Partings, Driving and Directions in Nepal

We met very few people walking in the hills yesterday (September 2011) because it rained hard all day.  It was an opportunity for G to tell me more about his friend who had a bad traffic accident and believes the Germans and Irish are out to get him.  He recently became aware of a plan to exterminate most of the world’s population.  He’s not yet certain who is the mastermind but he thought he should alert the Embassy even though his information is incomplete.  They told him not to come back.  When I met him, he explained that he’d given up sex because his sperm have no heads since his accident.  There’s no point in sex now because they no longer know which way to go.

The day before, T set off to work in India.  He was given khatas (silk scarfs) by his sister and female cousins and money by his mom.  He presented the money to the girls.  His mom gave him a banana and a beaker of milk, then he went out the front door between brass flagons filled with flowers, placing a coin in each one.  There was much smiling and laughter but no touching, no saying deep things, no sadness.  The ritual enables the emotions to be managed.  It’s very different from a Western parting.

When you walk along the street here (sidewalks are very rare) it’s not just pedestrians who step in front of you, motorbikes and cars crowd you just as closely.  There’s no concept of personal space.  It’s not just that you don’t give a fellow pedestrian personal space, you don’t do it if they’re a pedestrian and you’re on a motorbike.  You don’t do it if you’re both on/in vehicles.  I realize this conflicts with the alternate reality theory in Village and Urban Culture in Nepal.  I’ll have to think more about that.

When I tried these theories on a Western friend who spends a lot of time here, she said she recently realized she kept expecting people to meet her expectations and getting angry when they didn’t.  She expects people not to drive their motorbike into her path but: “Why should I expect that?  Even if it’s really a bad idea for both of us, it was the only decision he could make now.  Maybe he would make a different decision sometime in the future.  Maybe not.  Anyway, the problem is my expectation.”  She’s finding it very helpful to look at life this way.

Today, D helped me find a place to stay during the Buddhist teachings.  I could never have done it on my own although I had a list of recommended guest houses and the name of the satellite monastery where the teachings will be held.  We found the best-sounding guesthouse with difficulty because all Kathmandu is a maze of narrow streets with no names.  They had no free rooms.  That’s when I decided to accept  the offer from the main monastery to get me a booking.

Most people are happy to provide directions.  What you cannot know is whether they have any relevant information.  We were directed with considerable precision to many wrong monasteries.  When we at last found the right one, there was nobody in the office.  A man said my email contact is out of the country.  He thinks.  He’s not sure.  I figured we deserved lunch at that point.

After lunch we went looking for the second best sounding guest house.  Again, very difficult to locate although very close to where we started looking.  I got an excellent room there for $7/night.  The man at reception took us up to the roof to point out the satellite monastery where the classes will be held.  He can’t be right, but he is very certain.  It’s at least 40 minutes away and it should be only 5 minutes.

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