Monthly Archives: November 2011

Penpals

Yesterday I was just going through my old papers and I came across a pile of letters. They were letters from my pen pals from my school days.

When I was in middle school, we had an English teacher named Sally Baker who encouraged everyone to write. So she had this idea for all of us to have pen pals from different schools around the world. She got around 100 letters from students from US and randomly gave those letters to us.

 I got Emily Roberts from Massachusetts, US. She wrote,

 Hi,

My name is Emily. I love flowers and Unicorns.

Will you be my friend?

There were a few stickers of unicorn.

I felt so special to get her letter so  I send my first letter to her and then we were pen pals. She used to send me birthday and Christmas cards and I sent her Dashain / Tihar and birthday cards. It was fun to know someone so far away. It was really nice and I would tell everyone who listened that I have a pen pal in US.

Around the same time, I also made 2 more pen pals, Ahmed Yakub from Lahore,Pakistan and Raja Gurung from Darjeeling,India.

With Ahmed Yakub, I had a short friendship as he stopped writing to me after few months but with Raja, our friendship is still on. He is my Facebook friend now. He is happily married with 2 kids.

Back then, he used to send me ‘Churpi’ from Darjeeling and it was a big treat for me. Churpi is a dried smoked cheese and they said Darjeeling’s Churpi is the best. He even came and visited me when he was holidaying in Nepal with his parents. It was so weird to see him in person. Even though I had seen hin in photos both of us felt bit awkward when we meet face to face. But I was glad we met. He is one of the nicest persons I have ever met and I am glad he is my friend now.

With Emily, I lost touch after 1998. I am not sure what happened but I didn’t get any reply for 3 of my letters so I stopped writing to her.

I can’t believe I used to use snail mail and wait weeks for the reply to come back. It was really exciting to see the postman coming to my door and deliver the letters from my pen pals. Surprisingly back then my mail was never lost even when it contained birthday gifts and big packages.

If someone asked me to write a letter these days I would never do it but back then I learnt so many things from these pen pals about their country and culture. There was no internet or 1000’s of channels on TV so my source of information was books. I used to go to libraries and read lots of books but to have pen pals had its own adventures. I received first hand information from them. I could ask questions to them and they would write about things in their countries. I used to write about our festivals and send them postcards of Nepal. Emily once sent me the American flag.

While blogging I felt, it is a modernised version of having a pen pal. We don’t know people when we start reading someone’s blog, they are just a name or initial in most of the cases but if we follow their stories, we learn a lot about them. That’s why I guess I started to blog and read blogs.

Happy blogging everyone!!!

Prabal Gurung : A Fashion designer from Nepal

It is always so good to see anyone from Nepal doing well in an international level and I am so glad to see Prabal Gurung in the international fashion arena.

I saw his designs on Michelle Obama, Demi Moore, Zoe Saldana and Oprah Winfrey. I just love him and his creations.

Here is the excerpt from his website introducing him.

 “Gurung was born in Singapore and raised in Kathmandu,Nepal. It was in New Delhi,India that his design career truly began. While studying at New Delhi’s National Institute of Fashion Technology, Gurung freelanced at several production and fashion houses and apprenticed with Manish Arora. His travels took him to Melbourne and London, where he assisted stylists for various fashion shows and editorials at international publications. In 1999, Gurung moved to New York City. He began his career in New York interning for Donna Karan while attending Parsons School of Design. In his first year, he was awarded the “Best Designer” title at the annual Parsons /FITdesign competition.

After Parsons, Gurung spent two years with Cynthia Rowley’s design and production team, which allowed him to gain even more invaluable experience within the fashion industry. Soon after, he was appointed design director at the iconic Bill Blass. After five successful years, Gurung left his post at Blass to launch his own collection, PRABAL GURUNG.”

Look at his collection from Spring 2012 collect here . They are so amazing and beautiful. No wonder so many celebrities loves his collection.

 

Sarah Jessica Parker  was in Australia recently and she wore Prabal Gurung. It was just beautiful.

