Puja's Adventures

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Today I meet the Irish woman again in daylight and realise that the other night she was not drunk, she is just Irish.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Today I realise....I like warm water in winter

Today I realise I haven't spoken to anyone in my previous life for a long time, so I call dear Sami and it gives me a new perspective on life.
Today I also realise I have a lot of life experience. I am sitting trying to remember all the things I have done in my life and I am blessed to have too many opportunities and happy memories. I am only 22! I have met so many people and seen so many things. I have done many projects and interesting things. Too numerous for me to recall. How is this possible that my body has lived out experiences that are real but now they are faded remnants I don't even remember. How come we don't remember everything we ever do...? I have a really diverse array of memories. Obviously everything I have done in the last 3 months has been the most different things I have ever done in my life, but also back in Oz I have a lot of experience. Can you believe that if I am healthy, which the statistic likelihood being in my favour, I might live another 60 years. Wow, there is plenty of time to do everything I want from this world.
Today I also am thinking about how many things are in the world. There are too too many cultures, people, lifestyles, things to do, attitudes to embrace, lessons to learn.
Today I realise I have changed.
Today I realise I am a thinking person and I really value my brain and am trying so hard to use it to its full extent.
Today I know for a fact that I am a knowledgeable person and I know a lot of things about human behavior.
Today I understand that it is impossible to ever fully understand everything in this world, some things you can not give an answer to and I will never learn. Both because there is not enough time in life and because I am not capable of complete comprehension.
Today I realise when I leave Nepal, there are dozens of things I can do with myself.
Today I realise that youth is not a timebomb, if I want to have a happy youthful attitude when I am wrinkly all I have to do is choose to keep this brain pattern and I can be happy.
Today I feel happiness.
Today I feel gratitude.
Today I think my time is too precious to sell short and that I can never allow myself to waste my life doing something unproductive. I also give myself permission to listen to my heart and if there is something that my soul wants to do but I can not justify it, I must follow my heart. This is the only way to feel true happiness.
Today I realise that Nepal was a crazy thought I had one day and now I have given it fruition.
Today I am not letting myself feel guilty and confused for not doing enough, today I am acknowledging how far I have come.
Today I really feel like Amelie.
Today I realise the way I talk has changed and there are a few phrases and words I repeat often. These are:-

"really" as an emphasised tone, interspersed before adjectives
"ok, ok, ok, ok" as a fast acceptance of the scenario.
"la, la, la" also spoken fast, and used for agreement.
"chai-na" emphasis on the first syllable, meaning no.
"Ok so we do like this...." Broken Nepallish accent, followed by a fastly spoken plan
"I have one question for you" pause. Puja ramble.
"kina, kina?" said on the exhalation of breath, meaning why?
"I don't understand" spoken plain and simple. No inferred meanings in language. 100% pure question.

Today I realise that just because Nepal is suffering, this doesn't mean I also have to suffer or do things I don't want to do. I have tried to be selfless in all aspects of my Nepali life but I am a sensation girl. A prisoner to aesthetics and mood settings, this is something I am sacrificing here. I like certain things and must acknowledge Laura. Not Puja. Laura is my name.
I like freedom and feel slightly oppressed in Kathmandu. I realise and appreciate how liberal Newtown is.

These are a few of my favourite things......

