Welcome to Hotel Japan

Aside from the Earthquake Relief Fund Updates, it has been about six months since I last posted to the Nepal section of my blog. Unfortunately, between the aftermath of the earthquake(s) and my intense art studio practice at KCAC during the past two months, I’ve had little time (or emotional energy) to devote to writing about what life has been like for us here in Nepal since the quake. But I’m back now and will begin the process of catching the blog up to speed with this first post. I’ll start with telling you all about our new apartment – or at least, it was new just before the first earthquake struck, as we had moved in about one week before that horrible day. Seeing as those few weeks just before the earthquake is where the blog left off, we’ll start from there for now…

After three and a half months of living in the sometimes-too-cozy expat haven of Jhamsikhel, we finally made the move to a new neighborhood about a 30 minute walk from our old digs, to Kumaripati. The neighborhood isn’t really known for much – when I tell people that I live in Kumaripati, I often have to explain that “it’s the small neighborhood between Jawalakhel and Lagankhel” (two more commonly-known neighborhoods).

But Kumaripati is a nice little spot, conveniently located near the beautiful and historic Old Patan neighborhood, a major hospital, and a bus park where you can find transport to just about anywhere in Kathmandu. There’s a large road that runs through Kumaripati, (called Kumaripati Road – imagine that) which is bustling with pedestrians and traffic, and is lined almost entirely with small furniture show rooms and clothing stores that sell hip and trendy ‘Western-style’ fashions…

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Lava

“Lava Fashion Heat” and “Dynamic Fancy Wear” – some of my favorite store names along this street…

NOT a real Zara, by the way...

NOT a real Zara, by the way – there’s copyright infringement galore here in KTM…

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When you’re on this street headed south, you’ll walk past the small, but lovely, Kumaripati Temple…

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… and then turn onto the small street where the ever-so-glamorous “Uni-Wear” and “Sincere” clothing stores sit on the corners…

IMG_6313 IMG_6314… then you’ll walk down the narrow dead-end street following signs for “JLECC”…

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… then take another turn onto an even smaller street (which we could just barely get the taxis loaded with our things down on moving day)…

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… and there you will find the Japanese Language Education & Culture Center (JLECC), or as we like to call it, “Hotel Japan”…

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“But, Brenna, that’s a Japanese language school, not an apartment building! What are you talking about?”  Well, actually… it’s both! My Nepali language tutor just so happens to be friends with the founder/director of this school (a Nepali woman who lived in Japan for 8 years), who just so happens to have a small flat for rent on the 4th and 5th floors (in the building on the left in the photo above – our landlady lives on the 4th floor of the building on the right). AND it just so happens that the founder/director of this school prefers to rent to Americans -specifically- so she can practice American-style English. Well, hot dog! That’s us!

Before finding “Hotel Japan,” we had been searching for an apartment in this area for several weeks, but with little luck. Unlike our old neighborhood, this part of town is NOT overrun with foreigners and therefore does not have a seemingly unending supply of fully-furnished (albeit over-priced) apartments available for rent. By the time we saw the flat in “Hotel Japan,” our only other viable options required either furnishing an entire apartment from scratch (including carpeting, refrigerator, stove – the works) or living in a nice furnished HOUSE that was priced well beyond our budget and is next door to a van/bus repair shop (the loud clanging of metal was an ever-present sound during our 8:30 a.m. tour, which we figured was not a great sign). And even though I was hoping for something ‘homier,’ less hotel-like (wait for it – you’ll see), and a bit more ‘traditionally Kathmandu’ (whatever that means), we decided to go for it. “Hotel Japan” would be our new home.

In Kathmandu, Nepal.

Right.

We figured, at the very least, it would make for a good story to tell in the future. Because here’s the thing about “Hotel Japan” – it’s… well… let’s just say that it’s intense. It takes the concepts of color and pattern to a whole new level….

