Tag Archives: Writing

Precarious Flight to Shangri-La

The magazine in Australia that I mentioned before published another one of my stories. I again hope they don’t mind if I share. It’s very exciting to see one of my pieces in print, and it makes me really proud. Below you can find the full text with a graphic of what it looked like in the magazine. I’ve added a few hyper links to the pictures and videos mentioned in the story.

The Dornier 228 turboprop sat eighteen passengers. It was just wide enough for a person to stand in the aisle, both arms outstretched, fingertips touching the sides of the plane. I settled into the dark blue fabric of my seat, as the stewardess picked her way over hiking boots and backpack straps, distributing hard candies that would help our eardrums adjust to the altitude during takeoff.

The stewardess’s uniform mimicked a traditional Sherpani chupa—a full length red jumper tied in the back over a white silk shirt, framing her neck like the collar of a kimono. A colorfully woven rectangular apron pinned to the front of her dress completed the look. As I took my foil-wrapped candy, I wondered if it was an Agni Air policy for stewardess uniforms to include the apron, or if it truly signified that the attendant was married, as it would in Sherpa culture.

The two pilots completed their pre-flight checklist, and asked the stewardess to sit in the last remaining seat, next to fifty kilo sacks of rice and other commercial goods wedged around cargo netting that held passenger luggage at the back of the plane. The propellers whirred to life, and the tiny aircraft taxied down the Tribhuvan Airport runway.

It was June of 2009 and I was traveling to the Solukhumbu region of Nepal with my husband P, and our school friend RH. Intent on hiking the most famous of Himalayan treks, our journey started with the thirty minute plane ride from Kathmandu to Lukla; a tiny airport-village perched on the side of a high mountain cliff, acting as the gateway to Shangri-La.

Lukla was both a beautiful destination, and a treacherous one. It consistently appears on lists of the “most dangerous airports in the world” as it is positioned amid slender, snaking, high altitude valleys, and is carved from a ledge 2,850 meters above sea level. On approach the runway, which is less than 460 meters long and 20 meters wide, looks more like a narrow parking lot than a place to land a plane.

To accommodate the short length of the airstrip, the ground is pitched at a twelve degree angle to decrease landing speed, and pilots conduct maneuvers such as “backwards thrust on propellers” to further decelerate the aircraft. One travel guide noted, “If this worries you, one comforting thought is that only the most experienced pilots in Nepal are flying to Lukla.”

Our Agni flight departed the Kathmandu Valley and sped toward the wall of jagged snow-peaked teeth on the horizon. Fifteen minutes later we were gliding through a constricting green gorge shaped by the raging glacial river below. Mountain ridges were close enough to count individual treetops from the windows of the plane. The pilots were navigating by sight; in such a claustrophobic environment GPS units are not as trustworthy as a steady pair of eyes, and flights can only occur in good weather. Limited visibility meant grounded planes, or potential crashes.

This route certainly has its share. Before our arrival, four flights had ended in disaster during the previous five years, including a 2008 Yeti Airline crash that killed eighteen. A German family captured the accident on video as they stood on the hill above the airport, camera trained on the edge of the runway. The plane’s engine hummed deeply on approach, but the valley was cloaked in a dense wall of cloud. The family waited for the Twin Otter to burst dramatically from the puffy whiteness and complete its journey safely to the tarmac. Burst it did—as a fireball—just below the edge of the runway. The German father muttered a shocked “Scheisse!” before dropping the camera. Chunks of white metal, rubber wheels, and other wreckage could be seen from both the ground and air for months.

I tried to forget these images as the runway came into view. I reassured myself that it was Yeti Airlines that crashed, but I was flying Agni. I reasoned that the pilots had a vested interest in landing safely. I chided myself on seeking foolish adventures and putting myself at needless risk. I promised myself that I wouldn’t fly this route again.

The approach was quick—from sky to earth with little change in altitude. The plane bounced hard on touchdown, and I gripped the back of RH’s seat, bracing for the aircraft to bank and flip, another gory headline for the news. Instead the wheels rolled to a hard stop before the pilot maneuvered the plane to the stone-built airport terminal.

