Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Daily Hurricane

April 26
If you and your watch get confused in Nepal—which is easy since the clocks here are set 15 minutes apart from the time zones used by the rest of the world—you can determine the time by noting when the daily hurricane roles in.

At 4:15pm the clear, bright sky clouds over to a slate grey. If you miss this moment to synchronize your watch you can wait until 4:30pm. At that time the gale force winds come to bend the trees and send the shopkeepers scurrying to collect the placards outside their shops. At 4:35pm any uncollected placards can be found crashing to the ground, and all the signs here show the wear of countless afternoon dustups.

The rain will come at a quarter to five. It might come in big, steady drops or road-swallowing sheets but either way it won’t last long, provided the wind keeps blowing the clouds through. This isn’t the monsoon season, it’s just the daily hurricane-like storm season.

At five the town looks deserted with all the storefronts covered by their metal roll-down security screens. It gets quite dark because when the clouds blot out the sun, the power company kills the lights for fear the power lines will be damaged by the storm.

By 6:30pm the sky is cleared and the sun is all but gone and just as the night sinks in the power comes back. If you’ve ever been in a hurricane where the leaves blew off the trees but the branches stayed put you know what it’s like each afternoon in Pokhara, Nepal. No one tapes their windows or buys eggs and bottled water. They don’t go down into their basement to wait it out. But they bring in the placards off the street or watch them sail down the sidewalk with the wind.


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