Category Archives: Culture

A new chapter

Every now and then there comes a time in life, when you have to move forward. This year has been the year of new beginnings for me. I got married a month after this year started and I will be leaving Bangkok a month before this year ends. November will be our last working month in Thailand.

A and I have decided to quit our jobs to start new in Nepal. This is a big leap of faith for us. For me personally, settling down in a foreign country has never been on my list. I always knew I would spend significant amount of my life in Nepal. I love my country, its culture and my parents. Now when time has come for me to start thinking about starting my own family, I cannot think of a better place than Kathmandu. Luckily I got married to a person who thinks the same. It may sound like an emotional and not well thought decision to return back to Kathmandu especially when we have good jobs that provide us with a secure life here but we have been contemplating on this since a long time and we are certain that this is the right moment for us to make the move. Kei na kei ta kaso nagariyela which means what can be the odds, we will certainly find one way or other to make things work!

I know there are going to be a lot of challenges in Nepal. It is not easy to have a good life in a country where unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world. There is going to be a lot of struggle. We might not be ready but we are prepared :). I hope to make use of the skills I’ve learned so far in life and make it useful in someway.

There is a small project that A and I are really excited about. We are looking forward to start this project in Nepal with lots of enthusiasm. As soon as it takes a share worthy shape, I will share it with you guys. In the meantime please wish us good luck :). Also would love to hear your thoughts about going back to your country to start new.

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Culture, Life, ramblings

The art of queueing up

Living as an expat is a culturally rich experience. It makes you aware of a lot of things that you never thought existed. Learning about a new culture opens a gate to yet another horizon that remains to be explored. While traveling for few days to a new country in itself can be a life enriching experience, living in another country offers an ocean of things to learn from. It gives us an opportunity to become curious kids again and perceive new things as we grow up in a foreign land all over again. How we deal and cope with this new culture, change in taste and environment allows us to test our personality in many ways. At times, it can be frustrating to tackle homesickness, loneliness and that feeling of feeling out of place but in the end we come out being stronger and full of knowledge.

There are so many things I have learned after coming to Bangkok that I never gave any thought to before coming here. Today I want to talk about the most basic thing that I have learned(re-learned) after coming to Bangkok and that is “to wait for my turn” or “to queue up” or “to be patient”. It is very simple and straight forward trait. Being patient saves us from many agonies in life and makes life much easier. Its not that I never knew about waiting in a line or queuing up. Right from my early school days, I was taught to stand in a line and wait for my turn. But somewhere in the transition from being a student to a grown up person, I had lost this trait.

My first reminder to it began when I was attending classes for my Master’s Degree. All graduate students would stand in a line to get inside the classroom. To me, it was a funny sight. I sure had stood in lines to get inside the classroom but that was way back in the primary school. But soon I learned that not waiting for my turn was not a cool thing and slowly I got accustomed to this habit of standing in a line wherever I went around in the city of Bangkok. Let me sight few examples of it.

If it is late in the evening and there are many people waiting for a public van to get back to home, in Bangkok you patiently wait in a line until the van comes. If the number of people standing in the line is way more than the number of people that can fit in a van, no problem…there will be a next van or you might have to think of an alternative way to get back home but never ever you will find anyone rushing or pushing each other to get in the van. The same rule applies while waiting for a taxi outside a shopping mall.

Street food is awesome in Bangkok, we all know this. There are several popular vendors in streets of Bangkok that are very famous and is always crowded. So how do you order food here? Its simple, stand in a queue and wait for your turn. In some places there will be a pen and a paper, you write down your order in it and wait for your food to be cooked while you drink beer. You will not hear any shouting or loud inquiries like, “is my food done yet?”. People just quietly wait.

There are numerous places where this rule applies like while buying a train ticket, buying a bus ticket, waiting to get in the train/bus, withdrawing money from ATM, public restrooms and so on. This must be common in many countries.

