Friday, September 4, 2009

Trailing no more ... for now

We are back at home in the States. It is good to be home. Grocery stores are still a little overwhelming and I stare at potable water coming from the tap in wonder but transitions are going fairly well ... so far.

Come by and visit. I can't promise you an exotic foreign locale ... but it will still be me.


Namaste Nepal

I write this from the study in our home in the US. I had grand plans about ending this blog with all the pictures I had hoped to post but didn't have time to but I think it is time to wrap this up and move on!

We had a wonderful tour. It was a great three years for our family and I will always look back at this chapter in our lives with great fondness.

I posted earlier about what my children said they would miss so now it is time for me to pony up. Here is my top ten list:

1) Our helpers. Not just for the wonderful work they did for us thereby freeing us up to enjoy and experience their country but for them as people. Mana Co-Mothered with me and loved on and cared for my children in a way for which I will be always grateful. During our tenure there were births, deaths, joys and hardships in their families and ours. It was my privilege to know them - truly.

2) Countless individuals. There are some very, very interesting people in the 'Du! I had friends from many different countries who were doing things either currently or in their former lives that were so unique to me. (e.g. my friend the wildlife biologist who spends half her year in an Indian forest tracking Tigers and other big cats in hopes that large companies won't encroach on their habitats etc. She is the first wildlife biologist I've ever met - smile.) We had many friends from the different communities we were a part of whom I will miss.

3) People in general. Driving anywhere was endlessly fascinating just watching the street scape unfold before you. There were people doing all kinds of things along the roads: bathing, getting their hair cut, brushing their teeth, selling their wares, carrying their children, chatting with neighbors and making their way through the crazy Kathmandu traffic.

4) Our church community. It was a fabulous community of people doing amazing things in the name of Christ. I smile when I think of our Scottish pastor's brogue.

5) The weather! Temperate. Loved it. Monsoon's not so great ... but it isn't so bad either.

6) While I am on the subject of Monsoon - I loved that my children learned to run outside and play in the rain. I also will never forget the colors of the Monsoon skies. Glorious.

7) The small town experience. While I am speaking of the expat bubble it really was amazing to me how you really knew someone everywhere you went. I know it would drive some people nuts but for me it was for a season and I enjoyed it.

8) I will miss how affordable life was on a western salary! Back to reality - sigh.

9) The Himalayas! When the monsoon rains were over and the sky cleared we had a couple of months of beautiful views of the mountains from the valley. They are indeed majestic and speak of their Creator.

10) Color. I'll miss the saris blowing in the wind on the back of motorcycles, the spice shops and powdered dye kiosks and crazy painted trucks.

The Nepalis taught me to question why I am in a hurry. Exactly what prize do I get for cramming more into a day? They taught me to be grateful for every relationship and every thing in my life. They showed me that waste is shameful in light of the poverty that most Nepalis live in. I am grateful to them.

With this I will end my blogging adventure. Thanks for those of you who "followed", commented and encouraged me!

Namaste Nepal!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Packers, Forklifts and Saying Goodbye

The packers swarmed like locusts on our house last week! They came, they saw and they conquered ... our house is empty save the embassy issued furniture and our suitcases. My children watched with fascination this morning as a forklift moved our containers into the waiting trucks. (They came at 5:30AM as trucks aren't allowed inside the ring road after a certain hour.) Our computer, however, was also packed up (someone get these people a laptop!) so I write you from the Embassy CLO office.

I'm not quite ready to end this blog! I didn't finish. I have more pictures! So, what to do?

When we unpack the computer I'll give myself a few weeks to "finish" and then say Namaste to "Trailing Spouse in Kathmandu". Did you know there are all kinds of services that will print your blog into a book? While the initial aim of this blog was to answer the many questions we were asked about life here with a family and give our own friends and family a way to stay connected, it definitely morphed into a creative outlet for me which I have needed and appreciated. I'd love to get it printed through one of these services and keep copies for the children to remember this chapter of their lives.

I can't write any final reflections from where I sit. CNN is on in the background and there is that low level hum of office noises that keep me from concentrating. (I really did work in an office at one point in my life - how did I do this?).

We still have shy of one week left to enjoy the 'Du and say our goodbyes unemcumbered by our own belongings. We all go on a "stuff" diet when we get back to the States.

