Saturday, June 30, 2007

So let me tell you how I ended up having dinner in the Bhaktapur police headquarters on my birthday.

So let me tell you how I ended up having dinner in the Bhaktapur police headquarters on my birthday.

You see, after meeting with the students in the Sustainable Development NGO group, Prof. Roshen and two of his students met me at KU. They had a taxi and off we sped to lunch in a nice country restaurant on the other side of Bhaktapur where Roshen’s brother (the police commandant for the region) showed up and greeted us, and then we went for an amazing taxi trek to Changu, stopping first at the police station to drop off my computer bag and overnite things (pay attention this is an important point to remember). Being the oldest temple complex (origins from the 4th century) in Nepal sits high upon a mountain that juts dramatically out into the valley. We hiked up the ridge behind to another newer temple, all the while passing thru villages and farmsteads and with absolutely amazing views of the entire Kathmandu valley, and the rice paddies, and numerous villages, including Sanku form the last week’s field trip with the Ethnomath lads from KU. Pity the clouds, as no doubt we would have seen the mighty Himalayas shining above us, but none the loss for even the monsoon laden clouds offer a certain beauty that I am sure during colder dryer times they would be telling me about as well. So down we went, sending the two girls on to Kathmandu (I planning to stay in a hotel in Bhaktapur). Roshen walked me around, including a tour of things he told me guides asked him where they were most notably a rather curious little temple 17th century carved with copulating animals – the mating elephants were quite striking indeed! I found a nice place (with false promises of hot water in a shower, but still a shower no matter the temperature is grand) and were walking about when we came across a buddy of his from their tour guide days. R insisted that we go to his shop that sells astonishingly beautiful hand made paper goods that are made by homeless and handicapped women and sponsored by UNICEF. Roshen is a marvel of Nepali history, as he has a degree in tourism, and anthropology. Off we went to Tachupal Tole (one of three grand squares in the city along the old Silk Road) to see the famous Peacock Window (a much smaller copy of which was gifted to me for my keynote address at the modeling congress). Though quite dark, with the flash on my camera it proved to be quite splendid indeed. I now truly appreciate the gift all the more, having seen the original in all its glory! The two gentlemen decided (this being a country just experimenting with democracy decisions are often made for me with out consultation, and I have learned to coast and enjoy the ride, because in the end it is often better than anything my trusty Lonely Planet Guide for Nepal could possibly have outlined for me. They also announced that my stomach was now ready and that I must have something to eat so off we went to a typical little Newari restaurant that by any standard at all that in any Big 8, Mercorsul, or European Union country would not have made even a fraction of a star in the Michelin guide and would have been shut down centuries ago (it being that old of course!). Again my rules for places people take me are to be strictly adhered to - both in the interests of international relations but of culinary adventure:

1. If they eat it, so can I (as long as it is hot);
2. Never look at the kitchen before eating; and
3. Never ask what it is before sampling.

These three rules were put to the test (and I can say that after a bout of Moctazuma’s revenge (alas his ghostly hand stretches far!) the day before, (the magic pills not withstanding, this morning as I write the state of the union is strong!). At any rate, plates of roast mutton (I hope as the specter of the dear departed goat still hang heavy) and chicken – both spicey and delectable were served. The two gentlemen mixed a rather strange chartreuse colored liquid (a fermented rice concoction with cardamom) with Coca-Cola and proceeded to regale each other with stories and jokes, that occasionally they would translate for me. It was great fun, and absolutely hilarious. We also ordered yogurt (Bhaktapur yogurt is famous, and well worth the fame) which I believe is the cause for my sudden return to the land of the living. Numerous libations were ingested, and much carrying on from other tables, and in the street, with the neighborhood Hindu fathers singing and chanting and drumming their hymns in the temple beside the restaurant. After awhile Roshen received a call that our dinner was ready (at the police station). So we walked his friend back, through darkened streets. I like how the absence of street lights affords a much better view of the stars and mountains especially during a full moon. After saying our goodbyes, off through town until we found a taxi to take us to the headquarters. Where by we startled the troops a bit until they saw who we were, and their faces changed and we were greeted wholeheartedly.

