Saturday, July 10, 2004

Who is Rajendra?

I guess I should explain that the reason Rajendra has quickly become my friend, taking me under his caring tutelage and guidance, is because he is a very dear friend of my dear friend Mary Evans. Evans had told me, before I left Texas, to “find Rajendra, my brother,”--because he'd probably be very eager to meet me and show me the Kathmandu Valley.

When Mary lived in Kathmandu, she'd become affiliated with the Vajra Hotel and its theater company--as performer and actor. Rajendra spoke highly of Mary, and seemed to enjoy taking me on as a summer project.

I am very lucky that he seems to have time for showing me around and hosting me at the Vajra restaurant for meals now and then. The Vajra seems to pride and promote itself as an eclectic, high-quality, international-flavored hotel for a clientele that includes alot of moneyed European artsy, intellectual types. I could tell that some of the Nepali Vajra staff had sniffed out that I was a "lower class" type of tourist. Whatever...

Anyway, Rajendra never put on airs with me, but he had a beloved sense of indignation about many things, which I grew accustomed to very quickly. We would converse and discourse about many subjects, and I was very impressed with the wealth of knowledge--from the mystical to the political--he had in mind.

He was pretty well-traveled, for a native of Nepal. He'd been to Europe and the U.S. on several occasions, touring his sacred dance show both solo and with his young students. He challenged and contested my ideas, as much as he quietly absorbed and sometimes agreed with my observations about life, human nature, and more. This was so good for my mind, as I often had no one else to push my intellectual mastications.

Rajendra wasn't trying to be anybody's guru, and I thought of him more like a professorial land and spirit tour guide. He has invited me to see his sacred dance students in a performance at the Vajra. I can't wait.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Lucky clear skies

I got mauled by muskeeters today & tonight. Ankles, shoulder, elbow, back, calf. Many bites, much itching & irritation. Almost too distracted to enjoy the sunset rooftop at the Vajra Hotel w/ Rajendra, Genevieve (artist from France), and many mountaintops. The stupa at Swayambuh, from the perch we had at Vajra, looked majestic. We could also actually see Mt. Everest peaking in the far distance. This was at a little before sunset. Rajendra--friend and resident spiritual philosopher/sacred dance mentor--kept trying to impress upon us that this was a very rare moment. He said that, to see such peaks from the Vajra Hotel in mid-Kathmandu, was a rare thing during this time of year. During a KTM monsoon. He exclaimed, repeatedly, "This is great luck!" "This is very lucky!" I loved seeing his wide smile and dark widening eyes in a moment of inspiration.

I realized that both yesterday & today I have been up higher (elevation) than I've ever been in my life. So, as we sat together and chatted, sipping beer & eating appetizers of buff chili (buff is a common abbreviation for water buffalo) and other spicy meats, I appreciated how close, how much physically closer to me, are the stars & planets & moon. This sky was kind to me tonight, after so much rain, after so many continuous hours of rainfall. We had a clear sky at the Vajra together.

Confounding My Self

I realize that I have felt anxious and frustrated when surrounded by too many white-skinned tourists here. Not sure why. I guess it's because I want to blend in with the brown, and get a whiff of my Self as global citizen and not so much as American Texan Tammy.

So I'm finding that it's best to travel alone. Moving from shop to cafe, thangka gallery to embroidered t-shirt stall, I notice white-skinned travelers seeking one another out: "Hi, where are you from?" "When did you get to Kathmandu?" "How long have you been here?" All in English. Moving towards familiarity, these tourists seem to want to hang out with each other and assert their common distinctions from the natives. These people rarely talk to me, if even look at me. It is somewhat relieving and refreshing to just be another short, brown nobody to them. I want and seek no status here. I'm sick of that game, which I've learned how to play back in the States.

Still, I realize that--at some point--I may want to break my silence and speak some American English with other people from my country. If I get lonely enough...

Speaking of which, today another person, the dude at the internet service place in Swayambuh, got his mind blown; he thought I was from Nepal. When I opened my mouth to speak and English instead of Nepali words came out, he looked soooo surprised! He smiled apologetically, saying that I "confused" him for a moment.
I'm gonna try to learn more Nepali.

Identity Chameleon

I veered towards one of the bakeries in Thamel, which have been enticing me with their store window displays of fresh, fluffy breads and sweets. Outside the HOT BREAD (Bakers & Confectioners) Bakery, I met Rama Skesi, a "commerce" (we call it "business") student hanging out by the front door. He was serious and seemed to be waiting for someone, but expressed curiosity about where I was from, what I was. I told him I was from Mexico. Not really a lie, eh? Mi gente son de Mexico, right?

After picking up a few baked treats for later, I decided to check out one of the hype hippie spots lining the more flagrantly-touristy section of Thamel. What the heck, I wanted to see if the action and food was worth the hype. It amused me that some enterprising Nepali businesspeople had decided that hippiesque-themed restaurants would attract Westerners intrigued by and made nostalgic for the Kathmandu that once was--back when the British Invasion of guru- and ganja-seeking pop idols was the thing of the day.

So----now I sit in the ALICE'S RESTAURANT cafe (i don't mind, go ahead and laugh), listening to the sound system blast the Doors' "Light My Fire." (I should inform you that I could hear the music from this cafe's speakers at least half a block away...) I feel like I'm at a 60's hippie theme party, only it's early and I forgot my costume, AND there's water buffalo meat on the menu. In other words, I feel like I'm on hallucinogens, cuz this is some weird trip. All the waiters speak British English and the fries and beer I order are served with the utmost formality. By the time I'm midway through my late afternoon snack, which may well end up being my dinner, I've heard at least one Pink Floyd and Janis Joplin song. God, do I feel like an outdated bohemian hippie tourist cliche.

I pay my bill and slink out of the place, hoping that no American sees me leaving.

I want to be ironic anonymously.