Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Trekking Disaster

It's been more than a week since I was scheduled to return from trekking and yet I'm only posting about it now. What gives?

Here's the short version: I contracted typhoid fever while trekking and have spent the last week recovering. Also, my computer died because that's how Murphy's law works.

And the long version...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Strange Business

Below are a few observations about how businesses function here in Kathmandu. I leave on an eleven day trek through Annapurna tomorrow so this will likely by the last substantial post for the next two weeks. Annapurna is, by all accounts, stunningly beautiful so expect some pictures and a full write-up when I get back.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunday Papers #6

Sundays are for realizing you haven't written a single blog post since last week's Sunday Papers. Oops... But that's OK because there is delectable tea to imbibe and much to read. Here's a promise, right from the start, that only a little of this is about the election. Right now, I just want to nothing the election...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunday Papers #5 (a little early this time...)

Sundays are for waking up early, scrapping a Halloween costume together and thinking about all that good internet reading that you don't have time to read now but will probably read later. I'm so torn about Halloween. On the one hand, what a great holiday. On the other hand, it's such a pain to get ready for it...Happy Halloween everyone!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Blogspot Blocked in Nepal

The Nepal Telecom Company (NTC), which is the primary ISP in Nepal seems to have blocked access to domains today. Apparently, they filter the internet for porn and managed to (accidentally?) block blogspot and the huffington post after blocking 60 porn sites yesterday.

Given that thousands of new porn sites are created every day (and the sheer number that already exist), you have to wonder why they even bother trying to block all of it in the first place. It's a pretty hopeless endeavor, especially for a government run company that has very limited resources.

Since most people in Nepal won't be able to access blogspot (and thus, this blog) it's hardly worth going into detail about it, but one way to easily bypass the kind of filtering is to use TOR. I tried that this morning and was able to get through to blogspot domains with no problem...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Cuteness

Yesterday was the Parent's Day Show at OGN. The kids dressed up in all sorts of costumes and put on a show for their parents. There was lots of singing, dancing, etc. The adorable factor was off the charts...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Papers #4

Sundays are for waking up unusually early after having extremely vivid dreams about visiting Mexico. In Dreamexico (see what I did there...), everything is made out of lego blocks...Anyways, after a traumatic experience such as this, it's good to sit back, relax, drink some tea, and have a look at the fine bounty of links that the Internet gods have offered up to us this week. As for why the Internet gods are making offerings to us - instead of vice-versa - I cannot say...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Walking Bhaktapur with Anil - Part III

This is the final installment on the series about Bhaktapur. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven't already. This final part will focus on central Bhaktapur, which is the best restored and most vibrant part of the city.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Walking Bhaktapur with Anil - Part II

One week ago, Yanik, Mikaela, and myself visited Bhaktapur with Anil Chitrakar, who gave us a tour of the city. Part I of this series was about Bhaktapur and its recent history. This post will follow the first half of our tour with Anil.

Sunday Papers #3

Sundays are for lazing about, imbibing tea (or coffee - if you're a heretic), and reading the entire internet. If that's too much internet for you, here are some select links...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Arbitrary Power

I'm going to interrupt the ongoing series on last weekend's Bhaktapur trip, in order to talk about an incident that happened yesterday, which was particularly jarring.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Walking Bhaktapur with Anil - Part I

Last Sunday, Yanik, Mikaela, and myself went to Bhaktapur for a tour with Anil Chitrakar. Given how excellent the previous tours were, we expected an interesting walk and that's just what we got. In fact, there was so much, that I've opted to post about the trip in three parts. Part I covers the recent history of Bhaktapur, while Part II and III will cover the actual details of the tour with Anil.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Papers #2

Sundays are for walking around Bhaktapur with Anil Chitrakar (more on that in the near future) then returning home, exhausted, to drink tea and read some interesting stuff that was put up on the internet this week...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tibetan Cooking: Vegetable Momos

In the previous cooking post, I looked at how to make Shya Pakhlep aka Deep Fried Momos. But there was one caveat for vegetarians:
you can make a vegetarian version [of deep fried momos], but if you're going to do a vegetable momo I highly recommend just doing a regular steamed vegetable momo as they're better than vegetable pakhlep. I'll probably be posting on vegetable momos sometime in the future...
Now, I get too use one of my favorite phrases: THE FUTURE IS NOW!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Papers

Taking a page from the playbook of my favorite video games blog, Sundays are for kicking back, drinking tea, and linking to some interesting reading that's popped up on the internets over the last week. Ideally, I'll be doing this every week, but we'll see...

