last post for awhile

We had a great Christmas yesterday! It was fun filled from our early morning webcam with husband's family to the late night one with my family. In between we went to two different places. First we were invited by over for Christmas breakfast by some very close friends who live in our neighborhood. They are pretty much our family away from home. We sang happy birthday, ate a scrumptious breakfast, and opened presents together. And laughed a lot! Then we all went over to a coworker's house for a huge Christmas lunch. After lunch was the most fun part - the White Elephant game! Now, some of your regular White Elephant gifts were present - candles, ornaments, etc. But the hottest items were actually gifts that if you opened in the states, you'd say, Um, thanks? Things like Skittles, Reese's PB Cups, and the hottest item of all, Dr. Pepper! You should have heard the hoots and hollers when that six pack of Dr. Pepper was unwrapped. I was too busy laughing to realize the actual length of the game, but it went on for awhile. One package I opened, mint Hershey's kisses, made me laugh because it was accompanied with a note exclaiming, "Straight from the US!" I ended up with Velveeta and Rotel, and husband ended up with a Nalgene bottle. Not a bad day in our household. Chini received 5 presents! I think she's more popular than we are.

We leave tomorrow night on our Visa run and retreat, and a little vacation tacked on. We'll return in two weeks. Everyone have a happy and safe New Year!

happy Christmas!

As they say here, Happy Christmas!!


mocha caramel cookies

Since they were requested, I will post the recipe for anyone who's interested. I can't remember where I got the recipe from...kraft.com maybe? Oh and if you don't have a cake icer thingy, I would recommend you close this browser right now unless you really want to spend 3 hours in the kitchen decorating these with a spoon like I did last year. If you don't have a mixer, no biggie; I didn't last year and it was fine. I also had no cookie cutters and that isn't too hard to do either. But take my word on the cake icer.

Mocha Caramel Cookies
(makes around 30 cookies)

1 C butter, softened
1/3 C powdered sugar
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1 t instant espresso coffee powder or 2 t instant coffee crystals*
1 tbsp vanilla
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 2/3 C flour
Icing Instructions below**

1. In a large mixing bowl beat first 3 ingredients with a electric mixer on med speed until fluffy. Dissolve coffee in vanilla; add to butter mixture. Beat in cocoa powder. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. By hand, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover; chill about 1 hour or until firm.
2. On a floured surface, roll one half of dough at a time to 1/4"-3/8" thickness. Cut into shapes. Place cookies on greased cookie sheets.
3. Bake in a 325F oven for 12-15 minutes or until set but not over browned. Cool completely before icing.

*I don't know what crystals are. I used that instant chickory stuff (Nestle Gold), and then just ground it a bit smaller.

**To make caramel, just get condensed milk, keep it in the can, and boil it in hot water for about 2 hours. Make sure you keep adding water to keep it covered. Careful, the can will be hot! Afterwards, put the caramel into a cake icer and decorate away. Melt some chocolate chips with a tiny bit of butter or shortening to also use for icing. I've heard the caramel thing can be done with 3 steams to the pressure cooker, but I've never tried that.

If you have access to packaged vanilla caramel candies, you can melt those with butter and milk over low heat on the stove to make the icing as well.


the Christmas Getting to Know the Neighbors Campaign!

Over the next two days (our Saturday and Sunday) we are going to begin our Christmas Getting to Know the Neighbors Campaign. Okay I just made that name up. Catchy, no? Ideally we would've liked to have a Christmas party in some capacity, but since we don't know many people in town, or at least not enough to constitute a good party, we realized we should use Christmas as a good excuse to meet our neighbors and build some relationships so next year we can have a real kickin' party!

Today I bought 3.5 kg of eggless sweets. (that's 1.59lbs!) At first I was going to bake some eggless cookies and fudge and things like that, but husband had the brilliant idea of using South Asian sweets
instead. First of all, that eliminates any stress in the kitchen. And secondly, it will show our neighbors that Christmas doesn't have to be all western with weird treats, or cake, which is what they actually think Christmas is about. This is a bit more contextual to show them they can celebrate Christmas too. So here is what 3.5kg of South Asian sweets look like. The foiled covered things are called barfi, just in different flavors. Don't be fooled by the gag-worthy name; it's actually really tasty. It's like fudge, only without the chocolate. Or the marshmallows. So I'm not sure how it's like fudge, but go with me. And the foil stuff is supposed to be eaten with it. The first time someone gave me barfi, I threw it away because I couldn't get the foil stuff off and all I could think about was getting Alzheimer's later on. But I don't think it's actually foil... (Anyone know?) Anyway the rest of the stuff is...I don't know. The little round things taste like plain sugar in a ball. And the other two are too big for me to try. But I'm sure our neighbors will recognize them, and probably love them more than my mocha caramel cookies anyway.

