Kathmandu life in the streets...
06.01.2011 13 °C
January 6th 2011
It was either the yak or the chicken but all I can say is that I’m not qualified to leave my guesthouse today. Why do I eat chicken? I see them on the sides of the road all the time eating garbage and drinking out of black puddles and I know those are the ones going on my dinner plate.
“Free range” chickens out here are a whole different story. I don’t know which chickens are worse for me. The chickens, drinking sewage and eating whatever is on the ground of a poverty stricken village, or the western ones shot up with Miracle Grow? I guess the local ones are at least allowed to run around. Think I’m going to take my own advice and go veg while I’m here.
Ok.. Several hours later.. Well I decided I was qualified to leave my guesthouse when I got too bored and excited to see what was outside!!
I dressed real warm and headed “left” out of my hostel..
It took about an hour to walk about 100 meters as I just kept stopping to take photos. This town is worn to the bone, dusty, lovely, chaotic, eccentric, curiously beautiful.
I stopped and took photos of the colorful clothes, the colorful broken doorways, the colorful saris that were draped around the women.
As I weaved and dodged out of the way of hundreds of people, honking motorbikes, minivans, and cute little alien like Suzuki's from the 1970’s, in the narrow streets, I couldn’t help but find everything fascinating. No matter how dingy it was it had history and an energy that I cannot describe.
The smell in the air (once you get passed the exhaust) is that of Himalayan flowers being burnt in the form of incense. The smell of sidewalk samosas, wontons, and fresh strawberries are also dominant depending where you walk. Spicy chai tea from the endless amounts of tea shops also permeate the air..
A massive white shrine caught my eye as I walked passed an alleyway. Curiosity hooked me, and reeled me into the center of a sealed off courtyard surrounded by several old delapitated buildings..
I was the only foreigner in there. I felt like I was in Iran or Pakistan. I've pictured this type of scene before, in journals I read and films I've watched about life being lived around war, in the Middle East.
Run down or demolished concrete buildings make up most f this city. Their old paint, cracked and coated in thick dust and smoke. The men warm their hands around fires made of trash and tires. The courtyard is made of broken cobblestone.
Wild haired children with bare feet play with items that they have found in the trash. A broken bicycle wheel. A tin can and a stick. Their imaginations are at good use here.
There's a pack of snarly mangy looking dogs eyeing a few waddling mangy looking ducks from a safe distance. The atmosphere matches that of a woman I see holding her baby. She stands barefoot staring upwards. Desperate lines crease her tear smeared face as she makes her pleas to the sky. Her tattered sari ripples in the cold breeze. Her baby cries with her.
I feel like an imposter. I am. No foreigner goes into these court yards. I stumbled upon real life. Uncensored. Another lesson to appreciate that I can even be a witness to any of this.
I’ve seen many poverty stricken areas in my travels but perhaps it’s the near absence of tourists, the political strife, and the harsh reality being lived in freezing temperatures that make this particular trip so intense. Is that the reason?
Maybe it's the uncensored tears here and the genuine smiles straight from a lot of hearts there, that pull on my own heart strings harder than ever.
Perhaps doing this without a travel partner also changes my perspective. I'm a single female traveler in a country where women have little to no rights. I land here on the day when an international warning is advised to keep from traveling to Nepal.
I only have to worry about myself though. I'm comfortable with that. Growing up with a mom like mine was much like attending a lifetime at 'Street Smart' University.
I can sense a bad situation like a shark can sense a drop of blood in the sea. If I'm caught in one I can disappear out of it before anyone has a chance to even remember what I look like. I blend in. A scarf drapes around my head.
I wear a heavy wool cape that hides my camera and the 10 inch curved Nepali dagger I keep tucked in my waist band. A fully charged stun gun is ready in my right hand pocket. My eyes are bright and my smile is sincere. But, you can never be too careful around folks plagued by desperate aggression.
I'm not paranoid. I'm aware. I make sure to never be a target. If this sounds like PTSD, blame the monkey.
Traveling alone affords me the opprotunity to feed my imagination. My imagination then ignites my inspiration to write and take photos and explore well off the beaten path.There's no complaining. No compromising. No fear. A heightened sense of awareness is born. I'm 100% present and appreciative.
As I entered Durbar Square (lots of temples in this area) I stop and I’m filled with the same sense a dog or cat gets when it hears a can of wet food or tuna being opened.. My heart races. My invisible tail is wagging!! It’s beautiful!!
