After the journey of what seemed to be a thousand nights (seriously! most of the time when we looked out the window it was dark! We left in the dark… transited in the dark… arrived in the dark…) we arrived in Kathmandu. In Nepal, everyone without a Nepalese passport must get a visa. This process is somewhat nebulous (requiring lineups for pictures, payment and processing), and it was interesting to watch ordinarily intelligent individuals move around like lemmings, following from one lineup to the next, regardless of whether they understood what they were doing or not. Thankfully, we had some prior knowledge of the process, and so had already brought along our pictures. Additionally Tyra saw some assured looking individuals picking up forms from a really laid back guy in a t-shirt and jeans… which just happened to be the intake form. So we were only half-lemming! 😉
(But we could also talk about China… and an airport where when you are there on a layover you exit onto a tarmac… get into a bus… and then are shuttled to a security and customs lineup to prove you are not a threat, nor are you planning on staying… before being permitted to race to your departure gate in the hopes that you haven’t missed your plane… we were very lemming in that case)
Anyway… once we had our visas everything seemed very unstructured… we went and collected our gear but then just walked out of the building, only having to stop and show our baggage tags to prove that our bags belonged to us… it all seemed somewhat suspicious but we were too tired to care, and so beat it the hell outta there!
Outside Sunisha had organized that Sudarshan (whose family we will be staying with in the communities) was there to meet us. He and his friend Ravinder were there proudly holding up a sign that said “Jasmine”… but they were somewhat hidden by all of the taller people standing in front of them, so it took a few minutes to see them given all of us are somewhat vertically challenged (except for Tyra who was still inside guarding the bags… and growling at people walking by in a Seinfeldesque tribute to “Back off… and get your own bags”. This was in response to an elderly man who was having difficulty driving his cart and kept attempting to run over bags, people and everything else in the way). Anyway… our gear easily fit into a jeep taxi (who knew these things existed??) and we clambered in while Ravinder roared off into the night on his motorcycle.
At the house we encountered Deepak (Sunisha’s cousin)… who had patiently waited for our arrival despite being incredibly ill with a sinus infection (in his words “I am not well”). While unloading the luggage, Jasmine inadvertently emasculated the driver by hoisting out the rubbermaid bins (which had we known that we would be climbing three flights of stairs with them may not have been packed as completely as they were). The room we have is lovely and we feel very spoilt as we have been repeatedly asked if there is anything more we need. It was at this point that Deepak, Sudarshan and Ravinder repeatedly wandered through asking if we had seen Ravinder’s helmet. Tyra helpfully looked in all corners and behind curtains… however the helmet has been “disappeared” where all lost socks go. Thankfully it was only just 11:30pm and so we could exhaustedly fall into bed to get a proper night’s sleep at the right time.
This morning, Tonic (i.e. Tyra) decided it was a beautiful day and that she only will live in houses that have a balcony from this day forward. (aside: From the balcony we have had the opportunity to play both Juliet and Rapunzel already today – who knows which characters we will be tomorrow…)
Breakfast was interesting as we journeyed in both Fred Penner and Hobbitlike fashion to get to the cafe where we ate. Walking a desolate winding, twisting road we eventually materialized on the busiest street in Kathmandu and then disappeared into a building fronting as a dry cleaning shop. Suddenly there were stairs… and then tables… and food showed up in front of us. It was all very “majestical” (if you have watched The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, you will understand). We were just happy that there were bananas. 🙂
After breakfast we went in search of money… which theoretically shouldn’t really have been that hard. Especially since Deepak escorted us to the bank. However, Gin (i.e. Jas) was so used to going through security by this point, that she allowed herself to be scanned for weapons to simply enter the ATM (this is required only if entering the bank). It was only after screening that anyone informed her that this security measure was unnecessary for her transaction. At the ATM station it took a few moments to not only figure out how to open the door but also how to switch the screen from Nepalese to English. Since she didn’t have a million dollars in the bank, it was critical to find the right buttons so appropriate currency numbers could be generated.
On the way back to the house, G&T left Deepak to get his medicine and go to the hospital. We decided it was imperative to reorganize the bins – in true VAST fashion. Given we have established the ritual of spending 2-3 hours per day reorganizing bins, why would this trip be any different?? Our new friend and guide/translator Sungita arrived to discover the floor and beds somewhat in disarray, although the majority of the work had already been done and we were simply trying on scrubs for size (and fashion!) when she got here.
Sungita’s arrival marked the beginning of fun times, as she escorted us through the historical areas of the city that had been most devastated by the earthquakes. Still beautiful this area has gorgeous temples and buildings, and the mountains peek through every space.
Lunch was an experience as Gin managed to find that every dish in the restaurant somehow had “gluten” in it, in one fashion or another. In the end we settled on chicken satay (without peanut sauce) and plain rice, by which point bark would have been satisfying as our stomachs were digesting themselves. Tonic was simply excited at the appearance of a plate of rice.
By the time we were done walking around it was full dark – and ironically only 5:45pm. So given Sungita lives in the opposite direction, she sent us home in a cab and left in a van… which we hoped was not an unmarked, vehicle heading for disaster… but instead a pseudobus designed to get people from smaller suburbs home. We recognized enough landmarks from our walks with Deepak earlier that we could even give the cabbie some directions! Now, given we have fallen asleep three times while typing this, perhaps it is time for bed.
Hope you have all had as experiential a day as we seem to have!
love you all