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Running away from Home

Animal sacrifices and self-appointed tour guides

NEPAL | Wednesday, 10 February 2010 | Views [409]

                My Australian friend wanted to hire a car for the day to get a better look at Kathmandu and this sounded like a good idea to me.*  I had been greatly encouraged by my trip to the hilltop temple and I was anxious to see what she found so fascinating about this city.  We had met a pleasant young woman from the UK who was just finishing her volunteer work in town and was keen to do some sightseeing so duo became trio as we set out in the small white Toyota.  The first thing that caught her attention was the trashy river. “Ooh, ooh, please stop so I can take a picture.”  Okay, I can understand being dumbstruck by this level of pollution.  I snapped a few shots myself.  Continuing on down the road, however, she seemed to be completely awestruck and she kept saying, “it’s so different from home.”  The reverent tone in her voice suggested that she viewed this developing world in a romantic light. 

                I will admit that a lot of Kathmandu displays a quiet dignity.  What little the Nepalis have they take pride in.  I have often seen people fastidiously sweeping up in front of their home or business, trying to make their little corner of this city as presentable as possible.  They can’t afford constant upgrades like what we demand in the West.

                When we booked our sightseeing trip, Kathryn insisted that we visit places that are less touristy, and so we arrived at Dakshinkali.  How many tourists can say that they have seen a goat sacrificed to Kali, the mother goddess?  I can.  The people at the temple were very tolerant of our intrusion, and so we all agreed to take a quick look and then make a exit.  I snapped a quick photo on the sly, but the other two put their cameras away.  The ceremony is a family event.  They come to make their offering and then have a feast with the remains of the sacrificed animal.  I’m sure that my summation of it makes it sound trivial, but it is a big deal to these people and we were all amazed to find out that animal sacrifice was still practiced.  We also felt a little sorry for the sacrificial goat, but Kathryn reminded us that if we ate meat, we shouldn’t be such hypocrites.

                By the time we reached our next valley destination of Kirtipur we were all ready for a smoke/coffee/bathroom break.  The only problem was that there didn’t seem to be any cafes or restaurants in sight.  While I thumbed through our guidebook trying to find a map of the location, Holly stepped out of the car for a smoke.  A few minutes later she opened the door, and told us that one of the locals she had just met could show us where there were cafes and shops just up the alleyway.  We all followed him towards the promise of a short break, but what we got was a self-appointed tour guide.  After 15 minutes of strolling through these back alleys and not seeing a single service I was getting irritated, but Kathryn was charmed by this fellow, and even though I knew that he was going to ask for money, I indulged her.  I hate being manipulated.  It gives the whole experience a bitter taste.  This is a good topic for debate.  Kathryn says that these people are living in hard circumstances and they have to make money however they can.  She was thrilled to be able to see so much in one place and she thought it was well worth the small amount of money we paid the young man.  I say you shouldn’t reward someone for being a lying sack of sh**, no matter how well he knows his history. 

                One of the more charming moments for me in Kirtipur was straying away from one of the temples and observing a large group of students, standing in line outside of their school.  They were singing a song in English and it made me smile because it was very similar to a song that we sang when I was in grade school about ants marching down to the ground to get out of the rain, boom, boom, boom.  As we listened, I noticed the list of school rules and they were pretty standard, but there was one that caught my attention.  It went something like, “enjoy manual labor…always do for yourself whatever is physically possible.”  This is not something that is taught in the West, but it seems to make a lot of sense so maybe it should be added to the curriculum.

                We went out for lunch and visited another small town, but we were all saturated.  There is only so much you can see in one day.  As we headed back to the hotel, I was so happy to see that the sun had burned off the fog over the valley and there were clear skies over Kathmandu.  I have never seen Kathmandu on a sunny day.  It’s so much more cheerful.  Holly said that on a clear day, you can just see Everest from the roof of our hotel so when we arrived I ran up to the six floors to have a look.  She pointed it out to me, far away and just barely visible.  It didn’t even show up on my camera when I took a picture, but I got to see it and I was so thrilled.

 

*We booked our driver through the Hotel Ganesh Himal service desk ---USD40 for one day

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