2016 in Places

Best Hostels in Belgrade, Serbia

What a long, strange year it’s been.

This was the most tumultuous year of my life, so far. It’s been a year defined by two things: people, and places. So I thought I’d write two posts looking back at my year: 2016 in Places, and 2016 in People.

Places is easy—it comes first. People will be harder, and I’ll have to think long and hard about what I want to share, and with whom. It may show up here, it may just be a private thing I share with those close to me. I’m not sure.

The downside with a growing audience is you do need to consider what you say a little more carefully. 

As I go into 2017, I’m faced with a big choice: do I choose to keep chasing places, for another little while, or is it time to settle down and devote myself to enhancing my relationships with people?

The two goals, unfortunately, are often mutually exclusive.

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Nepal 45: Howl

Alan Ginsberg Howl

My search for breakfast again took me along the touristy Lakeside strip. I didn’t much mind though—after a month of having the “local experience” in Taiwan, I was more than happy to play the tourist for a little bit.

And the Nepali love tourists. Not in a snide, disparaging way like you might find in some other places— the Nepali genuinely love their visitors, and are happy to help them experience the culture and natural beauty of their country. This is the only touristic place I visited on this trip where I didn’t feel any sort of tension between the tourists and the locals. So if you’re going to be a clueless tourist looking for a piece of home, Nepal is as good a place as any to do it.

My search for familiarity led me to the Pokhara branch of Himalayan Java. I had spent some time at the Himalayan Java in Kathmandu.

Apparently it’s a chain, I thought to myself as I spotted the signs. Maybe not a chain, could just be a second location. After all, the Himalayan Java in Kathmandu hadn’t seemed particularly slick or reproducible. And although Nepal’s a wonderful country, there probably aren’t too many opportunities to open a western-style coffee chain. Kathmandu, Pokhara, maybe Chitwan, I mused as I crossed the road and headed to the coffee shop.

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Nepal 42: Hallelujah

Gerald Ford Ampitheater

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!”

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Nepal 39: Hash

Pokhara Cafe

The Malaysian and I played two more games of chess. I eked out a thin win in the second game after he sacrificed his queen in a risky gambit that never paid off, and we played an onerous game of pawns-and-king for the third that should have gone to a stalemate, but ended with an unforced error on my part that allowed him to back me into a corner and checkmate me.

Although the Malaysian took the series 2-1, I felt I had represented myself well, especially considering I hadn’t played serious chess in a year or more.

While we were playing, a small group of spectators had gathered around us. Some of this group were patrons of the cafe, perusing menus and asking questions of the hostess, while others were clearly here just for the chess.

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