I'm wrapping them in bags and tying them up with a gold ribbon and a verse explaining very simply what Christmas is all about. And then the door knocking starts! We're not going all white shirt/black tie/bicycle on the neighbors. We're just trying to introduce ourselves, tell them Merry Christmas, and hopefully they will invite us in or at least remember us as gracious people. I like that in Phil 4 - "Let your graciousness be known..." that's our hopes, and we ask you all to send money for this opportunity. We are asking the boss to open homes and to open hearts to us and our message, open doors for us to share with them, and that we can begin some great relationships from this. Thanks for your part in this!


ode to the ambassador

Some of the taxis here are very old rickety Ambassadors. I'm not sure how old these Ambassadors are, but I do know they are well past their prime. But South Asia just wouldn't be the same without the Ambassador, and so, I write a blog applauding the old car. Way to go, Big Guy.

For the Ambassador has a magical expanding interior. Here is a picture proving that the South Asian Ambassadors are a feat of engineering. A driver, his turban, 3 teenage boys, an 11 year old, a 9 year old, and 2 adults (one of whom is hidden beneath the pile of people) can all squeeze comfortably into this sedan.

A certain amount of grace is given to these cars, that cheat the system on the roads any chance they get. 2 lanes? Why not make it 3. A long line at the traffic light? No one will mind if we cut in front! Missed your turn? No problem, just reverse until you get back to it. Everyone is always very happy to see the Ambassador doing these things, and usually many cars will honk their approval as they dodge past.

Also, the Ambassadors are only driven by the most fun people who may not always know their way around the city, but at least they know that FM channel. Take tonight for instance. A traffic jam is not always the most fun place for husband and I to be stuck in. However, thanks to the Ambassador's sound system, a roomy interior, and the fun driver, we were all three able to dance to a lively Bollywood song as we creeped along the road.

And these reasons are why there is nothing like the Ambassador. They just don't make 'em like they used to.


post office experience #47

I've come to realize that the post office is where I experience the most culture shock, whether it be in the Himalayas or in the bustling capital. I know I've written a lot about the post office experience, because every single time I go, it's just weird!

Yesterday was no exception. We had a couple of packages to mail off, and I thought I had the hang of mailing packages by now. I mean, no more white tailored packaging mistakes. I now know the correct post office to mail international parcels and everything! Well just like in the Himalayas, it seems all the impatient people like to go gather at the post office, and it takes a lot to stay in line. This time I had husband with me who can speak up to the men crowding around. Normally at that point I would have to find a strategic way to hold my parcel so I could "bump" and/or elbow into people who were trying to cut in front of me. Husband just told them, "The queue is that way." In a never before seen South Asian moment, there was actually an orderly line at the post office, thanks to husband! Several impatient folks tried to get around waiting in the queue, but husband reminded every one of them where they should go. haha! One man even said, "But I'm in a hurry!" Husband just reminded him that so was everyone else. I think I should petition for him to be the Official Post Office Errand Boy, don't you? Well the MBTC (man behind the counter) was very confused about our package. I'm not sure why, but he didn't like it for some reason. So we had to walk around the post office and go to his desk. When we got back there, we glanced over at the customers who were waiting, and saw that in the short amount of time it took for us to walk around, the line had dissipated. I'm sure they were all thinking, "Yes! Finally, those ruly Americans have left."

The MBTC argued with us for several moments about why our package was incorrect - the items were loose, the box was too flimsy, etc. We tried telling him that no worries, we had done this so many times we knew it would arrive. He finally agreed that it was okay as long as we wrote really big on the white cloth "No Commercial Value." See, every time I go, I learn something new.

So I started thinking, I bet I could really shock these postal workers with statements about the USPS, like:
"In America, the mail man delivers things from a truck! To a person's mailbox!"
"You know, the USPS never rifles through packages and picks out what they want before delivering it."
"On holidays, it is not customary for a mailman to go to people's houses asking for money."
"In the US, you don't need paste to stick on stamps. And, you can buy stamps at places other than the post office!"
And probably the most shocking...
"The postal workers actually don't read every post card that I've written right in front of me!"

