The sun awoke me early the next morning.
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.
I had just been accosted by a stranger on the streets of Pokhara, Nepal. This man was no tout though, and his offer intrigued me.
“Do you like chess?!” The man had yelled at me, from the stoop of a nearby cafe.
“Love it!” I’d responded.
“Would you like to play??” He asked.
Before I had even given it a second thought, my legs were taking me across the potholed street and up the steps, where I shook hands with my new friend: an old Malaysian man with an impressively white beard.
My encounter with the man down by the lake upset me so much, I just started walking up Lakeside with nothing in mind except putting as much distance as possible between me and him.
His harassment had made me so uncomfortable, and totally ruined my idea for the day. All I had wanted to do was sit on the side of the lake and read a book — was that too much to ask? Apparently.
That was my first negative interaction with a Nepali person so far, and it shook me up a little bit.
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.