Photo by Stephanie Waisler Rubin
Welcome, my dear friends, to what will be the final chapter of Whatchu Doing There, Tran? penned within the borders of Nepal. I’m sure that it will come as no surprise to know that my adventures are just beginning (my trip to Vietnam is just two months away!) and this blog may or may not live on to tell those tales, but for the time being, things will be getting very quiet around here. In a way, you will all be sharing in my final Nepali adventure, a ten day vow of silence and Vipassana meditation course in Shivapuri National Forest.
To those of you who have continuously found time in your busy lives to follow the escapades detailed on this site, I offer you my most heartfelt thanks. Even if all you ever did was flip through the pictures, your participation has constantly inspired me to bring the spirit, humor, tragedy, and rather ripe smell of this magical country to life as best I can.
Because my flight leaves the very day I return from Shivapuri, this is effectively my last week in the Kathmandu Valley. I am back and forth between Bhaktapur and Patan on an almost daily basis, packing, saying my goodbyes, and spending as much time as possible with the girls. To this end, I’ve decided to forgo the typical format of this blog and offer up a second helping of random thoughts, tidbits, and observations, in the style of my mid-July posting. Lazy? This is Nepal, baby.
Living in Patan has put me much closer to Kathmandu, and my days off have been marked with more frequent forays into the bustling capital city. This generally means tackling Nepal’s special breed of public transportation. Between Patan and Kathmandu, a rider has the choice of microbus (read: van) or tuk-tuk, a sort of oversized, motorized rickshaw. After a tuk-tuk explosion killed three people last week, I’ve been trending towards the micros.
In actuality, calling the micro network public transportation is rather inaccurate. While routes are more or less standardized, micros are all privately owned and operated and run the gamut from reasonably comfortable clown car to veritable death trap. For me, the system has been a riveting study in unrefined capitalism, with bus crews clawing there way up the ladder of innovation and efficiency before my very eyes. There does, however, seem to be a gold standard: an operation that maintains, despite any hardship the road can throw its way, the perfect balance of volume, speed, and Hindi music. To a certain extent, every bus and its crew embodies elements of The Perfect Micro, this Rolling Stones of third world transit, but to do it all is a feat I have only seen performed once. Recorded below for your scientific amusement is my best recollection of that incredible day.
Somehow, the girls got their hands on a bunch of long balloons. They were thrilled to fill them up and wave them about, but when they found out I could twist the things into hats or animals, chaos broke loose. The older girls were almost to shy to ask for anything, and definitely too shy to pose with my creations, shoddy as they were, but the younger girls were thrilled to pose for enough pictures to kill my freshly charged camera batteries. Highlights of the digital roll follow the jump, plus a few extras of Rostika, because she’s criminally adorable.
My dearest readers, considering my rather extended hiatus from “Whatchu Doing There Tran,” you can be forgiven for assuming that Nepal’s unrivaled fondness for sloth has been rubbing off on me. The happy truth of the matter, however, is quite the opposite. My trip has shifted into what I will ominously call “Phase Two,” and the transition has had me scurrying back and forth across the valley with nary a minute to spare for committing the adventures to proverbial paper. As I type this entry, finally granted a chance to relax, I sit in a new home, in a new city, with a new schedule, freshly extended visa, and a confirmed date of return to the good ol’ US of A. (For those planning on meeting a very groggy version of myself on that day with an IPA in hand, the date is August 27th). Like I said, Phase Two, baby.