Posted on November 9, 2012
Welcome to the new media world of the blogosphere lads. Where word gurus hang out and waffle merrily about waffley topics. Promise you lads, will remain humble and modest, and continue to welcome contributions from wretches of whatever creed. This is my commitment to you lads and I am man of my word.
New to this higher tech world lads so still trying to get to grips with designing the layout and stuff. So stick with me for few weeks and we should have da blog looking all masterful and majestic. Inshallah. Might have to be little more careful with the content now that the HX is open to the entire world and searchable on Google. Not kidding lads. The HX & Google are now together. Like lovers. Living together in mutually beneficial harmony.
Hopefully the legal authorities in all the regional countries, where MB could possible get arrested, fully understand the meaning of the word ‘irony’. And have GSOH. Or MB could end up tied to pole in middle of some village square with shirt ripped off and sorely in need of some creams and oils of the healing variety, after 100 of the best across his back. Inshallah this misfortune will not befall me lads and I will remain in the full of my health.
The HX blog breaks all the rules of blogging lads. All the most successful blogs are single topic. And this attracts a dedicated following. So the experts say. But will not change the format lads. I like the cross-selection of weekly topics. And hopefully some topic grabs the interest of readers, even when many other topics do not. And that’s the way it’s staying.
Ok lads. Welcome again to da ‘new look’ HX blog. Remain steadfast. Crossers abu!
Reaction to last week’s HX
Was only awesome lads.
Cla was on immediately. Almost before I pressed ‘send’, thanking me for providing da business opportunity in Nigeria and is actively pursuing at da mo. We wish him & his associates in Lagos & Abuja all the best. May their ship arrive in port very soon. Cla was also drooling about MBs pics from Nepal lads, and to stop Cla getting all sad and possible suffering bout of bed-wetting, I hereby give you all another of the savage pic albums:
Want to thank Cla for the following links re young lady from HX (almost) who is making name for herself in the hockey world (the non-Canadian variety). And needless to say lads she has Crosser connection. Brother GB is a Crosser member of long standing. Thanks Cla:
RQ was concerned about the mossie that was bothering me last week lads. Suggesting garlic and tea tree oil as eco solutions. As promised lads, I gave the mossie every chance. Opened the door and offered him escape to the outside world. But sadly for him lads, was tad institutionalised, and just couldn’t bring himself to fly out that open door. Another attack on MB following night resulted in bite sores on back of MBs hand upon waking following morning. And that was it lads. Final straw. Short time later Mossie was located – and mashed. Khalas!
Received a most intriguing email from Crosser SW from Connecticut USA lads. A female Crosser who is not personally known to MB but we have mutual past connection. Unknown to MB, SW has managed to hook herself an Irishman. And lo and behold lads, didn’t she only land herself a real prize fish in none other that Crosser PM, who has oft contributed to the HX, and is old pal of many years of MB. A warm fatherly feeling came over me upon hearing the news lads, as realised that we had our first instance on Crossers coming together in amorous manner. Potentially breeding and producing new generation of Crossers. Inshallah.
Anyway lads, back to the intriguing email. MB immediately zoomed in on the attention grabbing line at start of email – “I am in the death business“. Sat bolt upright in my seat lads, as did not really know where this email was going to take me. Turns out lads, upon digestion of the mail, that SW is editor of ‘Connecticut Cemetery News‘ monthly newsletter. Yes lads, something we never in our wildest dreams would have thought of back in Ireland – a cemetery newsletter. E gad! Had read of the newsletter, November edition that SW passed on, and saw that the cemeteries in USA are run by private companies as profitable business. People are just dieing to get into that business I guess lads! (sorry SW – you must be sick of sad jokes like that). And obviously lads that’s why all the cemeteries in USA look like the golf greens in Augusta, perfect lines, 0.3 on the stimpmeter! You certainly learn something new every days lads as the old saying goes. And this was certainly a new one on MB.
Anyway lads SW wanted permission to use MB’s piece of last week on the Hindu Cremations in Nepal in her December edition. An honour indeed lads. And of course lads, permission granted. Who knows what the future holds. Will forward you all the Dec issue when it hits the stands.
