Bhutan, Meditation, Bread, Learning, Friends, Family, Music, Books, MT

Friday, August 27, 2010

Picasso's Wife

Don, sent me a book. I like people that send me books.
Have you sent me a book yet?
My last post was about my wife, which reminded me of a quote in Ralston's book...
Somebody was saying to Picasso that he ought to make pictures of things the way they are – objective pictures. He mumbled that he wasn't quite sure what that would be. The person who was bullying him produced a photograph of his wife from his wallet and said, "There, you see, that is a picture of how she really is." Picasso looked at it and said, "She is rather small, isn't she? And flat?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I love Ugyen very much.
She does do some funny things, though.
The other day, she opened a can of what she thought was pineapple juice, carefully piercing a hole on either side of the top. When the juice had all gone, she went to throw out the can. She noticed that there was still something inside the can ... the can of fruit salad.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Baguettes or Batards?

Gérard Rubaud is a French baker. A very good one.
Mark is a New Zealand non-baker. A very very bad one.
You can meet Gérard Rubaud here.
Or watch him shape batards here.
Gérard says that real men eat batards. 
Which is why I am now working on making a decent batard.
My small oven limits the size. I improvise the steam injection with a small plastic bottle with a spray nozzle. There is no baking stone. 
My first attempt ended up with a burnt bottom. The loaf, not me.
But last weekend I got what I thought was a nice looking batard.
One day, there may be a loaf good enough to present to Jon, who told me that batards are his favourite bread. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Nepal 2

Right, get the Nepal visas.
The immigration office was a stone's throw from where we were dropped off. It is lucky we did not throw a stone though. Things were still going to be pretty bad. There was a tall muscular man wearing a baseball cap. He was behind the counter. He shoved some forms our way, with nothing being said. Oh, well. They may employ mutes in the office. We filled out the form. I had a passport photo, but not Daniel. I handed my passport over.
"Where is the Indian visa?"
I showed the transit visa. A nice colourful sticker. The one we had paid for at the Indian embassy in Thimphu.
"Yes, but it has not been stamped in India."
We had not got it stamped when we went across the border in Jaigoan, and we had not got it stamped when we left India. The bus had not stopped.
"Do I really need a passport photo?" Daniel asked.
The officer, the tall one built like a Cyclops, but with an extra eye, did that head nodding thing that Indians do. You would have seen it in Bhutan. Sometimes it is circular, a yes and a no. That is what he was doing.
Daniel was confused, so he asked again.
The same response.
Nar came to our rescue, suggesting to Mr Cyclops that he should treat foreigners better. Up until then he had looked like a Nepali, and with his Nepali name, he had hoped to get through without showing his passport. But he let on that he was a government official from Bhutan.
Cyclops did not react well to the reprimand. He grabbed Nar by the arm and hauled him towards a small office out the back. He was talking now. Shouting angrily. Nar did not translate. He was white with fear. Nar is about 5 foot tall. A dwarf. It was like he was being spun around and around by the giant.
Daniel stepped in before blows were landed. He was brave. I watched from a safe distance. Two other men in civilian clothes came over. I am still not sure what there job was, but they helped to calm things down.
In the end, we headed back to India to get our passports stamped by a rather confused Indian official. He could not see the stamp from when we entered India. Neither could we. I was worried that we were going to have to travel all the way back to Jaigoan. And once there, they would ask us for the Bhutan stamp from leaving Bhutan, which was also not in the passports. The Indian just muttered under his breath, and kindly stamped our passports.
Then we walked back over the bridge to Nepal. I forgot to say that Cyclops had shouted to Nar that he was not going to be allowed in anyway. Before attempting to get our Nepal visas, Daniel had to get a photo. Nar too, as now he was having to get a visa. I opted to wait by the immigration office while they set off. A local guide who was touting business gave them directions. They headed off, and the guide starting working on me. He was very plausible. His father was a Limbu. That is the cast that makes up the army. He had a hotel in Kathmandu that was in the Lonely planet. Highly recommended. His uncle was the head guy at Bhadrapur airport. He could get a good discount for us on the flight to Kathmandu. Guaranteed tickets. Seats together and by the window. He gave up, and left me to wait. I started to worry that I had lost Nar and Daniel, and would be left to fend for myself. I was thinking that my decision to come was not a good one after all. I should have trusted my intuition.
Then Daniel and Nar appeared. Cyclops had calmed down, and gave us our visas. Nar was charged more than he expected. But he was wise enough not to quibble. We were not given a receipt, so Mr Cyclops must have made a pretty profit.
Then we headed out to catch a taxi to the airport. Mr Limbu reappeared. The price he quoted was about twice what we expected. But Nar had checked other travel agencies, and they all had the same price. Limbu promised a discount. Quietly. He did not want the other touts to hear what he was offering. Probably because they would offer lower. But he told us that he was the boss and he could not let others hear how low he was going. Just for us.
We got in the taxi, and headed to the airport. After 20 minutes we were still in the taxi, and there was no sign of any airport. We did reach a bunch of travel agents though. One with Yeti Airlines on the window. Limbu went in to the office with our passports. Phew. Things were improving. Then he told us the details. We had just missed the flight, and had to wait until 6pm for the next flight. What was worse, the next flight was from another airport that was another 90 minutes away, by taxi, that would be another 1500. We were a little angry with Limbu. But we had little choice. There were no hotels around. Limbu said he was very sorry, and would pay the 1500 for the taxi. Daniel huffed and said there must be quite a profit on the tickets if he could still pay the taxi for us. Nar had to pay the same as us. Later he would find out that he should have had a much  cheaper rate. The local rate.
Back into the taxi and off to Biratnagar airport. We were not looking forward to another 90 minute drive. But we were a little consoled by the fact that we had lots of time for the journey, and that we would be in Kathmandu fairly soon. Originally we had planned to spend the night in Bhadrapur. Things were not so bad. Apart from poor old Nar was was feeling like an animal after being manhandled by Cylcops.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nepal 1

The Bhutanese people are very superstitious. It was surprising that Ugyen never told us that we were leaving for Nepal on the worst possible day to start a journey. Things did not go well. The road down to Phuentsholing, the border city with India, was open. Only just. Large slips, from the deluges of rain, narrowed the road. We were buffeted off the road by huge Tata trucks careering towards us around blind corners. The fog was so thick that we could not even see the hundred foot drops beside us. No hope of seeing any oncoming traffic. Still, we made it. 
The six hour ride across India was sardine-like. At least the day was overcast, with spots of rain. The tea gardens beside the road provided a pleasant enough view. The talk of a strike across India was forgotten. Until, after 4 hours of bone-shaking riding, we were stopped by a group of ruffians telling us to turn back. The driver decided to continue. If stopped, Daniel was going to give his rendition of a man in the early stages of death, and we were going to claim to be an ambulance. The reason why twenty other people were accompanying Daniel was still to be worked out. We were not stopped though, and made the Nepal border. Next we just had to get our visas and catch the plane to Kathmandu.