Saturday, September 22, 2012

I-MAN Comes to Nepal

I-MAN the Jewish Indian superhero wanted to find further adventures and although his India chapters were not yet finished he decided to jump into Nepal.  He knew that somehow the Nepali authorities would give him the visa that he needed even if he had to apply for a temporary tourist type.  He really didn’t want to be bothered with all of this as he knew from having previously been in Nepal, many, many years ago, that the officials there would welcome him.
I-MAN really wanted to see the country although he would primarily be staying in the capitol city of Kathmandu.  He was given an opportunity through a really great organization called Clouds (are) Secure (in) Resting Comfortably, to travel by land in one of the new Super Hyped-Up Vehicles.  The problem though, as I-MAN came to know, was that the roads that were used were not built for the Super Hyped-Up Vehicles.  As I-MAN came to say quite a bit, “ke garne” or what to do?  He also reverted back to a time when he said the phrase, “Oh MY GOD” at everything that he saw, because to his eyes things were quite different from his home in Seattle.  (This phrase OMG for short, of course, was connected to a place known as the San Fernando Valley in southern California, but that is another story)
The trip was supposed to start quite early on a Friday morning, but a rock ‘n roll band named “Eat the Rich” decided to call a “bandha” or strike forcing the delay of the trip.  Finally, as the trip started, numerous people piled into the vehicle, causing the first of the “OH MY GOD” utterances. These included the Big Kuhana or Tagaj, a man with a true passion for helping the poor and as I-MAN would come to find out a man who loved to snore, Ateeg, the woman with the Nepali rupees, who loved checking accounts, Itoyj, the youngster among the group with a bright, bright future and a truly wonderful smile, the driver Sakiv, a former race car driver who truly enjoyed the challenge of driving on Nepali roads and Meek, a kind of consultant with a wonderful working background, full of laughs, as well as, another man who loved to snore.  There were also other assorted people, but they would come and go during the trip.   I-MAN had been under the impression that this would be a trip with a few people, but as he came to find out, magic, changes and newness are always occurring in Nepal.  It was best to be adaptable, but at least they were off.
As they drove through the streets of Kathmandu, they started picking up more and more people of all different shapes and sizes.  There were even a few animals, which were placed delicately on the roof by Sakiv.  When one person wanted to bring a camel they just tied him to the back of the elephant’s tail who was owned by the next to last person to push his way into the vehicle.  As you can imagine the Vehicle was quite weighted down, but never-the-less everyone was happy as they climbed the hill leading out of the Kat Valley.  By now of course, I-MAN had uttered at minimum, no less than 100 OMG’s.  It was really becoming quite a habit as commented on by his Nepali friends in the Vehicle.
The Vehicle did have to stop quite often and go very slowly due to the road which had many rocks, cows, goats, dogs, people, motorcycles, trucks, buses traveling at varied speeds and directions.  I-MAN had great feelings that he really might be on another planet than his Seattle home.  Sometimes he thought that he was in Oz, given the somewhat “emerald” fields of rice paddies planted as far as the eye could see.  Once the Vehicle was out of the Valley the camel and elephant were let go as they could travel faster on their own then being tied to the back of Vehicle.  They were also coughing quite a lot due to the black stuff coming out of many cars, but also the trucks and buses.  The Vehicle and animals therefore parted ways, with the animals making a beeline for the mud buffalo mud hole directly below the large purple N-Cell sign at the top of the Himalayas.
Finally a first big stop, although short, was going to be made, because three of the passengers were going to be dropped off at a place in the woods called the Natural Local Real Food (place).  This was quite welcomed by I-MAN as now there would be more room for the one driver and five passengers. 
Traveling was still quite slow, especially as the Vehicle went higher and higher, almost touching the clouds.  Finally the Park Plaza Hotel was sited and everyone found out who they might room with, and especially for I-MAN this was an opportunity to check out the bathroom which he had made a habit of doing ever since he was born way back in India. (I-MAN thought that the best part about being born and living for so long in India was the Toilet Museum in Delhi, but that comes in another chapter. Up to this point, the toilets had been the side of the road, which felt just fine to I-MAN as he liked peeing into the breeze).  I-MAN wanted to know if he would have a western toilet and or squat one, where every time he sat down he thought about how old people or even someone with a disability might use this. 
When I-MAN saw the sign noting the Park Plaza he immediately thought of the times that he had spent in New York City with his cousins, aunt and uncle and grandparents.  I-MAN had a dreamy look in his eyes, thinking about the pizza that he might order at the Park Plaza Restaurant.  But alas the Park Plaza was nothing like the one in NYC and they settled for daal bhaat, a staple of Nepal, twice a day.  Being born in India, but having lived in the US for some time, I-MAN really liked his cereal with cold milk in the mornings, but ke garne, he would find alternatives, mainly apples and bananas and his daily mixture of raisins, almonds and cashew pieces, just to keep him a bit happy.  I-MAN actually would just settle for a hotel with a restaurant with a menu.
