The bright lemon hues of a small Nepali town

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October 4th 2015
Published: October 4th 2015
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Golden ShawlGolden ShawlGolden Shawl

A golden shawl, blown from the shoulders of a woman on the back of a passing motorcycle, draped across a bush by the hand of an unseen artist.
On my first day teaching creative writing at Kathmandu University, I gave my students the following homework assignment. "Pick a color. Take a walk. Every time you see that color, write a sentence about what you see. The point of the exercise is to heighten your visual awareness, and then to translate what you see into words. Does everybody understand the assignment?" I asked. Nobody said a word, so I rephrased the question. "Is there anything about the assignment that you don't understand?" Still, no answer.

Class dismissed.

My practice is to do every assignment myself. So that afternoon I took a walk through KU Chowk, the small village that has sprung up along the road that leads to the university. I chose the color yellow, and using my cell phone cam, snapped a picture of everything I saw that was yellow.

I sat down and wrote a sentence for every picture and the next day went back to my class, looking forward to hearing what my students had written. Imagine my surprise then, when I discovered that not one of them had understood the assignment. One or two wrote a paragraph
Smiling trash bagSmiling trash bagSmiling trash bag

In a heap of trash, a yellow plastic bag smiles brightly.
of something they'd seen in their chosen color. The rest just blew it off altogether. During the break, I asked them to go take a walk and come back with some sentences. Once again, nobody got it. That's when I knew I'd have my work cut out for me teaching creative writing in Nepal.

Here are my sentences along with the pictures I took on my walk. There's a haiku-like quality to the writing that comes out of this exercise. For me, it's like writing one sentence poems. Hope you enjoy them.

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Three sagging sacks of concreteThree sagging sacks of concrete
Three sagging sacks of concrete

Three yellow sacks of concrete sag against each other, ready to bind some bricks together.

A young man walking by in a yellow tee-shirt with the sad-eyed face of Kurt Cobain emblazoned across his chest; can this really be Nirvana?

In the window of a beauty salon, the yellow labels on tubes of apricot scrub and papaya wash promise eternal youth and unending beauty.

A golden lily juts defiantly above the black horizontal of an electric power cable.

I can't read the red and blue Nepali script, but the picture of people seated in meditation tells me this yellow banner has something to do with Shakyamuni.

The walls of the shop are a pastel lemonade, spotless towards the ceiling, smudged as far up as hands can reach.
Canary CupCanary Cup
Canary Cup

An enameled cup perches like a canary on a plate as if to eat the remains of someone's dinner.

Golden ears sunbathe on a burlap blanket waiting for that epiphanic moment when they'll become popcorn, or cornbread, or a heaping bowl of Kellogg's Corn Flakes.

Hanging on hooks from the ceiling of a small grocery shop, not one, not two, but seven bunches of ripe bananas.

Right at the turnoff that leads to the K.U. Campus, there's a sign in brown and yellow announcing the Caucasia Cafe and Hotel, where you can get "Pizza, Burgers, Sandwiches, Lassi, and Organic Coffee and Tea," even if you're not Caucasian.
Bus ButtBus Butt
Bus Butt

A big smokey bus zooms by and is gone almost before I can snap a picture of its receding yellow butt.

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