Siam Paragon is one of the biggest shopping mall in the heart of Bangkok. It sells products from all over the world. One day while we were in Siam Paragon, we saw a queue in front of Louis Vuitton store, many people were waiting to get inside the store. I had never in my life seen people queue up to get inside a luxury store on a normal day. It wasn’t the day of a big sale or a day of new arrivals. It was just a normal weekend. Also not to mention I have seen people queue up to buy fruits/stuffs from a local street market as well.

Whenever I think about government offices in Asia, the first thing that comes to my mind is chaos. I have been to the immigration office and Department of Labour in Thailand and it is the most organised government office I have ever seen. The first thing I noticed is that it was clean and quiet. Here too, people would queue up to get their job done. I saw no middle men, no chaos and the work was done smoothly and in order.

The reason I am talking so elaborately about queuing up is that last wednesday, we went out for dinner. The place we wanted to go was across the street of the place we got down. So, in order to get there we had to cross this overhead bridge. It was an old overhead bridge and narrower than the new ones. The street was a bit crowded than usual, I hurriedly went ahead to climb the stairs only to realise that people were waiting in queue to use the overhead bridge in order to cross the road. I was surprised! And not to mention the queue was around 50 meters long! This city successfully and pleasantly surprised me once again for its ability to queue up 🙂

Do you guys have any stories to share regarding queueing up? Would love to hear them.

13 Comments

Filed under Culture, expat life, ramblings, Travel

Crazy high school days

We were tired of the usual routine of bunking class and going to the roof of the main building to waste time. Ofcourse we didn’t want to go back to the boring Physics and Chemistry lectures but we wanted to do something different that day. We were considering our options on what we could do. We had already bunked school to watch a movie. We had faked a stomach ache to go back home. We has sneaked out from classroom to watch seniors practice for the upcoming campus event. We had even asked P’s sister to call in for some emergency situation at home and left the campus to hang out in Bakery cafe.

We wanted to do something more fun that day, something that we had never done before. We were looking for adventure and some adrenaline rush. As usual, we took the first class of the day which was an English lecture by our favourite teacher. After that we left our bags in the class and went out to take a break. We saw that two of our seniors B didi and her friend had secured a job at the Admin department. On seeing us, they invited us to come and see their new office. They were working as secretary and admin staff to help the Principal. Their office was the fancy room outside of Principal’s office. They even had a TV with a VCR there. Wait did we just notice a big TV with VCR in that room. We asked B didi if she and her friend considered watching a movie in there, especially when the room was equipped and had heavy curtains with comfy chairs and a round table. We were shameless then and took no time to ask silly things. They said the room was used for showcasing informative documentaries to educate the staff and it was rarely used. We took no time to ask them if they fancied watching a movie in this room. They looked at each other shared a broad smile and said its a crazy idea but yes we could do it. After all the office building would be usually empty after 11 am and the Principal would leave before noon and come back only after 3pm. We had struck a deal with them and convinced them to watch a movie in that room. The plan would have took off then and there but we didn’t have any movie cassettes(it was 2001 and we still used video cassettes). They gave us the responsibility to get video cassette for a good movie and the plan would take off the next day after 11am when the coast had cleared. We gladly agreed and came back to our classroom all giddy and excited for the next day. Even the boring subject of projectile motion in that lecture sounded interesting. We talked how the commerce students were cool and risk taking, loathing the subject we had taken even more.

The next day P got a video cassette for ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. We had brought some chips and coke as well. The plan was to attend the first lecture and then go to the admin building with our movie cassette and snacks and spend the day watching Dil Chahta Hai. We met at B didi’s office at 11 am sharp. They had already closed the curtains, closed the adjacent door to the Principal’s office and were waiting for us. Once we got there, they let us in and closed the main door. Now the whole room was just for us. It was our private movie theatre for the day. We opened our bag, P went ahead and started operating the TV and VCR, I shared the snacks and the movie started. We had so much fun that day, the movie was exceptionally good too. We laughed, we cried and jumped with excitement during the movie keeping our voices down. And the thrill of watching movie in the Admin building of the school was something else. B didi would peek outside from the nook of the curtain time to time to ensure that our plan was going smoothly. We reduced the volume sometimes to make sure no one was outside. And at the end of the third hour, the movie came to an end. We quickly removed the video cassette from the VCR, cleaned up the room and opened the curtains. There was no one outside and our mission had become a success. We group hugged each other and laughed with excitement. We had pulled off the most daring task of watching a movie in the Admin building.