I'm pretty sure every one of these statements would be met with a gasp, a shocked look, or a, "No, you must be joking."


giving cheerfully

In this season of giving, I'm learning that I'm not quite the cheerful giver that I'd like to be. Last month, husband and I went with our friend Kyle to the newly opened Papa John's near us. Since it takes 45 minutes to drive there, husband and I decided to order enough to take home for leftovers the next day. We left the restaurant (yes, it's a restaurant here, and quite nice too) with happy tummies, swinging our take-away bags with visions of leftovers dancing in our heads. 3 little beggar children took that moment to approach us asking for money. Since it's illegal to give money to beggars in this country (because most beggars are bogus) we try to give them food, especially if they're young, which most are. Immediately Kyle gave his leftover pizza without a second thought. Husband followed suit, and I looked woefully at my pizza as I gave it to the children as well. Two held the pizzas as the third one continued following, asking for more food or money. At this point I became upset because I realized these kids didn't really care that we had given them a very hot commodity in our eyes; had it been Regular Joe pizza they also wouldn't have cared. All they wanted was our money. As I mentioned this, they guys said something about cheerful giving and I was immediately convicted.

I've been working on this, and thought I was doing good, until last night. Husband and I had a somewhat stressful day yesterday, and so for date night we treated ourselves to Bennigan's. (again, yes, Bennigan's is actually a treat here) After dinner was over, I was once again walking out with the take-away, and two beggar girls approached us. This time they didn't ask, just reached up and grabbed our food. I think it was an innocent action, something that had happened so much that they knew we would be giving them the food, but my first reaction was resentment at their sense of entitlement. I relinquished the food a bit grumpily, and then that still, small voice reminded me about cheerful giving. I turned around, smiled brightly at them, and said, "Merry Christmas!" I was trying to convey that my compassion for them came from the boss, but a lame Merry Christmas was the only way I knew how to say this in a way they'd understand. And sadly, my first reaction is what they'll remember more anyway.

So I'm learning a lesson here about myself. When it comes to rickshaw drivers and shop owners, I don't have a problem being a bit generous. But apparently American food is where I draw the line. This Christmas season, I hope we're all learning how to give generously, and more importantly, give cheerfully, even when it comes to things (or food :) that mean a lot to us. We did, after all, receive an example of this selflessness during the first Christmas season long ago.


yet another Chini blog

Chini had her spaying surgery last Saturday and that morning was one of the saddest of my life! Immediately after the surgery was over, the vet called for us to come pick her up. I realize that in the States, they keep the dogs for at least a couple of hours if not overnight. Husband left to go get her, and called me before reaching the house. "I'm calling just to warn you. Chini isn't in pain, because she's so doped up on pain killers. But the meds are causing her to hallucinate and she's crying, and will cry for the next 2-3 hours." I could hear her over the phone, and I started crying before we hung up the phone. I composed myself, but as soon as they came home, I started crying again because Chini looked so pitiful. She wasn't even conscious, but was just howling with her tongue hanging out sideways and kicking. We tried putting her in her crate, but she flipped out, turning circles, and shaking the crate, so we spread out a couple of towels on the floor and just sat with her for two hours.

The funny thing was, there is one neighborhood dog that is Chini's friend. (picture on right) He sits by our door and front gate a lot, and I guess because he doesn't have his own pack, he's nice to her. Well we had the screen doors open while Chini was howling and crying, and this dog heard her calls of distress. He came to the door and started barking, and Chini got real quiet. Every time he would bark, she would relax, and I thought that was so sweet. I wonder what he said to her.

Finally Chini would try to stand, but was falling over. (picture on left) Then finally the hallucinations stopped, and the drug-induced stupor began. She went to her crate and slept, but every now and then she would sit up then fall back to sleep sitting up. (picture of that on the right)

She's doing much better now. I was worried her personality would be a little different, but she's back to her cute and curious ways. She's even jumping on furniture and wagging her tail again. I should say that yes, I realize I'm quite over the top for blogging about my dog.

quiz time

So a friend of mine took a personality quiz that's a lot like Meyers-Briggs, but more fun. I'm so analytical when I take personality quizzes, because unless it's a universal truth, there are no absolutes with me. For example, if I was asked this question in any sort of quiz, "On any given day, would you rather burn down your house or watch soap operas?" I would hem and haw. Well that depends...what soap opera? Is anyone in my house? How much coffee had I had that morning? You see, I don't like being pinned down to one action. All that to say, I loved this quiz. Thanks BekiB! I got to rate my answers on a little slidy-bar thing instead of having to say true or false (well...there were a few of those, but not many). Here are my results:

If you put the cursor over the block you can see what I am. I'm pretty surprised that my openness wasn't higher. I mean, the fact that I share online the fact that not only am I more masculine than feminine, but I am very authoritative and not at all spontaneous...doesn't that demonstrate my inability to be ashamed? Well anyway it's a good quiz. I liked it, and I recommend it.


