Dear Friends, Just a New Year's note to catch you all up on the Leslie-chand family happenings as we step into a new Jewish year... Last night, Shakun & I joined the Chabad mafia at a party palace in Kathmandu where Reb Kretsky entertained the masses of mostly young Israelis and a few of us of a slightly older variety (with young hearts, I hope...). There were a few Americans there, as well as an Israeli who climbed Everest last year. We had a lovely vegetarian meal of salads with apples and honey. Tonight we'll have a family dinner for the new year as Leah was home doing homework last night and Joshua, reasonably, doesn't feel a connection w/ these young Israelis. So we'll light candles and have our quieter celebration at home.
As you may know, Ezra flew the coop on Sunday. Well, he was supposed to fly on Sunday but he had a visa problem at the airport so he only left on Tuesday. But the benefit of the delay was that he was able to get a direct Abu Dhabi-Chicago flight on Etihad instead of having to change planes and buy a separate ticket in NYC. With his extra weight of books and books and some clothes, that worked well in his favor. Although we haven't heard from him yet, as he must have arrived last evening (your evening), I'm sure he's already with his Deep Springs friends at the house they are jointly renting near campus. School doesn't start til the 23rd, so he has time to adjust to Chicago, check out the city, find the cultural highlights and settle into his new digs. That he left a hole in our home goes w/o saying...
But we're fortunate that after having Ezi with us for a full year at home and in Kathmandu, we now have Joshu with us fulltime for the near future (or longer). Josh has settled well back to Nepal after six years at NMH, Georgetown and SOAS. It was such a joy to have both Josh and Ez with us for August. With Joshua's friend, TJ (from Philly, actually...) with us, too, for most of the time, it was a pretty full house! The boys spent plenty of time at home with us, going out for their evening football or to meet friends occasionally. Leah was thrilled, naturally, as well, to have the whole family together! I even got them to help build a flagstone walkway out to the back garden on one of their weekends.
Mostly Joshu is working in the factory with Shakun. He's busy getting his fall/winter collection ready which takes most of his days. If you follow his website or Himalayan Spirit 8848 on FB, you'll have seen his blogs about the preparation of the new collection, colors and designs, as well as he & TJ going out to Helambu to look at a potential school site where they may build a girl's toilet with a percentage of his ethical fashion profits. It's a lot of work and Joshu has thrown himself into his entrepreneurial dreams with great commitment and drive. HS8848 has crossed 500 likes and once the new collection is out, Joshu is aiming to see that reach 1,000 likes and even more sales. It's a joy to see and have him with us in the home. The house is fuller, more alive and warmer with our kids at home.
Leah is growing up quickly, as you no doubt remember when the kids were swiftly moving from pre-adolescence into their teenage years. She's 12 now and maturing faster than the little mango sapling by her bed. Partially it's having two seriously older brothers (and their worlds...), plus the expat community in Kathmandu and the friendships w/ young girls from all over the world (especially Denmark). You'll be surprised when you see her next, if you haven't seen her in awhile. She's also such a serious and dedicated student. At the end of last year she took on the role of Rachel Carson ("Silent Spring") for the debate competition and was incredibly calm and convincing -- and was chosen as one of the 'winners'! Now, with the roads being dug up around the city, even though the ride home from Lincoln can take an hour and a half in the evening, she gets home, eats a bit, plays with the kittens, then gets to work. It's impressive to see. Plus, she was recently selected as the only 7th grader to practice with the girls' varsity volleyball team this year. She was thrilled, of course, as she has some very caring mentors among the older girls.
Shakun is constantly juggling her super Mom role w/ so many healthy, big appetites around the house, as well as supervising the repaving of our flat roofs to ensure they are waterproof for the next 14 years, managing the factory and doing her civil rights work with the historically marginalized communities of Nepal. She's off this w/end for a week to Delhi for a global Buddhist conference as she's been more involved with the Buddhist community of Nepal after working closely w/ the Dalits and Tharus in previous incarnations. With an election proposed in November (that may not happen...), many of her friends/colleagues are chosing or starting new political parties to run in the election. Though she'll stay on the sidelines this year, it seems, until she feels the urge or need to play politics on a more national stage. Given the lengthy political transformation in Nepal that has gone on for a couple decades already, there is time ahead, no doubt...
I'm still in my World Bank incarnation this year, as you know. Running a social accountability initiative working on buget transparency, social audits, pro-poor budgeting and the like to ensure that local citizens are more engaged in their governments' allocation and spending. We have a small good team here w/ whom I work. A couple weeks ago, Ezi and I went out with one of the NGO mentors, Binod Upadhaya, to visit Mugu, one of Nepal's most remote districts (in the northwest near the Tibetan border). We flew to Nepalganj, spent the night, then flew up to Jumla, a beautiful valley in the mountains, from where we walked two days over 3700 m and 3400 m passes to get to Mugu. We walked about 40 hours that week, including reaching Rara Lake, an amazing and unusual body of water over 3300 m in the Himalaya. If you're on FB, you've seen my photos that I posted there last w/end. I'll probably stay with this WB work until April/May, then think of new opportunities...
Also, I've been working part-time on my "Searching for Jakob Klatzkin", the Berlin intellectual-Zionist who was a close cousin of Ben-Henry's before and during the war in the last century. I had a two hour interview w/ Klatzkin's daughter-in-law, Dolly, who lives in LA now but grew up in England, married in France and lived in Switzerland before moving to NYC, then LA after divorcing Kent (Menas) Klatzkin. She was a treat (past president of the American Film Institute for 25 years), so I hope to talk to her again, as well as trace other lost threads in JK's life and history.
Anyway, this is long enough for a Rosh Hashonah letter. I just thought it'd be nice to let our dear friends know what our family is up to these days, since we see each other so rarely, given the distance.
You're all welcome to visit us here at any time, of course. There's always a bedroom free and Gita's warm, milky Nepali tea at any time of the day, not to mention Shakun's delicious cooking! We do airport pick-up, too! ;-)
lots of love and looking forward to seeing each of you, en challah, in the blessed new year -- that would be a gift, of course, xoxo, Keith