“You’re insulting them and you’re embarassing me.”

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It turns out there’s actually a methodology to eating with your hands. Since I’m on this Indiana Jones kick, remember in Temple of Doom when they arrive in the village and they offer them food? Indy is seen (tried my durndest to get a screenshot) cupping his hand to eat the various veg foods in a very particular manner. This is actually a legitimate eating technique that he is using in this scene. Whether it’s something Harrison picked up while they were filming in Sri Lanka (Indian Government denied permission to film in India based on racist insinuations in the script) or it was a carefully laid hand gesture based on cultural, or completely random knowledge we’ll never know.

The staple dish of Nepal, Dal Bhat, is a rice and vegetable dish typically eaten with the right hand. The idea is to create a spoon-like shape with your hand and then allow the suction of your mouth to do the rest. There’s a trick to it and for those who are used to the high-toned silverware it is an adjustment, but quite natural once you adjust.

On the note of this scene from Temple of Doom, however, they are given a large amount of food despite the poverty of the area. A phenomenon I have encountered myself. Nepal is not impoverished, per say, but I have had families I’ve known only a few minutes insist I call them “mother and “father,” then proceed to stuff me full of Dal Bhat and anything and everything else they may have in the house.

For more small in Indy stay tuned.

Indiana Jones and the Reality of Adventure

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I’d be lying if I said that watching Indiana Jones as child didn’t have a domino effect in my life leading directly to my being in Nepal right now. In fact Indiana Jones, it’s been said, has inspired many to adventure and to Archaeology in particular. I remember listening to a lecture on Archaeology in which the professor said he always asks his students if Jones was a factor in there deciding to go into Archaeology and every time almost everyone raises their hand “Yes.”

For those seeking a Jonesesque adventure the reality may be a bit of a come down. While he may be able to go round for round throwing punches with Nazi brutes in Axis-controlled North Africa most people who caused that much trouble for the Ahnenerbe (Nazi Dept. of Archaeology) would be lined up and shot. Imagine illegally entering North Korea today and then blowing up one of their air bases. Yeah, that what’s would happen. In reality adventure is much simpler than proving the truth of the Hebrew God or freeing a region’s worth of children from slavery in India.

Adventure is simply embracing the unknown and relishing it. Getting on a motorcycle with all your worldly goods bound for an unknown destination is an adventure. Being assaulted by a gang of children pulling your arms and asking for money and chocolates is an adventure. Climbing a frozen waterfall in the dead of winter is an adventure. Accepting an invitation from a stranger you met on the road to tea in their home where you find friendship and are invited back time and again is an adventure.

Getting out of the door if the first key. But let me say right here that travel alone does not guarantee adventure. Like anything else in life it’s your attitude that defines your experience. The way people react to you, you to them, where your instincts take you and what you make of what you find when you get there. If your definition of adventure is limited to jumping out of airplane in a life raft against a blue screen then maybe you should join the Coast Guard or a stunt crew. Looking for overblown andrenaline rushes leaves you a better candidate for base jumping and river rafting than the kinds of cultural adventures that Indy is mimicking.

In all honesty the thing I loved about Indy wasn’t all the action and adventure, that’s what made the movies exciting. But for me what made Indy really cool was he knew all about history. He could go anywhere in the world and he knew the language, writing, could pick out the cultural icons and recite their significance. Which are all very important skills for the true adventurer to posses.

Adventure is very rarely a series of glamorized angles of you with the wind in your hair and a super villain’s secret base exploding in the background. That’s fantasy. But it doesn’t mean adventure doesn’t exist. Adventure can very often have little or nothing to do with adrenaline and excitement. It can be settling into your seat in an airplane or train or walking past a certain point you never have before and knowing that your are going farther from home than you ever before. Always set the horizon past where you thought it ended yesterday and you’ll never be short of adventures.

The Least Nepali Place in Nepal

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The US Embassy in Kathmandu must be the least Nepali place in all of Nepal. A vacuum sealed office building with well moved grass and flourescent lighting reflected against polished glass windows.

Upon entering any US citizen is treated with an obviously greater degree of respect. The Nepali sit a great herd facing the wall. Their brightly colored Sarees and Nepali suits dimmed by the greyness of the place. Americans sit in a small section facing forward, and have their names called on the loudspeaker rather than a number.

One could almost mistake the place for an office in NYC. For me there was a strange comfort in the rigidity. Unlike Nepal I understood the expectations of that place. A place which must seem coldly discerning to the Nepali.