Rusted out planes littered the tarmac, all of which had Nepal Air plastered to their fuselage. I’d never seen that before, openly decaying machinery at an international hub. They weren’t puddle jumpers either, these planes were full on Boeing 747’s and they were just abandoned. Obviously, the airport didn’t have funding to remove those planes, let alone repair them, so they just sat there like totaled El Caminos on some overgrown lawn. Weeds growing through their dry rot tires, years of scum coating their cockpit windows. Still, the planes just sat there - waiting for the scrap yard.
The only aircraft in use were the arrivals, from other nations: India, Saudi Arabia, but most were flying in from the north, over the Himalayas, coming from China. It all made sense though, after the earthquakes in 2015, China bought up the country on a discount by providing them loans the small mountain nation could never repay. The Nepalese needed the money, a good amount of their temples were destroyed, their cash cows so to speak. China capitalized on the misfortune; chalk it up as good business.
Now they’re in a hole, under immense pressure, one I doubt they’ll ever climb from.
Filing off the aircraft onto the bus that awaited us, the airport was alive with motion. Even though we were only one of three other planes arriving, throwers, or baggage handlers, were frantically hauling back the luggage. Weaving in, out, and under the planes, they weren’t using those weird box cars you see at most airports. They were using re-purposed farm equipment, big ole tractors that reminded me of hay rides I’d taken as a kid at The Great Geauga County Fair.
A few of those tractors came uncomfortably close to clipping each other, along with the aircraft, but no one even flinched - I’m talking less than a foot. No one said anything, no one seemed pissed either. To me, these people had nerves of steel, but it was just a day in the life for them, compared to the streets of Kathmandu, it was nothing.
Staring out the large bus window, a few of the ladies I was standing next to almost fell over, we’d shifted into gear with a jolt. Cruising down the tarmac, suspiciously close to the runway, we zipped past the rusted out chain link fence separating the airport from its residential neighbor; small brick buildings, all stacked atop each other like a game of tetris, sprawling out as far as the eye could see. Kathmandu was big, much bigger than I’d imagined, and I could feel the energy of the city coming off the horizon.
I’d made it, this trip was becoming a reality, and I had no idea what I was going to do there. Beyond watching a few tavelogs on YouTube, I didn’t know anything about the city: where my hostel was, the exchange rate, if the water was safe to drink. The chatter of a nervous mind is an endless well, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a trust, which drives my very prepared mother crazy. Pretty much, I do my best to align myself with what I’d like to do. Then everything else falls into place, it always does, but it’s never on time - no matter how much I worry.
I figure we live in a universe of abundance - even when you feel you don’t have enough, you do, so just ask for what you want and pretend you know what you’re doing.
Breezing through customs, I pulled a wad of cash out of my pocket. To be specific, three hundred thousand Korean Won. It sounds like a lot, especially when you take into account that I make three million a month, but all you do is move the decimal place over a few times. A thousand won is roughly equal to one us dollar, which is 100 Nepalese rupees. So, assuming I didn’t get ripped off by the currency exchange counter, I had a size-able amount of cash; close to the amount of money these people spend on groceries annually.
I had enough, at least, to know I was one of the richest people walking the streets of Nepal - I hated that. There was a shame in that. Why me? Just a few months prior, I was cursing the billionaires of Aspen, but the tables had flipped on me.
Yet, the more I’ve traveled, it’s further distorted the concept of money’s value and the illusion of wealth. It just becomes increasingly ridiculous. One day you have a thousand dollars, the next you have a million won, and finally you’re at one hundred thousand rupees. Exchange rates really zap the achievement of earning money. You build up this idea that fifty thousand dollars a year is a good amount of money to earn, but then you travel somewhere and it costs that much just for a bottle of water. You realize that the numbers mean nothing, it’s the value that cash represents that means everything. The only constant I’ve really felt is that I still want more of it, or that I never have enough.
You go from flirting with the poverty levels in your home country, to traveling across the world and being thrust into the Korean middle class. For the first time you have disposable income, then with a plane ticket and a visa, you’re among the one percent of a country you’re visiting. It’s enough to really fuck with your head, something I’m still processing a month and a half after my trip.