For most of my time in Kathmandu, I'm staying with the La family. The Las are Tibetan expats, who fled to Nepal when the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1959. The La family consists of Tsering La, her husband Wang La, her son Ngawang, her daughter Diki, Wang's father who everyone calls Popola (a respectful form of "grandpa"), and their two dogs - Rocky and Kushi. Popola and Wang are very well respected Thangka painters and run a workshop that provides Thangka paintings for many of the surrounding monasteries and shrines. At 80, Popola is mostly retired, but in remarkable health for that age. He is a very religious man and spends much of his day praying and circumambulating the nearby Boudhanath stupa (more on that in a sec...). Though Popola speaks only Tibetan, the rest of the family is trilingual in Nepali, Tibetan, and English.
Tsering keeps house and does most of the cooking (though Wang helps out with the cooking often). She will also be teaching me how to cook Tibetan food and maybe a little Nepali food as well. A glimpse into the future: look for a post on how to make Momos - Tibetan steamed dumplings - soon. She's also a total facebook addict.
The kids, Ngawang and Diki, are both in school. Ngawang is 17 and goes to a nearby day school. The grade system is different than in the States, and Ngawang's grade is called "A-Level." This is really like a kind of vocational college where almost every class is an elective. Ngawang studies mostly accounting, economics and math. He showed me his econ textbook and it's pretty advanced - written by some Cambridge Profs, it's probably in use in a number of "Intro to Econ" classes at some American colleges. In his free time he hangs out with his friends and plays Counter-Strike. Diki is 13 (14? I can't recall) and boards at a school in Kathmandu, so I haven't met her yet. However, she sketches quite a bit (usually in a manga style) and her pictures are all over the house (and her school notebooks).
As for the dogs, Rocky is a white terrier. He's been pretty subdued lately, because he got in a fight with some stray dogs. There are some pretty nasty bite marks on his back that are slowly getting better. (Edit - What I thought were bite marks, may actually just be general manginess...) Kushi, on the other hand, is energetic, small, and a real coward. Her favorite activity is to stand on the roof and bark ferociously at other neighborhood dogs. Doing this sort of thing from three stories above the street is advisable since most of the neighborhood dogs are bigger and meaner than her.
|Kushi being brave.|
|The La's house|
|My room. The Naruto poster was already up when I arrived...|
|The terrace outside my room. The spiral staircase goes to the roof.|
As I've already mentioned, the Las live near the Boudhanath Stupa in an area known as Boudha (pronounced boe-da). Boudha sits on the outskirts of Kathmandu and is largely composed of Tibetan expats. Though 90% of the people in Nepal are Hindus, the remaining 10% are predominently Buddhists and especially Tibetan Buddhists living in Boudha. The center of the area is the Boudhanath Stupa, a holy site for Tibetan Buddhists that is at least 1300 years old and used to be a key stop on the trading route to Lhasa. The presence of the Stupa made Boudha a logical congregating point for Tibetan refugees coming to Nepal in the wake of the Chinese invasion.
|The Boudhanath Stupa|
|A large prayer wheel in Boudha|
|A small public courtyard near the stupa|
|The public water fountain in Boudha|
|One of the streets near the stupa|
But Boudha is an exception. The streets are paved because the community as a whole contributed the money to pave them. One final anecdote: the municipal garbage workers were on strike all last week. As a result, there are piles of trash and sewage in the streets throughout Kathmandu. It's been a field day for the stray dogs and cows who pick through the trash for scraps to eat. But Boudha is relatively clean. I think this is because the local community organized to collect the trash into piles and burn it. I haven't travelled around too much yet, but Boudha is the only place I've been so far that doesn't have a serious trash problem...
|One of many trash piles that have been accumulating in the streets.|