Monday, September 18, 2017

I went to India - in March!

Every year my brother-in-law T returns to India to perform puja for his father who passed away a few years ago. And every year my sister begs me to go for moral support - -not for T but for her. So we met up at Heathrow Airport and between naps and sort of gross airport food they began to quiz me on all the names of T's family members and their honorifics: Sukumar, Gayathri, Hurshikesh, Darani, Lalita, Bhavana, Kamu, Suresh, Sleepy, Grumpy, Doc. I was well-versed when we landed in Hyderabad bright and shiny at 5AM.

The trip alternated between high-intensity activity and sitting around doing nothing but eating. I like to do both, of course, but more balance might have been welcome. Day 1 we napped and chatted and went grocery shopping. T's mom wanted to make sure that we had good old American food like butter, bread, cheese, and ice cream. (We had already brought tea, coffee, and Nutella.) I looove going to grocery stores in other countries. As an American I find that the fluorescent lights and ordered aisles full of insipid canned goods soothe home sickness and I'm fascinated by which foods are imported. Oreos and ketchup seem pretty universal. Anyway, I immediately established myself a reputation as the more adventurous sister when I bought mosambi (sweet lime) juice and some tamarind-chili chews.  (If you want to send me some of those candy I'll love you forever.)

In my mind, most of the vacation centered around food. I spent much of every: day asking "What is this? How do you make this? Can I have more?" Sprinkled throughout my notes are names of the foods I tried:

idly: small flour pancake with coconut chutney
sabudana khichidi: tapioca balls with ground nut and lime
jaggery: molasses
badai: lentil donut
poori: fried bread
noodle dhosa: dhosa filled with noodles? a travesty

On Day 2 we ventured out to Golconda Fort. Golconda, which according to Wikipedia means round hill, was built, expanded, and finally abandoned between 1150 and 1687. It is the home of the Hope diamond and water-testing goats.


Although my sister M and T and I were travelling with his brother, niece, nephew, cousin, cousin's wife and cousin's child, the guide only addressed the whitest among us. It was disconcerting to say the least. I'm not always a good listener and I sometimes wander off but I was unable to do so on this tour because the guide would not speak to the group unless M and I were paying rapt attention. Maybe he expected a giant tip; little did he know that neither of us carried any money on the entire trip.

We entered the fort at the Victory Gate (clapping portico on the map), where the sound of a handclap under the dome, through some acoustic magic, can be heard at the top of the fort. The nine of us stood there clapping for a while before hiking up a few thousand steps in the hot hot sun (this will be the theme of our travels in India) to explore the Hindu temples, the mosque, the royal chambers, and ye olde ice cream stand.

We were often surrounded by hordes of schoolchildren in uniform with a brave few approaching M and me to ask where we were from.  Honestly, there were very few tourists for them to practice on. I saw only a group of sweating Canadians, some Italians and a lone Korean (who ignored any guides who approached him like he could see through them.)



I only absorbed a few facts during our tour:

  • The walls in the royal chamber also have an acoustic trick. a whisper in one corner can be easily heard on the opposite side of the room. The queen's makeup room, by the way, was larger than my apartment. 
  • The fort had several water storage tanks. In order to maintain quality they would have goats drink the water before drawing it for human consumption. If the goats survived it was ok to drink. I'm not sure how logical this is as a goat can eat a tin can and I can't.
  •  The fort was the center of a very lucrative diamond trade. 
  •  Some Indian reporters are sarcastic and dismissive of the guides and clapping tourists: read it. It's hilarious.
  • T does not like having his picture taken and has asked that I not publish any photos of him so despite having rare people photos, I can't put them on the blog.
  • The Hindu temple was designed to look like a bull.




See?

See from a different angle?

While I didn't retain much -- I may have sweat out much of the information -- it is a recommended visit, if only for the workout - and imagining the following views from the 1200s.














