When people who had never visited Nepal before asked me what it was like, I used to describe it as a country like India but with the volume turned down. I chuckle at this now, as low volume and Nepal in the same sentence are as synonymous as pani puri and nutella.
After recently completing an introduction to Buddhism course I can defiantly attest that Nepal, or Ktm rather, is a perfect place to practice patience and perhaps a little compassion to boot.Travelling on any public transport presents a wonderful opportunity to practice these qualities, as various legs and arms may be in the small of my back or on top of me as the entire sardine can races to it’s equally hectic destination. Perhaps a didi’s baby is literally on my lap as I bump up and down so hard in the tempo that my head finds it’s way to the roof, making an interesting sound as I am barely holding onto the rails.
It’s the small encounters, the good and the bad, that make up my whole day in the valley that results in life in Kathmandu being an exceptional, unique and sometimes harrowing experience.Moments such as the entire micro audience laughing along to a joke from the micro dude who takes the money (ok these jokes usually occur after I have just tried to communicate in Nepali!).
Finding out for the umpteenth time that “that tempo” or “that micro” doesn’t run anymore and apparently never will again as of five minutes ago. Running pointlessly down the street (slowly due to traffic) as the bus you need (also very slowly) disappears down the road after just ignoring your outstretched arm at the bus stop, with no one to sympathise but the cucumber didi and the lottery ticket guy as we all look on together.In the heat of the moment of negotiations with taxi drivers as I count precious rupees for a budgeted taxi ride across town with a healing sprained ankle. We both still seem to be able to laugh at ourselves as we are hot and bothered, covered in sweat, dust and god knows what else running down our tired faces as we have tried to navigate the city all day.Trying to find the tempo to Baluwater form Pulchowk (my white whale) and after asking something like 25 tempos, when the correct one does appear, the entire bus stop pushing me towards the correct tempo shouting “Jane!” “Jane!” “Jane!” so I don’t miss it. Bless their hearts.
So far in my transport diary experiences I have met one doctor heading to the Terai to help with the floods (he very nicely paid for my bus ticket), one teenager returning to visit his fiends after living in New York (without him I would have never found that bus to Boudha) and one girl who works in a bank and was heading home one Friday afternoon to help in her father’s gallery near my house (thanks to her I got home a lot faster and have a new friend).As I wipe the pollution from my crunchy eyebrows, untangle a broken face mask from my broken headphones with sweat running down my legs because I am wearing pants on a clearly “shorts” weather day. It is stopping in these moments, and instead of feeling frustration and lethargy, I am learning the gentle art of seeing through these daily challenges (punishments?!) and trying to perceive the cacophony that is the valley as some kind of symphony, with rhythm, beauty and prose.
It is treasuring every little moment, as I am flying break neck speed through the valley in the bus/micro/tempo, whilst a thousand smells (good and bad) rush across my face from temple incense, burning garbage to Pashupati smoke.The mini stolen conversations and moments with others and that I treasure deeply in my heart and am thankful for, even as everything else around seems to be broken, dusty and somewhat painful to try to engage with on any level such as working out the local transport system with minimal Nepali language skills.Don’t get me wrong, there are many, (more than I can count) beautiful places in Kathmandu, that if one is able to visit lift the spirits to the top of Swayambhu. Whether it is a beautiful temple tucked away on a busy side street, a local shop that dishes out the best masala chia this side of Sundara, or a busy vegetable market place at sunset with all the didi’s and dai’s singing their hearts out to sell one more kilo.
As I write this from Pokhara (I needed a break!) I know shortly I will return and will try best as I can next time that tempo I needed drives past me, to remember that Kathmandu is a didi I will always treasure, and to always find her undeniable beauty through her dust covered façade.