SEE HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES (Lookin through a glass onion)




Namaste from Nepal,

This week when in the normal shopping area of central Kathmandu I ran into Seto Machindranath’s carriage. Translated, that means that an important deity in Nepal was being honored this week and last. A tower was being hauled around the city, from one end to the other, in a rough-hewn cart. The tower was built entirely of evergreens, with icons below. Priests were giving away flowers the icon/spirit had blessed, and we (yes, me and the folks) took handfuls.

The last time I ran into Seto Machindranath’s tower was during the Nepalese civil war (1996-2006).  The devout (again, this included me) were surrounded by armed police/army in riot gear. The ceremony took place in a courtyard, one of many ancient carved places in Kathmandu.  The devout, and even the police/army, were very kind to me. It was, believe me, a more passionate expression of devotion on the Nepalese citizens’ part.  (Look through an Asian’s eyes: how does it feel, to be surrounded by barbed wire and guns most of your life?)

On that note, and I hope this gets published OK, last year India put a famous writer on trial for sedition. That’s treason, in everyday language.  Now if you, in the free world, would just look into such matters, it might help us out over here.  Sometimes I feel like the other half of the world’s free, and we’re living in a prison: left over medicines, that no one wants, left over school books, or charity that teachers from the free nations give to Asian kids. (I’ve done that, too.)

Just before I ran into this moving shrine, a Nepalese woman and I discussed T.S. Eliot and Whitman.  I had John Dryden’s Secular Masque in my backpack with me; I seldom to anywhere without it. I gave it to her, along with my research notes on 1700 England and the origins of that play.  I also had Carl Jung’s “The Poet,” a short article with me. She liked Jung, so I gave it to her.

This is very common in Nepal, which has 14 hours a day without electricity. Can you imagine trying to read a comic book, let alone John Dryden without lights?  These are the most brilliant, curious students I’ve ever had.

I was confused, though, when a visiting teacher said to me, about the electricity and pollution, ‘this isn’t normal! Believe me, it isn’t!’ Again, look through that glass onion.  From Egypt (where you can’t see the pyramids until you’re on top of them, because of the industrial/car smoke) to Bangalore, this is how we live over here.  A surgeon last week said the same thing. “It’s awful!” And he got on the plane back to Idaho.  

Confused, but like they say:  no work, no food. I’ll do edit 1,000.  This time it’s called ‘smoothing it out.’  That comes after the ‘continuity check’, right?


The photo is a teachers university where I taught in NE China.  (The topic of the 3rd world continues briefly).  It was one of the ‘lower rung’ colleges, for poor kids. However, my writing students delivered lectures about ‘epistolary novels in the 19th century’ and such.  In the photo, you’ll see that a coal yard is serviced by a railroad that cuts through campus, and that the uni is surrounded by industry.  This is quite normal; land is cheap in such places.  Get a job over here. That’s how you’ll see the Rea, and if you’re like many visitors, you’ll also help out. Then you know you’re alive. Great feeling.

Best, Mary Ann Davis







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