April 28th, 2012
Chronic diarrhea does not make for restful sleep.
My first night in a spiffy new apartment in Kathmandu was spent mostly rocking back and forth on the porcelain throne. I guess I should be glad I’m not forced to squat.
I get up and run through my usual morning routine: ten minutes of touch typing practice, followed by fifteen minutes of free writing.
I then check my email and find a message from a friend. To cure my diarrhea, she recommends warming a half kilo of salt, pouring it into a sock, and letting it rest on my belly for twenty minutes, just below the navel. Willing to try anything at this point, I give it a shot. Unfortunately, I warm the salt a little too much and end up scalding myself. I now look like I have a fat birthmark right below my navel.
I wake up from a three-hour nap, surprised that my bowels let me sleep for so long. Maybe the salt had done the trick. Either that or the scalding had scared my ass straight.
I try jump online and get some work done while the going is good, only to find that the wifi is on the blink again. Less than twenty-four hours in this apartment and I’m coming to the worrying realization that it may never double as my office.
I decide to mosey on over to a nearby coffee shop called the Blue Note to take advantage of their free wifi.
As I leave the apartment building, I’m greeted by Deepak, the middle-aged maintenance man with the kind eyes and unrelenting smile. As he walks me to the gate, chatting happily all the while, I imagine him becoming my Nepalese Prabaker.
On the way to the Blue Note I pass small fires burning in roadside rubbish heaps. I turn the corner around a small shrine as chickens cluck at me from a walltop. Three small kids see my big white self rambling and follow for a minute with giggles and greetings.
As I continue on, I try make eye contact with locals and exchange friendly facial expressions. Joe Tex plays in my head.
Back at my apartment battling the shitty wifi. The connection at the Blue Note was down, a fact that escaped me until after I’d placed my order. I didn’t even want that fruit smoothie. I’ve been wary of eating or drinking anything the past few days with this broken ass of mine. Seems that sock full of salt wasn’t so magical after all.
But at least the generator is running, making me somewhat immune to yet another blackout. They happen twice a day here, up to five hours at a time. Whenever you move into a hotel, hostel or apartment, you’re handed a little slip of paper with the blackout schedule printed on it, no big deal.
I’ve long since abandoned the idea of getting some work done. It had taken me a whole, frustrating hour to make one small change to a client’s website. I reluctantly accept that most of my work will have to be postponed until tomorrow, when I’ll go on the hunt for a coffee shop with wifi that works.
Before bed, I run through my 20-minute stretching routine, except it takes longer than that due to bathroom breaks.
I doubt I’ll sleep the whole night through.
May 6th, 2012
It’s my first time riding a scooter. Laurence zips ahead comfortably on his as I wobble along awkwardly, trying to avoid potholes and pedestrians.
The rental place didn’t seem to mind much that I’d never ridden before, or that I had no license. White skin, a passport, and the right amount of rupees seemed to be their only prerequisites.
We’d made it to Durbar Square in Patan. Once we’d gotten out on the main roads I’d found myself much more comfortable on two wheels. Now we had the bikes parked and were sitting on a rooftop overlooking the square, brunch on the way.
While we waited, Laurence got his camera set up and began the interview. His documentary was to be about people who travel as a lifestyle. We’d met randomly a month earlier in Mumbai, where he’d been filming an Argentinian family of six touring the world in a vintage car 1. Now he’d come to Kathmandu to film me for a week.
After eating we got some shots down in the square. At one point I found myself surrounded by local children, showing them how to use my camera. They could barely contain their excitement upon seeing their faces on screen.
Just as we were about to leave, one little girl put out her hand and asked me for money. Another girl slapped her friend’s arm away and shushed her, then turned to me beaming with hands behind her back.
We’d met up with my friend Joe, and I’d somehow convinced him to hop on the back of my scooter. Now the three of us were winding our way up the narrow streets to Swayambhu, the monkey temple.
Having a passenger on the back made driving even more difficult. The fact that it was Buddha’s birthday and the streets were jammed only added to the challenge. I’d already side-swiped a taxi and almost driven us off a bridge.
But our spirits were high. Joe and I had in mind to do a little rejection therapy at the top of the hill. The plan was to approach attractive women and get them to reject us. Instead of trying to impress them, we’d aim to have fun and entertain ourselves. I hoped this would help Joe overcome his approach anxiety. He seemed genuinely excited about the idea.
I demonstrate for Joe, walking up to a pretty girl in a mixed group of four and opening with the following words…
Excuse me. I was just thinking: Imagine me and you. I do. I think about you day and night. It’s only right. To think about the one you love, and hold her tight. So happy together?
Joe follows my lead with equally ridiculous openers, and we end up laughing and joking with random folks for the next hour or so. Laurence lurks in the background with his camera, capturing footage of Joe and I gradually evolving into people magnets. The fun proves contagious.
I’m late for a date I’m not sure is going to happen.
I met an Israeli girl named Adi last night in Thamel. We’d spent two hours chatting then kissed goodnight outside her hotel. Earlier in the evening I’d left a note at reception asking her to meet me at nine.
As I approach the meeting spot, I see her standing there. With another guy.
I hug her hello and introduce myself warmly to the stranger. Turns out he’s Adi’s tour guide and was just about to leave. When he does, I turn my full attention to that dimpled Israeli smile.
“So, where were we?”