An Indecent Proposal While Exploring a Tourist Hot Spot

This has been a stay-at-home spring break for us which is easy to do when you live in the middle of a mix of fascinating cultures.

We went shopping in Thamel, the tourist heart of Kathmandu. While Linda bargained with vendors I wandered the streets with my camera. The tourists have returned and the shops were generally busy.

Signs of prosperity

We had lunch at the RoadHouse Pizza where the featured product is baked in a wood oven.

Hot work

On our way back, our driver suggested we stop at a nearby area where a large chariot was being prepared to celebrate the upcoming rains (amongst other things) called Rato Machendranath Jatra. The chariot will be moved to various sacred spots in the city during the next month.

The chariot is that very large “tree-like” structure.

The chariot will be pulled by human power.

Cable service may be disrupted

The yoke of the wagon.

Kids on the chariot. When we were there, no one was climbing up and down the structure. Two years ago, just before the giant earthquake, two people were crushed under the wheels as it was being moved.

While waiting at the intersection a man approached me from behind “Want a massage? Ultimate end, you decided. Great sex.” No, this is not one of those Paul Theroux stories where I will go on to describe in detail a sexual encounter with a prostitute. Nope, not my thing. There are many stories of Nepali girls sold into labor only to end up in prostitution, a sad result of poverty and a lack of respect for humanity. However, I shared the story with someone and they suggested that the guy may have been the masseur, not the pimp! Good point. What a sad life, nothing great about it at all.

Masseur or Pimp?

 

 

Laxshmi puja – Let there be light

Today is Laxshmi puja, the day to welcome the goddess of good fortune to visit your house. We checked the batteries of our solar lights, and strung the bulbs across our second floor patio.

Houses in the neighborhood are decorated with lights and candles:

A mandala will help the goddess find the entrance to your house:

Notice the red blur in the picture, near the mandala. Is this Laxshmi?

A Festival of Light in the Dark

This is the festival season in Nepal (See this previous post to learn more). Think of the time between Thanksgiving and New Years in the West. The next festival is Tihar, the festival of lights.

However, we are in the same fuel crisis that started in the third week of September.

Linda and I are fine. But it did get more personal today. Our housekeeper, Indira, has been showing up and doing her job each day at the house. Besides the cleaning, washing and ironing, Indira takes care of us. She pays our local bills, commandeers water trucks when needed, and makes sure all of the delivery people are paid, and happy. She usually takes a bus, but the bus service is not available. Her next method for getting here is on the back of her son’s motorcycle. He is out of gas. So she walks. She walks one hour each way to our house.

Indira’s story is repeated in a thousand households in this city.  Indira takes the hardship as Nepalis do, “I will get thin with exercise!”

Note to Readers: At this time it is OK to sing to yourself the Monty Python song “Always look on the bright side of life.” Maybe it will make you a little more Nepali.

September 27th was the last time private cars and motorcycles could get fuel. Today the pumps open up again for three days. There is a schedule of when you can go, based on our license plate.

NOC=Nepal Oil Corporation

There is a cascade of bad headlines that seem to be the new normal such as: Business closed and hotels running at less than 20% capacity. The irony is that it is a great time to visit Nepal. Because travel to Nepal is not just about temples and mountains, it is about the Nepali people.

Next week is the celebration of Tihar. It is a festival of lights in which small oil cups burn inside and outside of houses. We had an early celebration at work, honoring all of our staff during this difficult time. One of the local staff said to the assembled group a simple sentence that both humbled me, and brought a tear to my eye:

“We can not illuminate our houses but we can illuminate our hearts”
Are you still singing the song?

An interesting week in Kathmandu


The monkeys have been very bold of late parading about school and on the electrical wires outside of our house. But I’ve always had a fair distance between them and me. That is until this week when I returned to my classroom after lunch to discover two monkeys walking down the hallway on the third floor. I quickly ran into my room to get the iPad to take a picture of them but they were gone. So I slowly walked down the hallway and saw two more out on the window ledge overlooking the Pre-School playground. I think they were eyeing the “monkey bars” No sooner did I snap this shot when another monkey hidden by a pillar starts climbing over the railing just two feet from me! Aaaaaaaa! With my heart pounding I quickly ran back to my room and shut the door. Fortunately the custodian came by to tell me to stay in my room while he shooed the monkeys away! 

Road Block

That evening I searched for 5 rupee bills (5¢) for the morning. The start of the festival Shivaratri began early in the morning with children stretching rope across the roads. In order to pass by you need to pay them some money. They were delighted with the 5 rupees I gave them. I only encountered 2 groups along my way to school. They use the money to buy wood for the bonfires they would light later that night. They sit vigil around the bonfires at the various Shiva temples throughout the town.

Today was a school field trip to one of the Tibetan monasteries near the school. We sat on our cushions on the floor and watched the monks perform traditional dances to send away all the negative energy from the past year to welcome in the new year beginning tomorrow. The dances went on for 2 hours and the kids were all troopers sitting for that long.

The costumes were fascinating with beautiful embroidered brocade and papier mache  masks. We had front row seats in front of some lovely elderly Tibetan women.

It would have been a great week but one thing was missing. My sweetie! He is in Mumbai at a tech conference.

So as Dorothy said to Toto, “We are not in Kansas anymore!”

-Linda

A Journey Through Space and Time

It is about space and time.

After 17 years in one spot, an eternity for global nomads, we have moved to a new country. So much to do, so much to learn, so much to process, and so little time to do it in. Or at least it feels that way.

It has been a big adjustment moving to Nepal. Life literally moves at a different pace, a new rhythm to live by. (Just now the power went out, as if on cue).

We walk 5 minutes to and from work each day. Passing a Kumari shrine, a carpentry shop, one beige cow and its very ancient handler, a construction project on a house that would not pass code in California, at least four dogs, numerous motorcycles, a few cars and vans, all along a path that is not more than 6 shoulder lengths in width and a distance of less than 100 yards. It is pleasant, but it can be a challenge.

We wait for space to clear on our road near the back gate of the school and the Kumari Shrine. One of the trucks is moving goods from the carpenter’s shop.

The road gets ridiculously narrow as it winds past the corner of the school and down to the main road which leads to the school’s entrance. Fortunately we have a key that lets us in the back gate. However, we have had the misfortune of being on that road in a vehicle as another vehicle comes around the corner and the two face-off. It can quickly turn into a scene from “Soylent Green,” which Science Fiction readers will know was based on the book “Make Room” by Harry Harrison. A simple journey can take a long time.

Make Room! Note the car behind the motorbikes and the pedestrians. We backed up.

Another day, and another adventure in space and time in Kathmandu. According to Google Maps, we could have walked for 40 minutes to our director’s house for a mid-term celebration, but it was Friday, it was raining, and I still had my school bags.

So we took the bus with many of the other teachers instead. Did I mention it was Friday, or that it was raining? Plus, it was also the first weekend of Dashain, a Nepali religious festival that like so many cultures involves a lot of shopping. The roads were jammed.

Every inch of the road was filled with metal and humanity.

We had left at 4:30
Lots of good stories were told. Some watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey. We got to know our fellow teachers a little bit better and we were richer for it. At least we had a seat to ourselves. A few inches from us, another bus, balancing precariously between the pavement and drooping shoulder tried to pass us and almost tipped over in slow motion. I got a picture of one of the passengers.
Not blown-up or shot with a telephoto
Space and time were on the side of the passengers….. this time. 
We reached our destination and it was a wonderful party, but as it has been said before, it is the journey, not the destination that will be remembered.