20 July 2009


It was going to be a very fortunate turn of events. I was going to be able to post my 100th Dash Does Kathmandu post on my very last day in Kathmandu. Ironically, that day we were plagued by power cuts, the origin of which no one really understood. "Is it Load Shedding Raj?"
"Load Shedding hoina, I don't know what it is Rob."

There you have it. My last meal at the Lazimpat Gallery Cafe and Raj finally uses my name instead of "sir".

My last day was filled with insane activity. I wanted to deliver Bejoy-guru (my Nepali teacher) a gift of white tea from China (apparently there is one type that is his favourite, not sure whether I found that one or not). I made a clothes delivery run to Rinzi's orphanage and managed to avoid being dragged in for a meal. To do all this I borrowed Sascha's bike and got myself horribly sunburnt on my final run through the mental streets of Kathmandu. I ran in to work to say my final goodbyes, deliver Chinese presents and steal all of my 2.6 GB of computer files I had collected over the course of the year.

This blog has now done its Dash. Plenty of humbling lessons. Plenty of fabulous friends (as mentioned beore, there is more than one for every day I have spent in Nepal). Beautiful countryide. Beautiful people.

Too many nights with Charpi. Too many goodbyes. Too many friends that I may never see again.

Goodbye Nepal. Good times were had.

10 July 2009

What's the Chinese word for Exhaustion?

You know how every time someone goes to the Great Wall of China, they go on about how "Great" it is?  "It's wider than a road...it's amazing....its not believable!"
Well, It's wider than a road...it's amazing....its not believable...humongous...its EPIC!
I somehow, after seeing many many photos and reading what is probably a great amount about it over the course of my life, still did not grasp the enormity of it.  Along the ridges of the beautiful naturally defencive hills north of Beijing the walls slinks up and down at horribly steep angles.  Angles that defy quadriceps, belief and the tons of rock that are sitting there to prove me wrong. The most amazing thing is how it keeps going as far as you can see.
I likened the moment I saw it to that moment when I first saw the grand canyon.  No amount of talking, writing or photograping can make anyone truly understand how great a wonder it is.  Any bandit or marauder insane enough to have a crack at scaling it had to be desperate or in greater fear of his master than of death itself, which is probably a testament to how scary some of the big bad guys they had in the olden days.  It's (see Mum I do know how to use apostrophe 'S') amazing what you can achieve with 4 bazillion megatons of rocks, and a limitless army of serfs to do your bidding.
We walked along the 8 km stretch from Jinshaling to Simatai after a hair raising early morning adventure to get there.  I apologise if you live anywhere in the vicinity of our hostel as we walked down the street at 6 in the morning swearing and yelling at each other for our lack of communication regarding the the day's (did it again) plans.  Catching subways, buses and negotiating with taxi drivers when all you know how to say in Mandarin ir "Yes", "No", "Thankyou" and "I don't want" is something of a test on already fried nerves I can tell you.  I actually think that I only learnt "Yes" and "No" part way through the day. 
Beijing is fairly simple to get around, if you have a thick skin and are prepared to work hard using every communication skill in your bag of tricks.  After yesterday's (haha!) trip I actuly understand why I met some people that came to Nepal who hated every second of it.  Any time you need something, someone somewhere is probably trying to take advantage of you.  That's really a little bit unfair, but I can understand if people in Nepal, who don't speak any of the language and are a little unsure of how much you should be spending on things feel like people are out to get you.
That said, we had a great time on the wall, our legs are screaming abuse and profanities at us although we still have another day to spend ion Beijing.  One more in Macau, one in Hong Kong, a lightening tour back through Kathmandu and I'll be seeing you all soon.

08 July 2009

Chinni Chaina! (No Sugar!)

Street food in Bangkok, rooftops of Hong Kong.  Met up with Archie (Rob), Poccy (Pat) and Megan Lui.

Made it to China...stop

Can't access Facebook, Blogger, or Skype...stop

Love to fam...iends..op


29 June 2009

At the Last Minute

So just as I was starting to think (ok worry) that the guys at work were gonna let me go with completely no fanfare at all, Mohan busted in on me and Khem during a meeting this morning and told him to make sure he was free at 6pm tonight for a party for Rob.

I said, "what's happening at 6?".

Mohan took a step back, and goes, "you understood me?"

"Yeah, my Nepali's not that bad. Come on, I've been here for a year. What's going on?"

"We are organising a program for you tonight."

