Thursday, April 29, 2010

May 1 Posters in Kathmandu

Here are some of the posters that are plastered around Kathmandu for the upcoming events. I'll try to keep this from becoming a political rant, and focus on the topic at hand. It's amazing to me that the symbolism that they are using is at all effective. In the first poster below, and I've seen the images elsewhere, we see people like Mao and Stalin with Nepal's communist leader just below them. I would think that comparing yourself and placing yourself near people who murdered millions, MILLIONS, of their own people would not be the ones you would want to compare yourself with. Why not throw Pol Pot up there too? 

Maoists & moral equivalence

I don't normally post other people's thoughts here, in fact tis will be the first post I have not written myself. As a follow up to my last post though and as we close in on what is sure to be an eventful weekend I thought I would post an excellent article that was on Republica Online this morning. The Maoists are expected to have over three hundred thousand people shipped in to Kathmandu for the May 1 demonstrations. Every business owner I have spoken with has faced extortion in the form of "donation" requests. Here is the article by DR THOMAS A MARKS;

As the Maoists continue their relentless drive for power, the response of the state can only be called disappointing. Thugs openly train with khukuris for confrontation (“self-defense”), and the bravery of journalists such as Uma Singh and Tika Bista has been all too quickly forgotten.

More disappointing than the expected lack of state investigatory or judicial progress that one sees in these cases is the growing lassitude upon the part of the Nepali chattering classes as they face their slow motion demise. The media, for instance, seems increasingly incapable or unwilling to report anything beyond the most surface descriptions of events.


Particularly destructive is the moral equivalence that has crept into much commentary. The Maoists, too, the logic appears to go, have a version of events.

This is true. It is also true that the Maoist version is normally lies. It would seem basic to good journalism to do the most basic of fact-checking before repeating the banalities of a Prachanda or a Bhattarai.

Reality is that even as cause-oriented groups in Nepal, both international and local, engage in a systematic effort to neuter the state by attacking all remaining institutions of any substance, such as the army, the worst crimes go unexamined. To the cases of Uma and Tika, add innumerable others. The killer of Muktinath Adhikari, principal in Duradanda, struts openly in Kathmandu. The rapists of the young female activist in Kathmandu, who spoke out against the Young Communist League (YCL) and found herself brutally violated with bamboo shafts, saw her assailants released by the police after a call from the Maoist hierarchy.

Reality is that the Maoists, during the conflict, engaged in atrocities which included everything from torture to kidnapping to rape. Worse reality is that they have never stopped.

There are few left to tackle this reality. Throughout the worst violence, human rights organizations did their best to conceal the true picture of Maoist crimes, because they regarded the “old-order” as irrevocably flawed. Any who did not present a view slanted in favor of the Maoists were menaced or even assassinated, leaving construction of “the narrative” to the left.

Perhaps most distressing, a true picture of the sheer level of Maoist criminality never emerged. Yet this is just what has been visited upon Nepal now.


Nepal Army’s (NA’s) hands are dirty, too; but it must be remembered that NA did not even enter the conflict in any substantive fashion until the Dang cantonment attack in November 2001. Thereafter, a force which had done little save UN peacekeeping struggled to get on top of the situation. It made substantial progress but allowed too much indiscipline to go on.

This is what the demand for Major Basnet’s trial is all about. To demand an end to impunity has merit. Still, only the UN and the human rights organizations could manage to choose for their “poster person” an innocent officer, yet still howl for his blood as an alleged war criminal!

It is telling that even now the attention that accompanies a reprehensible action such as the NA fatal shooting at Thimure is quite out of proportion to the attention focused upon activities which are sure ultimately to cause the collapse of the state. Still, until recently, one did not see reputable journalists claiming the Maoists are provoked in what they are doing. To the contrary, it is Maoist behavior which has led to other political forces forming their own paramilitaries and to the ever-increasing spiral of violence.

There is a debate here, of course. The Maoists – indeed, the left-wing of the Nepali “chattering classes” – have always claimed that the old-order supported itself with violence. The palace, it was claimed, had Royal Nepal Army; Nepali Congress had Armed Police Force; and “the government” had Nepal Police.

Whatever went on in Nepal, though, was not “predatory.” Repression, in other words – if we want to use that loaded term – was hardly the stuff of Latin American or Iranian dictatorships. In an imperfect world, and only a relative handful of countries being truly in the hands of citizens, Nepal’s old-order was steadily moving toward reform. The Maoist claim that violence was the only way to move Nepal forward is facetious.


What is going on now is but a continuation of armed struggle and is driven by the Maoists, using front organizations and YCL. Though the state is constantly held up as plotting, scheming, and thwarting the will of the people, no one else does the sort of things the Maoists do. The rape I mention above was but one incident of a growing list.

And still there are those amongst the “chattering classes” who even now seek to portray the Maoists as “victims.”

