Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano
Lake Atitlan from the San Pedro Volcano

22 February 2012

Momos in the Dark

A reflection from David regarding our first day in Nepal...

On our very first night in Nepal, Krista and I headed from the airport to the touristy district of Kathmandu called Thamel. The guesthouse we stayed in, Kathmandu Guest House, has been around for a long time, and many things in the area are measured by how far away they are from the Kathmandu Guesthouse. We got in at about noon so we had all afternoon to explore. Strangely,  it was 10:15pm back in California and when you are in airports and airplanes for nearly 40 consecutive hours, you're body becomes confused. Am I tired, or am I just being irritable for no reason? Am I hungry or is that pain in my stomach from eating four airplane meals in a row?

We walked around town a little bit where every store front sells knock off North Face and Marmot clothing gear. The streets are teemed with honking motorcycles and tourist vans wiz by forcing pedestrians onto the sides of these roads that were clearly not designed for vehicles at all.

After settling in and finding some snacks, we fell asleep mid afternoon, waking up with a big appetite at about the right time for dinner. Now, we had never looked at a menu in Nepal before, nor did we know the standard rate for different types of food, so we explored. We went to six or seven restaurants and asked to look at their menus. What's a doso? How about a momo?

Krista probably could have went on looking at menus for 30 minutes, but after walking into several restaurants just to walk back out again, I was turning into a kid at a candy store. I didn't care what I ate, so long as I could eat something, and eat it soon. So we landed on a restaurant called the "Momo Star." it had a long, skinny dining space elevated three or four steps up from the entrance. The split level was then filled with the kitchen underneath the dining area. There were maybe 10 tables that could seat four people each. After staring at the menu trying to determine what type of food would come if I ordered this or that, we decided it was only fitting to order a plate of Momos, the namesake of the restaurant. After a few minutes, we were served milk tea (delicious!) and the Momos canes out shortly afterwards. Momos turned out to be a thin layer of steamed dough with some sort of filling. They are really quite tasty and usually come with some spicy sauces on the side.

By this time, the sun was long gone, but we felt confident finding our way back to the guesthouse. As we were munching on our Momos, a strange a unexpected (by me) thing happened: all the lights in the entire neighborhood shut off. My mind started racing: there's about to be a massive earthquake, people are going to get robbed, we didn't bring a flashlight with us, hold Krista tightly!

A few seconds later, a few lights turned back on, but not at the same brightness as before.

The majority of Nepal's power is generated with hydroelectricity. With H2O flowing from the highest point on earth to nearly sea level in about 100 miles, there is a lot of potential energy. But this time of year is dry season in Nepal, which means not much water flow and not much energy.

Without their primary source of energy, the Kathmadu Valley is subject to "load-shedding" which means that everywhere household, store, restaurant, hospital, etc. only has 10 hours of electricity each day. We had a schedule posted at our guesthouse for each day of the week and when the power would be on or off. Each day was different, and we would generally have two five-hour chunks of time where we would have power. Sometimes it would be in the middle of the night, sometimes in the middle of the day. If we ever wanted to turn on a light, use the microwave, or try to have a semi-warm shower, we would have to wait for the electricity to come on.

Our adventures had only just begun.

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