Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Memories 2008

As I knew would happen I really didn't get to post much during the month. We had a really wonderful Christmas full of activity, but there was also some time to relax and reflect a bit. My time is short as we have a houseguest arriving tomorrow and the computer is in the guest room! Ah, c'est la vie. Here are some pictures from the past few weeks.

The family Advent service each Sunday and Christmas Day.

Christmas outfits from Nana, waiting for Daddy to come home so we can go to the Christmas Eve Service. The kids even remembered the sermon theme - "This was a VERY special baby!"

Sugar cookies for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer!

Christmas morning ... we are SO ready to go downstairs Mom and Dad!

Daddy and Swift, checking out directions to the Thomas Trains.

Our sweet Asha actually looks a little menacing here! She really enjoyed jumping over the gift wrapping. We do own a doggie Santa hat but we didn't subject her to it this year.

Contextualized Santa at the girl's school. It was amazing -- Santa made at least four different appearances in Kathmandu this year! The sartorial wonder had a different version of the Santa outfit for each occasion! What a busy guy!
Santa wears Tibetan boots and a Doga basket - who knew he was so culturally attuned?
He even arrived in a little green electric car.

Lastly, I love the little hands making Christmas cookies.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all ... and to all a good night!

It is Christmas night. The gift carnage is cleaned up - sort of. The candles are blown out. We are fat and happy. It's time to interview WonderBill.

Me: So honey how are you doing?
Bill: I'm great. I'm happy - we had a very nice Christmas. I'm thankful.

Me: So what was the highlight of Christmas Day for you?
Bill: Probably, Kit taking the sheet off of her bicycle and seeing her be so happy. It was ..

Me: Can I edit.
Bill: Yes

Bill continued: It was great to see Swift playing with his trains and Lindsay with her scooter.

Me: Who is your favorite wife?
Bill: My one and only of course.

Me: Right answer honey! So, did you miss your egg nog?
Bill: I did. But that rum drink was quite tasty. Some Portuguese/Brazilian name I can't pronounce.

Me: And you call yourself a diplomat. That would the Christmas Caipirinha. It was good.
So what other morsels might be of interest to my dear bleaders?
Bill: There is no snow but there is a new wacky shop down our street that is selling blow up Santas and plastic Christmas trees. It is not a holiday here of course. They were offering me Christmas discounts at the stores yesterday though.

Me: Shopping ... yesterday ... Christmas Eve. Oh honey. Well ... I think we are pretty darn exhausted and can't put together two sentences properly so it may be time to end this.

Bill is now counting the number of vehicles in the garage: bicycles, tricycles, plastic cars, push toys etc. etc.

Me: So how do I end this Bills?
Bill: It's bedtime.
Me: Good idea.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa and the Hoochie Girl!

The title made you look. Admit it.

Today was the last day of school before the holidays and the traditional "Santa Show" was held to kick off the three weeks of sleeping in and waffles for breakfast. Since my girls go to an International School it was duly multicultural in content. Also, since people come from all types of faith backgrounds it was fairly sanitized but with a very real attempt to give equal time. Mostly it was all fun and frivolity as the kids sang a variety of "holiday" songs, danced around and had a good ol' time.

This would all not be so interesting to blog about except for two things that happened.

1) A highlight of the season! Santa arrived in a green electric car. He is so PC! He was wearing Tibetan shoes and had something wrapped around his head that may have been housing a family of chipmunks. He wore an amazing set of bells around his waist that he shook and rang with every Ho Ho Ho. I understand that a few years ago he came on an elephant. And I thought the rickshaw was hard to beat. He was suitably enthusiastic. He boogied with the best of them. Lindsay still declared him a fake. Cynic. She's only five.

2) Oh where to start with this one? Well it seems that the middle school students have been learning salsa. Their teacher and her partner were there to do a little demo. She came in with silver sequined shoes and a jacket with silver sequins on the shoulders. So far so good - performance attire, I get it. At the last minute she stripped off the jacket and, well, she wasn't wearing much. Yep, those adolescent boys were really bummed. I was thinking about how to explain her attire (or lack thereof) to my little girls. I'm sure the powers that be had no idea this was going to happen - aye yai yai.

