A few days ago we emailed our parents with the number of the hotel so they could give us a ring. At 7:00 this morning, my Mom and Dad called and we chatted through a bad connection. The funny thing was that we realized we had nothing to talk about! Of course, this is because they read all the journals and email us at least every other day. So despite thousands of miles of distance, we’re very up to date on what’s going on in each others’ lives. How’s that for technology? Five minutes after we rang off with them, the phone rang again but this time it was Jo Connal. It was so nice to hear her voice and to find out what’s going on back home. So they still haven’t found Chandra Levvy, huh? Can’t say that I miss the U.S. version of “important news”!
Today was a big errand day. We went into Thamel to pick up a charm a jeweler was making for us, but he had changed the price significantly from the one we’d agreed to on Sunday. So we had to do some heavy arguing to get our deposit back. It wasn’t pretty. At one point in the thick of it, the vendor looked at me and said “You’re a woman. I don’t do business with women. I will talk to him.” (indicating Jon). Suddenly, all I could see was red. But I was coherent enough to recognize that – because of the culture – it was pointless to go off on a feminist tirade, which is what I was very tempted to do. So I turned around and walked out. Jon stayed and argued further, and somehow got our money back after 10 more minutes of arguing. He came outside to find me, where I was standing so completely irate and furious that I could barely speak. Jon decided that we should go to the Internet Cafe, so I could be distracted and cool off a bit. It worked. An hour later I was feeling much better and ready to go have lunch.
On our way out of Thamel, we stopped by a jeweler we’d found late the other day who we really liked and who sold us some lovely gifts. His name is Surendra Bajracharya and, although his little store has no name on it, it’s called Bajra Silver Crafts Exporters (firstname.lastname@example.org). We chatted with him about what we wanted, and he told us to come back later tonight and he’ll have a price for us. He refused to take a deposit, which of course scored big points with us.
Jon is in dire straights with his passport. He has maybe 1.5 pages left for entry and exit stamps, and we’ve heard that China is particularly snippy when it comes to passports with no room. And while I have 3 pages left in my passport, there’s still plenty of opportunity for issues at various borders. So Jon thought we should go to the American Embassy to see if they could help us. Lonely Planet said that the Embassy was just a few blocks away from Thamel, so we strolled over there to visit. Unfortunately, this was the “Embassy Club” (whatever that is). The real US Embassy is much further away in northern Kathmandu.
So we decided to get a taxi to run some other errands and then go to the US Embassy. We hailed a taxi and told the driver to take us to Royal Nepali Airlines. After a few minutes of driving, he wheedled out of us our schedule for the day and negotiated a price to be our driver for all our errands. What a nice idea! Now why didn’t we think of that? He was a funny old man with a nutty hat, and he made cracks about other drivers the entire ride. Although his English seemed to be passable, he didn’t understand the phrase “What is your name?” and would instead crack more jokes about people on the roads.
Royal Nepal Airlines
We needed to go to Royal Nepal Airlines to make sure they hadn’t cancelled our flight. This airline is notorious for suddenly changing routes and schedules without any concern for the people booked on those flights. So although someone hired by Intrepid confirmed our flight while we were in Tibet, we needed to make sure the flight was still running as scheduled. We expected to be at RNA for a while, waiting in line. But the office wasn’t crowded and the woman at the “Tourist Reconfirmations” desk waved us right up. The flight is still as scheduled, and we have to be at the airport at 6:00AM on Thursday morning.
The Real US Embassy
We hopped back in the car with our nameless driver and drove into northern Kathmandu, which was about a 10 minute drive. He dropped us off at the US Embassy and we walked through the door and through the security check, where the nice woman hand-checked our day pack and set aside my camera and Jon’s Swiss Army Knife. We walked into the Visa room and were surprised to find no one waiting in the waiting chairs. We walked up to the window, buzzed the button for service, and a nice man came up. We told him that we needed extra pages for our passports and he smiled and said “Of course! No problem!”. A few minutes later, he came back with inserts, adhered them to the used pages of our passports, and notarized them. Just like that, we were done. In and out in 5 minutes. Jon, with a smart-ass grin, kept saying, “I don’t know what you were complaining about when you went to get our visas. This was so simple!”. Grrrrrr.
On the wall of the waiting room was a sign that we really liked. It was a picture of the US flag and read:
“You can’t appreciate home ’til you’ve left it….. nor Old Glory ’til you see it hanging on a broomstick in the shanty of a consul in a foreign town.” – O.Henry
We thought this was very fitting, and definitely agree with him!
Back to the Hotel
Our nameless driver happily drove us back to the hotel. He was happy, of course, because he made a nice amount of money for a short amount of time. And we were happy to pay him because we thought our errands would take 3 times the amount of time they did. So everyone was in a good mood!
We chilled out in the Kathmandu Prince for a while, Jon doing some reading and I finishing up my errant journal entries. Then we headed back into town to see about Surendra’s price. The price he gave us was for the little charm definitely fair, and we told him that we’d be back tomorrow evening to pick it up. Again, he refused to take a deposit so we were very happy. Jon’s eyes wandered onto some rings in a case and he found a replacement toe-ring for me. (Mine is somewhere on the bottom of the Trisuli River after yesterday’s swim). Although the rings he had weren’t toe-rings, Surendra said he would have one made for me tomorrow when we came for the charm. If I like it, he will sell it to me.
So what could have been a traumatic day was actually a very nice one. We went to dinner at a place called “Casa Della Pasta” where we each ordered a huge beer and finished up our postcards. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and watched some silly movie on Cinemax until we fell asleep.