Wow I'm cool. Today i hired a motorbike. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, but I've always been put off by the fact that i dont actually know how to ride a motorbike... I know, i know, I'm a chicken, but you know, the thought of crashing into the shop I've hired it from is really quite embaressing. So anyway, I woke up this morning with motorbikes on my mind. 1 down for first, 2 up for second etc etc... running over and over in my mind.... Then Selene told me that if I wasn't really confident I should just get a scooter like I always do. To be honest, i was quite glad of the excuse to chicken out. So, I went to the shop and asked to hire a scooter. "That one very expensive, 1000 rupees" he told me. "huh??" I thought. But surely a scooter is the cheapest. No, he told me, the cheapest is the 125cc Yamaha that I had been wanting to hire.... So that was it. fate had decreed that I must attempt to ride a real motorbike or die trying....
So, I told him i'd take it, trying my best to look confident, and he went off to fetch the bike. Then I started worrying about how badly I was going to make a fool of myself. I feel I must stop at this point to explain something. Driving a vehicle on the roads here is not like driving a vehicle in the UK or singapore for example. It's more like trying to drive through the middle of a Levellers concert crossed with a living scrap yard into which a 1000 farm animals have just been released. There are no road markings and the only law is the law of "biggest or fastest first". The fumes are so thick that you can barely see let alone breathe, and as I have mentioned before, horns are used more regularly than brakes, sometimes instead of brakes even. So my anxiety at riding a motorbike is not purely because I dont know how to drive one, but more to do with the fact that there is nowhere even remotely suitable for me to learn to drive one. It's a case of straight in at the deep end.
Anyway, i digress. So, he comes back with my sporty looking Yamaha ZBX or something like that, and I set about inspecting it to make sure it's in full working order. As you can imagine, my knowledge of motorbikes isn't exactly extensive..... So I just pretent to be examining closely..... Wheels: check.... handlebars: check..... horn (very important): check..... stickers: check..... all seems to be in order, i tell him. Then comes the scary part. I climb onto the bike, turn the key, and kickstart. It starts! Hoooray! Step one accomplished! Then I put it in gear. It stalls. Oh yeah, the clutch... No one seems to have noticed, so i start it again... this time I use the clutch and put it into first.... I gradually leapfrog my way around until I'm facing the right direction and I'm about to set off to find the emptiest road I can, when it suddenly dawns on me that i have no petrol.
"Where's the nearest petrol pump?" I ask.
"Down there, left, then left, then right" he says.
I make a quick mental calculation and realise that this route will lead me into the most hellish, congested, vehicular quagmire of death in the whole of katmandu!
"ok! Thanks!" I shout, and leapfrog off in the prescribed direction. After 5 mins of nail-bitingly bad clutch control and a lot of horning, I find myself face to face with a very busy main road. It's one-way and the way is left. But my guy told me to turn right! I stop a passerby and ask him "which way to petrol station??". He points to the right, against the flow of traffic. "But it's one way!" I say to him. He points again in the same direction. I'm not about to drive the wrong way up a one way street that is already about 6 cars wide congested with traffic, so i turn around and head back.
Back at the shop, i tell the guy I couldn't find it, in the hope that he'll direct me to one on a quiet lane somewhere.... Instead he shouts at his younger brother to come and ride on the back of my bike and direct me! Noooo! Now I have the added worry of killing a small boy, and the almost definite embarressment of stalling about 10 times with him on the back.
We set off, and as I had guessed he starts to direct me into the worst part of katamdu. The road I end up one is as wide as the M1, but with no road markings, and no rules. It's a complete free for all. Everyone just weaves in and out of one another like flies. Somehow i manage to get all the way to the petrol station without stalling or killing anyone! Then i stall as I pull into the station....
By the time i get back to Selene I feel as if I could ride into the depths of hell and return unscathed! Talk about initiation by fire! So with my newly aquired street bike skills, we set off to find some countryside. We figure if we keep going in a straght line for long enough we have to eventually leave this godforsaken city of smog. After 40 mins of riding thru insane traffic we eventually reach the hills that surround the katamandu valley. And then we go up. and up, and up. I'm basically just waiting for a vaguely flat bit to stop on, but none comes. Eventually I settle for about a 35 degree incline and pull over. Wow! I had no idea riding a bike was so tiring! My hands are siezed up from holding the clutch and accelerator for so long, and my face is caked with dust! I sit on the floor to recover and some local boys give me a plum to cheer me up... :)
Anyway, enough about my bike adventures. Needless to say I made it back safely, and me and Selene have just been to have a thai meal to celebrate our 1.5 years anniversary! It's the first anniversary we've ever celebrated, and the date is fairly tenuous to say the least, but at least now we have one! :) Selene has been winding me up all day by going "I want to give you your present now!", which makes me think "Oh fuck! I haven't bought anything yet", and say "No, lets not do it now, lets do it later", but she goes "No, I want to do it now! Close your eyes and hold out your hand", so i oblige, wondering what excuse I'm going to give, and she places something in my hand......: An empty bottle of hand sanitizer from her handbag..... "hahahahahahaha" she cries, "your sooo gullable!". Cheeky mare....
btw, i got a very funny e-mail today with an article from this american guy about the whole Bush bullshit war etc. I've decided to give it to you even tho it's very long. here it is:
BushCo Reams Nation Good
No WMDs after all, no excuse for war, too late for anyone to care
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Ha-ha-ha oh man did we ever get smacked on that one. Conned big time.
