Thursday, July 4, 2013

Debacle in Shetland: The Gurkha Kitchen

Aside from the friendly and helpful demeanor of the Shetlanders, and the fact that I came away with a bunch of stories and little the worse for wear (I'll take a couple of blisters and muddy trousers over the shin splints and gastrointestinal turmoil of Beirut any day), Shetland's greatest saving grace came from the East... The Far East. After my geocaching adventure, I was pretty tired, and pretty hungry. I got to my digs - the Glen Orchy Guest House (pronounced "Ork-ey", not "or-chy"), broke out my Kindle, and searched for restaurants in Lerwick. To my surprise, Lerwick boasts a Nepalese restaurant!

Regular readers of the blog will remember my excitement in mid-April at having discovered Aberdeen's own Gurkha Kitchen. Also called the Gurkha Kitchen (apparently one of at least three "Gurkha Kitchens" in the United Kingdom, the other being located in Oxted, Surrey), Lerwick's restaurant boasts a beautiful dining room (Aberdeen's doesn't, but they deliver) decorated with a wealth of Nepalese and Gurkha memorabilia. I ended up going there for dinner, and again for lunch the next day. The naan in the Lerwick restaurant is, unquestionably, the best naan I've ever had, and I've had a lot of naan in a lot of places over the years. The Lerwick Gurkha Kitchen even served dishes featuring Shetland lamb - apparently Shetland is known for its lamb (which is fitting, because there's pretty much nothing there but sheep), while Orkney is known for its beef.

As I mentioned in that previous post about the Aberdeen Gurkha Kitchen, I've worked with the Nepalese in the past. They're extremely professional, polite, gregarious, and I could go on. When I oversaw teams of them in the Middle East, I quickly learned that I could trust them implicitly, far moreso than any of my American counterparts. For example, I can remember one Nepalese guard named Raju who had been assigned to watch some day laborers. By sheer chance, I discovered him still standing his post, after my American employee and all of the day laborers had left for the evening, simply because he had not been properly relieved from his post. That's a textbook example of the loyalty and dedication of the Nepalese people. Between experiences like that, and the excellence of the Gurkha Kitchen during an otherwise challenging vacation to Shetland, I was compelled to tag GBU-16 in the following Facebook status update shortly before boarding the MV Hjaltland to leave Lerwick:
One of the most important lessons I've learned in my life is this: when you've gotten yourself in over your head, you can always count on the people of Nepal to rescue you, if they happen to be present. Right, GBU-16?
GBU-16 was still in Nepal at that point, and within just a few hours, she had replied:
3 days without internet or hot shower, wake up at 6 local time to begin a 6 hour bus ride through spiralling, bumpy roads in the wild to get on top of a mountain to a place called Bandipur (local fauna: 9% locals; 90% German tourists; 1% the three of us), for 3 more days of research, no internet, no hot shower. At least the scenery is breathtaking and Nepalese people are lovely as always. Does this answer your question, Tom?
In that last post about Aberdeen's Gurkha Kitchen, I discussed the history of the Gurkhas. The Nepalese take the example and prestige of the Gurkhas very seriously, and draw great pride from it - as evidenced by the fact that pretty much every Nepalese restaurant, such as the Gurkha Brigade restaurant in Edinburgh (where GBU-16 and I may take a day trip to at some point, just because) and the three Gurkha Kitchens - are all named after the Gurkhas. One section of my dissertation will discuss the Gurkhas in some detail, particularly their ability to communicate and build relationships with the Afghans. You can watch a video about the Gurkhas in Afghanistan below.

For the rest of my life, I'll remember that an otherwise tragic trip to Shetland began to improve because a Nepalese family made me feel both welcome and well fed. If you find yourself in Lerwick - staying at the Glen Orchy, and driving a car from Bolts Car Hire, because both will treat you right - be sure to stop in to the Gurkha Kitchen for a great meal. It's a decision you won't regret.

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