A deep sigh escaped my chest; I hadn’t realized I’d held my breath through the final moments of the flight.

*

RH, P and I spent the next few days hiking in the beautiful mountain landscape, and at the end of our trek, we found ourselves inevitably back in Lukla. Unless willing to hike another five grueling days to the closest wheeled-transport, a flight from the tiny airport was the only way back to Kathmandu. The choice was clear; we boarded the same Agni flight—anxiety quickly forgotten in lieu of a successful adventure.

*

Fourteen months later, in August of 2010, a news article caught my eye. The title mentioned a “tourist plane crash” in the foothills of the Himalayas.

The flight departed from Tribhuvan Airport, intending to fly to Lukla, but turned back midway due to inclement weather. My heart sank when I saw the company—the Agni flight crashed before reaching Tribhuvan. All on board were killed including one Briton, one Japanese, four Americans, five Nepali and three Nepali crew.

I searched Nepali news websites, eager for information. Unlike American news, which censors more graphic photography, I came across a series of grisly photos taken by the Nepali army and released to The Himalayan Times.

The plane smashed into a rice paddy fifty miles outside of Kathmandu, and the muddy, water-filled crater was strewn with scraps of clothing and metal. A crowd gathered in the rain, hiding under umbrellas, watching the salvage work.

The most haunting picture in the series was of two Nepali army troops wearing green fatigues, wiping their hands on a white cloth after loading light blue plastic bags of human remains into the back of a truck. There were five plastic bags in the picture, each no larger than a backpack. The garbage bags were translucent enough that one could tell the contents were fleshy, like the soldiers were carrying blue shopping bags of ground turkey meat.

That meant the bodies had exploded on impact; there was nothing left but small pieces of each individual, mixed up in that mud pit and fished out by men treading barefoot through the water, looking for chunks of human. I had nightmares of small blue garbage bags filled with body parts, waiting on the curb outside my apartment, ready to be taken by early morning garbage men.

It took time to connect the tail numbers. A follow-up article mentioned 9N-AHE. I searched through my album for the trek, and scrutinized each photo from Tribhuvan and Lukla: A photo of the white Dornier 228, with Agni’s black, yellow and red stripes along the side. Another with Rory and I sitting in our seats, toothy-smiles for Prajjwal the photographer, excited to fly to the tiny airport in the clouds. A third—Rory and I pose outside of the plane upon landing in Lukla, as porters carry luggage from the aircraft. A fourth, our plane taxis down the short runway, new passengers aboard, the tail number visible yet small. I zoom in on the picture; one click, then two, then three. I make out the characters: 9N-AHE.

I re-read the articles—severe weather, spatial disorientation and loss of flight instruments, mechanical and pilot error, outdated crew checklists. The flight was doomed from the start. A flight I had travelled on. That picture of Rory and me in the dark blue fabric seats, smiling. Those seats are gone. Someone sitting in the same chair became chunks of flesh in a blue plastic bag in the back of a Nepali army truck. It made me physically ill.

I thought of the beautiful stewardess wearing the red chupa, passing out foil-wrapped candies. I wondered again if her uniform apron meant that she was married. Did she leave behind a husband, perhaps a young child?

Delicate Mzungu–revisited

**UPDATE** It has now been chopped to 1,998 words! Changes below.

Readers of my blog will be familiar with this story, however I spent a lot of time this month retooling and polishing it into a traditional short story for consideration in an upcoming anthology of “interesting stories of travel abroad” by international educators.

It is only 2,183 words long, so if you have time, I’d love to have my readers give some feedback. Even if I’ve asked you to read this in the past few days, this latest edition has gone through a lot of editing (particularly in the middle and end), so it might be worth a re-read. I think it is nearly ready for submission and I am eager to share:

Mzungu is a Kiswahili word that originally translated as “aimless wanderer.” Yet it has evolved colloquially in East Africa to refer to people of European ancestry—like an 18th century inside joke about imperialists spinning in circles, lost on the Maasai Mara. As an Irish-American with pinky-white skin, my mzungu-ness was as obvious as the strong Kenyan sun.

