In the last few days, I’ve kept busy; feeling like myself again after recovering from food poisoning which turned into gastric, basically a bubble in my stomach from too much acidity in my diet due to the spiciness of food. I’m having to keep a special eye on my diet, enforcing more alkaline foods and drinking a special fizzy artificial lemony powder in my water to prevent a new bubble from forming. I went to a grocery store to buy food I can make in the kitchen and I gotta say, I’ve perfected a soft boiled egg which I eat in the morning along with a cup of Ensure with full cream milk to force myself into gaining more weight. We also stocked up on pasta and bread for PB&J sandwiches. It’s interesting to look at prices here, dairy is astronomically high in price along with meat, nuts and candy, while coca-cola, eggs and pasta are about the same. Honey is cheap, ghee comes in large amounts and tomato sauce is basically ketchup. Produce is cheaper on the street, though much of it is imported from India, it all still tastes much more fresh than what I’ve had in the US.
The other day we took a trip to Thamel, I showed Graham the “touristy” area where I started my last trip. We took a big bus over the Bagmati River and after a couple miles we decided walking would be better and wrestled our way through the packed vehicle, paid our 15 Rs and walked for another hour before arriving tired and hungry to a surprisingly calm and empty area. We opted for pizza to set the mood and took our time to enjoying the empty rooftop and service. Afterward, we landed back on the streets which had filled in the meantime and carefully made our way over the uneven gravel and dirt to bargain and purchase items easier found in this compact area of Kathmandu. Graham loved the bargaining and immediately fell in with the locals, joking at the expense and tough deals they claim to make. We sneakily found some hash then continued on for handcrafted paper, a water bottle and somehow managed to run right into a dusty old crystal shop filled with some of the biggest and most beautifully cut rocks I’d ever seen. Our jaws dropped at the prices and we snuck away feeling like royalty.
Yesterday, Manish took us to a couple of gallery openings in honor of International Woman’s Day, a holiday in Nepal where many get a day off. The first gallery was very pretentious, a sales person for each of us followed us offering tea or coffee and making sure we knew the process and that everything was for sale, boasting of big named artists and anticipating our complements on their space. The next gallery was located at the ground floor of a hotel, opening out to a beautiful open courtyard where they hosted a ceremony to honor their artists and one of the longest programs I’d seen. We ended up leaving before it ended mostly because it was entirely in Nepali and we didn’t understand the speeches. A woman sang a couple of Nepali songs and Manish introduced me to a few of the painters while Graham snuck out for a beer and a smoke. Soon we were on our way and we all agreed that we wouldn’t be doing a program to that extent for our own opening.
Closer to MCUBE, we arrived at a magical destination. Walking through the metal gates, the tables and chairs were made of motorcycle and bicycle parts, glass bottles hung from trees and the opening to the cafe was a concrete wall filled with recycled glass and a bicycle wheel for windows and an opening of clear plastic curtain to keep the dust out. We were immediately introduced to a multitude of artists, pulling up chairs, excited to talk with fellow foreigners. Mark Bechtel, a professor of product design at Parson’s in New York was doing a presentation on his work. Garreth, from Wales was showing his photography and shared he was extending his stay after three months while Flora shyly told us she is exploring art after living in Nepal for almost four years, not sure exactly what she wants to focus on. Rebecca is a dancer from Brazil, though she lives in London now and is only visiting Nepal for the first time, having traveled throughout Africa studying tribal dance. Matt is a hacker who works closely with the Burning Man community; he took the left over bikes from last year and is fixing them up to rent out and sell for future use. After a couple cigarettes and coffee and tea, we adjourned to the second level where Mark gave his lecture, explaining his life’s work and struggle of making ends meet while also fulfilling his desire to create art, ending with an invitation to return in a couple of weeks for an exhibit of his residency.
Mark’s lecture was intriguing, his focus has been on objects and figuring out meaning, reasoning and relationship within an anthropologic context and invited us to watch a documentary on Gregory Batesman outside following his presentation. I ordered a bowl of soup and cozied up in an arm chair under the stairs to munch on noodles and knowledge, happily stretching my mind and conversing long after the documentary ended. My mind was buzzing and this was the exact reason I wanted to come to Nepal in the first place, meeting other artists who are pushing their minds to understand and create more questions that cause our human race to move forward. Finally as Manish and Graham dragged me away from the cafe, all of us hugging and promising to see each other soon, Manish asked if we wanted to go out. Graham was tired, but I persisted that I finally was well and I wanted to make the most of the evening.
So, we ended up in Thamel again, this time the unpaved roads were packed with people. Shops were closed and everyone was dressed for a night on the town, Nepalis and foreigners mingled as people were celebrating the end of the week and earnestly spending their hard earned cash on food, cigarettes and booze. We followed our guide to the spot and somehow managed to sneak in without a cover and ascended a metal staircase to a dark bar packed with mostly young Nepali men who hooted and hollered with their hands stuck in the air sharing their love of Rock ‘n Roll. An impressive stage was set up above our entrance with enormous speakers, colored lights and a sound system many bars in LA would die for. A group of security guys next to stage ensured nobody smoked or drank on the dance floor though a mosh pit took over soon enough. The first few songs were in Nepali, though after each song the crowd joined together yelling out their requests for classic songs that would keep the energy going. COBWEB didn’t disappoint playing covers of some of the best Metallica, Linkin Park and Rage against the Machine I’d heard. Pink Floyd is some of my favorite and they blasted out Another Brick in the Wall perfectly rehearsed. The boys asked if I was ready to go and I begged to stay for one more song. Sweet Child O’ Mine came on in that moment and I pushed further into the crowd, thrusting my own hand up in rocker status. A Nepali boy wanted to dance which was fine until he bravely tried to place his hand under my shirt on my hip and I ran back to join my own friends, deciding maybe it was cool to leave before the crowd got too crass. We wove our way through the mosh pit as we found our exit, noticing a few drag queens or possible sex workers posing on the street as we found Manish’s car and laughed the whole way home.
Another wonderful week in Nepal has come to a close. Meetings and plans for the future took place today and I’m fascinated with stars in my eyes as I await the next. The adventures continue as I realize the difference in the Nepal I’m experiencing this trip and the humans who will help shape the focus of my work in the future.