Singapore is a strange city. At first, it seems nice; it’s very clean and I found it easy to get around and english is the main language. I forgot I was even in a foreign country. After a bit of a wrong way detour, I arrived for the evening in Clarke Quay, having left my travel partner at the airport on account of him ignoring me and walking away. As I settled in, I received a facebook message “help”. He was so distraught he was still at the airport lost and upset I had left him. I gave him my address and told him to hop in a taxi.
It was my birthday and I wanted to go out, however by the time we got settled and had figured out how to be civil, it was 3:30 in the morning and everything was shut down. We walked down the street until we found a 24 hour McDonalds, shared a delicious McSpicy with a CocaCola then found a open area where we got a Pork Bun and a couple of Tiger beers. We cheered and made a truce: If we can be friends, this trip will be much more smooth, the past must be let go and we have to move forward working together. Eventually we went back to our closet of a hotel, where we fell asleep.
The next morning we ate a bit of breakfast, checked out and ventured outside: It was hot and humid. We opted to carry our bags as we didn’t want to return to the hotel before the flight and set off to see certain sites I had researched. The more we walked, the less happy we became. My bag was heavy and I had my big jacket. Graham was continually confused as to where we were and miserable in the heat.
Singapore is a city full of fines. Everywhere you look, there is a law telling you not to do things and a corresponding fine; Don’t throw your cigarette butts on the ground, don’t chew gum, don’t fish, don’t make annoying sounds, don’t block someone’s path, no eating or drinking or smoking in certain areas, flush the toilet, no singing on the street, don’t feed the pigeons, no drugs of any kind and don’t urinate in the elevators. Punishments include money fines, imprisonment and caning. No wonder it’s so clean!
We got to the airport a couple hours early, happy to be back in air conditioning and really glad to be leaving this sterile expensive world. At the airport, I received a call from a Nepali girl who sang me happy birthday and we made plans to meet for Holi.
The arrival to Kathmandu was a mess, welcome to third world country status. It was dark, lines were long and I used my card to buy our visas, which they gave me a hard time about. Graham was upset with me again and refused to stand close by. Confusion reigned in the air as we were waived through metal detectors with things in our pockets and crowded around the belts to pick up our bags. Graham’s bottle of Jameson bought in Singapore duty free broke open spilling whiskey everywhere as we discovered someone had removed our bags and set them to the side. Frustrated, Graham booked it to the sidewalk for a smoke and I looked for a sign from our driver. We were immediately surrounded by Nepali men yelling out “Taxi! Taxi!” and they loaded our bags into the car, then separated us to demand $20 each for their efforts. Our driver told us not to give them money and we were off to the gallery.
As we drove from the airport, even with difficult interactions, I had the biggest smile on my face. I had been here before and it felt like coming home. Am I really here? Did I really make it? The road is bumpy below the tires, lights pass us on the right side, dust and construction force our driver to maneuver through the streets as I fear his car might break down at any moment. Then we arrive to our destination faster than I anticipate.
The car pulls up to the driveway and honks a few times, flashing his lights to no answer. We open the metal gate, ducking inside the dark front stoop. We ring the bell, our driver calls the phone, still no answer. Graham tries the door which easily pushes open and we say farewell to the driver and bring our bags inside. It’s dark and we try the lights, finding the kitchen, bathroom and our rooms upstairs. The other 2 rooms are emanating strong snores, assuring us that we are in the right place. I venture onto the roof where we see the almost full moon illuminating the buildings, which look like boxes chaotically stacked. We aren’t tired and I start to unpack. I let Graham pick his room first and he opts for the smaller room with a bigger desk and large windows which look out over the street and the second floor porch. My room has much more space for painting and the walls have space to tack up canvas. My desk is smaller but I have more closet space and 2 small windows looking out over the back yard and the gallery space up front. As we are unpacking, the gallery owner pops his head in, apologizing for falling asleep and offers to give us the tour. He surprises us with chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles for my birthday
Manish, the program director and gallery owner has had this house in his family for 5 generations, he built the gallery out front and is working on adding a bathroom adjacent. Half the walls are glass, the other half white filled with beautiful colorful pieces from Manish and other artists. He walks us around to the side with a garden and guava trees and grass, though it’s the beginning of spring and nothing is really growing yet. He takes us inside where he shows us his office and communal areas, explaining which water is drinkable, and how to wash dishes. We ascend to the roof where he shows us a laundry machine and points in the direction of Patan Dhoka and Durbar Square.
Around 4 am we finally fall asleep, making plans to walk over to a Holi celebration in the afternoon. Being back in Nepal is a dream come true, walking the familiar streets, knowing that this time, I’m able to move at a much more leisurely pace and explore in depth what catches my interest. First, my body must adjust to the food and sleep. Tomorrow I will tell you all about Holi and our first gallery meeting.