10 May: Kathmandu, Nepal

10 May

Came down to breakfast and noticed there were no spare seats.  It was interesting I saw a man at the far end and made a decision to sit with him.  He kindly allowed me to sit with him and I ate breakfast chatting.  

His name was Karl and he was in Search and Rescue in Germany.  I spoke to him of Nepal and how wonderful the people are.  I think he had felt a little confronted as Kathmandu is full on.  He did find the city hard to navigate as there are no signs in English and it is even hard to find the Nepalese signs.  So map reading can be challenging.  He said he caught taxi’s everywhere.  

We talked about our lives and he told me he had a son and he and his wife were separated.  He worked long hours but did get to see his son.  It is such a changing world, so many families breaking up.  He spoke of his Search and Rescue organisation depending on funds, so always seeking money.  I queried why the government didn’t pay.  We also spoke of economics; it seems that Germany is in a good financial position.  I thought of Germany being the core of European stability and the other newer economies such as Spain, Italy and Greece being the periphery.  He did comment that he wasn’t that impressed by his country.  He lived out of the cities in a village that was closer to Hamburg.

I spoke of my peace work and the teacher training in Nepal.  I told him it was my first time in the country and that we had really had a great time here.  He is a lovely person and I felt happy I’d sat with him.  My friend Gordon turned up and had a chat with him as well.  

I decided to go back for more sleep as clowning the day before had taken a lot of energy.  Gordon went for a walk into Kathmandu and Peter and Pat went to the office.

I came downstairs later for lunch and Gordon turned up.  He explained to me he bought a business.  He went onto to say that he had his shoes shined by this young man.  He asked him where his shoe shine box was.  The young Indian man explained that it had been stolen when he was travelling from India to Nepal on the train.  Anyway, Gordon asked to see this man’s family.  He said it was far away, around 7km.  Gordon said we can take a taxi.  So they travelled to this community which was a shanty town of tents.  He said he would be embarrassed to take a westerner into the community and asked him to wait.  He stepped over a wire fence and went to get his wife and 4 children.  Gordon took pictures of the wife and 3 children and one photo of him with his baby.  He was amazed at the living conditions of make shift shelters of plastic.  You can imagine how cold in winter.

He then said to this young man that does anyone sell shoe shine boxes?  The man said there was a person with two boxes.  So Gordon suggested they go visit him.  They did that and the man said he would sell the box for 300,000 rupees.  The box was impressive according to Gordon, it was also a shoe repair kit and had many tools, like a mini factory in a box.  He didn’t think it was worth 300,000 rupees and instead offered 20,000.  The other man suggested 25,000 and that the young man pays off the remaining 5,000 rupees.  Gordon said no, and said he would pay 25,000 ($250).  So they agreed.  Gordon went off and withdrew the money.  He then gave it to the man and gave the young man the shoe box.  He said he now had a business.  The young man was very happy.

He told Pat the story and we were all impressed.  Even if the young man was going to sell the box, it was Gordon’s kindness that was the point; his intent was to help empower someone to help themselves.  That in my view is true sustainable development.  It can’t be about handouts as people get dependent.  That is why I don’t like giving money.  Although the night before I felt inspired to give 150 rupees, which is not much, but it could buy food for this woman.  

Later in the day Gordon and I went walking in Kathmandu.  We walked around the streets checking out the vendors.  We happened across a Tibetan bookshop which looked interesting, lots of symbolism and mandalas depicting Tibetan culture.  We moved on further and found ourselves opposite a police compound and later on we saw a sign on Money Laundering Department or something like that.  It was funny.  We walked past an expensive area which had wide promenade and expensive brand names.  The shops were like Western shops and only the rich would shop there.  Some of the prices were higher than Australia.  We noted KFC and MacDonald’s there.  How they had infiltrated so many countries around the world.  I prefer the little market places where ordinary people can make things and sell them for a livelihood.  The exclusive part of town excludes people from shopping there, making class visible.  We had a coffee there and I contemplated being white and the status it has.  It is connected to wealth, if only people knew the reality with me, I can’t afford a iPhone yet the girls next to me are playing on one.  I laugh at the irony.

