Sunday, October 10, 2004

the neighborhood

A lot has happened since my last posting - I've been in Nepal for just twelve days, and already I feel pretty accustom to place. On Wednesday, my co-worker Ewan arrived, as well as his girlfriend, Nini. They're both British, and are a little older than me. Ewan's an electrical engineer, and Nini's a commercial pilot. All three of us are in the flat now, and have enjoyed a couple nights of dahl bat tarakari - the rice, lentils, and vegetable curry combo that's the staple diet of Nepalis. Here and there we've mixed in a little mango chutney, and spiced things up with a beer or a bottle of wine. I'm told rice and lentils makes for a full protein together - makes for a good diet basis.

A number of people have emailed and asked how things are, given the Maoist presence, and I must say, I feel fine and safe. Things wind up when the sun goes down though. The other day I went for a walk after dinner around the neighborhood, and in the 10 minute walk, I passed at least 15 camouflaged men with guns. And I don't mean guns on their hips, I mean big assault weapons. There is no one out on the streets after about 8:00PM. Everyone is at home, with the streets dark (no street lights) and quite. All the stores close at 8 also. While everything closing very early and everyone going home is common to all of Kathmandu, the armed men are not. It turns out we live very near a military compound where important generals live. Because of that, soldiers are stationed at 1/4 block intervals all throughout the neighborhood, all night long. The guys are friendly - they say hello in Nepali. The word is "namaste", which my boss tells me is more like "my soul welcomes your soul" than "hello", but I don't understand how three syllables can mean all that without a fair bit of interpretation. A notable addition to the 15 men with guns is one man who is armed with a wooden baton - that's the guard for the North Korean embassy, which is a half-block away from our apartment. I think there are North Korean diplomats who live just across the street from us. I went to the corner store on Sunday to buy a bar of soap and there was a Korean family there, getting some groceries. They smiled at the big tall guy as he got past in the aisle. Nice folks.


At 6:39 PM, BAV said...

At the end of yoga class, we also say "Namaste" with palms joined in a prayer position and head bowed. Now that certainly tracks with "my soul welcomes . . ." I guess it's a bit harder to join your hands in prayer when you're totin' a gun. Be safe, Wild Bill.


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