Thursday, June 14, 2007


Sagarmartha (Mt. Everest)!

Just got back from a wonderful walk - thru Patan (the old city begins about 200m from campus... just lovely). I got completely lost... winding alleys, through 1500 year old houses and squares and temples, with people going about their business… but the advice lady (Cousin Prof Wycoff who is my mentor in all things south Asian and who is sweltering with her husband in Agra, India) would be glad to know, that I didn't panic. I now tactfully instruct all the hawkers (I have decided to adopt my son’s method and not buy from children) that I am not a tourist, but I teach at the university... they turn away now… not bad for 1.5 weeks here. One child asked me then to buy him ice cream… he was cute, but I declined.

My colleagues told me that I am doing great, and do not seem to be afraid of anything. They have been so helpful as well, warning me off certain things that might cause sudden and extreme weight loss in the bathroom. Yesterday we returned to a restaurant that by any international standard should be shut down... but the food is to die for (unfortunate metaphore see below) and the view… well also is less than one star. One learns early in one’s travels to not look at the kitchen, or ask what it is before eating. If the food is hot, I say dig in… the bits of spicy water buffalo besides (read below) was amazing. They constant refer to other visitors who were nervous “he'd never eat here, he kept bringing a sandwich", or "she complained to the cook of the guest house about the potaoes in the curry". I have realized that this Dorothy is not in Kansas, and to make due and relax... I mean why ever do the taxpayers of the good state of California pay my health bennifts and allow me to spend all that quality time in the Kaiser travel clinic to get the shots? Or magic pills, right?

So I asked them both to join me tomorrow on the hour flight over of Everest...


After all the above… I spent about 2am to 4ish off loadign the buffalo as it were… my food allergy must have kicked in… I mean it couldn't have been the unsanitary conditions of the restaurant we visited now could it, nor the spicy buffalo meat (Actually after returning from buying the tickets… Prof. S spent an inordinate amount of time in the downstairs john as well. Prof T claims it was the buffalo meet we ate at lunch.
They all welcomed me to Nepal, and a have informed me that I have finally arrived. Funny how one can arrive while “evacuating”. So I broke out the pills, and continue to nosh on a bottle of water with a few drops of GSE (that saved the trip for Spencer & me in Guatemala).

At any rate I was sound asleep (they both agreed there was no need for me to come into work as they were going to teach and I would just be sitting around) so when the bell rang and the man from the travel agency came with tickets for a weekend trip to Pokhara… I decided to get up and take a well needed bath, shave and write a bit… perhaps I will have it in me to walk up to the Greenhouse Cyber to post this. I dwell on all these “niceties” and have neglected the most important part of the morning… THE HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN FLIGHT.

My colleagues showed up at the guest house at 530am, and we were thru security and check in by 6am for the 630am flight… there are no words for how amazing it was… the plane took off and circled and rose over Kathmandu… I looked down and saw the Stupa at Bodhnath, the Royal Palace, Durbar Square, the neighborhood I am living in and of course the whole Kathmandu Valley before we flew into the clouds. Breaking through the left side there they were… a great white wall of rock and ice from east to west. We flew east diagonally with Everest dead ahead. The flight attendant walked up and down the aisle pointing out various peaks that correlated with the very helpful pamphlet that they provided. Then to my utter surprise and delight, she came thru the plane and let each of us take a few moments in the cockpit to see the mountain itself, the pilots talked to us, and showed them to us… to be able to see the whole range through clean and not scratched windows was such a delight, not to mention to be able to converse with the pilots was a thrill. After everyone had a chance, she came through again and we were allowed another turn if we so wanted.

Truly astonishing, there are no words, and these pictures don’t really capture it either… all I can say that should (the chance being well over 50% now) my flight to Hong Kong be delayed, I may just saunter over to do another of these…

This was the one flight, which I can say that absolutely everyone left their window shades up and looked out. Those of you who have been diligent followers of this daily rant, know that one of my pet peeves are those who purchase window seats in flights and then proceed the keep the shades drawn, thus contributing to the international decline in geographic literacy.

My only contact with the outside world seems to be the 24hr BBC FM station (a complete delight) and the morning edition of the newspaper here that is published in both Nepali and English. So it was that during my time in the bathroom I enjoyed a rather insightful story about the history of refrigeration – with a reporter here in Kathmandu interviewing people using traditional forms of keeping food cool in clay pots… and now a great story from the Capitol Building in Sacramento about Swartzeneggar’s health plan… the world is indeed small, despite the .size of the mountains that divide us.

Tomorrow off to Pokhara (6 hour bus ride west along the mountains) until early Sunday, then Monday we begin our project in the village.

Enjoy the snaps…

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sagarmatha Tomorrow!

Chomolangma or Qomolangma– Tibetan for “Mother Goddess of the World” is called Sagarmartha here in Nepal which their traditional name for Mt. Everest . Tika and Shashidar and I are going to take the early morning flight over Mt. Everest tomorrow… we will be up, around and back all before work in the morning... hurrah!


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The rice planting is almost finished

the green of the rice shoots is amazing...

Last nite after work the driver let me drop off my things and then took me to Thamel… the tourist, upscale part of town… I have been living in a more typical neighborhood… and to be honest I was in culture shock. Thamel has a lot of stores selling things that tourists might want, or things toursits do not want, as well. There are some very good restaurants, etc… nice but a bit overwhelming… with in 50m two guys wanted me to see them charm a cobra (no thank you), someone asked if I wanted a pipe for ganja (no thank you!); and another person asked if I wanted buy some hashish... (again, no thank you). I was just looking for tee-shirts… so I walked around for a while, found what I was looking for, and just marveled at the different Kathmandu than I had seen… and got in taxi and went home for dinner. I prefer my neighborhood, and the places my colleagues have shown me so far.