Here is a photo-journal of our time with the in-laws. Their time here started off slow and leisurely and seemed like the 9 days would go at a slow enough pace for us to fully enjoy them. But after about the 3rd day, time did what it loves to do when you're having fun - it zoomed by.

They were very adventurous and ready to experience the real South Asia.

Here is husband taking F-i-L to get a shave. Where else but South Asia can you get a shave, nose and ear trim, and head massage for less than a dollar? (the funny thing about that is husband semi-gripes because that's a lot more than he paid in the Himalayas :)

Street food vendor. Can you believe every one of them wanted to try street food?:

Husband is serving us our "fast food breakfast" on our road trip. I guess this is South Asia's version of the Egg McMuffin:

A little dancer boy than entertained us:

Sis-in-Law and I got mehendi (henna tattoos). Hers was on the back of her hands, while mine was on both the back and the palms:
Here's a look at both sides of my hands. We got this done exactly 2 weeks ago, and mine is still on, although it's very very light:

Here's M-i-L doing some shopping in one of my favorite markets. If you know her at all, you know she had the time of her life sorting through all the fabric here:

We took them to monuments, landmarks, and very old ruins. This one had some buildings from the 1100s!:

We also taught them how to eat this entire delicious meal with only their hands:

And finally, we set up the tree together and opened up some presents:
Although the tree is looking even more Charlie Brown-esque than last year, I love it. It's quirky, and more important, having the tree up means it's officially Christmas season and I have license to play as much Christmas music as I want!


pump [clap] you up

As of yesterday, husband and I are members of a gym. In the mountains, we were lucky to have free exercise and aerobics just from walking to the market, although I never thought of it as lucky at the time. Things here in the capital are a lot more Western and modern, so I haven't experienced many funny things like monkeys lately, or noticed myself doing weird stuff like wearing yak wool (my friends up in the mountains are getting quite rugged ;). So I expected my first South Asian gymming experience to be...well, American. And while we were signing up, it was. The woman spoke great English, she showed us around the very nice Precor machines, and she pushed us with her best sales pitch to sign up for a year. All very Bally's or 24 Hour Fitness, except much smaller and with regular power outages. A trainer is even included in the membership fee, and she assured me that mine would be a woman.

So we showed up yesterday for our first workout, extremely excited. They told us when we arrived to change and then we'd meet with our fitness manager to tell us what workout would be best for us. After changing, we were each introduced to who I thought were our fitness managers. Husband and I were separated, and mine spoke no English. And of course my barefoot language learning didn't quite get to exercise related vocabulary, so our conversation went nowhere. I had no clue how this girl was going to be able to tell me what workout I should do, and she looked about as helpless as I felt. Then, out of nowhere, a new girl came in who spoke English and explained that they were actually trainers, and our fitness manager had yet to show up. Then, after only about 2 minutes, without explanation, she passed me on to my third trainer, a man. Dun dun dun! After living in this culture for almost 16 months, let me tell you, I was very uncomfortable at first. Not only would I be talking and making eye contact with a complete stranger of the opposite sex, but he would be directing my workouts? Well I told my cultural instincts to put a lid on it, because he was a professional, and this was his job. Meanwhile husband was working out with his initial trainer, and I realized how difficult of a customer I must be for them to push me onto 3 different trainers in a span of 15 minutes.

It went surprisingly well. Except for one uncomfortable moment that had me scratching my neck and looking everywhere but at the trainer, it was a lot of fun and really helpful. And I feel much more comfortable going there even if I miss the 11-4 women only workout block.

Some pics of our time with the in-laws are coming soon. We've had some computer problems lately, so we're a bit slow with everything right now.


Guest Blogger #2 - the Father-in-Law

Wow! What a week! We have traveled to the other side of Planet Earth, and spent about a week experiencing a vastly different culture. We visited one of the seven wonders of the world, ate some taste bud tantalizing highly seasoned foods at several street side vendors and some nice restaurants. We were harassed on every side by beggars, walked thru ancient ruins, saw an edited version of the new James Bond 007 movie on the big screen, and met many of my son and daughter-in-law's new friends. We rode in taxis and auto rickshaws and experienced cows, elephants, bicycles, and monkeys, etc. sharing the same roads as we went. We drove thru the countryside but spent much of our time in unbelievable traffic jams. But the traffic jams were not bad because we talked and laughed and cried because we were able to spend the time together, and the weather was perfect. Now we are about to return to our home. This was an adventure that I will remember forever with great fondness.