RK was on pointing out that he had provided MB with Wikipedia link to last weeks featured Russian artist, but MB was just too stupid to recognise the link and never included the reference. So big apology to RK, and for those who may be interested herewith:
And RK gives us new pic this week. From some Russian painter from the republic of Tatarstan:
It’s dedicated to Conquers – of all times past, present and future.
MJ & ML
ML back safe & sound from Nepal. MJ presently in some Buddhist village (I think) with 2 more weeks to go.
More From Nepal
A few tales worth telling you lads, that MB brings you from his recent trip:
Hindu Holy Men – Sadhus
Came across some Hindu Holy Men in the P temple grounds and they immediately catch the eye. With colourful dress, unclean appearance, matted unwashed hair and smiling faces its hard to miss them. They generally depend on donations from tourists and the general public to survive and do not possess worldly goods. They do not take female partners at any stage in their life. Was informed by seemingly knowledgeable guide that their penis’ are “mutilated” at young age, maybe at age 7 or 8. Just to ensure that the they are “of no use to a woman” in the future, in case they might think of straying from their vocation. That’s as the guide explained it to me lads. So I’m sure its true. Am attaching pic that I took of 3 of them sitting contentedly, as they watch the cremations across the holy river. Much like fans enjoying cricket match in the balmy afternoon sunshine.
Must admit lads am bit mystified by the empty coke bottle behind Sadhu Nr 1. Is he hiding it? Sort of goes against the ethos lads, wouldn’t y’all say.
The Sadhu in most of the public temples make themselves available for pics for the tourists and expect some financial donation. They need to eat lads so no harm there. But some Ali Baba types get in on the act by dressing up as Sadhu and try to cash in on the act. Let us call these lads the ‘Unmutilated Sadhus’. Gave 5 dollars to two Sadhu who approached me in that temple. Even thought I did not take any pic of them they made it clear they were not happy with the five, and asked me for ten. As did not speak Nepalese asked the guide to tell them to beat it real quick. Assume those characters were of the unmutilated type. And because of incidents like this, even some Nepalese consider the Sadhu a bit of a nuisance. Sad.
There is famous festival every February at the P Temple near Kathmandu airport when some 40,000 Sadhus from India & Nepal gather. Various rituals are performed throughout the day and night and am told its incredible spectacle. Many different sects of Sadhu have different practices that they offer as sacrifice to the Gods. Was told of one group who never sit down, and spend their entire lives in standing position. Including their sleeping hours. Seemingly they perform the difficult task of sleeping in the standing position by strapping themselves to something like a small tree and then rest their heads and arms over some out-hanging horizontal branch to sleep. Others have various strange diet, only eating same limited food throughout their entire lives. The pic of the 3 lads above is interesting alone. Mind boggling to think of 40,000 of them together.
Volunteering in Nepal
Now a big tourist industry in its own right lads. Many people travel to Nepal to do volunteer work with kids, or homeless, or handicapped or whatever. Many will mix their holiday with some volunteering time. There are many (mostly NGO) organisations available to assist. But you need to be careful. The groups who will benefit from your efforts normally provide internal transport within Nepal, food and accommodation while you are working. But some others are charging a fee to the volunteer or the volunteer must pay for some of the basic necessities. Some tourist companies operating in Nepal may donate some of their income to local charities, even some of the mountain trekking companies.
Durbar Square, World Heritage site at Bhaktapur
If any of you are interested you can check out some of the following:
- www.keepnepal.org – places volunteers with various local NGOs
- www.butterflyfoundation.org – admin & childcare at orphanage in Pokhara
- www.cennepal.org.np – child care in orphanage in Kathmandu
- http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org.nepal – health, education, childcare, social development
Loads more listed on Lonely Planet if you want to look up.
