Tag Archives: Time

100 Days Until Nepali Wedding

I think there are now 100 days until our Nepali wedding. It sounds like a lot, but I think it will go very quickly… and you know, I’ve done very little thus far to actually “prepare” for it. Most of my attention has been on the details of the American wedding since logistics are characteristically sorted our much farther in advance. Certainly there are details that once completed for the American wedding were also sorted out for the Nepali one—such as printing invitations, or booking a photographer who will cover both events, however I feel there is a whole lot that I need to start thinking about as I shift gears.

And just as the shifting has begun—P decided to leave for a month to go to Nepal! His phd research is on glaciers and climate change, and he made a connection at a conference with some Chinese researchers working on a similar project. About a week or two ago, everything fell into alignment, and he was asked to join a group heading into the mountains for the next month. So he will be almost entirely out of contact as I begin the next phase of organizing.

His family, of course, is very excited to have him home, if only for a few days, before they fly out to the US sometime in late June. He will be able to explain to them more about what to expect on the American side, and I am sure they will take him on a few shopping trips during the short time he will spend in KTM—including picking out saris for my mother and sisters to wear at the Nepali ceremony and a Dhaka topi for my dad (definitely breaking new ground here!)

With P leaving so soon (in a week!) and being gone so long (there will only be about 60 days before the weddings when he comes back!) it is really making the time feel short. How the heck is it April already?

Dates and Times

Today is P’s birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY P!

Well… at least in America. His parents called a few weeks back to let him know it was his birthday in Nepal, but P always forgets that date. It amuses me when those calls come, they always seems so random, “hello son, happy birthday. It’s your birthday today, don’t you remember?”

P has two birthdays because the Nepali calendar is different than the American one. Actually technically I believe there are two calendars in Nepal… the “official” calendar based on the Bikram Samwat and also the calendar often used by Newars (for festivals, etc) called the Nepal Sambat. Both calendars are based on a lunar calendar and so the months and festivals shift from year to year (one reason P never remembers his Nepali birthday and why we generally have to look online to see when specific festivals are celebrated).

Today is also Maghe Sankranti, a festival that marks (supposedly) the coldest day of the year, and the emergence of the calendar into the progressively warmer months of the year (Spring! Summer!). It also marks the end of the Nepali month of “Poush” an “ill-omened month” when “all religious ceremonies are forbidden” (funny… Christmas falls right in the middle of this!) and the beginning of the Nepali month “Magh.” For the first time since moving to New England Maghe Sankranti is on a Friday night, so we plan to celebrate (S-di and M-dai are having a dinner at their place). I’ll have to let you know how it goes, since I’ve never done this one before.

So back to the birthday stuff…

P’s birthday is today, but we celebrated it last night. We generally celebrate P and AS’s birthdays together since they are relatively close. N and I originally planned to take P and AS on a “romantic double dinner date” but true to form, things don’t always go to plan around here. It is really hard to celebrate without the whole neighborhood.

So our group of 4 for dinner turned into a group of 9… okay, I can deal with that.

Then it turned into a group of 12…

then a group of 14…

then a group of 16…

Finally I thought… guys! Come on! It’s a lot to plan if there are so many people! We have to coordinate rides (most people don’t have cars), and the restaurant we had picked at the beginning was in a city half an hour away. How are we going to do this? Then, P and AS found out about the dinner, but N and I kept the dinner location, and guest list a secret, so we were trying to coordinate getting everyone to the restaurant, on time, and before we got there, so it could be a surprise.

As we were driving, I was thinking of all the people scrambling around the neighborhood trying to get there before us. Sometimes I just can’t help my pesky American habit of feeling obligated to being on time for things, but I imagined all these guests and their propensity for “Nepali Time”… and I imagined them getting to the restaurant at all sorts of crazy times. To make matters worse, by the time we left, I was still under the impression that some people hadn’t figured out rides because more people were added to the guest list after I had arranged the car situation (yeah… don’t I sound annal retentive? Arranging lists of who was driving with who…).

