A world away from home in Kathmandu

By Emma. Cliquez ici pour l’article de Damien. Click here for photos of there.

Whisps of tattered prayer flags flutter in the breeze. Bright eyes peer out of ancient, wrinkled faces. Butter lamps flicker and prayer wheels spin. A living goddess is held captive by tradition in a crumbling palace. Hanging copper kettles warm and dapple light. Sadhus beguile. Singing bowls hum and whisper. Kathmandu. I am in love with the name. We fall through time in the city’s ancient streets and never have I felt so far away from home.

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Mesmorised, we watch Tibetan refugees thrice circumnavigate the gleaming Boudhanath, spinning their prayer wheels and fingering their wooden malas, a bead for each of man’s temptations. The atmosphere is soothing, special; the stupa beautiful.

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Through the tangled bazaar of the medieval streets, we weave our way by motorbikes and cycle rickshaws, past stalls heaped with hammered metal water jugs, yak wool blankets, vermillion-daubed statues of Hindu gods and pavement vegetable stalls. One street is lined with open-sided dentist shops, their victims visibly vulnerable behind displays of worryingly realistic teeth. On another, the road dust has been dampened with blood and, eyed by waiting crows and dogs, the peeled heads of cows lie prone under black clouds of flies. Our eyes are wide and we pass the camera back and forth as we duck, hop and sidestep the traffic and potholes.

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Good deeds, shrines and holy men cluster the alleys. The dogs are happy. As are the pigeons.

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Kathmandu should be wonderful. No, it is wonderful. For me though, there is a disconnect. Maybe it’s the air. My eyes are delighted with the city, my lungs feel as though they’re choking. Trying to suck in the oily, dusty air through my face-mask, I wheeze and splutter in disconcerting time to the manic looping of Om Mani Padme Hum. It’s the strangest sensation. It almost feels like walking smothering. To heap strange upon strange, no matter where we go it feels like we’re peering in at Kathmandu through a dirty window pane. We’re there but somehow removed. Yup, there’s a definite disconnect. Maybe it’s because we’re jarringly visible targets to a young and grasping tourist industry. Maybe it’s the sticky tourist enclave of Thamel. Maybe it’s because no matter how must I hope, a eye-wideningly tremblesome internet and telephone system fail to muster enough strength to allow me to ring or email home. Ah yes, it’s probably that. It’s a grudge. My inner homebird is squawking after a month of trailing through the mountains without any home contact. Proportion? Pah! Kathmandu has foiled my plans for some capital city phone line swamping and I’m unreasonably vexed. Yes, I’m being unreasonable. A cluster of usually shrugged off, feather-light travel straws appears to have flattened the camel’s back! Oh Kathmandu! And I loved your name so!

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