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Surgery Update

It’s been nine days since P’s surgery, and all seems to be going well. The day of his operation the poor kid was more worried about making it up the six flights of stairs to our apartment after the surgery than the surgery itself, but everything seemed to have worked out.

We arrived at the hospital around ten in the morning, two Tuesdays ago, and P changed into the required hospital garb (as seen in the pic). We kind of assumed that shortly after prepping him he would be going in for the surgery, but various medical staffers (nurses, surgeon, anesthesiologists) kept checking in and saying, “another half hour…” “perhaps another half hour…”

One of the anesthesiologists looked kind of Indian, and I tried to catch a glimpse of his name badge, but before we could say anything, he made note of P’s name on his paperwork and said, “Do you mind if I ask where you’re from?” When P said “Nepal,” the doctor said that he was originally from Punjab. His last name incorporated the popular Sikh name “Singh” and he asked, “Do you know what that means?” I think he expected P to answer and was surprised when I blurted out from the corner, “lion.”

“Yeees, that’s right!”

After waiting almost three hours the Punjabi anesthesiologist came back to wheel P away. I was told I could see him in about 2 hours—about an hour for the surgery and about an hour for him to start waking up from the anesthesia.

While P was gone I drove over to a store to buy a new thermos. P’s mother had been very adamant that in Nepal once a patient wakes up from surgery it is important that he has a cup of black tea right away.  She seemed alarmed to hear that doctors in the US don’t give patients black tea right away and gave me the task of being ready with it in the hospital.

I found a nice thermos, bought it, and took it to the bathroom for a good cleaning. Then I went to a nearby café to have them fill it with black tea and to have a little lunch. I was back in the hospital waiting room with time to spare before I was called back to the recovery area.

When I saw P, his color looked a little off, a little greenish gray, so I figured he wasn’t feeling good from the anesthesia. A few years ago my mother had a surgery on her abdomen and when she woke up from the procedure she felt nauseas and vomited. He said his stomach was fine, but he still felt disoriented, and he was most worried about the stairs. He looked so fragile in the hospital bed, with a small oval thermometer sticker attached to his forehead, his leg wrapped in an ice “cryo-cuff” and brace, and his grayish coloring. I told him not to worry about the stairs yet and asked the nurse if I could give him some tea. I wanted to fulfill the duties that Mamu charged me with.

As the medicine wore off P became more coherent and more nervous about the stairs. “There is no way I’m going to make it up there!” he kept fretting. I wasn’t sure what to do, since I didn’t want to push him, but I also felt it would be better to be home and have him resting in his own space.

My mother had called me the night before arguing with me that we should either go to my sister’s apartment in Rhode Island because “at least she has an elevator!” (never mind that she lives in a studio and is a student whose schedule wouldn’t be conducive to having a surgical patient sleep over, or that it was almost an hour away so it would be impossible for me to check on him during the day or help him at lunch) or a hotel. “Don’t be stubborn!” she scolded me, “What if he is permanently damaged because you insisted he goes up those stairs, and he never walks right again!” Thanks for making me less worried mom.

We had arranged that if need be we could stay in an extra bedroom at our friend S-di’s place, and if he struggled to even get up the few stairs to her porch to get into the apartment I kept the option of a hotel open, but I still felt home would be best.

As the nurse was prepping to move P out of recovery and back to the room we were waiting in before the surgery she asked if we had many stairs at our apartment.

Do we have stairs? Big time.”

When I told her how many I asked what her honest opinion was of what we should do. I told her about the options, and how P and I had even practiced having him slide his butt backwards up the stairs, and leaning on me and hopping, but that even in a good condition, going up all that way on one leg would be exhausting.

She agreed with me that home was probably the best option, since a patient feels most comfortable in their own space. She said that she could give him a shot of a heavy duty pain killer that might help get him up the stairs. She took me to the hospital staircase and we played with the crutches until we found the best way to make it up on one leg and I felt a little more confident. As we walked back to the recovery area she said in a hushed tone, “I shouldn’t tell you this but, just try your best to get him up, and if you can only make it half way, call the fire department, they can carry him the rest of the way.” It was nice to have a fall back “plan B” although I was afraid I’d be charged for calling the department for a non-emergency.