Punk'd like dogs. Just gotta shake your head, laugh it off. They reamed
us but good, baby! Damn.
Turns out it really was all a big joke after all. The war, that is. All
a big fat nasty murderous oil-licking lie, a sneaky little power-mad game with you as the sucker and the world as the pawn and BushCo as the
slithery war thug, the dungeon master, the prison daddy. You really have to laugh. Because it's just so wonderfully ridiculous. In a rather disgusting, soul-draining sort of way. See, there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. No WMDs at all. Isn't that great? What's more: There never were. Ha-ha-ha. Gotcha! No warehouses teeming with nuclear warheads, no underground bunkers packed with vats of boiling biotoxins, no drums of crazy-ass chemical agents that will melt your skin and turn us all into drooling flesh-eating zombies
unless, of course, you count the sneering vat of conservative biotoxin that is, say, Fox News, in which case, hell yeah baby, we gotcher WMDs right here beeyatch. Go figure. Those lowly U.N. inspectors were right after all. Who knew? It was all a ruse. We've been sucker-punched and ideologically molested and patriotically sodomized and hey, what the hell, who cares anyway, we "liberated" an oppressed people most Americans secretly loathe and fear and don't understand in the slightest, even though that was never the point, or the justification, or the goal. Go team. But wait, is liberation of a brutalized and tormented people now the reason? The justification for our thuggery? That is so cool! So that means we're going to blow the living crap out of Sri Lanka and Sudan and Tibet and North Korea and about 47 others, right? Right? Maybe Saudi Arabia, too, second only to the Taliban itself in its abuse of women? Cool! As if. Ah, but screw the liberal whiny peacenik U.N. inspectors, you know? Let's ask the U.S. search teams themselves, ShrubCo's own squadrons of biologists, chemists, arms-treaty enforcers, nuclear operators, computer and document experts and Special Forces troops who've been in Iraq for weeks now, searching frantically. Surely they've found something, right? Surely we can now prove that Saddam was fully intending to fillet our babies and annihilate Florida and poke the eyes out of really cute kittens on national TV for sadistic pleasure, right? Gimme a hell yeah! Whoops. Bad news. As The Washington Post reports, the 75th Exploitation Task Force, the very serious-minded group heading up all U.S. inspections in Iraq, the group absolutely certain it would immediately find steaming
neon-lit stockpiles of WMDs piled right next to Saddam's personal stash of gay porn and Britney Spears posters and opium pipes, is coming home with its tail between its legs. Found nothing. Nada. Psychopatriots are a little nonplussed. Bush is merely "embarrassed." Peace advocates are sighing and drinking heavily. We have done this ghastly horrible inane hate-filled entirely unprovoked thing in the name of power and petroleum and military contracts and strategic empire building, our nation is numb and more bitterly divisive than ever and our leaders are not the slightest bit ashamed. But of course you're not the slightest bit shocked. You knew it all along. The WMD line was just a ploy that, tragically, much of the nation bought into like a sucker pyramid scheme after being pounded into submission with hammers of fear and Ashcroftian threats and bogus Orange Alerts and having their tweezers confiscated at the airport. And of course the capacity to be outraged and appalled has been entirely drained out of you, out of this nation, replaced by raging ennui and sad resentment and the new fall season on NBC. This is what they're counting on. Your short attention span. WMDs? That's so, like, last February. Hey look, the swimsuit model won "Survivor"! Because now it's all done. Like a bad trip to the dentist where your routine cleaning turned out to be a bloody excruciating root canal and 50 hours of high-pitched drilling and $100 billion in god-awful cosmetic surgery, now the bandages come off. Smile, sucker. We're at peace once again. Sort of. But not really. Don't you feel better now? No? Too bad. Noone cares what you think. It's all over but the shouting. And the screaming. And the endless years of U.S. occupation in the Middle East, the quiet building of U.S. military bases in Iraq so we can keep those uppity bitches Syria and Egypt and Lebanon in line, forge ahead with the long-standing plan to strong-arm those damn Islamic nuts into brutal compliance with Bushco's bleak blueprint for World Inc. What, too bitter? Hardly. Should we care that Osama, the actual perp of 9/11, is still running around free? That terrorism hasn't been quelled in the slightest? That the Mideast is more of a U.S.-hating powder keg than ever, thanks to BushCo? That the economy is in the worst shape it's been in decades? Should we care that we just massacred tens of thousands of Iraqi (and Afghan) civilians and soldiers and suffered a little more than 100 U.S. casualties and have absolutely nothing to show for it except bogus force-fed pride and this weird, sickening sense that we just executed something irreparable and ungodly and karmically poisonous? Nah. Just laugh it off. Have a glass of wine, make love, go play Frisbee with the dog. Breathe deep and focus on what's truly important and try to assimilate this latest atrocity into your backstabbed worldview, add it to the list of this lifetime's spiritual humiliations, as you wait for the next barrage, the imminent announcement that we're about to do it all again.
Steel yourself. Protect your soul. Because man, they reamed us good.
Slammed this nation like a bad joke. Gotcha! Ha-ha-ha.
hope you enoyed that as much as I did!