At a Glance
August 21, 2015
The Best, the Worst, & the Coolest About Living in Nepal
The best thing I think so far is discovering life in a totally new way. To open your eyes and see how culturally rich and diverse it is here. To realize there are truly only a handful of things you actually need. To see your own prejudices and stereotypes begin to crumble before you, opening your mind to new opportunities to learn and grow from.
The worst is the knowledge that there will be a potentially bigger & badder earthquake to hit while here, and having no idea when or where it could happen.
The scariest is the frequent tremors/aftershocks that you feel. The first time I felt an aftershock I was on my bed wondering what the heck was happening. The most recent was when Paul & I were at the table and it started trembling and the small vase of flowers began shaking. In those moments it’s like you freeze and wait to see what happens next. Is it going to get worse? Will it stop soon? Luckily for now I could always answer the latter first.
The coolest is making friends from such culturally different backgrounds and learning about their individual lives, beliefs, experiences, and culture, and then seeing beyond these differences and being aware that we actually share so much in common.
The most fun (funnest – why can’t this be grammatically acceptable? Go away red scribbly line) is just putting on your backpack and leaving to go explore.
Catching the local bus – an experience in itself
The first time Paul and I went exploring we were nervous – foreigners waving down a passing bus on Ring Road (basically I would rather cross a busy street in NYC), who don’t speak more than 5 words of Nepali is not the ideal mixture. We were going to Boudhanath Stupa again, so I could show Paul. 1, 2, 3 minibusses pass us yelling out “Boudha” (bo-da), but they were crammed full. We decided if we wanted to go anywhere we were going to have to be more aggressive.
Then the next bus comes and it hardly slows down for us so we run after it, repeating “Boudha!” The bus boy that collects the money jumps down and Paul, now “aggressive,” yells “teece” at him (which means 30…I think) and the boy just looks at us weird. We were making it more complicated trying to haggle with prices and trying to be sure of what we were doing. It’s just better to go with the flow. So we hopped on and were instantly greeted by 20 pairs of eyes just staring at us. The only rule regarding the traffic here is that there seem to be no rules, just don’t purposely hit anyone. Buses, scooters, and cars were literally inches away. Rather than daily traffic, it’s more like a race to see who can fit in the smallest space and get in front of you first. It’s fun – in an uncertain “I don’t know if I’m risking my life” kind of way.
Boudha Stupa – round two – this time with a rooftop view
We finally arrive – and this time at Boudhanath there were many more people circling the square touching all the prayer wheels. When we went to go up on the lookout, there were about 50 people sitting all over the floor mumbling prayers aloud and in unison. They all had their shoes off, cross-legged, and were passing around dried bread twists and pouring small cups of Mountain Dew – a fine mix between tradition and globalization. One nice, smiling lady motioned for us to go upstairs past them and they all just continued to worship for I don’t know how long.
I then suggested we go to a rooftop café to see the panorama and to have a nice cup of coffee. We were the only 2 there at this hour – Paul indulged in a locally brewed Everest beer with veggie soup and me – coffee and Indian veggie curry. For the two of us it was around 1100Rs, or approximately $11. Not bad. Then it got dark, real dark, real fast. We walked until we found a bus that would take us back to Dhumbarahi.
It’s the small things
On the way, we stumbled across a Bhatbhateni supermarket which is the closest thing to a “Wal-Mart” here. This Bhatbhateni seemed luxurious compared to the one we use most. This one actually had aisle signs! It was clean and products weren’t all over the floor in boxes in front of the shelves. Haha, we laughed at how such small things can make one so happy. Which reminds me — the other day before picking Paul up at the airport I was expecting a cold shower, (since that’s been the reality for 3 weeks) and then all of a sudden the water got warm…warmer.. and then hot! I could actually stand under it normally without having to stick my right foot in and take my left arm out and shake it all about.. I was so overcome with happiness!
That shower ended up being quite pointless though. When I went to meet Paul at the airport I tried going on my own, taking a taxi, on my own, and all that, on my own. It began raining cats and dogs and there I was – in the dark, in the rain without an umbrella, trying to wave taxis down and when I finally got one he tried robbing me (no, not literally)! He wanted to charge me 800Rs ($8) because of course, I am a foreigner. 1 hour later I retreated back to the apartment soaking wet and my roommate and I took a bus to the airport – which only costs 15Rs (15 cents) per person.
Talking our way to Thamel
Saturday is my day off, so Paul and I decided to venture out again and just walk to the famous area called Thamel, which is about 45 minutes from where I live. You discover so much more by traveling on foot. One of the most memorable moments I’ve had is when, on our way there, we walked past this area that was obviously very damaged by the earthquake. There was a pagoda-style Hindu temple in the middle of rubble, dirt, broken bricks, and mud, and walking across it all were two little girls; they both stared at us as we did them when all of a sudden they both started giggling. The eldest of the two held up a smartphone she was carrying. She was taking a picture of us taking a picture of them. To her, we were the interesting folk to look at; with our foreign clothes and hair, backpacks, and face masks. And to us, there were two little Nepalese girls walking alone through the earthquake rubble and mud that contradicted a beautiful, old temple standing in the background.
Getting closer to Thamel you notice the streets get (a little) cleaner, shops get fancier, and there are more signs in English and not to forget more foreigners too, which was interestingly quite nice. It’s almost as if each time we looked at one another we said, “Hey! I know what you’re going through, we understand each other, white traveler,” when nothing was actually said. Yeah, it’s kind of weird. There’s so much to look at walking through the streets in Thamel; the atmosphere is so lively and colorful, it just makes you go, “Whoa, Asia.”
On our way back we paid 200Rs each to get into the “Garden of Dreams” which, compared to the streets, is a beautiful green oasis.
It really separates you from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are fountains, ponds, statues, critters, palm trees, benches, etc. I mean it was worth the visit.
We sat down for overpriced coffee at a fancy restaurant inside the garden. But it was probably the best cappuccino I’ve ever had, considering I wasn’t really a coffee person until I got here ^^ Nonetheless, it was well worth the visit. When we left to walk back home, we were “attacked” to put it harshly, by a fake holy man. It was a money scam, but we didn’t have the time to figure that out. An old man just walked up to Paul and put a red dot on his forehead and said “it okay I am a holy man.” Uh, I don’t think so, sir. He “blessed” us both with a wilted flower on our heads and with a quick ring of his small bell. Then he said “Money, money, money.” Feeling so awkward with our ridiculous thumb-sized red dots I took out a one-dollar bill, which he wasn’t too happy with. Hey, money is money.
In the meantime..
When not out and about, time here is spent waiting out the monsoon rains by playing Spongebob monopoly or a game of chess, maybe even watching a movie or two, playing with Yoda, chasing Yoda, cooking dinner, writing, read, and working of course from 10-5, except when there are announced strikes/protests (bandhs/banda). Hope you enjoyed reading a little more about life so far in Kathmandu!
Hi Grandma & Grandpa! Just wanted to give a quick shout-out if you’re reading this to tell you we miss you and love you both so much!!! <3