Nothing does Kathmandu at night better than a blurry cellphone picture. The chaos is wonderful, but only after you’ve safely crossed all the streets you need to cross.
The 2015 earthquake devastated Nepal both from the damage and deaths in and around Kathmandu to the drop in tourism in its aftermath. 2016 will have less than half the visitors of 2015 and that loss is very serious for such a poor country even without a need to rebuild.
This view into Durbar square where a beautiful, very old temple used to stand probably hurt me the most.
We are back in Kathmandu with one day to go before returning home. As is always the case there was not time along the way to keep the posts up to date. Had it been up to me I would have done fewer things and spent more time soaking in the atmosphere and journaling and relaxing. To carve out these few minutes today I got up @ 6am, made a cup of hotel room coffee, and curled up in a nook by the window.
The political turmoil back home seems of historic proportions. While I can’t wait to get back home in most respects I’m not looking forward to being in the middle of all the social and media frenzy.
What being half a world away makes clear to me is the immense addictive power of the media. And I’m confident it is intentional. It is a large factor in creating social turmoil. And it is a business model.
Here in Nepal we have our smartphones and there is wifi in the hotels and restaurants. We check the different outlets like WSJ, Washington Post, NYT and others to see what’s happening. They each have their particular spin on the same topics and to differing degrees use provacotive headlines to entice you to click and read more. You get to the end of the article and find there was no substance or facts. Sadly the Post is not much better than CNN. They have become like tabloids. Thank you Jeff Bezos.
They all need people to read them or they go out of business. Click or die. The reporters (I don’t see much journalism) need to uncover some scandal or heart rending topic to advance their careers so they are looking for a snake in every woodpile. It seems they put them there in the first place. They have moved the editorial page to the front page. Everything is online so they need to constantly change the spin or the stories 24/7 so people keep clicking throughout the day and the advertising sells.
This is very obvious from afar. Two weeks in the third world has its benefits. I don’t want to be part of that addiction when I get back home. Is there still a good weekly news magazine that can take a breath and analyze what’s really important and why? Like Time and Newsweek used to do. I want to find it if it exists. We don’t need adrenaline news, we get hooked on it, and we become complicit in letting it waste our time and play with our emotions. All it seems to do is sell advertising. I don’t need more stuff. Just give me a marigold.
We’re staying in the Yak & Yeti, a classic 5 star hotel near the city center. I stayed here in 2011 as part of my Everest Base Camp trek and it is wonderful. The expedition company, mountain Madness, always chooses great places.
I’m not going to post beautiful pictures of the lobby, pool,and gardens though. You’ll have to imagine them. Truth told, I’m a little conflicted about staying here in the knowledge of how 99.99% of the Nepalis actually live. But it’s convenient to where we go and is a welcome respite from our days in the real Kathmandu which are totally overwhelming. The intense sights, sounds, smells, and interactions are like nowhere I’ve ever been. And it costs about the same as your average Marriott Courtyard.
We had a leisurely breakfast on Thursday, our first full day, and set out toward Durbar Square. This is a taste of what greeted us.
So the blog seems to be working. Good.
I mentioned Donald Trump in the last post. Being almost 8,000 miles from home we are insulated from the intensity of emotion back there. We check a couple of news sites online in the morning and at night. The Post seems as clueless and emotional as it was before the election. The Journal seems a little more balanced. I’ve never gotten in the habit of reading the Times. BBC has more questions than answers and Al Jazeera has some interesting insights.
It’s probably just as well we’re away. We get used to reacting to hourly news spikes at home and they are mostly a waste of time. They are just another piece of our amped up lives that are washed over with too much data that comes too quickly to be understood. It’s main result seems to be that it sells more advertising for media companies and interrupts us from doing more valuable things.
Back to Nepal…we left the hotel Thursday morning and walked toward Durbar square for our first excursion. Here’s what greeted us at the newsstand.
I wonder what it says?
My last post was 2013? I didn’t think it was THAT long. A lot has happened. Maybe I’ll catch up. I don’t have to go to work anymore after all. That doesn’t mean I’m retired. More on that sometime.
R and I arrived in Kathmandu yesterday afternoon and found out that Donald Trump had won the election while we were in the air. That spared us a long night of watching returns but the shock was huge [sic].
So this was needing some higher thinking. And a good search engine. But before I did that, I stopped into the Harris Teeter just for fun to see the look on the butcher’s face when I asked for goat. Then I thought of the Organic Butcher of McLean. The kids gave me a gift certificate for this place so I gave them a call. Yes, they had some ‘nice frozen goat’ and they routinely have it fresh, but not today. So the online answer was the obvious one…a halal market. I remembered there was one on 28, and since like most weekend days I had to go to the Home Despot, I stopped there on the way. I was the only one in the store, and even if I hadn’t been, I would have been the only one who looked like me. This was the real thing. Fascinating products for the Muslim household. I felt like I’d flown halfway around the world. The lady behind the counter responded nicely to my ‘hello’ and was ok that I was just looking around. The butcher, an introverted-looking older man was wrist-deep into dismembering meat of some sort. I asked him if he sold goat. He asked me what part. Having fortunately done enough reading online to know what parts of the goat could not be halal, I said shoulder probably, but that I didn’t need it yet…just wondered if they sold it. The lady, knowing that the man had limited English, came over and pointed to the large hand-lettered sign over my head listing the different meats and cuts and prices. I asked where the goat came from and she said far away. It turned out it was in Maryland somewhere. She encouraged me to look around and come back when I was ready to buy. Incredible deals on spices…like a huge bag of cumin for $4.99. Walking out, I noticed the irony of the business that shared this little building…a Domino’s pizza store with a big sign in the window advertising a double bacon pizza. Reminds me of all the fuss when the Badass coffee place moved in next to the Christian bookstore. By contrast, this cultural conflict surely didn’t move anyone’s needle. I hope this little grocery and halal meat place stays in business. Now I need to settle on a recipe.
It’s not like they advertise goat at Whole Foods, but it’s the first place I looked and it seemed they’d be on the foodie trail of this up and coming meat if it was worthy of a featured spot on NPR. But no joy. The nearest WF to our house is about 25 min away, but it was on the way home from the airport. The butcher shook his head, and didn’t act like he’d ever been asked the question before. Goat cheese, definitely yes. Frozen goat? nope. I looked in the freezer case and didn’t even see any rabbit. If I need any of a hundred different kinds of dried beans I’ll make sure to to come back but this quest was unfulfilled. But alternative meats don’t seem high on the agenda here.