After about an hour and a half in recovery it was time to make the trip home. Two friends had agreed to help me and as per the nurse’s instructions our plan was to get P up the stairs one flight at a time with someone standing behind him and someone standing in front of him in case he got woozy from his meds or exhaustion and started to fall. My plan was to put a rolling desk chair at the top of each flight so that he could sit and catch his breath, and we could wheel him to the next section.

Even though P was worried, he took each step in stride. I showed him how the nurse recommended he use the crutches, and our friends stood close by to catch, although luckily it didn’t come to that. Slowly he made it up each section of the stairs. I was so relieved when we got to the top; we had him sit in the computer chair one last time and we wheeled him across the hallway down to our apartment door, then onwards to our bedroom. We got him propped up in bed, and he seemed okay. Whatever wonder drug the nurse gave him seemed to work magic wonders because he said he barely felt any pain in his leg.

The next day was a totally different story. P seemed to be in excruciating pain. His whole leg was throbbing and even the slightest movement made him grimace and writhe in pain. I thanked our lucky stars that we got him up the stairs the day before, because he never would have made it up the second day. He could barely sit up in bed, let alone get up and go to the bathroom.

Before going to work I made a thermos of tea, brought him fresh cut fruit, a large bottle of water, pain medication and ice packs. I bought a small styrofoam cooler to store ice packs in so he could manage changing the ice while I was away. I came back at lunch to make food and check on his status, refresh his ice packs, drinks, etc., and then by the time I got home from work the poor kid was sitting in the dark because he was in too much pain to get to a light switch—so I pulled a lamp over so I wouldn’t forget the following day.

The past two weeks have been busy helping him out. One day he even said, “You are really working your wedding vows aren’t you? ‘In sickness and in health…’” But he has been a pretty good patient, and he is definitely getting stronger. He has been moving around the apartment a lot more on his crutches, and the past few days I’ve even noticed he fixed himself some stuff in the kitchen before I got home for my lunch break.

It has also been nice to have good friends around. Our Nepali friend from P’s academic program offered to come over during the day that first week and work from our apartment so that he could help P when I was at work. Our friend S-di cooked Nepali comfort foods like kwanti (bean soup) and Nepali style chicken soup (meaning there were large chunks of chicken, not just chicken broth). Other friends would come for visits to check in and lift his spirits.

His first post-operation doctor’s appointment is tomorrow, so it is his first time out of the house since last Tuesday. I’m hoping the stairs feel more manageable this time around.

P’s Ready for the Knife

Knee Surgery

What’s the latest news in the AmericaNepali Household? Tomorrow P is going to have knee surgery…

Back in June I mentioned in this post (“Weird thing #1”), that P had done something to mess up his knee. At the time we didn’t really know what it was and our primary care physician assumed P had a ligament issue. Since then I’ve mentioned P’s leg problem here and there.

His knee problem was almost cyclic. For a few days he would feel pretty good, even gaining confidence to walk around a bit on it, and then he would have days when he was in a lot of pain, and barely wanted to put weight on it. Luckily he felt okay during our wedding weekend, but plenty of other times during the summer he didn’t, which kept him fairly homebound. Most days he didn’t feel well enough to walk to his office, but on the days he did feel okay he was too nervous to push his leg and stayed home anyway. In Nepal we wouldn’t go anywhere unless he could take a taxi from point A to point B with minimal walking effort.

P is a really active guy. For most of his life he has played soccer at least a few times a week. Being housebound all summer has been a real psychological blow. His leg problem cascaded into a series of other issues related to a lack of exercise—a pinched nerve in his neck from sitting in a computer chair working too much, headaches, his legs have lost a lot of muscle mass and are smaller than I’ve ever seen. For a while he was in a real mental funk. He was thinking that his leg would never be the same, and he might have to give up soccer, or not be as active, for the rest of his life. This isn’t the case, but it was tough seeing P in such a low mood when he is the one in our relationship who is always consistently “okay.”

Before we went to Nepal P’s physical therapist finally ordered an MRI, and after months of speculation (he had an x-ray early on, so we knew it wasn’t broken, but the doctors insisted on physical therapy to see if his knee would “improve” on its own before ordering an MRI) he was finally properly diagnosed—a torn meniscus.

What’s a meniscus? I certainly didn’t know either… The meniscus consists of two connecting pads of cartilage at the knee joint in between the thigh bone (femur) and lower leg bone (tibia). The cartilage helps prevent friction in the joint between the two bones.

Image from Wikipedia with my yellow highlight of the meniscus

The doctor gave P a copy of the cd with his MRI images. He and I would look at the images like they were ancient hieroglyphic texts; they didn’t make any sense to us. Of course the American doctors explained the images to P at an appointment, but it wasn’t until we met up with one of P’s high school friends in KTM (who happens to be a leg surgeon) that we had the images fully explained. He came over and sat in P’s family’s living room, and while Mamu supplied him with cups of chai and bowls of nuts and sweets, P’s friend went through the MRI images on P’s laptop, slice for slice, and showed us exactly where the tear was located and how the surgical procedure to fix the problem would be done.

Apparently cartilage doesn’t receive a lot of blood flow, and for body tissue to properly heal it needs to have a flow of blood to help bind the tissues together. The outer edges of the meniscus have blood, but the inner portions have very little. Thus a small outer tear can heal, but if the tear is too deep or long, then it might not properly reconnect.

P’s tear was straight through (of course, we are the bad-luck-juju family!), and the pain he was feeling was from the broken meniscus flap moving. When the flap was out of the way P felt pretty good, but if the flap wedged into the knee joint, he wouldn’t feel so hot. Additionally a small cyst formed near the injury which also caused pain when the joint moved back and forth.

P’s friend explained that during the surgery the doctor would probably shave a bit of the meniscus to see if it bleeds. If it does, then he might try stitching it to see if the edges will re-attach. This procedure takes a lot longer to heal, but protects the knee joint longer into old age. If it doesn’t heal after a month or two, then P might need a second surgery.

If the meniscus doesn’t bleed during the initial shaving, then the tissue would most likely never rebind, so instead of stitching the doctor would simply cut off the torn “flap.” The healing time on this would be much faster (since he only needs to recover from the surgery itself, not the tissue rebinding), but then P would be missing a chunk of cartilage in his knee joint, leaving him more susceptible to arthritis issues in the future.

Obviously procedure #1 is probably best if it is successful, but P’s friend said due to the extent of the tear the doctor would probably have to do procedure #2. We won’t know until the doctor opens P’s knee up and checks out the situation.

“But if you do procedure #2, don’t worry,” P’s surgeon friend reassured us, “If you are missing that chunk perhaps you would get arthritis at age 60 instead of 65. It’s not that big of a deal, even I don’t have a meniscus anymore.”

So tomorrow I’m taking a personal day from work and I’ll be at the hospital with P. I’m not that nervous about the surgery, I’m more nervous about getting P home. We live in a building that used to be an old three story Catholic school. The apartments are converted old classrooms with 12 foot high ceilings. That means that even though we are on the third floor we have to walk up six flights of stairs, and there are no elevators. I’m not sure how I am going to get P up all those stairs with crutches and a cast.

When we moved into the apartment a year and a half ago, while huffing and puffing it up the stairs with heavy boxes of books and kitchen paraphernalia, I remember thinking, “I hope neither of us breaks a leg, we would never make it up these stairs.” Oops.

Meanwhile P’s family is worried in Nepal. They have called every day this week to check in. Last night P’s dad asked if an ambulance could bring him home and paramedics could bring him up all those stairs on a stretcher. P explained to him that ambulances can only be used for “medical emergencies” and insurance wouldn’t cover carrying a post-surgical patient to his apartment because there was no elevator. Meanwhile P’s mom wanted me to make a long list of things to bring to the hospital including black tea (in Nepal after someone wakes up from surgery they are supposed to drink black tea) and extra blankets.

So, hopefully all goes well. I’ll keep you updated.

