Kathmandu in Lockdown
Friday 20th January 2006.
Kathmandu in lockdown mode:
The city here is in lockdown. Overnight the government â€“ really the king â€“ declared a city wide curfew from 8am to 6pm. This was an attempt to thwart the opposition parties, a seven party alliance, from holding a rally and protest today. Since the weekend there has been a curfew from 11pm to 4am. This latest curfew is not directly related to the Maoist attacks of last weekend but an attempt to quell any opposition to the kingâ€™s handling of the situation. It means that I have been stuck in the grounds of the hotel all day. Darn. I had to watch the cricket from Melbourne, Australia v. South Africa.
Overnight about 150 opposition leaders, student activists and union leaders were arrested or put under house arrest. Many had their mobile phones disconnected. After breakfast I spoke to the manager of the hotel and he was most apologetic. He has especially put on a series of movies in one of the restaurants for the hotel guests.
On a positive note the planes are still flying. I am unsure at this stage if the curfew will be extended beyond today. I shouldnâ€™t have any trouble on Sunday as I would be able to get a special travel pass if the curfew is still active. Either that or leave before 8am for the airport, but that would involve a six hour wait in the airport lounge. Yuck. After breakfast I spent an hour typing some emails. There were short ones to Corinne and Rose that went okay but a much longer one to everyone failed to go. The connection here in the hotel is so dodgy it is very frustrating. This could be a side effect of the curfew; most people are at home using the internet to find out what is happening.
Peace in the midst of Turmoil
Today is a glorious day with a clear sky, about 23C, gentle breeze and no pollution, either air or noise. The roads are almost deserted and so there is no incessant blaring or horns. It is very peaceful here as I write this in the hotel garden. One almost forgets the trouble in this country, until an armed police squad appears through the door to check us out! During lunch here in the garden I observed several domestic flights take off and an international flight took off as I write this. All good signs I feel.
Later: I just came back from dinner. During dinner I sat with and had a long and interesting discussion with a very interesting couple. He comes from New Zealand, and his wife comes from Finland. He has expertise in agriculture and hopes to use his skills here in Nepal to help the local farmers. The main reason they have just today arrived to live in Kathmandu is because she will be working in the Finnish embassy for the next three years. Her last posting over the last three years was in Bosnia so they like living on the edge a little. They were a very interesting couple and insisted we look them up next time we are in Kathmandu, providing it is in the next three years.