Sunday, February 20, 2011

It All Comes Full Circle: The Cycle of Friends (and Plastic) in Kathmandu

Although the Kathmandu Valley has an estimated population of more than 1.5 million people, sometimes it feels like a small town, and the expat scene in particular tends to shrink very fast.

Yesterday was one of those days. My morning started with breakfast at home with my housemates, including Tia's good friend John the seismologist. Then my roommate, Brooke, and I departed for the 1905 Farmers' Market. We took a pleasantly uncrowded (i.e. every seat was taken but there was no one standing) microbus up to Ratna Park in the center of Kathmandu and walked the rest of the way to 1905.

As soon as I descended into the market, I spied a spread of beautiful handmade bowls constructed of recycled plastic. The man selling them makes the bowls in his village, along with other members of his family. There were shiny silver versions and multicolored varieties, and I made an uncharacteristic impulse purchase and snapped up this one:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I think it makes a gorgeous new fruit bowl, and I love the story behind it too. Products made of recycled materials are de rigeuer these days in Nepal; they are not just decorative but useful too, as in this handmade loofah produced by one of BPW's borrowers and sold at the Microcredit Fair two weeks ago:

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

After spending some time surveying and sampling the rest of the goods at the market, my roommate and her friend and I sat down at a table to soak in the sun. Among other things, our conversation turned from earthquake preparedness to farming to food to arts. Her friend, a writer, talked about a great hidden gym bookstore owned by his friend in Patan and pointed out a Bollywood star as she walked by.

A couple hours later we eventually parted after eating at a local Newari joint in Thamel. I did some errands and then met up with Doug, a development consultant who arrived in Nepal last week and who is a friend of one of my old co-workers. We went to this amazing place on the eastern Edge of Thamel called the Garden of Dreams, which deserves its own post and photo montage sometime later. For now, just know that it is a stunning complex of gardens and pavilions inspired by Edwardian estates in England. It was recently restored over a six-year period and now has a full restaurant and bar. I felt like I was living a Graham Greene novel.

Soon after we sat down for a coffee on the terrace, we quickly established one additional mutual connection -- he had worked in India with a classmate of mine from grad school. A few minutes later my new friend noticed a friend of his at the table behind us. Raunak joined us, and it did not take long for us to realize that we too had mutual friends. The same friends, in fact, whom I was planning to see that night for dinner.

Two hours later at dinner with those friends I was talking about my interesting conversations with Tia's seismologist friend. "Oh, you mean John from CalTech?," they asked.

Of course. Should have known my day, just like that recycled plastic, would come full circle.

I am heading out shortly to meet up with Doug to check out the little hidden gem bookstore in Patan. Turns out he knows the owner too.

No comments: