Tag Archives: Kathmandu

The Art of Distributing Wedding Cards in KTM

My boss couldn’t believe that when P’s parents decided to do the bhoj that P’s dad could pull out a notebook and from memory write out a guest list with 550 people. “Who can do that?” he asked.

I was equally impressed/shocked that in the two and a half weeks time after P’s family decided to do the bhoj, they were able to organize a party for 500 people, including printing out wedding invitations, addressing each one, and distributing them out to friends, family, and neighbors.

The process is pretty interesting.

Most people live in the KTM Valley, and although the Valley is terribly congested with traffic, and can take ages to make it across the city, it’s relatively easy to connect with people.

And those connections run deep. We were talking with a high school friend of P’s whose dad is now semi-retired but still so busy, “He has a group of friends that he went to primary and high school together with, and now they are in their 60s and still all together all the time. There is always something to do.”

Even with P’s dad the connections are all around and plentiful. Like the man who came to the house to deliver the electricity bill—he was a long time acquaintance of P’s dad and received an invitation to the bhoj. “You know,” P’s dad said, smiling, “When I was a small baby, P’s grandfather had me stay with P’s grandmother’s family in Thamel. I was the only small kid in a house of adults. This dai [older brother],” he continued, pointing at the electricity bill delivery man, “Used to watch me. He would put me on the toilet and when I was done I’d cry out and he would come and help me and clean me. He is my very good dai.”

By the time we arrived in KTM P’s dad had already printed the cards and addressed most of them. Instead of putting mailing information, you put family names, and group them together into packets for neighborhoods or friends/family that people will see.

For the next three or four days Daddy was busy entertaining visitors who would come and collect a packet of invitations (Daddy would look through the packet to verify that the visitor would see all the people, and ask if there was anyone else, and look through other packets to collect those cards), and taking packets of invitations with him as he ventured out around the neighborhood with an umbrella in the lingering monsoon rain. At each house he would make small talk, perhaps have a cup of tea and/or a snack, and drop off the card.

As the days progressed the giant stack of invitations grew smaller and smaller. P’s dad started calling people who he didn’t think he or a local acquaintance would see before the party. P and I got in a taxi and ventured to a few houses and work places of our friend’s parents to drop off invitations.

I guess that is how you spread the word about a party in less than a week, and since most people are in the Valley, traveling to the party isn’t usually that difficult.

However there has still been a lot of rain. Usually in the evening the sky will open up with a downpour. I’ve heard that when it rains people are less likely to go out because many people travel my motor scooter which would get messy in the rain, and getting very dressed up and going out in the water would also be uncomfortable. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t rain, or that there will be only a little. After all P’s dad’s hard work, I’d hate for weather to keep people away. I’m sitting on the roof now typing this post out on my laptop and the sky is fairly blue and clear.

The party is tonight. I’m both excited and a little nervous. P and I will be sitting on chairs in front of a big hall of people eating and drinking. 500 people, most of whom I don’t know, coming up and greeting me and saying hello. If there ever was a time I wish I spoke better Nepali, it would be tonight when greeting all these new family members.

The past few nights there have been conversations amongst the family members about what jewelry I should wear, and how I should wear my hair and if I should go to a beauty parlor. I smile and nod. I don’t understand all of the conversation, but I think it should be fun. After lunch P’s cousin is taking me to the beauty parlor for hair and makeup. I’ll post some pictures, but probably not until we get back home as the internet at P’s house is relatively slow.

Stay tuned :)

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Buddha Airline Crash

Just a quick message…

We were on our way from Delhi to Kathmandu when the Buddha Airlines plane crashed seven miles outside the airport in KTM today (http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/25/world/asia/nepal-plane-crash/index.html)

We were actually starting our descent into the KTM valley when the pilot came on the plane loud speakers and announced, “The Kathmandu Airport has been temporarily closed. We have no further information. We will circle for a while until we hear more details or receive permission to land.”

My first thought was that there was another earthquake and that we couldn’t land because the ground was trembling beneath us. P thought maybe there was a strike that all of a sudden broke out. “Only in Nepal does the airport temporarily close when you are just about to land” he said.