The first morning the group woke up much earlier than what I-MAN was used to.   He knew that he needed his sleep being a growing teenager.  The drive was very lovely and there didn’t seem to be too many people in the Vehicle, although one never knew when people would just magically appear on the seat next to him.  In order to get to the village for the first meeting, the Vehicle had to go over, given the amount of rain, some rather rough muddy terrain. There was even a river to cross, which didn’t look too deadly.  The group made it to the Village and had a wonderful meeting with a large number of poor women, who only wanted to be treated as equals and own a small plot of land to grow a bit of food for their families. 
As I-MAN came to find out many of the people that the group met with were day laborers, earning about 200 rupees/day, or tenant farmers having to give about 50% of what they grew to the land owners, or people in debt for generations due to their ancestors trust of their landlords, and a general lack of regard for those outside of the top people’s families.  Somehow the really rich guys were getting richer while the poor eked out a living.  But the people were happy and they knew that they had to take their rights as farmers and being simple people just wanting to live their lives, see their children grow, become grandparents and when it was over go peacefully.  These people knew about the simple pleasures of life and probably didn’t own one of the new I-phones, although maybe that was changing for the younger generation who didn’t hold out much hope for tilling a plot of land.  In fact many of them and some of their parents headed to the magical land of India, where they thought that they could earn a living.  Unfortunately, this meant the break-up of many families, but that couldn’t be considered too highly when one is just trying to have enough food to keep their children’s bellies full. 
When the meeting ended the group left in the Vehicle and sure enough got stuck in a mud hole.  As they called “all for one” and “one for all” they tried to push the Vehicle out of the hole.  As the left rear wheel spun without any traction I-MAN was splattered with mud as everyone laughed.   But I-MAN knew that it was all in good fun and fully participated because he thought that somehow it might bring him closer to those that he was trying to work with and he really wanted to be involved in somehow helping to “overcome poverty”.  A number of people from the Village turned out to watch the scene as it was good entertainment, probably because there weren’t many movie theatres or computers for downloading in the area.  After about an hour the Vehicle moved and everyone piled in feeling very happy from the day.  The next step was to cross back over the river to get to the new hotel.
When they got to the river bank, cars were stopped and people were on the shore waiting for someone to move.  During the day the water had risen but as this was the only way to cross to the town everyone was just waiting for an opening. But then some brave souls, decided to try to wade through and sure enough they made it.  Then someone pushed their motorcycle which became kind of a subcycle as it was submerged in the water, but they made it.  Then a car loaded with lots and lots of people, including some on the roof, tried to make it and although it looked to I-MAN as if they would fall over they also made it.  But then a car got stuck and a tractor had to be called in to push it out.  The scene was very entertaining as long as the group was safe on the river bank, but they had to get across. 
I-MAN knew that there was some risk but after numerous vehicles, people, motorcycles and a man with about five chickens in each hand made it, it was time to cross.  The group loaded up, made it half way across but then hit a dip in the river and they were stuck.  They all sat stunned for a minute or so but they also noticed that water was starting to come into the vehicle.  I-MAN being the super hero that he was, didn’t panic but knew that the situation might become dangerous and said, “open the door” and get out”.  At first there was hesitation, but then one of the passengers a young woman named  Itoyj, kicked open the door and said, “let’s get the heck out of here”.  As I-MAN really didn’t understand Nepali, he thought this must have been what she said.  Fortunately, everyone safely piled out as people from the river banks also came to help. 
Since, as of yet, I-MAN hadn’t used his superpowers in Nepal, he decided just to jump into the water and try to get the suitcases out of the Vehicle, but they were quite stuck.  Meanwhile, water was going over the engine.  The car was at an angle, so that the passenger or left side was tilted towards the rushing water.  I-MAN thought fast and decided that it was time to use some of his super powers; he jumped on top of the Vehicle and pulled it out to the river bank.  He knew however that there was some damage and that the Vehicle needed to dry out.  It was decided to leave the Vehicle on the river bank, because it still needed to get across.  Nobody actually saw I-MAN pull the car out but noticed that somehow it had been safely deposited on the river bank.
The next step though was to get the group across to the other side so that a hotel could be found where everyone could dry off and eat.  There just happened to be another vehicle waiting for the right time to assist some helpless people get across the river, and for the owners to make some Nepali rupees.  As the group piled in the driver revved up the engine but unbeknownst to the passengers, I-MAN used some of his super powers to help the vehicle get across.  There was no way that this vehicle would also get stuck as night had fallen and it was quite dark. 