An Unusual Drink Selection...

...from the menu at an Indian restaurant that we went to recently...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Walking Patan with Anil

Almost two weeks ago, I went on a walk around Patan, a predominantly Newari Buddhist community, directly South of and adjacent to Kathmandu proper. Patan is a major tourist destination, largely because its Durbar Square is one of the best concentrations of temples and palaces in all of Nepal. However, my trip to Patan was a little unusual, because Anil Chitrakar was showing me around.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I'm Reading

Here are a few interesting things that I've encountered in the last few days.
  • Elijah Millgram tells an interesting story about what human beings are. Apparently, we're serial hyper-specializers (duh?). This is a must read if you have even a passing interest in theories of practical rationality. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns into a very influential essay...
  • Tyler Cowen makes some predictions for the American future. A bleak look and a call to arms of sorts...
  • Is the United States Government effectively insolvent? Posner argues probably yes. Becker argues maybe/maybe not.
  • The NY Times looks at Masdar, a sort of eco-disneyland built near Dubai with (irony anyone?) oil money. Interesting (particularly since it's the Times) that the account isn't overwhelmingly positive.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Corrupt Indexes, Part II

While doing some research into corruption indexes, I stumbled across one organization that was measuring corruption in some unusual and interesting ways. That organization is Global Integrity (GI).

(If you haven't already seen it, you'll want to look at the previous post on corruption indexes for this to make sense. It might be good just to skim it to refresh your memory, as the comparison between Transparency International's CPI and Global Integrity's indicators is very instructive.)

The problem that all corruption indexes must address is that it is virtually impossible to directly measure corruption. The reason for this should be pretty obvious: most people engaged in corrupt activities go to some length to keep those activities secret. So unless you're omniscient, if you're trying to measure corruption you have a knowledge problem. You can never be sure that you've uncovered all cases of corruption. In fact, you can usually be sure that you haven't.

So how do you measure what you can't directly observe?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Orchid Garden Nepal

For most of my stay here, I will be working at Orchid Garden Nepal (OGN). OGN is a day care center and preschool for children with low income parents. Many of these parents are day laborers, street vendors, housekeepers, etc. They are barely able to support their families and, as a result, don't have time to care for their children. OGN also serves as an orphanage for a few children. One of the most common questions people have asked me in emails and over skype has been what the children are like and what OGN is like. Now that I've spent most weekday afternoons for the last two weeks at OGN, I feel better equipped to answer that question...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Corrupt Indexes, Part I

Over the course of my stay so far, I've had a number of conversations with various people about the quality of governance in Nepal. Everybody I've spoken to thinks that the government here is failing to meet the needs of its citizens. Here are a just few reasons why they might feel that way...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In the Red: Teej and Pashupati

For the last three days, it has been the Hindu festival of Teej which has been losely translated for me as "women's day." During the festival, Nepali women dress up (usually in red), fast, and seek blessing at Shiva temples. The fast is preceded by a major feast and lots of dancing. The purpose of all this is to secure the long life of their husbands and children, to secure a happy marriage, and to seek absolution from any sins that the women may have accumulated in the prior year.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Better Subscription Options

I've heard that for some of you, the blog's RSS feed has been acting up lately. In order to fix that, I've made a few changes to how the feed works. In order for those changes to benefit you, however, you'll need to first remove this blog from your feed reader, and then re-subscribe. You can re-subscribe by clicking here and then selecting your preferred reader from the box at the top right.

