[no, that’s not a picture of Nasi Goreng… it’s some of the fancy organic food one can get in Bali… didn’t have a picture of Nasi Goreng because tbh it’s just not that photogenic… just fried rice… quite tasty tho.]
With my bag packed and the rest of my luggage (somewhat) safely stored at the Hotel Snow Leopard, I was just about ready to leave Pokhara.
It was early evening, and Lakeside was just starting to come alive. Nepali and foreigners alike were starting to roam the streets in big packs, looking for food or drink or entertainment. I still hadn’t eaten dinner, so I decided to join them.
Lakeside seemed merry as I left the Hotel Snow Leopard. Live music drifted from bars, and groups of young Nepali laughed and smiled as I passed. I dipped into a convenience store, where I bought 4 gigabytes of prepaid data for my mobile phone. I wasn’t sure if my NCell SIM card would work in the mountains—I suspected it wouldn’t—but at the very least I’d have the data I needed to conduct my Skype interview when I returned.
The data cost me $20, about a quarter of what I pay monthly in the US for less data. I’d been abroad for so long, the prices seemed inflated. The little convenience stalls around town varied dramatically in their prices for basic goods, but I didn’t think there was much variation in data prices. I could have been wrong, but with the end of my trip in sight, I didn’t care to comparison shop. I bought data cards of 500 MB each, a package of dried Mangos, and a few Snickers bars to bring trekking with me.
With the basic essentials of life taken care of, I started looking for food. I pointed myself back towards there Hotel Snow Leopard, and promised to step into the first cheap restaurant that caught my eye.
I had walked almost all the way back to the Hotel when a sign on the sidewalk caught my eye. “Premiere League Tonight!” the sign declared.
Anywhere in the world, you can find people watching the Premier League.
Not being a soccer fan myself, I had absolutely no context for who was playing, nor the importance of the match. It must have been a big deal, as the bar was totally full with enthusiastic fans, foreigners and Nepali both screaming at the projected image with equal fervor.
The only open seat in the whole place was a stool at the end of the bar, right next to the door. I took it, grudgingly. A harried looking bartender shouted a question at me as he poured a few beers.
“Carlsberg!” I shouted back, guessing at the content of the question.
“Big?” he asked.
“Big,” I said.
Life is better when you’re drinking big beers. Always.
He returned with a half-liter of beer. I thanked him and asked if I could order food at the bar. I didn’t have much space to eat, crammed into the corner at the end of the bar, but he brought me a menu anyways. I gave it a quick-once over, and decided on Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian staple.
I’d eaten so much Nasi Goreng in Bali, where it was consistently the cheapest thing to eat. Basically just egg-friend rice, Nasi Goreng in an Indonesian warung (local restaurant) cost between one and two dollars for a serving. After a few weeks of regularly gorging ourselves on Ubud’s panoply of organic, grass-fed, farm-to-table tourist fare, Holly surprised me by saying: “I don’t have enough money for a ticket home.”
“Why the hell have we been eating $40 breakfasts then?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “They were really good. I liked it.”
We started eating a lot of Nasi Goreng after that, and another screw shook loose from our relationship.
Seeing it on the menu in Nepal brought a wry smile to my face. It wasn’t as cheap here as it was in Indonesia, but that didn’t really matter. I had money. It had never been about the money, for me. It had been about the trust.
While they might make Nasi Goreng really quickly in Indo, where it was local food, here in Nepal the dish apparently took a lot longer. I nursed my Carlsberg, spun my self around, and watched the football game.
As the fans moaned and screamed for every reversal of direction on the pitch, I wished I had that level of enthusiasm for anything in my life.
The game ended in a tie and they still hadn’t brought me my food. A second, lower-tier game was put on. The bar emptied out pretty quickly.
I ordered a second Carlsberg.
Eventually, a server walked into the bar carrying my food. He came in the main entrance, the one right next to my seat. The food was apparently prepared offsite, then brought into the bar. It was lukewarm, verging on cold by the time I took my first bite. Still, it wasn’t bad. They’d put a huge portion in front of me, and I doubted I would have the motivation to get up early enough to have breakfast before trekking tomorrow. I scarfed the whole plate down, paid my bill, and left feeling overstuffed. I waddled the short distance home to the Hotel Snow Leopard.
My room seemed oddly austere with all my personal belongings in storage. The only thing that remained was a fully-packed backpacking bag sitting against the window. My life for the next ten days.
I got in bed, exchanged a few messages with my loved ones back home, and tried to sleep, despite the excitement.