Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kathmandu Too

View from top floor of a home being restored after earthquake damage 

By Karina Gallant

While the guys spent the day shopping for tools, Annette and I took a more touristic approach. We lined up a driver to take us to Bhaktapur, an ancient city located a few miles from Kathmandu, now a popular tourist destination. But first, we had to make a “quick” stop at China Southern to sort out Annette and Claus’s flight issues.

I had more than a few negative feelings about China Southern Airlines after most of our team’s flights were cancelled or mixed up in a variety of ways, but the pieces started to come together as we drove through the streets of Kathmandu. The damage of the earthquake was just as evident in the demeanor of the locals as it was in the crumbled bricks on the road and the dilapidated buildings. The desperation was visible in shop owners and taxi drivers, tugging at the heartstrings of weak tourists. Soldiers guided traffic, manned petrol stations, and held down the fort in refugee camps. A clash of culture and tradition, evolving modern businesses, and economic damage painted the picture of a slowly developing country. Cars pumped out exhaust, adding to the haze of smog that hides the mountains. Lone standing buildings and piles of rubble marked the devastation of the earthquake.

As if the quake didn’t do enough to the economy and lives of the Nepali’s, Kathmandu was recently hit with an economic blockade from India, obstructing fuel and other necessary resources in an effort to get Kathmandu to rewrite the constitution. Lines spanning hundreds of cars sat backed up on the road as they waited for a supply truck to bring in more petrol.

With the new information, my earlier annoyance with the airline was replaced with sympathy for the lone employee in the office trying to coordinate flights that just weren’t there, and having to ignore the constant barrage of phones ringing at empty desks. After 3 hours of waiting and communicating through broken English, they were finally able to reroute the flight (sans seats), and we were on our way.

We ambled through the cobbled streets of Bhaktapur at a slow pace, ducking in and out of shops and taking too many pictures. Intricate woodcarvings and stone statues swirled up posts and doors, surrounded windows, and sat on the steps of derelict monasteries once grander than they are now. We were grateful for our inability to say no when a persistent man who owned a paper making shop convinced us to come into his home to see his old printing machine and his restoration project. We ended by looping to the Peacock Window, a famous wood carving, but were more interested with a chicken sitting in a window on the story above.

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