Nepal - KIAF 2012 - Down to the river (and pray)

November 20, 2012 - Cinderella's dream

The last few days have been a mix of wanderings and plans. We have been looking for the plywood panels to mount my 'Endangered Species' work on. Everything here has its own flavour. The plywood is peeling at the edges, locally made screws have faint threads on them and I haven't quite decided what the paint we are going to use smells like.

The banks of the river
On the wandering front the weather has warmed up and from this lunchtime cafe we can see the tops of the Himalayas through the haze of Kathmandu. Eeva and I have been walking the streets - down to the river - probably the most polluted in the world. The tourists disappear after about 1 km. Soon the smell of the river begins to hang in the air and people walk about with their saris or special surgical type masks covering their mouths. It is a sewer in every sense of the word. Down below trapped against concrete barriers is a solid mass of waste. It was there that I saw 2 policemen throw a plastic bag of rubbish over the side of the bridge and down into the mass of plastic bags below. 

Tapio Reinikainen - an old friend of mine from Finland tells me that some districts of Nepal are now declared 'green' and by that he means they are truly environmentally friendly. Everything is controlled - factory emissions, sewage, rubbish collection and even smoking in the town is not permitted. This seems hard to believe as Kathmandu streets are generally piled with rubbish and refuse of every description. 

The microbus driver
Across the river we meet up with a microbus driver who beacons to me to come across the field to him. He is friendly and open - with almost no English - but seems keen to have his photo taken. For this I decide to bring out my flash, wireless trigger and a 30cm Lastolite soft box; a bit of an effort, but the brilliant daylight and strong shadows of his van would have too much contrast. 

The microbus driver, young boy and child, Kathmandu
So in the early afternoon heat I'm there instructing one of the boys that is with him to be my lighting assistant and for almost half an hour we engage a few more people in the exercise. 

Photo: Eeva Wornell iPhone 645Pro

Young Kathmandu boy

Man in the street, Kathmandu
In the end we buy a bottle of Coke from the local store and sit outside in the shade to drink it from the bottle. The shop keeper gives Eeva a freshly 'washed' glass but before she can put her mouth to it I freak out and she stops. Our immune systems just can't cope with the long list of possible illnesses from an untreated water supply. You need to be on your guard all the time. Its just not a walk in the park.

Cinderella Beauty Parlour

Crystal (as in clear) Beauty parlour

Crystal Beauty Parlour
We pass the Cinderella beauty parlour - closed today and possibly the dream has long been forgotten. The streets are lined with them - but they are moslty closed and boarded up. Outside in the middle of the quiet road a woman huddles over her little girl and picks lice out of her hair as we walk by. Yesterday I passed a 'Registered Apple reseller' on a main street in Patan - went in and the woman behind her IBM Thinkpad said - oh that - no we don't do Apple - its just the sign'.

On the way back into Patan, we crossed another small bridge and the fast flowing water was more pungent that earlier. Tapio tells me that the PH of this material can be as high as 3. That means a caustic bath that will burn your skin off.

The 'favela' type dwellings under the high rise apartments under construction.

Shanty village at the edge of the river
High rise apartment buildings painted bright white are being constructed behind the cow sheds where families are living in favela conditions. We cross the wide part of the river again and head back into town for the evening.