We had to be up early in the morning. It was our intention to be in bed by 10pm and up at 4:30am as we had a meeting time of 5:45am in the city centre of Kathmandu.
It is a known fact that in many parts of Nepal there is an over population of dogs. They tend to sleep during day, trying to stay out of trouble, away from traffic and out of reach of annoyed locals. At night, they bark.
My partner has been coming to Nepal for almost fifteen years and myself for three. We are animal lovers and contribute much of our time and income to animal rescue services and centres.
On this particular night however, the one night we were going to bed early in order to be up before the break of dawn and head out of town for an adventure – the local canine community of all of Kathmandu decided to rehearse for the official barking contest of the Olympics.
We didn’t sleep a wink!
We were WIDE AWAKE at 1am and then rolling around until 4am wishing for a rain storm or even a heavy gust of wind to silence the chorus for at least an hours’ time in order to gain just an ounce of rest.
Unable to sleep for even thirty more minutes we were up at 4am drinking our coffee and making breakfast. We arrived on time to meet our friends however in true Nepalese form they were fifteen minutes late. We quite enjoyed the early morning city view and brisk morning air.
Our friends arrived to escort us to their home where the entire family of at least thirty people were very much fresh faced and ready for the days adventure.
The homes often seem small from the outside but when you walk in, the marble floors and staircases bring you up three stories of strong, brick and concrete structures that house multiple families, all of them greeting us as they ran around to finish packing for the day.
Morning obligatory tea offering consumed, we were quickly rushed out the door again and into the parking lot where several motorbikes and rented sport utility vehicles were patiently waiting for their occupants.
In Nepal, the people most often speak English when an English-speaking person is around whether it be out of politeness or the desire to practice and/or show-off their 6th language. On this particular morning however, there was too much going on and too much for them to do to concern themselves with being polite. This was a big day that we were anticipating, with too much to do at this exact moment. So, Perry and I stood out of the way and watched the ruckus, waiting for directions.
Seeing as I have a bad back and Perry is very much the adventure junkie, I was granted the front seat of a luxury vehicle and Perry, the keys to a friends’ motorbike. I got into the vehicle thinking that we were about to leave. I had my water bottle handy, my phone, got comfortable and waited. …and waited.
Still unable to comprehended any of the many things that were being said around me in what sounded like excited and loud tones, a huge influx of male companions joined me in the vehicle. It was crowded and much too full. More excited and loud words were exchanged and after a moment, they all got out.
Another influx of people came into the vehicle, this time female and this time, there were more of them. When it was decided that these were the correct attendees for this particular vehicle, we were off! But not without picking up one more person on the side of the road on our way out of town, into the already overstuffed vehicle.
As I mentioned, it was early and we were tired. The trip was beautiful, we watched the sun rise over the mountains and through the fog. One woman talked pretty much the entire way and I showed off the extent of my Nepalese language skills.
At this point you might be wondering, what on earth does any of this have to do with burlesque? Well you see, even here on the side of a mountain, in an overstuffed vehicle with over half a dozen Nepalese women dressed in red and feeling tired, my mind is on burlesque. Will the poster for my show in September, in Nelson BC, be ready on time so that I can print it and hand out flyers in the spring? … Am I on time with my choreography for the show in May? … What will I feed April O’Peel and Melody Mangler when they stay at my house in the Kootenays during the Burlesque Weekend Intensive? … Did I actually click send on that email that I wrote to a producer this morning? … And OH MY GOD would that Indian applique look good on my costume? Maybe I'll wear it to The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in June. I must get ten.
Back to my story…
After about two hours of driving (that felt like twelve) we arrived at the three-quarter mark of our journey, which also meant the end of somewhat paved roads and access to shops and food. Many of us were bursting full of the water, chia and coffee from the morning, eager to empty our bladders and have more refreshments.
Two males from the party and myself went on a hunt for a “restaurant” potty, mostly for my sake. Found the key, squatted over the hole and… sufficiently peed entirely, all over, on my right shoe. Gross. I kept my cool and put my shades on and went about the day like nothing happened.
We walked about half a block to another “restaurant” (why I didn’t go potty there, I don’t know) where beans, rice and boiled eggs were on the menu. It was divine. Once again by myself, sitting in silence among the loud story telling of our fleet, I took in the wonderfully powerful smells of even the simplest Nepalese roadside gourmet. Despite the blur in my eyesight from fatigue and dusty air, I was pleased to watch their squinting eyes as they laughed and chatted, occasionally acknowledging me and asking me questions that I couldn’t answer. Above the door frame (which is actually more like a garage door into a cement hut than it is a glass door into a wooden structure) was a bird nest where mamma-bird made her way in and out at least a dozen times in the short time that I was there, making deliveries to her offspring.
Food and chia consumed, wet shoe, tear filled eyes and a question of where on earth my husband was on his motorbike, we piled back into the vehicle and headed out, onto the road less traveled.
We hit a fork in the road and turned right. Drove for about five minutes and came face to face with an empty bus in the middle of the road. Yup, an empty bus just sitting there, lounging in the sun. The fleet of five vehicles (haven’t seen or heard from the motorbike gang yet) stop and all of the people pile out. Everyone approaches the abandoned vehicle in order to get a first-hand account of the situation. The agreed upon assessment is that the bus encountered a technical problem upon which all of the travelers within it must have been forced to get out and walk to wherever the next stop was.
Once everyone was happy with the assessment they all piled back into the vehicles which one-by-one had to turn around. You may think “hey no problem, roads are wide and turning around is easy” but no, not here. Most roads only seem to fit one vehicle and I don’t understand for the life of me what two vehicles ever do when they encounter each other. (Despite seeing and watching the situation more than enough times.)
Ten, fifteen minutes later, all of the vehicles were turned around and headed back up the hill to the fork in the road, where this time, we turned left. Drove for about five minutes and came face to face with a very FULL bus, on one of the sharpest corners, with even more people sitting ON TOP of the bus and only gently holding on like they weren’t moments away from falling onto the rocks and stones below.
This time, not only were we face to face with a bus, this one functioning, with a driver, and very much full of people and on a very slim road, but we were also on a sharp corner with an edge that dropped over the hill. Somehow, we manage to pass each other with less than an inch between the vehicles as we wormed through. Again, I don’t get it – but they do it.
The rest of the day was an absolute blur filled with amazing beauty, true community, quality fresh food, sadness at the sight of the remaining effects of the earthquake from 2015 transformed to visions of strength and growth for the future as the people press forward and rebuild.
What we were experiencing was a Hindu Celebration, the opening ceremony of a temple built for the second time in a remote village outside of Kathmandu. (The first one having collapsed during the earthquake.)
Three hundred people came and went throughout the day, dancing, celebrating, laughing, appreciating each other, the temple and their ancient beliefs.
And we were there to experience it.
That day we processed feelings of joy, relaxation, amazement and quite honestly, we were overwhelmed. We took it all in with complete appreciation and gratitude. Feeling high on the energy around us, letting it all flow through our veins and spirit.
It took us a day to recover. Back in our apartment, completely drained yet refueled, having to get back to work and life as we knew it before – changed by beauty – and yes, still, always thinking about burlesque. The community I see here is what I thrive to cultivate and be a part of with all of you. Appreciation for each other. Celebration. Growth and long-lasting impression through the ages.
This is a glimpse of my life as a Kootenay Showgirl living part-time in Kathmandu...