Back in the Kathmandu Chaos

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After almost seven weeks in the clean air of the Bavarian Alps I have returned to Kathmandu, where traffic and pollution is still as mad as it was when I left. It was really sad to leave Germany as I very much enjoyed being with my lovely family, doing a few good mountain trips and just hanging out with my friends.

My friends Tom, Chrissie and Richard having breakfast on my mum's terrace
My friends Tom, Chrissie and Richard having breakfast on my mum's terrace

However, it is also good to be back in Kathmandu. I am always amazed by how quickly I readapt to my new environment. When I am in Bavaria, Nepal seems so far away and vice versa, but I guess it is a mechanism I have developed over recent years as it makes moving from place to place much easier.

When I arrived at Tribuvhan airport on Sunday morning something was different. The first thing I saw at the arrival hall was something that looked like temporary health post. The medical staff at the airport was wearing mouth protection masks, I had to fill in a form about my well-being and a kind man took the time to check my temperature.  Ah, all of a sudden it dawned on me, it was all about the swine flu. So far, 20 cases have been reported in Nepal, however, nobody has died of the H1N1 virus in the Himalayan country.

Traffic phenomenon on the lane leading to my house
Traffic phenomenon on the lane leading to my house

After I had made my way through the maze of medical officers and got out of the airport I immediately felt at home and I was happy to be back in the madness of Kathmandu. One thing that has always stunned me is how traffic works in the capital, as it seems like complete chaos most of the time. I live in a little lane and it often happens that traffic here comes to a complete halt, as the lane is not big enough for two cars. I guess the Nepali drivers just lack a bit of anticipation. Whereas a European driver would wait for the oncoming car to get through, the average Nepali driver just goes until both cars get stuck. And by the time they notice that they are stuck, they have a huge tail of cars behind them, which does not even leave enough space for cyclists or pedestrians to get through. Sometimes I have to lift my bike over my shoulders and climb over the cars to get out of it. The Nepali drivers hoot and try to manage to situation and it rarely happens that people become angry. Road rage has not yet arrived here!

Another thing I always notice when I come back from the clean and organised world in the West is how underdeveloped Kathmandu still is, and even though a lot of fancy houses are being built at the moment, the state of the roads is still appalling.

This morning, I went on my normal run to Thoka and it is surprising how much the route has changed due to the massive amounts of rain coming down during the monsoon. I normally jog across a field, which is currently impassable due dozens of bushes and trees sprawling across the landscape. However, it is not only the field I had trouble running across it was also the street as many roads in Kathmandu are not paved. People in Kathmandu deal with it and put little bricks across the huge puddles to get through, however, they are difficult to run across. So, this morning my run turned into an obstacle-run with me trying to stumble across flooded fields and roads.

But despite all this it is good to be back and in my heart of hearts I love and adore this country. Maybe it is because you never know what is going to happen the next day. Will there be a strike, how many hours of power cut will I be faced with or will there be any riots organised by the Students’ Union due to a change of the curriculum?

I shall be sad to be leaving again next Monday, when I embark on a new chapter in my life, which is a job as a reporter for the United Nations in Islamabad, Pakistan.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. wanda

    Billi…please write a blog about running in Islamabad! I am sure Kathmandu will be missing you a lot.

  2. Oliver

    Billi, das möchte ich schon mal wissen: Kannst Du neben einer so vielbe”fahrenen” lane überhaupt schlafen? Wie siehts mit Erstickungsanfällen wg. der Abgase aus? Und: Ist es auf dem Land unsicherer, warum lebst Du da wo Du lebst?
    Ansonsten ganz frische Sommergriaß aus dem Berchtesgadener Land (Hier sinds die Touristen die lawinenartig einfallen…)

  3. Claudia

    Sei vorsichtig in Pakistan! Werde viel an Dich denken und warte wie alle anderen auf ein update von Dir. Liebe Gruesse

  4. Beth

    Hi Billi,

    I echo the previous posts in that I’ve enjoyed your blog. While I’m sorry you’ll be leaving Kathmandu, I’m sure you’ll be very successful in your new endeavor for the U.N. Best of luck in the future!

  5. caroline

    Hi Billi,

    Kathmandu is still the same and I am amazed that roads are still so badly maintained. Nevertheless, it seems to me that change lies in people state of mind. Nepali people are the nicest I’ve ever met and I do miss Nepal when I am away, but underneath the listlessness I now feel a kind of exasperation growing … Anyway, have a nice time in Islamabad. Take good care of you.

  6. Rosemary in Irl

    Hi Billi glad to know you got back safe and sound. Still don’t know why you love KMD, 3 weeks was enough for me where as forever would not be long enough in Bavaria. Anyway stay safe in Pakistan. Looking forward to the next update. Say hi to Declan and Puru for me.

  7. Markus

    Hi Billy,

    it seems absolutly nothing has changed during my last visit in Nepal in 1998 – on the one side it´s a good news because the People and the country are so loveable – but then it´s also an agrument that there is still much to do to improve the social situation and basically the social system……

    all the best for you in dangerous Pakistan and watch out your steps.

    Markus (Berlin)

  8. Declan

    Ah, chaos indeed Billi, but life here wouldn’t be the same without it now, would it? It’s nice having you back (even if it is only for a week ;o) and keep up with the great blog – as ever time you post reminds me of how utterly useless I’ve been at keeping my own one up to date….

  9. Jopi (Julia)

    Servus Billi, bin auch aus Oberbayern (Chimgau) und habe auch in KTM meine Wahlheimat gefunden. Wäre schön, dich mal kennenzulernen, und so hoffe ich, du kommst bald aus Pakistan zurück – trotzdem natürlich viel Spaß und Erfolg dort!!!

  10. Marion

    Schön von Dir zu hören, Billi. Auch ich kann ein Lied davon singen, sich nach der Reise von einem Kontinent zum anderen wieder schlagartig zu Hause zu fühlen. Pass auf Dich auf. Ich denke an Dich.

  11. Jill

    Ditto the comment from Janet. I assume you will continue to call Kathmandu home?

  12. Janet

    Hi Billi,
    I have been following you since your journey up Mt. Everest this Spring and have thoroughly enjoyed your blog; with hopes you will continue writing in your new position from Pakistan. Good Luck to you.

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