This is false. One cannot claim, as did one journalist recently, that “isolated incidents by individuals were not institutional decisions (of the Maoists).” There is too much evidence that falsifies this point.

An institutional decision is exactly what leads to the systematic perversion of justice that is Maoist policy today. Has even a single murderer, kidnapper, or rapist been punished, even with “revolutionary discipline”?

It is the abject failure of the myriad human rights organizations abounding in Nepal today to pursue leads far more obvious than innocent NA Majors that cause me to hold them up to approbation (along with certain EU Embassies that enable them). They demand only trials of NA – while paying lip-service to demands that the Maoists also be held accountable – even as, in the present situation, there is but a thin line of security forces that keep Nepal from sliding into complete anarchy.

Tear it apart, without a simultaneous dismantling of the paramilitaries, and the only result must inevitably be Indian intervention. For New Delhi can no more allow a criminal state to its north than it can allow a state run by ideological goons.

Perhaps there is a bottom line: How many stories of assault, rape, and even murder must accumulate before the Nepali press takes its head out of its collective backside and writes about what is going on?

Why have I been able to collect, in excruciating detail, dozens of such stories (of hundreds or even thousands), when I must work through translators and all the cumbersome apparatus of a foreigner? Has there been even a single recent, substantive article on something as obvious as the level of Maoist extortion?

What does the Nepali “chattering class” do with itself in the 24 hours of the day? “Stay alive,” I suppose, is a viable answer. But at least, then, one should have the dignity not to write and say nonsense which gives criminals a free ride.

This Was originally published in Republica Online and can be read HERE.

Monday, April 26, 2010

May: A Month of Potential Chaos

So the Nepali constitution is supposed to be finished by May 28. From all reports in the papers there is no chance that this is going to happen. As one can imagine this has set off a lot of political posturing and flexing, especially among the CPN (Maoist). It seems hard to gage just how much of this is for show, and how much of it is a real threat to peace in this country. The CPN seems like it is not interested in any kind of compromise, and at the same time, there isn't a snow balls chance in hell that the powers that be would let them control the country. Currently India has been significantly bothered by their own communist uprising, and the idea that they would stand idly by while Nepal became a one party country under the hammer and sickle just seems remote. On top of this other powers in the world aren't real positive on a potentially destabilized communist country popping up in Asia. There are a lot winds blowing against the Maoists.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Walk to the Office

Our new office for Harilo is on New Road, which is a great location, but its quite a walk from the apartment, (luckily I can get a cab for under $2). It's an interesting walk, and I thought I'd share come of the photos along the way.
The K.C.'s garden at our apartment is in full bloom right now and is very nice. Tranquil, relaxing and green, unlike much of Kathmandu. It's a nice little oasis to have just outside our door.

Just on the north side of the palace walls heading toward Lazimpat road there is this area where there is always a mass amount of laundry being hung out to dry. The buildings highlighted in bright pastels are a nice contrast.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Weather in the Valley

I love the weather here. Coming from New England this is like dying and going to heaven. It is always warm, during the day it can get hot, but it's a dry heat, not like the east coast of the U.S. where you are always sweltering under humidity. Due to the elevation, when the sun sets at night it cools off enough to sleep comfortably. It is always sunny. Not two or three days a week like back home. All the time. Every day. Once a week or so lately we get a rain storm that builds in the afternoon and then unleashes for an hour or maybe a few. Then it clears, and it's nice the next day. If I could design my own perfect weather, this might be it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cibo Sandwich Bar: Lunch Done Right

So on recommendation from some from some friends we decided we'd give this small restaurant just off Lazimpat a try for lunch. I had noticed when going up toward the British Embassy, but since it was connected to the back side of the ambassador hotel I had inappropriately decided that it was probably just over priced hotel food. Lesson learned, don't judge it before you try it.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I'm going to warn you now, that this will be a long post, consisting of things that I think will mostly only be interesting to me. Today I turn 33 years old, while it is no great event, there was a time when I dreaded what my life might be like at this age. I have always been interested in philosophy, science and religion from the time I was very young, and heading into my twentieth birthday I had developed what I thought was a consistent belief structure that was for all intents and purposes like the Deism that was popular in the mid eighteenth century. I was never a bible thumper, but I did have a very deep belief in God and in those years it had increasingly played a large role in my life.

Then the cracks started to appear, and never shy of asking more questions and looking at things more objectively, it became increasingly evident that any religious trappings I still held in my beliefs could no longer be reasonably argued for, and thus I became an agnostic. It was a shift that at the time seemed really dramatic to me. The biggest change was I really just couldn't see what purpose was in life if there was not a grand scheme, and for some reason it occurred to me that because of this my life would be boring and ordinary. I remember walking across a field running through the words to the Smashing Pumpkins' song 33, and thinking that the everyday lyrics to that song would be my boring life when I turned 33.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Learning Another Language

So Kim and I have been in Nepal for three months now, and you know how much Nepali I can speak? About 20 words. Maybe 30. Of those words, I think I've only learned three since I've been here. Among these (and the spelling may be off, I've only heard them verbally) are mamu (mother) babu (baby/kid) and ha-jur which is kind of like yes/excuse me I think. See I don't even know these words...I just hear them a lot.