About ten-fifteen minutes later we were given permission to land, but not given any additional information. We went through the airport, I got my visa, and we collected our bags, but no one said anything. We met P’s dad outside the airport, and he helped us to a taxi to travel back to P’s house.

As we were loading our bags (which, luckily, made it to KTM against all odds), I said to Daddy, “While we were in the air the pilot said the airport was temporarily closed. Do you know why?”

Daddy said, “Yes. One of the mountain flights [tourist flights that do sightseeing flights around the high mountains/Everest] crashed right before you landed.”

When we got back to P’s house, after being welcomed as the new buhari, and tikka-ed and garlanded by P’s grandfather, mother, father and aunt, we turned on the news, and the crash was all anyone could talk about. 19 dead. The news crew showed damage from the wreckage as well as the line of dead bodies on the ground, with just their upper bodies covered by a blue tarp, limbs crooked every which way.

Scary to think that we were circling above the airport as this happened. The fog was thick in the valley upon approach, but not more than I’ve seen when I flew other times.

I guess when my mother woke up this morning she saw on a news ticker on the tv, “2 Americans dead in a plane crash in Kathmandu” and she totally freaked out, but once she saw the full story she realized it was a local not international flight.

So I am here safe, let’s hope there aren’t any other crazy issues in the next two weeks.

More info on the crash: http://myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=36509

“People are crying, ‘Where is bhoj?'”

The first time Mamu mentioned it was about three weeks before they left. P had finally told them about the conference, and that we were pushing for his travel documents, and that we might go to Nepal for Dashain.

That night he had a social meet-up with some of his lab colleagues/professors, so he asked me to tag along with Mamu and Daddy. While the scientists were catching up over beers and chicken wings in the bar, I sat with Mamu and Daddy in the restaurant nibbling on French fries and splitting a local blueberry beer with Daddy.

After a few fries (which came covered in cheese, which really isn’t Mamu’s “habit,” but “what to do?”) she said, “In Kathmandu the people are crying, crying, ‘Where is bhoj?’”

“Where is what?” I asked.

“The people… they are crying. ‘You have bhoj in America, where is our bhoj?’”

Bhoj meaning wedding?”

Daddy shook his head, “No, no… wedding party, bhoj. You see, we have so many relatives and friends, they want a party.”

“We tell them… American bhoj is sufficient. But they are crying crying. What to do?” Mamu asked. “We tell them, you and P come later, but if you come now, what?”

After that conversation there wasn’t a lot of bhoj talk since it didn’t look like P’s immigration documents were going to come through in time.

But in the eleventh hour they were approved, and we bought tickets to travel, and suddenly the conversation started again.

“People want bhoj.”

“How many people would you invite to the bhoj?” I asked. With a week before our departure, and only two weeks in Nepal, the timing was ridiculiously short.

Daddy took out his journal and thumbed through a few pages. He had made a list of relatives, neighbors and friends. It was 550 people long.

Holy cow.

Daddy likes to have projects like this. Back in KTM he is one of the relatives to call if you need help coordinating an event. He likes to get involved. Time was short, but that wasn’t truly an obstacle.

He started calling friends immediately to try and secure a venue, making a list of tasks to do upon returning like printing invitation cards, and he combed through the list to see if there were any people he could cut to save on costs. I’m not sure if the list has grown any shorter, if anything it probably grew longer. Now I get emails from him during the day asking me things like, “how do you phonetically spell your parents’ names?”

Although idea of being the bride at a wedding party where I barely know a soul is kind of daunting,  the party is more for P’s family, particularly for P’s grandfather.

“I don’t think my family has hosted a big party like this since my aunt’s wedding twenty eight years ago.” P said, and we both know P’s grandfather is going to be beaming with pride and excitement the entire two weeks we are there.

So while I’m packing my bag tonight, I have to remember to include my wedding sari, bangles, jewelry, and tilhari for the last installment of P and C’s wedding adventure which is planned for next Friday—September 29th.

