Thursday, April 27, 2006
Ladies and Zents
Lost in Translation, Whoever wrote the billboard outside the Ladies and Zents Hairdressing Saloon near the Airport here in Katmandu, must of just assumed that G and Z are interchangeable. English is spoken everywhere in Nepal, but the written language does suffer, a local Newspaper today had a sub editor who likes the word “Felicitate” so much so that he used it three times on the front page, and commenting on the Nepalese National Football teams recently the writer referred to them as “proud ballers”, Ballers ! Who has ever heard the word ballers?
This is a long-winded introduction into the state of daily life here in Katmandu.
It is peaceful, life has returned to normal now, a week ago it looked like Nepal was heading to a complete breakdown.
When we arrived on Tuesday the streets were full of Samari Policemen, with riot shields, clubs and tear gas, however as timing sometimes is in the News business we had arrived as the rioting was ending, and peace deals were being brokered. It can be frustrating to miss the actual conflict, but at the same time you are happy that peoples lives can get back to normal after a protracted state of siege that had gripped Katmandu for the last two weeks.
The Samurai Police - Nepalese are not the tallest or largest people you will meet, so to add fear to the build the Police have these riot designed clothing that looks like something from a 18th Century Feudal Samurai.. Black cloth with stays of bamboo covers the torso with shoulder and arm guards. The bamboo acts as the body army, given that they are most vulnerable to rocks and sticks, which make a nice change to having guns and bullets around me. The head Protection again makes the Policeman appear even taller and wider, carrying on with the Samurai theme it has the grilled front mask, but I did detect a touch of Darth Vader as well.
We did some filming on the streets and once Darth Samurai no more pictures, you moved on. You sense and feel the tensions easing as the day wore on. Rumors came and went proposed demonstrations by Maoists never happened, the King promised everything to anyone to “felicitate” good relations, (I should add that at no stage did the King actually say what he was going to do, since he is actually at the root cause of problems here) Politicians of the past surface and proclaim democratic principles as long as they get in power.
So as I leave Nepal (Writing this entry in the Airport) what are my thoughts on the Kingdom of Nepal, I wrote that I come in as a Lonely Planet Expert with help from the CIA Fact Book.
I would have to say that Nepal is in my Top Ten Countries I have visited, It is a truly nice place, and that comes from the hearts and smiles of the people, (Samurai Police aside whilst they are on duty, they have to scowl and look tough). I am already planning to come back here on holidays if I can be seduced by just working for a few days in the capital and not even seeing a mountain then I know that I will not be happy with my life adventures till I have trekked to Everest Base Camp.
We were out yesterday touring the streets looking for demonstrations that were planned but never happened, but managed to tour the most holy Hindu Temple Complex, watched two cremations and an old lady dying on the temples river banks.
One thing that fascinated me was the sign over what looked like a shop right next to the cremation pyres “ Cornea Extraction Facility” (they like the facil…. Word here) apparently upon death the deceased is cremated within hours, but the greatest gift you can give to get the best karma and new life karma re birth is to donate your eyes, hence the “Cornea Extraction Facility” the doctors perform the removal right behind the pyres. The Hindu God Shiva will bestow many blessings on you.
Touring the Temples there are the Holy men or stardust, now these holy men seem more intent on painting themselves to look good for the Tourists and getting money by posing for photographs so as to buy Hashish to keep themselves stoned. They did not seem to be contemplating the big picture or seeking enlighten.
Now if you are ever thinking of buying a house with a tin roof, I shall give you this real estate tip, monkeys like to jump up and down on any loose tin as they like the noise. The peace and calm of the Temple was constantly shattered by the sounds of the temple monkeys jumping up and down on a loose piece of tin and then locals trying to shoo them away by throwing stones. I did not know until yesterday that monkeys are the third most holy creatures to Hindu’s after cows and bulls, so you are not allowed actually hit the monkeys with the stones but you can scare them.
The thing that also struck me is how poor Nepal is, not a swollen belly refugee poverty scene out of Sudan. But a grinding poverty of the third world, you do not have to look far behind the scenes here to see the children stunted, the shoeless urchins and looks on mothers faces as they realize that life for them will never get better. There are no expensive flashy cars or glitzy shops catering for petro dollar fuelled shopping trips.
What they as a nation, they lack can be measured in monetary terms and in power point presentations at Economic Summits. But what cannot be measured in columns of GDP statistics is the warmth and spirit of the people. There is an infection of laughter and goodwill in everyone’s souls here, from the Samurai Police to the sign writer who painted Ladies and Zents.