Namaste ....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Official Fourth - Aloha!

Because we win the "Velveeta on Toast" award for being the most cheesy ... I had to post this. (It goes along with our Sari/Sherwani picture that I haven't posted).

Thank you President Obama for being born in Hawaii! It made for a much better theme for the official Fourth party than a few other states I could think of ... but won't mention (smile - think about the possibility of wearing Colonial garb and cringe a bit). The Ambassador held her official national day party and it was a great success complete with a Tiki Bar, Hawaiian music and food. Some people were following the coconut shrimp server around during the whole reception - hilarious.

I promise in ten years of marriage this is the only time we have ever worn matching clothes. Did you know you can order Hawaiian attire online? There are HUNDREDS of patterns. Amazing.

Today no "Namastes". Aloha baby.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Fourth!

The last two summers I was at home with the kids on the Fourth while Bill was back here in the 'Du. So this year - keepin' the family together - we celebrated here. The American Club put on a big event for any US citizens who happened to be in town. There were games, pony rides, cotton candy, a dunking booth and other requisite trappings of the holiday. It was most important to us though that the kids were present for the Marines' presentation of the colors and the Ambassador's reading of President Obama's address. No fireworks but we all had a great day!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jodhaa Akbar

I know I am supposed to be getting ready for pack out, but Bollywood beckoned once again and I couldn't help myself.

May I mention that I truly did marry a wonderful man who will watch these things with me and even like them sometimes?!

Jodhaa Akbar just may be India's "Gone With The Wind". This film is the epic love story of a Muslim Mughal Emperor who marries a Rajput Hindu princess. Both Hrithik and Aishwarya are easy on the eyes, the costumes are UNBELIEVABLE and the literal cast of thousands dance sequences are amazing. There is a Sufi number that is really beautiful. Most of the score is lovely but there are these dramatic "DaNaaaaaa" moments when you know something bad is about to go down that are slightly amusing. There are a few battle scenes to stomach but I just made a point to avert my eyes before the elephant foot makes oatmeal of the soldier's head. Jodhaa Akbar is not completely historically accurate but that doesn't detract from the positive aspects of the film.

Get a big bowl of popcorn ready - this movie is three hours and forty five minutes long!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Must I Must Get Organized!

We are getting ready to Namaste Nepal and I can't believe it. Two more weeks until packout and then two more until wheels up.

I think I'm more anxious than I'll admit and there is still a lot to do in the next two weeks but really, as one friend reminded me - "Just hide the kids, pets and passports and they'll just pack everything else up". I know from experience that this is true but a little organization beforehand ultimately relieves some stress on the day of the move.

So this is my GRAND PLAN:

This week or next week:
1) Clean out closets and drawers for clothing giveaway.
2) Attack the "in" box in our office! (Where I pretend I am very organized and have four bins labeled ACT, R&D (read and dispose), FILE, SHRED. Two out of the four of those are always, always full.)
3) Cajole the hoodlums to part with more toys.

Two days prior to packers:
1) Pack our suitcases with whatever we can't live without in the next three weeks or so until the air freight arrives.
2) Collect all the things we can't live without for the next three months on the living room floor for air freight.

To any Foreign Service/Military Moms who are lurking ... I need you now! Advice people!

Now that doesn't sound so bad, does it? I feel better already.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


This ADORABLE little guy is the son of a friend of mine (remember the baby shower?) who I just had to get a photo session in with before he and his mama went on a three month around the world trip. I just knew he'd be all grown up by the next time I saw him. He is precious, precious.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Isn't it a rule that you have to climb the highest piece of architecture in every city you visit? I made that up but I think everyone does it. I have been promising the girls that before we leave I would let them climb this. It is alternatively called Bhimsen's Folly or Dharahara.

The original tower was built in 1826 by Rana Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa only to be damaged in the 1934 earthquake. (Hmmm, the E word. I haven't posted about this. I don't want to thoroughly depress any of you who are moving here. Forget I mentioned it.) I am not sure if it is fact or urban myth that someone rode a horse to the top and took a fatal high dive. The fact that someone jumped would not surprise me but the horse? I don't think so. At any rate - it was closed for years apparently.

I converted some of these to B&W since it was such a hazy day and I think architecture lends itself to it anyway.

My little hoodlums are completely excited about it!

