When the clouds rolled back through and our view of the mighty mountains was blocked, Saleem and I decided it was time for dinner. We walked down the muddy path towards the hookah bar that we saw the day before. The place was dark and we were worried it was closed, but then we realized it was only because the power was out. All throughout Nepal there are blocks of time when there is no power. By the last day we finally figured out the schedule and charged the computer and our iPods accordingly. We took a seat across from one another in the big comfy booths and read the menu with Saleem’s iPhone flashlight. Saleem ordered a Nepali dish and I got a bowl of banana porridge. We also ordered a hookah filled with double apple tobacco. After the owner left I noticed something called magic cake on the menu. Saleem asked what it was and the waiter explained exactly what I had thought, so we ordered one of those also. We hung out for a while eating slowly, sipping tea and smoking hookah. When it was just about time to leave, a Nepali man introduced himself and starting chatting with us.
In no time we were invited to sit down and drink Nepali Roxy, a homemade alcohol, with him and his brother, his friend and the owner. We ended up sitting, smoking and drinking with the men for two hours. During that time we listened to many jokes and stories. We also learned a little about the men and Nepal. Gopi, the main talker, also shared his love for acronyms with us. Here are a few that I remember: NEPAL-Never Ending Peace And Love, INDIA- I’ll Never Do It Again, ITALY- I’ll Truly Always Love You, AFRICA-After F*cking Rest In Cool Area, and lastly NAGARKOT-Naturally Always Gives Adventure Remember Keep In Touch. As we sat around and talked, our glasses of Nepali Roxy were emptied and refilled numerous times. As Gopi and his brother Karam got increasingly drunk, Saleem and I watched as joking and fun-poking turned slightly serious and hostile. We decided to excuse ourselves when we realized Gopi was starting to fall asleep, but not before promising we would meet again some day.
Saleem and I stumbled up the deserted pitch-black mountain to our hotel. We set an alarm for 5:45 a.m. and quickly passed out. We woke up early to catch a glimpse of the mountains before the clouds rolled in and then headed down to the breakfast spot from the day before for a quick meal before our taxi man came. The night before we stopped in at the breakfast joint and preordered our meal so when we got there in the morning everything was ready for us. Right when we sat down our taxi driver came speeding up the hill. We invited him to sit with us and share our big breakfasts. After finishing off the porridge and chai we got into the tiny car and made our way down the mountain. We stopped frequently to admire the views and take photos. Again Saleem and the driver chatted the whole way home, which made nice background noise for my bumpy ride back to the city center.
We immediately found a cheap hotel with wifi for $10 a night. We settled in and took advantage of the Internet that we had been craving for the last five days. After I posted a blog and downloaded a book on my iPod and Saleem updated his instagram we decided it was time to hit the streets for some lunch and some shopping. Once I stepped outside I embraced the busy streets of Nepal. I quickly learned how to stay alert while window-shopping among the traffic. I had my sunglasses on to keep the dust from going in my eyes and my scarf wrapped tight around my mouth and nose to avoid breathing in all the pollution and dirt. While in the thick of the thamel I missed the clean mountain air of Nagarkot. The skinny streets of Kathmandu are lined with shops and packed with cars, motorcycles and people. Most of the shops generally sell the same type of merchandise so it’s easy to be indecisive while browsing. If a shop didn’t have exactly what I was looking for, I was always hopeful I would find it down the line. It took me awhile to finally make a purchase, but once I started there was no stopping. Usually I’m the only one buying things, but Saleem surprised me by buying several pairs of pants and shirts for himself and his parents. I couldn’t let him out shop me so I started getting serious. By the end of day two my arms were sore from carrying all my bags. I managed to spend my Nepal budget plus a little more and buy some traditional and unique items for friends and family. I want to post photos, but
some most of the items are presents so I’ll wait until I gift them to show them here.
Here is a rundown of what was weighing me down:
(The first price is in Nepalese Rupees and the second is USD)
Handmade Nepali blanket made of yak’s wool for 1,100 or $13.75
Traditional Nepali hat for 250 or $3
Beaded tribal looking bracelet for 140 or $1.75
Three handmade Nepali shawls made of yak’s wool for a total of 1600 or $20
Nepali playing cards for 300 or $3.75
A skein of natural wool for 150 or $1.88
A big bundle of Tibetan prayer flags of all different sizes for 600 or $7.50
A handful of handmade notebooks on homemade paper and a dozen hand-painted cards for 1000 or $12.50
Four hand-painted 2013 calendars for a total of 600 or $7.50
Hand cut pop-up style stationary depicting the mountains and rivers of Nepal 300 or $3.75
Which brings my bill to about 6,000 NR or $75.
I don’t know exactly how many things I purchased between all of the notebooks, cards and prayer flags, but I came away with at least twenty items. After a big shopping trip I always like to divide my price by the total number of purchases and in this case that means I spent less than $4 an item. I felt so accomplished shoving all the shawls, notebooks and prayer flags down in my pack knowing that I’d taken care of all of my family members and a handful of friends and most importantly the people of Nepal. I’m certain that everything I bought with the exception of the prayer flags and the playing cards was actually made in Nepal and a portion of the proceeds will go back to the people who crafted each item. Almost everything I purchased had a handmade and artistic quality. The hand-painted cards and calendars are especially unique because they’re individually drawn and painted. Having successful shopping trips like this one adds a little bit more water to my seed of a dream of one day owning a shop with goods from around the world. It would resemble something similar to 10,000 villages, which is an amazing shop by the way, except I would personally buy everything that would be sold in the store. It would be a fun way to meet people as both the buyer and the seller and it would be nice to pass along stories of how I ended up choosing the merchandise. I guess in a way my future store would be my little contribution to responsible globalization.