I’ve hit the ground running since landing in Kathmandu, maybe going a little too hard as I’m now bound to my bed from having ice cubes in my drink. I forget the food and water are different, full of bacteria and different microscopic elements that they are all used to and my American body can’t handle. I went out the other night without Graham to see a friend play at the opening of a restaurant. I was the only white person in the place and received full attention from the array of business men, tech guys and musicians, even a member of the royal family. My friend was a StrawberryPropaganda sticker and after handing them out, I was asked if I could make some of a few other people. At the end of the night, they turned off the lights and we headed out; I rode back home on my friend’s motorcycle, getting in later than expected.
Being sick in a foreign country brings out suggestions that to me, seem a little backward. I’ve been told tea is the cure for everything, I was given a digestive advertised as pomegranate flavor (actually spicy in taste, nothing reminded me of pomegranate) and toast with honey and coffee. Stomach cramps and diarrhea and vomiting ensued for almost 24 hours, dizziness and headache from dehydration and finally I was told I might have to go to the hospital. Luckily I woke up this morning hungry and able to keep the electrolyte water down. I’m currently munching on plain white rice, hoping I’ll have the energy to get out of bed.
I’ve been a busy bee, walking around for Holi Festival, meeting the other artists in the residency program and meeting up with a few Nepalis I had connected with last year. I’m amazed at the progress I’ve seen, especially with paved roads and air quality. I no longer have to wear a face mask while walking the streets and the sky is blue in color.
At MCUBE, Manish is the curator and program director and his father also lives down the hall. We call him Ba. Ba is hard of hearing and he’s missing a few of his teeth, though he’s always smiling and laughs in his curious jolly way, we are slowly able to discern what he is saying. Manish tells us his mother died last year, evident in his short cut, a tradition where the eldest son shaves his head and burns the body of the deceased on the Bagmati River at Pashupatinath. We also have a woman who cooks and cleans, constantly bringing us tea loaded with sugar and sweet pastries. She doesn’t speak much and I’m not sure if she understands my words, I nod at her and she stares back.
Everyday people stop by the gallery to speak with Manish and he introduces us to his students, friends and patients. He has many talents, teaching yoga, crystal cleansing,painting, drawing and he even used to be a rock star playing guitar and singing. He teaches art at a local university and also has many young children who come for a couple hours each week. We are living in a good area of town, buildings are in good shape and most of the roads are paved. There are a good number of Europeans and Americans who walk the streets and a cafe around the corner which is extra safe for foreigners.
This program is filled with four of us artists; I was very flattered to find out I was the first accepted and many people were turned down before Graham was accepted late. Manish thought it would be good to have the two of us who already know each other paired up with two Nepalis who work in the same area. On Friday we all met, taking turns to explain where our interests are and why we are artists. It’s exciting to be starting this journey, we all want to collaborate and explore, everyone is an incredible artist and all of us have received acclaim in our areas. I’m very surprised to learn how much they all respect and admire me returning and the regard in which they hold me as an American painter.
Unfortunately being sick the last couple days has alienated myself, though given Graham a chance to get to know them all better. Yesterday I attempted to rally and we drove an hour to see a gallery opening, only once there I vomited in the bathroom and couldn’t force myself to walk through the exhibit. They cancelled our dinner plans and allowed me to sleep in the back of the car. I hope to be able to revisit once I’m feeling better.
Last night as I was recovering, they made “Pasta Bagetti” or spagetti with onions, peppers, tomatoes, beans and carrots, of course adding some spice to make it more nepali and Ba gave us a sampling of his homemade saffron wine. As the sunset, Manish brought out his guitar and we all sang classic rock ‘n roll songs of Led Zepplin, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. This morning I’m feeling much better and I’m off again to explore more of this wonderful magical city called Kathmandu.