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 ;)

The Black Wedding Cloud Strikes Again

What the hell? I thought bad things happened in threes, not fours, and I certainly hope not fives and sixes :(

Its 1:15 in the morning, and the reason I am up is because we just got back from picking up P’s brother U from the bus terminal, but instead of taking us 1 1/2- two hours round trip, it took us almost 3 and a half–because our front driver’s side tire pretty much exploded on the way in to Boston, on the worse stretch of road possible, and the whole fiasco took us about an hour to solve. Let me rewind.

First things first. I don’t mind dealing with sticky situations, particularly when I am on my own. I deal with it and its over. The worst thing is dealing with a problem when you have an audience, especially an audience you want to make a good impression on. It makes the whole issue more stressful and feel 100 times more terrible (then it might actually be).

The week before P’s parents arrived I was trying to be as proactive as possible, not only with wedding prep (thank god I did that! I still have a few small things, but most is done, and I’m so relieved), but also with other things– like getting the car inspected for the year, getting an oil change, paying the car insurance, etc.

I was dreading getting the car inspected, because I was a little worried about the tires. With all the wedding expenses, the last thing I wanted to do was shell out for new tires, but if I had to do it I would. So I got my oil changed and asked my regular oil change guy to do a quick once over to make sure everything looked okay before I paid someone to do an inspection. The mechanic said it looked fine, that one or two of the car tires would probably need to be changed 6 months down the road, but we were good for now. P and I had recently noticed a whir whir noise from one of the tires and I asked the guy about it. He said that my alignment was probably off a bit, the tires were wearing down a bit differently, but it could be fixed later.

Okay, that sounded fine to me.

So the next day I took the car to the inspection place, paid the inspection fee, and hoped that this guy also felt the tires were fine. The car passed with no issues what-so-ever. I even asked him about the tires specifically and he said, “In a few months, but for now you are fine.” (He even said something like, “The tires fail at 2 or 3, your’s are at 7 or 8.”) Phew, just the answer I was hoping for.

So tonight, P’s brother was slated to get in to the Boston bus terminal at 10:30 from Philly. P’s leg has felt stiff all day, so I was happy to volunteer to go alone and pick him, but P’s parents hadn’t seen U in a few years, and they were eager to see him, and P had hinted that Mamu was nervous to stay in the apartment alone, so against my urgings the entire crew piled into the car for the hour and a half/two hour round trip.

Things were going fine. We even caught a good percentage of the local fireworks show while filling gas at the station before getting on Interstate 90 east towards Boston. There was more traffic than usual for that time of night, probably holiday traffic, but we were cruising along. P’s parents eventually zonked out in back, and we could hear their gentle snoring from the front.

Right as we passed the first toll booth upon entering the greater Boston area, right where the highway starts to narrow and the shoulder disappears, there was a loud pop (which woke up P’s parents and started them asking questions) and then everything got bumpy and loud. I was in the fast lane, and had to move to the right hand side of the road, but didn’t know what to do. The tire seemed to have completely collapsed, so I didn’t think it would make it even a few feet down the road (trust me, I tried, frantically) and I wasn’t sure where the road would gain a shoulder again.

Not sure what to do we put our hazard lights on, and I tried to call roadside assistance. I quickly popped out of the car and assessed the wheel before jumping back in. While I was distracted by the phone, I think P was busy watching all the cars zipping by and realizing how dangerous our position was on the road. He jumped out of the car, and had his parents jump out, and they climbed over the guard rail  and up the embankment to give them and the car some space in case someone came whipping through and smashed the car. He kept calling for me to get out.

I was trying to get through to roadside assistance, meanwhile feeling completely mortified. I didn’t want P’s parents to think I was an incompetent driver, or had done something wrong. I knew I didn’t hit anything. A few minutes later a Peter Pan bus pulled up behind us, and I half thought that U had spotted us on the road and asked the bus to pull over and let him out, but the bus driver was actually pulling over to tell us to get out of the vehicle, “One tractor trailer comes through and doesn’t see you, and you are all dead. Get up the hill, I’ll call the police for you.”

So now we are all standing on the hill. I’m watching the sky (it was raining about 15 minutes before), and finally getting through to roadside assistance, when a police car pulled over and started yelling at us (what is with police and yelling at me this week?) I was trying to juggle the roadside lady on the phone and talk to the police, but instead of explaining anything he just kept yelling through his window, “Get in your car, get in your car right now and drive. You want to get us all killed?”