The Kathmandu sprawl spreading to the valley rim in 360. Or some cool graphic with the bars and gates - depends on how you look at it:).

Hazy day. Martyrs gate in the traffic circle.
These sweet girls wanted their picture taken with my children. Those exotic blue eyed creatures that they are! (Lindsay would not cooperate - oh well.)

Two hundred and thirteen steps isn't exactly the Washington Monument but the resulting views were still worth the climb. These signs were in case you either lost count ... or wanted a compass.

The tower is encircled by these carved plinths.
It was a fun thing to do and it really needed to wait until the end of our tour because three years ago small people would have asked to be carried up. You might notice a certain three year old was not invited. Poor little guy - it is rough being the youngest sometimes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Those Brits Can Party ...

There is a saying in many foreign locales - "those westerners make their own fun". Oh do they (we) ever. Bill and I are still cracking up over our evening last night. The British School was having a dinner dance for their staff and parents. At one point they didn't think that they had enough people to support the event so they opened it up to be an "all international school" event. One of my trek mates who is British talked us into going. Since the American school is on summer break guess how many parents there were from our school? Zip - nada baby! But we knew most of the people there anyway (I have mentioned on this blog that this is a small town, haven't I?)

You usually have to drag me to "large" events but then I end up having a good time. I'm more of a dinner party type of gal. This event, however, was one fun party. Why is it so funny to see a bunch of middle aged people letting loose? People I normally see as very reserved where gettin' down on the dance floor - woo hoo:)!

Dress was whatever you wanted it to be so people came in Saris, jeans and everything in between. There was a professional band doing covers - they were good. There was a teacher band "The Inverters" (referring to the battery power options many people use here when there is no power - as in 12-16 hours a day) and then finally ... the parent band, "Load Shed" (referring to said power loss) dressed in satin pants (trousers, excuse my Yankiness) and sequined shirts and 60's wigs. They were hilarious. They had original songs like "I Drive a Rickshaw" among others and tweaked the lyrics to a few Talking Heads songs.

All in all ... a very fun night. I think we needed that.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It is Sepia week at I heart faces. Here are my child and adult entries! One thing about taking out the color that I like is that it makes you focus on the other image elements a bit more.

My sadhu pictures are usually all about color so I wasn't sure about making it a sepia print but I actually really like it!

Go check 'em out - be inspired - people submit amazing work!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Hungry Tide

I am thrilled to have discovered so many wonderful South Asian writers while living here. One of my favorites is Amitav Ghosh. He is utterly transporting in his descriptions and beautiful prose. I just finished The Hungry Tide and loved it.

In brief, The Hungry Tide is a tale set in the Sunderbans, an archipelago of swampy islands off the coast of Bengal known for being an unforgiving environment and home of the Bengal Tiger. A young Indian-American scientist (who only speaks English but is of Bengali descent) travels to the Sundarbans to research Irrawaddy Dolphins and is aided by an illiterate fisherman. A Delhi businessman, originally from Calcutta (Kolkata), is travelling to the same place to retrieve papers left to him by a deceased uncle. They meet and their stories unfold to shed light on a region's history and people's lives. Ghosh is just masterful in my humble opinion!

As is the case with most good books the book is also about ideas. Do we live our lives as masters of poetry or prose? Do we value the ideal, the dream, the mystical and intuitive or the straightforward, empirical and pragmatic? "The Tide" so dramatically depicted in this book is a metaphor for the ebb and flow of life. He also explores the importance and meaning of language and the incredible ties people have to the land. This is a lovely, lovely book.
A few other recommendations (of many many!):
Jhumpa Lahiri - The Namesake (also a great Mira Nair movie)
Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss
Thrity Umrigar - The Space Between Us
Amitav Ghosh - The Glass Palace

Nepali Writers of note:
Samrat Upadhay - Arresting God in Kathmandu, The Royal Ghosts
Manjushree Thapa - Forget Kathmandu (non fiction - we keep losing and rebuying this book!)

Happy reading!

