Helen and Marc for a fun weekend!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lost in Translation- Part 3

Just got back from a great weekend in Nagarkot, despite not having any Himalayan views due to the dust in the air. I'll go ahead and do a post on that when I have a bit more energy. I did however upload pictures from that hike and my other pictures from this month to the "Nepal Pics- March" on the left side of the page. For now I thought I'd put up my latest collection of signs in Nepal that didn't quite get the English phrases right.
The sub tagline "We need trade not aid" is an apt one and is a good sentiment. Declaring yourself "a total handicrafts" however is somewhat humorous.
I have no idea what "visit yourself" is supposed to refer to when dealing with pizza, or anything else for that matter.

Feel the new taste is definitely an interesting tag line to choose.
Nepali's seem to have a little trouble with the word "the" they add it where it doesn't go or, as here, it is omitted from where it should be. There were a couple of these rocks painted up by the army training grounds outside Nagarkot, the others can be viewed in the March Photos on the left hand side of the page.
There's actually nothing wrong with this one really, and yet it's quite funny. Abercrombie and Fitch watch out.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wunjala Moskva

So the other night we met up with Akshay at Wunjala Moskva for a taste of some good Newari food and to discuss a possible business venture. It was night time so my pictures don't begin to do the place justice. Positioned just across from the police headquarters in Naxal, the restaurant has a great location set back from the main street with a very large open garden area. At the center is a raised stage where during our visit Newari musicians and dancers periodically performed. The open dining with the well maintained garden and the architecture, at least made to look like classical Newari, gave the place heaps of atmosphere and is a nice place to relax as we move into the warmer months.

Now I got so caught up in conversation that I completely forgot to take any pictures of the food, so I had to steal the above picture from their website. Since the picture was divided into four JPG files I also got to practice my photo editing skills to piece it together, mission accomplished. I got the non-vegetarian set course dinner and this is essentially what the main part of the meal looked like. It also came with a few starter dishes as well as soup.

Nepal seems the odd man out in Asia when it comes to food for the most part. Most local Nepali food lacks the rich sauces of India, the sheer variety of tastes of a place like Thailand or the vastness of Chinese food. Newari food is some of the only food I've had in Nepal that could really be described as cuisine. It has it's own unique flavors and some of the dishes use some surprising ingredients to really good effect. There is a use of organ meats, along with a larger array of spices and varied preparation styles of food that add a really nice variety to the meal.

As we got to the restaurant a little early we started with a couple of drinks and and were served a snack that was soy beans cooked with ginger, garlic and spices. Really tasty stuff. Kim just got a pumpkin curry and some rice, while my meal seemed to come in about six or seven courses. I got a few grilled meats (really good) some lentil pancakes, momos (steamed dumplings), apparently I ate tongue at some point, pan fried stuffed lung, some fairly tasty vegetable and lentil based soup and then the main course. Rice, pumpkin curry, vegetables cooked with cumin seed, chicken in a spicy curry, duck with ginger, takari (curried veggies), some fried fish and maybe some other things that I'm leaving out. For desert we were brought a yogurt that had honey and fruit in it, which was quite good. Everything was well prepared, and I enjoyed all of it.

These terrible dark pictures really don't do the place justice. From our table you can see that it is a wide open very attractive garden that is illuminated with well placed lighting to give great atmosphere. This picture shows some of the musicians and dancers heading over to the central stage area.
This even worse picture, shows some musicians on the central stage area. You can see the other dining areas, almost bungalow like structures, that surround the garden. Akshay, who's family is involved in the restaurant's ownership, is building a lounge to the rear of the restaurant. Set behind the garden area by a pond, they are going for a very modern Miami style theme, and even bringing in sand for a beach like feel. The location looks great and with the water and all the plants, an open lounge would be a great place to hang out in the summer months. They are moving toward a Mayish opening date for the lounge.