There’s temples, broken brick buildings, old men and women sitting on the temple steps, children playing hackey sack, a communist rally going off, a six year old Hindu goddess, (the Kumari) living the life of a child god behind closed doors, cows wandering amidst the chaos, and armed military in groups at every block.
Photo candy heaven.
I walk further on as I’m starting to feel hungry for the first time today.
I keep it vegetarian at a tiny café crammed with locals. I order dahl, garlic nan, and a bottle of sparkling water.
I try and read my book but I can’t help but look at all the different types of food coming out. The steam from the bowls of curry fill the room. My stomach growls. I stare into space and get lost in my reflection of the days adventure.
What a great day. Every day is better than the last.
I’m so lost in thought that when the food comes I’m pleasantly startled and I say out loud “YAY! Deri deri danyubad!! (Thank you very much)
I feel so greatful for everything… I lay my eyes on the dahl and take a slurp. It’s amazing, how on earth did they make this taste exactly like liquid magic? And then the nan you ask? It’s like none I’ve ever experienced. It’s topped with garlic, chives, and love.
I pay and move on going deeper and deeper along the winding and cracked paved roads. I come across a street called Freak street, that was much like a Haight& Ashbury back in the day. Now a days there's no flower haired hippie bums to be seen. For now the it looks like the hippie trail here has died. Still I explore to see if anything catches my interest.
I enter a dark small doorway that I have to bend down to get into. It opens up into a cramped little area filled with locals. I order a chai and go outside and talk a man named..? Doesn't matter. He was born and raised in Kathmandu.
He talks about his trip to Dallas where he has a brother who works as an IT.
He then tells me he has rooms for rent $200 a month. I tell him my friend might be interested but he changes the subject and gets to the point by telling me his mother wants him to get married.
Hmmm… awkward.. I respond by laughing and telling him that EVERY mother wants their child to get married, and then quickly flash my cheap fake wedding band to scratch me off his desperation list. I leave shortly after…
I continue my walk back. The electricity has been out for several hours. City wide power cuts are from (2pm-8pm) then (3am-8am) sometimes longer, but that’s the schedule this week.
It's dark. Shitty. I head back and try and retrace my steps. I get pretty far in the dark but then get side tracked by an incense shop. The man greets me with a warm “Namaste” (this translates literally to: ‘greetings from my god to your god’ or ‘greetings from my inner divinity to your inner divinity’ How special and loving is that?
Everyone says this around here. It’s easy to pass up a “Hello my friend” from a shady suit tailor in Bangkok, but it feels slightly blasphemous to ignore a “Namaste” from a thin framed man shivering behind his counter lit by candles..
I greet him back with the special word and enter his shop smelling everything on every shelf. The smells set such a lovely ambiance. I don’t even try and bargain. This is the best incense I’ve ever smelled in my life. I buy some from the very friendly man. He thanks me graciously.
I rub my palms together and generate heat. I take his ice cold hands and hold them for a moment to pass on my heat . I tell him to keep drinking his hot tea, I wish him good luck and a warm “Namaste” on my way back out into the dark and narrow traffic jam.
I make it to a familiar corner but I wrongly second guess myself several times.
There’s comfort in the dark streets lit by the headlights of the many cars and bikes. Plus I’m amid a thick crowd of people and pack of friendly street dogs.
Finally, I find a store and buy some more Punjabi mix that I’m addicted to and a huge mess of candles to keep my room warmer at night..
The friendly family at the counter lead me in the right direction. I pass my hostel and keep moving. I’m not ready to settle just yet, so I explore my own neighborhood. How exciting!!
There’s live bands playing above and shwarma vendors below. I stop for some more chai and some interesting looking chocolate.
I end up chatting with a man from Cameroon. He’s a soccer player training here for the last two months in the high altitude to build up lung strength. At least this is what I understand…
I think about grabbing a beer and trying to meet some people but I have not felt like drinking since NYE. I even make the effort to go into a bar but then leave. However, I see a poster for a yoga class posted on the wall and think that this may be something I really want to do well after my belly gives me a break from the poison..
I come back to my room fully excited to download my photos. Tomorrow, I’ll try to upload the rest of Bangkok and Phuket, so I can move on to these photos. I’m very excited about them!!
I’m going to end this on some Nepali awareness:
Some 10,000-15,000 Nepali girls are sold for $2500USD to the brothels in Mumbai. There are a reported 100,000 women who work in the brothels there and half are believed to be HIV positive..
The Nepalese Youth Opportunity Programme has come up with ways of encouraging families by giving them a piglet and a stock of kerosene for every daughter that they keep. So far the organization has steered roughly 2,500 girls from slavery…