The Loved Ones - an ode to/from Evelyn Waugh

Last week I picked up an erratically highlighted version of The Loved Ones by Evelyn Waugh. Touted as "a dark and savage satire on the Anglo-American cultural divide" I read it more as a misguided love story surrounded by death. 

British Dennis Barlow is an uncouth pet mortician while his love interest Aimee Thanatogenos (her name roughly translates to “beloved of the race of death”) is Waugh's imagined "typical American woman": feeble in intellect, indecisive, sentimental, perpetually immature. But at least she works in a super classy cemetery and is also being courted by the head mortician, an artist in his own right. 

Funny but somewhat surreal, the book was lent an additional layer by the streaks of orange my anonymous highlighter provided...including some words and phrases on the cover and on the copyright page! In an effort to provide meaning perhaps I will transcribe them here. I know that you'll never read it to the bottom but beware spoilers.

Read into them as you will: 

nourishing taproot of tradition
1948
they don't expect you to listen.

It's the secret of social ease in this country. They talk entirely for their own pleasure. Nothing they say is designed to be heard."

fatuously called the "right" side of sixty
he now aspired to the honours of age.

one gets in a groove and loses touch.

Beverly Hills.

Bel Air.

doyen
colleen.

gloaming
monacles
The time was apt for
toddling.

five-to-two
We can't all be at the top pf the tree
ate at drug-stores.

I always think how much better not to have anything to atone for, eh?

The head-lamps of the waiting car spread a brilliant fan of light
Hollywood Boulevard.

prune and polish
a young man of genius,
Hollywood is my life.

The studios keep us going with a pump. We are still just capable of a few crude reactions--nothing more. If we ever got disconnected from our bottle, we should simply crumble.

Once or twice when I was in liquor.

Whispering Glades Memorial Park,
hatted and freshly painted.

sombre good taste
carbolic,
these were the branded drug,
as a monk will repeat a simple pregnant text, over and over again in prayer.
Presently the telephone rang.

207 Via Dolorosa, Bel Air.

incineration?"

"The best will be good enough."

niche in our columbarium
Grade A service
Happier Hunting Grounds

Artists are by nature versatile and precise; they only repine when involved with the monotonous and the makeshift.

buzz-bombs
umbrageous
others had their pets emabalmed
she-bear
It is forbidden by California law to scatter human remains from an aeroplane
snakes-and-ladders
house-match
equanimity
leaden effort
moke
maybe you feel kind of allergic to the assignment?"

has been,"
footled
right here right now."

urbanity
Britisher
How say
wop
blunt Nordic terms
pudgily
fishmongering
cordwaining
englishry.

tocsin.

yeoman
false and fruity tones
we all suffer for the folly of one.

In a world of competition people are taken at their face value. Everything depends on reputation-- 'face' as they say out East. Lose that and you lose everything.

Times without number
necropolis
news-sheets
patois
Golden Gates.

They were vast, the largest in the world,
gabled,
pigeon-cote.

Whispering Glades,
Mortuary Hostess.

Before Need Arrangements.

inhumement, entombment, inurnment
immurement,
insarcophagusment.

The casket is placed inside a sealed sarcophagus, marble or bronze, and rests permanently above ground in a niche in the mausoleum.

The Park is zoned. Each zone has its own name and appropriate Work of Art. Zones of course vary in price and within the zones the prices vary according tot heir proximity to the Works of Art.

starting
mottled
cornice.

They fixed that stiff,"
"so he looked like it was his wedding day. The boys up there surely know their job. Why if he'd sat on an atom bomb, they'd make him look presentable."

slipping on her professional manner again as though it were a pair of glasses,
Waiting Ones
leave-taking
Something dark is best to set off the flowers."

sacristy chest
apotheosis
Slumber-Room
leave-taking
chaise-longue
pince-nez.

half-exposure in the casket,
chaise-longue?"

The leave-taking is a very very great source of consolation. Often the Waiting Ones last saw their Loved Ones on a bed of pain surrounded by all the gruesome concomitants of the sick room or the hospital. Here they see them as they knew them in buoyant life, transfigured with peace and happiness.

a last beautiful memory on the mind."

