May 14, 2002
Tropical disease of the week is: Giardia. More of a practical joke than a disease. It turns you into a fat, belching, farting slob. Seriously! The primary symptoms are bloating and belches/farts that smell of rotten eggs. As diseases go it isn't bad at all, but it makes you terrible company. The cure: 2 grams of Tinidazole.
In all of my travels, I can't remember having any stomach troubles. Now in the last few months I have had both dysentery and giardia. The problems, in my semi-professional, opinion isn't the local food or water, it is a lack of coke. My coke habit had slowly slipped from a minimum of 3 per day to nearly none. I'm back on the coke now.
I'm in the middle of a war zone. I suppose I should talk about that. There are soldiers everywhere. They all have machine guns. You get used to them. Though they are an annoyance when they come into the bar at 10pm to tell everyone to leave. Sometimes they are in the mood to be bribed and the bar stays open, sometimes they aren't. One night, desperate to stay out past the curfew I had when I was 15, I ended up at the disco at the Hyatt. Tragedy. A hotel disco. What new lows are the army forcing me into.
There are some subconscious affects of the war. Every time the power goes out I wonder for a moment if the power plant has been blown up. At 1am one morning two soldiers, with machine guns, pound on my door waking me up and then search my room. I was upset about being woken up, maybe a little bit scared, but mostly excited to tell all of you about the door to door searches for communists. Well, I hallucinated that last bit. They weren't looking for communists. I found out later that there was a fight in the street and the soldiers were looking for one of the combatants. I'm not the only one hallucinating. The government reported killing 450 Maoists in a recent battle. Then the government reported maybe they didn't quite kill that many. Finally, the government reports ummmm... we only found 20 bodies.
As for the communists, they aren't quite what you'd expect. The government has labeled them terrorists, but that's the hip thing to do this year. George Bush wants to give Nepal $20 million to fight them. However, they swear they are out to hurt tourists. They robbed some tourists the other day, but apparently they were very polite about it and even gave them receipts.
The war means that there are half the number of tourists that are usually in Nepal. For the most part the lack of crowds works out well for me. Lower prices, no problem getting a hotel room or a spot on a bus. The salesmen are desperate though and that means twice the hassle while walking down the street. There is a constant repetition of "hash", "hello friend", "excuse me", "tiger balm" and the old classic "where are you from?" They all want money. You learn to almost but not quite totally tune it out.
I've been trapped in Kathmandu for a week waiting for my Indian visa. There isn't a lot to do in Kathmandu, especially when the bars are closing early. Fortunately, there are good book stores and cheap internet. I found a hotel that I like. There is an art gallery on the ground floor. A bar on the first floor that has more cushions than chairs and a stiff $1 whiskey and coke. I have a $2 room with a balcony up on the third floor. As night it's very loud. It's right above the street in the tourist ghetto. I have to listen to cars revving their engines and honking, cats screeching, and drunks yelling. I grew up in a big city and it makes me feel at home.
Trapped in Kathmandu and bored I have been spoiling myself, almost a return to my yuppie days. Eating well and hanging out at the Jazz cafe. One afternoon I had a haircut, dropped by the gym and then went out for a 3 course dinner. How yuppie is that? (other than the fact the dinner only cost $6)