Fortunately the group had made it to the opposite river bank and then drove to the next hotel where they tried to wash their already wet clothes and dry off the clothes that had been in the back seat where the water had accumulated.  (I-MAN had been fortunate, but his camera had decided to go swimming and shoot some underwater photos but it didn’t know that it wasn’t water proof, and it decided that after three years in India and a few months in the US and in Nepal it had had enough of this life.  Maybe it would reincarnate as an underwater camera.  RIP dear Nikon P-80.).  After showering and breathing, the group gathered in the menu less restaurant for daal bhaat.  Prior to this, I-MAN was starting to salivate profusely as he thought about a nice thick veggie pizza, but he gave in and ate a bit of the daal bhaat. 
Of course I-MAN understood that the meal also came with veggies, so he was quite happy.  Unfortunately he also really wanted ice cream, but the town had already shut down, ke garne.  There was plenty of liquor however everywhere in fact, that one looked, but I-MAN not even being a tea-totaler just went to his room.  He heard a bit of snoring from his roommate but that didn’t really matter as he was totally exhausted.
The next morning the group got up early again for the next day of driving.  A new vehicle and a driver had to be rented as the Vehicle was drying out and waiting to be taken to an expert mechanic on the other side of the river.  The new driver’s name was Seelis and he also had a Super Hyped-Up Vehicle. 
The group really wanted to cover a lot of territory and meet up with a wide variety of the poor who just wanted a piece of land for themselves.  There were also actually laws so that the poor could get land, but how would they implement these?  There were many ideas, but the going was slow. 
The group decided to have some lunch in one of the villages and this was a grand idea as daal bhaat was being served.  I-MAN being always curious about the toilet facilities asked to go and he was told to get a jug of water from the village pump and walk to the jungle.  I-MAN probably said his maybe 1000th OMG, but he got the jug and walked with a young guide who indicated that he was a Tilad, a special class of person in Nepal, to show him the way.  Finally I-MAN was able to come back for his meal, which was quite good as daal  bhaat goes.  (What is daal bhaat, well it is rice with dal, some veggies, a pepper if one is so inclined, but it is eaten about twice/day throughout Nepal, mainly with one’s right hand, as the left is used for washing after going into the jungle.  Of course some westerners do prefer a spoon, but one should do like everyone else when one is in another place, isn’t it). 
After lunch another good meeting was held with men and women.  Again it was time to move on.  It was therefore time to get stuck again in the mud.  This was definitely not much of a road and there was a nice deep hole which the rented vehicle decided to jump into.  Fortunately there  was a nice house right to the side of the hole with a really good piece of wood, which the group would use to get the car out.  But alas the owner of the house was a wicked old witch and started screaming at the group that the road was not for vehicles.  (I-MAN thought about Dorothy when she said to Toto, “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, isn’t it).
A crowd began to gather as the men found lots of rocks to put under that left rear wheel once it was jacked up by the driver, Seelis.  The mud was pretty deep at the tire and I-MAN who was really getting used to the daily mud bath, jumped in, but had nothing really good to say.  He knew that he could pick the vehicle up but what good would that do?  So there was lots of pushing and pulling and finally the vehicle was freed once again from the mud prison, that seemed to pop up in the most usual places, such as roads that weren’t paved.  The group decided that they had had enough and after washing off in a stream, and petting a cute white puppy made their way for the next hotel.
The next day, another early start, but there was no mud.  More villages and poor people were located and there was lots and lots of talking and even some writing about the further actions that everyone would take to obtain land.  More and more people kept piling into the rented vehicle and even one Nepali from the original organization, CSRC, magically appeared one night at a hotel that had a menu at their restaurant.  There was even a computer that I-MAN used to check up on his e-mails.  The only issue was that in the morning I-MAN wanted cold milk with his corn flakes but the waiters only could manage to understand hot.  Finally though, this did get worked out.
I-MAN was getting used to changing roommates at each hotel as he wanted to experience the various kinds of snoring that Nepali men seem to inevitably make.  Fortunately, the snoring didn’t really bother I-MAN and he was quite secure just to note the various pitches produced out of the roommates.  Snoring also helped I-MAN to have good dreams about eating pizza, once back in KAT.
Almost next to the last visit, the travelers stayed in a town called Tahkrus where I-MAN had wanted to meet some new friends.  Sure enough there was a wonderful festival occurring called Tees, where all of the women dressed in red and danced, hoping that this would lead to finding a good Nepali husband who owned some land.  The name of the hotel that the group stayed at was Peace Land MLK-Gandhi.  It was perfect for the travelers from Clouds (are) Secure (in) Resting Comfortably, since all they wanted was to help the poor obtain land through a very non-violent type of intervention.