I am a foriegner. I have no intention of dying here."

morbid reflexions.

death is not a private tragedy of your own but the general lot of man.

Hamlet
'Know that death is common; all that live must die.'

the Chinese were said subtly to distinguish one from another of their seemingly uniform race,
Mortuary Hostess
croon
livery
crimson grease;
photographs
They are the greatest help in re-creating personality.

"Braces.

suspenders."

leave-taking
'Burn him up cheap.
Folks pretend to love their pets,
sortie
redolent
embalming rooms
inclined china slabs,
pressure pumps,
deep gutters
heavy smell of formaldehyde.

cosmetic rooms with their smell of shampoo and hot hair and acetone and lavender.

paunchy.

nugatory
He had only to be seen with a corpse to be respected.

voice assumed a peculiar tone when she spoke to him.

carotid suture
Radiant Childhood smile."

Waiting One
Loved Ones
swirling and gurgling of taps in the embalming rooms,
rubbery cheeks
Within two hours the main task was complete.

but the oeuvre was designed for the amber glow of the Slumber Room
blue stipple work around the eyelids
"A tendency to open in the inside corner?"

I worked a little cream under the lid and then firmed it with No. 6."

When I send a Loved One into you, I feel as though I were speaking to you through him."

Had they been mother and child I should have taken both,
There is something in individual technique -- not everyone would notice it perhaps; but if I saw a pair that had been embalmed by different hands I should know at once and I should feel that the child did not properly belong to its mother; as though they had been estranged in death.

outfitters
raised the arms and set the hands together, not in a form of prayer, but folded one on the other in resignations. He raised the head, adjusted the pillow and twisted the neck so that a three-quarter face was exposed to view.

leave-taking in the Slumber Room.

ante-room
hot-house
cornice.

cumulus
catalfalque.

as ageless as a tortoise and as inhuman;
holm-oaks
Whispering Glades held him in thrall.

sat in purdah, hidden from curious glances.

langurous,
lychgate
guichet.

abstracted
miasma
unregarded
coxswain
Animals are a headache in cemeteries.

Annual.

they appreciate the privacy, too, same as cats."

bosky
wattle
haricots
simple bronze plaques; flush with the turf. bore the most august names in the commercial life of Los Angeles.


peace cane dropping slow,
fruiterer.

verisimilitude.

pickled in formaldehyde
painted like a whore,
Shrimp-pink incorruptible,
irrefragable
a treatment needing special Soul;
Do you think anything can be a great art which is so impermanent?

Once you start changing a name, you see, there's no reason to stop. One always hears one that sounds better.

between psychology and art and Chinese, you had the mortuary in view?"

blue rinse and set,
the Dreamer
I was just glad to serve people that couldn't talk.

I'm just a handmaid to the morticians
carillon
laid his card along the teeth and gums.

grim line of endurance,
We know cases who have only experienced real love after several years of marriage and the arrival of Junior.

a stamped and addressed
he is British and therefore in many ways quite Un-American.

he is cynical at things which should be Sacred.

barbary goat
columbarium."

sing an orison
bran-tub
They have proved themselves in the lowlier tasks to be worthy of the higher.

the Dreamer
embalmers' room
swish and hiss of the taps,
oilcloth curtains
dabbed herself under the arms with a preparation designed to seal the sweatglands,
first freshness
The truth is that morticians, however eminent, are no paid like film stars.

The mothers of great men often disconcert their son's admirers.

pince-nez
positively insulting clothes.

tartarean
You would say, would you not, that a non-sectarian clergy-man was the social equivalent of an embalmer?"

belfry
tartan
dalliance
rough-hewn
BRUCE.

CANTY
skirl
hogmanay,
maun
crapulous.

missive
spoke the tongue of Los Angeles;
eagle-haunted passes
An umbilical cord of cafe and fruit shops,
ministrations
swilling out corpses.

on the horns of a dilemma
Whispering Glades the most wonderful thing outside heaven.

