Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Day in Kathmandu

At Tribhuvan Airport I sailed through the visa booth (traveling tip: bring extra passport photos for your visa-upon-arrival) and headed down to baggage claim to collect those three monster bags for which United Airlines kindly did not charge me.

Apparently my good baggage karma did not follow me all the way to Kathmandu, however, because I received only one of my three bags. Several other people on my flight were also missing their luggage, so, after about 30 minutes of much confusion and a suffocating scrum around the one poor soul at the baggage claim desk, I learned that my bags would likely arrive on the next flight from Bahrain in the evening.

At one point during this loud huddle – which did not seem to faze the baggage claim gentleman in the least – I pulled my head out of the din to figure out where a strange chirping sound was coming from. I don’t know what I expected, exactly – perhaps an inappropriately loud cell phone ring or a strange soundtrack on the speakers – but I have to say that I was not expecting to see a stack of crates containing small birds just over my right shoulder. The crates created a stack about ten feet high and were left in the middle of the baggage claim area unattended. I’ve got no answer for you on that one.

My old friend Tenzing picked me up at the airport in his Suzuki, which is less fun but more practical than his motorcycle for carting luggage. It was great to see Tenzing, whom I met in 2003 when I first traveled to Nepal for my thesis research in college. We had lunch – at my request, the Nepali “national meal” of dal bat, which is a plate of lentils, vegetables, spicy pickle, and rice.

Then Tenzing dropped me off at the house of my dear friend Heather, whom I also met in 2003 when I overheard her American accent in the local market. Heather and her husband Maika live in a quieter, more village-like part of the city. I always had fond memories of their house from our trip in 2008, when we stayed with them for a couple weeks. Their house is just as I remembered – big, bright, airy, and sunny:

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The house is also, at least for the remainder of the winter months, very cold. This is true for any house in Nepal, which does not have central heat. Although the temperature outside may be in the 60s in January, the buildings stay cool here because they are not insulated. This will be great in the warm months, but it will take some getting used to, as I trend on the cold side even in July.

Two extra clothing layers and four cups of tea later, I had warmed up and caught up with Heather. Then Tenzing picked me up in the evening to take me back to the airport, which had called to notify me that my luggage had arrived at 6:30 PM. But, we could not pick it up until 9:30 because the customs officials were “taking dinner.” Aside from the fact that this is a strangely long dinner, I was not so surprised by this final little impediment standing between me and my luggage (and more layers of clothing please!). Such is life in Nepal – as with those chirping birds, you just have to shrug and smile.

1 comment:

Brian said...

I'm currently looking at an overcast Chicago sky where it's 19 degrees (but "feels like 9" according to The predicted low tonight is -2, but I don't need's help to know that it's going to feel like hell on earth. So, forgive me if my sympathy for your chilly 60-degree weather is less than apparent.