As I sit here typing, Siva at Hotel Middle Path has placed a Nepali topi atop my head. We’ve been
living in their Pokhari hotel for nearly two weeks now, and they’ve become like a little family of servants, always smiling, always there considering how best to take care of you–not something I’m used to, or ever will be used to (I will sleep on a couch with my pants on and like it).
Pokhara has a solid center of tourism, being the starting point of 60-75% of trekking tours in Nepal. It is set upon the gorgeous Lake Fewa, surrounded by the massive Himalayan backdrop that brings those hungry hikers over to feast. Up and down the main strip are trekking supply stories hawking knock-off North Face backpacks and jackets, cheap Gore-Tex-mex boots and windbreakers, and trekking poles that I can only hope last at least a week. It’s a lake-side beach town, featuring expats, yokels, locals, and some damn fine momos.
This city is like Kathmandu in that it is home to Nepalis, but for the most part, Pokhara more resembles a Mexican beach town, in that thrill merchants and open air restaurants are swirled by
gently bustling street sounds and lazy action. There is not much money here, but the folks on the sidewalk aren’t trying to latch on to your wallet and your time like in Capitol City. Pokhara is slower, sweetly humid, and infinitely more pleasant. I could see how Leslie would live here.
Leslie is our Global Village leader’s old friend-of-a-friend, who we settled into dinner with the other night. She sold her business and moved out to this little berg to practice acupuncture and massage therapy (obviously). As an American, she enjoys many advantages here, one of which is her ability to see Pokhara and the Nepalis for what they are.
“They’re sweet and sincere, and will stab you in the back,” she told me. “They have no loyalty.”
She seemed bitter, and was the person that inspired my last post’s defense of Habitat, when she called us rich white Americans pretending to help out. In doing so, she became the very first
person in Nepal I’d met that had any sort of antipathy toward anything. The Nepalis that I’ve met (outside of the hustle-dens) have been simply full of the joy of life, a true love of the little things. They have to–there’s nothing out here to dislike (assuming you don’t know what’s out there).
That’s not to say Nepalis are ignorant. They know how insular and isolated they are, but they don’t really care all that much day to day. They’re curious, thoughtful, and happy-go-free. Not many are particularly educated (those that are usually get out, usually to teach), but most are loving and warm, open hearted and open minded.
On Tuesday, after the day’s build, we went to the Pokhara school that the young village kids go to while we’re out working on the house. There is one girl, an absolutely adorable villager named
Kanchan, who dragged me all around her schoolyard. While the kids danced and played and put on their excited kid show for us, Kanchan hustled me to her school library (mostly magazines and kinds books), the school rooftop (lots of disturbing exposed metal piping), and her classroom, where I grabbed some chalk and wrote on the board ‘IF YOU ARE READING THIS YOU ARE GREAT’. (I swear, once I used to be metal as spiked death balls.)
All this is in the outskirts of Pokhara. On the just inside, where our hotel is, we get the tourist treatment. Cafes and T-shirt shops, arts, crafts, and restaurants (they all serve pizza and Indian food, yet no one has figured out the Zante’s style… hmm…). But a short drive outside and you get the ‘real’ Pokhara: villages upon tiny villages, protected and inhabited only by the resident villagers, villagers with hearts-o-gold. People unencumbered by the political narratives of the day, the seasonal television mind-sucks, or any of those distracting things (like this blog?) that really do not matter.* These are the real diamonds of Nepal, the people who live off the land spinning wool, peddling fruits and vegetables, and keeping the town cheerful and full of zest and color.
All it takes is a heart felt ‘Namaste!’ and everything just seems to get better.
*Facebook is taking over Nepal in a big way. Apparently, there is a movie called ‘Facebook’ coming out asking here. Judging by the billboard, it looks like an action movie about fast cars, leather jackets, and voiceless babes, tap tap tapping away at their cell phones.