It's bizarre how, even with the supposedly "real" curfew in effect, tourists are pretty much ignored by the cops and the military. Yesterday afternoon, after sitting cooped up in my hotel for hours, I peek outside and see a few tourists strolling by, so I decide to join them. (No Dale, I wasn't the one who started that - wish I could take the credit though!). To the cops, we seem to be invisible. But if a Nepali steps onto the street, they're all over him. As I'm walking along, a young boy steps out from his house onto his front step, and calls out "namaste" (hello!) to me. The rifle-toting cop is on him in an instant - yelling at him to get back inside, which he immediately does.
It's such a weird feeling walking these semi-deserted streets. I can see Nepali faces peeking out from the windows, and people watching from the rooftops. I wonder how they feel, watching us tourists being given full freedom to walk the streets of their city, while they are forced to stay indoors?
"How bored are you? I can see the headlines now: "Tall, white foreigner strides into town and assumes rally leadership." --Dale
Dale - funny you should mention that. This morning at the internet cafe I find a flyer at my computer: "Demonstration of Tourists for Peace and Democracy" to be held this afternoon. "Come and show your solidarity with the Nepali people and their struggle for peace, democracy, and human rights!"
I am sorely tempted. These last few days living under such oppression have made me more angry than frightened. I think if I was Nepali, I would have a very short lifespan here. A few more days of being told when I can step out of my house and when I can't, and I'd be bulldozing my way over the gun-toting policemen, Maoist rebels, or any other agitator that got in my way. And most likely, not living to tell about it! But having watched now a few beatings, and watched the wounded being tended to, I don't think I have the courage, as a foreigner, to risk everything and put myself out there. (So Donna et al, you needn't worry...). It will be very interesting though, to see how the government handles the tourist demonstration -- will they start to enforce the curfew for tourists too?
Yesterday, after I venture out in the late afternoon to grab some dinner, we are all of a sudden caught in a fierce thunderstorm. There is thunder, and lightning, and the rain is coming down in sheets. I am sitting at an outdoor cafe, the winds blow all the tablecloths off the tables, and the tourists get soaked. The waiters make a mad dash to get all the diners indoors. I ask the waiter, how common is it, in Kathmandu, to get this kind of a sudden downpour? He shrugs and says, "The Nepali god is crying. We are all crying here, so the god is crying with us."
It is still raining when I head back to the hotel. I want to run, so that I don't get so wet. But I'm afraid of being mistaken for a running agitator, so instead I walk slowly, cautiously, deliberately, getting soaked in the process.