Daughter-in-law and son are doing even better than before, now that they have moved. We must all remember though to hold them up to the Boss continually.

It will be hard to give hugs goodbye again, but this time it will be easier, because we have been blessed to get to see first hand how our loved ones are getting along, and they are getting along just fine! It looks like they will continue to be fine, too, after all, we are leaving them in the best Hands.
-the Father-in-Law

Real South Asia - by M-I-L

My oh my what a time we have had. Today we went to do more shopping in a taxi. Which seemed to be a rare breed. It was mostly rickshaws, bikes, or people on the street. We saw several traffic jams and such. Unfortunately, most of the shops were closed but what a sight to see. Of course, we were the only Americans there. We also went to eat a very nice restaurant with these wonderful chocolates "heaven". After that we got to go shopping again YEAH what bargains. There is so much to see that your eyes are full. Such beautiful fabric. Lots of hand embroidery and needlework. I was finally able to pick a fabric and buy some. Most of it was for suits and they did not sell it by the meter but at the end one was found. This has been the most awesome vacation we have ever been on and we also had our 28th anniversary. You never know what the boss has in mind. If you ever get the chance, come to South Asia...but make sure you have a guide. the Mother-in-Law


Guest Blogger - the Mother-in-Law! :)

What an exciting time we are having in South Asia. The sights and sounds are beyond what I expected. The flavors of this country are outstanding. We have gotten to seem some wonderous sites and they are truly amazing. The people of this land just grin and smile when we are out. I am sure they are not only use to seeing white people but those with red hair. We have had so many wondrous opportunities to explore here. One was getting to eat off of a street vendor. The food was great but getting to eat outside and sit down on their man made benches was so cool. We went on a great adventure the other day and had to travel for 4 hours to get to our destination. There were so many things along the way. The camels pulling carts. The cows everywhere. The women dressed in these beautiful colors and having so many items piled upon their heads. I never dreamed as a child that I would ever get this opportunity to explore this side of the world. It really takes my breath away but the most awesome thing of all is getting to hug my loved ones that I have missed so much. When you get an opportunity I say come this way and you will never regret it and the memories that you will carry will be with you always. Mother-In-Law


the family is coming!

Husband's family is coming! We're actually leaving for the airport in 20 minutes to pick them. I made an embarrassing elaborate Welcome sign, and we are very excited. I actually had to blog to keep myself occupied.

We've been working on getting the house ready for them. Between ceiling fans, washing machine, computers, and our kitchen sink, we had a lot break in the past two weeks! Here's a picture (sideways...sorry) of the sink repair man. Interesting position to work in, but hey, got the job done!
I've been cooking up a storm today, and at the last minute I decided to bake them a Welcome cake. I have some leftover cake mixes, and thought, why not, that's easy. Of course I had to improvise quite a lot, and so easy became weird looking. First, I don't have a 9x13" pan. So the cake was made in one square pan and one hexagonal pan. So the layers look goofy. Second, the oven is too small for both of those pans to lay side by side, so one was leaning on top of the other in the oven, and of course baked uneven. And finally, my cake writing skills need some improvement. At least they'll have jet lag and maybe won't think this looks weird...or maybe not.
And finally, if that doesn't look sweet enough, here's a picture to leave you with. Since I won't be able to blog a lot in the coming 10 days, this picture is a great one to keep coming back to. She's such a girly girl, isn't she?
There may be some Very Special Guest Bloggers coming up soon...if I can convince them. :)


it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Having neighbors was something I totally took for granted! It's so nice to have that connection with someone just because of proximity. Last night, I made a pure veg dessert and took it over to one of our neighbors. Pure veg means no eggs or meat...not that you'd put meat in a dessert unless of course you're making Rachel's traditional English trifle. "What's not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Goooood."* So I took it to the neighbors, did the South Asia thing of informing them it was pure veg, and then I got to hang out and have coffee with the lady of the first floor. We had a great conversation, mainly about Bollywood and our mutual favorite actor, SRK. See, there is a positive side to my Bollywood obsession. I think the two of us are on our way to forming a friendship. Thanks, SRK!

Please send money for husband. Poor guy has had pink eye since last Friday. He thinks it's getting better today, but that was just as of a few minutes ago. His family arrives this weekend so we want to be healthy and energetic while they're here.