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Would you believe that all these colors/textures/patterns are in the same (rather small) apartment? Well, believe it… because THIS is “Hotel Japan”…

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Our very... umm... special coffee table...

Our very… umm… ‘special’ coffee table…

The most hilarious view from our couch... I mean, wow. WALLPAPER!

The most hilarious view from our couch… I mean, wow. WALLPAPER!

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The spiral staircase in the corner leads up to a small loft space...

The spiral staircase in the corner leads up to a small loft space…

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... we don't use it much, just for a bit of storage really...

… we don’t use the loft for much, just a bit of storage really – but that little mattress comes in handy for guests!

Looking down from the loft onto the bedroom...

Looking down from the loft into the bedroom…

And our bathroom - possibly the greenest bathroom of all time...

And our bathroom – possibly the greenest bathroom of all time, and I don’t mean that in an environmentally-friendly sense…

Aside from the obvious, the place is full of strange little quirks that are oddly charming in their own way – or are at least good for a laugh…

The enormous Barbie sticker on the desk, for example...

The enormous Barbie sticker on the desk left by our landlady’s daughters, for example…

... or the bejeweled light fixtures...

… or the bejeweled light fixtures…

The tiny 'rotunda' in our bedroom ceiling...

The miniature ‘rotunda’ in our bedroom ceiling…

Shiny tape that's been put on the back-side of the glass window that separates the bedroom from the living room...

Shiny tape that’s been put on the back-side of the glass window that separates the bedroom from the living room…

And a little quirk/charm that I inserted myself - couldn't resist buying this little guy for our bathroom, he matches so well!

And a little quirk that I installed myself – I just couldn’t resist buying this little guy for our bathroom, he matches so well!

And the same goes for the floors below us in the school itself. The three classrooms in our building are very rangichangi (colorful), indeed….

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(I promise this is not some clever Photoshop trick – there are actually three separate classrooms with very distinct color schemes!)

And the hallways are full of interesting trinkets – origami, karaoke awards, and Japanese proverbs (written in Japanese, Nepali, and English for good measure)…

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In the spirit of Japan, there is a strict no-shoes policy inside the building. We must keep all of our shoes in a cabinet on the first floor of the building, which was sweetly labeled with our names upon our arrival…

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House slippers/sandals are the name of the game here, and we each have three pairs: one for the hallway, one for the bathroom, and one for the terrace/kitchen…

Our bathroom sandals...

Our bathroom sandals…

It’s sort of a strange little ritual to us Westerners, all this switching of sandals within various locations inside the home, but I’ve come to like it, actually. I enjoy the sense of occasion it gives me – when I put on a new set of sandals for a new room, it’s like I am declaring to the world, “I am going into THIS room now, everyone!” It’s silly, yes, but it makes me chuckle. And besides, I am actually in full agreement with the no-shoes policy – the streets of Kathmandu are horrendously filthy, and I don’t want that sh*t (literally) being tracked into my home! I have a feeling that -even though the streets aren’t quite as dirty in the States- I’ll be taking this new habit back home with me when our time in Nepal is over.

But I digress – back to our tour of “Hotel Japan!” After making the long climb to the 4th floor where our living space is located…

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The 'front' door to our flat...

The door to our flat with its lucky peacock feather…

… you can keep heading up to the 5th floor where you’ll find what I think is the best part about our place – the rooftop terrace and kitchen…

The best 'room' in the house!

The best ‘room’ in the house!

Our view...

Our view…

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Our lovely -and decidedly less colorful- bi-level kitchen (and YES, that is microwave. Say WHAT??!!)

Our lovely -and decidedly less colorful- bi-level kitchen (and YES, that is a microwave. Say WHAT??!!)

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Looking from the kitchen out onto the terrace...

