Dogs

Dog is man’s best friend. Sure. Maybe in America. Not in Kathmandu. And it surely does not feel like we’re best friends in the middle of the night. Why, you wonder? Let me tell you why, my friends. They bark. Yes, it sounds stupid to make a statement like that because, after all, they are dogs, they are supposed to bark. But you have not heard dogs barking in Kathmandu. They are relentless. And unstoppable. Even though they are quite annoying during day time, too, it’s during the night that I often dream about world without dogs. Or at least Kathmandu without dogs. They bark so much. So so so much. And so loudly. I don’t think you can even imagine that, without actually experiencing it. Sometimes I lie in bed in the evening for hours, unable to fall asleep as the dogs go on and on and on and on… Sometimes they even wake me up in the middle of the night with their loud barking. Things have become even worse now that the warm weather is here and we keep the windows open.

What I really don’t understand is: why are they barking? There is no one outside. Nothing is going on. Everything and everyone is quiet. Then one dog barks, then the other, and before you know it, half the Kathmandu’s dog population is having a very loud dog conversation. It’s insane. And so frustrating. So very frustrating when you know that you need to wake up early in the morning to go to work, and there you are, lying awake in your bed at 2:30 am imagining a mass murder of dogs. It’s horrible, I know. Makes me even hate myself a bit for thinking that way, but in times of insomnia and frustration, all kinds of things enter your mind. And it becomes even more frustrating when you realize it’s not street dogs that are barking. Not the ones without owners and no place to sleep, the ones that fight each other for food and shelter. Nope. It’s the well-fed ones in neighbors’ yards. What’s up with that? And how in the world are their owners not annoyed by their barking dogs??? Our dog had a barking spree for several days and I could not take it. I was beyond myself in frustration and anger. After that, our dog gets locked in its kennel every night to keep it quiet. Other neighbors apparently don’t feel that way. When faced with complaints about their dogs they say things like: our dog doesn’t bark after 10pm. Oh really? Did you buy it a watch so he can look up the time and go: oh, it’s 10:05, I better stop barking now, my workday is over.

I challenge you all, if you have a dog, to put it under your window at night and let it bark for hours without stopping. Let me know how you feel in the morning and whether the dog is still alive. Let the good times roll!

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“When I drive that slow, you know it’s hard to steer; And I can’t get my car out of second gear…”

Boy, am I lazy! I have fallen in a rut over here in Kathmandu. Days are slipping by as I am spending my days working and taking care of chores. The usual life. Nothing too exciting. But, I do have to share: I put on my brave face, took a deep breath, sat in the car, and started driving myself around. Yup, I go to and from work all by myself every single day. In a car. And I drive. It still feels a bit surreal. You should’ve seen me the first day. I think the amount of sweat I expelled was equal to my usual annual perspiration. But it was good. No one died. And I felt detoxed afterwards. I also had that feeling of tremendous achievement where you get so overwhelmed by your own success that you walk around proudly saying things like: now that I’ve done this, I can do anything! I was even considering bungee jumping. Not really, but I was pretty high on adrenalin after that first day of self-drive around Kathmandu. As days go by I am becoming more confident. That goes hand-in-hand with more road-rude and fast on the horn. Seriously, horn is THE one thing you cannot survive without, here. Even though all cars, buses and bikes have rear-view mirrors, no one really uses them. It’s not rare to see mirrors pointing at the driver or up at the sky. Anyhow, no one uses mirrors which means they just stop, start, turn, overtake etc. without making sure that no one is behind them or trying to go around them. That’s where the horn comes in. As soon as you approach another vehicle, from whichever angle, you blow your horn. The idea  is to let them know you’re coming and for them to hopefully move aside. Most of the time it doesn’t work as they continue their reckless quest onto your lane. You have no choice but to break and wait for them. Which is probably a good idea especially when it comes to buses. On a positive note, the traffic moves pretty slowly so the worst that can happen are some dents and scratches.

My worst enemies are bikes. These people are so reckless; I am at loss of words. They seem unable to choose a lane so they just drive in the middle of the road. They overtake cars from all possible sides and angles, appearing quickly and without regards for anyone else. And if they scratch or hit your car – they simply run away. They scare me the most.

And then there are the pedestrians. They are something else. Usually you expect pedestrians to walk on a sidewalk (where there is one). Not in Kathmandu. Pedestrians mostly walk on the road, blocking the traffic and causing chaos. No clue why. It’s not like Nepali people are so large they cannot fit on a sidewalk. And the worst part is, they are not looking where they are going or whether there is an oncoming traffic when they are trying to cross the road. More than once I was inches away from a heart attack as a pedestrian unexpectedly jumped in front of my car. That’s what they do. One moment they are casually walking down the road, the next they jump in the middle of the road, looking the other way, trying to cross the street. Crazy, I tell you.

One thing I realized about traffic in Kathmandu is: expect the unexpected. If you think that bicycle that is going in the opposite direction three lanes away from you will suddenly make a u-turn and go right in front of you, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. If you think that the bus in front of you that’s missing its stop lights will suddenly go from 50kmh to a full stop, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. If you suspect that a pedestrian that you see ahead will suddenly start crossing the road right in front of you, you can rest assured that will happen. If you see a motorbike approaching from a side-street, driver looking in the opposite direction, be sure he will drive full-speed onto the main road, right in front of you causing you to slam on your breaks. Yes, all the crazy things you can only imagine happening in normal traffic are the rule in Kathmandu. The sooner you figure that out, the easier it gets to drive. I am still getting the hang of it, though I have to admit, I am very amused by the looks I get from other drivers. It’s fun to be white in Nepali traffic!

Is that saying what I think is saying?

When in Nepal, you simply cannot miss all the funny lines on public transportation. Most of the time they make absolutely no sense and you cannot but wonder what was in the head of the person who chose to put it on there. Is it something they saw on TV? Or maybe something they heard on the radio? Or did some joke-prone tourist decide to play a little prank on the bus driver? In any case, some of the stuff you can see on buses, vans and tuk-tuks are downright hilarious and I often find myself laughing for hours about them.

Here’s my collection of best-of-the-best (copied as seen, together with the spelling mistakes): 

1. Girls R Like Medicine – (take one twice daily, I assume!?)

2. Car Google – (no clue what this means)

3. Honesty is policy – (ha, this one is good – try getting into a taxi in Kathmandu and not being cheated!)

4. Love you – (awww, I love you too…)

5. Love is true – (pretty profound for a bus saying)

6. Need for speed – (I know which taxi I’m not getting in)

7. Drive is no joke – (no sir, it certainly isn’t, yet I don’t see you being serious about it)

8. It’s my style  – (good for you)

9. 1 mistek game over (if mistek is supposed to be mistake, then yes, in traffic, one mistake definitely means game over. There are also some buses where you can see “I’m a virgin” written right before this line. Totally changes the meaning of the whole thing, doesn’t it?)

10. Racing car – (written on a taxi. Refer to number 6 for further instructions)

11. Emo – I love life – Punk – (now, there’s a conundrum)

12. Trust is wekness – (so is your spelling)

And a personal favorite for the end

13. Wait for single – (written on a bus. Either someone has serious spelling issues, or some profound life advice is being given on this bus).

There’s always something to laugh about in Kathmandu and I love it!

Diamond indeed

Diamond indeed