'half in love with easeful death'
you're the nautch
spasmodic
the instruments and chemicals which are the staples of feminine well-being,
barbituates
the staple of feminine repose.

It came at length brusquely, perfunctorily, without salutation or caress. There was no delicious influx, touching, shifting, lifting, setting free and afloat the grounded mind.

the empty streets flamed with light.

The East lightened. In all the diurnal revolution these first fresh hours alone are untainted by men.

the slopes became a dancing surface of light,
mortuary
incuriously
sheeted dead.

Aimee's death Dennis
rival in love, Mr. Joyboy.

these are wild words."

nutburger?

"Cyanide. Self-administered."

abandoned weeping.

Panegyrics
collecting-van.

allow me an old man's privilege
Even among the best you find a few rotters.

No one in Southern California, as you know, ever inquires what goes beyond the mountains.

penury.

Whispering Glades was ideally equipped for the smooth movement of bodies.

man-handled their load to the crematorium.
apposite,
madcap,
stylists
filmdom
American ethos...
mass-mind of America,
the compulsion to 'package everything, even love and death...





















Sunday, September 03, 2017

I went to Puerto Rico - in December!

For Christmas my sister invited me to Puerto Rico and despite the threat of having to share a room with a sixteen year old and a four year old, I jumped at the chance. My sister E is notoriously uptight well-organized about vacations. Generally, she releases a spreadsheet to the whole family months in advance that includes lodging, travel times, etc.



So it was a surprise when my sister abdicated all responsibility for planning beyond booking the flight and house...even though I roll the same spreadsheet-y way:

And it went well! Except I couldn't find any Christmas carrollers with whom to get drunk. Ah well.

Day #3 we moseyed over to El Yunque National Park. The guidebook says to stop at the Visitor Center but I'm telling you now that it's not necessary...unless you super duper have to pee or you enjoy paying $4 for documentaries about something you'll see later. There are no trails that leave from the Visitor Center. So choose some trails to hike, arrive directly there, and be aware that after around two there will be no parking anywhere. We stopped at Yocahu Tower and counted the steps three times (travelling with a four year old is interesting) and then hiked to the Mt. Britton tower whining much of the way (travelling with a four year old is interesting). On the way back sooo many people asked us if they were almost there...and many of them were wearing t-shirts from midwestern states...and my sister and her family struck up conversations with each of them. Peak Minnesota. Then it was so crowded that we couldn't park at any of the trailheads so we went home and beached.





The next day we ventured into San Juan, the gorgeous city founded in 1503. One of the tour guides referred to San Juan as in international pit stop which, although irreverent, gives you a sense of its original purpose as a much-coveted stopover for merchants and later a much fought-over location fortified up the wazoo. As big fans of the National Park Service we went to San Cristobal and Fuerte El Morro to see these forts. And I learned a new word!

 Not to be confused with


One of the guerites at Castillo San Cristóbal is called "El Guerita del Diablo." Local legend says that soldiers often disappeared randomly from the guerite. The Devil got them! It;s more likely, however, that soldiers left their post to go to the bar or meet up with their boos, and decided to never come back. El Guerite del Diablo it is currently inaccessible to the general public, but it can be seen from the upper part of the fort.
See?

After the first fort we took a lunch break Cafe Manolin where we scarfed down the best mofongo on the planet. Mofongo, for the uninitiated, is plantains fried then mashed with salt, garlic and oil and then stuffed with meat. The general consensus is that it was delicious but sits like a rock and was perhaps was a one-time thing. (I have pictures of my giant food baby but I reserve the right to not display them to my ten readers.)


El Morro was stunningly byootiful:





After we were hot and tired and fort-ed out we left to wander through the city. We stopped in some random churches but the highlight, especially for my niece Elena, was Parque de las Palomas. I'm not sure that she was aware that Paloma is Spanish for pigeon and that the park would be filled with her least favorite vertebrate but she weathered it with a minimum of screaming.


