When I finally reached the coffee shop where I had played chess with the Malaysian, I ran up the stairs with a spring in my step.
I had my interview. I had time to arrange a trek. I would trek, I would leave Nepal, return home, and show up on Holly’s doorstep with a dream in hand, ready for our next great adventure.
That was one option, anyways.
Regardless, as the Malaysian I was coming to see had said; it was time to rearrange my life.
Howl by Alan Ginsberg begins with one of the most iconic lines in American poetry:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness
Drinking tea, smoking hash and playing chess, our afternoon whiled away in the most pleasant fashion. We did nothing, worked towards nothing, and simply spent our afternoon enjoying the simple pleasures of drinks, conversation, and each other’s company. I had to agree with the Malaysian: I didn’t know what day of the week it was, but it certainly felt like a Sunday morning.
[this is an installment in an ongoing series about my travels in Nepal. The story starts here. It’ll make a good deal more sense if you start there, but feel free to make your own decisions]
Dusk fell, and a chill set in on the open-air cafe. The Spaniard had taken his leave late in the afternoon, off to enjoy a siesta. I was wearing only a t-shirt, all I had needed when I set forth that sunny morning. Now though, the cold was cutting at my bones, and my teeth were on the verge of chattering. I conceded the chess game—the hash was doing my play no favors— and bid the Malaysian adieu.
“Will you be here tomorrow?” I asked, as I settled my bill with the owner.
“Of course,” the Malaysian answered with a gracious smile. “I am here every day.”
“I’ll be back,” I promised with a pointed finger. “And I’m going to win some more games next time!”
Our story continues with Part 2, in the northern town of Pokhara, nestled at the base of the Annapurna Mountain Range in Nepal. If you’d like to figure out how we got here, I’d suggest starting with Part 1.
PART 2: POKHARA
We arrived in Pokhara around 4 p.m., heart rates elevated but otherwise unharmed.
My bus pulled into a big dirt lot, which apparently served as the local bus terminal.
I shook myself awake from the light sleep I’d been enjoying, and gathered my things.
I went through a brief panic when I thought I’d lost my hat, before realizing it had just fallen on the floor, probably when I shifted while asleep. I picked it up, put it back on my head, and shouldered my backpack. I was the last one left on the bus.
The touts were on me immediately as I stepped off the bus, grabbing for my bags and yelling offers for lodging.
I had done almost no research before getting on that bus this morning. I had no idea where I was, what there was to do in this town, or where I should stay.
So I took a tout up on his offer.
I tried to keep a mental bead on the direction of Thamel as I wandered, but the narrow, winding alleys of Kathmandu soon made this impossible.
Add in the fact that everything looks the same shade of dusty and run-down brown, a the total lack of street signs or even street names, and it’s easy to see how I quickly became hopelessly lost.