I'm being snarky. I almost didn't post this because I am being snarky. But quite honestly I just get both sad and angry at innocence being stolen from my children. I know it won't be the last time something like this happens - but I can still rant a little.

But as a wonderful Nigerian man said to me many years ago .... "Don't let it rob you of your Joy!". He was right.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wedding Season

The astrologers consulted the stars and have deemed that this is the auspicious month for weddings. Dotted throughout the city you see the florists decorating the cars that will carry the various members of the wedding party during the multi day festivities.

The other day we heard a band approaching on our street and I grabbed my camera. The kids ran out onto the street in bare feet to get a glimpse of the red sari clad bride and to clap and cheer as the parade passed by. Sometimes the bands are quite rag tag, and sometimes they are decked out in finery, but the spirit of celebration is the same.

For this particular wedding the main ceremony has already taken place and the bride and groom are headed, together, to the groom's home for yet another party.

The horns blow (sometimes during the wee small hours I might add) ...

and the women, old ...

and young, join the throng.

Finally the bride and groom follow along with the men.

There are no "just married" signs but lately I've seen a few hearts with "S+L" written in them. Grin.
Apart from the inevitable ending to a Bollywood movie I haven't been to a wedding ceremony yet. But I would love to! I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


We are in the midst of the holiday sprint. We have gone to cookie parties, Christmas concerts, gathering after gathering and this week promises a few more. Someone shot off a gun two weeks ago and here we are. And I know, I know that while fun, this is the chaff that is blown away.

We have a house guest we are delighted to have. We have a car full of the church's Angel Tree presents for the children of Nepali inmates. We have Christmas cards waiting to be written. We have gifts waiting to be purchased, wrapped and put under the tree Christmas Eve. We have, we have, we have.

Lord, in the midst of this plenty and this activity let us stop and breathe. Breathe you in so that we may exhale your love and goodness to a broken world and to our own broken souls. May our focus be on the miracle of your loving us enough to come and give true hope. Amen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Reindeer are so passe!

Kathmandu Christmas Kickoff was Santa arriving on a rickshaw. Poor reindeer. Unemployment is hitting everybody.

Swift wouldn't get near the guy. (And he is the same person who freaked him out by being Fred Flintstone at Halloween. It's a small town.)

This is our third and last Christmas in Kathmandu. Our first Christmas felt like the holiday that almost didn't happen. Our HHE (Household Effects - aka "boxes o' stuff") didn't arrive until the week before Christmas. (We all needed socks, badly.) Christmas came and the kids were delighted but I felt, well, distracted. Then last year we returned to the States for Bill's Dad's military burial at Arlington in December. We arrived back in KTM on the 23rd. Again, Christmas came but I wasn't fully in holiday gear.

This year is different. We are here all month. Lots of time for putting up a tree, celebrating Advent , making cookies (and gingerbread houses, and peppermint bark, and anything else I can come up with) and all the other things that happen at holiday time.

I hope I have time to post a bit this month in spite of the heightened activity level. The kids are are at a great age to both enjoy and understand Christmas. We really just find ourselves incredibly grateful.
Happy second week of Advent!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mustang Pony Trek - The final installment

Where was I? I have no idea so this will be nearly wordless ...

Girl in Jomsom

We stepped aside periodically to let a herd or two pass.

Marpha - the apple capital of Nepal. Who knew?

Sweet picture of Lindsay with her Daddy.


Terrible picture but it made me laugh. These were our guides for the trek: Tek and Dil. I think we were saying "ice cream!" or something like that.

Now this was cool. The girls went fossil hunting along the riverbank in Kagbeni and found several. They made for heavy souvenirs but when was the last time you picked up a fossil?


Trying to keep Swift out of the ritual bathing area at Muktinath Temple.

When you are tired of the pony ... there is always Daddy.

They are SO serious about snack time.

My trek memories are starting to fade already but I wanted to finish posting about it anyway. We were so grateful to be able to see the raw and beautiful landscape that is lower Mustang. Hopefully the pictures will help the kids remember the experience.
Peace this season!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Day in the 'Du (or Happy Birthgiving to Me!)

Yesterday just cracked me up. I love Thanksgiving. The ultimate in egalitarian holidays. Thanksgiving in expat communities is actually really fun because the normal "we are all in this together" feeling is just heightened. And being that it is usually only Americans in attendance, there is no cultural translation needed. We get to rest.

