After canoeing on Phewa Lake in Nepal and exploring the sun-drenched surrounding mountainous dominion on bicycles, Pokhara's emerald environment rendered with monsoon rain. My monsoon disappointment paralleled the time three friends visited San Francisco for two days. I drove them to Twin Peaks to present the city from one of the highest points. The city was bathed in fog and we might as well have been staring into the fishbowl a friend of mine left on his back porch for two years, fish and water intact. The next day I drove them across the Golden Gate Bridge. As it too was flooded with fog, this was about as successful as George W. Bush attempting to administer an impromptu speech.
To retreat from the rain, Pakistan and I returned to India by bus, this time to Varanasi, India's cultural and religious center where Hindus pilgrimage to bathe on the ghats in the Ganges River. Thirty sewers discharge into the bathing bounty of the river and fecal bacteria and matter race as rampant as STD's at UCSB.
We cast ourselves into the Shanti Guesthouse. Loaded with my luggage and sweat seasoning my body, I felt like a five thousand pound walrus in the middle of the Sahara Desert. The bottom floor was empty, the reception desk deserted like my cleanliness. One man reposed at a table, languidly planting food on his fork and then into his mouth, chewing twenty-two times, swallowing, and repeating. After lingering for four minutes, Pakistan approached Lackadaisical Larry to inquire as to the concierge's location. Lackadaisical Larry was the concierge.
Seven minutes later he shuffled to us, stroking his bulging belly like he was with child. He slowly swabbed food remnants from his lower face into his mouth with his fingertips, as concerned with us as he was with the cow who had recently discharged it's droppings beside the hotel's entryway.
"Namaste! We're looking for a double room for the night," I verbally accosted our loafing host as he sprung his tongue around his mouth, hoping that my cheerleader-like enthusiasm would motivate him to address us.
"We only have a single room available," he replied with the hospitality of Hitler.
"Ok... do you have any dorm-style rooms with two beds available?" Pakistan asked.
"Yes. But they're not safe. No locks on anything. Your bags could be stolen."
"Okay... but your hotel has something like sixty rooms? And you have nowhere to lock up our bags during the day?" Our Holy Host gazed at me. I felt like I was interrogating a mute.
"No, nowhere to keep bags."
"Okay. If we were to stay here and our train didn't leave until 6pm and check-out is at noon, you don't have anywhere to put our bags?"
"You don't have a closet?" we persisted with Job's patience.
"I only keep bags two hours. No longer."
"Okay, fine, whatever. May we see the single room?"
"It's small. It won't fit two people."
"Okay, but could you possibly put another mattress in there so it could sleep two people?"
"Maybe. But the room's small."
"Okay. Can we just see it though? We can decide." The loving Lonely Planet description of a roof patio restaurant complete with pool table and free river rides every morning and evening were persuasive enough to contend in conversation with a man who was as inviting as the cow dung by the front door.
Pakistan returned and reported that the room was tiny. As our conversation had annihilated my visions of playing pool and a free river ride like Al-Qaeda annihilated New York's twin towers, we announced we were going to attempt another hotel.
"Oh, I completely understand. I'm sorry we don't have more availability. There's a great place around the corner that hopefully has room. Good luck," the host I now considered to be as bipolar as my first collegiate soccer coach said with a wave.
Pakistan and I tried two other hotels but eventually returned to the Shanti Guesthouse determined to delay there for the night in the single room. We again viewed the room suitable in size for a five-year-old and confirmed the mattress would have to reside halfway under the bed. By this time I would have been content with a mattress in the hallway.
We paid Our Holy Host for one night. He then informed us that he didn't have any more locks and we should buy our own. Upon our entreaties for him to procure one, or at least give us money to buy one for the hotel, he shook his head like a parent signaling a disruptive child and pointed to the street. Pakistan and I were as likely to pay for a lock as we were to go swimming in the excrement-ridden river.
The following morning I returned to our unlocked room to discover Our Holy Host standing in our doorway.
"I'm sorry? Do you need something?" I asked.
"Why don't you have a lock? Something could get stolen! And I thought this room was empty because there was no lock! I almost let someone stay here right now."
"We don't have a lock because you didn't give us a lock yesterday and wouldn't even give us money to buy one!" I reminded him, feeling like a Special Ed teacher.
We later learned that there was a closet the size of Princess Diana's wardrobe specifically for luggage storage.