Tonight we had the honor of being invited to a Nepali Wedding Reception. The wedding ceremony was held a few weeks ago, but this was the formal presentation of the bride and groom as a married couple to the public. There were people dressed in traditional Nepali clothing, particularly the women, and others in “western” style clothing. Like any wedding, the most inspiring sight was the bride and her maid of honor. There was an abundance of food and drink, but unlike wedding receptions I’m accustmed to, there were no annoying drunk attendees tapping their glasses with flatware expecting grotesque displays of affection between the newly wed couple. It was an elegant and dignified event in every respect.
It’s been a week since we arrived in Nepal, and it has felt like we entered into a time warp. At some moments, it feels like we’ve just been here a day and at others it feels like it has been much longer than seven days. When we arrived, it was overcast and it remained that way all week with periodic deluges from the heavens. We did after all arrive in the midst of monsoon season, but this is how our day ended:
The view above is from the apartment rooftop of one of our colleagues at the Lincoln School where we will be teaching. We were only offered brief glimpses of the blue sky throughout the week. Most hours were dominated by the low hanging clouds that obscured even the foothills around the city. It will be weeks before the weather clears and we will be able to see the high peaks of the Himalaya from the valley. Our week was spent settling in and taking care of the mundane tasks of unpacking our personal effects and purchasing the essential items we needed that constitute a basically functioning household. Every excursion to procure what we needed has been an adventure in itself. Traffic here is almost beyond description, and I’ll devote time to explaining that later, when I understand how to describe it, for now:
We are enamored with Nepal after a week. There is much that we have to adjust to, but that process has begun. The people are wonderful. Although the traffic appears insanely chaotic, drivers and pedestrians are remarkably civil, smiling at one another as they take turns circumventing the holy bovines that wander the streets of the city and choose to nap in the middle of bridges, more to come on that theme.
So, we’re running late and want to pick up food on the way home for all to enjoy. In Cochabamba there are no McD’s (the ‘D’ stands for death), no TacoHell, no KFC (kemmo fried carcinogens). But there are hundreds of little places that will cook up some of the options we picked up tonight including a special order vegetarian plate, which is an odd request in Bolivia. (“Quieres un plato sin carne…..en serio? Pues, OK”)
The whole meal came to just under $6, my treat! Can you feed a family of four for $6 on a ‘dollar’ menu with all food groups WELL represented? I honestly don’t know, I value our health too much to do the research.
One of my favorite activities in Cochabamba, is going to the market to shop for…anything you need.
In different areas you will find concentrations of vendors of fresh produce, grains, cheeses, meats, and other household necessities.
GMO and organic labeling, you won’t find that, because almost everything there is to buy (for the purpose of human consumption) is produced within a day’s journey by truck. Food products that are imported are not very popular because they’re expensive, not as fresh and because they are not local trusted products. With about $30-40 we can procure food provisions, including meat and dairy, that will last the five of us a week. Fresh bread is bought daily at an expense of about $1.20 per day for a variety of 8-10 rolls (sandwich size).
The small collection of fruit we picked up the other day cost about $5, and that’s expensive, because strawberries and cherimoya fruit are the most expensive produce you’ll find. The bananas and tangerines totaled less than $2. All thanks to the efforts of small business owners, if only farming were still like this in the States. Then the tomatoes that migrant pickers earn 1.5 cents per pound harvesting in Florida wouldn’t cost $2/pound in Florida markets.
Cristo de la Concordia – Christ of Peace
Our son, Hunter, has a fascination with the musical Jesus Christ Superstar that boarders on obsession. So, yesterday we climbed up to the Cristo de la Concordia to visit the monument and appreciate the panoramic views it offers of the entire valley of Cochabamba. I first visited the Cristo in 1994 before it was completed, and we go up to the monument every time we visit Bolivia. At the top of the mountain you will see tourists from all over the globe visiting so they can include the tallest, most massive (2,000 tons+) and highest elevated (≈2,800 meters) Christ monument in the world to their bucket lists.
*The fair people of Poland (and others) will argue that their “Christ the King” monument is the tallest in the world, but the defenders of the faith in Bolivia will argue that the three meter crown placed upon the head of the Polish Cristo shouldn’t count because Christ only worn a crown of thorns. It is akin to counting communication towers as the height of a building. some say. See “The Tallest Statues of Jesus Christ” for more details.
A few days ago, we awoke to the sight of the northern peaks that surround Cochabamba covered in an alabaster blanket. I captured the above photo from the balcony of the house in the morning. The week after we arrived in Cochabamba, cold moist air from the south pushed its way over the Andes. By “south” I mean the antarctic. These winds bring frigid weather to southern Argentina and Chile but don’t often make it up and over the southern peaks of the Andes into the Valley of Cochabamba. When they do the results can be seen here. These peaks are normally free of snow, and it’s a special treat to see the beautiful contrasts the snow creates on the mountain peaks among Cerro Tunari. The peaks seen here range in elevations from about 13,000 to 15,000 feet. Living below them is a comforting and humbling experience. The photo below was taken later in the same day from a different part of the valley.
When we travel to Bolivia, the first stop is Aeropuerto El Alto. Flights from the U.S. land in the early morning and during the winter one can expect the temperature to be about freezing; if you arrive in the summer, expect temperatures to be about freezing. The airport sits at an altitude of just over 4,000 meters (13,000ft+). That places travelers at an altitude just about 1,000 feet lower than the highest mountains in the continental US. Altitude sickness (soroche) is common and visitors from sea level can be identified by their pale faces and bluish lips. But, after you get through customs, there are the mountains of the Cordillera Real range to greet you rising to over 6,000 meters, Illimani has a greater elevation than any mountain in North America at over 21,000 feet.
We arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia yesterday, and it is wonderful to back in the protective cradle of the valle alto de los Andes surrounded on all sides by majestic peaks and mountain ridges. Yesterday was the winter solstice celebrated by ritual festivals and the burning of fires on what is called “the coldest night of the year” e.i. the longest night. We’ve already been catching up on enjoying some of the unique culinary delights that are typical to Cochabamba. Today Hunter discovered that he is also fond of one of my favorite dishes, pinchon (pigeon) and he dug into it like an old pro after his first taste. It’s a dark meated foul with a gamey taste that requires a good deal of work for little bites.
Hunter and I have been visiting Oma in Connecticut for the past week. It has been hot, it has been cool, it has been sunny and we saw a day and a half of biblical rain. Essentially, a typical spring week in southern New England. I had forgotten how beautiful Connecticut is in the spring. The fields are all lush and the broad leaf tobacco is coming along under the mesh tents in Connecticut River Valley. We have taken the time to hike down by the Connecticut River and we’ve been out to Coventry Lake a couple times to play with Tante Katrina and Onkle Stephen. Today we took a ride on the Essex Steam Train and then went to visit Gillette’s Castle, two things I had never done even as a native Connecticut Yankee. It reminds me of how much there is to see even where I have spent decades living and growing up. In our adventures today, I learned a couple little things I didn’t know before today, and that’s the lesson for today; I can learn something new wherever I find myself as long as my eyes and mind are open and without prejudice.