*if you're not a fan of Friends, I'm sorry. I'm especially sorry if you don't like this episode, because it's one of the best ones. (Season 6, Episode 9) "I love Jacques Cousteau!"


Chini Houdini

Husband has done a fantastic job training our dog. She is so obedient that our landlord told us she was going to send her daughter over to husband for him to train. One of her favorite things to do is go on a walk, so when we say to her, "Chini, you want to go on a walk?" she starts flipping out, jumping all over the place and yelping in excitement. We'll then say, "Get your leash!" and after a few more yelps, she will get her leash (hanging on the wall) and bring it to us.

This morning, I left Chini in her crate and took a walk by myself with the intention to come back early to join husband and Chini for a walk. When I entered the house, I saw that Chini was sitting on the floor, with the leash at her paws. I asked husband, who was still in the bedroom, if he had let Chini out of her crate, and he looked puzzled and said no. After me several times asking, "You're kidding, right?" we realized that little Chini had found a way to get out of her crate and was waiting for me to return so she could entice me to go on a walk with her.

I always knew she was a super dog. I didn't realize she was also an escape artist.


house pics

We've been so busy moving in that I haven't had anything interesting or blogworthy happen to me lately. Or it could be that we've been in South Asia for long enough now that funny things are normal to us, and we don't notice them anymore. That's a little sad if that's the case because I like seeing the humor in our daily lives. Is it weird or normal that we watched the World Series live at 6am? How about having a beggar woman, with a cane, mind you, chasing me down the road asking for money? Or taking my morning walks along side cows; that's normal, right? Or going to watch your "nephews" play Little League baseball at no less than te American Embassy...doesn't everyone go to the Embassy to catch Little League?

Well one thing that I k
now that's new is our house! It is definitely still a work in progress...for example, our living room is currently enjoying a Christmas theme. We inherited the couch and chairs, and they came with bright red cushions. We had already decided to do the living room in a light-ish green, a color that would give off a cool vibe in the summer, but could still do a nice warm for the fall and winter. Luckily the cushions will be re-covered tomorrow, so I can stop explaining in an embarrassed voice that this is not how I'm keeping the living room. Here are some pics:

The Before Picture of the Living Room

Oh yes my friends, that's a bathtub!

The camel design in the other bathroom.

My favorite parts of the kitchen: the organized pots and pans rack, and my alphabetized spices.

The Yellow Room - when the sun shines through at midday, the entire room turns yellow.

Chini loves her new house! Here she is snuggled up on Husband's sister's bed away from home.


reasons to celebrate!

We found a flat! It surpassed our expectations, and I've been wanting to post about it, but we've been questioning if we were actually going to get it up until today. But, tomorrow husband is signing the 2 year lease. It's a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom place on the ground floor so it stays pretty cool. There's a tiny yard for Chini in the front, and the back patio opens up to a park. I love the kitchen, and there's an area for the washing machine so both baths are actually usable. And the spare bathroom has some tiles with camels on it, and frankly, that's just fun. Here are just a few pics, mainly of the outside because the inside still needs a bit of cleaning and prep before our November 1 move in date. It's a 3 story house and our flat is the one on the ground floor (first floor to the American eyes). This house was shown to us on my birthday, and I just know it is a gift from above.

This is the view when we open our back gates. Of course the tree debris will soon be gone. :)

Also this past weekend was the big Festival of Lights. We celebrated with some of our coworkers with taco soup, queso, and crackers...as in fire. Crackers are pretty much the biggest part of this festival, and we didn't want to miss out. Husband turned into a big kid, finding creative ways to light these questionably safe crackers in the street. At one point, a man with a very loud drum came by and played us some mood music which we enjoyed, some of us more than others -ahem, husband- and because my camera's flash was off all the pics look like there are just ghosts in them. The drummer wanted money, and then some other drummers came by for their money, although they had yet to play. When they began asking for money, I asked, "What did you do?" and they responded, "We played the drums!" Oh those tricky silent drums.

The Ghost of Husband dancing for Festival of Lights


happy birthday to me!

Today's my birthday!! It's only 9:30AM and already it's been a fulfilling day! I got to Skype with my in-laws and open the presents they sent me (great stuff!: candles, scrapbooking stuff, books, B&BW, and some velveeta and rotel!) and then immediately after that my mom and dad called to sing Happy Birthday to me, and they even sang in harmony! The property dealer has at least 3 flats lined up for us to check out, so we'll be leaving soon for that. I've never apartment hunted for my birthday, but I have gone to class or work on my big day, so this sure beats taking notes or sitting in front of a spreadsheet all day. Although I do love Excel.