Anyway an over all fun experience and I'm sure Kim and I will stop back from time to time. For those of you getting tired of the stint of food posts I promise to have some other stuff on here soon. Kim and I are planning to go to Nagrakot for the weekend, it's kind of a resort style area on the top of the eastern ridge of the Kathmandu valley, and is one of the closest places where on a clear day you can see Everest and the other large Himalayan peaks in its company. So we will be heading there with Marc and Helen, and hopefully do some light hiking. Hopefully we can get some nice photos.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Farmers Market Results

It is amazing what a few ingredients can do to create meals that taste just that much better. The trip to Patan will still likely make farmer's market expedition a bi-weekly event but after the last couple meals I will be more tempted to go more often. Last night we had the best meal we've had in our apartment so far, at least in my oppinion.
We started off with a beat and cheese salad on a bed of Boston lettuce and garnished with fresh rosemary, balsamic vinegar and an olive oil with sun dried tomatoes and ginger. The main course wasn't too fancy, just pasta with a home made tomato sauce. The sauce was much better than my last attempt, which wasn't bad, but this time the fresh basil and the oregano we picked up made a big impact. I also added one hot pepper just to add a bit of kick. A little parmesan cheese and some very good whole wheat bread all made for a good meal. A last minute run to the store to grab some wine completed a great meal
For breakfast the next morning we put the strawberries to use, making a home made strawberry sauce and using the good bread to make some excellent French toast with fresh nutmeg and cinnamon ground up before hand.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Summit Hotel Farmer's Market

It was actually less of a "Farmer's Market" and more of a specialty market with things westerners like, but it was great to be able to get some of the things we found here. First thing we found were two large bins of strawberries that we could pick through to find some good ones. They have these available at the supermarket here, but they always look terrible. These look good and I'm looking forward to eating them. Kim also picked up some dried strawberries, dried strawberries covered in dark chocolate and we got some sun dried tomatoes too.
I was happiest about getting some safe to eat fresh greens. Included in what we got in this category were two things of fresh basil, some fresh rosemary, some salad greens and beats. They had lots of other fresh herbs, scallions, carrots and other good looking veggies too. I also found a guy who was selling French style goat cheese for 240 NRS, and you got two good sized blocks of it, so that seemed like a decent price. Considdering how many goats are in this country I find it a little peculiar that they don't make more French or Greek style goat cheeses and export them, even if there isn't local demand. That stuff can be fairly pricey in the US and Europe, though I'm sure there are tariffs and regulations.
We also got some good looking bread one loaf of whole wheat and one white, and grabbed some apple pie while we were at it to have as a snack. We met up with a couple we had met at birthday party the night before and talked to them for a bit while relaxing in the grounds of the hotel, which were quite green and pleasant. Marc is from Scotland and Helen is from New Zealand, and both have been in Kathmandu a little longer than we have. They live down in the Patan area near where the hotel is, but it was a bit further for us.
There were other items for sale here including some like lip balms made all naturally from bee's wax and another woman that was selling different spreads like pates. It's nice to be able to get some of this stuff, and I am very much looking forward to making pasta sauce with fresh herbs and a nice fresh salad all served with good bread along side, but the distance to Patan may keep this from being a weekly event. Anyway great that we found it and looking very forward to dinner.

To anyone reading this and wanting to know where and when this takes place;
Summit Hotel in Patan
Sunday & Wednesday from 10AM to 12:30 PM
By 10:30ish some stuff was already sold out when we went on Sunday so, it might be worth showing up early. I've been told there are less people on Wednesday

Friday, March 19, 2010


It’s been a couple days since I got anything in this blog, but it’s been a combination of running errands, trying to get things done, and a nasty stomach bug that has laid me low for about a day and a half. Anyway Kim and I have been busy on a couple of projects so I’ll go ahead and announce them here.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I don't know if these are Bollywood films or just Nepali made movies, I'm not that intimate with the local movie scene. All I know is that every other week a new batch of posters go up that make me chuckle. I'd never go see the movies but I'm sure glad they put these posters up. When I notice that new ones are up on a walk down Lazimpat road I always stop to admire the new ones. I never got a picture of one of my favorites which was this guy whos side kicks included a monkey and a german shepherd. That poster was awesome.

This is my favorite out of the current batch. It has all the hallmarks of a bad poster, the rampant splattering of fake blood, the cool guy with the shades on, but the woman takes the cake. I have no idea how to even interpret what she is. The trident whos two prongs bend too much to actually stab you isn't very threatening, the face she is making is classic. I love this poster.
This one I think is kind of weak. The guy with the bug eyes and the silly amount of fake blood in the lower left kind of saves it. The guy in the hat is a little hard to take seriously.
Kim likes this one. The complete averageness of the actors is kind of refreshing but the heart and butterfly graphics look straight out of two decades ago. Still this one brings a grin to my face. The hats the guys are wearing are an awesome touch.


