Life is a whirlwind. Between transitioning back to the US of A and moving out of our storage shed and moving into new housing (exhausting); spending far too much money on bulk food at Costco (painful); figuring out how to clean our own carpets (easy); adopting a gorgeous and shy cat (yay!); getting overtime on the first day (Ryan); filling out numerous job applications (me); and lots of other life things…I realize I want to write. I know I need to follow up with all the jobs, study for ACLS (how did that expire already?!), organize the silent auction for a Nepal fundraiser, etc. etc. etc. Whatever. I will just write for a minute.
Fair warning: This varies from past to present and past tense. This might drive you crazy, but this is how it was written…and it seems to make sense…
Nepal is worlds away.
Nepal starts with a page on “Health” listing cipro, metronidazole, zithromax, dexamethasone, and other over-the-counter drugs that might cure all possible illness that might be contracted while in rural Nepal. We did use some of this…
It begins! After two days of shockingly colorful tulips and “Dutch” country near Mt. Vernon, we are on a bus to Sea-Tac (thanks to Sharon!) Remember to write a thank-you note. We visited a small park across from our hotel. Then we ordered Thai take-out from a particularly sketchy looking joint (they delivered but we saw some unfortunate photos on-line) and watched Final Four basketball.
Time is missing. 24 hour flight (or is it longer?) later…We were greeted with a necklace of bright orange flowers and landed immediately on our beds.
Woke early AM.
Breakfast with Jennifer.
Walked around Thamel (a section of Kathmandu) and found Pilgrim’s Bookstore. It is beautiful and huge with scarves and perfumes and layers of books in various languages. Jen says the strike (vehicle strike) is a relief. There are few vehicles on the roads (only ones marked “Tourist” are allowed). Thamel=tourist and the name fits.
There were two kids riding an oversized bike and they crashed into my calf. They crashed themselves and laughed hysterically while profusely saying, “Sorry! Sorry!” to me. I have some new tire marks on my calf.
Slept. And slept. I am exhausted and can only seem to write in fragments. Saw what we think is the Langtang Range of mountains through a thick blur of pollution. I took a picture and it looks like nothing at all.
In the evening we had an “interview” with a Nepali man who apparently does impromptu interviews with foreigners. He was kind, but we didn’t buy his book of interviews.
We went to a late dinner and again drove the streets of Kathmandu in the dark. There was dancing to represent various ethnic Nepali dances. Spinach, dal bhat, and curry. A very tall Nepali man pouring whiskey from a spouted jug. The whiskey splashes when it hits the cup and tastes horrid.
We took a “walking tour” to Durbar Square. There is an old palace. The architecture seems impossibly detailed with criss-crossed carved wooden pegs. The museum was dusty and bizarre–almost romanticizing the now defunct monarchy. No pictures allowed.
Another walk to Swayambhunath Stupa (the “Monkey Temple”) where some mangy monkeys tried to steal a tiny girl’s candy. A Nepali man (who previously appeared asleep) suddenly awoke and batted the monkeys away with his moped helmet. I really dislike monkeys, but the moped helmet guy was great.
We could see Swayambu through the pollution fog from our hotel in all of its iconic glory. But up close was well worth the experience. Pigeons relaxing under the piercing blue eyes, the off white dome, the golden spire. People swarming at the shrines and temples and rolling the prayer wheels clockwise. Street children that seem keen on pickpocketing and shop owners with ornate paintings/sculptures/odds and ends. We are positively perplexed at the logistics and effort of placing so many prayer flags in one area without a massive tangle.
We found our solace at the Green Organic Cafe, drinking hot lemon ginger honey tea. Again, we are beyond exhausted.
April 9th (3rd day in Kathmandu)
We woke early in the Tibet Guest House. Ryan and I walked back to Durbar Square to buy a thangka for mom. It has a mandela design on purple silk. There is an orange piece of silk to protect the meticulously hand painted design, and it can simply be folded like a paper fan to expose the art.
We sat on some high steps overlooking Durbar Square–sweating profusely and gulping water. We watched people. People on bicycles, people walking, people riding in the back of rickshaws, men peddling rickshaws. Women selling strings of yellow flowers, spices, bracelets. Children running.
We made our way through the streets of Thamel. Thamel is narrow and disorienting. The vehicle strike is over and traffic is madness. We finally found the Garden of Dreams and sat under a shade tree in a mecca away from speeding mopeds and taxis and diesel fumes.
We finally agreed to brave the wild streets and got incredibly lost trying to find our way home. Luckily we found a place with veggie momos (dumplings with veggies/absolutely my favorite Nepali dish) and some suspicious Indian food. Stopping to glance at a map of Kathmandu in Kathmandu is a disaster. Teenage boys come running to be “your guide” and Sadhus (holy men) push orange-red dye on your forehead for a teekah. We learned to keep 5 rupees (about 5 cents) to give them. We ditched the map, went an hour out of the way, and finally found the guest house (not without a few “Where the hell are we?! You don’t know? I don’t know either!” meltdowns). Hot & exhausted & lost does not make for reasonable conversation.
Washed our clothes in the sink and hung them to dry in the sun.
Nepal is difficult (like in Ghana and many places) to communicate with women. This is very due to language barriers. I speak no Nepali. More men seem to speak English and are more confident about conversing with foreigners. There are also more male waiters, front desk clerks, shop keepers, etc. Women are more “behind the scenes” making the items sold in shops, cleaning the hotel rooms, and so forth. I made sure to tip the woman housekeeper in the guest house. The men carry luggage and get a tip while cleaners are forgotten (same in the US).
That said, there are female police officers and many directing traffic. And pencil drawn posters for “Feminist Hardcore Punk” in “Tham-Hell.”
I really need to read a book by Elizabeth Hawley.
We did not return to Thamel due to multiple warnings and safety concerns (post-earthquake). Jen did return to Thamel several weeks later when she was about to leave Kathmandu. She reported that Pilgrim’s Bookstore, the Tibet Guest House, and the Green Organic Cafe are all still standing and open for business. This was an incredible relief. Durbar Square is mostly rubble. Our sitting steps are in a pile. I don’t know if the Thangka school/shop still exists. Swayambu was mostly unscathed, except one gigantic pillar was knocked down (we could see this from binoculars from our post-earthquake hotel). And the people? I will never know. And that part certainly breaks my heart.
Update 2016: After several failed attempts at email, I did finally get ahold of the guy at the Thangka school and he reported all the staff members are “fine.” There was certainly some damage to the school and shop, but he reported they are in the process of re-building.