Category Archives: Fun/Random

Rupees Dipped in Gold

When P and I went to the Bratabhanda in Wisconsin in April we met some of his extended relatives who were living in Germany. They brought several boxes of fancy German chocolates as souvenirs and distributed a box to each family’s household.

The chocolates were good, but very rich, not something you would snack on randomly after work, so we put the box on a shelf to save for another time.

Over the weekend a friend came to town to pack up her remaining things so she could prepare to leave the US for good; she spent her last few days with us. She is Peruvian, but has been living in Manaus, a city of 2 million people in the Amazon jungle of Brazil, for the past year. She had recently returned to attend her phd graduation ceremony, and was now packing the books and research that she had left behind the last time she departed. She’s very talkative, and I spent most evenings chatting with her about life in Peru and Brazil.

One night P brought the box of German chocolates out for dessert, and we indulged while continuing our conversation. As our friend and I talked, P unwrapped his chocolate and looked at the rectangle of fancy yellow foil that had once covered it. He smoothed it out, and gathered our other wrappings from the table. He flattened each and started to count them, like he was shuffling through a short-stack of $20 bills.

When our friend and I looked over to see what he was doing he said, “When we were kids we used to save fancy candy wrappers like this and pretend they were money. We would pretend to buy things from each other, or pretend we had a lot of money in our pockets.”

He shuffled through the wrappers again. They were golden yellow, made from heavy foil and cellophane. I could imagine five year old P prizing such a fancy find, pretending they were rupees dipped in gold.

I liked the vision of a young P, using his imagination, and making up games with the other kids in his neighborhood. I can almost imagine standing on the roof of his present-day house in Kathmandu, watching them play with their pretend money in the backyard, chasing each other around.

It was an image I thought I’d share.

My New Anthem?

I had to share this… since my pitfalls in learning Nepali sometimes make me think, “I can only imagine… if I’ll ever learn!”

My personal favorite lyrics– “I can only imagine/when the day comes/when I find myself/with a loosened tongue,” “When they ask if I have eaten, will I say uh-huh or khae?” and “Surrounded by Nepalis, what will my mouth say?”

So enjoy this Friday fun video:

Threading

Last night I had my eyebrows threaded.

I’ve had it done quite a few times over the years, and now I prefer it. It’s fast, it’s neat, and it’s natural.

I remember the first time I heard about threading. I was probably in ninth grade, sitting in the living room of my childhood home, milling about the television while dinner was being prepared. The local news was on, and the reporter was interviewing an Indian woman who had recently opened a salon in the city and in addition to cutting and styling hair she was removing it from women’s faces with cotton thread.

The video was similar to this:

I remember thinking… how weird. How can a rolled cotton string, held between your fingers and in your teeth effectively remove eyebrow hair? It wasn’t something I was eager to try.

As a ninth grader I wasn’t old enough to take my eyebrows that seriously anyway. It took me a long time to finally start doing something with them. I first started wearing glasses in seventh grade, and I had always felt protected behind my frames, until high school peer pressure dictated that more had to be done.

So I started to pluck unwieldy hairs here and there—the straggly hairs that grew 2 or 3 millimeters away from the others. I wasn’t really shaping them, just keeping the jungle from migrating.

Then my maternal grandmother decided it was her duty to usher me in to proper womanhood. On a visit to my aunt’s house in New Jersey my grandmother invited me out, and she took me to a salon. She insisted that I wax my eyebrows, and get a manicure and pedicure. I was taken to a small room in the back of the salon where I was asked to lie down. The woman doing the waxing asked if I had done this before—I’m sure she could tell from the monstrous caterpillars on my face that I hadn’t—and told me to relax. She took a flat popsicle stick coated in hot wax and wiped it on my upper eyelid in an arc and then applied a special paper. Two seconds later she asked, “Ready?” and ripped the paper off my eye in one swift motion. Yowzers.

I cringed as she applied the hot wax to my other upper eyelid. The first time I had been blissfully naïve, but now I knew what was coming. After the second pull there were a few smaller pulls to clean up the edges. Then she took out some tweezers to finish shaping, and a small pair of scissors and an eyebrow brush to complete the procedure.

