|Rode into Thamel today with Arjun. Before setting out for my day we again discussed doing the Everest Base Camp Trek. We were looking at trek of 17-18 days and with Arjun, a senior guide, it was going to be $1,400 USD. This was a little steep for my budget but I also thought I may never get this opportunity again. This also included accommodations at Guest Houses along the way, three meals a day and mineral water. With a side trip along Cho La Pass to Gokyo peak and possibly a bit more depending on how I handled the altitude. Told him I didn’t want to use mineral water. As I didn’t want to be leaving behind plastic bottles, and would be using my refillable bottle and treating the water instead. So I was going for it and would deal with the budget fall out later.
The problem was that I didn’t have $1,400 USD and couldn’t transfer any more funds due to the whole banking nonsense with TD. I was feeling pressured to come up with the funds and to call my mother to make the transfer, and so on and so forth. In fact I almost called the whole thing off because I was beginning to feel a little bit like the sacrificial lamb. They being all friendly and helpful until it’s time for the kill, and then off with her head.
I had been paid my final cheque a couple days earlier. Transferring that, coupled with the room I already had on my Visa meant I could come up with $1,000. I asked if that would be enough to start the process and I would pay the difference when the rest of the funds were available. They chatted about it in Nepali and finally said they could work with that arrangement. Gave them my Visa and now there was an issue of 3.75% service charge on credit card transactions, and couldn’t I just go to the bank and withdraw the money. Well first off, it’s on my Visa not cash in my account anymore. Besides that, it worked out to just under 75,000 Rs, with conversion, and the most you could withdraw from an ATM was 15,000 Rs. The limit is by the bank, so if you are able to access your money through multiple ATM’s that wouldn’t be an issue. I, on the other hand, had only found the one ATM that would accept my card. So that would be a big fat no.
To make things odd, they were going to add the service charge onto the purchase price. That would mean the actual service charge they would encounter would be greater because they would have to pay 3.75%, of the 3.75% they added to the initial sum. So they would always be short. Told them to just charge my card and I would pay the service charge in cash. They wanted to know if I wanted to start the trek tomorrow. I said if it was possible then yes, but otherwise whatever would work. Finally, I feel like we’re getting somewhere.
From there I headed back to Patan, as I wanted to see the rest of Durbar Square while it was light out. I walked all the way to Patan by myself and didn’t even need to stop and ask for directions or anything. I also didn’t get lost or turned about at all. I really earned my big girl pants that day. Woohoo! Maybe I’ll get those Wonder Woman underoos from Santa afterall.
Patan Durbar Square doesn’t allow any vehicle traffic through it. It was nice to be able to look at the different temples, shrines and the Palace without having to worry about being clipped by a motorcyle on its way by, or the blaring horns of the taxis, or the rickshaw drivers with “I give you good price”, which it never is.
Part of the Palace has been converted over to a museum. There was a exhibition happening at various locations, the Palace being one of them, on Women in Nepal. I took a look at the exhibit and it was quite interesting. What really stood out was most of the artists presented, at least at that location, were men. There were only few women artists represented. There was also a very obvious dichotomy between what was presented by the male and female artists. The male artists focused almost exclusively on the female form; whereas the female artists focused on the role of the woman in society, or how women were treated in society. Consequently, topics like Gender Based Violence were addressed solely by the female artists.
There was one texturized painting I found arresting. It was a female artist dealing with Gender Based Violence. I found it interesting not only because of the presentation, as I think it was well executed, but rather that part of the texture used was newsprint stories. There was one English story included, highlighting women also actively participating in violence against other women. The story was about a woman whose husband had gone abroad to earn money. While he was gone the other women of the village began to accuse her of practicing witchcraft. This was not a story from decades ago, but from only a couple years ago. The women of the village attacked and beat her. She tried to hide in her home, they broke in and beat her again. She would have died had her oldest child not gone to find help. She was forced to flee to her brother’s home for protection, and her husband was summoned to return to Nepal. No charges were brought against any of the women whom had attacked her. She cannot return to the village as she is in fear for her life. Her life was completely destroyed because she was a lone women raising her children without a husband present, but not outwardly suffering from his absence. Therefore, she must be a witch! I was transfixed and horrified this type of occurrence was still happening anywhere in the world. With the exception of some African tribes that still practice the art of witchcraft.
