Disturbing Incidents

Impressions of a Country, Round The World Trip

One the questions I was asked upon my return was if I ever experienced or saw things that were disturbing to me. Not counting the big differences of disparity of economic wealth in our modern society and white privilege, human trafficking, lack of clean drinking water (even in capital cities), modern slavery and a variety of other ills that are a fact of life in many places, there were several incidents that stand out in my mind because they were so personal to each of these people. They were shocking to me partly because they were so sudden, and I was right there.

When originally writing this, I was reluctant to name some of the places where some negative things happened, but I had committed that I would share what I learned with people who cared enough to read my blog.

In the capital city of Kathmandu, Nepal, a city of 3 million people (unreliable electricity, few stop signs and fewer road signs), I was in a cab.

Traffic police stand on a pedestal in the middle of an intersection

Traffic police stand on a pedestal in the middle of an intersection

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The infrastructure has not kept up with demand. I love that there are 3 poles for these wires

We were driving along and on the side of the road were tiny rooms/shacks/homes made out of whatever a person could find; corrugated metal, plywood etc. Two grown men were fighting just inches from my door. As we passed, one grabbed the other by the hair in one hand, and in his other hand was a stone a bit larger than his fist. He was swinging the rock in it and pounding the guy who was caught by his hair in the head who struggled and twisted, squirming away as best he could. I was horrified and shocked. I stuttered as I exclaimed to the cab driver, “Oh my God, that guy is hitting the other man in the head with a big rock! This could kill that man!“ Cabbie’s response was a chuckle and he remarked, “ha ha ha, that guy sure is angry”. We continued driving.

Typical farmer in Kathmandu

Another incident took place while I was waiting on the train platform in Naples, Italy. An older woman had collapsed on the concrete floor and a male passenger was giving her CPR while the rest of the crowd stood by helplessly as the her life was about to change. It was weird to know that I learned information that her family did not know about yet, and it was such an intimate moment. She could only wait for what was going to be, she had no power over her circumstances. Her purse stood at attention beside her, and I spent the rest of the day wondering what she would have done differently that morning if she knew that a few hours later she would be laying on the concrete surrounded by strangers.

In Istanbul, Turkey (the European side) we were driving through a very wealthy area, where people were educated and at the top of the economic status. It was a weekend morning and lots of people were walking around, enjoying the beautiful sunny day. A couple were walking on the sidewalk and it looked like the man was about to kiss the woman. As he turned toward her, instead of kissing her, his arm shot up and he grabbed her around her throat in anger. Her eyes widened in surprised, and I gasped as we drove by, stammering to the my hosts who were driving “Did you see that? He grabbed her by the throat!” They were shocked too, and when we discussed domestic violence, they informed me that in Turkey, if someone were to report domestic violence to the police, the police would probably not do anything, and say it was a domestic problem ; to go home and solve the problem yourselves. Further conversations with other people confirmed that society would blame the girl/wife for any problems. As a matter of fact, that is the common joke. No matter what the problem is, it is the wife’s fault.

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Some disturbing things are the same all over the world; domestic violence crosses all boundaries and no one gets out of this life alive. By traveling and meeting dozens of people every day, I was able to observe many things in life I don’t normally experience in my ordinary working life spending the days with a handful of work colleagues each day.

Have You Taken a Walk Like This?

Impressions of a Country, Mistakes and Misadventures

Nepal is unforgettable. The people are resilient, strong, and friendly. It was also my least favorite country. Life is difficult in large part because of their government’s lack of leadership, and it doesn’t need to be.

Kathmandu, Nepal

Impressions of a Country, Round The World Trip

Kathmandu is a city like none other that I have seen…yet. When I visualized Nepal, I visualized snow capped mountains and strong brown-skinned Sherpa carrying mountain climbing gear.

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I had heard the slogan “come to Nepal and change your life” and even though I did not know what that meant, I figured it had something to do with inner peace, monks, people praying at temples, and colorful prayer flags.

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I had heard that Nepal was a poor country, but the people were gentle and kind. And I found all of this to be true. People said get out of Kathmandu, the capital city, it was dirty and polluted, and that was true too.

I am not sure what Bob Dylan was referring to when he mentioned Kathmandu in his song, but it must have been a very different scene than what I found in February 2015.