This song has been playing quite a bit around here, and is terrible, and yet quite catchy at the same time. Kim and I have sadly been singing this back and forth. It's the part at 2:30 that gets us, that guys voice is just too much.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Discussing the "C" Word in Nepal

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

And no I'm not talking about that "C" word, I'm talking about communism. The above quote is most applicable here, because although many of the major political parties claim to be Maoist or communist or Leninist or Marxist, when you talk to people about it here, or when you see how Nepal operates, all you can think is that there is a giant disconnect between what communism or any of its derivatives are and what is practiced here. As a quick brush up on where Nepal currently is, it is the worlds newest Republic, with the end of the recent civil war the King was deposed in 2006 and the country ceased being the last Hindu Monarchy and became a republic. The rebels, or Maoists, have since joined the political process as the CPN (Communist Party of Nepal), and they are joined in parliament by the CPN UML (Communist party of Nepal, United Marxist-Leninist) with other parties like the Nepali Congress and a Royalist party. There are a number of smaller communist based parties with a few people representing them too. I find it humorous that there is CPN (Unified) with two parliament members in it. All I hear in my head are people in the Life of Brian (may favorite comedy) yelling over at them "Splitters!".

To be sure I am a newcomer to Nepal, and will always be an outsider. Aside from reading a few books and the news my reference is not from a similar point of view as the locals. All this said, I know communism when I see it, and Nepal doesn't have anything that I can see that resembles it. I won't spend any time berating my own country, it's kind of bad form, but we look like the People's Republic next to Nepal. Nepal seems like it is highly stratified by class and ethnicity, something most communist driven countries at least in theory are looking to avoid(though they usually create a political superclass). Another point, aside from people complaining about rampant corruption in Nepal, which I haven't experienced personally but am told it occurs with frequency, the government just doesn't seem to have the power to really enforce it's will on the people. As Pradip once told me, "the problem with Nepal is that anyone can do what they want."

This may be viewed as a problem, but to be entirely honest, it is one of the things I love most about Nepal, the sheer freedom. While there might be boatloads of red tape and paperwork, things seem to in reality flow much like the traffic, whatever seem to work and dictated by people as the circumstance arises. This has its ups and downs, but over all this does not seem a society like China where a bureaucrat is telling everyone how to make the bed, or put a building together, or what to eat. Nepali's are left to their own devices to decide for themselves what is best for them. It is one of the most open market places I have ever been with every corner having vendors and it doesn't appear that people need some special licence and training just to sell veggies and fruit on the corner. Because of the free market here and plenty of talented people that aren't hindered by government overlook, services have been quite cheap and actually very good for the most part. Whatever they want to call this I'm not sure I'd call it communism, and judging from most peoples attitudes here I don't think that is what they are looking for.

The place where you do see most of the resentment and discussion seems to have to do more with perceived social equalities based on caste and ethnicity. I, as a foreigner, pay higher prices and am just expected to do this because of who I am. The flip side of this is that I can walk into any hotel or store and no one asks me why I'm going there or denies me entry etc. Much of Nepali society seems stratified in a similar manner, and I can see where a system like this, regardless of how deep and ancient its roots were, would cause frustration and anger in people. Maybe this is where the want for some aspect of communism comes in? I don't know to be honest. I really don't know a whole lot about the whole thing, but what I do find most ironic is that a country that has so many communist parties and members in parliament, this is about the furthest thing from communism that I have ever experienced. I'm not sure that word they keep using means what they think it means.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hair Cuts, Phora Durbar and Meeting New People

So nothing real big going on right now, just working on lots of little things. My first recent adventure was going to get a haircut. Wandering into a nearby barber shop I asked if anyone spoke English and one of the customers did and was able to relay what I needed done. The guy payed some serious attention to detail, did a really nice job, touched everything up with a straight edge, gave a head massage, and spent a good 45 minutes working on me. The charge? 50 NRS. Now I'm usually happy to just get what seems like a good deal, especially since I'm usually charged more and take it. I gave the guy 100 NRS and called if good. I figure a $1.50 for that kind of service with a big tip included is still a great deal. I'll try to go back there every three weeks or so if the same guy is there.

We also got invited to dinner a couple that went to school in the states and now live here in Kathmandu. Akshay is Neapli born and attended MIT and Berkley while in the US, and Jenara is from San Fran and they met while they were both attending Berkley. Both seemed really nice, very interesting and it was great to meet some other people. The dinner they served up was also very good, and we had a great time. They were also able to tell us about joining Phora Durbar and some places to check out in the city. They recommended we check out the book Forget Kathmandu, which goes over the political situation here as well as covering some of the last three hundred years of history. Going to give that a read when I finish the books I'm currently reading. They also recommended a pair of documentaries about Neapli's working overseas, specifically the Middle East. Going to try and check out both. Anyway good time, and nice people, we had fun.

