Day 9. Shanti, Shanti
In the dark of a planned city wide power outage we walked… Kathmandu is full of people, living out their lives selling souvenirs to tourists, gear to trekkers, food to their own people, and everything in between to everyone. During the day we could see temples and huge hills and narrow streets, now those streets feel even narrower as we sidestep taxis and motorcycles and dogs… and one rather unexpected donkey that I nearly walked into in the fading light.
Our new guide is named Kushal. He is a friendly and well spoken young man we met as we searched for a camera store. He is about our age and promises to help us find our way around. He is eager to help and we feel like we have known him for a long time after having only been with him for a few hours. Kushal takes us to a cafe in a place called ‘freak street’, a street known for hippies who still love Nepal for its permissive drug policies. It is a nice place, with candles lighting the small garden style restaurant. We settle on “Tia” or Chai as we are familiar with it and some flat bread. The aroma is delicious. We ask our new friend about himself and his life, and he goes on to share much of his life story. We feel good about his honesty and openness toward us, as well as his value of friendship over material. As we eye our surroundings we hear a loud shriek in the tree above us, and look up in time to see a rat about the size of a tomcat fighting with another rat of near equal size. Our friend calls to the waiter and tells him about the guest, to which the waiter replies chuckling “catch it and throw it back.”
We only hear the rats once more as we finish our meal, and they seemed to have found some common ground. We pay for our small meal and leave to return to our hotel. On our way we go to the many shops looking for a couple jackets and a sleeping bag. It seems to take Patrick a long time to settle on anything, which frustrates me. I decided to sit and talk with Kushal. He tells me the story of how the elephant headed god in Hinduism came to be. He says he is Hindu, but most of the time he is not sure, “there may be no God” he says, “or there may be one”. “In Hinduism” he says “you speak to one god and anger another.” He laughs and rolls his eyes. We finally settle on something to buy and part with our new friend at our hotel. We get his email address and phone number and he tells us to call him soon.
As we go to the roof of the hotel for our evening meal Patrick explains his hesitance to buy the relatively cheap gear from the local shops in our tourist district. It is the issue of “fair-trade”.
The shop owners acknowledged the reason for such low prices was because the items were counterfeit… Though we have no idea how such items are made, we cannot shake the fact that we have no idea if the clothes we wear and purchase were made by children or oppressed workers in slave like conditions. Are the clothes cheap because the workers who make them are underpaid for their work? We talked for hours about what our response to this issue should be over our Nepalese meal. Rice and Lentil soup with black tea. I think the Nepalese life is beginning to take a hold. After only the second day in Kathmandu I know for sure I will not be the same in so many ways when I return home. So many questions, such a short life, and yet perhaps we should be more like the Nepalese. To have a more peaceful outlook on life.