I have to talk about the traffic, because it was so different than anywhere else I have been. First of all, in the capital city, there are some paved roads. They must have been paved years ago, because paved is not the word I would use to refer to most of them now. The main roads had some pavement, and some areas that used to be paved and are now stones and dirt with potholes. We may ride in a vehicle at about 30 miles an hour for half a minute, then slow down so we didn’t damage the car while we road over potholes and bounced along. I even took my glasses off my head and put them on my face, not because I needed to see in the distance, but because I did not want to break them as my head bounced into the ceiling of the car.

Some of the roads had a painted line down the middle to give an idea of what side traffic would normally flow, if there was such a thing.

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In reality, it means, if a vehicle is coming toward you, you should get into the left side (opposite side of the road than in the USA).

Drivers use the middle of the road because the sides are broken and the berm is dirt and dust flies everywhere. So each side of the road has people walking,

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cars and motorbikes parked along the edges,???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

and a stream of traffic including motorbikes, rickshaws, carts being pushed by walkers, carts carrying objects such as 20 foot long bamboo poles, the bottom half which is dragging along the road, people carrying boxes and bags that are bigger than themselves strapped onto their backs,


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women carrying baskets full of bricks/ stones or oranges, and carts with hawkers carrying fruit,

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scales, hand juicers, and other peddlers selling a variety of other items.

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Add to this cows walking down the roads, dogs wandering the streets, and all of these people and their vehicles passing one another wherever there is room. This is a perfect example of the word chaos.

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Visualize the sides of the roads where there small patches of concrete slabs covering deep concrete ditches with dirty water running through them.

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Instead of flat sidewalks, there are crumbling chunks of concrete, broken curbs and sometimes a sidewalk-like area; a rocky flattish dirt space that spans from a couple of feet wide and narrows to a couple of inches wide with no rhyme or reason that I could see.

To me, it looked like buildings were built, then dirt roads were covered with a pebbly tar mixture and cement and called a road. The sides are still dirt, and dust is everywhere, as well as exhaust and diesel fumes.

There is no infrastructure, no traffic lights, no speed limit signs, no stop signs. At intersections, people drive right through, only stopping if another car , or motorbike, or person, or cow is in the way. Motorbikes turn on either sides of other turning vehicles, whichever way gets them to their destination, and pedestrians scurry across the street when they are brave and there is a gap that opens and closes quickly through the traffic.

 Add to this the sounds of horns honking. Motorbikes, cars, trucks and buses all honk to let you know that they are coming through. It means step to the side, here I come. Even the bicycles have makeshift horns, an upside down empty water bottle becomes a horn when the driver squeezes it and the air flows into the attached horn purchased from a local store. Beep beep says the bike. Honk honk honk says the car. A startling loud 3 toned air horn blows from the buses and trucks.

There are a few intersections with a pedestal that white-gloved traffic cops stand on, to direct traffic. I didn’t understand exactly how it works, but have seen them waving individual vehicles in different directions but am not sure how effective they are.

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While in a cab, a cop told us to back up, but with multiple cars behind us, I am unsure as to whether he actually expected us to back up or was filed with self importance of telling us what to do. It was impossible for us to back up because there were multiple cars behind us an to the sides of us. I suspect he just wanted to tell us what to do because he was ineffective in doing anything else. There was nowhere to go until the traffic passing in front of us created a hole for us to move into.

Another evening, I saw traffic cops socializing with each other, and only yelling at a driver when he pulled towards the side of the road to speak to a vendor and the entire intersection was gridlocked with traffic from all directions coming to a complete stop. There was a turning truck behind this car, who could move no further until the car moved forward, so the rest of the traffic headed in any direction was stopped until the truck finished the turn and stopped blocking the road with the trailer.

The traffic cop hurried over to the car that was stopped and talking to the vendor, told him to move on, then helped my friend and I with directions to our hostel, even leaving his post to walk several blocks to be sure we went the right way. Again, I am not sure how effective the traffic police are when they leave their post to help a tourist head in the right direction.

Almost everyone I met in Kathmandu had a cough. In the evening of the first day, even I had a sore throat. I have never seen air pollution like this, although I have heard of worse places. Most of the cops wore masks over the nose and mouth to help protect themselves from the air pollution, and when I noticed their white gloves were dirty with soot in the afternoon, I wonder what their life expectancy is?

Traffic in Kathmandu. I have not seen anything like it anywhere else.