25 December 2007

Kathmandu.. or KathmanDON'T??

Merry Christmas. It's funny to me how that is no longer a politically incorrect thing to say once you leave America and go to a developing country where nobody gives a s**t about being PC and everybody just wants to have a good time, continuously. I met an Israeli girl, and even *she* was celebrating. This morning, she went to exchange gifts with a British couple (who asked me the night before if we have "Christmas crackers" in America.. I thought he was talking about the food we leave for Santa.. nope).

I've decided to officially embrace Tibetan Buddhism as my new faith--not because I have had innumerable spiritual experiences that have guided me onto a new path toward self-understanding. No. It's because Tibetan Buddhists are supposed to walk around stuff. Over and over. Since I do that anyway, I might as well earn merit for it. Finally, a religion that suits my (slightly?) obsessive-compulsive, circumambulating personality.

Kathmandu is krazy. There are *SO* many people, and they all seem to be going somewhere all the time. This city is so old, the streets are really narrow--medieval narrow--and clogged with cars, livestock, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, beggars, playing children, garbage, and probably gods. The air is a bit filthy, too, and my cough has not gotten better. I've taken to wearing a face mask, in Japanese style, to ward off the particulates. Another reason KTM is krazy is the time zone, 5:45 ahead of GTM (or something like that). In comparison, India is 5:30 ahead. The reason, according to my LP, is that Nepal wants to assert that it is definitely a different country. Since I've heard Nepalis are more laid-back than Indians, my own theory is that they added the extra 15 minutes for the same reason we sometimes set our watches ahead a few minutes so we don't miss our appointments.

Last night was Christmas in Thamel. Have I described Thamel yet? It's awful. Convenient, but awful. I want to blow it off, in one big chunk, the face of the Earth. I pity the hippies, though. I imagine they were genuinely trying to escape an oppressive culture 50 years ago. Nowadays, Western culture is pretty permissive, so there's nothing really to escape. But people still want to wear the ugly clothes, dreadlock their hair (really will never get that), not shower, do drugs, and at least adopt some of the stylings of their overdosing, NEET forebears, if not their philosophy and spirit of rebellion (as far as I can tell, the only things young people the world over really care about are money, image, and success). That has nothing to do with Christmas here, but I didn't want to miss a hippie-bashing opportunity. I must have a traditional streak in me somewhere, because Christmas to me is still a family holiday, not an excuse to go out and party just because you happen to be away from home.. but I suppose any excuse to party is an excuse for the local bars to offer dinner and drink specials and encourage the stupid foreigners to indulge in whatever perversities they enjoy at home, despite this being an extremely conservative country (I saw a white guy walking around in a monk's robes with a white chick under each arm... I wanted to destroy them all, but that was the day before I converted to Buddhism). I am not completely innocent from partaking in Thamel's delights, though, because I did have a gin and tonic last night, I do enjoy browsing the scores of used book shops, and it's nice to have a wider selection of restaurants, after a month, than Chinese or Sichuan Chinese (btw, Tibetan food is boring). There are more white people here than I've seen since Cuzco. I have a question: why do tourists go places and then complain that they're touristy?

I hate to inform the poll-interested that I will probably *not* be collecting folktales in Nepal. The reason, other than the exorbitant fees ($300 just for the application--more than Harvard!), is that the guy who runs the volunteer organization is a self-righteous blowhard. I know my own.

Friends! I've written yet another cynical post and on this holy day, as well! Jesus would not be pleased with my lack of Christmas spirit! Well, I must end by assuring you that I love and miss you all--even I am sentimental on the traditional holidays--and that my heart is always partly with you on this long and difficult journey. In fact, it is all that sustains and comforts me, and I look forward to reuniting with each and every one of you whatever day of the year it happens to be.

If anyone wants to see Radiohead in Milan, mid-June next year, I bought four tickets. Meet me there!

Corrections: Miyuko is actually named Miyouko and Abdul from Hotan is really named Ablimit. Foreign names are tough, you know?


Bradley said...

Hey darling! I looked you up on couchsurfing after reading about your surf adventures here. I think your missed folktale-collecting opportunity is clearly a sign that you should do some Turkey farming. I'm considering farming in europe somewhere for the next few months too, so maybe I could come out and meet you! Maybe my Turkish-speaking dad will come. . .

The Steve said...

Hi Bradley, dear. I haven't made up my mind about the farming opportunity, but the arrangement I looked at involved organic honey production, and I'm like a fly when it comes to honey. I'll keep you posted!