from my travel journal: 19 july 09
All Kathandu’s traffic—foot, bicycle, auto—travelled and converged together in a water-like swirl down the main streets. The amount of hassling was high, but maybe that was requisite because the energy was also high. Walking was a challenge. But I sometimes like when things that should be easy, are hard. Puts things in perspective. And, believe me, my perspective got battered.
Aside from the traffic’s black spit-up, the city is vivid. Saturated saris. Overflowing stores. Painted pilgrims. Stone idols with pigments pressed on. Decorated rickshaws. And all moving, or being moved, at a frantic pace, often like a photograph’s blur. In hindsight, Kathmandu made a good impression on me because I loved its craziness. However, I didn’t like a lot of things that happened to me there. Especially….
Stephanie and I were walking down a street in search of a cab to get to the “monkey temple” (Swayambhunath). Two boys walked on the other side of her. The older (12-years-old?) held the hand of the younger (eight-years-old?). The little one kept pace with her, trying to catch her eye and fiddling with a foil-wrapped candy. He offered a hundred rupees intermittently and something else that I couldn’t catch. Naïvely I thought maybe he was offering the candy. But once they passed us, Stephanie, looking somewhat horrified, said she thought it was for sex. And with my stomach lurching, I came to the same conclusion.
On our circle back, a ten-year-old boy flanked me. He flung out, “15 minutes, 500 rupees.” I felt sick because, yeah, he had to be offering sex. I had been offered everything else, from drugs to trinkets. His proposition only mentioned time and money, leaving an implicit and, therefore, explicit blank. He was clandestine, furtive. Even when I had been offered drugs, the tactic, though similar, stated what was being sold.
Street kids are rampant in Nepal. Of course I know about child prostitution. But having it right in my face was shocking, even if it sounds cliché. Knowing something and being faced with it are very different things. I felt the harsh, palpable difference.