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On the Street in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a wild city. At 6:30 am, I leave my apartment to wait in the street for a motorbike to take me to the UN where I will teach English to the drivers of diplomats. Already, three sticks of incense placed on the wall that surrounds our building have almost burned themselves out. The neighborhood is awake, and an old lady in a brilliant green and gold sari peers down at me from her balcony. I stand and wait, try to look friendly, smile, and repeat metta phrases in my head (may we be well, may we be happy).

As is the case all over the world, the day happens, unfolding in its predictable chronological fashion. But that is where predictability ends and Kathmandu begins. On my way to the UN, we pass a horse-drawn carriage trotting down a street, neck and neck with motorbikes and public busses spewing black exhaust. Later that morning, as I walk from the office to the apartment, two monkeys are climbing through the power lines, eating pomegranates. In the afternoon, I go out for errands. I'm hoping to drop off my laundry, get some cheap Nepalese food, and buy groceries at one of the few western-style grocery stores with posted prices and a cash register. Along the way, there's a large recessed piazza with a flowing water spigot where women wash clothes, and men are stripped down to their briefs and sudsing themselves up for a bath. Around the next corner, a temple that is little more than a pile of red bricks and an alter. Here, laborers do various tasks -- things like lugging stones or bricks, swinging sledgehammers, or sifting through the construction ruble, on the hunt for something. A woman leans against one of the temple walls that stretches out to the road (remember, there are no sidewalks in Kathmandu). A white-haired man with a wicker basket filled with chickens on his back passes by. I take a seat at the cheap tandoori restaurant, and order a portion of Nepalese vegetarian curry. It's good, and it's cheap - not even a dollar. A couple behind me speaks in quiet English, their conversation slowed by the occasional rustle of tears.

All of this on a hot afternoon when the air was sparkling with dust.

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