Day 45: ID4 at the Embassy

Trip Start May 20, 2008
Trip End Aug 19, 2008

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Saturday morning was a glorious morning. At last, a long awaited day had arrived: July 5th aka 4th in the US. Lindsey had gotten an email from the embassy a few weeks back regarding an Independence Day celebration they were hosting, and nearly all the volunteers + Ranu and Sanju planned to attend. I left OCRC at the early hour of 7 to avoid them wasting a dal bhat platter on me and beelined it to Pepsikola. The mass rendezvous was scheduled for 10, giving me just enough time for a much needed shower and refueling. I met up with the other volunteers soon after in the VSN office, though Lindsey and Ally (a new American volunteer) were delayed due to today being their turn at getting food poisoning. Lesser women would've remained in bed, but not these two.

With some minimal waiting, we hopped on one of the many sardine can buses plying Chakrapath (Ring Road?) and headed toward the embassy. My accidental taxi trip there earlier in the month came in handy, thanks to it I was the only member of the group with any semblance of an idea on how to get there. Unfortunately, as we found out the hard way, the festival was not at the embassy but rather the American Compound at the Royal Palace. Oops. The long walk from here to there did not sit well with Lindsey's not-sitting-well stomach, but we all made it in one piece and successfully sweet talked the guards into admitting Ranu & Sanju (props to whoever did that.) With the help of a taxi, my half of the group arrived earlier, just in time for a rendition of the national anthem. There I was, having just come off a night in a 3rd world orphanage, living in one of the ends of the Earth's most impoverished corners, years away from home if this was the 19th century... watching Marine guards play "The Star Spangled Banner" just as someone would back home at a USC football game. And wow. When it's in the right context, that song is POWERFUL. Not that I'm in anywhere near their predicament or doing anything remotely approaching their heroism, but for a few brief moments I got flashes of what it must've been like for soldiers to sing that song on some hellish front during WW2, or today in Iraq. It was a reminder that as bad or scary as reality might seem at the moment, somewhere out there on some distant shore, you're home is and will always be there waiting for you.

I'm no right-ring ra-ra America-f$#%-yeah nut, but I definitely have a newfound sense of (previously dissipating) pride in my country. You'll bump in to a "USAid - From the American People" logo at some point on any trip through Kathmandu, whether it's on a bag of rice, a jeep, or a practice safe sex poster. According to Suganda the admittedly simple majority of volunteers coming through VSN are American, and the bravery I've seen some of them display is unspeakable. Take Steve, who I haven't talked about nearly enough. While most of us including myself were busy downing beers in Thamel, this redneck construction worker from Alabama was quite literally cleaning shit of homeless lepers' arses. His self-appointed placement was at the Mother Theresa elderly shelter in Baneswor. He did this nearly every day of the week, made nary a peep about it, and apart from one fungal infection came out without a scratch. He's a true hero, doing a job no one else will do simply because there's no one else to do it. I'm just along for the ride. Then there's HT and my already glowing rants about him. Some would say Americans are self centered and lacking compassion/perspective. While that's probably true for most of the native population of LA, by in large... I beg to differ. 


/end rant.
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