I know exactly what I want for my birthday...a new home. :)


greetings from the Capital!

We've arrived in the Capital and in some ways, I feel like I'm back in America! Yesterday I ran to the market to pick up groceries for today's meals, and it took a total of...wait for it...35 minutes! And that included the walking to and from. So here are the positive differences I've noticed in just 24 hours of living in the Capital:
1. Produce and eggs can be found IN the grocery store.
2. Said produce is packaged.
3. Not only can I get broccoli here, but there is also lettuce and my personal fave, zucchini. Hello again, green veggies!
4. Parmesan cheese is back in my kitchen.
5. When I walked into the store, the three men glanced my way and then quickly began their conversation again. I am no longer such a novelty.

Given my incredible excitement, each one of these items should be followed by an exclamation point or three. However, I luckily realized that would be overkill.

Now before everyone begins reminding me that Capital life is not all zucchini and parmesan, I will say that I know there will be hard times that balance out these great times. I just wanted to share my joys of the moment. Thank you Boss for the small joys and reminders of your grace!


cracker party!

Tonight we had a Cracker Party with Kristof and Katarina. It wasn't a party with fireworks, or crackers as they call them here, although that would've been fun. And it wasn't a party for only white folks, although none of us represent another race. It was actually to eat the perishable food in our refrigerator with crackers. At first it was just an excuse to pig out on a big roll of half eaten summer sausage that we have. But then I realized I had some cream cheese, and an opened salsa jar, some cheddar, and some leftover hummus from this weekend, so the party evolved to crackers. It is rare to eat any meat besides chicken here, and really, the chicken doesn't taste all that good anyway (at least not to me), so a big buffet of USDA approved red meat was nice to indulge in.


the non-golf day

Saturdays are designated Date Day. Husband and I had the idea to go try out the golf course that is an hour north of us. It's billed as one of the highest and oldest golf courses in the world, so of course we had to try that out before probably never having that chance again.

Now I should mention today was going to
be my first ever time to play real golf. Upon arriving, we were told immediately that since we didn't bring any balls with us, all used balls would cost over a dollar a piece. (!) We almost turned around when we heard that, but kept going because we really wanted to play, or in my case, try. After walking up a steep hill to get to the center, we were shown a sign saying that as foreigners we would pay twice as much to play as the locals. That really didn't upset us, even though in principle it should, but we're so used to it already. However, we were told that even though we were only playing 9 holes, we had to pay the 18 hole price. I asked the guy why, thinking he could enlighten me, but he only said, "Those are just the rules." Alright. Then the man told husband, "This is a 10 handicap maximum course," which in golf terms means you're really really good. He was insinuating to us that neither of us were good enough to golf there; he was half right.

Realizing we would be paying double what the locals pay, and then double for 9 holes, we concluded it was actually 4 times the real amount. Then add on to that the fact that it cost an arm and a leg to play at a course that wasn't well maintained and we'd have to fork over more than a dollar per ball, we decided to just take a couple of pictures and then leave. But of course not before I told the man that just because we're white doesn't mean we have a lot of money, and that we weren't going to return. I ended with a flustered, "That's not right," which I for some reason blurted out in half French. Even though he probably didn't understand what I was saying, I felt like the Rosa Parks of foreigners in South Asia. And I'm sure that guy felt like...oh who am I kidding, he didn't care one bit.

The date wasn't entirely lost though. We had a good lunch and the hour ride gave us plenty of good conversation time. We'll just have to save our golfing for the Capital.


sentimental leaving post

Oh come on, you knew it was coming. :) The boss has blessed us so much to live in such a beautiful, picturesque part of the world! Now that we're moving, I've been frantically taking pictures so that I can remember everything. I've been planning to do a scrapbook page on the seasons of this town, and I have each month except winter. I'm really sad about that because with the snow that supposedly comes (didn't happen last year) it should be beautiful. Hopefully I'll get a copy of a picture of the winter scene here from someone, or steal one off the internet. I'm not above pulling off a picture as my own. :) So here are pics of our little Himalayan town from the past year, which we will cherish forever:

Mountain view from my daily walk with Chini






a packing mess!

So just in case you don't know, the big news is that we're moving to the Capital! And as of today, we have 8 days to pack. I was starting to get a bit nervous about how exactly we were supposed to pack without any boxes when husband pulled up on the bike today with 17 kgs of boxes! Apparently there's some recycling place in town that you can buy cut up boxes. It requires quite a bit of our rationed duct tape (in fun colors thanks to my mother in law!), but only cost us just over $2. I think that's worth it, don't you?

