Posts tagged “memory”

Stray thoughts from Kathmandu

It’s a little odd being back in Kathmandu. Much feels the same — congestion, pollution, tourists. Silent places pepper the roads, close to and worlds from busy intersections. Beautiful old crumbling Rana palaces, inhabited by the packs of wild dogs that still control the city. It feels as though it would be easy to fall into old work and life patterns - a welcome thought.

Familiar haunts have been reoriented, reorganized, redistributed, relocated. Some roads have gone from crudely paved to stone tiled. The palace — on lock down during past lives here — is open, a museum to an abolished monarchy, its end initiated in violent bloodshed.

A spot we visited often, for tourists of all ilk, once lived down a little alley. It still lives in the same place, but the alley has transformed. It has widened, opening up into a brick megaplex full of shops catering to tourists. It is like many of the paths here that converge on large central squares and are often adorned with stuppas, small shrines, and clotheslines.

On the streets, traffic appears much the same — though far fewer UN vehicles plow through intersections and around corners. Perhaps the UN mission here has been downsized. Perhaps my sample size of two days is far too small.

Fat, almond-shaped rain spewed from the sky yesterday for four and a half hours. “Pre-monsoon,” the hotel staff said. Memory must have erased the Kathmandu monsoon from my neurons — I have no recollection of rain like that. The streets filled with inches of water. Shops closed their front gates in an attempt to keep the rain out. Fellow KGH residents - with plans for meals out and about dashed - congregated in the small, overpriced, hotel restaurant.

Near Bishal Bazaar, Tip Top Tailors still serves the ultimate, mouth-scorching samosa. Amidst hundreds of similarly named tailors, on a bustling and wide road, two small signs point down a corridor to the legendary snack vendor. The largest clue that you’re in the right place is a steady stream of people entering and existing a narrow alley (which, like others, opens into a wide courtyard, this one with rich smells swirling about). Wandering there yesterday, old muscle memories guided me right to the spot. Another nice bit of delight.

Despite the gradual expansion of the city through the entire valley, KTM is still a small place. It’s unsurprising, then, that I ran into an old friend today. Now married to a Nepali, he runs an environmental consulting firm in Kathmandu, and is pulling off feats with rainwater harvesting, biosands, and soon cookstoves. He’s transformed — still American, but Nepali, too.

Into the fire — off to Delhi in four short hours. Temperature don’t seem to drop below 90-95, even in the early morning.

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