24 Hours of Kathmandu, Nepal

It’s rainy in Kathmandu.

I landed 24 hours ago. Getting through the airport, securing a taxi, and checking into the hostel was a breeze but the city itself didn’t hold back. From the taxi, I saw true poverty for the first time in my life. Goats and chickens were running with traffic in the streets. I saw stray dogs, damaged roads, and garbage. It was a sudden and harsh contrast to the life I’ve just left behind in Japan. I think I saw a little girl with Polio.

Kathmandu street art is vibrant in its spiritual themes

After 40 minutes of people watching from the bumpy taxi, and holding my scarf over my face to filter some of the air, I arrived at my hostel. The owner immediately had some tea made and we ate a plate of momo. The welcome was incredibly warm. The neighborhood is out of the busy city center and more residential, quiet, and the air is clean.

We talked about his career and his investment in opening the bed & breakfast just six months ago. I’m the only guest here, as it’s monsoon season, so the whole house-restaurant combo feels like a cozy home where I can just nap and eat, nap and eat. (Which I’m doing a lot of, actually. Eating my feelings post-Japan.)

Momo is a dumpling native to Nepal and Tibet, stuffed with vegetables, meat, or even chocolate!

Early this morning, around 4am, I woke and tip-toed up to the rooftop. The city was nearly pitch-black. I could hear the barking of nameless dogs coming from invisible alleys, a chorus of buzzing insects, and bells sweetly ringing from the temples every few moments. With the darkness having took over, it was a fascinating sensory experience. I tried to capture it for Instagram and Snapchat, but the stillness of it all just didn’t come through.

I returned to bed, dreamed a bit more, saw the sunrise, had breakfast, and (finally) went for a proper walk — the first having been the night before in a thunderstorm.

The Bad: After heavy rain, the streets become creeks and bring up whole dead rats, dog bones, and garbage. Everything smells like either gasoline or incense, and it’s the gasoline that’s starting to get to me. I was also offered a male prostitute (they said they had a Japanese man, which made me go ????), and promptly left a coffee stand after I realized they had a little boy working in the kitchen. He looked about 8 years old.

Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage site and district in central Nepal

The Good: The food is irresistible. I’ve already overeaten, both in a physical and an economical sense. Plus that everything-smells-like-incense thing is just magic because everywhere you go, someone is burning incense or oils. There are butterflies everywhere and people smile so brightly if I offer a smile first. Only one mosquito bite. Everything is so colorful that wandering the streets feels more like walking through a painting.

The Curious: Elementary school kids have their ears pierced. I saw one punk-haired boy with small gauges, maybe eight, but the usual seems to be one or two hoops or a cartilage piercing. Some of the older kids (maybe thirteen) have their noses or lips done, too. The caste system is clear. I met a group of Buddhist monks yesterday when I tried to find a currency exchange booth in the thunderstorm. They were kind and instantly helped me get where I needed to go, interrupting whatever it was they were doing out in the rainy, muddy streets in bare feet.

Hello Kitty cafe in Thamel

Today I popped into a crystal store and the owner, Mr. Sami, was incredibly eager. He was the kind of enthusiastic where you expect that person to befriend you, attempt a hustle, and move on. Instead, he offered me a few cups of chai while we sat at his desk discussing the folklore of Ganesha, major world religions, and how he thinks we all reincarnate into a different culture to draw knowledge from everywhere.

Also a Pisces, he said, “Only nature can teach you what you need to know. The society is there to tell stories, to give people something to hang on to, but it’s not helping us to be.”

Outside Mr. Sami’s crystal store where he sells a collection of 15 years

He said he refuses to get a smart phone, use the internet, or go out to places with a lot of people, even friend’s events or parties. He said groups take away from being in the present moment, that each person in your life deserves your time one-to-one if you’re truly looking to entertain the mind and the heart at once.

Our conversation was a good two hours, and I bought four crystals in the end after he taught me a new meditative technique. He said one thing that made the little dip into his shop feel less serendipitous and far more meant-to-be:

“What you are meant to own, what is truly yours in this universe, will simply come to you. There is no need to strive or take or work for those things. The love, money, children, friends, land, these are already decided in the world what is and isn’t yours. If you just wait, and focus on giving, what’s yours will simply appear.”

Mr. Sami kindly let me take a photo of him

He couldn’t have known that 24 hours before I shook his hand, I had left an entire life behind in Japan. He couldn’t have known that, in one month, I’m starting over without money, my friends, love. In the same way, he will never know how much confidence that simple comment in the middle of a cup of chai has given me going into the future. I’ll probably hit him up for one of his yoga lessons.

By 3pm, the night rains were a memory and the streets were back to rivers of dust. The traffic made it worse than I was prepared for and I missed the mud terribly. My throat is already a little scratchy and my boogers black.

I had a splash of vodka for my throat.