So no more crying people! The bhoj is coming.

Mamu and Daddy’s Departure…

P’s family is getting ready to leave. They originally planned to depart on September 26th, but Mamu really wanted to get home to start organizing the house for Dashain, and they moved their tickets up to Sunday night (Sept 18th).

They have been with us for twelve weeks.

Wow, I had to recount because I couldn’t believe it when I first counted. That time went super fast.

I was nervous before they came. I hadn’t had bad experiences with them before, but the idea of having my new in-laws live with me full time for such a long time felt daunting, or at least a bit overwhelming. But all went really well. I actually feel a lot closer to them than I did before, particularly Mamu, whom I get a big kick out of and really enjoy.

The last time P’s family visited us it was for five weeks back in 2008. P, myself, P’s brother, P’s cousin MK and P’s cousin’s boyfriend MS dropped them (Mamu, Daddy and MK’s mother J Phupu) off at the airport. We sat together for a while, and eventually it was time for them to go through the security gates. Mamu and J Phupu were crying, but Mamu was an absolute wreck. She was sobbing and was almost too upset to coherently find her way through the security line, and Daddy had to lead her along. When they reached KTM P’s dad called to inform us of their safe arrival, and said Mamu and J Phupu cried most of the plane ride home.

After such a dramatic departure last time, you might wonder if Mamu will equal, if not surpass, her level of anguish after staying with us for twelve weeks.

But I don’t think so. Perhaps Mamu will shed a tear or two, but I don’t think there will be too many frowns or too much sadness this time around.

Because…

We will be following them to Kathmandu next Friday.

Surprise!

Mini Videos of Nepal

I wish I could post the mini video directly on my site, but I don’t think I can. However there is a nice 30 second timelaps video of Kathmandu Valley/Nepal that gives some nice views of what the city and mountains look like. Check it out if you have the chance: http://nepal.tv/watch/nepal-trailer.

On the same site they have a few other videos, including a mini video about the take off/landing at Lukla Airport which those of you interested in an Everest trek might want to check out: http://nepal.tv/watch/lukla-airport.

P in KTM

P departed last Sunday for a month long trip to Nepal. The trip came up all of a sudden. He had connected with some researchers at a conference in the fall, and about two months ago they asked if he would like to join them on an expedition to Langtang in the high mountains north of Kathmandu. The researchers will be collecting glacial ice cores, but P is planning to collect water samples for his work. It wasn’t until about two or three weeks before his departure that he actually had a ticket and was certain he was going.

He departs this upcoming Sunday for a multi-week trek into the mountains. I asked him to take lots of photos so that he could potentially put together a guest  post about his trip.

Anyway, P came online last night while D, RH and I were eating dinner. I had jokingly told P before he left that I was going to eat nothing but pasta while he was gone, to cleanse myself for a rice filled summer (pasta-rice wars, please no more rice). The three of us were sitting at the dinner table chowing down on large plates of pasta/veggies/marinara sauce when my googlechat popped up. The electricity had finally turned on in KTM.

I’ve discussed load-shedding before, but it still never ceases to amaze me that the capital city of Nepal lacks hours of electricity a day. As P said, “It’s better to ask how many hours of electricity did you have versus how many hours of load shedding, because it is a smaller number.”

But I guess one doesn’t need electricity to enjoy time at home with your family. Sitting on the roof in the fresh air drinking endless cups of tea, well, endless until it is time to go shopping. With so few days in the city before his expedition, his family has been taking P around on marathon wedding shopping trips. Buying my wedding sari, as well as saris for my two sisters and mother and a dhaka topi for my dad and various other guests, getting measured for his own wedding clothes, etc.

If any interesting stories come up, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Flash Mob in Nepal

I guess when you hear “mob” in the context of Nepal you might think of a banda–a strike or protest. But this was a mob of another nature…

A friend posted this on facebook earlier today, and I had to share. I guess on April 9th there was a dance flash mob in KTM’s Durbar Square, the supposed first to ever happen in Nepal.

I thought it was kinda cool…

On another note… Happy Nepali New Year 2068!