Looking from the kitchen out onto the terrace…

We have little visitors in our kitchen from time to time, like ants, adorable geko-like lizards (that I can never manage to get good photos of), tiny spiders… and… for a few weeks we had a positively ENORMOUS spider hanging out with us as well…

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We only saw her at night, and she actually wasn’t a bad kitchen-mate – she kept to herself. And as a hunting spider, we assumed she was killing cockroaches and other big bugs we didn’t want in our kitchen anyway, so we were more or less fine with her taking up residence with us. We named her ‘Ari,’ after Aragog, the giant spider in the Harry Potter books/movies (yes, we’re dorks). But then one day, she was gone. Just gone. Either she moved out in search of ‘buggier’ pastures or she’s dead inside the wall somewhere… who knows? I hope it’s the former.

I suppose these little (and not-so-little) visitors are the small price we pay for having a kitchen up on the roof, which is really something between an indoor and semi-outdoor space. But we’re okay with it – especially when we get to see beautiful sunsets like these everyday…

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Not a bad place to eat dinner...

Not a bad place to eat dinner…

... or to enjoy a little cocktail before dinner...

… or enjoy a little cocktail just before dinner…

And like the floors below, even the rooftop has a little quirk that I enjoy – the bridge that connects the two buildings of our little JLECC ‘compound.’ There’s something about it that makes me feel like a little kid again, running around a reeaaally big jungle gym…

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It's also nice for hanging laundry out to dry on a rainy day...

It’s also nice for hanging laundry out to dry on a rainy day…

Living above a school has its challenges, though, I must admit. For one thing, there’s the noise. When you have so many young people gathering for classes (which begin at 7:00 a.m., Sunday through Friday – they have only one-day ‘weekends’ here in Nepal), it can get pretty loud. It’s unavoidable and I expected that when we moved in – over time, I’ve more or less managed to get used to it. What bothers me more, though, is the parking situation. The courtyard is almost always full with parked motorcycles (and I mean, packed to the brim), which often leads to my bicycle getting blocked in just when I’m late for some kind of appointment or another in the morning…

Looking down from our living room window into the courtyard below...

Looking down from our living room window into the courtyard before school begins…

... which gets pretty crowded with students and motorcycles during school hours...

… and looking down into the courtyard during school hours (Note: there are actually LESS motorcycles in the courtyard in this picture than usual!)…

The worst by far, though, are the rogue students who venture above the third floor into our ‘territory,’ which they are officially not allowed to do. They gather in the hallway outside our door to chat with each other or make cell phone calls, and I even found a few young boys hanging out on our terrace one morning – man, that really got my blood boiling! I should be able to walk into my kitchen in a bathrobe and not have to worry about a couple of 17 year old boys staring at me! Suffice it to say, I have learned how to say, “We live here. Please go downstairs,” in Nepali quite well. (I’m sure they all think I’m just a grumpy, crazy foreigner, but what can I say? I like my home-space and my privacy, and I’m not afraid to stand up for it).

BUT with all that said, we pay a decent price for a fully furnished apartment with some hard-to-find amenities, like a microwave, full-sized fridge and working freezer, a WASHING MACHINE (yaaaay!), a flat-screen TV (that we rarely use, but still – it’s good for movies), AND an Air Conditioning/Heating wall-unit (SAY WHAT?!). If you are reading this from Europe or the States, these things may not sound all that exciting, but believe me, this is fancy stuff here in Nepal. And considering the fact that all of these little luxuries would be hard to find even in the expat haven of Jhamsikhel, much less here in Kumaripati, I figure it’s worth tolerating a few rogue students and some seriously… umm… ‘unique’ home decorating.

What’s most important of all, though, is that “Hotel Japan” is a strong, newly constructed building that was built to withstand an 8.0 earthquake. Boy, did THAT little feature ever come in handy.

Up next on the blog, the post I’ve been dreading to write, but know that I must – the earthquake. Coming soon….

5 thoughts on “Welcome to Hotel Japan

  1. Pingback: Aayo (Part I) | Home is Where the Hair Is

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