I-MAN called his new friend, named Raa and they met at the clock tower in Tahkrus.  Raa was with two friends from India, who had a Nepali father and an Indian mother.  They all proceeded to watch the Tees dancing and then went to Raa’s home where they met up with  Acceber and Hterag.  This was great fun for I-MAN as he really just wanted to speak English for some time.  His Hindi had become quite rusty and his Nepali continued to be, well, what can one really say?
After spending some time at the home, Raa, I-MAN and the two Indian friends proceeded, in the total darkness to the friend’s home where they were greeted in wonderful fashion by the Nepali father and Indian mother.  They then enjoyed a meal of daal bhaat, which tasted a bit different given that it was home cooked.  Once this was finished I-MAN proceeded on the back of a motorcycle back to Peace Land MLK-Gandhi for a restful sleep and some new snoring.
The next morning the group left for what was to be the last night.  The original Vehicle was fixed and would meet the group on a road in the darkness.  After Seelis dropped the group off, as he needed to proceed to Kat to pick up a friend and then was headed for some Middle Eastern country to drive a large circus vehicle and make lots of money, Sakiv magically appeared.  I-MAN although not used to the magic was still happy to see the Vehicle and of course, Sakiv. 
More meetings occurred and the hotel that night was menu less meaning that daal bhaat would be eaten again, but this was fine as long as they were all away from the smokers, drinking alcohol.  Of course, there was the smell of fresh paint, but ke garne.
Finally it was the last day and everyone awoke to a 6:15 start. There had to be at least one more adventure and sure enough, as the group was driving the traffic suddenly came to a stand-still. All they saw were lots of trucks backed up for at least 5 km, where it seemed as if people had been sleeping for days.  Since cars weren’t coming from the other direction, the smaller vehicles decided to avoid the trucks and speed to the bridge where the problem seemed to be occurring.  Alas, a gigantic truck had broken its way from the bridge and started speeding its way towards the smaller vehicles, almost ready to gobble them up.  I-MAN knew this was his time, jumping out of the Vehicle, he picked up the truck and placed it safely out of the way of the cars who continued to drive obliviously towards the root of the problem, a one way bridge. 
I-MAN noticed that the second lane was being built and knew that the trucks and cars would be in line for days unless he acted quickly.  With incredible speed he moved the tractors during the construction and within a matter of minutes the second land had  been built and the trucks, cars, motorcycles, cows, goats, donkeys started to move to thunderous applause.  Nobody really knew what happened but they were all happily on their way. 
On its final day, the Vehicle was a little crowded as 54 pounds of local apples had been purchased to be divided amongst the group.  I-MAN had his first real stomach issues, along with a sore throat and was in one of his moods.  A stop was made to visit some more people and the driving continued.  It was bumpy and then more people were picked up, the camel and elephant were met and tied back to the vehicle and finally around 10 PM I-MAN was home. 
The trip had been quite a learning experience for the young I-MAN, but he was ready to go and do it again, although maybe next time it would be somewhat different.  I-MAN really loved the adventures and knew that he would continue to make a home for himself in Nepal.
Postcript-I-MAN having been home for almost a week developed quite a cold, but being ever the opportunist thought what could he do with all of the stuff that seemed to be flowing either in gobs or drops from his nostrils. This was especially true as he had learned, from his India experience, to hold one nostril and just blow over the sink.  He decided that more creativity and micro-enterprise was needed especially since one of the issues that he was working on had to do with secure livelihoods.
I-MAN thought about the resources that came directly from his nostrils and how there really would be very little cost in doing something with this, and it was, after all, organic.  Maybe set up a short-term manufacturing plant, because the cold and white gooey stuff wouldn’t last forever, but this was not nearly sustainable, although it might produce some short term jobs.  I-MAN was under the impression that he could fill up jars and jars with this latest cold’s offerings and maybe convert the material, after spending some time on his Sanepa rooftop, to something like super balls.  He wasn’t sure however whether they would bounce and then what really would be the purpose?  He thought that maybe he could use the gooey stuff and make necklaces, but thought better of  this as he wasn’t sure who might wear these things, especially since they were from, in his present incarnation, an American.  (and we all know what the world thinks of Americans).  He thought that it might make a good alternative to chewing tobacco, but he also knew that people probably wouldn’t like the taste and maybe the benefits would be less than that of “putting a pinch into your cheek”.  At least it probably wouldn’t produce the same kind of high. 
I-MAN just wasn’t sure, so he decided to get rid of the cold and the white gooey stuff and give it some more thought, for the next cold.  Ke garne?

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