I felt no offense by this newly christened identity. Neighborhood children would sing, “Hey mzungu! Where are you going mzungu?”  Minibus conductors leaned out their doors to solicit us: “You there! Mzungu! Come!” Kitschy t-shirts in the Nairobi tourist markets quipped: “My name is not Mzungu!”

Instead, it was the adjective “delicate” harnessed to mzungu that stung, like a sharp accusation of weakness.

*

I was in Kenya for five months, studying abroad at one of the oldest undergraduate programs in East Africa. Students spent two weeks in Nairobi taking language and culture courses, alternating between two weeks of field experience in communities around the country. We lived with local Kenyan families and tasted many different recipes of life.

My first wrangle with the “delicate” modifier occurred in agricultural western Kenya. Fresh from orientation in the capital, my group of twelve plunged into our next sojourn, living with rural Kenyan families. I communicated with my hosts in my simple Kiswahili, insisting to work shoulder-to-shoulder with them. “Tafadhali”—please—“let me carry that bucket of water on my head, like you, back from the well…let me hoe the potatoes, let me feed the chickens…” I wanted to hunch over the large aluminum basin in the back yard and learn how to scrub the laundry by hand. I wanted to sit with my host sister and slice the leafy green sukuma wiki in preparation for dinner.

But I was told again and again, “It is okay, please rest. Wazungu# are delicate; we don’t want you to tire. Tafadhali, have some biscuits.”

I respectfully protested, “I’m not delicate. Please, let me help. I’m here to learn!”

The few times I was given a chance, I would either mess up—I stumbled while balancing a bucket of water atop my head, drenching myself—or something odd would happen, like a sudden nosebleed while I bent over the laundry basin. Each unfortunate incident reinforced their theory of the delicate mzungu.

*

Three months later, it was time for my group to travel to the savanna of southern Kenya, within sight of the Tanzanian border. It was the height of the dry season, and the landscape was barren but for occasional acacia trees. We were in Maasai-land, the ethnic group known by their iconic red clothing—women’s sarongs and men’s wraps called kanga and kikoi—and the wide, flat, beaded necklaces worn like starched Elizabethan collars around the women’s necks. Both genders kept their heads cleanly shaved and sported pierced earlobes that hung in stretched loops.

We camped along the edge of several Maasai family settlements. Called boma, they dotted the plains like sparse oases. The first week we walked through the countryside with the moran, the young male warriors of the tribe, who taught us how to identify different plants, herd goats, and survive a pastoralist lifestyle. Yet out in the relentless sun, the days were long, tolerable only by hiding under hats and loose long-sleeved clothing that kept us ventilated like desert Bedouin.

We burned through the clean bottled water brought from Nairobi, and the group had to share the ground water. We attempted to purify it by boiling it over the campfire, but bits of sediment still floated in the sulphurous liquid. Although it was another lesson in the reality of life shared by much of the world, my stubbornness resurfaced.

I was convinced that I didn’t need as much water as the rest of my classmates. I believed my body had better adapted to the dry climate, and I could, like a camel, sustain myself on just a few sips of water a day. I thought this could prove that being an mzungu didn’t automatically mean I was “delicate.”

My body dehydrated, but I was too naïve to pick up on the signs. My skin became dry and tight, and I had less use for the makeshift outhouse dug from the ground. Young people feel invincible, as though surrounded by an invisible bubble. Eventually everyone has an experience which pierces that bubble.  Mine was coming soon.

*

 During our second week in southern Kenya the group was divided into pairs and sent to different Maasai family boma. The settlements were enclosed in a circular acacia thorn fence.   This kept out roaming predators and protected the large herds of livestock which constituted the principal wealth of the family. Within this fence were several huts made of sticks, mud, and cow dung, built small so that an adult must stoop when standing inside. My hut was empty except for a piece of cowhide pulled tight across an elevated stick frame, used for sleeping.

I was paired with Nicole, a petite spiky-haired student from New York City. We spent the evening sitting outside our hut with our host mother, who was likely younger than either of us. We spoke no Kimaa, the mother tongue of the Maasai, so our communications were mimed. After sharing a dinner of boiled cornmeal and milk tea, the three of us sat under the heavy blanket of stars, which shimmered like millions of shards of glass.