All this stuff was going through my head while I stalled for time (meanwhile, feeling guilty that I told the restaurant 7 and was purposefully arriving late).

What I really should have done was just rely on a lesson I’ve learned time and time again. Chill out, things will be fine. If it doesn’t work according to plan, no problem. Let’s have fun. Hakuna Matata dude.

We walked into the restaurant… a Japanese hibachi grill… and… everyone was there! Some people took cars, some people took trains, everyone got there early! It worked beautifully. AS and P were really surprised, and a great evening was had by all.

Birthday Success… hurray!! :)

“Frank Uncle” and the Nepali Wedding

P sent me a google-chat text at work on Thursday: “Do you want to go to a Nepali wedding? We were just invited. I’m sure you’ll get some great blogging material…” (I hope my life doesn’t turn into one giant blog post!)

Unfortunately the wedding ceremony itself was on Friday when I was supposed to be at work, and the invite was so last minute, we couldn’t make it (even though it wasn’t too far away, at the same small temple with the Nepali priest that performed P’s Bratabhandha), but the reception was on Saturday evening. We were ready for that.

Since we really didn’t have a formal invitation, P thought his aunty said on the phone, “the reception is between 5:30 and 7:30 so please come then.” I had a hard time believing a Nepali party would last only two hours (its hard to imagine a Nepali anything lasting only two hours), but we were hypothesizing that maybe the venue in the city was expensive, or maybe that was the only time they could get it for, etc. I, in my American timeliness, was rushing P along as we were getting ready on Saturday so that we could be there at 5:30. P said, “these things never start on time, there is no need to rush,” but I thought–if its only 2 hours, and we still have to drive there, then we miss an hour, what’s the point in going?

So we rushed, and got to the venue at 5:30 on-the-dot… and not a single person was there. P started to get worried, “she said 5:30-7:30… maybe she meant yesterday, or tomorrow?” He climbed out of the car and went inside… the decorators and caterers were still setting up, and only a handful of people were milling about. When he came back to the car he seemed more confident that we came on the right day, we were just far too early.

“Maybe she meant arrive between 5:30 and 7:30?” I offered, and P agreed, that sounded plausible. We were still far too early to go inside, especially since P didn’t think he would know most of the people there, so we decided to drive around the neighborhood in circles for a while, and eventually stopped at Target to kill some time. As a white girl dressed in a sequined sari with a sparkly bindi on my forehead, I think I garnered a lot of attention (isn’t it too early for Halloween?)

As we were walking around the store I asked P, “so exactly how are you related to the bride again?”

P: “Hmmm… I don’t really know, you’ll have to ask M-di [his cousin] when she gets to the party. The bride is some sort of distant relative…” Later I found out that the bride’s grandfather and P’s grandfather were cousins. I couldn’t help but giggle a bit… I wouldn’t even know if I had a relation like that in the States, let alone be invited to their wedding…

Anyway, we finally showed up to the reception appropriately late (about 7) and people were finally arriving. P wound up knowing more guests than expected, and we were occasionally approached by random distant relatives who said hello and asked after P’s grandfather and parents. At one point we were approached by an older woman in a yellow sari, who uncharacteristically started talking to P in English when she noticed I was standing there (a courtesy that is not always thought of, especially by the older generation).  I was introduced (she was the bride’s grandmother’s sister, I think) and she made some small talk with me. After she departed, P’s cousin M-di jumped in to fill in some details, “Oh that is B Aunty… she’s married to Frank Uncle.”

Wait, Frank Uncle? Thats not a Nepali name, back up…

M-di, “I don’t know all the details, but B Aunty met Frank Uncle while he was in the Peace Corps, and they had to get a special dispensation from the King to get married!”

Wow, intercultural marriage… two generations prior? I had to meet this guy.