He actually had to idea where were were going. But it seemed that more and more people knew about it. But no one was talking. I wasn't sure whether it was because they didn't want me to know or because nobody actually knew. I left work early because I have been ffeeleing a little sick and wanted to get better before leaving for Hong Kong, but I made sure that Mohan or Nhukesh would call me to let me know where I was supposed to go.

I passed out pretty soon after getting home and woke up at 5.45 with no missed calls and no clue where to go. I called Nhukesh, but mobile phone in Nepal make it impossible to understand even English speakers, let alone English speakers with broad Nepali accents. I eventually found the Marco Polo Hotel, which was the only thing I understood from out conversation. I called again and he told me to go tot he Windmill Restaurant, its well known and very close.

I spent the next half hour searching to the south and east and not a single person knew what I was talking about. Its amazing how when you really need people to understand you that you can't construct an intelligible sentence in Nepali nor can they speak any English at all.

Finally I did a loop back and found Mohan and Krishna standing almost outside the Marco Polo, and they led me out the back to the Wind BELL Restaurant. I mean, what the hell is a WINDBELL anyway?

Inside Dr Reeta, Dr Govinda, Nabin-daai and Khem-daai were already waiting. More of the guys slowly joined us until altogether there were about 20 of my TIlganga friends there. It wasn't long before KHem-daai was pouring me whiskeys and demanding that I have more. In true Nepali style the snacks kept coming and coming and coming. I knew I had to pace myself as a big meal of Daal Bhaat was just around the corner waiting for me to have one momo too many before making its appearance.

Bikram, who we discovered yesterday is 2 years my elder (much to his surprise), found out that I am partial to the occaisional beer. I have always found him to be so professional and curt, very strict in his conversations and not very likely to laugh, or smile. He apologised. "Rob, I am so sorry, if I knew that you liked to drink I would have had you over to my house. I didn't think you drinked." So there you go. 12 months, in almost the same office and bad communication had led us to believe that one may not want to be friiends with the other.

We got some great photos and they presented me with the most amazing present. A map of the disctricts of Nepal, in a beautiful model Nepali window (they have some of the most amazing wooden architecture adourning windows in Nepal). It is obnoxiously heavy, and I hope I can get it home OK, but I really do love it.

Nhukesh also gave me a special present, a rather smaller version of the above with a photo of us during the Festival Jatra in his village.

I had the most amazing impromptu night and I really hope my colleagues and friends realise how much I have appreciated them this year. They are such a great group of people.

Tapaailaaiharu dheri dhanyabaad!

26 June 2009

Ma American hoina

For God's sake. I went to the Chinese embassy this morning to collect our visa's and passports. After going through 2 levels of security and waiting for 15 minutes I find out that you can only collect passports from 3 in the afternoon.

Returning at 3 I waited in an entirely empty room waiting for someone to notice that I existed. When they did notice I went to the "pickup window" but was ushered to the one next to it that was labelled something else. Fine whatever, there's one guy on the other side of the glass, what do I care? He gave me a printout that said I had to pay them 66USD quiet as a churchmouse. Annoying as it is to constantly be given costs in US dollars I have unfortunately become accustomed to it. I took this to a seperate window where I was informed that I had to, in factm PAY in USD. THere is also an additional 2USD "handling charge".

The most infuriating this about this is that Nepali citizens can pay in Nepali rupees! I mean of all the insane shenanigans. "Tell you what, tell me the exchange rate, I'll work it out and I'll pay you in rupees." The cheerful Nepali guy about 7 years younger than me said "Not possible sir, you must pay in dollars."

"Tara ma American hoina! But I'm NOT AMERICAN! I don't wander around with US dollars in my pockets! What am I supposed to do???"

Apparently, what I am supposed to do is go to Thamel and buy some US dollars to pay for our visas. I simply cannot comprehend why it must be this way. Are the workers at the Chinese Embassy / Consulate or whatever you call it going to go on a big trip to America to go and eat pizza on Broadway? Why in the hell would they want USD? Here I am in the Chinese Embassy, there's a mute Chinese man on one side of presumably bullet proof glass, there's one 18 year-old Nepali demanding money from me in a currecny I don't have, haven't seen since 2005 and which I am developing a rather serious hatred for. I even hate it when people call the stuff "greenbacks".

But here I am with no other option than to get the money as the Chinese government has our passports. So I go, I get the exact amount I was told I would need in USD at an annoyingly high exchange rate (the universe is conspiring again...) and return. Nepali dude it all smiles as he says "Ummmm...sir you are picking up two passports? That means there are two handling fees".

TWO HANDLING FEES! What does that $4 go to, can you imagine? Perhaps changing that money from USD to Chinese Yuen or Nepali Rupees I bet. What the hell is going on?