 He is also the goodwill ambassador for Maiti Nepal .  This is what he told ekantipur about his association, “A society free from human trafficking is possible and we must realise that it is our responsibility to make this world a better place for all mankind. By simply stating our desire, we sow the seeds of great change,”

 Best wishes for all the good work.

 Sources

You may also like :

*Varsha Thapa: First international fashion model from Nepal *The magic of Prabal Gurung continues *Prabal Gurung: Designer in the Spotlight

Nepali Culture, Customs and Etiquette

Over the years I have noticed many cultures, customs and etiquettes of Nepal which are so different from what we find in western countries. I am sharing a few of them here. 

  • In Nepal, everyone is your Brother, Sister, Uncle or Aunt even if you are not related. 
  • It is normal to slurp tea or any drink when you are out and about. 
  • Superstition goes hand in hand with culture. For example if a cat crosses the road, you wait for someone else to cross that path before you cross it. 
  • You should not step over an idol of a god or goddess or anything that is used to worship them. This is seen as a disrespect to god to step over them. A lot of time if someone is coming up the steps with Puja items you are not allowed to go up of down the steps above them as this constitutes stepping over the Puja items. 
  • Sharing is caring in Nepal so if you have a Kit Kat bar, you still ask who ever is around you and break that bar into pieces to share. 
  • Fat is good in Nepal so if someone in Nepal said you look fat, don’t get offended. He/she is giving you a compliment on how healthy you look. 
  • Momo is the best food in the world (according to every Nepali) 
  • PDA (Public displays of affection) is a big NO NO. 
  • As respect to the God and Goddess, one should always take off your shoes before entering a temple. 
  • In most Nepali homes you should not wear shoes in the rooms, they have to be taken off before entering any room. 
  • Ask for permission before entering a Hindu temple. In some temples, only Hindu’s are allowed. 
  • Taking photographs inside most temples is not allowed. 
  • You always walk around a temple in clockwise direction. 
  • You will notice lots of people touch their forehead with their fingers as they pass by the temples. It is acknowledgement of God and showing respect. 
  • Never enter anyone’s kitchen until they ask you to. 
  • Staring is ok (I know it is silly). 
  • It is normal to find people of the same sex walking together hand in hand (girl and girl or even boy and boy) but boy and girl can’t walk hand in hand without being stared at. 
  • People call each other Sir or Madam, like Mohan Sir or Rita Madam in the workplace. 
  • Bargaining is the first rule of shopping in Nepal. [I have paid twice the price of an item even when I bargain 😦 ] 
  • You will notice Nepali people shake their head a lot. If the head shakes (sways) from side to side it is YES an if it shakes from side to side (face turns from side to side) it’s a NO. 
  • When there is a visitor, they serve tea and egg. Noddles like Wai Wai and Maggie are served as lunch. 
  • If you are meeting someone and they didn’t come in time, don’t be surprise. It is called Nepali time which is to come a bit late to your appointment. 
  • Dal Bhaat Tarkai can be breakfast , lunch and dinner. 
  • Nepali people don’t eat beef and until recently it was illegal to even sell beef. 
  • When woman has her period, normally they are considered impure and they are not allowed in the temple and kitchen for four days. 
  • There are no fines for littering in Nepal so you see people throwing things on the street even if the bins are just a few feet away. 
  • It is considered rude to touch any one’s head. 
  • In Nepal, you don’t eat and serve yourself. It is considered Jutho (impure) to touch the cooking pots while you are eating. 
  • Left hand is considered impure/Jutho so you never pass things around with your left hand. 
  • If someone dies in the family, the family will not celebrate any festivals or birthdays for a year and there will be no wedding or any other happy celebrations for that year. 
  • If someone touches their throat with their fingers then they blow on the fingers. Not blowing on it is believed to cause swollen glands in the throat. 
  • Footwear should not be left upside down as it will cause bad luck. 
  • You can see some vehicles in Nepal with a slipper hanging in the front (or rear). This is said to ward of evil (bad eye) so that accidents will not befall the vehicle. 
  • You should not say the word for Witch in Nepali, it is believed to bring you to the attention of a witch and she will harm you. 
  • If you find a mysterious bruise on the body, it is thought to be because a witch drank your blood. 
  • You should not pee on a Pipal tree as they are usually haunted by a witch and she will harm you for peeing on her home. 
  • You should not touch most stuff (that are not meant to be touched with the feet) with your feet, since everything is thought to have an essence of God and touching them with the feet is disrespecting God. Especially things for learning, as Saraswati is the goddess of learing and pillows as you normally put your head on it, etc. 