We usually host but this year we couldn't get our act together to invite people over early enough so we were guests instead. We went over to friends/colleagues down the street and gathered with our motley crew of fifteen or so. Everyone brought their Thanksgiving favorites.

You can't buy mini marshmallows in KTM but they do sell some nasty multicolored version. And yams here are white fleshed. (I did have an American friend who admitted to using food coloring one year just for nostalgia's sake - grin.) So you know that famous dish on many American Thanksgiving tables - the Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallow topping? We had it alright. Turkey? Fear not - we all order outrageously expensive frozen imported turkeys. Worth every penny. Cranberry Sauce? Well, you can't buy it locally but I had some whole cranberries in the freezer from last year (when I unknowingly ordered $70 worth - don't ask) and someone had the canned jellied variety (sorry to devotees but .... yucko). Hmm, let's see all the other usual suspects were on the table - green beans, mashed spuds, etc. etc. Dessert (my favorite food group) - Apple Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Pie - yada yada yada.

The guests? The head chef was a visiting friend of the host's who is a professional chef on tugboats in Alaska. How do people know these jobs exist? Before that she was a personal chef on private yachts in the Caribbean. All I can say is some folks get the gigs! Two women arrived mid meal from the airport (also friends of the hosts). They had just flown in from Bhutan where they were attending a conference on Gross National Happiness (ahem). The rest of us were just the usual collection of USG and Aid/Development workers. The whole scene just made me smile.

Oh ... and I turned 29 again. It was a great day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post Stuff Buffs?

There has to be a term for what we are. There are "empty nesters" after all.

Our quick trip back to the States, though for the saddest of reasons, was one of the smoother trips we've had. Want to know why? Less baby paraphernalia. This was the first trip without a stroller or car seat in seven years. It was positively liberating. Then upon our return the little guy decided he'd had enough of the crib. After crawling out of it four times last night we knew the moment had come. The crib was dismantled today and a little toddler bed was set up. My sweet boy is in slumberland in his new bed tonight! He has a pillow and proper covers. Amazing.

Now there is one more hurdle to overcome to truly get to that state of bliss/stage of life that I haven't termed yet. Potty training. But it is out there - I can see it. While home I went to Chez Tarjay and bought the Superman unders in preparation.

So what do you call it when your baby is growing up and there isn't another one behind him? (For the record - our family is full - if I were ten years younger .... maybe. But I'm not - so we aren't. I'm OK with that. Hoping for lots of grandchildren ... no time soon however). An "empty trunker" because the trunk of your car is no longer filled with "objets de bebe"? Some sort of Dr. Seussian term? An acronym (POCWNLRS - Parents of Children Who No Longer Require Stuff)?

I don't know, but I'll take suggestions.

Happy to be home ... Namaste.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Go love on those you love ...

Our family received the sad news of the death of a loved one today. He was the father of four and our hearts break for everyone. I won't be posting for a little while. We are trying to find flights home and these are the times when being so far away makes you feel so helpless.

We aren't promised tomorrow - so cherish those you love today.

Grace and Peace ... Laurel

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mustang Pony Trek - Part 3

From Kagbeni to Muktinath ...

In the immortal words of Meg Ryan in ... what's that movie? " (inhale) Beautiful". There is no fall color in Kathmandu so we were particularly appreciating the changing leaves.

These solor cookers were everywhere. It will boil water in 30 minutes.

Another pathetic attempt at a family picture. Someone help these people!

Lindsay feeding her pony.

I could (and will!) do a whole post on intellectual theft/copyright infringment. Mostly it's just funny. Yakburger anyone? Yakmilk slurpee?

Basically this says "Don't litter" in much more flowery language.
Part 4 to come ...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Expat Election Day

About a month ago, we voted by absentee ballot. But election day is election day so here we are.

While you voted, we slept. We woke up, turned on CNN ... no real news yet, the polls were still closing.

Later in the morning I took Baboo over to "Phora Durbar" (the American Club) where an election event for all Americans was being held. It was not the usual cast of characters which made it interesting. People ate breakfast, watched the returns (Swift played on the playground creating little donkeys and elephants in the sandbox. Kidding.) and chit chatted. Mixed in with the regulars, there were a lot of tourists - young and old- whom, for whatever reason are in KTM during this election and hopefully got a little dose of home during this important day.

