This post is fueled by jet lag. Waking up at 2 am, I don’t have too much to do, so i sit and write, and do yoga by candle light. I don’t think it will be technically possible for me to post the photos I have taken, and yesterday was quite a good photo day.
For the last two days I have settled into Thamel, the downtown district of Kathmandu. Thamel, to be frank, is a tourist trap, but why do I like it here?? The streets have no side walks, and are more dirt than pavement. I imagine they were originally made for Ox or Buffalo to move through only today they have white silvery bodies with Toyota symbols instead of nose rings. I constantly find myself cutting from one side to another avoiding the metalic mountain lions that in mass sprint at me. Beep, Beep, Beep!! I have to remember my soccer movements or imagine I am the incredible Zinedine Zadane.
Thamel is a place that balances out many forces. The tension between ancient and modern is thick here, and can feel like a ugly, and smelly cultural mosh pit. It copes with megabytes by placing wires above the streets. I am not talking about just a few cables, but huge collections, or web work of wires all put together piecemeal. The wire converges especially at intersections, and i could not wrap my arms around them if I were to bunch them. I can only cringe in fear anticipating how they will cope when gigabytes start pressuring.
I too find myself balancing out many forces in my walking through Thamel. But, then again, can you remind me why I like this place? I struggle between really wanting to keep open to the locals despite their persistent selling of something. I find myself tentatively engaging people idealistically hoping that someone, yeah someone will want some human exchange not tainted by the need to sell something.
My openness has it’s risks. Walking about I have had a dozen offers to buy Hash Hish. “It is from the mountains,” one guy said,”there is nothing added to it.” These offerings are a reminder of Thamel’s hippie past … and mine too.
Another guy surprised me, “Do you want sex?” I looked around saying to myself, ‘”duh Will.” It was dark, I was walking in front of a club with a sign saying “Dancers Inside.” The beat of dance music echoed from the club. “Why should I be surprised with this scene,” i asked myself. Later that night in a jet lagged slumber I had a vision of my wife and I colliding in a passionate embrace. I do miss her, and she arrives later today.
A kid maybe 11 or 12 years old pulled aside me. He was dirty, thin, his t-shirt had worn edges. Immediately he announced that he was a “street kid.” I immediately remembered Oliver Twist. He tried to engage me, saying “Washington DC, that is the capital of America. Ask me the capital of any nation in the world.” He sensed my hesitance, “come on, come on, just ask me.” “How about Sri Lanka?” “Kuala Lumpur,” he retorted. Laura later reminded me there are actually are fake street kids who do have a home but try to get handouts. I have no idea what was occurring with this kid.
So, again, can you remind me why I like Thamel?
I walked by Kathmandu’s Time Square, the intersection of Kanti Path and Tredevi Marg. There were no neon signs, and at one corner there was an entrance with a sign over it: “Garden of Dreams.” I like that place already and I haven’t been inside yet. My jet lag has turned off my dreams, come on dreams, come on back.
Turning down The Path I was leaving the Thamel district. I toke another right hand turn and entered a neighborhood, a real neighborhood, yeahhh! My camera starting going crazy. I like it when it does that. Click, click, click. I finally had some relieving moments of fun and laughter photographing two kids and their mom. I showed them pictures on my camera screen, and tried my first Napalese sentence. “Mero nam Will ho,” I said. I told them i was from the US and had a picture leftover on my camera of my kitchen back home. I was impressed by the mother who even though she operated a small store mentioned nothing about my buying anything and laughed along with her kids.
In this same neighborhood I noticed a few “mountain women.” They had a similar feel to Native Americans. They have pierced noses and still carry the mountains in their presence. I can dig that strategy, I even envy it a bit. More of that will come as we move on to Kaskikot next weekend, and into the Annapurna Himal region.
As I said to Laura, Thamel is a pill I can swallow once in a while. It is a pinch on my shoulder, even a slap on my face that reminds me that people can live in ways that can be different from where i come from. That is why I like this place, that is why I love, simply love to travel.
I’m gonna try some more sleep.