So now we're trying to pack up our belongings, and the house is a mess. And anyone who knows me knows that this freaks me out. Oh well. In 8 days, it'll be gone. And luckily the furniture (minus the bed) belongs to the landlord, so big items are at a minimal.


a change is coming...

So we have big news! Anyone care to venture a guess? :) For those of you who get our newsletter, we'll elaborate in the new one, which should be emailed out on Monday...


guess who's coming to dinner

Last week, my landlord's wife and I made plans that their family would come to our house for dinner. That day arrived yesterday, and husband and I were very anxious. The people in our area tend to be quite ethnocentric about their food. The most adventurous food the average South Asian eats is food from the other side of the country. Sometimes they enjoy Chinese food, but since China is a neighboring country, that's like an American calling Mexican food "exotic". Now, their food is very tasty, so I don't blame them, but it is humorous to watch their faces grow tense when we ask them over to dinner. We've been here over a year now, and although people show up at all times of the day except meal time, this is the first family to agree to come to our house for dinner. We have seen many times firsthand how word gets around about us white folks. For example, I've met people on the road who already know my husband's name, know where I live, and know how much I pay for rent. Husband and I realized if this dinner was a failure, everyone in town would know it, and we could forget having any future guests over. This is why we were a bit nervous.

Since my landlord's wife is strictly vegetarian, meaning she doesn't eat meat nor eggs, we decided to make vegetable fajitas, rice, refried beans, and ranch potatoes. In the middle of making the tortilla dough, I asked husband if he could call and make sure they remembered they were coming for dinner. I'm glad he called, because the wife had apparently never told our landlord, and they probably wouldn't have shown up! The wife was probably hoping I would forget I ever invited them over. Luckily they did arrive, albeit very apprehensive. We told them this was our own homestate's variation on Mexican food, and we taught them how to roll the food up in the tortillas. Surprise was etched on all of their faces at how much they liked the food. They exclaimed over and over again how delicious it was, and even my landlord's wife, who speaks little English, told me it was "very tasty." I think part of why they liked it so much was because their expectations had been so low that Chini's mutton and oatmeal would've tasted good.

We forgot to take any pictures of our time with them, but since last night was a success, I'm hoping we'll have more opportunities. Do you think they're ready for fried okra yet??


new friends

I have begun to understand why so many people in Seattle commit suicide from the rain. It really is depressing, and I was getting pretty homesick for awhile there. But this past week, some great things have been happening, starting with that bright light in the sky. I think it's the sun, but since I've forgotten what it looks like, I'll just have to assume. It's been there for about 5 days in a row now, and wow, what a difference.

Also, ever since Priya got married and moved away, I've been a bit lonely, thinking I had no friends in town. But I went over to hang out with my landlord's wife a week ago, and the next day she sent husband and me some delicious lunch. I was so happy to be reminded that the boss still cares for me that I took a picture. Seriously, food here is not photogenic in any way, but it sure tastes good. Our landlord and his family are coming over tomorrow night for dinner, and we are cooking them a mexican fiesta! I hope we can start to build a relationship with them, especially since in the winter, they will be moving below us.

Then, we met Kristof and Katarina, a new couple who have come here for the same reason as us. They are from Slovakia and are close to our age, and we have a lot in common. Kristof is even just as much into Macs as husband, and Katarina and I share a love/hate relationship towards the computer. (mine stems from that I love our Mac but hate to tell husband that he was right :) Katarina and I spent all day drinking coffee and shopping for things for their new flat, and Kristof and husband spent all day getting their internet set up. We are hoping to partner with them in our work, and it'll be great to have a female to work with.


take a bite out of monkeys

You may have noticed that we haven't had many posts about monkeys in a long time. The main reason for this is Chini, our super monkey crime fighting dog. Here is our Super Dog by day, relaxing before her moments of monkey madness. But don't let her peaceful facade fool you. She has learned early on the dangers of the primate, and thinks constantly of how she can fight them off. In what must be one of the many differences between Chini and dogs raised in the States, all we have to say is, "Go get 'em, Chini!" and she darts up to the roof barking and growling, ready to fight off not cats, not strangers, but monkeys.

Today for some reason, the gray monkeys have been going nuts on our roof, and I had the chance to catch Chini in action. Here are some pics of her in between her manic running from one side of the roof to the next.

And here are a few pics of Chini training for her role as Super Dog...