* The cover art from Amazon doesn't compare to the gorgeous south Asian edition which has a silhouetted fishing boat in the reeds. Oh well!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Good Bye: The Last Day of School

Oh my it was quite a day on Friday. The girls only had a half day and most of it was taken up by the "Happy Trails" assembly. It was a boo hoo fest I tell you. After various performances by the different age groups there were good byes for the graduating seniors, the departing teachers, retiring local staff and the departing families. In an expat school there are huge goodbyes every year but this time it was us doing the leaving! I stood next to another Mom whom I just love and whom I have served with both inside and outside the school - sigh sigh sigh, cry cry cry.

It has been a happy three years for my girls at this school. It has been my introduction to formal education from a parents' perspective and I learned a lot. We are about to enter a drastically different arena for the next couple of years in terms of schooling and we'll see how that goes!

Apart from the final assembly I thought the school did a fantastic job helping my kids with this transition. Both of their teachers had books made with pictures and notes from their classmates. They gave us a workbook to work through with the girls to help them put a narrative to their experiences.

In my attempts to be highly intentional about the kids getting closure and saying proper good byes the girls invited their classmates to Punkie Universe (a germ fest kiddie wonderland!) for a good bye party. Even though we won't be leaving for six more weeks most families high tail it out of Kathmandu for the summer break the minute school gets out. I just didn't want them to wander out of school the last day and feel that they didn't get to say goodbye to their friends.

During the next few weeks they will say more good byes to people and places that have become home to them. I don't know what this transient lifestyle will mean for each of them though I imagine each will respond in their own way. I hope we can magnify the positive aspects and minimize the negative ones of course. In reality I am not sure there is much control over these things.

They understandably have mixed feelings. They will grieve what they have left behind yet be excited about what lies ahead. Only time will really tell the piece of Nepal that they will carry with them in their hearts and minds.

Now, what are we going to do for the summer? Nothing like planning ahead - smile.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Thailand Trip!

I love to capture the image. I hate to edit it. This is a bit of a hindrance in the furthering of my photography skills! Now possibly when we move home and upgrade our computer situation it may turn from being tedious to fun. Other people seem to think editing is a blast! I ramble.

This week's (ok I am SO late that it is almost last week's) assignment at I Heart Faces is just to document a family vacation. Since, in fact, I had ours on the hard drive and hadn't edited any of the pictures this was my opportunity. And my family can finally see them! Thank you Faces for your encouragement - smile.

One very, very fun by product of living in Kathmandu is that if you are going to take a vacation it by definition is going to be a unique experience. I am beach person - my husband likes the mountains. Since we live in the Himalayas, guess where we got to vacate the last three years - the beach! Going to the beach from the 'Du means going to Thailand. It is very accessable, only a three hour flight, and it is where nearly everyone from here goes to get away. We tried a different place every year. I really do worry about my kids thinking this is normal. Next year they are going to ask me if we can go to Thailand for Spring Break. I will respond to them something along the lines of ... "Reality time my wee ones! No way Jose!!!".

First stop ... Bangkok for the weekend.

Kit is just a little excited about getting soaked on a long tailed boat ride!

Beautiful Thai temple architecture along the river.

I have a picture of myself doing this twenty something years ago when I was backpacking in Asia. I have to say it never occurred to me that I would take a picture of my kids in the same pose! Swift isn't so sure what he is doing.


The female lions have the cub at their feet, the males a ball.

This guide deserved (and got!) a huge tip. When Forty Pounds Of Love himself just gave up trying to walk the guide scooped him up and minutes later he was conducting his tour in this pose - never skipped a beat.

Still sleeping ...

They are hot, they are tired (did I mention it was really, really, hot?) but they are willing to humor Mommy for a minute.

Temple guardians at the Grand Palace.

After trekking around with the grown ups they definitely deserved a treat!

Yes - daily I tell my kids about WILY strangers. Don't you? Grin.

We did have a kid centered day when we went to the aquarium and a park but since Bill was still in Kathmandu and his Mom and I were wrangling the kids in kagillion degree heat ... I left the camera in the safe that day. Oh well.

Next stop, Phuket. Ahhhhh now we're talking.

Circus afternoon for the kids. This was just way too much fun for an hour. Look at these faces!

Finally, some dinner and sunsets.

The daily sunset lighting ceremony.

What is it about the sunset that lowers your blood pressure and makes you breathe more slowly? I don't know but I'll take it.

I didn't get any pictures of my husband or my mother in law (or me). There really were grown ups on this trip ... really.

Thanks Faces for making me do this!