But we were not done yet. It was past 2 pm and we were hungry. B didi informed us that the Principal would be back by 3pm so we had to get going before that. I asked B didi if she had access to Principal’s office, she said yes as she was her secretary. I asked if we could see what it was like as we had never seen his office before. She just pulled the curtain at the other side of the room and Principal’s office was just adjacent to our movie room. There was a sliding glass door in between. To Principal’s horror and our delight, we saw that there was lunch on the table, probably left by the canteen staff. Just like that we decided to see what was there for lunch. We saw that there was this delicious looking chicken curry, rice and some vegetables. All of us were so hungry that we decided to “borrow” a piece of chicken from the bowl. The plan was to transfer a piece of chicken from the bowl to our tiffin box. P was given the task to transfer, B didi was watching the door, me and B didi’s friend were instructing P on how to do the job. As she intended to transfer just one piece from the bowl to the box, almost 80% of the dish slipped to our tiffin with only a tiny price of chicken and little curry remaining in the bowl. At this point all three of us went hysterical laughing hard in the Principal’s office. B didi joined in to see what happened and she was a little terrified. We quickly composed ourselves and slid the glass door close, closed the curtains and were back in B didi’s office. We ate the chicken :P. The most crazy day of our high school had come to a tasty end.

Wait there’s one more thing. The next day we went to B didi’s office during lunch to inquire if things went fine. She said no one had asked her anything and we were safe. As we chatted with them, we all wondered what was there for Principal’s lunch that day :D.

Those were the crazy +2 days. I hated studying science and was never interested in the lectures and P was my best friend cum partner in crime. I wish I had some picture of me and P from those days but I don’t have it here. Have you guys done anything crazy in your high school days?

4 Comments

Filed under Culture, Life, ramblings

A peek into the local Thai market- A photo blog

We live in outskirts of Bangkok and we do not have a lot of supermarkets in this area. So, every Wednesdays and Sundays there is a huge market where locals sell stuff like meat, vegetables, food, clothes and what not. We buy our vegetables and fish from this market since it is more fresh than the supermarket and its cheaper too. Thailand is famous for its street food. On this market too, we can see lots of stalls selling local Thai food. Its pretty convenient to buy food there for people who don’t want to cook at home.

So, in this post I’m sharing with you the pictures from the market taken with my phone. The market is quite vibrant and definitely worth a share :).

Motorcycle taxi ride to the market, costs around 20 Baht

Motorcycle taxi ride to the market, costs around 20 Baht

Tropical fruit Rambudan right at the entrance

Tropical fruit Rambudan right at the entrance

Market entrance

Market entrance

Thai/Chinese style pork

Thai/Chinese style pork

Famous Thai pork and rice balls with sweet and sour sauce

Famous Thai pork and rice balls with sweet and sour sauce

Tropical fruit, I don't know its name 40 Baht per kilo

Tropical fruit, I don’t know its name 40 Baht per kilo

A very sour Thai fruit used to make sweet and sour salad, sorry for thw blurry pic :)

A very sour Thai fruit used to make sweet and sour salad, sorry for thw blurry pic 🙂

Local Deli

Local Deli

Some kind of spicy soup with mushroom

Some kind of spicy soup with mushroom

You can buy some lottery too...

You can buy some lottery too…

A drink stall, very famous in Thailand...you can find similar stalls in each and every corner.

A drink stall, very famous in Thailand…you can find similar stalls in each and every corner.

Thai curries with steam rice ready to take away

Thai curries with steam rice ready to take away

Pork BBQ

Pork BBQ

Fried fish

Fried fish

Some kind of salad

Some kind of salad

You can find SIM cards too

You can find SIM cards too

And shoes as well for 100 Baht per pair

And shoes as well for 100 Baht per pair

Our favorite stall, all kinds of seasonal greens are found here.