The Living Godess – Kumari Devi
They have a living Goddess in Nepal lads. Truly. A real live living Goddess. She is originally selected on basis of 32 very strict physical characteristics which include her eye colour, shape of her teeth, and sound of her voice. This selection takes place at aged 4 or 5 approx. If more than one girl is selected then all will go into darkened room and men with frightening masks will dance and scream in the same room. The girl who remains calmest is considered the winner and the reincarnation of the Hindu God Durga. She must come from a Nepalese ethnic group called Newari who are renowned gold and silversmiths. She lives in a building called the Kumari Bahal (next to the world heritage site of Durbar Square near Kathmandu) with her family, and will only go outside into the wider world for 5 or 6 ceremonies each year. It is not allowed to take photos of the Kumari but she appears daily (almost) at an ornate window facing the square, when I think pics may be possible. Got there too late unfortunately on the day I visited so never got a photo opp. In the future perhaps.
That’s the Kumari in the middle lads
On the occasion of her first period in puberty the girl will no longer be considered the Kumari and a new Goddess will be chosen. She will be given generous dowry and sent on her way. It is considered unlucky to marry an ex Kumari according to the literature. But MB is wondering lads, about sending letter to Sheikh Mo to suggest possible marriage for one of his sons or grandsons to an ex living Goddess. The mind truly boggles lads when you try to imagine the coming together of the royal seed with the egg of the Goddess. A truly super being or even new super species may develop. Will be interesting to see what answer I get back from Sheik Mos office lads. Keep you posted.
From the man himself lads. From SM Fb page earlier this week on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the founding of the UAE:
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
A very special occasion is approaching us after a few weeks. The 41st National Day of the UAE. As we get closer to this important day. I would like to share some thoughts and ideas under the banner of Spirit of the Union. First, I say to the youth of our beloved nation, the story of UAE is not limited to 41 years only, our history stretches back 1000s of years. Read about Umm Alnar civilization that goes back to more than 2000 BC, Jalfar in the 4th century & the remains in Jumeirah from the Umayyad era. Read about the stories of heroism of our people while facing the foreign invasions in the past few centuries. Knowing our history is a key part of the Spirit that ties us together. The great stories of our people will continue well into the future.
The blood continues to flow. On all sides. Bashar has said he will live & die in Syria. Reminds us of very similar Gadaffi comment in Libya few weeks before he died. In Libya.
Was traveling with Syrian acquaintance during the week when he phone rang. Call from Homs in Syria. His brother just got shot in fighting. Lucky for brother bullet hit him in the arm. Entered and exited through muscle tissue. No danger to his life. But few inches in another direction and my pals reaction might have been much different. Such is life for Syrians at present.
Many Syrians living and working in Saudi Arabia, where I am presently based. In last few weeks all renewal of Saudi visas for Syrian nationals was cancelled. Many working here must get new visa every 3 months so must renew at that stage. Now no longer possible. Thinking is possible security risk I imagine, even though all Syrians I know would be very anti Syrian Government and very pro Saudi efforts to remove him. But ordinary people are often just pawns in bigger games. Number of my work colleagues now unable to return to Saudi for this reason, and may end up having their jobs terminated. And will then be unable to send home few dollars to help their families.
Be careful where you poke that stick ladies. It could have far-reaching results:
Manama: A young Saudi woman was forced to marry her cousin after she caused him to lose one of his eyes when they were children.
Saudi news site Sabq said that the young man never had any cosmetic surgery after his cousin accidentally poked his eye with a broom. When he grew up and wanted to get married, he could not find a woman who would take him as a husband.
Eid Slaughter in UAE – 15,584
That was the count of the Eid religious slaughter of the goats, sheep, camels and others lads. Was also very many killed at unofficial sites. Remember telling you all that I came across one such unofficial site last year down a small side street. One of the pics on the second link looks bit like what I experienced.
Hope you enjoyed the Sting song from last week lads. This weeks recommendation comes from the Chieftains, who were backing Sting last week. Great bit of fun!
Chieftains & Friends
Have previously mentioned that Dubai is car crazy zone. The high & mighty love their top of the range models, and showing them off on the tourists strips at the weekend. There is vast amount of speed cameras which control the acceleration. But not this guy on Dubai’s main drag – the Sheikh Zayed Road:
Thanks to DH for her efforts each week and for giving MB kick to set up real Blog. This week she is Trick or Treating:
Ok lads. That’s it for another week. If your in Middle East enjoy today/tomorrow off, and if elsewhere enjoy the coming weekend. TC.
