Monday, October 10, 2011

new blog!

hey folks, so i sort of let this trail off a bit as a traveled to turkey and the UK after leaving nepal, then, the very day i arrived back in the states, BAM. i got hired for a job in monrovia, liberia, where i arrived about a month ago, and i'll be living for the next two years.

thanks for reading, and i hope you'll subscribe to my new blog to follow me in monrovia.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

elegies VI

maybe this one isn't so much an elegy, but it's self-indulgent, so let's roll with it.

i've been packing up all of my stuff recently, sorting out my own possessions from borrowed ones, practicing non-attachment as i wrench myself away from that old pair of torn black leggings that are practically indecent to wear. i came across a book that a friend loaned me a while back, a translation of mirza ghalib. among other things, ghalib was a master of the ghazal, a highly prescribed poetic form originating in the arab world and traveling to south asia in the 12th century.

for the first time in my life, i started going all insomniac this year. it's anti-fun. on the bright side, i got through an awful lot of books on tape. one night, after i finished reading some ghalib, i also got to toying with one phrase in my head, and decided to try writing a ghazal. it's, um, not easy.  from wikipedia:

Details of the form

  • A ghazal is composed of five or more couplets.
  • The second line of each couplet (or sher) in a ghazal usually ends with the repetition of a refrain of one or a few words, known as a radif, preceded by a rhyme known as the qaafiyaa. In Arabic, Persian and Turkic the couplet is termed a bayt and the line within the bayt is called a misra. In the first couplet, both lines end in the rhyme and refrain so that the ghazal's rhyme scheme is AA BA CA etc.
  • Enjambment across lines or between couplets is not permitted in a strict ghazal; each couplet must be a complete sentence (or several sentences) in itself.
  • All the couplets, and each line of each couplet, must share the same meter.
  • Ghazal is simply the name of a form, and is not language-specific. Ghazals exist, for example, in Arabic, Bengali, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Kashmiri, Gujarati, Malayalam, Punjabi, Kurdish and Pashtu and many other languages.
  • In languages of Indian sub-continent ghazals occasionally contain no radif. Such ghazals are termed "ġair-muraddaf" ghazal. The pre-Islamic Arabian qasida was in monorhyme; like the rest of the qasida, the ghazal itself did not have a radif.
  • Although every sher may be an independent poem in itself, the shers may share the same theme or even display continuity of thought. This is called a musalsal ghazal, or "continuous ghazal". The ghazal "chupke chupke raat din aasUU bahaanaa yaad hai" is a famous example of a musalsal ghazal.
  • In modern Urdu poetry, there are a few ghazals which do not follow the restriction that the same beher must be used in both the lines of a sher. But even in these ghazals, qaafiyaa and, usually, radif are present.
  • By placing his or her takhallus (pen name) in the maqta or final sher, the poet traditionally attempted to secure credit for his or her work. Poets often made elegant use of their takhallus in the maqta.

anyway, i just found it stuck in the ghalib book when i went to put it aside to return it. it's a work in progress (not that i'll ever finish it), but insofar as it's my blog and i'm doing the transitional emotional rollercoaster, i figure i can indulge myself and post a poem i wrote about nepal, on the theme of beginnings and ending. it's after the jump.

Friday, June 10, 2011

मेरो पहिलो आफै पाकेको खाना: my first self-cooked daal bhat

oh daal, i'll miss the most.
but, fortunately, i can now cook you all on my very own.

daal bhat is about 50% of what you need to know about nepal. for all of the ethnic, linguistic, and culinary diversity in nepal, daal bhat is the common denominator, the staple meal for the vast majority of the population. it consists, at its most basic, of a MASSIVE mound of rice (bhat), and a watery legume soup (daal). standard additions are some kind of curried vegetable (tarkaari), sauteed greens (saag), one or two of an enormous variety of pickle or spicy sauce (achhar), and possibly meat and/or a little yogurt (dahi). it's eaten twice a day, mid-morning and early evening, served on a big metal plate, all in heaps and/or small metal bowls around the mound of rice. you eat it by pouring the dal on the rice bit by bit, and then MUSHING EVERYTHING TOGETHER AND EATING WITH YOUR HANDS, which is flippin' awesome. you're fully expected to have multiple portions of everything.

anyway, shockingly, i never cooked it for myself at any point in the last two years. firstly, i live in fear of pressure cookers. there's a reason they get used as improvised bombs. furthermore, it's pretty labor intensive (plan on two hours prep and cooking) and so ubiquitous that it really just makes more sense to pop down the street to literally any restaurant. i also have yet to find a good recipe online, so learning how to cook it would have required a lesson that i never seemed to get around to. but i recently bought my own copy of a taste of nepal, a cookbook i've gotten for several people as a present. the other night, both my roomie and i were CRAVING dal bhat, so we just went for it. we think it turned out pretty well for a first attempt, but by that point it was about 9pm, and we may have lost perspective in our starving state.

in any case, full recipes after the jump (hopefully i won't get a cease and desist letter from ms. patak).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

missed (?) opportunities and musings on privilege

wowza have i been neglectful of this blog. mostly, i've been trying to stave off the panic of leaving nepal (in about three weeks!) with no job lined up-- both through sheer force of will, and the more practical measure of applying for lots and lots of jobs. i'm trying to remember, though, that i'm plenty young. even if i don't score a job that's both interesting to me and a more conventional/financially secure career move, i can go farm, and get some hands on experience to continue a career in food security and food systems, or i'll give this freelance journalism thing a shot.

i was thinking about the latter option when i saw that one of my favorite feminist blogs was having a short fiction contest where the only constraints were a 500-word limit and a female main character. i figured this was a perfect opportunity to a) get writing and b) get used to putting my writing out to be judged. i would work up a few pieces, ask some friends for comments, and submit the best. i had written one and started a second, when i went to check the deadline and saw that they had closed the contest early, due to overwhelming response. bummer

then i thought, wait a sec, the first piece was set in nepal. i already wrote the thing, and i can still practice getting used to putting it out there (admittedly to a much kinder audience)....
ANYWAY. it's after the jump. it's set sometime in the early 2000s in ktm, and it's (supposed to be) riffing on the theme of privilege. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

today in affirmation

i love blogger stats, especially when they tell me that someone has stumbled across this blog, repository of my inner thoughts and casual intellectual exercises, the venue through which i present to the world my experiences in nepal, by searching the term "new nepali sex blogs". so yeah. there's that.

recently spotted in my neighborhood

a nepali/korean restaurant that i pass on the way to work has just renamed itself: soul food garden restaurant.

"fabulous fab world" garment shop is getting a fresh coat of bright pink paint.

i saw a kid on the back of a motorbike wearing a tshirt that looked like it was for a death metal band. i am 98% sure that the name on the shirt was "MISHEGOSS".

god, am i going to miss this place.

Monday, May 2, 2011

initial thoughts on obl's death: d'tzach adash b'achav

i've been watching the responses to the death of bin laden with interest and, often, sadness.

let's be totally clear: i, too, rejoice at the death of bin laden. i don't care that he was killed, rather than caught and made to stand trial for his crimes. those crimes, both legal and moral, the promotion of hatemongering and extremism and terrible acts of murder and violence mean that his death is both a moral and strategic victory for all of us.

however, i think it's essential that our celebrations be dignified and leavened with a little solemnity. in pursuit of the necessary justice that bin laden's death brings, we should appreciate and remember the sacrifices of armed forces personnel pursuing him, and we should certainly remember the innocent lives of iraqi, afghani, and pakistani civilians that were lost, and those who have been displaced from their homes, possibly never to return.

last week, the jewish festival of passover concluded. during passover, jews recite the story of our liberation from enslavement in egypt, our departure and first steps towards the holy land. it is, as so many of our holidays are, a celebration of our survival. yet, in the heart of the seder, during the retelling of our triumph, we recite the ten plagues that god rained down upon the egyptians to effect our escape. at each plague's name, we remove a drop of wine with our fingertips from the one the four ritual cups of wine consumed at the seder, to signify that, while we rejoice, we feel sorrow for the suffering of our oppressors that was required to set us free. later, as the egyptians pursue the jews across the red sea, god drowns them. they sing a song of praise, and the angels start to join in. god reprimands them, saying, "the works of my hands [my children, the egyptians] are drowning, and you wish to sing praises?"*

but this isn't about religion, and it's certainly not about politics. it's about humanity. it's about acknowledging that triumph comes with a price. it's about rejecting simplistic narratives that would say otherwise, and lead us down a path that brings us dangerously close to disregarding and devaluing the lives of other humans, which is, after all, what separates us from people like bin laden in the first place.

*thanks to dan for posting this in his fb status, and getting me thinking.