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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A report from Nepal

From Jed Brandt’s blog:

Greetings from Nepal

It took a bit for my time to adjust, to see things as they are coming here and where they're coming from. Not the instant back-and-forth rhythm of New York multi-tasking anxiety time. Most days the electricity is out in Kathmandu. You can hear chickens in the morning, children playing after school and quiet talk at night when the old women laugh and call across the rooftops. Blackouts make working a computer hard, but the pace of people living by hands and minds alone, without so much mediation, is not a place I've ever spent much time. And I do love it here. The city is dirty. The people are upright, direct and curious. I've made friends quickly, though I've gotten the impression its easier to get married than find a date.
Kathmandu is a valley. The Tanglang range of the Himalaya is the wall in the sky that separates South Asia from the Tibetan plateau to the north. The white caps are breathtaking when you can see them. Pollution is horrible. Cars only arrived in Kathmandu 20 years ago. Most of the city is built for footpaths, but that doesn't stop every sort of vehicle from ripping through trying to cut around the traffic jams. It's some kind of anarchy on the streets. People complain about it, then go do it themselves. I've seen three people hit by cars, none of which stopped. Motorcycles are everywhere and drive as they want. I've only seen one traffic light and it wasn't lit. The daily load shedding blackout.
Exhaust just hangs in the valley, air still as often as not. Along the main roads, commuters and pedestrians alike wear face masks of all kinds to filter out what they can. In any large crowd you can hear coughing, men clearing their throats. The air only clears after rains, which are rare save for the summer monsoon. We did get hail the other day, which tore apart the beautiful aloe plant on the patio where I'm staying. It was a grand dame of an aloe, now pocked with holes as big as dimes.
I have been lucky to have met many children, a few of whom are also friends. I'm listening to Sade, Beirut and Alicia Keys. Drinking with the neighborhood guys on Holi, I got to name the cat from the bodega below Lucita. She is beautiful, with patches of silver and black tiger stripes mixing up her pure white coat. Holi morning, the young men came up the stairs of the building I'm staying in to ambush me on the roof with red powder and buckets of water. Then they hugged me and poured another bucket over my head. Holi is a water balloon fight that doesn't stop until they start throwing buckets of colorful water and raw pigment, red, green, blue and orange. Best holiday ever. Girls do get pretty soaked though, not so fun sometimes. It's an occasion for both carnival and hooliganism. Lots of laughing. I tried to ask the guys about the meaning of the holiday and they decided to pour tall glasses of khukuri rum. I do try to oblige.

For the rest click here.

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