Speaking of Phora Durbar, we got to give it a visit today when we stopped by for a Town Hall meeting for Americans living in Kathmandu. For those who don't know Phora is the American Club, it's property that is owned and by the Embassy of the United States and consists of some fairly nice green space, tennis courts, a baseball field, a little store, a restaurant, some mini-golf, a pool, and a gym among other amenities. Seemed like a really nice place, and at the meeting we met some nice people. Bumped into a woman who had taught in Freeport and a kid studying Nepali that had lived in Portland's west end. For such a small little place in the world, we bump into more people from our area while traveling than we ever should by statistics I would think. Getting back to Phora, it seems like a really nice place and as soon as we have non tourist visas (a requirement) I think we will try and apply to join.

The town hall meeting that the Embassy put on was informative and I'm glad they did it. They gave us some forms to fill out to have in case of emergency and went over what to do and how to prepare for the possibility of an earthquake here (Kathmandu has a fault 22 KM directly below the city). They also went over Visa issues with Nepal, India and for Nepali's wanting to go to America. Embassy staff were actually very helpful, cordial and really seemed interested in talking to people and offering actual assistance. This is not something I'm use to encountering with Federal employees, and it was kind of a breath of fresh air. Anyway big kudos to the embassy staff here, the event was carried out well and they have been very responsive and professional when we registered with them. Seem like a good team of people.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How much is that chicken in the window?

So I finally got around to ordering some chicken today. I've thought of it a couple times while I was out, but every time the butcher shops near my apartment were closed, they seem to have a kind of odd schedule. As 5pm approached today and we were also low on most vegetables, I decided I'd give getting some chicken a try. I had no clue what to ask or if any of the butchers spoke English, but what the hell, I'm wasting away to nothing on this ridiculous vegetarian diet I'm on when I cook, so I had to try.
As the above picture shows, the chickens aren't prepared in quite the same way we are use to. They are quite dead, whole and out in the open, not cut into select meat parts and wrapped in plastic and styrofoam. The upside is that this is all mostly organic chicken with no hormones and is fairly good for you. The downside is the mental images of the flies that you know get all over the things. I just figure the flies are just on the skin, which I'm cutting off anyway.

So I get to the butcher counter and the guy kind of laughs and says "Namaste", and I return the greeting. I point to a chicken, and he makes a chopping motion toward it, and I shrug my shoulders and say "half?" I'm assuming you can order half the chicken. He says "OK" and proceeds to cut the chicken in two, weighs it and declares that it is 700 grams. I ask how much and he says 200 NRS. Now I know for this is high, I'm not sure what it should be, but I know this is more. But I'm happy enough that I am actually going to have chicken that I forget that I should barter the price down to something more reasonable and just pay the guy. I'll have to ask Pradip or the K.C. family down stairs how much chicken is per KG. The butcher offers to chop the chicken up for me, this is how most Nepali people cook their chicken just chopped up, bones and all. I decline and figure I'll de-bone it once I get home.
Lacking the fortitude to be a vegetarian
it was good to eat meat again!

Once home, I get to cleaning the chicken. It definitely has less meat on it than the ones back home, if you made chicken wings with this thing you'd be mostly gnawing on bone. Still it had a good amount of breast and thigh meat and it was easy enough to clean. Unlike the gutted chickens back home, this one still had internal organs like liver and such. I've never been one to eat chicken livers, but I might look up a recipe or something I can use them in since it looks like I'll be buying them. I cooked the chicken into an Indian based curry dish that is made with coconut milk, threw in some carrots and broccoli and made some Indian fried rice. Easily the most satisfying meal I've cooked for myself yet, and there were enough left overs for lunch tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Reading, Writing and Trading

As a short follow up to my last post, I have almost been able to make the bread correctly, I can't quite get it to full with air like it's supposed to, but I get it close and it tastes good enough to eat. I still have no idea how to get meat, and I think about all I would trust to order is the chicken, but I haven't had the time or inclination to ask a butcher here yet. Kim also has noted I should update on the post before that, and all I have to say is the antibiotics did their work and I'm fine.

