Thursday, July 31, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
This city manages to work through a kind of organised chaos that, as far as I am aware, is probably limited to Asian countries. Having never been to South America, Africa or even a double numbered percentage of the countries I havent yet visited in Europe, this is probably a stupid thing to say.
But the reason is not strictly limited to traffic, although that is certainly the most obvious chaos going around. Let me tell you for a moment about the traffic. Lanes exist, on the large part simply so people can ignore them. Tell me, how can you have organised choas if everyone follows the rules? Technically, one drives on the left. I know this mut be true, because all the cars are right hand drive.
As far as the lanes go, i believe they must exist in order for there to be a rule, in order for there to be exceptions to the rule. For example, its ok for you to drive on the right, if your horn is louder than everyone else's, you are dodging somone, or you are dodging someone that is dodging someone.
In another example, it is ok for you to go around a roundabout anticlockwise if you go really relly slowly and can't see anything coming the other way. Once again, the concept of a one way street exists, but only so bicycles and motorbikes can go the wrong way.
Night-time is another amazement, where there are no street lights. Even if there are street lights they are not switched on, and even if they were switched on there would likely be no power on the grid to light them up. Street lights appear to be yet another wasteful western extravagance. As there are no street lights, walking down the street at night is a brand new experience. Outlines of people are as much as one can expect, and you can see only the smoggy haze dangling in the air, murkily lit by the passing motorbikes and occaisionaly the undersized taxi.
As you could expect, intersections have a whole new level of excitement allocated to them that you will not be able to experience in Australia. Due to the power being out, the decision not to switch them on or simply the exception to the rule being that they are at best ignored, means that any time after 7pm all you need is a horn and a prayer. Just gun your bike, blast the horn and shut your eyes. I'm sure there is a mathematical equation you can apply to let you know whether you will make it out the other side or not, but I think it's way complicate for my simple mind. There are definitely too many variables. Although an African swallow doesn't enter the equation, flying bird poo, wandering dogs (cucures), cattle and your ignorant tourists pose dangers to ongoing life. Like I said, what you really need is a horn and a prayer.
I have almost covered everything but the "buses". I shouldn't forget the buses because there was recently a strike declared [more on strikes later] by the students on public transport. Without going into too much detail, the students were unhappy because the buses are refusing to give them their 45% discount.
There are real buses, but these don't really operate inside the confines of the city. What I am referring to here are the minivans, designed to hold 10 people that don't really run if there aren't 20-30 in them. Mikey's volkswagon full of hockey players be damned, that has nothing on this. The door generally remains open, with a young man shouting out the route of the bus (which may change from day to day. He says them very fast, so you need to be switched on to know where you are going. I havent yet enjoyed the adventure, but I am sure it will happen sooner rather than later, and involve some man-to-man touching [once again, more on cultural experience later] and constant supervision of my wallet.
There was one armed police bus (you can tell them from their distinctive blue camo gear) that went screaming past with the sirens blaring. As the door was open, I was able to see inside to notice that they were lounged around on the inside as if sitting on the couch watching the telly. Very entertaining.
Stay tuned for details on the strikes and petrol crisis (you think you have it bad!).
Saturday, July 19, 2008
THis afternoon we met our counterparts, mine (Mohan), Gemma's (Ashak) and Avi's (sorry I forgot his name for now). Mohan alsdo brought Jennifer along for dinner. Jennifer just completed her PhD on asthma and wanted some experience in a developing country and is helping out at the research department at Tilganga for a few months.
Tomorrow we are heading to Nargakot (to stay at Club Himalaya) which will be a nice breath of fresh air and get us up into the mountains a little. Then Sunday we will be back and hopefully spend a good proportion of the day looking at accommodation. I am working on the east of the city while the girls are in the south, so although we would like to live nearby or together, it might not necessarilybe feasible. I think we'll have a better idea once we have seen what is available. WOOT! Time for bed.
PS Forgot to mention that my snot has now turned black. Just so you know. In other news, Gemma got hit by some flying bird poo. Classic.
Friday, July 18, 2008
We went to look at the place Susan (our In Country Manager) thought would be good for me, but the landlord had put an extra padlock on the door and we couldn't get in. I hopped around the back to see if I could see in, but I couldn't get all the way around. THe unit is in a block of apartments and up a level, so as I tried to go around the back I was up above on a balcony and I looked down to see a gigantic rat running away. HMMM, we'll wait to see the inside tomorrow.
I had my first shower after dinner, it was SOOOOOO good, I also had to work out how to use a bidet without an instruction manual. Not a comfortable experience. Call me weird, but I have managed to get this far in life without having to worry about that. Essentially the problem is that you can't flush toilet paper down, or it will clog everything up. Solution, shoot some cold water up your petoot and wipe away.
We've already had it shower twice, once on the way back from dinner and we definitely weren't attired appropriately, no umbrella, no raincoats and about 10 minutes to walk in the rain. It really is different though, cars and scooters everywhere. Tiny little mini-vans with 30 people piled into them.
Everyone toots to let you know that they are coming, so its just a constant din. Technically, one drives on the left. But given the likelihood of the bus you are following stopping randomly in the middle of the intersection, its every man for himself. Just prey your horn is louder than the next guy's. Everyone is trying to sell you stuff and many have asked me "smoke?". I'll let you interpret that how you will.
Day after tomorrow though we are going to a place called Club Himalaya. Its a sort of hotel up in the mountains over looking the Kathmandu Valley, which will be pretty sweet. But then back to town for the rest of the week. I won't actually start work until Monday week. I really need the time to settle in, I feel like I know nothing about this place. But then again, I haven't really slept in 36 hours, so I'm kind of walking around like a bit of a starry-eyed 5 year old.
I'll see if I can remedy that by tomorrow.
What an experience!
Monday, July 14, 2008
It has been almost 3 weeks since pre-departure training. It feels like a lifetime ago. The reports are already starting to trickle in from the guys that have already left. To be honest, the report from the Thailand kids was more than a little discomforting. After little over 3 days one was in hospital and many more had gastro.
I was watching Blood Diamond on TV the other day, and it really helped drive something home for me. Its a thing that many people have tried to impress on us all through this process. "Don't expect to change the world". Leo di Caprio is playing a Rhodesian who goes on a rant (with what to me was a rather impressive Zimbabwean accent) to the American reporter: "You come here with your laptop computers, your malaria medicine and your little bottles of hand sanitizer and think you can change the outcome, huh? ".
I went climbing the mountain (a hill in Nepali terms) near my house that I used to climb all the time as a kid. It was so peaceful up the top. There were no trucks, cars, dogs or even animals. Just the wind over the grass and me, and the valley in front of me. I think that did a lot to help my state of mind. I am calm and cool and can do this, WOOT!