In an amazing turn of fortunes a new Nepali guy had arrived and magically procuded a $2 note from his pocket. I bought it off him and left with another docket that I had to return to the bulletproof glass and hopefully use to get our passports back. This time someone was actually at the pickup window. I went there only to be ushered again to the mute Chinese lad who printed something else out, went to find our passports from the pile sitting at the Pickup Window. As the older gentleman who was actually seated there watched on in approval. The mute lad signed some forms and checked some stuff all while walking around the older man who continued to watch in avid fascination before mute boy then returned to me, silently gave me our passports and I left.

To this moment I'm not entirely sure what happened but I hope someone was watching me the whole time having a good laugh.

25 June 2009

Monsoon is Come

Three weeks of waiting. It has been driving me bonkers. You may choose to blame my recent irritibility on the sudden lack of living space I have developed since my brtoher moved in. You may choose to blame it on the fact that no one had any work for me until the month before I left. I choose the blame it on the fact that it has been stinking hot, occaisionally overcast but never raining and that monsoon has been pending for 3 weeks.

Well it arrived today and in amazing fashion. 5 minutes prior to me leaving work the heavens opened up with all manner of cats and dogs whining, barking and screeching their way through the sky to come crashing down all around us. It was like a cyclone. Perhaps if you are a Tracey, Larry or Katrina survivor then you will disagree. I mean, the only experience I had of any of those is that the price of bananas went up to $12/kilo for about 6 months. But this was insane, like nothing you have ever seen (assuming of course that you are not a Tracey, Larry or Katrina survivor). There were no rain drops, just sheets weighing metric f-tonne's and washing everything in sight away.

The brief 2 second dash from the carpark to the front gate through the sheets of cyclone-like rain had myself, Swifty and my bag completely drenched. Quite astutely I decided against riding home, and subjecting Reeta-didi to washing mud slash poo slash whatever other refuse is kicked up off the ground in a storm from my clothes. Plan was to a) find a taxi with a roof rack for my bike or b) the staff bus to get me and Swifty home.

The bus driver, who up unto this point (about 49 weeks into my experience) has done a bang-up job of not being able to speak much English at all, told me that the bus would be going the long way today and that would have to be dropped off last in the best English I have heard this side of the equator. With the other option being a ride through mud and muck, I said I didn't mind.

As the sweat from the heat and the water soaking my clothes started blending and giving me that uncomfortable itchy sensation you always get when you are wet and don't want to be, we started weaving our way along the Ring Road (which BTW looks exactly the same no matter what part of town you are in) and dropping off staff, Swifty up the back like a king on his horse. I watched as we took on tuk-tuks head on on the wrong side of the road along the (predominantly dry) streets. But inside the Ring Road was another story. As started heading north through town the sewers were showing their protest to 8 (dry) months of abuse in the form of trash and other waste matter being shoved down them at any opportunity. I saw motorbikes parked on the side of the road being washed away as the gutters turned from lumps of concrete to white water rapids (except that the water was brown and gross).

People stumbled along with umbrella's useless against the deluge and every man and his spade was out trying to clear gutters and sewers to try and stop the rising water level from entering their shops.

Monsoon is back and it feels exactly like it did when I arrived a year ago.

23 June 2009

Dear Dot Dot Dot...


Charpi, thanks for the good times buddy. When I eventually leave, I will mention to the landloard that maybe you should be retired or at least fixed. Its nothing personal, but really, wetting yourself and the bathroom every time you don't been so good gets old.

Ganga, thanks for helping to improve my Nepali tirelessly and explaining what all the bandh's are about. And thanks for the political insights. I will always remember the Ilam First Flush.

Smiling Kiosk Dude, our conversations never went much further than our special handshake and 'how are you?'. You are a crazy entertaining guy. Sometimes, that special handshake was just what I needed. Keep it up.

Grumpy Fruit Man, eventually, I got you to smile. Remember that, turn that frown upside down!

Nawuraj, nothings news. Not today, but thanks for asking...every....day.

Mohan, no I'm not finished. Not yet.

Bhojaraj, thanks for the kiss. I didn't ask for it, but I know you enjoyed it none-the-less.

Happy Fruit Granny, BI! Bye-bye. Bye-bye....bye.

To the hundreds of people I have met in this last year. I can't describe it. Thanks team.


Shorts, I can't wait to see you again.

Power/Electricity, I swear I won't take you for granted again.

Grass, I can't wait to feel you between my toes.

Ocean, counting down the days till I see you.

Australia, see you soon.