Wednesday, October 1, 2008

iTunes Playlist for the Traffic on the New Year (5769)

i've just downloaded tonight's playlist bought off itunes @ 99 cents/song. making a daily wage as a consultant makes it fun to come home and feel like i deserve some reward for the x#!%@!! congested, commute across k'du.

no doubt the end of september traffic was compounded by nepal's frantic pre-desain shopping with the incremental, ineluctable increase in the numbers of motorcycles (that fill the gaps b/n the cars like mortar b/n bricks...) and shiny new family cars and mammoth suvs that have finally created unbelievable, unrestrainable havoc on the once charming streets of kathmandu. alas, no more...

one only wonders what will happen when the congestion simply comes to a halt. will it be a bit like the old joke, 'does a tree that falls in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear?' will anyone in the world (besides those of us on the mean streets of kathmandu) even notice when this ancient city comes to a grinding halt by the excesses of modernity? will it be covered by cnn, bbc or al jezera? will there be an ironic column in 'the guardian' or by maureen dowd in the 'nyt'?

or will we be stuck permanently in the present continuous tense without moving. achieving a lifetime view of tundikhel with breakfast, lunch & dinner peanuts and popcorn available from the sidewalk merchants. the ritual excess of screeching horns & incessent honking... what a life??!!?

monday night it took me 1.5 hours to get from the un on pulchowk to mike's b'fast in gairidhara. i got into a micro (minivan) at the un, but had to stand bent over inside as there was no seat available. someone kindly held my day pack, still it was difficult to not fall over inside. when we only went about 200 m. in 15 minutes, i got out and walked given the incredible, unmovable traffic jam. i walked downhill from the un across the thapathali bridge to the giant mandala (only in kathmandu would a sacred mandala serve as a traffic circle!).

i waited again for a micro since the traffic cleared a bit and it seemed too far to walk all the way to durbar marg. i finally got a bus w/, amazing, space inside to sit down. since it was going all the way to tangal/bhatbatini, i stayed on through the urban nightmare of ratna park hordes and the lainchaur jam until it turned behind the ex-palace. then i walked in the dark from the gairidhara chowk to mike's breakfast restaurant, where i sat down in the dark (surprise: no electricity), ordered a gin & tonic (much deserved), opened a copy of 'newsfront' while i waited for shaku and leah to meet me. since we didn't have anything at home, and francis was with shaku, we all stayed & ate there before coming home.

in contrast, yesterday, since it was ghatastapana (the first day of desain), i had the good fortune to stay home in the bucolic quiet of our garden to work. so, at the evening hour, when it came time to head out to the hyatt hotel by boudha for rosh hasonah dinner, i dressed up and decided to enjoy the luxury of a taxi. for the princely sum of 250 =/ ($3.50), i could pass on the sardine micro ride and enjoy the start of the new year in the style to which i am accustomed (or used to be...).

rosh hashonah observes the annual migration of the local kathmandu jews, partial jews, struggling jews, buddhist jews, hindu jews and still wandering jews. it's actually quite a lovely and fascinating crowd. 'our crowd'. the long-term kathmandu-ites with others who are here for only a few years. there are dear teachers representing the best of lincoln school (suzi and shira), the kind-hearted israeli ambo and his wife (dan & gilli), the 'thulo-manches', the head of the world bank (sue) and world food program (richard) with their accomplished accompanied spouses (kai, david & marcela), worldly dharma students (andrea & judy), young israelis (who are here w/ micha), the israeli gm of the hyatt (gadi), underground jews who i hardly know and a slew of our own gorgeous, energetic and joyous kids. it's a very, very soothing and family-like evening to share the joys and hopes at the start of a new year (5769).

actually, besides the commute across town, my new two month undp consultancy is quite interesting. i've been asked to help design a civil society outreach strategy for the constitution-making project. it's quite a good team this time at undp, including a very thoughtful kenyan, sila, with whom i share a room who has been here for four years. sila worked w/ vso assigned to the national dalit scholarship endowment i'd set up through save the children (sc) & usaid. the fact that this endowment for dalit children is still running after fifteen years is one of my true joys of my sc years.

the undp project is actually a bit like an old friends home. the sc finance manager's wife, kalpana, works with the project, as well as budhi, a lawyer we worked w/ on an sc conflict mitigation project. the new project head, larry, is a canadian lawyer who's worked in the balkans and afghanistan. he seems a good, serious, gentle, reasonable soul.

the un has contracted me for 40 days work over the next four months. since i'm off to see the boys and m&d in the states on the 15th for three weeks, it's a good balance -- as long as i can keep the assignments coming in... after all, school fees for three lovely children hang over my head like the proverbial sword of damocles...

well, it's already 12:30 am so time to turn in. i'm upstairs in ms. leah's room where she & shaku have been asleep for a few hours already while i sit here and enjoy the downloads. many of these songs dear ezi turned us on to this summer from his ipod.

so tonight i tried to remember the names of the artists and the songs that he played for us. i'd already downloaded the snow patrol songs ('you could be so happy'), which are also brilliant, as well as the plain white t's ('hey there delilah'). great stuff!!

good night, moon!

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