*

The next morning Nicole and I arose from our shared cowhide cot and exited the hut into a cooler, overcast day. A moran named Joel Twiga—twiga being the Kiswahili word for giraffe, and a play on Joel’s lanky physique—had been summoned to help translate. He spoke of a large festival happening a few miles away at the “Big Boma”: every few years, families gathered to celebrate their men as they graduated from one phase of life to the next—childhood to warrior-hood, to junior elder, to elder. Our family wanted to take us.

They dressed Nicole and me in full Maasai regalia; a piece of fabric was tied around our hips like an underskirt, two red kangas were tied like toga across each shoulder, held tight by a belt, and we were adorned with white beaded necklaces. The clothing felt comfortable in the cool morning air—but they left large patches of neck, shoulders, and arms exposed.

Joel led us to the festival, and we joined the thronging mass as the sun broke through the clouds. Nicole and I were the only wazungu faces in the sea of red-clad ebony. Some children cried, scared of the mzungu-Maasai imposters, while other people wanted to greet us—“Soppa!” in Kimaa, answered by, “Ebba!” Two thousand people treated us like celebrities.

At first we were ushered from hut to hut, like high level ambassadors, as we greeted the elders. Then we were stationed in the sun to watch a medley of dance; the women vigorously shook their shoulders, causing their necklaces to bob as if floating on stormy ocean waves. The men responded by pogoing ever higher into the sky. The air was thick with ululations, and with the metallic smell of blood from goats butchered for meals not far outside of the boma fence.

By mid-day, Joel, Nicole and I were summoned to honor the regional chief. He welcomed us to his hut with a chummy slap on the back and handed each of us a warm bottle of Tusker, a popular Kenyan beer. I nursed mine while Joel translated the chief’s sermon. I was having trouble focusing on Joel’s words, as the beer and the heat soaked through my skull. My face had a fever-flush, but my skin remained dry of sweat.

After the chief’s hut, the sun became blinding and severe; I could feel every patch of exposed skin broiling in the afternoon heat. I grew agitated and disoriented by the constant attention of the revelers. Joel offered a placating umbrella, and I found a place to sit in the dust, hiding myself like an ant under a colorful mushroom. When evening shadows pulled long across the boma, Joel agreed to take Nicole and me back. I nearly passed out on the return walk.

*

That night my skin was on fire. My face, arms, and a patch of my neck and upper back were the color of cooked lobster shells. Lying on the cowhide cot was like rolling on a bed of freshly sharpened nails.  I could barely tolerate the weight of my loose fitting clothes.

The following day our professor, a tall sable Sudanese man, returned in the program Land Rover to take us back to our original campsite. I felt sore and periodically lightheaded, but remembered the milder sunburns of my childhood, which subsided in a day or two. I failed to realize anything was seriously wrong, and joined the other students in a night drive through the grasslands in search of zebra, antelope and lion.

We had been driving for nearly three hours, spying on a family of zebra in the Land Rover’s headlights, when my world spiraled.  I was instantly sick. A few moments earlier the bouncing car had been fun; now it was torture. My abrupt shift in demeanor alarmed our professor, who signaled our caravan to turn back. I had to sit very still, and breathe very deeply, to keep from vomiting on the return trek. By the time we reached our camp, I could barely walk under my own power. I retched up the contents of my stomach before I was dragged to my tent.

It was the start of one of the longest nights of my life. I vomited until I could not, then vomited some more. I shook and muttered, delirious. I was certain that the daytime heat would kill me. Nicole and the professor sat by my side all night, forcing me to sip water laced with rehydration salts. Finally, at dawn, I fell into a fitful sleep.

Our professor drove half an hour to find cell reception and made arrangements for my transport to Nairobi Hospital. Before his return, I had awoken, more coherent than the night before, but my back and neck had exploded in a mosaic of sunburned blisters. He loaded me into the Land Rover, and the other students waved goodbye.