So this morning the car came early so we could attend a dedication of the Chinese –Nepali Confucius Institute (on the third floor of this building). The Chinese Ambassador came and other important people assisted in the dedication. I thought it most interesting that the Ambassador told the audience that he had instructed all personnel in the Chinese Embassy to learn Nepali… and he ended with something in Nepali, which made everyone smile. We had tea on what will be the new 3rd floor terrace overlooking the rice planting…
So we are planning our work in the village next week – either we are going to Chitlang or Bajrayogini next week… it will be great to get out into the countryside.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I came back from the Greenhouse Cyber (the one on the 111rd floor)… and changed into my shorts and was reading in my room… my head saying how nice to have a day off (everyone in the house had informed me of the band = strike (pronounced: bundt like the cake). I read exactly 5 pages, and then Mohit (Navaraj’s son) came upstairs and said “Sir your car is ready to take you to the university”. So here I am… happy and well. It is a hot and humid day (only mid 80’s here...the poor folks in India are suffering with 120 plus)… but I digress…

So… Milton asked (minus the sir…), “What is the name of the snake design and its significance?”

I asked Professors Shashidar and Tika here in the office what the names of things we talked about were in the class… they drew the diagram in my notebook (see picture).

The name of the Snake pattern is called Naag (pronounced: na:g). We will investigate it further. But I remembered that I had taken a picture of the design in red / wood on a gate in Bhaktapor and that we could connect it to some möbius strip work and explorations on Sunday’s class. (see the next picture).

As well I asked for more information re: the three distances shared in class.

Syauli Kosh – is the distance one walks with a certain kind (we need to find out what kid it is) of branch wilts while you walk. I guess that it is longer than a Rumal Kush.
Rumal Kush - is the distance one walks with a wet hanky (rumal) until it dries. I might guess that on a day like this it would be a longer walk as it is quite humid it is a good day for planting rice outside (See the snap I just took outside my office window).
Chautaro kosh – is this distance a man with his doko (basket) takes to walk form one chautaro to another. These chautaros are round benches beneath Banyan trees. There is one next to a small temple at the turn off from the mains street to the lane to the university.

Shahshi-ji also shared the terms “dost” - but Tika jsut said it should be "haat" and “bitta”. A bitta is the span of your thumb to middle (longest finger). Weirdly enough two bittas equal one haat… try it!

So 1 Mohit is the time it takes a professor to change his clothes, relax and read 5 pages of a book.

After such a busy day, I slept in a little. It was rather stormy about 4am with buckets of rain for awhile which I enjoyed, but kept me from sleep. The next thing I knew Navaraj was knocking on my door delivering the morning bucket of hot water. During breakfast the family let me know that there was a strike today. So I will just hang around the neighborhood.

After work yesterday I quickly changed and took a taxi to Bodhnath stupa to enjoy the sunset and the energy. I circumambulated it twice and then was standing looking at the sun shine its last on the building when a monk greeted me in perfect English. He introduced himself as Kenpo P. Dorjee and offered to show me the monastery before he taught the young boys their evening English classes. So we walked together to the monastery and he showed me the two main buildings and told m that on Thursday evening and Friday they were having some devotional services and invited me to come. I asked him a few questions about Tibetan Buddhism and how to enter the temple if I can come back and he shared his cell phone number (!) and told me if I get lost to call me and he will meet me at the stupa main gate.

I will go post this soon and see what a “band– strike” is here… so far I hear traffic noise…

Jimmy Carter is here to meet with the various political factions – the Carter Center is very well respected here and is trying to rebuild the political and social structures of Nepal. There is a nice story on the front page of the newspaper.

Enjoy the fotos!

After the last post today, I kept walking around Durbar Square and the neighborhood. I got a card that allows me multiple entries so I do not have to pay @00 rupies every time I enter. Talked to a man who remembered seeing me the two there times I walked through… and took a stroll up a street that looked interesting… at about 10 am I realized I had better get back in time for the car from the university. Shasidar called and asked me to tell the driver to [pick him… so we drove to his part of the city… then they took me to the National Museum… very interesting, very helpful in coming to understand things. I took them booth to lunch – at a Chinese Restaurant, and I had my first cappuccino… ahhh! Enjoy the “snaps!

Yesterday was another grand day… the strike was cancelled so I slept in a little, and then I went to the university by car. On the way we went to pick up Shashidar because we both heard there was a Chinese book fair… I figured, well I can’t read Nepali, and I can’t read Chinese (I can tell the difference between though) so what the heck… we drove over to where it was only to learn that – naturally – yesterday was the last day of the fair.
Not to worry, off we went to campus and we worked on the project and planned for class tonight.
The class went well. The students are really great, very enthusiastic, and creative. I shared parts of my talk I gave in Portland and they shared their ideas re: math in Nepal. I am so impressed by the work of Shashidar with his students. It is privilege to be here and learn form them.
Things we talked about were ideas related to: Measurement§ Weight – shared a balance used to measure weights of goods (that I have seen in the market)§ Distance –distance measure in how far you can walk during the length of time it takes a wet handkerchief to dry, or a branch of leaves (from a certain tree?) to wither§ Volume – various cups and metal bottles I see used… the names I will have to ask ShashidarA design for a water mill for grinding grainAnd a very intricate snake design that one of the students drew for us (see the picture)
I have asked them to bring lids and more ideas.

What a privilege to work with these students!
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