My second day was my first real day in Kathmandu. It also has felt like longest thus-far. After about one hour or so of actual sleep, I was ready to move from our Guest room in Thamel to the hostel in Kalanki. The hostel is where all RCDP volunteers touch down at some point. It is nicer than I expected; it’s three floors are filled with architectural details you would never find in a “budget” property in the west. From the carvings of Ganesh on the doors to the rooftop terrace it, has all the exquisite characters to make it very memorable. At the very top you can see majestic views of the Himalayan foothills that surround Kathmandu, along with a view of what thousands of your neighbors are up to.
If Sunday evening was the pure shock of being in the Nepal, Tuesday evening was dedicated to exploring all the senses of the place. Kathmandu is a crowded urban mess, and Nepali’s do their best to take advantage to utilize every single piece of available space. Things that you wouldn’t expect to see growing in an urban environment explode with fertile excellence. Close to our hostel is a huge patch of corn. To my shock and delight, over the wall is the largest marijuana plant I have ever seen. Just over all walls is a jungle of pot that could last even the most frequent smoker a long, long time.
Who’s got the herb? Our neighbors apparently
The hostel has a couple of permanent members – a strange character named Bleebov who is responsible for managing the guests and a family who does much of the food preparation and cleaning for the hostel. The food is a pleasant surprise – in fact every meal has been extremely tasty and respectably diverse despite not varying much in the core “dal baat” ingredients: rice and lentils.
The air pollution in Kathmandu is accurate in its potency, and it’s not even close yet to its worst. The frequent rain does its best to keep much of the diesel and other potent fumes from looming in the air. Unfortunately, the pollution will take a turn for the worse. As the most of Nepal gets increasingly mild as it enters the prime trekking season, the rain stops and the dust rises. Outside of Nepal it means some of the best weather in the world for trekking, but in Nepal it means a sick haze of dust and air pollutants sure to cause annoying short-term ailments and devastating long-term effects on the respiratory system here.
My first impression of the Nepali people is that as a whole they are beautiful in their nature. As a whole Nepali’s are very friendly and quick to lend to anyone – including foreigners. At their worst, they are loud and opportunistic due to their economic situation. It is not something that has outweighed the positive though. I live in a part of town where I am one of the few white people around, which leads to frequent starring during my daily walks. I find it kind of amusing and surprisingly have gained pride in my unique standing within this culture.
I was happy to meet a group of friendly coworkers in my new office who welcomed me to the organization. Surprisingly enough, my new computer functions even better than my one at GVMC. I am not sure if this says more about my current office or less about the quality of technology at GVMC! I also familiarized myself with the 5 minute walk between the hostel and the office. It is a cavalcade of back-alleys and hidden streets that make it impossible to pass directions onto any other soul. Knowing your way around Kathmandu is a stamp of pride of being a more than just a tourist in Kathmandu.
I also was able to meet several other volunteers at the hostel who were finishing up their volunteer projects. It was a shame that they were leaving because they both seemed like welcoming, interesting, and hilarious people. I also got to know David a lot over next 24 hours. He is what you would call and all-around quality Aussie. He is exceptionally great to talk to, blending an interesting personal story with a down-to-earth humbleness that is so rare in most people. He will be traveling to a town outside of Mount Everest to live with monks for 3 months and provide English lessons. I am excited for his monastery project, but sad that I will lose a new friend so quickly.