Wednesday, September 06, 2006

bouncin' around KDU

A fun morning indeed, my Nepali friend Ram let me borrow his motorscooter and I drove Daniel west from narrow lane to wide road to narrow lane, and after some confusion (it had been 2 years since I navigated some of the roads in northeast Kathmandu we found the Chinese embassy. Daniel applied for his work visa to go and teach English in the Tibetan part of Sichuan province, in China (Kham), for the Bridge Fund, a New York nonprofit that says they will actually pay him and hook him up with a nice little house to stay in as well. He may be able to extend his work visa up to a year, which is a pretty good deal, as visas of that length for China are hard to come by. He'll even be in the mountains working with ethnic minorities - Khampa Tibetans - My jealousy, er, my joyfulness is mounting. Since today is Indra Jatra, a very important Nepali/Newari holiday, the airline offices are closed, so tomorrow he'll book his flight to Bangkok, and I'll be alone to actually start getting something done regarding my fulbright.

Indra Jatra is important because it is the holiday in which the king of Nepal (this has been going on for about 600 years, at least since the early Malla dynasty, I believe) recieves tika (red dot on the forehead) blessing from the Kumari, the young girl who is the incarnation of the Kumari goddess, a protectoress for the Hindu dynasty. She normally lives in relative seclusion in Patan (south Kdu) but is carried north through the streets in lively festivity to the central parade grounds, where the ceremonies take place. It is said that in 1769, when Prithi Narayan Shah sacked Kathmandu and established the modern nation state of Nepal ruled by the Shah kings, he was able to circumvent the Malla king from getting the blessing and took it himself, ritually making him the legitimate king for the year.

Today the Maoists are staging a huge rally in the park just north of the parade grounds, which is public space and legal now that the ban on public assembly has been lifted, and what I've heard is that they are going to try to prevent the current King Gyanendra Shah from actually recieving tika. I guess they plan on doing this by jamming the road with so many people no one can get through. I would have gone to observe the ceremony but a tussle (or a riot) could very easily break out there today, it'll be really crowded at least, and there aren't any buses or taxis running today anyway, because it is a general strike on top of it being a holiday. That's why we had to take the scooter in the morning, which was really fun actually, more so because of the lack of traffic on the roads.

Soon Ram will begin to give me motorcycle driving lessons, and I think I may buy a bike soon, in order to get from Chapagaon to Boudha and around the city and back quickly.

I've been reading and making notes of David Gellner's classic examination of Newar Buddhism: Monk, Householder, and Tantric Priest; providing a foundational understanding for more this year's more in depth research.

Also reading Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, a masterpiece of spiritual writing, and a great inspiration. Anyone with any interest in Hinduism or personal meditative/devotional practice will find this an indespensible resource. My recent trip to India, meeting great masters and visiting amazing sacred sites has made his words a bit more accessible to my imagination, to say the least.

I've also begun a self-study course with the "teach yourself nepali" textbook. the "teach yourself" series has many faults, and i wouldn't recommend it for anyone to try to use in lue of a real class. However, since I have a good basis in spoken Nepali already, it is proving useful in filling in gaps I have in grammatical understanding, due to the fact I've never formally studied the language, I've only just picked it up though practice.

I'm reading now on BBC that the owner of Ford automobiles in the USA has said they need a new direction; it seems that sales of their cars/trucks/suv's has dropped 12% this August, resulting in layoffs of about 30,000 employees. It's unfortunate, because it seems obvious to me at least (as well as the reporter) that a big reason they've lost profitability is the attachment to gas guzzling SUVs and trucks, as gas prices have continued to climb, and consumers are becoming at least slightly conscious of the global environmental impact of emissions. They haven't made an effort to reduce emmissions of their cars, or to increase their efficiency, which will continue to hurt them, especially as California and other states are becoming serious on picking up the slack of the Federal Goverment by enacting real legislation aimed at reducing emissions in all sectors.
He's even talking about maybe hiring Lebanon born Renault and Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn to take over for him to turn the company around.

In other news, oil companies are trumpeting the discovery of a new oil field in the gulf of mexico, 270 miles southwest of New Orleans. I hope that discoveries like these won't help perpetrate the myth that oil prices will go down significantly in the ong-term future (I don't think many have that same hope about the short-term anymore), leading to poor decision making like that of Ford Motor, which in the end hurts the US economy (that's a lot of jobs), besides the environment, global security, etc.

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