Now the police station is a nefarious affair – stuck like most buildings into another, much, much taller than it is wide. And so were ushered into the building, and sent to the top floor, where Prof R’s brother was sitting on a bed with a marvelous carved wood table (they offered to sell me, but after my experience with customs and the like in importing furniture from Brasil I am off that for now). In front and a sofa we sat (Nepali grammar), and they talked, the brother answering the walkie-talkie all the while. Soon food was served, excellent - though I had no room – and suddenly my bag and the birthday gift the students gave me at lunch arrived with minor ceremony. Some more discussion took place on the walkie-talkie and the brother disappearing, we were left to find our way down the stairs (two flights we lighted with our cell phones – it being bad form to fall down the stairs in any Police Station in any country I presume.

I was back in my hotel by 11pm (an ungodly late hour in a country where everything seems to close by 9pm it seems). I watched the horrors on CNN (terrorist problems in England and Scotland) – breaking my 5 week fast of English TV for a bit… fell asleep to be woken by a marvelous full moon shining across the roof tops (my room was on the upper floor providing a splendid view of the city, and hills beyond). Woke up, and had apple pancakes and yogurt while typing this as I wait for Prof R to come to go back to the grit and noise of Kathmandu.

I am looking forward to meeting with the Ethnomath lads this evening and seeing how far our models and work have progressed, this being the second to last class and all.

So that is how I have suitably celebrated my 52nd birthday including a splendid dinner I the Bhaktapur Regional Police Headquarters!

* no goats were sacrificed or hurt in anyway in the production of this blog today.

My Best Birthday Ever…

I just returned from meeting with the sustainable development working group at Kathmandu University… actually they are still meeting, but needed to continue with the business meeting (in Nepali) so they set me loose to do some work. So I ran up to my office to post this before the folks come to get me to take me on the trek and then to Bhaktapur.
They are a great bunch of people, that are masters and doctoral students who are looking towards building a sustainable development model for Nepal. I wanted to share their picture with my readership, a finer group of dedicated souls you will never meet. It is the best birthday party I have ever had… no cake, no hats, just a good sound conversation with some of Nepal’s brightest and most honorable young people. When you meet with people here with such conviction, honesty and integrity you realize that things here will mend, that things will improve…

It is an honor to have met with you all!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not much to say… other than a strange night last night. After work, Shashi insisted in taking me out to Kiritpur and to see the other very big university, where I will be speaking next week. While we were there one could see he evening monsoon building up… big beautiful ominous clouds…

And then the taxi died…

So we stopped for a snack, then took a minivan then a taxi back, dropping him off in the rain, and on to my house.

Met with my host family over dinner, and tried to watch some tv… but I don’t understand… but we all laugh as Moni the daughter, will explain it all…

Then went to bed, and was woke up by a tremendous crash… I realized then my fan had fallen off the shelf (oh so that is why I am sweating underneath the mosquito netting?). I got up to fix it and there was an equally tremendous cockroach.. I ran to get a water glass to trap it thinking “my colleagues in the CSUS biology department must see this” .

Such are the thoughts of people woken up at 2am…

And then my body said… “uh oh”… so a spent a few dedicated some quality time to offloading yesterdays fine food in a liquid fashion… I took the magic pill (I had a meeting with folks at the Columbus College and then work… so needed to stop this).

So in the morning, Tankaraj the managing director came and got me on his motorbike (my second ride, yesterday I was whisked to campus on the back of another... great fun!). I had breakfast (chicken soup and yogurt…) and am on my way back to rest the rest of the day.

For tomorrow I am hoping to meet wit the NGO study group on sustainable development at KU and then we are going on a trek in the mountains…

So no pictures today… just good thoughts to all of you dedicated readers!

Banho de balde???

Ms. Coelho (Ms. Bunny) of São Paulo writes:

Oi Daniel!

Conversei com Milton hoje e ele me contou que você toma banho com água no
balde!!!! Que experiência diferente, hem? Isto aconteceu comigo quando eu
tinha 10 anos de idade e fui passar uns dias com meus pais numa fazenda no
interior de São Paulo, numa cidade chamada Catanduva. Puxa!!! Imagino todas
as coisas diferentes que você está vivenciando aí, com este povo de cultura
tão diferenciada.

Aproveite bastante. Eu fico maravilhada com suas fotos... Uau! Incríveis!!!