*

The Nairobi Hospital, called the “European Hospital” during colonial rule, is a state-of-the-art facility and by far the fanciest in the country. Amongst locals, even the arriving patients dressed in beautiful outfits for their visit, while I arrived straight from the bush; filthy, dusty, and limping.

The intake doctor noted in my chart that the “mzungu dressed like a Maasai and was badly burned,” so each time a new nurse came on duty she had to meet that unusual mzungu. I was admitted for four days due to dehydration, sun poisoning and heatstroke. My treatment was a rehydrating intravenous drip and burn cream for the blisters on my back.

On my second day, the hospital director visited my room. He was a bulky, dark-skinned Ugandan doctor; a personal friend of our program director and one of the urban homestay fathers. He looked at my chart and examined my back.

After making his assessments, he held out his fist and asked, “See this hand?”

I nodded.

“It is a strong African hand. I can put it near fire and it will not burn. But you…you are an mzungu, and you are delicate. You must be more careful.”

*

In Kiswahili there is a saying, heri kufa macho kuliko kufa moyo—it is better to lose your eyes than to lose your heart. I may have bruised my pride on that burnt African savanna, but I found my taste for all the extraordinary experiences life has to offer. I hope never to be far from that next adventure, but I promise there will be a lot of sunscreen and water.


#Wazungu—the plural form of mzungu.


Author bio:
C is Assistant Director at the International Students Office at xxx University. In addition to traveling in various regions of Africa, she enjoys South Asia, especially Nepal. C lives in New England with her  husband and dog.

NaNoWriMo

[I’ve been sitting on this post for two days, not sure if I should put it up, but I figured I might as well and see what kind of response I get.]

I don’t think it’s a secret that I enjoy writing.

Writing has always been a fun hobby, and something that has become increasingly more meaningful to me as I document more and more of my life experiences. My interest in writing even prompted me to take a non-fiction writing class, fill notebooks with travel journaling, and join a local writer’s group in Massachusetts.

For a long time now I’ve wanted to take my writing to “the next level,” but I guess I lack confidence. I’m all talk about how I have great ideas for novels, but I never put anything on paper, and the idea of writing a book feels so intimidating—the hugeness of the undertaking seizes up my fingers.

However, recently I’ve started taking note of how many blog posts I’ve written—I’m up to a whopping 330 now. Even if I only wrote 500 words per entry (and let’s face it, we all know many of my posts have more than 1,000 words), that’s almost 165,000 words in total! If the average number of words in a book is about 50,000, I’ve already written enough words for about three so far. When I think about it in that way, how can I be scared of the “enormity” of a book?

I certainly day dream about someone finding my blog, and asking me to write something more professionally–who doesn’t have that dream?—but I oscillate back and forth between, “No way dude, you are not that skilled,” and “well… maybe, I could at least try…”

I’ve been wondering if maybe I can find inspiration somewhere.

Then one of my cousins wrote on Facebook, “thinking of doing national novel writing month.”

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a call to arms for writers to attempt to create 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. The goal is quantity over quality, to just get a story out on paper (computer screen?) and not worry about grammar and research and editing until later when the “meat” of the story has already taken shape.

I thought about this for about two weeks– “Maybe I could do this…” “No, no, no, I can’t, where would I start?” “But that’s the point, just pound it out…”

Then two days ago I realized what one of my problems was—the novels I’ve been thinking about are all fiction. Yet every time I submit a story for writer’s group, or describe the type of writing I do, or sit down to blog, what type of writing always comes out? Non-fiction!

Why am I forcing myself to swim up a fiction stream, when I can practice book writing with the plethora of nonfiction material I have already “pounded out” here on the blog?

But do I have enough to make a book? I feel like so much more must have to happen in my life before I have the material to flush out and create enough interest for a book… right?

Then for the month of October, my local book club chose, “Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs” by Heather Lende. I just finished it last night (in time for Sunday’s meeting!). The author lives in a small town called Haines in rural Southeastern Alaska with her kids and husband. She writes the obituaries for the local newspaper, a column for a Juneau newspaper, and is a contributor to NPR. Her book had a theme, but each chapter was a meditation on things she had experienced with her family and friends, much like a longer, involved blog post. I couldn’t help but feel, hey, maybe I could do this too?