Frank Uncle gives B Aunty a quick "peck on the cheek" after giving her tikka for Dashain

Frank Uncle gives B Aunty a quick "peck on the cheek" after giving her tikka for Dashain

M-di hooked me up… we went to get a drink and we ran into Frank Uncle’s son, Raj (who P pointed out, looked more Nepali than white American, insinuating what our future kids might look like. This is a game we play whenever we run into American/Nepali offspring- Raj makes offspring #3- and the most Nepali looking we’ve seen thus far). Raj was pretty interesting. He told us about the time he went to Nepal in the early 1980s when he was seven years old and the entire family came with a minibus to pick them up at the airport.

“It was all kind of overwhelming, you know? We just got off this long punishing flight, and we were already dazed and confused when we got there… then half a village worth of people come to pick us up at the airport. They brought us back to the family home in that big bus crammed full of relatives, and I couldn’t speak a lick of Nepali. In the living room all my cousins just stared at me, the American cousin, like I was from outer space or something. After a while, though, we went outside to play, and it didn’t matter where I was from.”

Raj introduced me to his wife, who looked Indian, and we also started chatting. She wound up sharing that she came from an intercultural household as well, “It’s amazing how similar Raj and my upbringings were,” she said, “my father is Indian–Gujarati, but my mother wasn’t–she’s Hawaiian. My dad was Hindu and we would do a puja, and my mom was Christian and we would go to church… I was so confused as a kid! Thats how Raj and I bonded!”

Then Frank Uncle walked over, and Raj introduced me. I said, “Frank Uncle, I’m supposed to ask you about the Peace Corps…”

"Old school" picture of the Kathmandu Peace Corps office that I found online

"Old school" picture of the Kathmandu Peace Corps office that I found online

“Ah yes, see… when I was graduating from college in the early 1960s I heard about this new program called the Peace Corps. I signed up to go and got an offer to be a sports director in Morocco but the program was starting a few weeks before I was suppose to graduate. After spending 4 years at the school, I figured I should at least finish my program. To think, if I’d done that, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now! Then a few weeks later I got another request to work in a place called Nepal, and that I could start after graduation. They asked me, do you like hiking in the mountains? and I said, sure! so they signed me up right away! I had to go to the library and find out where this ‘Nepal’ place was, I’d never heard of it before!”

Picture of P on a suspension bridge during our hike in the Everest region of Nepal in June. "Frank Uncle" helped build the first generation of these bridges in communities throughout the mountainous region

Picture of P on a suspension bridge during our hike in the Everest region of Nepal in June. "Frank Uncle" helped build the first generation of these bridges in communities throughout the mountainous region

Apparently Frank Uncle had been in the first cohort of Peace Corps volunteers to the country. King Tribhuvan had just opened the Nepalese borders to foreigners 10 years before so the country was still largely untouched by Western influences. Frank Uncle was sent off to live in a mountain community in western/central Nepal where they were working on development projects, particularly making suspension bridges to link communities in the mountains and make transportation easier. After several years of being in the community (and knowing how to speak fluent Nepali–I’m jealous!) he was put on a team of people organizing projects for future cohorts. Thats where he met his wife, who was also helping the team. I couldn’t get the whole story as to why they needed to get the King’s special dispensation, but I think it had something to do with the Hindu/non-Hindu wedding ceremony. To think that there are still some families today that get upset over love marriages between two Nepalis of different castes, and yet Frank Uncle married B Aunty 40 something years ago!

I had about 10 million questions for Frank Uncle, and Raj, but unfortunately I monopolized enough of their time. They were visiting from California, and had to make the rounds meeting with other relatives. But I loved to see the ease with which Frank Uncle fit into the crowd, code-switching between English and Nepali, and was treated as a respected senior member of the family, even if his nationality was different. It was equally interesting to meet Raj and his wife, and hear about how their respective intercultural upbringings influenced their own personalities and personal choices.

Getting to meet them made it worthwhile to drive around for an hour and a half and kill time walking around Target in an eye-catching sari… you know, just a regular Saturday night…  :)