Beijos, Sonia.

I respond:

Banho de balde mesmo! mais não e água fria... eles levaram um balde de água quente e outro de água fria... however, there will be no fotos of this on the blog!


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ms. J Chaitin of Portland Oregon writes:

I've been keeping track of you on your website and I am loving the photos. You oughta think about a career as a travel writer. Love you,Jeri

I respond: Thanks... great idea... a hug to you from Kathmandu!

Sagarmatha's Skirt!

I enjoyed another remarkable day out yesterday. Or I should say: on a clear day, you can see forever… or if it is partly cloudy in Nepal one can still see pretty far indeed! Up and out early, and back late… met the university bus to Nagarkot… a glimpse of the Himalayas at last! By the time the busses with the folks from the conference made it to the top – alas her highness the mighty Sagarmatha was only showing us a glimpse of her skirt… a thrill at least to see the hem of her garment none the less.

The folks from the conference are all from Europe and S. Africa… nice people really, but the ladies are appalled by the bathrooms and smells, and litter… poor dears, they should have gone to Maui. I must have transcended it all, as I had barely noticed, in fact I was so busy enjoying the scenery, I found them depressing. Besides, the students were all following me and asking questions, and I hada grand time wtith them as they showed me things, I showed them things... the rest of the foreigners seem are off to themselves… bleah… the Nepali kids are great!

My address at the conference “Using Mathematical Modeling as a Pedagogical Tool: Lessons Learned in Brasil”. The students and folks attending the conference were amazing, very enthusiastic, and great fun as after my talk and lunch, we toured some schools, and walked about Bhaktapur. The afternoon ended with a very pleasant concert in a truly lovely temple garden complex, with the nicest gardens I have seen. Complete with a very nice circle gate…

The ride back was great fun; talked with the students about my talk, and they shared a lot about their hopes and dreams and ideas, and we were accompanied by the singing by the students who regaled us all with a drum and singing all the way back to my stop in Kathmandu.

Once again, I had another grand day out. It is a true honor to be here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Afternoon Walk - Patan

Went on a little walk about town before going home for the evening... enjoy the evidence!

Monday, June 25, 2007

The two German girls waved at me from the electric tuk-tuk that was parked along the way as I walked Thapagaon Path to my guest house. They were in my lecture at St Xavier’s College, and it was nice to be greeted by students from yesterdays lecture… as their tuk-tuk passed we gave each other the namaste sign… such is the power and custom of where I am that even foreigners greet each other in this fashion. It is very civilized, and very sweet form of greeting.

Tomorrow I give a keynote speech “Using Mathematical Modeling as a Pedagogical Tool: Lessons Learned in Brasil” for the International Conference on Teaching of Mathematical Modeling and Applications (ICTMA 13) sponsored by Katmandu University. They are meeting tomorrow in Bhaktapur after breakfast in Narankot (where one goes to see the sunrise over the Himalayas… but, well, it is cloudy and rainy… so we will probably have a nice breakfast, and visualize the view to be appreciated virtually with postcards.

The fotos I am sharing here are of the rice progressing nicely out the window, and of the father (Navaraj) and son (Mohit) who runs the guesthouse. Mohit was getting ready for school. How they keep such uniforms clean in this city is a marvel unto itself!

You indignant cow...

I have always wondered where that phrase came from... there was a very funny cow hanging out in front of the house this morning... when she realized I wasn't going to give her anything she turned and sauntered off in a huff... I guess being sacred can go to your head (or tail!). As I was waiting for Ram our trusty driver to take me to St. Xavier’s College, there was a rather indignant cow giving me a funny look this morning. I gave a talk to the Social Work students at Kadambari Memorial College at St. Xavier’s College not far from my place, then they took me to lunch to a nice place up by Pashupatinath. Having not yet been there, Prof R was kind enough to show me around. This is one of the most important holy sites in all of Hinduism, and very peaceful place. There was one cremation going on, and another one about to begin. With folks hanging aroudn to watch... While we were walking about the complex (which reminded me very, much of Tikal except it is functioning much of the temples were rebuilt in the 14th century) there were monkeys and cows… one cow was just hanging out on a chautaro (porch). All in all a very nice day, good students, and an amazing place I the midst of the city.

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