Jim Phelps’ travel log: All tourists inside: Don’t worry, be happy

Editor’s note: The following is a travel log submitted by Jim Phelps, owner of Phoenix Traders fair-trade store at 215 7th St. Phelps is traveling through India and Nepal, and will be sending updates about his different experiences along the way. This is the third entry in his travel log.

Saturday, April 8 2006

“10:10 a.m.






It’s hard to argue with a squad of policemen carrying ax handles. At least I wasn’t going to. Blunt force trauma wound isn’t going to be on the menu for me today.

Today is a big protest and demonstration. With a daytime curfew, this can only spell trouble—big trouble in the little Kingdom of Nepal.

Furtive backpackers scramble, just arriving in town, shell-shocked expressions—huffing it past soldiers. Some are being “escorted.” Others have the common sense to beat feet, double time.

Sitting up on the rooftop restaurant at the Happy Home, I can watch desperate tourists banging on closed hostel doors, trying to duck in, out of the curfew.

Kids are playing in the street. They are banging on the closed shops’ roll-up doors. Police will set them straight, if they can catch the little buggers.

Life under wartime…and gunfire.

Two youths—young toughs with bandanas around their mouths—are on their way to Dunbar Square where the protest is supposed to take place, bravely holding hands like close male friends all over Asia do. No, it doesn’t have the same meaning as in San Francisco.

The young Israeli girl sitting a table over decides to go inside after the burst of gun fire. I say to her in mix of Hebrew and Yiddish “Mashugah” (crazy, nuts). She replies to me, in English, with the calm of a person that has seen combat, “at least it is quiet today.” What must Israel be like since my last visit in 1989?

I’m reading the Himalayan Times. My horoscope is especially annoying. “VIRGO: Sometimes you need to rethink a situation. What happens this morning should spell out for you. You might find intrigue surrounds a difficult situation. Tonight: Happy as can be.”

That’s right—“Don’t worry, be happy.”

Today’s violence is especially acute in light of the anniversary of the Peoples Movement of 1990. April 8, 1990, the system of parliamentary multi-party democracy was restored here in the Kingdom of Nepal. Now, it is back to the same-old, same-old.

Power is elusive, especially for the people, in shaky constitutional monarchies. This can only end badly for all involved.

I watched an MI-24 HIND Helicopter fly off in the distance. I couldn’t help, but recall how unhelpful those things were for the Soviets in the Afghanistan invasion and occupation of the 1980s.

You see, the Soviets painted huge, red stars on the outside of the armor about where the main rotor gear was located. Once the Mujahadeen figured out what to aim for—the MI-24s fell like flies. All it took was a well-placed shot from a beat-up .303 Enfield.

Did I mention the Maoists say they shot down a helicopter the other day? Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. That’s what the papers are saying. If they did, they read their history books. Oh, and the Maoists have a lot of beat-up captured police Enfields.

So, we play the old game of “hurry up and wait.” Hurry up for the general strike to be over; wait and enjoy the day and evening, as my horoscope dictates, and see what tomorrow brings.

“Don’t worry—be happy.”

(Postscript: I was just informed that cell phones have been cut off since this morning…Big Brother is watching.)

Jim Phelps is owner of Phoenix Traders fair-trade store at 215 7th St.

From the April 26-May 2, 2006, issue

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