That was the first and last time I ever waxed my eyebrows.

Sure, many of you are probably reading and thinking, “I wax mine all the time, why is C being a baby?” and I admit, I am. I can’t imagine waxing every time (or even part of the time), and I especially can’t imagine waxing more “sensitive” parts of my body.  I just don’t like the idea of hot wax being put on my face, nor do I like the idea of ripping out hairs in one giant clump. I have seen others get wax jobs done and it looks like it irritates their skin, and I just didn’t like the idea of it. I was happy to use my original waxing as a guideline for where I should pluck, but I was satisfied tending my eyebrows myself, one hair at a time.

Then in college I was talking to some Kenyan friends who said that they “threaded” their eyebrows, and I remembered the news broadcast I saw in ninth grade. I plied them with questions—Did it hurt? Was it fast? Do you recommend it?—I had forgotten about this option, and stored it in the back of my mind.

Shortly after graduating from college I travelled to my mother’s house in Virginia, and went to the mall to get a haircut. A South Asian woman had a booth in the middle of the mall, and she was threading eyebrows for a few dollars. I decided to give it a try.

I sat in the salon chair, and laid my head back. She asked me to put one hand on the skin above my eyebrow and one on the skin below to pull the skin tight, and then she began. I’m not going to lie… my first threading wasn’t painless, in fact when I opened my eyes afterward I couldn’t see anything as my eyes had involuntarily teared up so much from the tugging.

It was a while before I worked up the nerve to do threading again, but I didn’t have the same definitive “no way” feeling that I had after getting waxed.

Once my younger sister M went to the mall with R and I. A Nepali woman was threading eyebrows and R and I were happy to sit and have ours shaped. My sister watched, and even though she is an occasional waxer, she wasn’t ready to try threading. At least not then.

I still mostly pluck, but if I have a special occasion, or if someone is willing to do a threading, I’ll go that route. For example our friend M-dai’s wife knows how to do it and offered to thread all us ladies when we were hanging out on New Years.

It hurts less now, perhaps because I’m used to it. But mostly I like that it is easy, and quick, and natural. I like not having to put extra guck on my face.

When I was getting my eyebrows done last night a Caucasian woman walked up and asked, “Do you mind if I watch?” As my eyebrows were shaped she asked, “Does it hurt?” and I replied, “Not any more than plucking or waxing. I actually prefer it,” but by the time I opened my eyes she had already walked away.

What do you think about threading?

Subtitles

There is a movie theater a few towns down the road from us that has a dedicated screen for Bollywood films. I’ve only been to a handful of shows, but it is kind of nice to have a place to see relatively new Indian films with proper subtitles, since it can be tough to see a movie with good quality subtitles if you buy a DVD of questionable origin at the Indian grocery store (ahem, “3 Idiots” and “Rajneeti”… having every third sentence somewhat translated does not count!)

About a year and a half ago I went with our Nepali friend KS and two of her friends (one Indian and one Burmese, although to a white American high school student selling movie tickets they probably all “looked Indian”). I just happened to be the first of our little group in line and I asked if I could buy one ticket for “I Hate Luv Stories.” (I know, it has a silly name, you have to sign up for a bit of cheesiness with Bollywood romantic comedies).

The white high school kid blinked at me and said, “Um, you know that’s an Indian movie, right?”

“Yeah…”

“And it’s not in English…”

“So?”

But then I paused… maybe the movie didn’t have subtitles. I’ve sat through Bollywood movies in India without subtitles before, and although they can still be entertaining, and the general plot is easy enough to follow, a lot of the details are lost, and I wind up making up plot points or interpret things differently. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world to see yet another movie without subtitles, but if I was paying $12 for a movie, I wanted to follow the story.

“It has subtitles, doesn’t it?” I asked.

“Um, yeah.” He answered.

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Well, a lot of people don’t like reading subtitles, I just wanted to check and make sure you knew.”

I paid for my movie ticket and waited for the other three women (none of which were asked if they minded the subtitles, even though one of them would also need them) and we went inside.