So with that out of the way we can move on to todays topic which is what the hell are we doing. Kim seems to have maintained a fair amount of her work and has been busy with much of the same real estate marketing, web design, flyers and whatever else she has been doing for the last few years. I didn't bring my work with me, so I have had to try and find something new. At first it looked like it might be getting involved with trekking, but that is looking like it really isn't the way to go. The whole teaching thing looks like kind of a bust too as the pay is just dismal. The only apparent reason to possibly pursue that in the future would be if other visa options look to dry up.

So what have I been doing? Well aside from working to get ourselves settled, find our lost luggage, get the apartment and everything that went inside of it, running around the mountains for a week and being bed ridden for another half week, I have been reading writing and looking into trading. So the reading part first I guess. I've been on a big kick of reading Buddhist and Stoic philosophers as of late. Just before leaving I read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations and Steven Asma's The God's Drink Whiskey (about Buddhism in South East Asia). I've followed these up with reading a couple other somewhat forgettable books on Buddhism as well as Epictetus' Enchiridion and Discourses Book one and two. Although I am not about to become a convert to either camp, Buddhism isn't nearly as silly as I once thought it was, and some of the God and Nature overtones aside, I really am impressed with the stoics. The other book that I have gone back and reread is Consciousness Explained by Dennett. This was one of my all time favorites and the last time I read it was the leading cause for me dropping out of Orono. Explaining this might require a post all its own, let's just say there was a professor who literally should have been in an elderly home, not teaching, there are mental patients who could have given more accurate appraisals of this books chapters. Anyway it's good to read the book again, so moving on.

So writing. I've always been in the habit of writing, some blogs, some stupid long e-mails about MMOs we might have been playing, stuff for games, and at times even stuff for work. I've written a good amount of political analysis (how many people do you know who picked Sarah Palin before McCain announced it?) and at times even attempted short stories or whatever. At least for the last few weeks I've been organizing some of my thoughts on philosophy and religion, an old topic for me that I had in many ways long ago abandoned. Prior to my departure for Kathmandu I had read a bunch of books on the Greeks in Bactria (the Stans) and India. This got me interested in the exchange of thought between the east and west, and in particularly the stoics and Buddhists. That lead to my reading list in the last paragraph and caused me to want to kind of revisit the topic again. We'll see if it leads to anything.

All of this is great, but it isn't making me any money, or getting me a visa. So my other project is creating a company here in Kathmandu as well as registering it as a legal entity in the US. What I would like to do is export goods from here wholesale so people back in the US can sell them. I'll be putting a catalog together at some point in the near future. The idea is to sell the products and the marketing materials so people back in the US are informed about what they are selling, where it came from and even who made it. We'd like to provide pictures, pamphlets and in depth descriptions of the products. We also want to approach it with a fair trade angle donating some proceeds to good NGO's like Girl's Education Nepal. The wheels have started turning on this and I'll provide updates as it becomes more concrete.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cooking in Kathmandu

Now that we have everything hooked up and ready to go in the Kitchen I've been able to start cooking. There are some major upsides to cooking here over what I do at home. The first is the freshness of most of the produce. Most everything you buy came off the plant or out of the ground within a day or so of when you buy it. The fruit is also very fresh and especially the oranges are very tasty. I think some time after April the mangoes start making their way up here from India, though I'm not completely sure. Produce is also incredibly cheap, with most hauls of a bags of vegetables costing anywhere from $0.50 to $1.50 (including cucumbers, carrots, onions, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, cilantro, ginger and garlic). To make it better all of these are available at stalls with 100' of any spot in the city, including my apartment.

Despite all these positives, I still just can't seem to cook like I'm use to. I'm not even sure what is missing. A big part of it is that I am cooking vegetarian. I always have at least a little meat in any meal I would make back home, but that has not been the case here. Instead I have been adding beans or corn to make up for the lack of meat. This stems mostly from the fact that I have no idea how to buy meat here. Back home it comes in a nice neat packet with labeled cuts and what ever desired piece of the animal. Here there is just a whole (or what's left) animal sitting on a table. It's slightly intimidating. With chicken for instance I see them all the time, but I have no idea if you can buy just leg or breast meat, or if you just have to buy the whole chicken and pull it apart yourself. Sometime soon I'm going to have to figure this all out because I am not any good at being a vegetarian. A stir fry without meat is like spring without rain.

