Water, equality, and poverty

Wandering around Kathmandu I passed numerous wells that were in continuous use.

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Over in Bahktapur, it seemed that there weren’t as many wells throughout the town. Instead, everyone lined up their containers to fill from three spouts of a fountain. It was a relatively social affair, but with water tickling slowly out of the spouts, the lines were long.

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People waited as patiently as they could while those at the spouts hurried to gather as much water into as many containers as they could carry.

The only men in the crowd were a couple of teenage boys who had clearly been sent by others, and an elderly gentleman. I’ve read that access to easily accessible clean drinking water is a major determinant of female education and gender equality around the world. Gathering water is often seen as women’s work, and Nepal is clearly no exception. The longer it takes to collect water, the less time that’s available for other activities. Judging by the numbers in the lines, girls are missing out.

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While the vast majority of people in Nepal are poor by any common definition of the world, people seemed to be getting by through sheer determination and hard work. The vast majority of people I encountered looked genuinely happy. That’s why the occasional signs of sheer destitution stood out even more.
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Twighlight offerings at Harati Devi Temple in Kathmandu

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It’s times like this that I can’t wait for the arrival of my D800. I’m on a waiting list for the soon to be released camera. Early reviews say that it will be great at handling low light scenes like this. Even at ISO 400, my D80 becomes incredibly grainy. I am loving the 24-70 mm f2.8 lens that I bought in anticipation of the new camera.

Funerals and a game of cricket

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The temple of Pashupitnath is a series of beautiful stone buildings that line a section of a small river. Along the banks, people gather to cremate the remains of their family.

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When the remains are reduced to ashes, they’re pushed into the river just up stream from a sign that reads, “Save water. Save life.”

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Across the river, with the remains smoldering in the background, a group of boys play cricket. I stood for a while watching and still can’t figure out the point of the game.

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Windows of Nepal

If you can lift your eyes from the crazyness on the streets of Kathmandu, you’ll be amazed by the intricately carved wooden windows that are everywhere.

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A series of windows in Bhaktapur called the Peacock window is especially famous. Souvenir minature reproductions are sold along the entire length of that narrow street, and elsewhere in the area.

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Wandering around Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is one of the three cities in the Kathmandu Valley that used to be a capital and is filled with old temples. The temples were impressive, but it was the streets in the neighbourhood around the main square that were absolutely fascinating.

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We followed the walking tour in the Lonely Planet. It’s by far the best walking tour I’ve ever done.

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I was looking through a doorway into the courtyard of a small temple. Inside was a large group of women dressed in red laughing and chatting. Moments later they burst out of the door into the street followed by the men and arranging themselves for a family photo. They asked if I could take it for them.

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A girl stepped forward to explain in perfect English that they were celebrating the arrival of the newest member of the family. The women wear red on this auspicious occasion.

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Hours later, we finally made it back to the main square. Families visiting the main square and the temples usually dress up for the occasion. This girl was really enjoying the opportunity to show off her beautiful blue dress.

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Changu Narayan Temple

All types of people waited to pray at Changu Narayan temple near Bhaktapur, Nepal, including a school group.

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The ancient carvings are ornate.  In writing this post, I just lost an hour researching exactly what is depicted in this carving.  It turns out to be the very confusing story of Narasimha, the half-man half-lion avatar of Vishnu.

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Families posed for photographs while other kids played.

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Boudhanath, Nepal

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The Great Stupa of Boudhanath is a giant white stupa outside of Kathmandu, and is one of the holiest sites in the area.

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People come from all over as a pilgrimage, and every day at sunset huge numbers of pilgrims and locals arrive to walk around the stupa. Many chat with their families as they make the nightly ritual.

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A few spin the prayer wheels embedded in the side of the stupa as they pass.

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Others walk in quiet contemplation.

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I enjoyed the sunset and being lost among the crowd.

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Kathmandu intersection

One striking feature of Kathmandu is that there are very few trucks. Nearly everything is moved by hand.

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There’s a spot where six narrow roads meet into a chaotic mess of an intersection. I wedged myself behind some parked rickshaws to keep from being run over and spent a long time watching people and goods go by.

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Soaking up the sun in Kathmandu

This man stepped out of the shadows on the street. His eyes closed and a slight smile of pleasure appeared as the afternoon sun hit his face.

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Kathmandu sights

I’ve wanted to take several weeks and really get to see Nepal. My time living in Asia is running out (for now) and it was either go now for a short trip or wait for some other occasion that may never come. Going, even for a short trip, was definitely the right choice. It just reinforced my desire to go for an extended period of time.

I took more pictures in Nepal than I have on any trip I’ve ever been on, and I didn’t even leave the Kathmandu Valley. These are just the random shots from walking around Kathmandu that didn’t fit into any other posts.

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Marching band at the ready

Just as Batman might keeps his costume hanging at the ready, so too do members of a marching band in Kathmandu.

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What brand would you like your jacket to be?

Since I first moved to Asia, I’ve been noticing jackets with Gore-Tex tags that look exactly like the real thing, except if you read the description on back side of the tag, they’ve misspelled Gore as “Goer-Tex.” For nearly six years I’ve been seeing the same tags and have always wondered why no one has ever bothered to fix it.

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Nepal is known for it’s adequate imitations of winter clothes. This little store in Kathmandu is the source for all your brand name labelling needs. They had paper tags for Goer-Tex, as well as fabric labels to be sewn into clothes for nearly all brands including North Face, Marmot, Mountain Hardware, and a few others I didn’t recognize.

The kids of Kathmandu

Barely a few steps out of the door of the hotel this boy came up to me and pointed to the camera.  He stood patiently waiting while I fidgeted with the camera, posed for a shot, excitedly looked at the result on the LCD screen, then ran back to his family with a giant grin on his face.

I knew from that moment that the streets of Kathmandu were going to be a great places to take photos.

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A few kids ask for money in return for posing for photos; a trick learnt from the adults that dress in costume to do the same outside of certain temples. The vast majority however, just want to see themselves on camera.

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Karate stances are by far the most popular among boys.

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I think what I really appreciated is that kids play outside under the collective care of the neighbourhood.

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