There are many other things but I will leave that for another post.

Hen’s Night for my friend AG

Before I came to Australia, I had no knowledge of Hen’s nights but in the last few years, I have attended many of them with my girl friends. My own hen’s night was organised in a Spanish Club in Sydney. I had a great time with my girl friends, dancing the whole night.

It had been a while since I went out for a girls night out so my friend AG’s hen’s night was perfect excuse for all us to leave our partners at home and go to Vivaz for a great night out.

 Luckily it was a good, sunny day so when we met at the club, everyone was in high spirits. We had bought a package deal for the night so things were already planned for the whole night.

The theme for the night was anything red.

The night started with a live drawing of a naked male model. It was so much fun as I could see how much imagination all my friends had. Everyone was enjoying the class but I felt a bit sorry for the male model who was in a room with more that 20+ girls laughing at him. I guess he is used to that as he had this serious experience the whole time.

The next step was a lesson on how to make a cocktail. It was fun to know what goes in a drink you normally order. The bride to be got a few free shots and was having the time of her life. Even when we all tried to mix the same drink; all our drinks had a different taste. It was wise of us to leave mixing of the rest of our drinks to the professionals.

The next thing was Salsa lessons from a very hot Latino instructor ;). That was my favourite part of the whole night as I love dancing. As there were only girls, one of us had to do the guy’s steps and other one was doing the girl’s steps. The instructor was teaching all these sexy moves, we couldn’t help but laugh. It was so much fun that we didn’t realise we spent one & half hour dancing. Some of the photos we have are so funny that we were laughing our heads off.

Then it was time for our dinner. We were given table with the view of the Opera house and Harbour Bridge. What more could we have asked for? I am not sure for what reason but there were fireworks going on at the Opera house.

We were served a buffet dinner which had a few varieties of pastas, lots of green salads, baked veggies, roast chicken, beef and pork. The dessert was chocolate mouse and fruit salad. We all ate and enjoyed our sweet treat.

Finally everyone headed to the dance floor and had fun for the rest of the evening. We tried lots of steps that we learned earlier. A good night out with my gals!!!

Wishing my friend AG and her fiancé AA best wishes for their wedding. They are flying to Nepal next week and getting married on 2 December.

Different looks of Nepali people

Newar girl

When people realise that I am from Nepal, they always tell me I don’t look anything like the last Nepali they met. I am from the Newar ethnic group but  I have Aryan features so even people from Nepal tell me that I don’t look like a Newar as I have bigger eyes than Newar people normally have.  This is because Newars are a community of mostly Tibeto-Burman and some Indo-Aryan ethnicities and my family seems to lean towards the Indo-Aryan side of the community in our features.

The other day I met a friend of my friend (Gurung) who was from Italy and she told me that I looked just like one of her Italian cousins. She was surprised that I and my friend (Gurung) look so different even though we both are from the same country. There are times when I meet Indian people and they think I look like an Indian.

Gurung girl

The main reason for Nepalese people having such a diverse features is due to the geography and the climatic in Nepal.

Don’t worry if you get confused after reading this post because even Nepali people sometimes can’t say for sure if someone is from Nepal or some other countries as our features match people from so many other countries. I also can’t tell for sure as well.

Brahmin man

Here is one of the funny incident. A friend of mine  was traveling in a train when a group of Nepali guys came and sat on the seat in front of her. She is from the Rai ethnic group so she looks more Asian. The guys did not think that she was a Nepali so they start talking in Nepali about anything and everything. And there were some things you normally won’t say in front of women. Anyway, my friend was very uncomfortable in hearing this but she tried to pretend that she didn’t understand the language. She couldn’t wait to get off the train.

