Kathmandu, Part 3

Although wi-fi access was surprisingly reliable in our hotel, The Yak & Yeti, uploading photos to my blog was an arduous process in Nepal. Therefore, I dedicate this last blog post to more photos.

I’m back in the USA now drinking all the tap water I like and marveling at the little hills we call mountains, but I did write a few final thoughts while still in Kathmandu. Here are the thoughts that ended my trip along.

At the Tower at Nagarcot

I compose this in the Kathmandu airport waiting for some direction as to where and when my plane might board. Luckily, the US Embassy provided us with an airport expediter, or I can’t imagine how I would have made it to my gate.  A Nepali youth just chatted with me in the waiting area, easily mixing light conversation, “Are you on facebook?” with cultural insights, “This is what it’s like for my family to only have sons, no daughters.”

It took a little time for me to discover why so many Westerners who had traveled in Nepal have clutched their chests and sighed when I told them my destination. “Oh, I just LOVE Nepal,” they all crooned.

At first, it was the challenges of traveling here that impressed me the most. The city is noisy (constant car horns), polluted (you can almost always SEE the air here), and littered (trash heaps everywhere you look, often burning). The political unrest of the last fifteen years have made conditions truly challenging for the people. Add the poor sanitation that makes even bottled water questionably safe, and I found myself wondering why so many starry eyed Americans were proposing their love for this city.

It took a few days, but I figured it out. It is the Nepali people. Give them the time and the Nepali people will make you clutch your chest and croon, “Oh, I LOVE Nepal.”

Our Final Youth Poetry Slam was a marked success.  I gave the students an assignment after the prelims, “I want you all to go home and turn up the volume on these poems for the finals. I don’t mean Talk Louder! I mean, hone the poems you have, write new poems, work on your performance, steal all the good stuff you saw other people do today!” They took it to heart. We saw so many talented performances at the final slam, I wished I didn’t have the pressure of judging. I took very seriously the question of awarding a 9.4 over a 9.3, and these students gave me reason to contemplate.

One student wrote a letter poem from the living Goddess to her father. Another student described the condition of the modern woman in Nepal and the world. The subject matter was surprising and so was the phrasing. Winners included Yukta Bajracharya with her poem “Home,” Ujjwala Maharjan with her poem “And Guernica Goes On,” Eliz Parajuli with his poem, “Imagine the World Where You Are Supreme,”Alisha Sapkota with her poem entitled “God Must Be All of Us,” and Pratiksha Sharma with her poem “It Is a Crazy World I Come From.” Three of the winners performed with us at a reception hosted by the US Ambassador.

At the end of this trip, I will confess that I had some reservations about being one of the poets to introduce Poetry Slam to Nepal. The competitive element of slam (although intended from it’s inception as a gimmick, an element of an engaging show), seems uniquely Western, even American, in its aesthetic, and I wasn’t positive that the cultural translation would be a healthy one. On leaving Nepal, my resonate feeling is that we have had a wonderful effect on poetry in Kathmandu. The fire that I witnessed in the students taking part in the show was the same fire I see in American youth who have been turned on by slam. The desire of adult Nepali poets to organize a show and travel to see other spoken word artists is exactly the same desire I’ve seen in cities all over the US. I genuinely believe that we may have given birth to several new poetic voices during our short trip just by providing a platform and listening ears. I don’t fully understand the power of poetry slam to do this, but I have witnessed it enough times to believe that it is a generative and positive force.

I leave Kathmandu with a sincere affection for so many people I met in the country and, and yes, with a longing for the place. I feel myself joining the ranks of Westerners who clutch their chests and coo, “Oh, I love Kathmandu.”

 

In Bhaktapur

 

Bhaktapur, photo by Matt Mason

Danny Solis, photo by Matt Mason

with our awesome US Embassy hosts, Amod and Amanda, photo by Matt Mason


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