The next day we headed to Fajardo where the older kids and brother-in-law went kayaking. I had neglected to say in the planning that I wanted to go NIGHT kayaking to see the bioluminescence so I also neglected to go with them because I was afraid I would fry. Instead, my sister, the kidlet, and I swam all day, stopping only to eat something called arepas but definitely not arepas but still pretty good.

Brother-in-law had only ONE thing that he really really wanted to see: Arecibo Observatory. Not because he's a big fan of the movie Contact but because he's a giant nerd.


So we obliged! According to their website "Arecibo Observatory is a research center operated by SRI International, USRA and UMET, under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF). and NASA. As the site of the second world's largest single-dish radio telescope, the Observatory is recognized as one of the most important national centers for research in radio astronomy, planetary radar and terrestrial aeronomy." I don't know what any of that means and even though it was explained through a short movie, several displays, and a tour guide I still don't.





Because we didn't order a rental van in a timely manner, we were stuck with two cars. Every day I would have to bribe someone to come with me and that day my sister took the bait. So I drove to our next stop through winding Puerto Rico back roads, with E gasping any time I was anywhere close to driving us off a cliff or into another car. Such drama. (Some of you may have driven with me in Nicaragua and know that I am perfectly capable but perhaps a little Latina in my driving style.) Our next stop was Hacienda La Esperanza. Managed by Para la Naturaleza, a Puerto Rico-based conservation group, the Hacienda highlights the sugar industry and the enslaved persons that made it possible.
A press for sugar cane


Fully mechanized operation (from West Point foundry!)

A collection of machetes,

The area was beautiful, the tour comprehensive and informative, and the legacy of slavery was not glossed over.

That evening we stopped at Bebo's, a VERY popular roadside barbecue joint out by the airport. I thought I did a good job ordering (without a menu and as a vegetarian) but learned that my niece doesn't actually like yucca or platanos and was (rightly) sick of beans. Ah well.

After days at the beach and driving around I really didn't want to go home and immediately applied for a job at the university measuring urban street trees...but I didn't get it so it left me open for other adventures to write about soon!

(For realz though, I went to India. You'll enjoy this.)


Monday, December 12, 2016

Nepal postscript

Upon returning home from Nepal I got together with my friend Ben to compare notes. He had some hilariously effective solutions to the ever-present gringo-pricing dilemma that I faced. Here are his recommended haggling techniques:

  • Go into a store and tell them you're a wholesaler. See if they can give you a good deal on a thousand scarves or twenty thangka at once.
  • Ask for something plainly not in the store. Say, " I would pay anything for a ______."
  • When waiting for an airport cab tell them that you will pay $4 and whoever catches you gets the fare. Start walking.
  • Just wait. You have all the time in the world for a $5 sweater. Wait and wait.
Let me know if you try any of these ideas or your own tried and true solutions!



Nepal - Kathmandu - the end

At our dinner, Ambika arranged that she would pick me up on her way to the airport and drop me at Bodanath. I was waiting in the sun (early, because I never learn) at the chosen corner when this car came roaring over the curb and onto the sidewalk and Ambi opened the door and waved me in, almost without stopping. We set off through rush hour traffic to stop 15 minutes later at what looked like a random store in the continuous strip mall that is the outer city. Saying good bye to Ambika I saw that to the left was a gate that opened into a wide courtyard dominated by a large white stupa, the structure around which Buddhists walk (clockwise of course) to worship. Surrounding the courtyard are quaint multi-storied stores and restaurants. It's like a Tibetan Disneyland.

I was immediately approached by a VERY close-talking man who offered to be my guide for $10. He is the first person in Nepal who made me feel genuinely uncomfortable and I considered paying him an extra $5 just to stand further away. He took me to three monasteries (the first time I am allowed to take photos inside), a thanka-painting workshop (which given my last experience I clarify before entering that I have no interest in making a purchase), and  a small shrine. He told me nothing I don't know already and I was glad to get rid of him but sad about the waste of money -- I could have bought like 30 momos instead!