In an interview with the author in the appendix of the book she answers the question: “What do you hope to share with your readers through their experience of reading this book?”

I’ve tried to give readers a window into a specific time and place and, by being so local and personal, tap into emotions they may have, too… in this day and age of homogenized housing, education, food, cars, and furniture, when so much of the country looks the same and feels the same, it’s more critical that we showcase what is unique in our own experience. Those of us who are able to tell stories that aren’t the same as everyone else’s should do it.

[Emphasis is mine.]

I almost felt like the author was reaching through my kindle to shake me by the shoulders.

Here is my thought: Perhaps during NaNoWriMo, instead of pounding out a novel with 50,000 words, why don’t I use that same energy and momentum to think about turning some of my experiences into a manuscript, and try to weave in and expand upon some of the stories that people have found most interesting?

So, my dear readers, what do you think? Should I try this little project? If I were to write a hypothetical book, what stories would you want to see?

Happy SECOND Blogiversary American-Nepali!

August 25th marks the completion of my first two years of blogging and the start of my 3rd. Hurray!

In addition to roughly 294 posts and more than 168,000 views, you have followed me through two friend’s Nepali weddings (Monsoon Wedding, Nepali Wedding in New England), as well as my own. You have listened to my struggles to learn Nepali (which is still a struggle), my love/hate relationship with rice, my experiences with other foods, my stories about traveling, and  meeting P’s parents for the first time, becoming engaged, and learning how to celebrate Nepali festivals–even silly things like the Sel Roti Challenge!

We have celebrated milestones like P’s Bratabhanda, his tenth year in America, and applying for his Green Card. Hopefully in the next  year or so we can celebrate him finishing his phd :)

In the year to come there will be a lot more to write about– if I can “out” our dear friends R and S… they will be having a baby in November, so I’ll officially be an “aunty” and attending my first “Pasne” ( rice feeding ceremony) as well as other baby stuff :). P and I are planning a trip to Nepal before the end of 2011. Mamu and Daddy are still here with us for another month as well as some other potential surprises.

Lastly, I want to thank all my readers. When I first started writing I never imagined that it would connect me to such a vast network of interesting, intelligent, interculturally aware people. I’ve made friends, and connections, and it is so nice to know that what I’m feeling or thinking is sometimes similar to what other people are feeling (phew! I’m not crazy!)–and that when other people read what I have to say, sometimes it makes them feel better too. You guys are truly awesome, and I really appreciate the opportunity to connect with you in such a personal way!

Thanks again for a great year! Hopefully year three will be just as good!

Other links:

First Blogiversary celebratory post

Greatest Hits for 100,000 Views

Wedding Series

Writer’s Group

I have always enjoyed writing, although I never really took it seriously.

I was, however, terrible at keeping journals as a child, and probably started half a dozen diaries that were abandoned after two or three entries. I even tried the Anne Frank-esque tactic of pretending I was writing to a long lost friend, but that didn’t work either. It wasn’t until I started traveling as an undergraduate that I began documenting my experiences in these long involved emails to friends and family back home. I actively rebelled against my professors, who insisted that I keep journals for my overseas classes, but those weekly emails home became a serious undertaking (although at first much more like long excited rambles), and I would eventually alter many of my emails into academic entries after the fact.

Over time, my emails grew stronger and tighter, more thought was put into details and descriptions, and more research was put into explanations of things. After two semesters of emails from abroad, I enrolled in an intro to non-fiction writing seminar for tips on how to develop my scenes, and hook my audience. I wouldn’t say that my emails were publishable (not even remotely), but I started getting requests from others to be put on the mailing list for future emails. I printed most of what I wrote, and pasted them into composition notebooks for reference.

I didn’t think about it at the time, but those emails became really important to me as a way to remember all the details and relive the experience (I’d often go back and re-read, even while still abroad, to remember something specific, and today these notebooks and ticket stubs are invaluable for details as back story), it was a way for me to process the new things I was learning, and through contextualizing my experiences for others, I was more deeply understanding what was happening to and around me.

