Namaste from Nepal
I postponed my visit to Nepal for years because of The 7 year Maoist "peoples' War".
I waited until things quieted down and tourists started to come again, feeling it was safer. Well, miscalculated big time! I landed one day, unaware there was trouble brewing already, with the Maoists massively already in town from the countryside, in the schools, ready for a massive protest the very next day.
When the protests escalate here in Nepal, there is a "Chakka Jam" (Jam the wheels), when all vehicles stay off the streets. When things get worse, there is a "Bandh" (general strike), when all shops, schools and offices close as well. Right now, Bandh it is.
The Kathmandu Post’s headlines read on May 3: “ No Slackening Until Nepal Goes” and goes on to say “the strikes have been peaceful, except for a few incidents of stray violence,… no arrests, though demonstrators pelted 2 vehicles with stones - a car and a tourist bus.”
Now! Are you ready for a smaller, but still a headline, on the front page? “Halle Berry Not Dumped Over Age Gap”. Can you believe it??? With all the pressing issues going
on in the world, Halle’s “dumping” makes headlines!!! Ok, even if they needed something “lighter” to talk about, couldn’t they find someone local and inspiring to talk about? Halle’s private life is nobody’s business and definitely not a concern here at this time. Just too absurd the newspaper would publish this. But, my instincts say it was a diversion of attention.
Today, May 6, the headlines read “Demos starting to turn nasty”. “…police reports defiance, vandalism, clashes, kidnapping across the country”.
I have filmed 4 protest parades. These 2 travelers say I missed the opportunity to make at least 3 to $5,000, when I turned off the camera when this young protester started to beat this guy’s motorcycle with his Maoist red flag, 5 feet from me, for breaking the “bandh” (strike) demand on no wheels to be running, and went on to shout and close the 2 tiny food shops that dared to be open. This was at 6:40am. I told the guys: “I have 2 kids and I‘m not Christiane from CNN, so I am ok to be in one piece without the extra money.”
Now, I’m not political, and I definitely don’t understand the political
issues of this poor nation, and this is not the time to learn. I did ask a dozen of local people on the streets what they thought about what was going on and 80% gave me very similar versions of “not good”, and a couple of them went on and on to basically say “not good” with 1,000 words. For sure, they are all intimidated by the maoists, and they all follow the demands. Now, if I was daring enough to go to the parades and ask the Maoists, I’d get the opposite kind of answer, of course.
EXPLORING THE KATHMANDU VALLEY ON FOOT
The melodic and peaceful chanting of prayers from Buddhists and Hindu devotees I heard in the morning as I walked to Durbar Square in the morning on April 30, started to get more and more interrupted by the shouting of slogan by young Maoist in street processions.
With the current struggle between the Maoists and the gov't revitalized full force, I'm following all the guidelines for foreigners to minimize chances of getting into trouble. I quickly visited the Dubar Square, went back to the hotel in THAMEL to make arrangements to flee Kathmandu the next
morning, as the major protest happened.
Before the official strike started, I had enough time to power my legs for the walk across Kathmandu, pass the polluted river, and climb the long stairway up the hill leading to the Buddhist temple. SWAYAMBHUNATH (Monkey Temple):
On the way paved with poverty, dust, dangly power line wires, and garbage, I could still walk incredibly peacefully!! How could I not stop and smile to find myself by a soccer field, minus the grass, with little monks changing from their maroon robes to shirt and shorts for a match. It still brings me a smile the memories of that moment at the base of the hill. I thought of the movie about monks here in Nepal sneaking out of monasteries to watch Brazil play in the World Cup. Rent it, if you haven't seen it. I also thought of my Gugui, my soccer player.
I can't say the climb was peaceful, as how could it be with all those monkeys around. I remember them confronting Amanda and I in India, and unfortunately I haven't become comfortable with them since. But, I'm proud to say that I changed the mind of a
Canadian woman I met about going up, as she was horrified of the little creatures. Jeanne and I wandered the temple together for the rest of the afternoon.
Not enough time for more blogging now... next power cut sure to come soon, so I better secure this one. I have had no internet connection for 2.5 days, except for a few minutes yesterday. Power cuts daily, at least 12 hours too.
Ah. Get this one. Yesterday, I again got lost going somewhere, and ended up in front of a big house guarded by heavily armed police. Tons of them. I asked: "Safe to pass?", They pointed for me to keep going. Then I saw 2 teen girls I though might speak English and asked what that house was. They spoke among themselves, than said: "Our minister house". WOW!!!! How did I end up in front of "the" or "a" minister house???!!! "Only me", I thought. Later I found out it was actually the vice-president's house!!!!!
Things getting harder. No banks or ATMS at all. Food getting limited, but my guesthouse is still ok.
Bye for now.
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