This is not to say the male artists were in any way lacking in their impact. Several of the artists spoke of the power of the female form and how historically it was celebrated and worshipped. Generally speaking they urged a return to believing in the power of women, not because they meet some contrived socially acceptable standard of beauty, but because they are women. To celebrate they are strong enough to give and nurture life simply by virtue of their form. I found this message inspiring as it spoke to the positive aspects of the female as a vessel rather than for the fulfillment of the need to control and supress the sense of pride in being a woman that patriachal based societies propagate.
(Now here I go on my soapbox) I’m referring to the constant media messages indoctrinating girls and women to the idea their bodies, in the absence of personality and mind, are the only thing worthy of attention. If they fail to meet the minimum standards of beauty and youth, than they are not worthy of love. This perpetuates the damaging idea that women have nothing more than their bodies to offer society and once youth has faded, they don’t even have that to barter. So to articulate the female form as power to be cherished and worshipped, rather than a commodity to be quantified and traded like pork bellies, is beautiful.
Soon after exiting the exhibit, I spotted a little girl posing for the cameras. She had obviously been dressed and primped to look as pretty as possible, and then sent out to the tourists. With every person that took her picture she put out her hand requesting payment of her services. Her youth and beauty were actively being used to elicit money from tourists ostensibly to support her family. What everyone that participated in this contrived farce of authenticity did not realize, or didn’t care to realize was, they were reinforcing a negative cycle of poverty and abuse. If this little girl was unable to elicit some minimum amount of money from tourists, than she was likely to be beaten upon returning home. All money she collects is taken from her for the family, so you might say she indirectly benefits from being pimped out. She is also likely provided some extra privledges in order to maintain her cuteness for the cameras. For example, she wouldn’t need to join her siblings in manual labour, carrying baskets of sand or bricks at a construction site. Child labour is a very real and serious issue in Nepal. But as she ages, the cuteness quotient decreases and accordingly so would her profits. As soon as she stops being of use to the family, any benefits she had previously received are as also gone. As much as she was cute and adorable, the whole situation was ugly and I had to walk away.
It may only seem like pennies to you, and it very well may be, but don’t give money to children. It perpetuates the idea that foreigners will always give them what they need without having worked for, or earned it. It also supports the exploitation of children and increases the likelyhood of them being objectified. Ultimately leading to both physical and sexual abuse, with the greater risk being “enjoyed” by girls. (OK, stepping down from my soapbox now)
Got back to the office and was advised they were able to arrange the trek to start tomorrow. Arjun took my ticket and trekking pass, and held onto them for the morning. We had to stop at a outdoor outfitter spot so he could rent a sleeping bag. I was bringing my tent because, if it was possible, I wanted to sleep at Everest Base Camp instead of going back down the same day to a Guest House. We stopped for curd on the way back to the house and then it was a matter of packing up my day bag for the trek. Getting excited!
Arjun was very anxious as to what I was taking because my bag was/is small. Really people learn how to bloody well pack. It’s not a crime that I know how to back stuff crazy small so it all fits. I had my sleeping bag, pillow, two t-shirts, two long sleeve shirts, fleece jacket, Gore-Tex jacket, two pairs of pants, long johns, socks, underwear, peaked cap, fleece hat, gloves, sunglasses, solar powered head lamp, water filter, water treatment, water bottle, cell phone, reusable zip ties, toiletries, toilet paper, diamox, steroid treatment for Altitude sickness, and a mixture of walnuts and goji berries to snack on if needed. Arjun had already said he would carry my tent, and my air mattress was included in the stuff sack. I asked Arjun what it was that he thought I was missing and he couldn’t articulate anything. As far as I was concerned, anything else would just be superfluous. Now to try and sleep in anticipation of the coming adventure.