Archive for February, 2008

24
Feb
08

Hash

at the movies

In Sweden I kinda stopped exercising. My biggest excuse was that all the people I knew were lazy bums. Which i still think is a fair point to make. Somehow I thought it would be different here in Kathmandu. It is different.
You wouldn’t think that hash would require you to do anything taxing, but alas. The hash is some kind of running experiment, in which the organizers test how much they can push you when you run around the wackiest, most impenetrable parts of whichever city the hash happens to be organized in, before you die of exhaustion. They won’t say it out loud, and they’d rather err on the safe side so a to not arouse suspition and not loose running meat. hence not many people actually die, but I’m sure this is their goal.
It goes a bit like this: the members agree to meet on a Saturday around mid-day at a given point. One pre-appointed member will have set out a course of his own device, straight through the city, or, what I understand happens more often, in the countryside. She/he marks the route with flocks of shredded paper along the way (often from classified documents of one embassy or another). To make it a bit more interesting, some false trails are laid, so the quick ones have to backtrack and will be just as exhausted as the rest of us. At certain points the paper is laid in a circle. That’s where the slow ones can catch up.
Apparently these hashes have been going on for years all around the world. It all started in Korea I think; in or after the Korea war. And it spread like Agent Orange across the world.
Last week I did my first hash. Untrained, flimsy looking and with my city shoes on. I spent all my energy in the first quarter of an hour to keep up appearances. That wasn’t to smart, but then again a slower start wouldn’t have saved me. This hash was here in Kathmandu, Nepal. So in about the hilliest country in the world. And I come from Holland: the flattest land in the world. We ran (well ran..) around 14 kilometres, but that’s calculated from GPS info. Taking altitude drops and climbs into account I’d give it 30 km. And if that’s not at all the case, it certainly felt like that (well it actually felt like 80, but I feel I’m portraying myself as a wimp already a bit to much).
trash hill
 The picture on the left gives an idea of what one has to conquor. This particular hill was actually quite fun. The industrial sand makes for quite a soft landing so this would give the Australians under us a great opportunity to show their kangaroo hop mastery in the 4 to 7 meter category.
It took me about four days to recover. Room-mate Bryan had lots of laughs when he saw me shuffling bum first down the stairs the first two days, which was about the only way to get down without having to sacrifice our biped evolutionary advantage.
Turned out that particular hash was quite harsh, and was meant more for the masochistic inclined.Yesterdays Hash was much more mellow. It was more meant as an educational Hash i believe, showing off Kathmandu’s waste disposal belts.
The pinnacle of the hash was undoubtedly the film/video clip shooting we accidentally bumped into. In the middle of the street a camera team was setting up a scene. A scantly clad young lady was being kept under wraps, and some dancers were just warming up, when they were all of a sudden confronted with a brigade of sweaty, tired runners. And what better backdrop for your video than some dancing sweaty people in running outfit! So the director seized the opportunity, sent the dancers home and let us dance in stead. I’m sure our dancing talents will get him a prize in some category of whatever type of thing he was shooting.
As I understand, next week is going to be more of a classic one, through beautiful nature and such (did I just hear a boo from the back of the crowd?). I should really start looking for some running shoes.And here are some pics of the last run.
24
Feb
08

