I have made it 24 hours remembering not to consume a drop of tap water. In Nepal, the tap water is not processed as ours is. Nepalese people have developed anti-bodies, so they are fine with it. But we cannot even brush our teeth with it. I like to wet my toothbrush before putting the toothpaste on it, and here I must do that, as well as rinsing afterward, using bottled water. I’m so afraid I’ll forget out of habit. I also have to be very careful not to allow water to get in my mouth when washing my face and showering.
We are staying in a charming hotel called the International Guest House and have air conditioning in our room as long as the power stays on. (In Nepal, power is often arbitrarily shut off for several hours at a time, any time of day. Some businesses – and especially hospitals – have generators.) Our room is lovely. Nepal’s main religion is a blend of Hinduism and Buddhism, so our room has a beautiful print of Hindu gods and goddesses on one wall and across from it is a gorgeous print of Buddha. Our room key is an old fashioned skeleton key, which I love. We have brown-gold shantung curtains on the windows and wooden screens with honeycomb cut-outs as room partitions. We have a private balcony overlooking a slate courtyard bordered by lush bushes and small potted trees and flowers. It is enchanting.
In the courtyard entrance of our hotel
In Kathmandu, at least in the touristy part called Thamel, many people speak a few words of English, some speak many, and I am again humbled. Everyone is friendly, and the children look so cute on their way to school, with their uniforms of a white button-up shirt, ties (both boys and girls), and pants or skirts that match their ties. Some of the little ones break into huge grins when they see us and say “Hello! Hello!” and we do the same.
We are on our way to the Monkey Temple, and after a while, Nikki (the director of Knowledge for People) and I aren’t sure if we’re going the right way. We can see it up on a hill top (in the above photo, top-center-right), but we’re not sure how to get to it. Nikki asks for directions. Some people, especially women, politely decline, but the men are more than happy to assist. We walk through residential areas, noting laundry being hung out to dry, many stray dogs roaming around, lots of brick apartment buildings, motorcycles, a few cows and a pig with piglets, and piles of trash everywhere. Kathmandu does not appear to have a waste management system. Then I remember that we are in the most industrialized part of a developing country. Most streets are narrow, some only partially paved, and everyone drives as fast as they can, honking horns wildly, especially around corners. When there is a near collision, there is no road rage. Both cars slam on their brakes, the drivers look at each other, both back up a bit, and then whoever has the right of way goes first. I have no idea who has the right of way. I just know that pedestrians don’t. We learn to stay out of the way, which is difficult without sidewalks. Crossing the street is a nightmare. I don’t know how people do it.
at the base of the Monkey Temple
The Monkey Temple, which we finally reach, is aptly named. They look like miniature brown baboons – crossing the walkways, climbing the trees, eating grass, grooming each other. I have to restrain myself from taking too many photos. This is amazing! They are so close! There are babies!
Being monsoon season, the humidity is super high, and my face feels as if it is melting off. Sweat pours down my back, chest, and legs. We drink (bottled) water as fast as we can sweat it out. After lying down and sleeping twelve hours straight last night, my ankles and feet are not as swollen, but they are not yet back to normal. I look ahead at the steep stairway up to the actual temple at the top of the hill and pace myself as we begin the climb.
We are accosted by a mother and children begging. They will not leave us alone, especially one girl around age ten who follows us half-way up the stairs, saying, “M-m-m-m-hospital-m-m-m-broken arm-m-m-m.” I glance at her arm, elevated by a thin scarf tied around her neck. I can see all of her arm and it is clearly fine. We have been told not to continue the cycle by giving in. I gently say no about six times, even as her eyes penetrate me.
We reach the top of the beautiful, albeit touristy temple and proceed in a clockwise motion around it. We take in the view of the city, buy some prayer flags, and slowly head back down the steep stairway. Not wanting to get lost on the way back to the hotel, we take a cab, with Nikki deftly bargaining the driver to less than half the fare he originally proposed. (According to her guide book, he was really trying to rip us off.) He darts through traffic, weaving all over the place, probably mad that he couldn’t fool us, but he gets us back to the hotel okay. We go in to cool off and rest, exhausted from the morning’s excursion. Then we will head out in search of lunch and more bottled water!
For more photos and Nikki’s description of our day, click here.