Chherti girl

At next stop, her cousin caught the same train and saw her sitting there. So she came and joined her and started speaking in Nepali. Then the guys realised that she was Nepali. They were very embarrassed by their activity so they changed the carriage. It happened a lot to my friends when people mistake them to be from India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesian, Brazil, Korea, Italy etc.

When me and AS were on our holiday in Vietnam, a few people came and talked to us in different languages because they thought we were either Thai, Vietnamese or Pilipino so I am not surprised if you are confused by the Nepali look.

Thakali women

Nepal is a country of four castes and thirty six sub castes and they are a mix of Aryan and Mongolian people. Aryan normally have fair or dark skin, long pointed nose, big eyes, broad chest and shoulders while Mongolians are normally white or fair skin with small eyes and medium built. Brahmin and Chhetri looks Aryan where as Rai, Gurungs, Tamang, Magar looks Mongolians. I find Newar are a mix of both.

Of course it is just a guideline as there are so many inter-caste marriages, it is getting even harder to tell people’s ethnicity apart just by their looks.

 Still confused? I thought so  🙂

Missing my dear friend

This post is dedicated to my dear friend SD.

Reason, Season, or Lifetime

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

— Unknown

It is so true that you meet three different types of people in life. Some for a reason, some for season and some for a lifetime. Today I am missing my dear friend SD who is one of the few friends who is for a lifetime. 

Me and SD in our school uniform

I met SD during my middle school years and  since then we have been very good friends. You know sometimes you meet some people for the first time and get this impression that they are so carefree that you wish you could be like that too. That is my friend SD. She is always daring, carefree, positive and fun-loving.

She is the youngest of 7 kids of her parents but she is the only girl. She has grown up with 6 protective brothers and as they were her mentor, she is very boyish. I think that clicked between us at first as I was a tomboy myself when I was young. 

We used to do lots of things together and one of the good memories from my childhood would be our sleepover. We used to talk through the whole night, no idea about what but it was super fun.

 Life has thrown us thousands of miles apart but we always manage to stay close and keep in touch. When I came to Australia, she was in Nepal. We kept in touch with emails and phone calls.

 The first time I went back to Nepal, she left to Austria after 2 days of my reaching Nepal. It was really sad for both of us.

Me and SD @ Time Square

The next time I visited Nepal, luckily she was there. I had a great time as she took me to  places, we did  things together and she was just there for me. We did lots of talking and caught up on lost time.

After that every time I went home, she was in the US so we didn’t meet for a while. Then I went to US for my holiday in 2009 and stayed with her in NY. It was like old times again and she was my guide there. We went to Time Square at midnight and had our funny photos taken at Madame Tussaud’s. We went to the Statute of Liberty early in the morning and Central Park at midday.

NYPD

She was up for every crazy idea I had as a tourist. She was the one who took my photo with a NYPD cop. I wanted to take a picture but didn’t know how to approach the cop who was working in the middle of street. She went and talked to him and told him there is this crazy tourist from OZ who wanted to take a photo with him. I had fun shopping with her and tasting lots of American food. I met a few of her new friends as well.

Me and SD in Madame Tussaud

As everything had to come to end, my holiday was over too and I had to come back. I was sad to leave but I had no choice.

Then in 2010, when we talked after my engagement ceremony, we decided that we have to attend each other’s wedding for sure.

In early 2011, things were looking great as she had already filed for her Green Card and was sure that the processing would be completed before June so she would be in Nepal for my wedding. We were so excited but then she got a letter from immigration telling her that they lost her paperwork as there was a mix up with addresses. We still hope that things would fall into place and she would be able to fly by June 20 for my wedding on the 24th. The paperwork did not arrive in time and so she missed my wedding.

She was sad and upset that she couldn’t make it but I did understand her situation. If she had left the country for the wedding, she would not have been allowed back so she had to what she had to do.

