Catching Up & The Music Video
Trip Start Jul 20, 2013
7Trip End Aug 15, 2013
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"Susaan. Susaaaaan!" Laxmi marched down and got him out of bed.
I watched the sun melt the night time clouds off the nearby mountains and caught a brief glimpse of the snow capped Himalayas beyond. I chatted with Ganesh (father) as much as our language barrier would allow. Laxmi shoved one of the double-sized pineapple cakes I'd brought from Taiwan in my hand and gently demanded I eat. Susaan scarfed his down and strapped on his backpack bidding me farewell, if a bit unsure what to say on his way out to school. Dal baht not being had until 10ish, a good 3 hour from now, I just sat down on a balcony chair and daydreamed. Laxmi came over and we started catching up on family, work, dreams, etc. She took me downstairs to show me the small clinic she was slowly working on. She also said that later in the morning when the girls got home from school, apparently short on Saturdays, they'd take me to Patan to see the museum and historic square there. Patan was an area of the city I missed on my first trip here.
After our conversation ran its course, the early wakeup and lack of activity took its toll. I got sleep again and laid back down. 2-3hrs later I woke up to "rice is ready!" I ate my share of dal bhat, killed a bit more time and when all were ready, we set off to Patan.
The girls, now teenagers, seemed much shyer than I remembered. Sonu (older sister) talked to me about Taiwan and college as the other two mostly kept to themselves. Within a short time the taxi drive took a crazy turn off the main ring road, diving into narrow ancient brick alleys on Patan. Temples and monuments of extraordinary detail blew past. Despite having seen buildings like these on my last trip, my mouth still dropped open in some awe. Maybe the shift from grey concrete Taipei to Kathmandu's cacophony was a bigger culture shock than LA to Kathmandu, not that LA has any shortage of grey concrete itself.
At the entrance to Patan Durbar Square, an instant-friend awaited to help me buy a ticket and sell me on his tour. He was polite and hardly pushy, but I had to brush him off. We wandered aimlessly around some of the temple. I meant to take my camera out only sparingly, concerned about burning through the memory card before India, but a batch of pidgeons scuttled these conservation plans. There were no pidgeons in Taiwan so I was way more amused here than I should've been. Sonu aksed to borrow the camera so she could take pictures of us goofily running around scaring the pidgeons away. This was a good plan and I agreed.
Our pidgeon supply exhausted, we made for an art museum in the old Patan palace. Sonu helped explain what each of the Hindu and Buddhist figurines on display meant while cheesy posed photos were taken with the larger sculptures. The goofy poses were the girls' ideas, not mine, so I didn't feel too sacrilegious. We had some lunch and made our way back to Pepsikola,
The ride on one of the crowded brown Pepsikola mini buses I'd become so familiar with years back was long and hot but we made it home at a decent hour, well before sunset. It was still only mid-afternoon so, for lack of a VSN volunteer office or volunteers to hangout with this trip, I wandered over to The Hut to see if town barkeep Dhruba was still in business.
The Hut had been renovated, losing its bar for a more cafe-like layout, as well as losing its trademark thatched roof. Inside, I was greeted by an unfamiliar face, not helped by general smokey shadowness. I asked if Dhruba was around. I think the server, Saruj, was confused by my question and probably my presence at first. It took a few tries to get him to understand I was asking about a man named Dhruba, not a beer named Tuborg. Eventually I got what seemed like a yes and a photo on the wall of Dhrubs' winning a golf trophy confirmed I was in the right place. I ordered a long-missed bottle of crisp Everest Beer and sat down.
A few long minutes later - Saruj's English was limited - I was informed Dhruba would be coming soon. This quickly evolved into "He's at [inaudible location] with his wife, and a friend would soon come to take me there. How far was it?
"Maybe one hour." What?
I got a little nervous. Lacking a mobile phone or number to call, I didn't want to be lead someplace far away and worry the family. I also didn't know Dhruba *that* well; Kathmandu is a small city and an hour constitutes a crosstown trip.
Soon a twitchy skinny man named Kopi entered.
"This is Kopi. He will take you to Dhruba."
"On a scooter, right?"
"No, by walking."
"How far again?"
"Maybe half hour." I guess that's progress.
I left the Hut with Kopi as instructed. He was friendly but also nervous and shy. My mental caution lights were blinking. What was a half hour on foot in this direction? Where were we going? Nowhere, apparently. We arrived in less than five minutes not having even left Pepsikola.
The destination was an out-of-place modern banquet hall where some boisterous, wealthy-looking celebration was taking place. Dhruba and I spotted each other and any anxious feelings I had left. He warmly welcomed me like an old friend and told me we were watching a music video shoot. Glancing around again, yup that's exactly what this was. There was a heavy tripod set up on a dolly, men in orbit who were obviously assistant directors or crew, and the woman were all in matching saris rehearsing a song Dhruba's wife had written.
We sat down for a bit and watched the performance. I'd never seen dancing like this live and the day's second rush of travel awe hit me. After some chatting and a few rounds of rehearsals, we went back to The Hut for more Everest. Beardy Norman the New Zealander apparently made a return visit a year or two previous with his family in tow. Dhruba's own family was dispersed overseas. HIs sons were studying abroad in the West and hadn't been home in four years. I told him about Taiwan and my students there calling me Mr. Banana. We chuckled and parted ways as I wanted to get back to the house before it got too late.
Susaan bounded out of a room wasting no time smothering me with energy. Somehow my camera entered the conversation and an impromptu photography lesson ensued. He was a bit shutter-happy but listened diligently. I had to pry the camera from his hands before my memory card got completely used up, but it was a good way to spend a quarter hour or so. He had another test to study for and didn't argue when I told him to hit the books.
At some point Laxmi passed through and planted the idea that he should teach me some Nepali. This put a swift end to his studying and my writing - he claimed to be ready for the test anyway. Epic hilarity began here as I struggled to twist my tongue around sing-songy Nepali ice breakers. He periodically barged into his sisters' room to have me practice the language / embarrass myself with them. My success was limited. I wasn't the greatest student, but he was a patient and easily amused teacher.
All the talking and laughing made me thirsty.
"No! No water until you can say it correct," he said as I reached for my water bottle.
Soon dal bhat was ready ("Charlie, rice.") Sudip and I talked about his university some more and plans afterward. He was nervous about finding a job. It seemed the timing of my visit was poor as he rarely emerged from his studying during the day. He apologized for his nervousness and absence. His stress was understandable.
Sleep followed dal bhat. Again the door creaked open and I heard a rustling in the adjacent bed.
"Are you sleeping?"
There was more chat about random favorite animals. Were there lions in Taiwan? Nepal has tigers. etc. Susaan was very curious about Taiwan and the rest of the world. Eventually though, I had to politely shut him up so we could both get some shut-eye. It was still early for me but couldn't be for him.
"...Yes? You need to sleep, dude."
"In California, (somethingsomething random question)"
I answered a few and tried again to quiet and/or kick him out. It was an endearing conversation though.
Silence. I closed my eyes and dozed off again.
"...Charlie?" Damnit, Susaan.
"I'm going to pray something to Shiva." I could make out the silhouette of him clasping his hands together.. Not wanting to pry or prolong the conversation, I didn’t ask what he prayed for. It was an interesting listen. He left. Sleep at last.