For those of you who either don't use a feed reader or don't know what a feed reader is, but would still like to be regularly updated about new blog posts, I've added a "subscribe via email" option to the blog's right sidebar. Just enter your email address, click the subscribe button, follow some simple directions to confirm that you are not a robot, and whenever I make a new post, you will receive an email about it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kutumba and Other Miscellany

I started volunteering at OGN (the pre-school/day care center/orphanage) yesterday, but I'm going to wait to post about it until I've gone a few more times. Today I'm home instead of at OGN because the OGN school yard has flooded. Their school yard sits next to a rice paddy. There was lots of rain last night and the rice paddy apparently overflowed. Where possible, the kids have been sent home for the day and I was told to stay home as well. This is ok, because it gives me a chance to post about my weekend. More on that below the jump...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tibetan Cooking: Shya Pakhlep AKA Deep Fried Momos

Lately, I've been doing a lot of cooking with my aamaala (host mother). Though she maintains that I'm a better cook than her ("you know how to make Italian food..."), the reality of the situation is very much to the contrary. She is an incredible cook and I've been learning a lot. She deserves full credit for the recipe I've posted below.

Pakhlep are a deep fried version of the traditional Tibetan dumplings called Momos. They're both crispy and chewy on the outside and usually filled with some kind of ground meat. I found them similar to samosas, but with much better dough and a more moist filling. They look like this:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Monsoon Days and Learning Nepali

Monsoon came late this year and it's been raining all night and most of the day for the last three days. And when I say raining, I mean pouring. Unfortunately it's been too wet outside to take any photos without drenching my camera, but the photo below of the gutter outside my room gives some idea how much rain we're getting. Many streets are flooded, pigeons huddle under awnings and on window sills to keep dry, and unless you have a good reason to be outside, it's best to just hunker down. I'm beginning to understand much more vividly why Pakistan has been largely underwater for the last few weeks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homestaying in Boudha

I'm now fully moved in with my home stay family and starting to settle in. Still jet lagged and waking up really early (like 4 am) but that's slowly getting better. Kathmandu is a city that operates on a different time frame than New York. Due to power outages in the evening and just a general lack of public lighting, it tends to be very dark at night and most carry a flashlight around if they know they'll be out late. The effect is that people tend to go to sleep earlier (and also wake earlier). 11 pm is quite late to be up by Kathmandu standards, at least on a weekday. This all means that I'm actually pretty close to adjusting fully to Kathmandu time. Once I'm waking up around 6 am, I'll pretty much be there.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I'm here! I'll do a bigger post a little later once I've settled in. This is just a quick update to tide people over...

My flight from Hong Kong to Kathmandu was pretty empty which was good because they moved me to a seat where I could stretch my legs out and get some sleep. At that point I'd been awake for 28 consecutive hours so napping was great. We stopped at Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh) for 30 minutes to let off some passengers before then taking off again for Kathmandu.

I arrived at 10:30 pm local time and was through immigration by 11. The nice thing about going through immigration in Kathmandu late at night is that they're pretty laid back and lax about the whole thing. I'm pretty sure we were the last flight of the day, which helped as all the airport employees seemed to just want to get home and sleep. Don't have a spare passport photo for your visa? No problem, we'll waive that requirement. Does customs need to inspect my luggage or anything? Nope, you're probably not smuggling anything in anyways, just walk right past the checkpoint. You get the idea...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Quick Layover

One sixteen hour flight later and I'm in Hong Kong. I'm here at the airport for four hours before I get on a flight to Dhaka. I've quickly discovered that the entire terminal is networked which is great. The bathroom stalls probably even get wifi. Figured I'd slip in a quick update since I have internet.

Some highlights from the trip so far...

Friday, August 27, 2010

One Bag, Three Months

Well, packing is done and my flight is tomorrow morning at 10. It was a little tricky, but I've managed to get everything into one bag. This bag.
A Stowaway!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hello World!

This is just a quick test post to see that everything is working. A real update will be along soon...
And now, a random picture.
Whose house is this?