I had her family expect her parents in my receptions. Her parents didn’t come as her dad was ill. I went to see her parents before I came back. It was always nice to see them as they always treated me as their own daughter.

Finally in August, she got her Green Card so she decided to go to Nepal for a holiday. Out of blue things happened so fast and her wedding was fixed for 2nd of December 2011.

I was so happy for her and at the same time a bit sad that I would miss out on the wedding as there was no way I would be given any more vacation time from work this year as I had taken so much time off for my own wedding.

We were still constantly in touch and I was advising her on what to do and where to go for the preparation of the wedding, from my own experience. Every time we talked she would day “Wish you were here. It would have been so much better.” and I felt very sad.

Few days ago, I saw her online in Skype and this is how the conversation went,

  “Are you free to chat?”

 “I am not SD; I am her fiancée using her account”

 “Oh, how have you been, how is the wedding preparation going? and how is SD doing?”

 “Actually I need to tell you something,”

 “Yes”

 “Yesterday SD’s dad passed away”.

When I read that I didn’t know how to react. I was really shocked that when I was thinking she is in the happiest moment of her life, she was going through the grief of loosing her dad. He had been a bit sick but his passing away was unexpected.

I called her after that and I felt a bit better that she was coping better than I thought she would be. All her family members were with her. She was very calm and was talking to me normally. She said “Everyone is coping well so don’t worry. There are lots of people around.” Then she told me something that I didn’t expect. “I always wanted you to be there for my wedding so I guess now you have to be present for my wedding as it will be in 2012. Make sure you come this time. “

I couldn’t say anything but I admire her positivity in the rough time she was going through. All I wanted to do at that point was give her a big hug. I wish I was with you there my dear. I am missing you a lot. And I promise to be with you when you get married in 2012. 

P. S: In Nepal, if someone dies in the family, the family will not celebrate any festivals or birthdays for a year and there will be no wedding or any other happy celebrations for that year.

Value of Electricity

It is getting really hot in Sydney these days. It was 34-37 C the day before. After a very hot day I went home thinking it will be a cool evening with the AC on and I can relax but to my annoyance the electricity went off. 

I couldn’t believe how much our lives depend on having electricity here. The lift in the building stopped working so we could hear fire exit doors opening and closing all the time. The building in front of us had people stuck in the lift so there were two fire trucks and police car to rescue them. 

People couldn’t go inside the car park as the roller doors are electric so there were long queues of cars waiting in the street. 

Inside our apartment, AS and I didn’t know what to do. Our internet didn’t work, no TV, the laptop battery was on 35%, no light so nothing to do. Luckily we have a gas stove which was the only thing working. But still we didn’t cook anything as it was too dark so we ordered takeaway. I remember my cousin K, mentioning power outage in June for hours when I was in Nepal, and as they have electric stove, they had to go out and eat. 

I have been in Nepal when they had 18 hours of load shedding. Luckily my house has an inverter so we had some light during those times. But I can’t imagine how everyone in Nepal live everyday more than 9 months a year without electricity. It is good that my parents are not dependent on the fridge as they cook fresh meal everyday. Also they buy their milk every morning and meat on the day, they are cooking. They always buy fresh fruits and veggies every other day so they can have fresh supply of most essential things. I can’t imagine people here living without a fridge and a microwave. We wouldn’t know what to do.

 Most of the houses in Nepal don’t have air conditioning and lift so you are not stuck when load shedding happens.

Sometimes I forget how much better facilities we have than people in Nepal. I was complaining that power was out for a few hours but then I remembered for people living in Nepal that is a part and parcel of their life. I see Facebook and Twitter updates from my friends and family in Nepal like

 “ No power cut for last 24 hours 🙂 🙂 🙂 “

 “ Load shedding is reduced to 10 hours a day :)”.

 “ Felt so lucky to wait only 15 minutes in line for petrol’.

No water for last two days 😦

Nepal bandh again today, walking to work” (Nepal closed/no vehicles on road due to strikes)

 I promise from now on I will appreciate how good I have it here and stop complaining about small things that I don’t have.