I walked my three rounds of the stupa and ducked into a restaurant for a lassi. Sitting next to a group of older French tourists I hear their guide refer to momos as Chinese ravioli which cracks me up -- but then again I don't know the word for dumpling in French either.

I took the opportunity to look in my Lonely Planet for directions to Pashupatinath, the holiest Hindu site in Kathmandu. Ambika had given me the sage advice to just yell my intended location every once in a while to see where people point me. I countered that I can barely pronounce Pashupatinath. She then suggested that I try to choose people who look like they might speak English. Sigh. Lonely Planet directions are also charmingly misleading. Anyway, I walked in a straight line for 20 minutes until I saw a river which I assumed was the one I'm meant to cross. I saw neither hide not hair of a "well sign-posted tree temple." In fairness, a lot has changed since my edition of LP was written; it still thinks Nepal is a monarchy. I wandered around among some structures looking for the bridge encountering a man washing himself in the river, a young woman exhorting her toddler to say hello to me, and several monkeys. I really don't like monkeys.

Upon crossing the bridge, I encountered a lone man who tells me that it's $10 to enter the temple. No kiosk, no sign, just a peanut seller and a man in an oft-repaired uniform with a plastic bag full of tickets. My concerns are only assuaged when he takes out a rubber stamp. No con man would be so official right?

I wandered in, taking photos of structures that I only understand after a tour guide takes me around the site for a second time.
The holy Bagmati river where funerals are held. By the bridge is where important people are cremated and closer to me are where less important families hold ceremony. My guide appreciated that I didn't take ridiculous amounts of photos here

As a non-Hindu I was not allowed to enter the main temple but this
photo represents the workaround for tourists

15 votive shrines, the Pandra Shivalaya, which my guide told me conferred fertility upon the visitor.

Niches where acetics meditate
My guide also told me not to look monkeys in the eye if I didn't want to get attacked. After showing me around and giving me such useful advice he asked for a fee. I told him I could pay $10 because that's what I paid the last guide. He said that he normally got $30. I said I only had $15 and he then asked me for sweets or food for his children. I was steamed but I gave him those Nature Valley granola bars that taste like cardboard. Sorry kids.

Travelling alone and a lack of previous knowledge in a country with suddenly very few tourists put me at the mercy of price-setters. In general, while travelling I suck up the possibility that I might be overpaying because in the grand scheme of things it's never too much money, especially in a poor country but on my day in the two holiest sites in Nepal I felt cheated and angry (and I went back to the hotel to find that I had to negotiate that price too!)

So the next day, I just didn't want to deal with that so I spent the day at attractions with set admissions and no need for guides.

First I went to the Narayanthiti Palace Museum where I am so sad that I wasn't allowed to take photos especially as my notes are sketchy:

  • moth balls on the floor
  • hunting trophies galore especially elephant foot side tables
  • throne room with tapeworm type structures
  • dark panelling. marble, slate, parquet, tile
  • each room named after one of 75 districts
  • small room = earthquake proof 


Then I moseyed to the Garden of Dreams where Nepali teens come to take selfies and European tourists fall asleep on provided cushions to the soothing sounds of hocked lugies. It was actually quite pretty:





After a nap of my own, I headed to the airport for the long journey home. Funnily enough, I flew home with the same ladies I had arrived with! Last anecdote: on my last leg of the trip a man on my flight was being very rude to the flight attendant, citing that he had been travelling for 24 hours. I piped up that I still managed to be polite despite going on 30.

Nepal - Kathmandu trek - Nagarkot to Bhaktapur

The next day it was fairly obvious that the blister situation was untenable. My feet didn't even really fit into running shoes. It was sort of embarrassing because I'm not a complete noob and I had worn these boots long distance before but my feet were swollen into oblivion so the guide and I decided to take a bus to Bhaktapur. However, the bus schedule was such that it would be faster walking most of the way. We meandered through several small towns stopping in each to check the bus schedule but we were still ahead. Eventually we stopped for tea and the delay put us at a bus stop at a time when there would be a vehicle. We hopped on and I fell immediately asleep, which I only considered a potentially bad idea once I woke up.