I like the groove of listening to my favourite song on repeat over and over again.
I like the surprise feeling of finally understanding and speaking a few Nepali phrases.
I like to put on clean clothes that have just been washed.
I like to eat a big plate of Dahl bhat and plenty of achar when I am actually hungry.
I like to go to sleep when I am really tired, not just because it is Nepali bed time.
I like to disagree with people whose opinions I do not believe in and stand alone.
I like to sit in the chair I choose in a cafe, not the chair the waiter wants me to sit at.
I like to articulate my thoughts through words hence giving clarity to my confusion.
I like the sight of dirty children with tattered hair, torn clothes and snot caked above their upper lip.
I like the Buddhist beads around my neck.
I have learned to like burnt and failed pop corn kernels that partially become white and fluffy and partially remain hard and crunchy.
I like mood lighting, lamps and candles.
I like to hold my house keys.
I like the smell of garlic and the taste of fresh coriander.
I like to watch dripping brown water when I wash my hands with soap. This feels fulfilling.
I like to wear sunglasses.
I like to wear a blanket on my head like a Muslim lady.
I like getting emails from people I love.
I like the taste and image of boiled water in the village from stray charcoal bits that make it taste smokey.
I like little Nepalese people - the way they look, talk, play, act, smile, laugh, everything.
I like to organise my Nepalese currency in chronological order and count my money by holding the notes in a bunch and turning half the notes over like a Nepalese person does.
I like the feeling of being out at night but not being cold from warm clothes.
I really like riding on the back of motorbikes, but rarely do.
I like the first hour after I put on nail polish before it chips away.
I like looking at tourists, guessing which country they are from and waiting for them to speak to see if I am right or wrong.
I like walking around Kathmandu and knowing which street leads to which street. This is still rare.
I like to dance when I am drunk.
I like calling people Dai, Bhai, Didi or Bahini (Older brother, younger brother, older sister or younger sister).
I like when I think I have discovered every Nepalese cuisine and someone gives me a new type of food and flavour I never imagined existed.
I like hearing peoples stories who are also doing social work.
I confess I haven't had a shower since I have been here because even though there are showers here, there is no hot water, even in hotels. I boil water and then fill up a bucket and squat on the ground, sponging myself and trying to squish my ass into the bucket, fantasising it is a bath. When I am ready to rinse the soap, my absolute favourite sensation since I have come here is the blissful feeling when I am cold and I stand up naked and tip the remaining warm water in the bucket over my shoulders and let it drip to my toes. Its like a bandaid, do you rip it quickly but feel intense pain for a shorter time frame or do you rip it slowly and feel less pain but a longer time frame? Sometimes I savor the water and slowly tip it to enjoy the warmth longer and other times I indulge in one big swoop, generously splashing my entire body quickly but thoroughly. Both ways I enjoy.
I like warm water in winter.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Vocabulary list

spells crazy

spells conflicting

spells confusing

spells Nepal

Notin like an Irish lass to briten yer day

Walking through the streets last night I met a drunken swearing bursting with life storytelling mother of 10 Irish lady who made me laugh so hard I had to squat in the gutter. She has been dedicatedly involved with Nepal for 4 years trying to help and had such a humorous pesimistic attitude. Nepalese people more then often annoy me, but i havent had experiences as bad as her. It made me realise it's OK to lighten up your attitude and take the piss a bit. She's like 'Nepalese say they lost tourists because of the Maoists but it's not true, it's because the Nepalese are bastards, theivin, lyin, scoundrel bastards taking all my money'.
She told really funny stories of living in a cave in Langtang and people taking her front door and filling in her house with sand and stealing the leather of her shoes, just leaving the soles, and giving rice to orphanages and them selling it and discovering 'orphan' childrens parents and dirty kids running the orphanages themselves, cooking and cleaning for themselves. She even bought a hotel which the profit was supposed to go into the community and 2 weeks later the sign was down and as she says 'some bull shit name Nirvana-peace-love guest house my ass' was up instead and her hotel was sold. When she signed the papers it was all fake lawyers and she got ripped off thousands (dollars not rupees) with nothing she could do about it. There is another Irish woman her friend who gave 4000Euro to an orphanage only to discover after the money wasn't spent correctly who was also really pissed off. This lady then donated 50 new blankets to one home and got some scizors and cut everysingle blanket in the corners so they can't sell them off. This is the extent of what you have to go to if you want to see your money being spent correctly!
She really made me happy, she was so funny and really lightened my attitude to just laugh about it all for once instead of being so serious. When you think about it, all the things going on here are so ridiculous why not laugh.

dismantling cultural superstitions when they eerily become true...

The drama I ended up filming in the village was about Jukri which is a Buddhist cultural witch doctor. If you are sick in the village people will take you to see him first before a medical doctor and he performs (what i consider) strange and bizare rituals with a black chicken and egg, smoldering charcoal and ashes, rice, a goat skin drum, circling the patient 3 times anticlockwise etc etc. This is still practiced today by many people. The play was about a young boy who is sick, the parents take him to Jukri, he still doesnt get better, he eventually goes to a medical doctor but it is too late and he dies. Moral: Curable diseases must be attended to promptly by modern science, not traditional ways.
Issues: Nepal has limited health services and desperately needs a national and thorough overhaul of the entire system which is highly unlikely considering numerous factors.
In the story the character needed to have a disease and off the top of my head i suggested typhoid, which we went with. When we began filming, one of the actors fathers wouldnt let us use their house because he was worried that the story would come true and his son might die, which only highlighted the reality of cultural superstitions. Anyway Kumar played the Jukri and we eventually completed the shooting (which is a whole other saga just regarding the tribulations of filming in rural nepal with scarce or no electricity, very curious onlookers who have never seen such technology and walk in front of the camera and children with snotty noses who stand next to me sniffing away and polluting the audio recording. These villagers were as dumfounded and impressed with the technology of a video camera as the whole world was 50 years ago when man went to the moon).
So afterwards we felt a bit like rebels to the old superstitious grandmas saying 'in your face' haha nothing bad happened....but the next day.....i kid you not......Kumar got typhoid!
I am not joking, he woke up the next day thinking he had a cold, but he soon developed a 104 degree fever and went to the local health post and they said he has typhoid!
The story is not complete because rural Nepal does not have adequete health facilities. This post Kumar went to in the village is not run by any doctor, just someone selling medicine who im told has been trained, but Nepalese training does not have the best reputation. So in hearing this I insist that Kumar comes back to Kathmandu with me to see a doctor, but everyone thought he was ok in the village just taking some tablets.
Maybe we should have made the film about how you need to go to a proper hospital for serious diseases, get blood tests etc not just believe the words of a rural health post. The exact same issues as the play but in real life they arent practicing what they are preaching!!! Typhoid needs urgent medical advice and poor Kumar is still in the village, I don't want him to die! The day I left he wanted to come with me but he couldn't stand up, let alone face the 1 hour walk from the village to the bus stop which involves crossing a dangerous landslide. I don't know what will happen. He's already suffered enough with his eyesight resembling a 60 year old rather then an 18 year old.
I think I never updated his story after Tilganga, this hospital was really frustrating so we went to the next best place 'teaching hospital' which as the name suggests, is run by medical students. I am told it is one of the biggest hospitals in Kathmandu, so therefore it is good! Big and run by a bunch of unqualified practitioners to me seems like chaos which was also my experience there. We had a few dramas, doctors giving him different diagnosis, different eye levels he went back quite a few times and eventually he had his surgery which replaced his retina with a new artificial lense. I bought him the most expensive lense at $300 on the doctors recomendation but found it hard to asertain why it was better.
Doctor: It's from USA.
Me: Ok, but please explain to me the difference in quality
Doctor: It is certified and better
Me: What certification, why is it better?
Doctor: It is a good lense, best for the patient, can see until 100 years old
This is the whole philosophy behind the Fred Hollows Foundation. He found that Nepalese were remaining or going blind because the price of imported lenses was well beyond their financial ability, more then a years wage, so he started an IOL labratory where they make the lenses locally and I understand it is just $10 for the lense. I really like Fred Hollow's and found it frustrating that we couldn't go through Tilganga and I know that his foundation and work is for this exact situation. Anyway this conversation went nowhere and perhaps there is probably no difference in quality, like all Nepalese they just want more money but in the end of the day you can't put a price on eyesight.

1 girl child=$500=1 buffalo

I've been to Rasuwa again and this time my main focus was filming a short drama-play for the children's club. They really are great kids and are motivated and enthusiastic and absolutely brimming with potential. They want to use drama as a social awareness tool to educate other people of the 10 000 billion social concerns in Nepal.
Basically the entire country is poor and family planning is still a thing talked about rather then practiced, so couples have lots of children. Agriculture is the norm occupation so the majority of people grow enough food (pending their land quality) to eat for their families and a small surplus they can sell, and if they have, they also can sell buffalo milk or eggs etc. This yields a grand total average per capita income of about US$240. This is used to purchase all services and goods within the cash economy for the whole family. Clothes, education, healthcare, foods which they can not grow etc. So if someone offers you 25 000 rupees (A$500) for one of your girl children, this is very tempting. One less expensive mouth to feed, body to clothe and brain to educate plus 500 bucks! You can buy a buffalo with this which can produce more income from it's milk or the other typical expenditure of the 'girl child bonus' is tiling your roof (as opposed to a straw roof or a sheet of aluminum being held down by 3 or 4 dozen large stones. This will stop the rats from coming in at night eating your grains, and also the rain from seeping in during monsoon.
And yes I hate to type this, but the rumors are true, these young girls go to Delhi or Gulf countries to become prostitute slaves, where they are forced to work until they pay off the debt the pimp incurred for buying them, or until they contract HIV/AIDS which becomes a mark of expiry. At this point sick, dying young women will either stay in their new country or return to Nepal where they are rejected from society and shunned. Attitudes are slowly changing and there is a really good organisation Maiti Nepal working with these returned women and their children (pregnancy from a day in the office), providing support and healthcare, but many women die from AIDS and this is but one of the many screwed up things going on here.
Back to my original point, in the district our NGO is working in many girls are traficked here by men promising a brighter future for villager's daughters and they are sold by the parents both willingly aware of their reality or ignorantly unaware of their childs true fate. This is an example of desperation in the midsts of poverty and also old old cultural views that have not updated along with the 21st century.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Kathmandu is a city in a valley surrounded by mountains. Day to day life you can't see much appart from an occassional glimpse of a distant mountain peak from certain areas. Nagarkot is about 1-2 hours away and is on the top of one of the surrounding mountains of the Kathmandu valley and has amazing views. I stayed there one night and at freezingoclock watched the sun rising above misty snow peaks.....brrrr! crawling under the covers again was bliss!

