Well, my time here is nearly up - it's Friday today and I leave on Sunday. Part of me will be happy to get back to see my family and friends and a warm house and hot shower, and part of me wants to stay on and see the lodge through to opening. But at the moment it's not in a position where I can do anything really useful even were my Nepali anything like fluent, which it most certainly isn't. I have learned 24 letters of the alphabet, but as there are 36 (why do they have three different symbols for the letter S I ask myself?) and numerous half letters and contractions due to consecutive consonants etc etc, there is still a long way to go.
I returned to Kathmandu last Sunday on the tourist bus, having spent Saturday morning in a partners meeting. This consisted of writing the minutes of the last 5 meetings, and everyone signing them at least three times. I only got to sign 3 sets of minutes (including the ones on the day), having apparently been at two meetings I didn't know I was at! Anyway, they were all explained to me, and I can divulge nothing whatsoever about them. So now you know! Or don't.
Returning on the tourist bus was interesting because it was mainly full of Nepalis as it's pretty much the end of the tourist seasons here. It was also interesting as it also set me thinking about how they cover costs. My ticket, for a 120 mile, 5.5 hour journey, cost 350 Nepali rupees which is less than 3 pounds. Petrol here is about 90p a litre, so the fuel costs will be quite high, but it must be the labour costs that enable them to do it for this price. I don't know how much a bus driver gets per month (and he certainly deserves everything he gets driving on the roads here with the manic traffic all around) but I reckon it's probably about 6000 NRs a month (about 50 pounds), and there's also a bus boy who gets less. Then there's insurance (if they have it as vehicle insurance is quite a new thing here). But I reckon with labour this cheap they must still make a fair amount of profit.
The other thing to note is how careful everyone who drives is not to hit anything / one else. And it isn't as though there aren't loads of things to hit. It's amazing the number of times the bus stopped because a stray goat / duck / hen / cow had strayed on the road, and the bus boy got off to patiently usher it to the side of the road (that is, if the horn hadn't worked). That's not to say there aren't accidents - there are, particularly at night and with drivers who've had too much to drink or have a deadline to meet and are too tired. But there are relatively few accidents, probably because everyone is very mindful of what's going on around them and potential hazards they might meet.
Anyway, enough of driving. As I said, I'm now back in Kathmandu and it is very quiet here. There are very few tourists around, and the shopkeepers in Thamel seem to have given up trying to get those that there are to buy things, which makes it nice and quiet for a change.
Well, this is probably my last post for this blog. The next blog will more than likely be one from the lodge when it's up and running.
Take care of yourselves, and if I don't see / hear from any of you before then, have a lovely Christmas and New Year.