Saturday, November 29, 2008

Invasion of the Birthday Party

October 29, 2008

After nearly 48 hours of rather grueling travel (ClevelandAtlantaLondonKathmandu), I arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal on Wednesday night and was welcomed by a birthday party. Nick from Esther Benjamins Trust (EBT) picked me up and delivered me to a hotel near the art school and I wasted NO TIME taking a (very icy!) shower and heading for the restaurant.

I was the only customer so chatted with the waiter (who didn’t speak any English but seemed to understand my sign language) and ordered (I though) chicken butter marsala, rice and beans. However, I ended up with chicken butter marsala, lamb marsala, rice, chopped garlic spinach and chai. (I guess if you MENTION any item, you GET it!) But I WAS hungry and it took almost two hours to get everything out to me, so I enjoyed not being on an airplane and reading my book in peaceful solitude…until the invasion of the birthday party!

The restaurant went from silent to raucous with a single sweep of the double glass doors. Leading the procession of 16 boisterous men was the 30-something female birthday girl. With hardly a pause, the guest of honor whipped out a cake and surrounded it with four slender tapers, lit them, and ordered the video camera to “roll”. The men burst into a rousing round of “Happy Birthday,” partly in English and partly in what I assumed was Nepalese, and clapped enthusiastically as she blew out the candles carefully one by one.

Next, one of the men cut a small piece of the cake and fed it to the birthday girl while giving a speech about the wonderful qualities of “our friend and colleague.” A flurry of photos later, the entire group was chowing down at the buffet line that had miraculously appeared. Within 15 minutes, both the food and the party were gone. (However, the birthday girl had – very graciously – dropped off a piece of birthday cake at my table.. it was delicious...white cake and icing …very moist… topped with apples, mango and cherries, pits and all.)

I was left, once again, in the silence to enjoy my excellent meal, which cost $910 rupies (around $12 – outrageous!!). In all fairness, though, I had ordered enough food for 4!

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