Day 6: The Hill
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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Ranu (my Nepali teacher) had planned to show me around Patan, a small city adjacent to Kathmandu notable for its particularly gorgeous old town. The Lonely Planet book calls the area a "living museum." Kewl. A "banda" (strike on all vehicular transportation) thwarted the outing, sadly. Transport strikes happen here about as often as the French riot, and when they do the roads are completely blocked off to traffic. Angry mobs make sure that anyone thinking of driving a car changes their mind. There was another such strike a couple weeks before I arrived, and Suganda apparently risked his life to drive to the airport and make sure someone was there to pick up an arriving volunteer. A mob blocked the road, shouting for him to turn around (lest they throw rocks and flip over the car), he drove into a side alley, hid for ten minutes, and continued on his merry way once the mob moved on. Crazy stuff, but it never affects quiet little Pepsi-ColaTown. Nepal isn't a very unified country; if one city goes crazy, another might not even hear about it let alone give a care.
In lue of no cars, Ranu, Christine (the Scot) & I took a pleasant walk up to a hill atop the airport to watch the planes take off and land, as well as visit one of the VSN-run clinics. It was closed at the time. Christine wuved the area, it reminded her of her countryside home in the Northern UK which she misses quite a bit. As we left, a flock of giddy school children came running across a field to greet us and shout "namaste!" I could swear they were running in slow motion with a Michael Bay/Hans Zimmer sentimental tune playing in the background. Couldn't draw my camera fast enough to capture it though. The day went on pretty slowly. There was another pleasant group hangout in The Hut, mainly consisting of the two goofball Parisians telling us funny stories of their travels in India shortly before flying toKathmandu, and Kris/Jesse cracking innuendos at any and all opportunities to do so. It's hard to tell what's a joke and what isn't with them, so I've just been assuming everything is. I'm probably right. Jesse, channeling Dan, Jeff and Ryan, has (jokingly?) promised to find me the Nepali girl of my dreams before our time here is up. It's funny he read me that well, 'cause I haven't actually talked to him that much yet. At least not enough for him to know of my wuv battleplan.
Stan and the jungle gang returned during this shindig. They were supposed to return the night before but got stranded due to a transit strike in the South. Being a bus driver here would be awesome, you could basically hold the entire country hostage on a whim. Stan's return also meant the return of listening to him play his guitar on the house's roof whilst staring at the stars with only a candle for light. Magic all around. Tomorrow, actually today at the time of writing, is supposed to be the start of my work at the orphanage (and oh man, that orphanage needs help... no words), but there are no buses until Friday and it's a half hour bus ride + half hour trek on foot away. We're all going en masse to the local school for some construction and painting duty instead, since the road infrastructure around and especially in Kathmandu is paralyzed.
Today (day 7) is a historical moment for Nepal, it's the day the King is (theoretically) set to step down to make way for a new Republic. There is speculation as to whether or not he actually will, and the military is mobilized to arrest him should he get stubborn. We've all been warned to stay out of the city for the next few days, because while there will be many an epic democracy celebrations taking place in it, there will also be some unrest. Not everyone wants the King to leave, and that minority will be quite upset when he does. On the flipside, if he doesn't, a great many more people will be *very* upset. Two volunteers who were in Thamel yesterday reported that it the city was blanketed in riot police and gonna be put under curfew, probably 'cause of the half assed pipe bomb that went off in central park giving two bystanders a paper cut. Stan showed us a nutty picture he snapped of a torch-wielding but *peaceful* mob setting up base-camp near the airport, which he passed on his return journey here.
Disclaimer: This kind of stuff happens often in countries like this, no volunteer has ever gotten hurt, no trouble will hit Pepsi-Cola Townbecause no one in Pepsi-Cola town really cares (their crops and families are far more important), I'm safe, yadda yadda not to worry. We all have emergency escape battleplans should worse come to worse, but the chances of worse coming to worse are less than getting hit by a terrorist in Israel, which in turn is less than getting into an auto accident back at USC. So Dad, don't worry. I'm not even gonna be in this area over the weekend anyway (adventuring to Pokhara for some snowcapped mountain views & a dose of Buddhist monastery life) so it hardly matters.
PS: Jesse has been to Haiti! =:-o
You can read about some of the developments here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7422262.stm