Everyday life

Since I so deftly sidestepped the proceedings of my arrival in the last post, we save ourselves from having to read boring subjects like the mad, mad, mad! driving behaviour of the local traffic participants and we can go straight to the description of the drudgery that is everyday life.
I’m glad to be able to report everyday life in Nepal isn’t the same as everyday life in Sweden. I’d be very disappointed and very shocked at the same time. The language spoken around these parts is noticably different, as is their way of pronouncing it. Also they drive on the left here. Which in Nepal is more a rule of thumb than an actual rule.
They drive like maniacs here you know. Maniacs! Luckily the roads, other traffic participants and the overall style of driving doesn’t let them move very fast, which might be the reason they drive like this in the first place. I don’t know, this is one of those egg and chicken things, which my mind fails to satisfactionally resolve.
Recent events have alleviated this pedestrian’s nervous gene somewhat: the shortage of fuel which plagues the country. I’ve heard one theory, but this is all hearsay mind: The government keepsleeping-cabbies.jpgs the prices artificially low. The country isn’t that rich however, so the government also controls the gas flow to gas stations. Only at certain times are cars allowed to tank, which makes the lines at the gas station considerable. See the sleeping cabbies from the picture.
But there’s more going on at the moment. One of today’s headlines (yes on Sunday) reads: ’43 tankers of fuel enter capital, 156 more tankers enter Nepal’. The reason that this is news is because normal transport is blocked at the moment. There’s a lot going on in the lowlands of Nepal, the Terai. There’s a lot of unrest and rebelling groups are blocking fuel transport to the rest of the country. And people in the highlands follow the movement of the oil ships like a hawk.
So the last refuelment window was a while ago, and yesterday the streets were quite empty. Me and some guys had to go to from Patan where i live to some place in Kathmandu at night. However the people that have cars have no fuel left. Public transport isn’t really something the state concerns itself with, so on the streets it’s open war for either an empty cab or those mini- minibusses which have room for six, but now (magically) for ten. Eventually we managed to manhandle ourselves in a cab. As we drove of a guy shouted desperately to the driver: ‘come back after you’re done’. Fat chance.

Well it seems like the big cities are gonna see some new fuel in the foreseeable future. And that’s good for them, but for me it looks like there are again some dangerous times ahead.

Hmm.. I drifted off a bit it seems. But if I can muster a bit of concentration and willpower, a description of day to day life in the next episode is definitely in the cards. If anybody is interested of course. Which at the moment seems questionable cause the blog this post is supposed to be on isn’t even in existence.

24
Feb
08

To Kathmandu

typing this blog postIt’s Sunday, the power is down, I’ve got a hangover, the sun is shining… What better time than this to writing down a summary of my Nepal adventures on my lovely XO (laptop).
For the uninitiated: A few months back I got obsessed with this cute tiny laptop for kids developed by this organization called OLPC: One Laptop Per Child. It’s aim is to give every child in the world a laptop. Needless to say they didn’t quite reach their goal, but the laptops are in mass production and in a number of countries pilot projects are underway .
There’s one of those pilots on the way in Nepal, the implementers of which are OLE Nepal. And to my surprise they needed Squeak hackers. My first impulse was to apply, and through laws of cause and effect, my ass is resting in Kathmandu. Or Patan to be exact. Patan being the city of what was once a rivalling kingdom, now grown towards Kathmandu so much that the only thing that separates them is the river in between.
I’m not a well travelled person so already my way here was quite fascinating. I went via Doha, which lies in Qatar, and in Qatar everybody is a millionaire. Thanks to… yes… oil. And since all millionaires, when they become millionaire instantly are struck by an incurable disease that prohibits them from doing manual, blue-collar, or in general perceived to be boring work, all labour needs to be imported.You, being the well informed reader you are, of course knew this already, and so did I. But it’s different to read about it in your wisdom tome which now lies in front of you on your salon table, then actually being there.

I got the distinct feeling of being in the navel of the world. On the plane the stewardesses were mostly east-Asian, with a bit of Nubian mixed in. The cargo handling personnel seemed to be mostly Middle Eastern, while the people that did stuff with my ticket were mostly west-Asian. And then there were these important looking people in white robes. Those must have been the millionaires, shedding upon us an air of untouchability; doing what millionaires do in a country with only millionaires as members of the feast.

And oh, how tempting it is to at this moment describe the culture shock between Qatar, being one of the richest countries of the world, and Nepal, a country that has suffered from an internal war for, what?, about 10 years or so? Half of whose inhabitants are unemployed. The biggest industry of which is concerned with NGO type stuff (or were the people who informed me just in jest). But I will refrain from such cheap story bridges. It is for lesser mortals to yield to such temptations.