Saturday, May 31, 2008
Avoiding large gatherings of people is sage advice especially when visiting a country in political transition. However that is quite impossible here in Nepal. First, Nepal is the size of Arkansas with a population of 28 million and by the feel of things I think they all live with us here in Kathmandu. Second, the people are gathering everywhere, everyday to celebrate the abolishment of the monarchy.
Last night, Carly, Molly and I walked to Thamel for dinner and came upon a very cool sight: about 100 people gathered around a 30x10 chalk painting of Nepal. It was outlined with hundreds of butter candles (Nepali votives) illuminating it in the dark. It was inscribed with "1128 - Freedom from the King." Two speakers addressed the crowd, a man from the NC and a woman Maoist leader. This gathering symbolized unity for the country and joy at the freedom to pursue peace and prosperity. Having speakers from the two different parties represented the future of all the people working together for Nepal. This was all translated to me by one of the local guys I was talking to. The feeling was more like that of a prayer vigil than that of a demonstration.
The night before Molly and I encountered a large wave of people leaving a gathering in Durbur Square and felt like the salmon swimming upstream. We were not quite as successful as fast as the salmon though. That night we also walked by several other groups creating their chalk art.
Please remember that the people of Nepal are peaceful and we feel very welcomed and safe everywhere we go. If anything, they seem happy to have us here with them during this time and are happy to share their joy. Whether pro-monarchy, pro-reformist or pro-Communist, most of the people are anxious for change and prosperity in this beautiful land.
So, as far as avoiding crowds goes, the only way the three of us can do that is to stay locked up in our guest house. And if you know anything about Carly, Molly and I you will laugh with me for you know that it is quite impossible.