Posted on November 2, 2012
Namaste lads. Tai-pai-lai kas-to-chha? (Hello lads. How are you? – in Nepalese) Hope all healthy. Plagued at present by a single mosquito who seems to love me lots. Is sharing my room but keeps himself to himself during daylight. I can hear him buzzing around my head at various times after lights out and I see and feel the evidence of his love every morning as the bite marks get all itchy & red. He seems to have the gift of invisibility when it suits him and I do not really have an easy solution. Will try to leave the door open today for a while and inshallah he disappears from my zone to find new friend. Otherwise I will be forced into drastic action. Resulting in the death of the mossie.
And if I was Hindu or Buddhist lads I would not consider the above final solution for the mossie. Which brings me nicely to my main story of this week – my trip of last weekend. Mentioned to y’all two weeks back that I was heading to mountains & temples. And so I did lad. Off I headed with the camera & lenses to Kathmandu, Nepal. Amongst the peaceful tolerant Hindus & Buddhists. As good luck would have it lads, the BBC had feature on World News channel on Nepal. Problem there at present of locals catching cholera from drinking dirty water from streams. So stuck religiously to bottled water during the trip lads. The last thing you need when you are scaling the high peaks lads is a bad dose of cholera. Also stuck to boiled or fried foods to avoid diarrhea and it worked. And double socks for the long hikes. Another MB trick to note lads for your own future use.
There are many thousands of Nepalese working in Middle East and all I have met in recent years are extremely polite happy smiley people. Am pleased to report that the description generally applies to the entire home population. But huge poverty problem. It is reckoned that some 7M of total population of 30M do no have sufficient food for their daily existence. I witnessed very large numbers of people begging during the day, and sleeping rough on the streets at night. Saw groups of 4 and 5 children huddled together under blankets on the footpaths after dark getting ready for an uncomfortable night on the hard paving. The electricity to public lighting gets cut off every evening as darkness descends. Suddenly, even in the capital Kathmandu, you are walking in pitch black streets which quickly go silent and only the howling of hungry dogs and replies from other hungry dogs breaks the dark night quiet. Didn’t haggle with the locals when buying stuff, generally. Hadn’t the heart. Except for few taxi drivers who were taking the mick with the Western tourist MB.
The women work harder that the men. Or so it seemed to me. Even in the mountain area of Nagarkot that I trekked through for a day, approx 90% of the lifting of crops and other loads was being done by the women. And very old women in many cases. Carrying heavy loads on their heads or by ropes on their backs. As I said earlier lads huge poverty and large percentage of the rural population (and even the urban population) living in very poor decrepit accommodation. But amazing to see how clean and stunning the women managed to look at all times with their multi-coloured clothes spotless throughout the day, even when working in the fields.
Was surprised to see and immediately recognise potato plants growing in the mountains as local villagers formed shelves on the mountain and hill slopes to create horizontal terraces that would allow potatoes to be grown. Men & women working together with picks & shovels clearing the ground, setting and picking the crop. Some of the crop for eating and some for sale to provide an income. Rice also growing in many locations.
Politically speaking the country is a disaster. The politicians have been fighting for 5 years about trying to make a constitution and make laws. But still no success. Someone told me they have 601 Ministers. Meanwhile the people live in one of the poorest countries in the world. Someone told me 10th poorest but not sure if this stat is correct.
Traffic in Kathmandu – a disaster. And creator of huge pollution. Many locals working in the city wear dust masks for protection. The problem is the combination of car fumes and dust rising from streets that have no paving in many places so dust constantly rising. Seems that in approx 2001 when the king was killed by his son (along with a number of other members of the Royal family) there were only a very small number of cars in the entire Kathmandu valley, but now there are tens of thousands, going as fast as they can along very narrow streets, more designed for rickshaws and motorbikes than cars. Petrol is very expensive bearing in mind the income levels. Approx 1.45 euro per liter I was told. So the car of choice, over 90% of all cars from what I could see, is the 800cc Suzuki Marutti. Very fuel efficient. And huge numbers of motorbikes and scooters. Was informed that 3 people per day get killed in motorbike/scooter accidents.