So many babies in my belly

Saroj is one of my friends who loves to wear my make up. Every time I see him he laughs and puts on powder, lipstick, mascarra or glitter and has no embarrassment about being a boy walking the streets like this. Since I have been here I have made friends with mostly guys, so I often pass him while walking with a friend. He is so cheeky. Every time I see him he's like Wow PujaLauraDidi you have so many babys growing in your belly, when it is born you will find out whos the dad because maybe it is a black baby a brown baby or a white baby! You have too many boyfriends!!

fellow passenger on the bus

All at one time I have 5 humans and two goats body to body contact on the bus. It doesn't worry me, but the woman who was bringing a BIG straw broom from the village to Kathmandu had her eyes firmly on the animals and her broom the whole trip.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sentimental Laura

You know in Australian music shops there are 50 genres of music and sub cultures and trip-hip-flip-hop and afro-celtic-fusion-blend-jazz-grooves, well in Nepal there is Pop, punk and Sentimental. Sentimental is the most popular and I always laugh when Nepali's say this is their favourite music. Love songs are so cheesy, and intense. And when Nepali people write you emails or letters they also use this super emotional slant in their writing. Sentimental is not just a music-style, it is a life-style. Something must have worn off on me because in the last few days I am feeling so sentimental as well. I went to immigration today and have to decide about staying or going. My sister is coming to Nepal soon and has invited me on her travels to the South of India after her Nepal visit. What a great opportunity and I should be jumping at the chance, but I feel so hesitant to go. To fly out of Nepal is a bit random and most flights are from Delhi, so I will be eventually leaving Asia from India, and because of time and finance restraints, there is no point flying back to Nepal to fly back to India... So this means I leave when she leaves which is 1 month.
Part of me is already packing my bags and part of me is digging my dirty shoes into the muddy pavement in protest. I always said I will be here just 3 months this time (with flexibility in my plans), but the thought of leaving is tearing my heart, that I am Nepali now. But then again I often feel really unproductive here and feel that I need to return to Oz and finish some post grad studies before I do anything else. I lose perspective so easily and internally take things quite seriously. I thought this journey was going to be for other people but this journey is also for me- confusing me and teaching me a lot. Kina? kina? kina?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Teaching Nursery Rhymes

English nursery rhymes are great for children under 10. They are short, involve singing, and actions, introduce both basic and new vocab and are something they can remember. But really, what sort of morals can 200 years ago England provide to contemporary Nepal? Suprisingly similar ideas. You think about cobblestone lanes and farmers wives and blind mice and wells and fetching pails of water and bridges falling down and sacks of grain and noble Kings and lambs going to school and buying pigs at market and cold frosty mornings and sneezing and 'falling down' (aka plague-death).... same same. nepal england.
anyway lets look at some simple songs:

Hush-a-bye, baby, in the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, And down will come baby, cradle and all.

MORAL: if you leave babies in trees on a windy day they will fall out and probably die

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, Had a wife and couldn't keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell And there he kept her, very well.

MORAL: if you don't like your wife trap her in century old domestic sexist traditions, or a pumpkin shell, whatever is available.

Wee Willie WinkieRuns through the town, Upstairs and downstairs In his nightgown. Rapping at the windows, Crying through the lock, "Are the children all in bed? For it's now eight o'clock.

MORAL: inconclusive. Some creepy pedaphile in pyjamas peeping through the windows at night. Maybe it's dont stay out after dark...?

Jack and Jill Went up the hill To fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down And broke his crown And Jill came tumbling after.

