02 August 1999

He’s the third dealer in five minutes. I keep walking, finding my way through the crowded Kathmandu street. It’s a strange place. Though I’ve lived here for two months, it doesn’t feel like home.
A cloud of exhaust from a passing auto-rickshaw envelopes me. The city is filled with rotting garbage, polluted air and vendors hoping to take advantage of the thousands of Western tourists. The unique smell of older, dirty diesel engines for me will forever be associated with these walks.
Two dogs start a fight just in front of me, and a small audience gathers. A waiting bus honks its insistence that the crowd move out of the road. I duck through a short doorway into the “One-Stop-Shop.”

Later we meet for dinner at Rum Doodle, over near the Gurkha knife store in Thamel. They have big paper feet on the wall that people had signed — different expeditions had said where they had been.
They won’t give us a big foot, so we take one of the coasters, a smaller foot, write our names on it and say we had been to Mesokanto La (the lie disturbs me now, especially knowing the identities of some of the bar’s more famous visitors over the decades, as does the cultural insensitivity we displayed next). We put it on the wall along with one of the pictures we took the week before, backs to the camera in our underwear on a mountain ridge, during our aborted and very unsuccessful journey toward the La.

I wonder how long our foot and picture stayed up. Bound for home two days later, I never went back to check on it.

I’m glad to go back, but I know I’m going to miss this life. It was so simple, yet I spent a lot of the time worrying about stupid things back home. It has been a waste of energy to worry about money and school for the last month, though I’m glad the anthropological work I’ve done here has helped make up my mind to switch majors.
Nothing else to do as the trip and my wallet wind down, I read Ecclesiastes today. In so many verses the author is saying exactly what I feel most of the time. A section in the fifth chapter seems to be the answer to it all: “Then I realized that it is good and proper to eat and drink and feel satisfaction in one’s labor during the few days of life given him.”