22 December 2011

Eating Buffalo Thoughts

How quickly place is absorbed, your mind no longer trips on the network of images that create the different-ness but rather enters the flow of it. The sounds, smell, and very air soon become familiar and yet still vibrate with otherness. Something that inspires me here is how much of life is lived out in the streets: public spaces are an extension of the home. It is especially evident with the onset of the cold months.

Coming from a culture that battens down the hatches as soon as the snow flies, squirreling inside for months, it is a complete flip that here people move out to warm up, to be with each other. During the sun hours the courtyards and mandirs are crowded with people warming up. Some of the seniors move entire beds out into the squares and streets to lay and sleep in the sun. The work gets moved out too, tailors and their sewing machines, the metalworkers, the blanketmakers, everyday a group of women sit with their babies and their work (sanding brass Buddha statues) outside my building.

All day I shuffled the plastic roof table to stay in the sunlight, the paper, and ink balanced on surrounding chairs, my ‘camping’ hair tied in a knot and tucked up in the little wool cap that these days only comes off in the night from turning my head too many times on the pillow. On the roof top next to mine the neighbor women watched, amused by my drawings of the brooms, basket, and rice that seem so ordinary to them “Why?” They ask and I explain that these obects are beautiful and that we do not have them in America, they are pleased by this, saying how important the broom, nanglo (flat drying basket) and Dhan ( unhusked rice) are to their culture, then they go back to debating the worth of an expensive pair of blue jeans the little sister had just bought.

In the afternoon the butcher girl brings me a plate of food: beaten rice, cilantro potatoes, pickle, garlicky greens, and an unknown. She is 28, unmarried, and beautiful. Returning home at night I often see her blow-torching a chicken or cleaving a buffalo stomach, her waist-length hair swinging with each blow in the dim light.

On our roof she is telling me how she refused 5 arranged marriage offers, that they came to ‘look’ at her and she didn’t want to ‘go’ with any of them, that yes they were rich, but they must also care for her and then she will care for them, that if they do bad habits she will not look away, shewill be angry. I nodded in a hopefully cross-cultural “go girl” sort of a way.

We then moved on to talk about Christmas, and she asked what we call the man with the... she mimes a long beard

“Santa” I say

“Oh Santa, he is so beautiful!” exclaiming this her face brightens like….well, like Santa.

I tasted the ‘unknown’ food on my plate. It was like cream cheese, breaded and deep fried in spicy masala. At the neighborhood Boje’s (parties) I have been served a span of unknowns, the Newars are notorious for meat and often it is in a sort of jello form. They also make chutney from fresh aloe. Taste wise; I actually prefer the dried fish jelly to the aloe achar.

“Yo ke ho? Mitto Chha” What is this? It is tasty, I ask.

Buffalo Brain is the response.

“You like it? I made it myself” again a Santa-like beam.

I thank her and I thank the empty space of the shiny black Buffalo.

The sky is paling, the sun going, I wrap a blanket around my waist and continue drawing the broom. My hajuramma appears to rearrange the drying radish and perch on a small pile of bricks in order to look down into the street, I go over and lean over the warm concrete wall, together we watch the white-trousered men take in the last sun and the grandmothers already in shadow perched together like chubby pigeons, wrapped in layers of woolen shawls.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1/12/2012

    Hi Isan! So good to read your blog! Reminds me so much of living in Senegal. Can't wait to hear more! Stephanie Ngom.