Our favorite stall, all kinds of seasonal greens are found here.

A's favorite stall which sells onion and garlic

A’s favorite stall which sells onion and garlic

Durian Durian

Durian Durian

Fruits

Fruits

Fruits

Fruits

More fruits

More fruits

Clams and shells

Clams and shells

Boiled veggies with different kinds of spicy sauces.

Boiled veggies with different kinds of spicy sauces.

Steamed, fried fish ready to eat along with omelet

Steamed, fried fish ready to eat along with omelet

These tiny shrimps were still alive!

These tiny shrimps were still alive!

Fried eggs with two yolks

Fried eggs with two yolks

In case you feel sunny ;)

In case you feel sunny 😉

Thai sausage

Thai sausage

Thai steamed red curry

Thai steamed red curry

Local pizza

Local pizza

Charcoal grilled whole chicken

Charcoal grilled whole chicken

Thai dessert

Thai dessert

Fresh seafood

Fresh seafood

A flower stall

A flower stall

Grilled mackerel

Grilled mackerel

Steamed mackerel?

Steamed mackerel?

Find me!:)

Find me!:)

Inside the market

Inside the market

Fried pork or Moo Crob in Thai

Fried pork or Moo Crob in Thai

Red Snapper grilled with seasalt

Red Snapper grilled with seasalt

A must have Thai ingredient.

A must have Thai ingredient.

Steamed crab

Steamed crab

Local version of KFC :)

Local version of KFC 🙂

Fried crickets :)

Fried crickets 🙂

Thai Northern style sausage

Thai Northern style sausage

fried pork skin, sorry for the blurred pic!

fried pork skin, sorry for the blurred pic!

End of the market!

End of the market!

I hope you all enjoyed going through the pictures :).

19 Comments

Filed under Culture, Food, Thai Food, Travel

Reminiscing the childhood days

Kathmandu city is my home town. I was born and brought up there. My father built his first house in the religious town of Swayambhu. I spent my beautiful years of childhood in this town. I have fond memories of times spent there. I was born in the mid 80s. We played lots of indoor and outdoor games while growing up.

Although I have only one elder brother, we grew up playing childhood games with the kids in our neighbourhood. We played games like lukamari or hide and seek, dhyappa or touch and run, 7 stones, guccha or marbles, bhada kuti(literally translates to utensils, a play game like tea party where children play with miniature utensils) and several other games in which we pretended like we were adults, my favourite one was playing a married woman or playing a Mom :P. I was the youngest in the group so I never really got to participate in a more challenging game like dhyappa, lukamari and 7 stones. They would let me play but I would be a dudh-bhat(literally translates to milk and rice) or chusya musya(literally translates to small bits) in these games. This was because I could not run as fast as them and would cry if I was out of the game too soon. Being a dudh-bhat meant that I could play on even though I was out of the game and no other players took me seriously in the game. After a while I would realise that no one was chasing me or looking for me and I would start to cry. This was the reason my brother was embarrassed of me and he rarely took me with him to play. So, I usually played bhada kuti alone in the terrace. I often used to ask Mom to lend me some rice and I would use some shrubs as veggies and play my game.

Growing up in the Swayambhu area, we went to the nearby museum during weekends, we swayed in the huge rotating prayer wheels in the Gumba(Monastary), chased monkeys and sometimes they chased us back. We never missed to visit the Swayambhunath temple during special occasions like Buddha Jayanti, Saraswati Puja, Guru Purnima and whenever we passed an exam. Our school was in walking distance from home, so I used to walk with my brother to school. When we were young, my brother was very shy and I was the opposite. He never allowed me to talk to him and I was never to come to find him during school hours. He asked me to wait outside the gate after the school was over and we could walk back together. But I was not of the kind who would obey rules :P. I would go outside his class with my friends, point at him and tell my friends that I had an elder brother and run back to our playing area. Sometimes, I would go to the playground where he would be playing, poke him and run back to the class. At home my brother was different. He would play with me, teach me how to turn on a radio, show me his video game but at school it was a different story.

We lived in Swayanbhu area until I was in the 3rd Grade, I think. After that, we moved to another town and changed school. Another thing I remember about being in that area is the food like gwara mari(a kind of fermented and fried pastry), momo cha(dumplings), aloo sandheko and many more. I will write a different post to talk about this.

I wish I could post the picture I have in my mind of those times. Last year when we were in Kathmandu, we drove passed this area. Our house was still there and it was the same little house with yellow paint but the locality has changed drastically. There are a lot more people and many more houses now and everything looked so small and crowded.

So, this is a slice of my life from my childhood. Hope you guys will enjoy reading it and do share about your own childhood experiences and the games you played as kids.

11 Comments

Filed under Culture, Life, ramblings

A travel tale

Travellers are full of stories. Everytime we visit a new place, we see and learn new things and who doesn’t like to share unique experiences? We all do in one way or another. I love talking to my grandparents to hear about their experiences, it gives me an opportunity to peek into the historic era they lived in. Unfortunately, I never talked with Baajya about his travel tales when he was in this world(and I don’t know why). But whenever I am with my Hajur Bua, I pester him to tell me about his travel tales.

One of the things I’m most interested in knowing is about his journey from  my ancestral home in Dhading district to Kathmandu, which took several days to complete during those times. I have asked him many times to tell me about his journey from Dhading to Kathmandu and every time I listen to this story, it amazes me more and more.

My Jiju Bua, married his eldest daughter to a scholar in Kathmandu. After Thulo Fufu was married, it opened a door for my Hajur Bua to travel to Kathmandu. During those days, it was very common to send your children to stay at your relatives’ place to study. So, Jiju Bua sent Hajur Bua to study in Kathmandu city as the only modern school in Nepal was located in Kathmandu(Durbar High School).

The journey from Dhading to Kathmandu was made on foot. Usually a bunch of people who had to go to the city waited for a convenient time so that they all could travel together in a group. These people were traders who brought in everyday commodity to the village, students who studied in the city or people who travelled to visit their relatives in the city. A journey would typically start by Juju Muwa putting tika on Hajur Bua’s forehead and blessing him for the successful completion of the journey. Hajur Bua said that she would also pack a small bag of rice, a bottle of ghee and some dried vegetables for the journey. They would start from the hilltop and descend downwards to catch a road that would connect them to the capital city. I don’t exactly know if it was a “road” or just a walking trail because every time I ask Hajur Bua to describe the road, he would say it is not remotely close to the present day highway but it was a well establish trail which the traders and travellers would use frequently to travel from India and other parts of Nepal to the capital city. The descent from the hill was mostly the famous hilly terrain of Nepal in Dhading district. If they start the journey in the morning, by evening they would reach the lowlands which is called “Besi” in Nepali. They would have to spend the night at the Besi as travelling during night time was not possible. On this Hajur Bua said that during those days, it was very important to reach Besi before the sunset as there would be fear of wild animals after the sunset. On reaching Besi, they would request for “Bass” or shelter to the village people at Besi. The travelling group would then borrow utensils from  them, fetch firewoods in the nearby forest and prepare their meals of rice, ghee and dried vegetables like Gundruk that they have brought along with them. I asked Hajur Bua if the village people asked anything in return for staying at their house, to this he said, they would leave the remaining rice/ghee if the journey was of one night and if not they would give a portion of the commodities to them. I was truly moved by this system based on understanding and basic human instinct of helping each other.

I also inquired if there were any robbers or if they were scared of anything while travelling. On this Hajur Bua smiled and said we didn’t know of anything called as robbery, the fact that one person could rob another person was alien to the people of Gaun and Besi(village and lowland). At this point, both me and Hajur Bua drifted into the conversation of how the people of Nepal have changed over time. Then he giggled slightly and said, there was no fear of one human harming another human but we were scared of Ghosts and Monsters. There were several stories of fire monsters who walked on forest after sunset called “Raken Bhoot” and some other monsters that he talked about which I do not re-call at this point. I slightly teased Hajur Bua and asked if he believed if they existed. On this he said smiling, I don’t know if I believed in them or not but our elders always shared stories of how they encountered certain Monsters and he was definitely scared of them then.

Going back to the journey, after spending the night at Besi, they would set off early at dawn and head to the capital city. It would take whole day for them to reach the main road that would link them directly to Kathmandu. Again, they would take shelter in some village, cook their food and spend the night there. The next day, they would start their journey early in the morning. On this day, they would meet many travellers/traders going towards Kathmandu. Most of them would be carrying different kinds of goods from India. Hajur Bua said with excitement, they even carried vehicles in large wooden logs during those times! Then he continued, the last few hours of the journey were the toughest as they had to cross several hills before they could enter the Kathmandu valley. Some would fall sick and they would find people resting as some of them had walked for many days at this point. Then by the evening of this day, they would reach Kathmandu valley crossing many hills and forests. And this is how my Hajur Bua came to the capital city to study. He further said that Kathmandu valley was nothing like what it is today. There was very less population in the valley and places like Maharajgunj and Kamaladi was a forest. Since Thulo Fufu’s house was in Thamel, he stayed there for some years to study at Durbar High School. Next time I visit Hajur Bua, I will surely asked him to tell me the story about his life in Kathmandu during those days :).

I love spending time with Hajur Bua to hear about many of his simple yet profound experiences of his times. I think my Hajur Bua was around 14-15 years old when he made this journey to the capital city on foot. After the story, he would say, how times have changed now and how everything is so convenient these days.

I leave you with this picture of Gorkha hills from the Facebook page “Ancient Nepal” and leave the rest to your imagination!!:)

Hills of Gurkha in ancient times, picture courtesy Facebook Page of "Ancient Nepal"

Hills of Gurkha in ancient times, picture courtesy Facebook Page of “Ancient Nepal”

Reference of characters:

Jiju Bua: My Dad’s grandfather
Jiju Muwa: My Dad’s Grandmother
Hajur Bua: My grandfather(Dad’s Dad)
Baajya: Maternal Grandfather
Thulo Fufu: My Dad’s Aunt/Hajur Bua’s eldest sister

10 Comments

Filed under Culture, Life, ramblings, Travel

A Japanese tourist with Indian wife

Has anyone ever mistaken your country of origin. It happens with me and my husband(yes A and I got married in Feb :D) all the time.

I am usually mistaken for an Indian which does not make me so happy because I want to be identified as a Nepali. On the other hand A is identified as a citizen of whichever country he visits. For example, here in Thailand, everyone says he looks like a Thai. As A knows a bit of Thai language, people always think he is Thai. Last year, we went to Cambodia and they thought A was Cambodian. A says when he went to Malaysia, he was mistaken for a Malay and the same thing happened in China, Singapore and other surrounding Asian countries.

But the strangest thing is we didn’t think we would be mistaken for our country of origin in our own motherland, Nepal. After our week long wedding, A and I went to visit different temples in Kathmandu. As A is from Patan area, he took me to all the temples near Patan Durbar Square. One of the most famous and beautiful temple in Patan Durbar Square is Krishna Mandir. I know this is ridiculous, but I had never been inside Krishna Mandir before so A really wanted to take me inside the temple for a darshan. So, we were walking around Patan Durbar Square taking pictures and visiting temples. As we approached near Krishna Mandir, A took several pictures of me outside the temple and after that we climbed up the stairs to enter the main temple where there is a century old statue of Lord Krishna. In Kathmandu, many hindu temples does not allow non-hindus to enter the temple. So, when A climbed up the stairs, the pujari at Krishna Mandir stopped A saying Japanese are not allowed inside the temple! Hearing this both A and I burst into laughter. Then he talked to the pujari in Newari saying, “I am Nepali and I have spent my childhood roaming around this temple”, which clearly astonished him and he was a little embarrassed too. After this the pujari said,”I thought you were a Japanese tourist with an Indian wife!”

Krishna Mandir at Patan

Krishna Mandir at Patan

So, this was our story at the Krishna Mandir. Has anything similar happened to you guys as well? I would love to hear such stories.

11 Comments

Filed under Culture, Travel