I like all sorts of movies. P and I have spent many an evening curled up watching Netflix, and although we wind up watching a lot of American films, we don’t limit ourselves to English speaking cinema. I’ve watched many a good film in German, French, Italian, Russian, Norwegian, Chinese, Thai, or Hindi. There are many great movies out there that would be missed if one is put off by subtitles.

My boss is Danish, so it’s not surprising that he is a fan of Scandinavian cinema, but one of his biggest pet peeves is when a perfectly good foreign film is remade in Hollywood in English. He doesn’t understand why Americans can’t “simply watch the original with subtitles, like the rest of the world.” He always uses the example of the Danish film “Brødre.” He really enjoyed the original, and didn’t like the American remake. He thought the Danish film could have done well in the US if it had been given the chance.

Danish trailer

American trailer

Perhaps with the backdrop of the war in Afghanistan, the Danish film might not have struck the same cord with an American audience as an American solider fighting in the same war, but I still really enjoyed the original.

This conversation came up again with the American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

“The Swedish movies were so well made, and the books were originally in Swedish, why does the world need an American remake? Why can’t Americans just appreciate the original with subtitles? The original movie is already an international sensation!” He lamented during our office Christmas party.

Certainly hearing the dialogue in Swedish gives the characters a more authentic feel even though I don’t understand what is being said. It adds to the energy and the tone of the film.

Swedish trailer (English version)

American trailer

I haven’t seen the American version yet, so I can’t really compare, however I do remember watching the original Swedish movies. During the post-Christmas blizzard of 2010 P and I were staying with his brother in Philadelphia. It was late at night, but P and I weren’t tired yet, and so we were scanning through Netflix looking for something interesting to watch. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was streaming, as well as the second movie in the trilogy “The Girl who Played with Fire” both in Swedish. I hadn’t read the books, but I had heard so much about them that P and I decided to give the movie a shot. We were so sucked in to the story that we watched the second movie immediately after the first even though it was already two o’clock in the morning. We were equally eager to watch the final movie once it was available streaming a few months later.

I understand that Hollywood is a big money making machine, so if the film industry can cash in on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” it will. However don’t shy away from an awesome original just because it has subtitles. Hollywood isn’t the only place to find interesting things to watch.

Now I guess I have to be on the look out for the repackaging of the film in Bollywood…

Bumper Sticker

P and I were driving south this morning with Mamu and Daddy. We dropped them in Philadelphia with P’s brother and circled back to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a wedding on Friday.

As P was driving close to the Connecticut/New York border he said, “Hey, C, here’s a bumper sticker for you.”

"NO Rice"

I’m not quite sure if this has some sort of other meaning, but I’m taking it literally. Although I hate to be thought of as the person who “hates rice”–because seriously I don’t!–I just would prefer to eat it only once a day, maybe 6 days a week, rather than every meal.

However, I did think this bumper sticker was photo worthy ;)

A Tale of Two Mugs

This post is in honor of P’s mom (“Mamu”) who will be arriving from Nepal in eight days.

About four summers ago (well I guess five if you count this summer), right before P and I moved from Central New York to New England, we spent the summer apart. I was working in Cape Town, South Africa and he was home visiting Nepal.

And we both had very different experiences with tea.

I was working with a study abroad program (as I had the summer before), it was crazy and hectic, but I loved being “in the field.” Although it was “summer” in New York, it was technically “winter” in South Africa being that it is in the Southern Hemisphere. For a Northeastern-winter-hardened-lass like myself, I didn’t consider Cape Town “winter” days so bad– usually a long sleeve t-shirt, or maybe a light sweater would suffice. However much like the winters in Kathmandu there are no central heating systems in local South African homes, and the cement block housing can feel like refrigerator units come night time (especially in a dormitory!) In the evenings I would fill a hot water bottle–grandma style–and walk around with it in between my shirt and my sweatshirt, and sleep with it cuddled up in my dorm bed for extra warmth.

One of the things I love about South Africa is the local roobis tea. It is gaining popularity in the US, but it can still be kind of pricy (compared to regular black tea), but in Cape Town I could buy hundreds of tea bags for just a few American dollars. Need-less-to-say I used to come back from my forays to South Africa with ziplock bags stuffed with roobis to last me through the year!

So the combination of the tasty tea, and the chilly nights meant that I was drinking buckets of roobis on a daily basis. Cup after cup after cup in the dormitory dining hall.

The students I was working with had volunteer projects in the local townships–Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, and the Cape Flats, and through supervising the students’ work I had the chance to get to know some of these communities. So when I was in one of the local Cape Town tourist markets and came across a market stall of pottery and ceramic work from Gugulethu I had to check it out. Amongst the platters and salt shakers, tea pots and bowls, I spotted a large textured mug with an elephant on the side. I thought, well, I’m already drinking buckets of roobis, I might as well drink those buckets from a giant flashy African mug!

After that, in the evenings, I defrosted with my giant mug, holding it in my hands and against my cheek for warmth, and filling my belly with delicious steamy roobis tea.

Knowing how much P loves tea—albeit Nepali milk tea—I thought he would love the giant mug when I returned to the US.

A picture I found on Goggle of Sibongile Pottery from Gugulethu

Meanwhile P was in Nepal, also drinking buckets of tea, but those buckets of tea were spread out over the course of hours and hours of drinking. Much of the day was spent sitting on the flat cement roof of his house, people watching the rest of the neighborhood, chatting with neighbors, friends and family that stopped in and said hello, and sipping milk tea from small small mugs.

In the US we are used to things being bigger—bigger cars, bigger roads, bigger buildings. Even our cups and plates and mugs are big. One of the souvenirs that P brought to his family on this visit was a US-regular-sized coffee mug with the logo of the university he attended for his master’s degree. It wasn’t until he saw his parent’s reaction—“Oh a pen holder!”—that he realized that the US-sized-regular mugs were much too large by Nepali standards for actual drinking. As he reverted back to his innate Nepali-ness, he found enjoyment drinking out of small tea cups, and drinking cup after cup.

“Our cups back home [in US] are too big,” he thought to himself, “I should bring a set of these nice small mugs home for C, she would like them.”

At the end of the summer P and I got home within a few days of each other, and were eager to show the fun treasures we lugged back from our separate summer adventures. I told him, “Just wait until I show you this great mug I brought back from South Africa. You’ll love it!” and he responded, “Oh yeah? I brought back mugs too, they are so cute, you’ll also love them!”

So we pulled them out. The giant mug and the baby mug, both, interestingly enough, with elephants on them.

This picture doesn't do the size difference justice, but trust me, one is big and wide and the other is tiny and skinny. "US-regular-sized" mugs are probably somewhere in between these two sizes.

“I thought you would love this mug. It’s so big, you can fit so much tea in here!” I said.

“It’s nice, but just too much, look at this cute small mug. You can have a small bit of tea, and refill it afterward. I never realized how big everything in the US was until I went home this time!”

Over time, and lots of tea drinking, we eventually went back to using our US-regular-sized mugs (although I must admit that I still use my giant roobis tea mug everyday but now it is my giant water mug at work. It blends in with all the other flashy colorful international stuff I have all over my office.)

However–when P’s parents came in 2008, I was quick to make tea (like a good little buhari-to-be) when they got back to our apartment from the airport. I didn’t think about using the small elephant mugs that P brought back from Nepal in 2007, and instead gave them a US-regular-sized mug of milk tea. P’s mother’s eyes were huge when I handed her the mug, insisting again and again it was too much for her. I had to take the mug to the kitchen and poor ¾ of the tea into another mug before giving it back to her.

P’s parents arrive on June 29th—and this time I’m prepared. I now have a full set of “small” teacups, just the right size for Nepali inlaws–so bring on the chai!

Our friend D poses with the small tea cups, with milk tea and Nepali sweets. We are only missing Mamu to make this picture complete!

Nicknames and Pet Names

When I was in elementary school my grandmother took my sister and I on our first sans-parents trip. We flew across the country to San Diego to see one of my aunts who had a young son and was pregnant with her second child. My little cousin’s name was Sean, and I remember cooing to him, “Hey Sean, hey little Sean, hey there little Seanie-Seanie-Seanie-Seanie-Seanie!” My aunt stopped me right there and said, “Oh, no. No nicknames. He is just Sean. I don’t want anything silly to stick.”

I didn’t really grow up with a nickname either. I think my parents didn’t really know what to shorten my name to, or maybe no one really thought about it (except for my sixth grade teacher who jokingly referred to me as C—-nie-Weenie-Beanie-Frances, although that’s not really shorter). But for someone who grew up without a ton of nicknames, I think P and I are going to be the kind of parents (someday) that have a million nicknames for our kids–if our poor dog is any indication. His name is Sampson but he also goes by Sam, Sammy, Sammu, Samaloula, Samalou, Bubala (which actually means “grandmother” in Yiddish, so don’t ask me where that came from), Bubalou, Bubaloula, Bubahead, Bubaface, you get the picture. I guess the dog is used to our craziness, because he seems to respond to all of them.

Anyway, that was my long introduction to my ramble for today: Nicknames (pet names?) for couples, US and Nepali style.

In the US couples have all sorts of pet names for their significant other. They range from cutesy (Baby, Sweetie, Darling) to food inspired (Cupcake, Muffin, Honey) to silly (insert all sorts of potential nouns here). I kind of wish P and I had a better pet name for each other. I admit, ours is totally dumb, and really has absolutely no meaning at all, but it’s one of those things where it just stuck, and now I don’t think it will ever change (perhaps my Aunt had a point way back when?)

In high school somehow I started using the made up word “Merface” as a silly term of endearment for friends or my sisters. I don’t have a clue where it came from, it was probably something that just came up in conversation once and stuck. By the time I met P in college, “Merface” had morphed into “Merf” and that also just kind of stuck. Eventually P was the one and only Merf in my life and that name became this silly nonsensical term that I used so frequently with P (and he with me) that occasionally he stops and says, “You know, my name isn’t really Merf.”

Much like our poor dog, Merf also has lots of variations: there is the short and to the point “Mer” that can also be elongated when I’m pouting about something like, “But meeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrr I don’t want to eat rice today” or P:
Meeeeeerrrrr pasta, again?”), there’s the flirty “Merfy” (“looking good Merfy”) or the more playful “Merfalou” or “Merfaloula.” Or even an insult—“Don’t be such a Merface.” You get the idea.

Gosh, I feel pretty ridiculous even typing all this out, but I’ve already gotten this far, so I might as well keep going.

“Merf” I think looks even stranger when typed out rather than said, because I think most people probably assume we are saying “Murph or Murphy” to each other, like the Irish name. Maybe they think I’m trying to Irish-American-ify P by christening him “Murphy.”

Anyway, aside from our weird nickname that doesn’t mean anything, there are some relatively common Nepali terms of endearment that people use, so I wanted to mention those.

I think a frequent one is “Nanu and Baba.” Nanu means something like “little girl,” while Baba could mean “father” but is also used similarly to Babu for little boys. Sometimes I find in confusing because “Baba and Nanu” are also used as generic cutesy terms for Nepali children. So there could potentially be both an older and younger set of “Babas and Nanus” over for a dinner party. Although I guess there could be a lot of older and younger “Muffins and Sweeties” too depending on the crowd you are with.

Our friends AS and N use these particular pet names a lot. When they stayed with us for several months, I got so used to hearing them call each other Baba and Nanu that I even started referring to them as Baba and Nanu, which in our household was more of an inside joke, but when visiting Nepalis heard me call N Baba it probably scandalized them (“What is going on in this house?”)

I asked P if he could think of any others. Some wives sometimes call their husbands “Raja” (king) and I guess conversely the wives might be called “Rani” (queen). P’s parents call him “Kalu” as a nickname (black). AS said that sometimes couples might call each other Kalu and Kali (black) or Budha/Budhi (husband/wife).

So now that I’ve embarrassed myself with nicknames and pet names, what do you guys call each other?