We were dropped outside of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the administrative center of town, and got me all settled in the Sunny Guest House which doubles as a wooden carving store. Fulla and I then walked around town, taking bad photos, and had snacks in Nyatapola cafe, a roof top cafe with a view of the square which was particularly vertigo-inducing as the seats are right on the edge of the balcony...and post-earthquake all the buildings are held up with wooden posts.

bad tourist photo!
The view from the Cafe

Fulla and I chatted about how he had thought I was on a gap year before college (so flattering!), how his wife was a grad student in Colorado, and how the guide at the table behind us was trying to sell drugs to his client while ascertaining if Australians "have sex like Americans." I also learned that Argentineans are still bitter over Nepali Gurkhas' participation in the Falkland War.  Then I sadly said goodbye as my crew returned to Kathmandu. after agonizing, of course, over what would be an appropriate tip. I think I missed the mark by a lot.


While I hobbled around that afternoon I saw some of the efforts being made to restore the temples, houses, and the art museum.



It's a never-ending battle methinks; while lying in bed at 8PM I felt a teensy tiny earthquake!

The next morning, fortified by a delicious breakfast in bed (because the rooftop restaurant was not earthquake safe), I set out for a morning of tourism. My first stop was the national art museum. Like much of Nepal it had inconsistent electricity and was earthquake-damaged but had a heart of valuable an interesting religious works. Because the ticket was also good for the woodworking and metalworking museums, I headed there. I got lost of course but in the process wandered into a woodworker's shop and a paper-making factory.
These guys are actually making keychains.

Also known as D. papyracea


They assured me it was earthquake safe...but fires?
Hand printed...
...or machine printed?
Then I wandered to the only coffee shop in all of Nepal, an expat-owned, surprisingly cozy nook of the city under a pomelo tree. They didn't have any tea! Can you imagine! Instead, I chatted with the proprietor over wafer cookies and he gave me infallible advice, "Don't step on any carpets in the street. You will fall to certain death."

So informed, I went plazearing. As you may remember from your Bolivia vocabulary, the Spanglish "to plazear" is the act of sitting in a public space and people watching. One may read, write, chat with locals, eat, and/or drink but in general the activity implied by plazearing is free, unstructured, and intensely lazy. I suppose in Nepal it would be called "temple-ing." Especially because I chose to sit here:



I was immediately approached by a potential tour guide/love interest. He said that he had noticed me the day before but didn't want to impinge on my guide. He was surprisingly uncreepy and when he learned that I spoke Spanish he immediately handed me his notebook. (This bonding over vocabulary nerdiness happens frequently.) I gently and truthfully extricated myself from the conversation by saying that I was meeting friends in Kathmandu for dinner.

I didn't really have a good idea of where the buses left from, how many stops it would be, how long it would take, where they arrived in Kathmandu, or how much it should cost. As such, I told the attendant that I wanted to get off in the Thamel. He came to collect money but didn't take mine. We stopped a few times and at one place, sat quite a while. Most, but not all, of the people got off the bus and some new people got on. As we sat there, I began to get nervous. I turned to the person next to me and asked where she was going. She answered, "Bhaktapur." Evidently we had arrived in Kathmandu and were heading back soon. I got off the bus, went up to the driver (who spoke no Englsh) and indignantly yelled "Dude! What the hell?!" He doubled over laughing and I stormed off. I got a free bus ride for his stupid joke.

I also wasn't sure how to get from the bus depot to my hotel but my faith in humanity was restored when I asked a pedicabber and he told me I was three blocks away and gave me directions instead of extorting me for a ride.

That night I had a lovely dinner with my Yale girls and they suggested several things to do in my last two days in Nepal. Unsurprisingly most of them involved nice places to sit and read with a cup of tea. They know me so well!

This last picture represents how I felt in the lovely city of Bhaktapur: