Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Name-Giving & Nepali Culinary Favorites


Several of my little monks have received new names!
After the Nyune festival last week, celebrating Buddha's birthday, one of the Rinpoches gave some of the little guys new Buddhist names in a sort of rite of passage. Two days prior, the ones to receive new names had their heads shaved - all except for a tiny tuft of silky black hair at the very crown of their heads.  My first introduction to the naming ceremony was the reply when I returned home from Nyune and asked about the new hair styles.

The little guys are so proud of their new names and adorable seven-year-old Pemba insists that I call him Ngawang Ludup.

Speaking of names, I've received a few new ones myself. The first Nepali I was given, in Kathmandu, was Sita.  But when I got to the monastery Pasang told me, "No, no, not Sita - Sila. Sila is beautiful lotus flower."  Sita, a popular Nepali girl's name, is the name of a Hindu goddess. I can see why the Buddhists wanted to rename me.  So I've been responding to every variation of Sira-Sita-Sila until yesterday, when Cook - who is the biggest joker of them all and constantly singing as he meanders about the kitchen refilling mugs of milk tea - greeted me as "Bipana."
"Ho!...Bipana!!"
"What? Bipana? Me?" I pointed to myself.
"Yeah- Sapana, Bipana" he grinned, pointing to the other volunteer, Sapana, and then to me. Apparently the song he's always singing about Sapana (which means 'dream' in Nepali) has a line about "sapana, bipana," bipana meaning "awake."  So that's that; add another name to the list!  It's kind of cute, though, how he takes care of us and gives us little nicknames, so I don't really mind.

Cook is really a good guy. The first week I was here, I ran out of balance on my pre-paid cell phone. I ran next door to the house that has a little store, but it was padlocked - the owners were out.  He approached me as I was walking back, asking what I needed.
"Recharge card," I said, pointing to my phone, "Ncell recharge."
"Oh, store closed now, maybe buy Phakding later."
Ok, I guess I'll be making a trip down to the little village of Phakding tomorrow, I thought to myself, secretly dreading the 40-minute walk back up the giant mountain I'd come to find myself living on.

About two hours later Cook comes into the school house while I'm teaching English. I thought he was just curious; between meals he doesn't have all that much to do and if there's no one lounging in the kitchen it could be quite boring.  But after a few minutes he came up and handed me a recharge card worth 500 Rs. (rupees) - about $6.  He must have gone down to Phakding for supplies and remembered me; it was such a sweet gesture.

And ever since day one, when I explained to him that I can eat everything made of rice, but nothing with anta - wheat flour - he's made sure to always have a meal for me. Usually if everyone's having noodles for breakfast he'll make me fried rice; if they're having tsampa (barley flour that you pour tea over in your own bowl and mix up into a thick paste), then I'll get beaten rice cereal - kind of like rice crispies but flat and really hard and tastes like cardboard. But if you add enough sweet milk tea it's alright.  He makes light, puffy, steamed ti-mo-mos out of rice flour, and even started making his thick, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth homemade noodles out of rice flour.  Chapati, a flat Nepali bread that is thicker than the Indian naan, is usually made of wheat flour, but yesterday I walked into the kitchen and they were making them of rice flour.  We had chapati filled with fried potatoes for dinner - out first taste of potato since they're just now coming into season - and it was absolutely delicious!

My heart was melted yesterday when I walked into the kitchen in the morning after being sick all day the day before. Cook was nowhere to be found, but Pemba (12) and Kagi (14) were boiling a huge pot of water.  Pemba greeted me and then poured some batter into a giant frying pan. He flashed me a huge grin, "Your breakfast," he pointed to the pan, obviously proud to be the big guy in charge, taking care of everyone.
"Pancakes! Yay!"  My favorite breakfast here are the rice flour pancakes that Cook started making for me on random special days.  Kagi was unwrapping about 50 packages of Wai-Wai Noodles (like instant ramen noodles), so I knew that Cook had left the boys specific and pretty easy instructions for breakfast while he was gone for the morning.  I was so impressed and thankful that he thought of me and even had the boys make my favorite breakfast!  Despite the fact that I haven't had a shower in a week and sleep with giant insects every night, I feel spoiled here.  Compared to everyone I know in the US, these boys have practically nothing and yet they not only share everything they have, but they reserve the best for their guests and always present it with the biggest smile.

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