Beware of dust

Posted on October 14, 2010


After an ongoing weeks-long internal debate, I’ve decided what it is that I dislike the most about Nepal. It’s the dust.

There’s not much to dislike here. Sure, there are plenty of things to put you outside your comfort zone, but that’s what makes traveling fun. Squat toilets, cold showers, rank street smells—these are all things you kind of get used to and come to have a sense of humor about. But there is no euphemistic leeway with dust. I hate the dust.


KTM street dust

Such street scenes (this one is in Bhaktapur) make for one dusty city.


To be fair, it’s really only Kathmandu, the city, that’s got such a terrible dust quotient. And unfortunately, some of the things that makes the city so fun is also what causes this unholy confluence of dust. Unpaved roads, crowds of people, frenetic traffic, crazy old trucks with unregulated exhaust, and dry, sunny days all add up to one big, brown dust ball. When you step out onto the main street, it’s so dusty you can feel the grit in your mouth when you inhale. Sometimes I think the saliva and dust in my mouth must be making mud. When you blow your nose after a day outside, you can expect to see black on your tissue. Grroossss. Most people wear cloth masks that cover the nose and mouth for walking outside.

I’ve always had a fairly wimpy respiratory system, and this week, just as expected, the KTM dust finally smote me down. I have had one long drawn-out respiratory infection. First it started with a scratchy throat, which led to itchy ears. Then the nose started running like a faucet (I can’t imagine how much fluid I lost over two days). Then came a dry, burning hack and all loss of smell or taste.  Just now, I’m starting to feel better, but every morning is a phlegm fest. My cough has turned into a deep, chesty rumble. But, gloriously, I now have moments where I can taste things! Wheeee!!

I don’t know how asthmatics make it in KTM. Last night, I bought a face mask. Not my best look, but it’s what’s best for these wimpy Western lungs.



Nope, not here to commit a crime, just protecting my lungs.