4/12/2010 to 7/20/2010 | Nepal

Kathmandu and the Buddha’s Birthday

When Sarah left I moved out of Thamel (the tourist ghetto of Kathmandu) to visit my friend Kili in the “suburbs” of Kathmandu.  Kili had a bad accident shortly after I had left Nepal last fall, leaving him paralyzed from the waste down.  It was hard to see this man who had conquered Everest confined to a bed, but he was in good spirits all things considered.  The new “two month rule” in India meant I would have to stay out of India for at least two months before I would be able to return.  Originally I was bemoaning the fact, but it turned out Kathmandu would keep me longer than I had anticipated.  Through Kili I met a couple of his friends, Lhakpa and Phurba, also in the trekking and expedition business.  I had helped Kili out on his website previously, and apparently Lhakpa and Phurba were sufficiently impressed that they asked me to redesign their sites.  The next three months I ended up spending as live in web consultant with Lhakpa and Phurba, taking a break from the road.  I enjoyed a sedentary life style for a change catching both the world cup and of more interest to me NBA playoffs with my hometown Lakers winning their second straight championship.  It turned out to be good time to not be trying to travel around Nepal, or even just trying to survive as a tourist in Kathmandu.  The Maoist party was unhappy with the negotiations on the new constitution and the current coalition government; in typical spoiled child fashion they called an indefinite nation wide strike.  A strike in Nepal, as in India, is not a voluntary show of solidarity for a political cause, but rather a thug enforced shutdown of all businesses and commerce. For more than a week Nepal shut down under the fear of the roaming gangs of thugs that the Maoist bused in from countryside.  Tourists were stranded with no way to get anywhere and no restaurants to eat in.  Fortunately the strike did not affect me with Lhakpa’s gracious family taking care of my meals and lodging in the suburbs of Kathmandu, the internet was still up and the notorious Kathmandu power cuts had even stopped since so few businesses were using power, allowing me to continue my work unaffected by  the surrounding chaos.

The political crisis was eventually resolved but it was still a couple more visa extensions before I would finally leave Nepal, and not before taking in Buddha Jayanti, the celebration of the Buddha’s birth.  On the day of the celebration I took a break from my laptop to experience the festivities at Bodhnath the most revered Buddhist site in Nepal.  The great stupa was decorated with lights and devotees and monks alike swarmed the enclosure performing koras (circumambulation of the stupa) and lighting butter lamps.  It was a spectacular sight.  I spent the afternoon and early evening hours photographing the celebrations.

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