[ Kathmandu ]
After the relatively uneventful, eight-hour van (née bus) journey from Pokhara, I hopped a taxi to my usual digs in Thamel, Red Planet Guest House.
Current time? Three O’Clock in the afternoon. Fifteen Hundred hours. (It’s pertinent. And hey, what’s that signpost up ahead?)
As my driver backed in to the tiny, well-hidden driveway, a burly man in his mid-thirties swaggers up to me, blond-haired and blue-eyed, exhaling slurred, inflammable syllables:
“Здравствуйте. Они еще завтракают?” He pauses a half-instant, then louder, “Они – еще – завтракают?! THIS MEANS ‘ARE YOU SERVING BREAKFAST YET?’ IN MY LANGUAGE!!” His nose hovering only inches from my own, he is dual-bang emphatic, ALL CAPS!! His breath could fire my camping stove for a week.
I smile, helpfully pointing to Pleasure Garden Restaurant ten steps away, and suggest they will be happy to serve him breakfast.
“But now is too early morning, nyet? Not open! Why make breakfast before open?!” his incredulous breath is hazmat-grade, and he’s getting agitated. Midday Vodka Rage as I’ve not seen it since Mongolia.
I turn to my taxi driver, and—in Nepali—ask him to verify the time of day. We share a short verbal eye-roll at the Russian gentleman’s expense before I reply in English that yes, indeed, the sun is high in the sky; it is afternoon and many places are open, despite the holiday (today is the ninth day of the Dashain festival). Kindly, gently, I assure him breakfast is his for the asking. I smile once more, shake his hand, and helpfully turn him towards the restaurant’s door.
“Спасибо! Thank you!!” And off he goes, laboriously negotiating those Ten Steps to Pleasure.
Such is my welcome back to Kathmandu, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the first time since arriving in Nepal in 2012, I don’t know when I will be coming back. It’s not a feeling I like, and perhaps that’s why Kathmandu has decided to give me a sloppy wet kiss goodbye, as only Kathmandu can do. What with my Russian greeting, the last-minute replacement of tourist bus with local van, and tomorrow’s closing ceremonies for Dashain, it promises to be a memorable farewell.
And that van? The van was a…treat. Rather than the usual, roomy tourist bus with comfy seats and chilly A/C (for a whopping $7USD), we were transferred last minute to a small tourist van, jam-packed with humanity, with sketchy, limited climate control and a pair (or more) of exceptionally ripe, fragrant shoes mingling with the humidity and providing olfactory stimulation. The driver, though, was a hoot. While waiting to depart this morning, he learned I spoke Nepali, and so a good part of the trip was passed in Transglobalist Show-and-Tell. He looks at me in the rear-view, then at everyone else, then at me, then at everyone else as he launches his first volley:
“Oh! Hey folks! The gringo here can speak Nepali. Listen!” He asks me a couple of questions. I answer. Suddenly everyone in the van is chattering at me, simultaneously, at a thousand kpm. I freeze, suddenly wishing teleportation was a real thing. The eight-year old kid from Bhutan decides I have three heads, and starts pointing and laughing.
Thankfully, everyone transfers their attention to the boy, and this works for a while. But no…the driver is having none of it. I see him eying me in the rearview again. He addresses his captive audience, “Oh! Hey! I think he can also read the Nepali alphabet!” He points out the window: “what’s that sign say?” Sujata’s Snack House. (Crowd murmurs approvingly.) “And that one?” He points again. Govindas Electronics Emporium. “Wow!”
And so on. For eight hours. [Insert your favorite pained-expression emoji here.]
Anyway, there’s no story here. Don’t get your hopes up. Just a couple of random Dub-Tee-Effs from my penultimate day in Nepal.
Tomorrow afternoon comes the short hop to New Delhi, and then the long haul back to Houston and the final preparations for You Know What.
To Everyone, Everywhere, I wish you a Happy Dashain!
दशैंको सुभकामना (= Dashainko Subhakamana = Dashain’s Greetings),
Supercool Feature Image by Gerry Albert, and discovered at this link on moviepilot.com. Check it out.
I’ve just returned from a few hours wandering Thamel, drinking coffee, writing this post, having dinner. Sitting on the landing not far from my room is a table full of men of above average height and weight, all blond, SPEAKING LOUDLY IN RUSSIAN, drinking vodka and smoking hashish. They don’t know what time it is, and they don’t seem to care. So far no one has asked me for breakfast.
The night is still young, however…