Then for a few years I stopped writing, and I felt this tension building up in me. I had these experiences and thoughts I wanted to share, but I didn’t know where.

Enter the blogging world.

And after half a year of blogging, and getting into the routine of writing, I wanted to again hone my skill. So in January of 2010 I joined a local writer’s group. I’ve been attending the monthly meetings ever since.

My blog posts are pretty colloquial, and I’m sure riddled with mistakes (grammatical and otherwise), but again through writing I’ve begun to analyze and understand my experiences on a deeper level, and I have learned a lot through reading the thoughts of others. Likewise the writer’s group has made me slow down as a writer, and think about what the reader is seeing and feeling, how the reader interacts with what I write.

Needless to say, I love writer’s group. Last night we had a great meet up. Many of the regulars were there, along with quite a few new people. We generally meet at the local library for about two hours. The month before a meeting, two to three volunteers agree to post their polished pieces to a website where members download and comment on their work. At the meeting each person has three minutes to critique for each writer’s piece and the writer is not allowed to say anything—no debates, explanations, defending, nothing (the “glass box” theory of critiquing). They can only take note (or not) of comments from each person.

After the more formal meeting a group goes out to a local Chinese food restaurant for tea, beer, dinner, snacks, etc and socialize, talk about their projects, hear crazy stories. Last night we had a big group at the restaurant, and it was one of the most enjoyable writer’s groups to date. Everyone is different–professions, upbringings, interests, what they like to write. Most are American, which is good for me– I need to get out of my international/intercultural comfort zone every now and then. Being in the company of other budding writer’s inspires me to keep writing, try harder, and to think about different techniques and approaches.

I’m not sure if my writing will ever really go anywhere. It is more of a hobby and an outlet than anything else. But between the energy, encouragement and tips of the writer’s group and stories like blogger Sharell at Diary of a White Indian Housewife, who recently wrote a memoir of her move from Australia to India and her new life in Mumbai that is due to be published later this year, I can’t help but feel inspired.

Who knows?

Back Again

Hello all, sorry I’ve been absent. I did give a heads up.

It has been busy. The  American-Nepali household has been all over the place in the past two weeks. P is working at a research institute in Maryland for the summer and left New England on Memorial Day. I was at an International Educators conference in Kansas City (MO and KS), and had a chance to stay with another Nepali college friend that I haven’t seen in years and meet his lovely wife. As one of my colleagues at the conference said, “You have Nepali connections all over the place!”

I returned home over the weekend to a full house. Since P is gone for the summer and we have space (and I prefer the company), three friends are staying with me—people you have heard about before—AS, N and KS. It is kind of nice to have an apartment full of people. We take turns making dinner and doing the dishes, there is always someone around to take a walk, go to the gym, watch a movie, or chat with. In addition there have been a lot of people around in general, dropping in for dinner, congregating to watch the Celtics in the NBA finals (hey, I live in New England, I  have to support the home team! Plus basketball is my American sport of choice), and this weekend is the start of the World Cup. Needless to say the summer will be full.

P is coming back tonight for a brief visit on his way out to South Dakota. The research institute in Maryland set him up in a hotel for the summer, which would be nice if it had a kitchenette. I think P has to make sandwiches, microwave dinners, or eat out.  He’s not happy, and is looking forward to daal, bhat, tarkari and maasu for dinner tonight (lentils, rice, vegetable curry and meat). Luckily the best cook in the neighborhood (AS) is now in residence!

Yesterday he mentioned to me that he met another Nepali at the research institute and I was teasing him about using the “Nepali ho” connection to get himself invited over to dinner once a week for his daal/bhat fix. Poor guy. I’ll have to drive to Boston to pick him up after work, and at least tonight he will have a belly full of Nepali cuisine.

Also, last night I submitted my story to be critiqued by the local writer’s group (I mentioned this before). I’ve passed it around to various friends for suggestions and edits before submitting the draft. There certainly is more work that could be done, but I’m pretty happy at where it is right now. I am looking forward to see what the writer’s group has to say (next Tuesday night), and another round of editing. I’m both nervous and excited. Perhaps one of these days I will see a story of mine in print. You never know.