The crowd cheered and clapped and cried. I teared up too. Living out of my country, however interesting, makes me appreciate home all the more. In spite of our many shortcomings, the US is still the land of idealism and opportunity. Both are in short supply here.

So indeed President-Elect Obama, God Bless America!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mustang Pony Trek - Part 2

Day 1: Jomsom to Kagbeni. None of these daily rides were very long but we stopped fairly often for breaks. Swift regaled me with his favorite tunage and demanded the all request and dedication hour as well. "Mommy sing lollipop song! Again!" Lindsay was on a mission to perfect her squatty potty technique (oops, oversharing.)

I couldn't really do any shooting while riding but tried to at breaks and when we reached our destination each day. My pictures just don't do justice.

Kagbeni is a primarily Tibetan community. A "road" was built to connect it to another village just last year. LAST.YEAR. I'm not kidding. Within the village there are no roads, just pathways for humans and livestock. Tourism is the only game in town. If there are no tourists the foot rots or is fed to the animals. The guest house we stayed at, though basic, was comfortable and the proprietors were incredibly warm and friendly. There was a 350 year old temple room in the middle of this guest house. Amazing.

Prayer Wheels

Prayer flags - a little worse for wear.

Hmm. Fancy.

Girl on a roof top across from our guest house.

Well ... once again I'll have to do this in parts. Bandwith in Nepal. Nonexistent.
Namaste ...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Mustang Pony Trek - Part 1

We just returned from an amazing family trip to Lower Mustang. I only hope the girls will remember this well as it truly was a once in a lifetime experience.

We left Kathmandu and took the half hour flight to Pokhara, spent the night, and then got on this little plane. (Mom - aren't you glad I didn't tell you about this before we left?)

And then we landed on a little airstrip at this very little airport. It was just a tad unnerving.

We awaited our noble steeds. They were duly named Brown Beauty (because we are so original), Burpy (he had flatulence issues providing preschool humor for days and days) and Marguerite (because my two year old could only come up with names of his cousins when asked what he wanted to name his pony).

And this was the vista before us for our day's travel.

Just a teaser ....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is it just me?

I think I am having browser issues but everytime I open up the blog different amounts of text or pictures are dropped. If I click on the actual post I can see the whole thing. Usually. Sometimes I can't read all the comment section. This doesn't happen when I read other people's blogs!

So I am appealing to anyone out there who opens this up to read it ... can you see a whole post or are things disappearing?

Yarghhh. Computers. Love 'em. Hate 'em.

UPDATE: I think I solved the issue. Explorer 8 Beta. I deleted it and ... voila ... blog returned. I know everyone will just sleep better tonight.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Ping

I took this picture as the sun was setting last week. Local children were waiting their turn on the "Ping" or bamboo swing in an empty lot. These are erected for the Deshain-Tihar season only and kids look forward to the tradition with great anticipation. We have seen adults nostalgically get on an empty ping to swing a bit if they think no one is looking. They are incredibly charming and speak to an innocence so easily lost in the poverty here. The older kids stand on the swing and get horozontal at least 20-30 feet up - heart attack material for their mothers.

Simple pleasures! (And some good engineering!)


Monday, October 20, 2008

Here's to Hoping

Because I am a glutton for punishment we have a new puppy. She is adorable of course - look at that face! Ever met a puppy who wasn't? My children love her - of course. My husband is pretty chuffed about it too because he grew up with German Shepherds. Because of our recent baaaaad doggy karma I am just a little fearful of something happening to this dear little bear of a puppy. So we named her "Asha" - it is Nepali/Hindi for hope.

She is also not going to be an auxiliary dog. She is going to be BIG. Help me. Someone.

Darn she's cute.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Keebler Elf Tree

Admit it - you saw this and the Keebler elves came to mind, no? No one gave me a cookie for just stopping by though.

This scene completely fascinated me. What on earth? Which came first, the temple or the tree? What exactly goes on here? (I actually don't want to know the complete answer to that.)

This is the Dumbharai Temple located in a neighborhood not far from us. It isn't particularly famous. I just happened upon it one day and made a point to go back when I had a camera. I could have included this on a post dedicated to Temple architecture but hey ... this is a one of kind.