A gunman just shot up a school in Oregon, Hurricane Joaquin is bearing down on the East Coast and Donald Trump is still running for president, but you wouldn’t know any of that here in Kathmandu. The big news since we arrived three days ago has been India’s blockade of gasoline supplies into Nepal.
This gas station and others are usually busy with customers. Since Thursday, however, the Nepalese government has banned petrol sales to private vehicles, accelerating a local sense of crisis. A day earlier, we passed hundreds of motorcyclists waiting in a line stretching across several city blocks. Cars waited in similar lines, often to no avail.
India is acting in support of Nepalis of Indian descent and others who have been protesting what they consider unfair representation in the country’s new constitution, which the major political parties recently adopted after years of dispute. Since almost all of Nepal’s fuel passes through India, the blockade was immediately disruptive, including to our own travel plans. As I write this, there are tentative reports of a resolution. We’ll see what happens.
Personally, I’ve been more distracted by the simple pleasures of Nepal, which have surrounded us since we arrived. Champa and I went out to dinner with our nephew and his wife, for instance, and enjoyed local delicacies such as these delicious momos, or dumplings. The bill for the four of us, with drinks, was less than $13. As we took a long walk on Friday afternoon, far from the tourist areas, we passed children playing next to temples, women working in lush wheat fields, ducks waddling across the street and students with ties and backpacks returning home from school.
I’ve also been charmed by the signs on Nepal’s local shops, which continue to use English in unexpected ways. (“Fooding and lodging” remains a standard.) The sign for this tattoo parlor appeals to “ladies and gents.” Nearby was a shop selling Mountain Dew, which is manufactured locally and called “Dew” by everyone. We also passed this Hindu swastika on someone’s house — not unusual in Nepal, but still a reminder that we’re no longer home.
We’ve seen lots of evidence of the April earthquake, which will be the subject of my next post. If you have reactions or comments, please share them here!