Friday, May 30, 2008

Touring Kathmandu

A quick update on the day, though no pictures because we are in Thamel and the connections rates are s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-slow.

Brittany had an adventurous ride to Kathmandu, which included three stops and a 10-hour layover in Dubai. To add insult to travel weariness, the flight from Bahrain to Kathmandu was delayed because—in her words which were the words of the Gulf Air representative she consulted—a car ran into the side of the plane while parked on the runway. Fortunately they managed to fix this problem and her flight arrived at 11:30 last night.

However, for me and Hannah waiting on the ground in KTM, the day became a struggle to stay awake after our own 36 hours sojourn with little sleep. After checking into the Hotel Tibet, we walked to Durbar Marg, outside the king’s palace, where hordes of demonstrators and riot police stood in the road. The demonstrators were waiting for (hoping to see) the king leave his palace for the last time. The new government, which began operating in earnest on Tuesday making Nepal the newest democratic republic in the world, has given the king 15 days to leave the premises or be forcibly removed. The demonstrators were celebrating the recent turn of events, mugging for TV cameras, singing songs, and chanting slogans about the king while the military stood by for any possible hijinks. There were a few tense moments where it felt like one idiot could precipitate problems by throwing a punch or rock or something but fortunately cooler heads prevailed.

It was not my intention to bring Hannah into the middle of a political demonstration within her first two hours in Nepal, but there we were, walking amidst all the police and demonstrators. The police were restricting Nepalis from moving into certain parts of the road but we were free to go where we wanted, which was a strange feeling, a little invasive. But the Nepalis seemed pleased to see anyone willing to record what was going on, more than happy to pose for pictures and explain to us why they were there.

We stayed a couple hours and fatigue began to win over so we grabbed a quick dinner. Brittany was originally supposed to arrive at 5pm but now we’d have to stay awake for another six hours. We decided to nap. I asked for a wakeup call at 10p and took a cab to the airport and waited among the taxi drivers for the flight. Tribhuvan airport at night is a little scary in a ghosttown kind of way. Lots of stray dogs wander around and you can find people sleeping, slouched up against the wall, presumably, waiting for a flight. Brittany eventually did arrive in remarkably high spirits.

This morning I called Sam’s House to talk to Dinesh and the didis. Dinesh wasn’t at the house so I spoke to Asuna which means then speaking with the children, which was hilarious, repeating the same thing… how are you (sanchaai chha)? Where are you (Kathmandumaa)? When are you coming (ma parsi aaunchhu)? We can’t wait to get there but there are some necessary cultural stops to make in KTM before then.

Brittany, Hannah and I went to Boudhanath this morning, one of my favorite places. We were invited for soda with a monk and got a small lecture on how thanka paintings are made. After that we went to Pashupatinath, the cremation temple, where we stood above a man who was mourning a relative moments before the body would be set aflame and scattered in the Bagmati river. We hired a guide to explain the various sites to us, which was a good idea because Hindu religion and cultural practices are absolutely byzantine to me. I can’t keep anything straight. It’s sort of like memorizing all the patron saints: after St. Christopher and the St. Anthony who helps you find things, I get lost.

Brittany and Hannah seem to be having a good time so far. Like many first time visitors to Nepal, they’ve noticed the basically wretched conditions for dogs and have remarked about the possibility of starting a dog orphanage.

In the afternoon we walked back to Durbar Marg (which is called something else now, since Tuesday, because Durbar Marg means ‘king’s way” and the king is no longer) because Brittany was wanting to see some “demonstrating” but she would be disappointed. It looked like the usual road of commerce that it typically is.

It’s late afternoon now and we’re pushing ourselves to stay awake and defeat the jet lag. Maybe another day or two.

Tomorrow is Saturday so I’m planning on taking them to Asan and some other traditional markets. Then in the afternoon I think we’ll go to Patan.

If I can, I’ll post pictures later today.

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