Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Awake at 3am

Okay, now I'm rested and wide awake. What do I do w/ myself? It's about 3 in the morning and not a living soul is walking around outside. It's quiet in the guesthouse and I have no television set. I sit up in bed, trying not fret. I grab my travel notes and my Nepal guidebook, re-reading them and noticing how mentally alert I am. This is crazy. Why am I wide awake in the middle of the night? This was jet lag big time.

I decided to stay up until the sun and the people of Kathmandu rose. I tuned in to the local radio shows on my battery-powered radio-alarm clock, skirting the dial to hear the variety of tones and musics on the Nepali airwaves. Surprisingly, some stations featured English-speaking djs. I sat, swaying to the Hindi dance music, in the middle of my bed.

June 11th - cafe table at New Orleans

Now the lag is starting to make me sag, and it’s only 4:30pm. My first Happy Hour Friday in Kathmandu, and I’m ready for bed. I guess i have to let nature (body and bio-rhythms off-kilter) take its course, so I can get back on course.

I reckon I’ll have the cup of tea and garlic toast (?) I just ordered at the “New Orleans” bar and then I’ll retire on the funky bed at Mont Blanc. Stomach pain is also starting to kick in; I do not know what that’s about. Could be nothing, could be something. I’m pretty amazed at the chill factor on the streets of Thamel; I guess this really *is* the off-season. I don’t like, though, that the shysters and dealmakers are spotting me as easy game in the thin crowds on the street and they’re pitching hard sells. “Madam, you want tour guide, porter, rickshaw, hash, marijuana, massage, tiger balm”? (omigod, how they pimp the tiger balm...) I must figure out how to brush ‘em off without putting them off. They’re just trying to make a living and a buck.

The littlest fly just landed on the opposite page briefly. I hope that’s all that’s flying around tonight...I’m leery of mosquitos on this still, humid evening as I sit in an outdoor garden, wondering about my next move & maybe my next breath. In my frenzy of leaving Fort Worth, I forgot to grab my anti-malarial medicine. Here, a mosquito bite could yield more than an irritating itch.

Well, it arrived @ my table: garlic toast. Minced raw garlic between triangles of slightly-buttered wheat toast.
Gonna munch it quick and then call it a night by 6pm.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

English spoken here

Wow, I thought I was hallucinating! I just heard a kid's voice, counting at loud volume very fast as if playing hide & seek. Yep, that was English. English is spoken everywhere in the touristy Thamel area; it is too easy for me, I think. All signs are translated into English, too, for the most part. How am I going to learn Nepali, when everyone's yakking in English?

But as I walk around, getting my bearings and trying to learn the layout of KTM, I realize how easy it is to get disoriented here. (And not just geographically, either.) The city streets all seem to curve and turn into other streets (kinda like GTO, Mexico), and complicating things further, every street seems to have its own "neighborhood" name (kinda like SF, CA). Thank god, I was smart enough to have brought a tiny compass--which is on a watchstrap on my wrist--to keep from getting severely lost.

God, there are men everywhere. Young men, good-looking men looking lucky. I've been here 5 hours or so and I've talked with about 7 men already. They're captivating & charming, quick with a smile. They walk so relaxed, arms swinging easily at their sides; it's sexy & attractive to me. For my taste.

And then, I notice how many men are holding hands as they sit in the shop stalls, or stand talking in the middle of the street. They casually and unself-consciously drape arms around shoulders, the way teenaged novios sweetly hang on one another's shoulders in the U.S. That's how I see these men and boys of Nepal physically in harmony with one another. After a brief moment of wonderment, I knew not to assume that all these men were gay lovers just because they gently carried each others' hands in conversation. An early lesson for this not-so-ugly American. Suspend the Western world judgments and attain a relaxed and pliant mindset.

Watching the soft and comfortable physical engagement of men in public space was one of the most healing therapies for me. Before Nepal, my cumulative experience had brought mostly discomfort, witnessing our men chest-thumping and preening in insecure rage, unfriendliness, and machismo in the american public sphere. So fuckin' uptight, even when they get along w/ each other. How funny to realize that such displays of physical armoring in other people hurts the observer maybe almost as much.

I look around, wanting to hold somebody's hand.