“But sir, our tire is flat.” I stammered, I was worried I’d start crying again, like with the other police officer.

“I don’t care if your tire is flat. Your car will drive clear to California on a flat tire, now get in your car and drive.This is incredibly dangerous. Never stop on an active road way. ”

So we hustled P’s parents into the car and jumped in. I’m now super flustered, the police officer, with his lights on, is still yelling at us but now through his loud speaker, “drive forward, just drive.” And the tire is so broken the entire car is shimmying, shaking and rattling as I ease her down the slow lane. I’m still flustered, and mortified, and the police is still yelling at us through the loud speaker to “keep moving,” while P’s worried parents are asking us questions, “What’s going on? Isn’t that a police officer? Why is he yelling?” Somewhere along the line the roadside assistance operator asked me if she could put my call on hold–“What does that mean? Are you going to call back?” I asked. “No.” she said–and I dropped my phone somewhere in the car.

After what seemed like an excruciatingly long time, the cop advised us that the shoulder had widened enough for us to pull over. I promptly jumped out of the car and walked back to him. He said gruffly, “Never ever stop on the road. Your life is worth more than a tire rim.”

I said, “I agree, but I didn’t know it would keep driving.” (I was blinking back moist eyes again).

“The car will always drive… on a flat, on a rim, on a damaged rim… always keep going. I called a tow truck, you’ll be fine here.” And he sped off, offering little in the way of comfort or additional help/advice.

P had us walk back up the embankment. I again looked at the sky hoping it wouldn’t rain. The ground was a little wet, and I went to the trunk to get out the towel we usually have in the back seat for our dog to sit on so that Mamu, Daddy and P could sit down, but no one wanted to.

“The police officer just drove away?” P’s dad asked, bewildered. “He could have stayed with the lights, to keep us safe, no?”

“I think he was in a bad mood.” I offered, “He didn’t seem very nice.”

We sat waiting for ten minutes, and I said to P, “This is ridiculous, I know how to change a tire, lets just do it and get on our way.” But P was worried about the busy highway. No doubt he had visions of a car whacking me while I was on hands and knees changing a tire, killing me or injuring me a week before our wedding. It seems our luck is going that way.

I convinced him that if we could get the car on part of the embankment, and off the road, I could change the tire, and so we arranged the car. I whipped out the spare, and went to work trying to jack the car. Like I said, I’ve done this before– but not with P’s parents squatting nearby watching my every move. They were just trying to be helpful, but it was making me more stressed out, making me worry about failing in front of them.

And lo and behold, just as the car seemed nearly jacked up, the dirt embankment buckled and the car shifted forward, wedging the jack sideways. I had to unscrew it and readjust all over again. I found what was a solid spot, and started again, sitting in the dirt on the side of Interstate 90, twisting the jack slowly by hand. Just as the car almost seemed high enough to work, the soil buckled and the car lurched again.


I reasoned with P– we had to move the car so at least one of the tires was on the pavement. “Fine,” P agreed, but I think he was also loosing faith, and had started calling roadside assistance back. I started all over again, with P’s dad crouching near me.

I really wanted to get that damned tire off, and fixed myself. I wanted to be the hero to save our crummy situation. If I had to be humiliated as the driver when something stupid like this happens, at least let me be the one to fix it, and win some “Wow, did you know C could change a tire? How impressive!” points. But my two previous failures seemed to be making that less of a possibility.

Before I could get the car jacked a third time, this time on the pavement, a tow truck showed up (sent by the angry police officer). The guy quickly used his giant jack to hoist the car, changed the tire, and fit the spare. He showed us that in fact the inside of my tires were worn to oblivion (“But I just got my car inspected last week and it passed with no problems!” I told the guy, “Well, this shouldn’t have passed” he responded) and had literally blown open.

I felt like an idiot, P’s parents were watching, P was stressed out too, U was stuck at the train station (and supposedly “starving”– he texted us just after we left asking us to bring food, but we had already left. “It’s just another hour and a half,” I told P, “He will be fine until we get home. Then he can eat Mamu’s cooking” famous last words), and the whole thing took us an hour or more to fix.

I’m sure P and I probably felt worse about it then U, Mamu or Daddy. We were embarrassed, tired, and frustrated. The whole situation made it seem like our car is in bad shape, and we are reckless. They were quite chatty on the way home, while P and I drove in near silence. We were both listening to every noise, worried that another tire would blow. Why do these stupid things happen when you least want them to? Any other time would have been better… although as I write this, perhaps better now than next weekend on the way to one of our weddings!

As we neared the apartment a cat crossed in front of the car. “Bad luck,” U clucked in the back seat.

“One crossed in front of us on our way out too.” P said.

“Do you believe in these superstitions C?” P’s dad asked.

“No.” I said, “Do you?”


I was really thinking, Let’s all hope for no more bad luck!

So now tomorrow morning, instead of taking P’s parents to the white and red wedding venues (before my lunch meeting for work), we have to probably buy at least two new tires and try to get the alignment fixed on our car.

Can people send some good juju vibes our way?

“Hot” Dogs and Other Unexpected Complications

We are now nearing the ten day mark and I haven’t really talked about some of the odd things that haven happened lately. I had a lunch meeting with a colleague a few days ago and she said, “It’s my theory that there is such a thing as a ‘wedding cloud’ that encompasses you right before your wedding when weird things start happening, and you can’t really explain them.”

Weird thing #1:

P and I went to Philly about a month ago to help P’s brother shift apartments. After our trip P’s knee started bothering him. He is usually a pretty active guy. He walks to school every day, plays soccer with friends a few nights a week, likes taking our dog out to the park, not to mention we live on the third floor of a building with 12 foot high ceilings, so there are six flights of stairs to get up and down every day with no elevator option. After the Philly trip, he wasn’t his usual active self—and he kept complaining about his knee, and how it almost hurt too much to make it down the stairs and to school. After a few days of limping around, we decided to take him to the doctor’s, who recommended that he get an x-ray. At the end of the week the doctor called and said, “We found something on the x-ray, come in on Monday to talk about it.”

Well, nothing freaks you out more than hearing a doctor say, “We found something, come see us in three days.” So P worried all weekend, afraid to walk anywhere. On Monday he went in and the doctor said he had early signs of arthritis in both of his knees (probably from the years and years of soccer playing), but the immediate pain was from a pulled ligament. There wasn’t too much more he could do but curtail his activity, ice his leg, and rest.

He worked from home a few days, and didn’t leave the house much. For an active guy, that’s tough. He hasn’t played soccer in over a month, which is also really tough. His spirits are a bit lower than normal because of all this—at a time I would hope his spirits would be high with all the wedding prep :(

His knee started to feel a little better about a week ago, and one day he did too much activity, and it set him right back to where he started, so for the next few weeks he’ll be doing a lot of resting and icing, and hopefully he will feel better before the big days.

Weird thing #2:

P’s leg was enough to worry his parents in Nepal, but then a week after before his parents were due to depart, another issue arose. Originally it was decided that P’s aunt, J Phupu, would stay back in Nepal to watch his grandfather who is very agile and able bodied, but also nearly 90. J Phupu came during the last visit in 2008, but it was decided that staying home this time was for the best.

Well—she was in the market near New Road, KTM around June 17th, and tripped on some smushed fruits on the ground, and broke her knee. She called P’s dad and mom who took her to the hospital where she had to have surgery (3 pins put in her knee). P’s parents final week in Nepal was busy running around picking up last minute wedding stuff, attending another relative’s wedding, and helping J Phupu with her surgery, medical information and getting her home and moving around on crutches.

So now the person who was supposed to stay home to keep an eye on the home and P’s grandfather, now needs someone to keep an eye on her.

She is feeling better, but will be on crutches for six weeks. Of course it was terrible that it happened at all, but the timing of it made it all much more of a headache. P said that if his parents were coming for anything other than our own wedding, they probably would have cancelled or at least postponed their trip.

Weird thing #3:

So as if the two leg injuries weren’t enough—

I took off Tuesday and Wednesday from work so that I could organize the apartment and make it looks spic and span for the soon-to-be inlaws’ arrival. I was hoping to do that over the weekend, but I was up until all hours organizing wedding stuff so that most of the details—programs, favors, seating charts, table numbers—were done.

Tuesday morning we decided to start the day off with a few early morning errands, and because of all the stairs in our apartment, we generally try to consolidate tasks so we don’t have to go up and down so many times. This particular morning we decided to bring our dog Sampson out for a walk, then bring him with us in the car over to Staples to pick up the wedding programs we had printed, then we were going to go to a local shoe store to pick up a pair of shoes the doctor recommended for P’s budding arthritis, and then we were going to wash and vaccum our car. Since most of the store visits where quick “in and outs,” with the windows rolled down a bit, we figured Sampson would be fine even though it was sunny and warm.

We walked Sampson, no problem. We went to Staples and picked up the programs, no problem. Next we went to the small “mom and pop” shoe store. No sooner did we walk in the store (literally three minutes later), there was a giant crash outside. A construction crew was paving the small parking lot of the restaurant next door and one of their paving vehicles backed into a telephone pole, which just so happened to have a weak, rotting base, and the whole thing came crashing down within inches of our car. Had we arrived just a few moments later the pole could very well have landed on P getting out of the passenger side door.

The electric wires were draped across the back of the car, and poor Sampson was trapped inside. Since the wires were live, the police and firemen (who arrived within minutes) told us not to touch the car as it might be electrified, but assured us our dog would be fine since the rubber tires were keeping him from being grounded (and zapping him).

We were relieved that we were safe, and the car only had minimum scuffing from the wire (when it could have easily been damaged more by the pole and the light affixed to the pole), and that Sampson was okay inside the car. But as ten minutes turned into half an hour, turned into forty-five minutes we started becoming less relieved and more worried that the strong sun and heat of the day would start cooking our poor pup in the car. I made sure I told the police and firemen right away about our dog, so they knew there was more of an imminent reason to fix the issue quickly. However the electric company took what seemed like forever—about an hour—to arrive on the scene.

Now, my father was an electric lineman for most of my life, and I grew up watching his safety demonstrations with “rocky the raccoon” during state fairs and other events (where a fake raccoon toy, attached to a wooden pole, would get into mischief around live wires and wind up fried to a crisp to warn kids about the dangers of electric lines). I know the real life dangers of live electric wires a little too well—one of my dad’s best friends had both of his arms blown off in a work accident that nearly killed him. But I was also worried about my dog, so I was standing near enough to the car to see him through the window and to make sure that he was okay, and hadn’t started acting funny from the heat. A female police officer had told me to “move away from the car,” but a little while later I got close again to check in on Sampson. The female officer again yelled over to me, and I answered, “I’m just checking in on my dog, I won’t touch anything.” (at that point I wasn’t even that sure she knew there was a reason I was looking in the car).

The officer must have thought I was trying to sass her (which I wasn’t, honestly, I just was giving a reason why I kept checking in), and she got right in my face, pointing fingers and yell/scolding me “Listen ma’am, I’m only going to tell you this once. STEP AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE. If you touch that car and zap yourself you will sue me for not doing my job, so go sit over on the curb with your boyfriend or whoever it is.”

And since  I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut I again answered (meekly), “I understand, but my father is a lineman, I won’t touch anything, I’m just keeping eye on my dog. I’m worried about him.”

She barked back, “Go sit on the curb now or I’ll have you arrested for obstructing a scene.”

Now in tears—from stress? From worry? From being picked on unnecessarily by a uniformed officer—I sat down with P, rubbing my eyes and sniffling while we watched the line crew wait around for a bucket truck to come and cut the power. Another fifteen minutes ticked by.

“It’s okay” P reassured me, “Don’t cry. I can see the top of Sammy’s head, he will be fine. They will get the wire off soon.”

After almost an hour and twenty minutes they finally cut the power, took the wire off the car, and we were able to free Sampson. We brought the hot, and scared dog into the shoe store for some air conditioning and water. The police officer came in to lecture me again, saying, “If your dad is a lineman you should know better.” (Thanks ma’am, I bit my tongue to keep myself from saying I didn’t want to talk to her and probably getting a fine or something from sassing an officer.)

The shoe store owner gave P a 20% discount on the shoes for his “troubles,” and we headed home. The rest of the day it was tough to focus on cleaning, and we didn’t get too much accomplished. Luckily Wednesday we woke up early and worked our butts off before driving to the airport to pick up P’s parents.

My mom says “things happen in threes.” I’m hoping that these three things qualify and we don’t have any more odd surprises before next Sat.

Ours is the white car

After the rescue

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!

Irish (Heritage) People Have Two Looks: Pinky-White and Lobster

I think that the title of this post says it all. People of Irish heritage literally have two looks: pinky-white-paleness and, for lack of a better word, lobster-colored—or should I say, lobstah (with a thick Bahston accent).

We don’t turn a nice medium brown shade of tan in the sun, like other ethnicities (P included!), we just cook. It’s not fun.

I’ve had my run-ins with the sun before. Two incidents in particular come to mind: in Kenya and on my way to becoming engaged. I’m not anticipating another nasty sun episode, but now that the sun has finally reached New England I’ve realized I have to play it smart (wicked smaht) for the next few weeks—because my wedding gown is strapless, but I always wear sleeves. I never really thought about my arms, neck and face being more pinky-red then my shoulders, chest and back. I might be multi-colored by July 10th!

I guess I’ll have to slather on sunscreen. Or wear a hat and light weight long sleeves. Perhaps this will be a good new routine for me.

It’s unfair because P rarely has to deal with the less pleasant qualities of the sun. Granted, the sun’s rays are still harmful to darker skinned people, but it seems to give them less pain if they are out all day in it. I remember the first time P had a “sunburn.” It took all day in the strong equatorial sun of Kenya. At the end of the day he said, “Ow, my neck kind of hurts.”

Me: “I think you have a sunburn.”

Him: “I’ve never had a sunburn before, ouch, this is what it feels like? It kind of hurts!”

Welcome to the club.

Likewise, I remember small children in Kenya and Tanzania asking me questions about my freckles, my sun-induced pinkness, and my clothing-induced whiteness. They would ask me, “Why are you so many colors? I’m just one color.”

“Hmmm,” I’d ponder out loud, “Mzungus are kind of like chameleons. Our skin likes to change.” (Come to think of it, I probably gave a few small kids mzungu nightmares).

Anyway, on my wish list for future potential children– I hope they get his skin, at least they can be spared the Celtic curse of lobsterdom!

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?

Where’s the Sunshine?

At least today is warm… but the last week or two has been chilly, overcast, rainy and depressing. Welcome to New England. Case in point, I have a beautiful flowering tree outside my office window, and the large pink blossoms sometimes stick around for a few weeks once the spring warmth arrives, but this year as soon as the tree burst into color the weather took a turn for the worse and the rain and wind knocked all the flowers down into a brown decaying mushy pile. Boo. So many gray clouds makes it hard to feel motivated to do anything, I guess even post blogs.

I think I’ve mentioned New England/Upstate NY weather before (here, here, etc); how finicky it is, how a popular local expression is “if you don’t like the weather just wait ten minutes,” how since it changes so much the weather is a popular icebreaker topic, and how this icebreaker doesn’t work when I travel to more temperate places where the weather stays the same all the time. It’s actually very telling—as soon as the sun comes out, it’s like the whole city comes alive, everyone is out on the street, in the parks, wearing flip flops and shorts (even if it is sunny but fifty degrees fahrenheit!). We New Englanders don’t take good weather for granted!

Anyway, last summer was really hot (I even wrote a post called, “We’re having a Heat Wave”) but this spring/summer is starting out in a similar way to the summer of 2008 when P’s family last visited, with all the gray skies and wet weather. When P’s family came they assumed that since it was summer they didn’t need to bring warm clothes, and P’s mother wound up spending most of her visit borrowing sweaters and shawls from my closet to keep warm. The last few times I’ve spoken to P’s dad I’ve reminded him to pack a few warmer cloths for their visit, just in case.

I do hope we get some sunshine soon, or like the flowers on the tree outside my office, I might just wilt into a decaying lump on the ground.