Mainly Buddhist (originally from Tibet) & Hindu (originally from India). Many of the temples permit both religions to worship together. The main Buddhist feature you will see are the prayer wheels which you spin while chanting a mantra. God will then forgive your sins. The Hindus have 3.5 Million Gods according to a Guide who showed me around a particular temple. But some are more famous and prominent than the others and some of the temples are dedicated to the more important Gods. The Hindus believe in reincarnation which happens again and again until you reach Nirvana. If you die from a snake bite you will immediately reach Nirvana as the snake is a sacred animal/serpent. Hindus also revere the cow. My guide told me that the general prison sentence for murdering a man is 7 to 8 years with 50% time off for good behaviour. If you kill a cow in Nepal you will receive 20 years.
The holy Bagmati river flows through Kathmandu. As revered by Hindus in Nepal as the Ganges by Hindus in India. And next to a temple area, very close to the airport, is where the Cremation of dead bodies takes place on a small polluted stretch of the Bagmati. I made photo album of the cremations. Which in another country and culture might be insensitive and disrespectful. But because the Hindu believe in reincarnation, the funeral cremations are (generally) a happy occasion as all are aware that the dead person will shortly be reincarnated in another form. It is not uncommon to see Hindus laughing and smiling at a funeral. It is consider a time of joy. As a tourist you are asked to give the family respect by keeping your distance and not to intrude on their privacy. I, like most others, moved to the other side of the river and took the photos with my zoom lens. I had seen this on YouTube before I went on my trip but to see the whole ceremony live was a really great experience.
There are 2 parts to the funeral ceremony. When the dead body arrives (normally by Government ambulance) it is taken to the purification area. This involves dressing the body in orange robes plus a few other rituals. But the main event of the purification involves taking the body to the edge of the river and dipping the feet in the water. At this stage Hindus believe that the soul has not yet left the body but the body is now purified. Two months back it was noticed during the purification that the body was still breathing. And obviously still alive. Body was immediately rushed to the ambulance and taken back to the local hospital.
The second part of the ceremony is the cremation. This involves a number of new rituals including pouring water on the head or mouth, marching around the body three times plus a few others. The critical element of this stage is the placing of fire in the mouth of the body. This is done, from what I could see, by stuffing some straw into the mouth of the body, and possibly use of oil, and then setting fire to the straw. At this instant the soul is considered to leave the body and the body is now officially dead.
Unfortunately, in the last year, two bodies awoke, or came out of coma, when they reached the ‘fire in the mouth’ stage. As I said above once the fire is lighting the Hindus consider the body as dead. So in the two referred instances, or whenever this might happen, it is considered that an evil spirit is trying to awaken the body. The family and cremation professionals will then use heavy bamboo poles to ‘quieten’ the body, as my Guide described the procedure. As in – they beat the body as hard as they can on the head and elsewhere to ensure it stays on the fire and to ensure that the evil spirit does not succeed.
I took the opportunity on first morning lads to take large chunky slice of Yak cheese with the breakfast. I immediately felt the surge of protective power eminating from said Yak product and it would appear lads, that in the nobel Yak, we have worthy competition for our beloved Middle East Camel. Who could ever have dreamed such a thing lads? If you suggested such an idea to me two weeks ago I would have laughed in your Kaffir face and asked some local Mullah to organise 50 lashes across your back for your insolence. But not any more lads. I would now be buying sooth-a-cream for you and begging your forgiveness.
Momos are considered the national dish and are yummy. Little parcels of meat or veg wrapped in a light cover, like dumplings at home. Maybe even served with icecream if that’s to your liking. Lots of Indian type foods, but loads of restaurants in Kathmandu and you can basically get any food you want. Themel is the main tourist area in the city, so loads of shops and bars for your delectation. Trekking shops like you never saw in your life, as KTM is the starting point for most trekkers and mountaineers heading for the peaks.
If you are connected to me on Facebook lads you will already have seen the photo albums I have posted up after the trip. Giving you all link to my trekking album which gives good idea of the rural scenery around the Nagarkot area. Think you can also look at the other albums when you log on – if you wish. Did not get to the Himilaya/Everest area but managed to take photos of the sun rising over the Himilayas from a viewing tower in Nagarkot, many many kilometers away (another of the pic albums).
Spent approx 5 hours trekking through mountain terrain and ended up in small village as dusk was approaching. No taxis in the village so jumped on a bus to get me to village that actually had taxis. Bus packed to capacity, so jumped on the roof along with many others, feet dangling over the edge and great vantage point for more pics! Very memorable journey.
So can give you all a very big recommend/yes for Nepal. Interesting fascinating place. Not really a place for a family holiday though When you go there its all action and/or sightseeing, so a reasonable level of fitness is necessary. They also have big adventure area for white water rafting, paragliding, bungi jumping, and other stuff near the border with Tibet, if you want to give the trekking and temples a miss. Big thanks to PS, Nepalese Crosser who gave me great advice before I traveled, and to MJ & LM who were great traveling companions on my first two days over there. Hope you both get back safe & sound in due course. Both now new members of the Crosser brigade.
Am often asked out these parts if we have our own language in Ireland. Yes non-Irish Crossers – indeed we do. And to let you hear the sound of the Irish (Gaelic) language I give you Mr Sting singing traditional Irish song with the legendary Chieftains providing the music:
And received email little while back from Jade Dillon informing MB that she will shortly post up some more original songs on YouTube so will pass on to you all when I receive. Hope you all enjoyed her 2 great pieces of 2 weeks back.
HX Art (yes Cla – art!)
Received a few emails from Ruskie Crosser RK during the week, who grew up in Tatarstan in Russia before moving to Khazakstan in his teenage years. Anyway lads RK sent me on his favourite Paintings – by some Ruskie artist that I never heard of who is famous for his paintings of the sea. I am attaching RKs best known painting by his favourite artist. The name of the artist appears in Russian script in all the emails sent to me lads so I can not give you the artist’s name in a real language. Let me know what you all think.
HX Book Recommendation
Just finished a book called Three Cups Of Tea. About an American who got lost in the northern tribal area of Pakistan after failed attempt on K2. Went on to build many schools in the villages and ensure that many young girls got an education. Great read and great lessons for the great & the good.
Told you few weeks back lads that a developer in Dubai will now build a larger version of the Taj Mahal than the original version in India. He will use it as hotel & wedding venue. Will be huge success I think. Now some Indian politician is bleating on that it should not proceed. Donkey!
Quite a few Crossers into photography. If you are serious enthusiast you will normally chose Canon or Nikon. Nikon have new DSLR on the market which might be of interest to some.http://www.zawya.com/story/Nikon_launches_smallest_FXFormat_camera_in_UAE-GN_19102012_031020/?lok=210003121019&&zawyaemailmarketing
MB is not slow to pass on business opportunities to you all lads when they arise. I have decided to pass on the following offer due to pressure of work but might be of interest to Cla and others. Email received by MB during the week:
We just won’t tolerate this kind of carry-on lads. And be warned if any of you are thinking of coming out to visit MB and expecting him to engage in kissing or cuddling of any kind:Dubai: A student admitted in court on Monday that she cuddled and kissed with her lover consensually at his flat nearly 20 times after he promised to marry her. Prosecutors have accused the Pakistani student and her Indian lover, both aged 24, with hugging and kissing consensually without being married. “Yes it’s true. We hugged and kissed several times but that was after he promised to marry me,” the student claimed when she entered a guilty plea before the Dubai Misdemeanor Court. The Indian, who works in customer services, entered a guilty plea as well but denied that he promised to marry the woman.
DH – The Reluctant Emigrant
Thanks to DH for continuing to include us all in her weekly blog list. Unlike MB, DH is real writer with big future. Keep up the good work DH. Always enjoy your stuff.
Rolling In The Deep
Namaste lads (Goodbye lads)
Ma a-li a-li Ne-pa-li boll-chhu (I only speak a little Nepalese). So will leave it at that for this week lads.