We've had multiple celebrations in honor of Sylvie's birth... A week or 2 ago, the Canapary's were here for the first round of cards and muffins, etc. Then on her "real" birthday, we had more candles and breakfast goodies, and followed up after school by blowing out our forearms on Kathmandu's one climbing wall. The girls were thrilled to be on the "rock" after so many months away, and we got blisters from belaying them... A fine meal at Fire & Ice, her favorite pizza place in Nepal, rounded out the evening.
But the best event by far occurred just this morning... (We always try to do something extra special for the girl, as her Fall birthday has found us overseas several times, and climbing in Joshua Tree several others.... She's had more birthdays away from home than not. Lucky! ...or unlucky, as she sometimes complains.) Well this year we found an extra special "gift" for her. She's rarely wanted a lot of "things," preferring adventures or experiences over more "stuff" to clutter up her room.
This gift involves the "bird sellers" that we see most weekends hanging around Boudhanath. They wander the neighborhood with 10 or 15 small cages, filled to the gills with birds. Usually they have several green parakeets; "Rose-ringed, Plum-headed, and Alexandrine's" for all you birders out there. There are also handfuls of Munias (scaly-breasted) and other finch-like birds, crammed into the tiny spaces. A few always look unnaturally colored, as if the 'boring' brown females have been dipped or dusted with bright green and yellow dye to improve their looks. These birds are for sale as caged pets, but also are marketed as a way to boost your "karma points" by buying their freedom & releasing them... It's a twisted industry. The bird dealers will sell their prisoners, then head back down to the Terai (flatlands) to trap more birds. Bring 'em to Kathmandu, sell them to Buddhists to release, go back to the forest and trap some more...
Our girls were always fascinated by the caged birds, spending lots of time talking to them, and begging to buy them all and set them free. We had endless discussions about releasing non-native birds in the wrong habitat, and the concerns that these caged birds might not survive in the wild. We considered if buying these birds would only encourage more trapping of wild birds. We thought about the morality of spending a large chunk of money to free a bird, when there are starving and disfigured human beggars right down the street... But in the end, I had to put away my logical thinking, and listen to and learn from my daughter. She said, "so what if they don't live such a long time, or if they might get trapped again. If they die in just a day or two, at least they'll die free, living in a tree somewhere. Any amount of life flying free has to be better than suffering in those tiny cages!" She was right.... So we decided to surprise her on her birthday with a few caged birds to set free.... but suddenly, just when you need one, we couldn't find any bird sellers!
A couple of days later, as we were in a big hurry, rushing to grab a taxi across town, the bird-man was back. We quickly shifted gears, took a deep breath, and granted Sylvie her only big wish for the year... She carefully inspected & spoke with all the birds in the many cages, and decided to release a pair of parakeets. The bird man assumed, of course, that we'd want the prettiest healthy ones, and began to unwire those cages.... No thanks, she chose instead the two with the most ratty tails, and the painful looking bare spots on their heads.... the two that looked the most in need of their freedom! We brought them back to our monastery's garden, spent some time with them, then opened the doors. It took quite awhile for one to emerge, but then she flew straightaway to some nearby trees. Skreeching and squawking, the other one joined her, and they explored their new perch together... Watching those emerald green birds flying free was a wonderful joyful moment for all of our girls! Sylvie exclaimed, "Thanks Mom & Dad!!! That was the Best BEST Birthday Present EVER!!!"