Did Someone Ask For A Cultural Experience?

Well friends…I sure got a cultural experience last week. And not just one. Several. The bus ride there was not even that bad. Of course it took longer than expected, but that’s expected…wait. That doesn’t make sense. But in Nepal it does.

bus

After many hours of travel, hence the crazy eyes. Remember: we got up at 1am, left at 2:30 am, and listened to loud Nepal music for most of the trip.

bus2

Here you can see our comfortable seats. My seat was relatively in the front, and I had a tiny view of the road ahead which probably prevented me from motion sickness. Not everyone was that lucky, but that’s why every bus has a stack of plastic bags. And that’s why you can see long distance buses decorated with vomit lines outside the windows.

We arrived late, and there was only a few beds left. This one was for me:

my bed

Doesn’t look too bad, right?
See that door on the left? There is another one, and behind them are bathrooms. And when there is not enough water to flush, those tend to get a bit…smelly.
And did you think this bed was just for me? Oh no. I shared it with a friend. They told us someone else had to sleep there too, but even I have limits and said I’d rather sleep on the floor than in that bed with 3 people, because then I would have at least have a chance of getting some sleep.

room1

This is our room. I think there was a total of 12 beds, which means 24-28 girls, including 2 small children. Praise God for ear plugs! :)

The conference was great. Thanks to ear plugs, and many prayers, I slept really well at night. We had great teachings, and in the afternoons we got a few hours off, so we could sit in the sun and hang out with friends.

Despite the request to ‘only wash underwear’ (who doesn’t bring enough clean underwear anyway?) we ran out of water the first day. And the second. I didn’t get my shower, but I did get to wash my hair on day 2, which was awesome.
At 6 am I woke up and heard the tap outside running. Old instincts kicked in and in 2 minutes I had jumped out of bed, put on some clothes and grabbed a bucket from the bathroom. I filled it halfway up and managed to wash my hair in that. Soon after I got my share, the water ran out again.

Then we started the trip back. We left at 5:30 am and hoped to be back in Pokhara around 6pm. We were wrong.

After about 5 hours, we saw this:

bandh1

This is a long line of vehicles that are not moving. As soon as we got of the bus to check out what happened, we heard that there was a protest because someone had been killed in an accident. From someone else we heard it was because someone had been kidnapped.
Anyhow, when people feel they don’t get support from the government for their problems, or compensation for the loss of a relative, they block the streets for a while, which affects hundreds, maybe thousands of people, especially if it’s on a main road like the one we were traveling on.

Right before we joined the line, a bus from the same company on their way to Dharan had told our driver that he had taken a short cut through the forest, to avoid the bandha. Clearly he had succeeded, and so our driver decided to go for it.

We took a turn and drove on a dusty narrow road in the jungle. I remember thinking ‘If I had organized this bandha, I would check these roads.’
We had to take a sharp turn which took some time with the long bus, and right as we were ready to take it, I saw a motor bike coming at us from the left. There was 2 guys on the back, carrying big sticks. This is not good, I thought. And it wasn’t.
Without wasting anytime discussing the issue, they smashed the front windows and then some on the side, too.

bandhbus

This is what it looked like afterwards. There was people sitting right behind the wind shields, and next to the side windows too, but no one got hurt. While they were smashing the windows we all got out of the bus, not sure what else they would do, as sometimes they set vehicles on fire.

They were kind enough to tell us what was going on: the driver of a bus that had killed someone in an accident had been kidnapped, and they suspected the government to be involved in that. And they were very mad that we, a bus full of people from Pokhara, on our way home, dared to not be obedient and wait for hours until their demands were met by the government.

We joined the line again, which is a bit embarrassing, to come out of the jungle again with no windows…
About 2 hours later the police had come and had ended the bandha. We drove to the next town, where they solved the no-window problem:

bandhbus2

That’s right. Plastic and tape. But not on the driver’s side, because he still had to be able to see the road.

 

bandhbus3

This is Ram. He wanted me to take his picture at his seat without a window.

The rest of the trip back was quite miserable. It was cold, freezing cold, and it took us another 12 hours because we got stuck in a traffic jam. I was home at 12:30 am, which made it a trip of 19 hours.

Hurray for Nepal!

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