MORAL: children collecting water from mountains is dangerous. if you attempt it you might crack your head open, so good luck trying to survive in a country with minimal access to safe drinking water where you must trek often through mtns to collect h20.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

i miss...

I miss efficency...
My reputation is for being vague, for being easy going, for 'going with the flow'.
Internally and externally I have adapted, I have been patient, I have been tolerant, I have tried to understand, this is my attitude 80% of the time.
But the problem is my version of 'toned down Laura' trying to be culturally sensitive is still culturally innapropriate for Nepalese. I see other foreigners in Nepal being comfortable in their own skin, obviously being themselves and be it intentional or not, breaking many cultural taboos, so Nepalis cringe at them. So i think i mustn't follow in their footsteps, they really look stupid and i will try not to act like them. But I can never be Nepali, people will always stare at me, people will still make an expat living here for 20 yers who speaks the language feel like a foreigner.
I am lingering in mindset in a realm of Neapaustralian which doesnt make sense, but at least its a more grounding attitude then purely Australian thinking or purely Nepali thinking, so this is my lifejacket.
For example something happens that suddenly infuriates me. I see with my own eyes the realism of lack of 'human rights', so I get defensive and motivated to seek justice. Then I indulge in the fantasy of Australian standards and these words i do not choose lightly. It truly is a special treat, a naughty indulgent feeling for me to compare life in Australia because when I do I can't function. When helping people in Nepal things will INEVITABLY go wrong. 100% guarentee of some form of inefficiency. Be it a common and simple blackout suddenly halting everything involving electricity; a cow causing a traffick jam and holding up the doctor and making 100 patients wait; a second, third, even fourth party entering the scenario and explaining a new and contradictory version of the story; a maoist bandh (strike where the entire city is shut down); a wedding celebration of Kathmandu elite who close public spaces for their benifit, or some random series of events involving one or more of the following: goats, vegetables, motorbikes, religion, special days from the stars, rice, a 500rp note, and or water.
The moral of the story is there are 2 ways to react to inefficiency. One is to get frustrated, to cry and hold onto something you had and believed which suddenly dissapears. this is a waste of time here. the second way is to be more Nepalese and 'go with the flow'. For simple inneficiencies i can handle, i dont react to suprising turnabouts anymore because i am getting used to the unexpected and this changes your human spirit.
But for human rights this is where you have to draw the line, and this is where the simple Nepali spirit stays quiet. Nepali people are so used to shit services, corrupt government, lack of funds, so many things that i see as 'grrr' but they grow up knowing nothing else so this is normal. Why would you get angry? why would you complain? you just get what you are given and there is no room for a culture of 'righteousness', even for human rights.

OUT OF RANGE -Ani Difranco
if you're not angry
you're just stupid
or you don't care
how else can you react
when you know
something's so unfair
the men of the hour
can kill half the world in war
make them slaves
to a super power
and let them die poor

i was locked
into being my mother's daughter
i was just eating bread and water
thinking nothing ever changes
and i was shocked
to see the mistakes of each generation
will just fade like a radio station
if you drive out of range

Monday, January 01, 2007

glimpses of life in my temporary city

One didi and her daughter
Maoist cultural performance with Nepali's doing what they do best -standing around and staring
Kathmandu CBD
Happy gate of a rich house
Chicken and a chair,
Anyone for a haircut?
Buddha chilling on a wall
If you have a 'potato watch' (no good) you can fix it here

new years eve

Well after the eye hospital i did manage to celebrate the start of 2007 (even though Nepal is already in 2063) with a new outfit, friends & a night out. My little street friends that normally just sell during the day saw NYE with cash happy drunks as an opportunity to stay out all night selling drawings and were going to sleep on the street so we let them stay in our hotel room for the night. Went to a bar and at about 11:58pm a drunk Nepali came up to me and said "what the hell, my last chance, kiss me", so I pushed him away, simultaneously catching the attention of the bar staff. 10, 9, 8... began and I stood back and watched both the new year come in and the defensive bar man kicking and fighting with the drunk Nepali for trying to be with me, so much for peace and goodwill in the new year. So then we went to another place and Dipu my Nepali friend didnt pay the 200Rp entry (more then a typical days wages) so 5 people bashed him up! It was quite bad, his face is a mess and the next morning a pharmasist came to the hotel to stitch up his lip with a fishing hook. Seriously. Nevertheless I did have fun, beats watching fireworks on the harbour bridge(no offence Sydney).
1 sARU & pUJA