I've also discovered I'm just not a big fan of starches. Most meals I cooked back home were stir fries and salads that consisted of lots of fruits and vegetables with some kind of grilled or pan seared meat. I can only take so much potatoes, rice and noodles. I do however like bread, especially Indian naan and roti. Naan requires an oven I think but roti can be cooked on a pan. I had a guy in India show me how to make it back in 2002 and a refresher on you-tube has convinced me that with a little practice I should be able to pull this off. I just need to stop by the market some time soon and pick up flour and a non stick pan.

So aside from working on getting a more permanent visa in the near future, I am going to try and figure out how to get meat in this country and how to make flat bread. I have a distinct feeling hat the first attempts will be comical in both endeavors.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I'd give my right nut...

Now this is a saying I have commonly used in the past, and this last weekend I wish I had followed through at some point with this offer. Now most people, normal people, probably wouldn't write this entry, but I'm going to for two reasons. First that if it happens to someone else, it might come up in a Google search under "my testicle hurts" or something similar and offer practical realistic diagnosis of the problem without scaring the bejeezus out of them like most medical internet searches, and that those who know me will most likely find a good deal of comedy in my misfortune. If you are uncomfortable reading about male anatomy or you're a close relative and are uncomfortable reading about MY anatomy, this is probably a good place to stop reading.

So on returning from our trek on Wednesday night I felt fairly good. At some point on Thursday I developed a slight ache in the ol sack, and chalked it up to reduced sexual activity due to the recent running around in the woods. By Friday it was becoming more noticeable, and while chasing around Pradip trying to get a parcel at the post office, I was starting to be in full on pain. That night after a short visit to Pradip's house I spent the rest of the night in bed. I wasn't in pain as long as I wasn't standing or walking.

So Saturday morning rolls around and I wake up feeling fine. I get up, happy that the pain has passed and go sit at the kitchen table to check my e-mail and the news. Then all of a sudden I realize, not only has the pain not gone away, but my right nut feels like someone just swatted it, hard. This sent me reeling back into bed, my hand pounding against the concrete wall, as if punching the wall will somehow transfer my pain to this inanimate object. After what seems like too long, the pain subsides, and I feel fine as long as I just lay down.

Now there aren't too many things that make me nervous as far as being messed up. My eyes, most internal organs and the package down below are about the only things that are gonna make me think twice about going to see a doctor, that's the stuff I don't want messed up. Now sitting in a bed in a foreign country I have one of the above, and maybe the one that is hardest to talk about due to modesty issues, in trouble. My hope is that it's just an infection, that will pass. Kim thinks I should take some pain relievers, drink tequila and go see a doctor. I take something for the inflammation and pain, but decide to hold out on the other two suggestions. Kim just shakes her head. For all her good qualities, nurturing, sympathy and pampering the sick are not among them. Kim just sings the AC/DC song Who's got big balls? I inform her that it would be a shame if I were ever crippled as I would most likely die of neglect. She tells me to suck it up.

So Saturday comes and goes. I wake up Sunday and a short walk to the bathroom informs me that things are no better. I'm now starting to get concerned, and I am considering going to see a doctor. The problem is that Sunday is a holiday called Holi. During this holiday people add this colored dust stuff to water and throw it at each other in balloons, plastic bags or just in a hand to hand melee. I actually had fun on this holiday in 2004, but the prospect of running to a taxi while dodging water balloons and simultaneously holding my crotch, just didn't seem appealing. So I sat in bed listening to an audio book most of the day. I talk to my dad that evening, he thinks I need to get this checked out. I agree.

So now Monday rolls around, and I wake up and still there is pain. I kind of stink at this point because I have just been laying in bed for 2 days and haven't showered. With special care I get cleaned up and ready to go to the hospital. A last minute look in Lonely Planet reveals there is a travel clinic staffed by Western doctors just off of Lazimpat road, not too far from where we are staying. I plan on taking a taxi, but find that the pain is closer to what it was on Friday than the last two, and since the taxi driver we attempt to talk to doesn't understand English I walk all the way to the clinic. This was uncomfortable, but I at least don't feel the need to punish inanimate objects or kick animals.

I get a British doctor who asks a few questions and does a quick exam and confirms what I figured was the best case scenario, it's just an infection in the right testicle. Just to be cautious he wants to get a urine sample and do an ultrasound to make sure there isn't further infection or anything structurally wrong. The short of it is that everything comes back negative and I'm on antibiotics for the next week. It still hurts though, but I can stop speculating on cancer, or necrotic crotch, or twisted testicles. Now it's just a waiting game to normal again.
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