We walked on and found ourselves again in the little alleyways filled with traders sitting on the ground with their fruits, vegetables, solar lights, purses, jewellery, handicrafts and endless ranges of items that may be demanded, all little traders.  We walked over a bridge and had a look at a white temple surrounded by water.  I then bought some little bags at $1.00 or 100 rupees.  I bought for friends.  We then walked down the other side and again walked through the little streets with little traders.  We came to a little roundabouts and Gordon did seem to have a sense where we were.  We did ask directions and knew we were in Thamel.  

We stopped at a little cafe and had to climb a steep silver staircase.  We saw people up on a balcony.  I looked in upstairs and someone was sleeping on pillows.  I suspect westerners come here to have a sleep.  There were little wooden tables and people sat on the floor.  On the balcony it was narrow and there were 5-6 tables. We ordered some tea and chatted briefly with an Asian girl.  We decided it was a good spot to look at the women selling their vegetables on the street and watching the passing parade of people, some in Rickshaws, others on bikes, walking, all shapes and sizes.  We saw a Japanese couple, Gordon waved them up and up they came.  They were quite modern looking and told me they were heading to Australia.  I told them they will love it, it is fun.  After a rest we then decided to keep walking as we had arranged to meet Karl to show him the photos of the clowning the day before.  

We walked on and Gordon got the gist of where we were.  He told me the next day he was once a cartographer, so he is interested in maps and likes to know where places are, a good man to walk with.  We looked at a strange site which was really a little place to pray or get luck.  It was coins all nailed to a little shrine.  There were lots of them and I noticed a man touch them as he walked, I guess they wanted prosperity.  We walked in another shop and I bought some cards, they do make a lot of paper products, I prefer handmade. I discovered their flag was not square but two triangles of red, white and blue.  

We had a laugh at traders hassling for sale.  One we smiled as he kept saying 800 rupees, 700, 600, 500 as he believed that no meant he hadn’t offered the right price.  I did buy stuff off him before at a much reduced price.  He kept at it and we were firm, I smiled and blew him a kiss.  He got the message and we parted as friends with a nice wave.  We noticed the miss mash of wiring handing in clumps from the roofs and poles.  Life here is so busy, so much activity going on all around you, people of all walks of life walking past.  Men with their arms around their friends or holding hands, women are the same holding hands.  So different culturally and much more loving is my sense.  They have strong friendships and family.  

We returned to the Kathmandu Guest House and saw Karl sitting at a table.  We sat with him and had a Lasse.  As we were sitting Suresh came to visit.  I saw him last time we were in Kathmandu.  He is a musician with the band and into the law of attraction.  I found out his music was 100 years old. He also came from a caste of musicians, his father was a musician and his grandfather.  So he grew up with music, he was never taught, but they knew how to play.  They see their instruments as one with themselves, amazing.  He and I talked about his music, his life and his social enterprise and desire to give educational scholarships to poor children and serve the country. His caste didn’t have land so they had to make a living out of music or some other economic development approach.  He said he used to travel to schools playing music to teach the children about peace.  This of course was very interesting to me.  This was in response to the 10 year war they had (1996 to 2006) and he wanted to find creative positive ways to teach children not to make the same mistakes and choose nonviolence. Moreover, he said they had suffered a lot during the war.  So he had high ideals and big ideas.  I really like that.  So we talked on and connected on Facebook.  

Gordon showed Karl the photos of clowning and then Peter and Pat joined us with Peter’s friend.  Peter’s friend was his guide from a 1993 trek, lovely guy.  He said Peter had dark hair back then, we laughed.  He said he missed nature, he worked 33 years as a guide. He was a Sherpa.  He had a beautiful smile and shared with me his love of the mountains and how it is part of him.  He is not keen on the city, but nature is where he is happiest.  I thought of the Australian Aborigines and their love of nature as part of them, they couldn’t conceive of property rights and ownership, mother nature and aboriginals were one.  I really love that realisation.

He told me the glacial ice is retreating.  I asked if that was what caused the landslide that killed 12 people.  He seemed to think they were walking in the wrong place and may have created some instability with the snow.  So it may have been errors the Sherpa’s had made.  He was an experienced trekker himself, you have to treat nature with caution.  The mountains can be dangerous places and many people died trying to climb Everest.  Yet you can’t help but think of the brave people involved.  The Nepali people are so strong and courageous, I really respect them.

After the music the evening broke up and we went up to sleep.  I was awake a while listening to music, a thoroughly enjoyable day.

 

Mohandas Gandhi

“My life is my message.”

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