One of my goals in coming here was to learn another language, as I never really have. I know a minimal amount of Spanish, and enough French and Italian words to get by as a tourist. I can say hello and thank you in lots of languages... because as a tourist that speaks English that's all you ever need. I wanted it to be different here, and though I know that regardless of how well I speak Nepali I will always be an outsider, it couldn't hurt to be able to converse a little in the local language.

So yesterday we were at a yard sale that was put on by the American Embassy at Phora, the American Club.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Around the Neighborhood

Today Brian gives a tour of his neighborhood in east Lazimpat/Gairidhara.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Flaming Disaster Isn't The Worst That Can Happen

Sometimes we go through life and we really don't pay it much attention. You go to work, you eat meals, chat with friends, complain about that pebble in your shoe. Once in a while you do some things that really make you realize how little opportunity there is to get out there and really take part in life, you do have a finite number of years after all. Sometimes when we don't pay attention you end up just pissing precious time away.

I spent my 25th birthday sailing down the Nile River on a boat with a bunch of people from around the world that prior to that ride I had never met. We were getting toward the end of a ten month trip that Kim and had spent travelling around the world. Our past travels had brought us through the south pacific, over NZ and OZ over through Indonesia and up the Thai Peninsula, over to Nepal down through India and over to Egypt. After my birthday we would go on to Jordan, Turkey and Greece, and after a brief stint in the states we would spend over three weeks in Peru. Ever since this trip I have without pause listed it as the best thing I ever did with my life.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Interviews, Hot Wings, and a New Look

So let's see. I was about to post how I am getting a lot more comfortable with preparing good meals here. I've gotten very good at making pasta sauce from scratch, and it tastes great here. In Nepal you can get some quality vegetables cheap, and garlic, tomatoes and anything else for pasta sauce is easy to get. Tonight I had made a salad with organic lettuce tomatoes, cucumber and carrot topped with fresh rosemary, goat cheese and a mix of olive oil and balsamic, pasta and sauce and some whole wheat bread. Things looked great until a little inch worm said "hi!" to Kim. She went on, skeptical of the salad, when a second one inched its way to the edge of her plate. She almost threw the plate at me, and her face went a touch green. Sorry about that hon. I guess that is a drawback to organic lettuce.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hot Pots on Brian's Birthday

Well my birthday isn't for another week or so, but another Brian had his birthday the other day. Strangely enough his fiancé's name is Kim and they are from the states as well. So they are the other Brian and Kim. Nice people, and like everyone we meet here seem interesting and are good to have conversations with.

Above is a picture of Kim and I with the other Brian. For his birthday we

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Introducing Harilo

I've already talked about our Nepal to US venture called Red Lotus Trading Company, and now I'm going to introduce on this blog our latest venture Harilo. Harilo is our US to Nepal company, designed to bring the online shopping and products that are available in the states to Nepal. Our biggest barrier is that people that have not been to both don't understand how exciting this can be. In Nepal there is a complete lack

Monday, April 5, 2010

Brian Tries Thanka Painting

So one of my favorite items that we sell through our company, Red Lotus Trading Company, are the Buddhist thanka paintings. We got word through the KTM KTM message group that International Art Workshops was doing a full day workshop on thanka paintings. The organization is run by a British expat named Ilsa, who was really friendly and did a wonderful job putting it together. The seminar itself was headed by Sudarshan Suwal, a third generation expert thanka painter who is the marketing director for Natural Collection Traders.

Above is a picture of Sudarshan explaining

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Crown for a Blender

You don't miss things until they are gone. It's just a fact of human nature that we tend to take things that have always been there for granted. So moving to a place like Nepal you become aware of many of the things that you have taken for granted back home (though it works both ways as I am more aware of things I always went without back home). Here we appreciate having electricity a little more, as we go without up to twelve hours a day. You conserve water a little more, as the dry season nears its end the Kathmandu water table gets quite low and there are shortages in some parts of the city. Sometimes I'd like to go running, but Kathmandu's streets and smog just aren't conducive to that type of activity. Sometimes things are just different, and it makes you appreciate some things a little more.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Forget Kathmandu

Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy, Nepal  This is the title of a book I'm reading right now by Munjushree Thapa, reporting the events that occurred around the 2001 royal massacre in Kathmandu, as well as briefly outlining the three hundred year history that led to that event. The book is really well written because she doesn't pretend to know everything or position herself as a definitive narrator of history, she tells it as she experienced it as a well to do upper middle class Nepali woman living in the capital.
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