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Inspiration: angels, devils, and suicidal ants.

While in the past I’ve aspired to balance, I’ve come to embrace the imbalance, accepting that balance is found in the wholeness of all that exists, and over time – it doesn’t have to exist in every moment I experience. The yin and yang – the mixture of cold and hot, of love and fear, of birth and death – provide a fertile ground for new ideas to be seeded and creative potentials to be discovered.

I see this dynamic in everything that surrounds me, in the death of stars above, and in the death of tiny ants that decided to share my bed. I don’t think I shared this story when I was away…

In Pokhara I unintentionally killed a few of ants who were on my bed. I spent the next half hour watching the survivors mourn and try to deal with the death of their loved ones:

First the deceased ant’s friend lay it’s head on top of the dead body.


Then it tried to put the carcass on its back and carry it.

When it was too difficult it rolled the body into a ball and tried again.

Then it started to pull and drag it behind.

I don’t know where it thought the nearest ant hospital or grave yard was located.


Eventually it gave up and curled itself into a ball.

I thought it had committed romantic Romeo-and-Juliet-suicide.


But, when I returned from a dinner, I discovered it had pulled itself together and left the bed.

(Lucky there were two beds in my room so I didn’t actually have to share my bed with the ant carcasses lol)

These ant observations left me thinking, not only about the human-likeness of even the littlest insects, but of life and death and where I draw a line between good and bad.

In India and Nepal I had met quite a few people who do not harm an ant or fly in order to prevent a future reincarnation as an ant or fly. Did I feel bad for killing the ant’s friend? No. Not only because it was an accident, and because I don’t believe in karmic reincarnation of individual souls (I do not fear I’ll now be returning as an ant), but because (as I’ve mentioned in other entries) I see death is an intrinsic part of life.

Some forms of life live long lives, others lead short ones, and that is that.

If the ants I killed had a lot to offer our world, then I would be sad. While collectively ants are an important component of Earth’s ecosystem, there are who-knows-how-many billion more ants who will continue this ant’s job. While his friend missed him dearly, the rest of the universe won’t. I guess that’s sad, but it’s the way the universe works, the way “God” works.

Systems on all levels of our reality are microcosms and macrocosms of the systems on other levels. Human society is no different. Killing cows to eat is a product of our present place in the food chain. 60 million years ago we were rodents being eaten by dinosaurs. Life goes on. Systems and species die and new systems and species arise and evolve.

The miracle of human consciousness is the creative choice that sits in our minds – we can actually contemplate, plan and co-create the future of our world. It gives us foresight, hindsight, guilt and conscience. We humans do seem to have the world,  sitting in our palms. We humans, in this moment, have the power to create and to destroy.

As agents of “God” we have been given this choice: good or evil, with the definition of these loaded words constantly changing, but what at root appear to somewhat be connected to the harmony and disharmony of the universe as a whole.

The question we face (sorry if I come back to these points too much), is what and how: What do we want the world to look like, and how are we going to get there?

Or… am I giving the human intellect too much credit? Is global warming a sign that the universe, or “God”, has a plan of “his” own; that the laws of nature are more powerful than the laws of man?

Maybe the future of humanity lays in the hands of nature, and not the other way around. Maybe we will be a short-lived species, reaping the karmic consequences of our own neglect and making way for the rise of new species who are possibly a little more ant-like in their sustainable ecosystems and balanced metabolisms.

The future is uncertain. I guess the uncertainty and possibility is part of the fun of it.


Photographer – Cade Turner

Taken at a fancy-dress charity event I photographed on the weekend. I had to dress as “something or someone that inspires me”. I dressed as an angel AND a devil, with the philosophical justification that the existence of opposing forces keeps me challenged, engaged, and inspired.

It was a fundraiser for The Inspire Foundation – a charity established in direct response to Australia’s then escalating rates of youth suicide.

More photos from the ‘To Be Inspired’ Laneway Ball are on facebook: Click Here

Lifting the blinds, and curing PISD

My PISD – my Post-India Stress Disorder – has been cured!!! Well, at least for the most part, for now.

This post concludes over a month’s worth of writings on re-adjusting to life in Sydney post India’s turning my worldview up-side-down experience. I feel more humble – with a clearer understanding just how much I don’t know and how much I will probably never know. I realise that while I can make a positive impact on the state of our present and future worlds, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

I think have used my writing on this blog as a form of therapy to deal with what I saw to be massive issues : population, inequality, capitalism, and our global ecological crisis.

Out of this I have come to an understanding of my Capitalistic cynicism and my World Peace idealism, and I feel good about that.

I have come to realise that while I’ll always search for The Truth and strive to live The Truth, my truth will probably always be different from your truth, and that’s okay. No matter how similar or different our perceptions of Truth are, the best thing we can do is accept each other person’s right to that perception and not want to change it. No one’s perception is ever static anyway – The Truth, or at least one’s perception of The Truth, is a constantly changing conception.

Similar to this unobtainable truth, while “World Peace” appears to be further out of reach than ever before, I think it is still a worthwhile objective.

Never say never, and never say forever.

Peace may be possible, but as soon as it is reached it will surely disappear. This is the Yin and Yang. The Way of the universe. The way of my own mind, body and soul. The rollercoaster – that is life.

Life may seem more harsh from this perspective, but it also seems more authentic. And I’m ready for it. While fantasy and idealims are fun, at least for the moment I want something real.

George Carlin and Bill Hicks tell it like it is:


I guess now that I see both sides, and glimpse the dynamics that lay beyond, I just have to shrug my shoulders and say – peace may be an absolutely impossible objective but, like the pursuit for an unattainable Truth, I can enjoy the process of striving for it. While I’m sure these experiences and reflections will influence the rest my life, I’m now well and truly ready to start something new.

Microcosms and macrocosms – we are specks of dust in a giant’s eye

“India’s chaos was bigger than your ego,” said Farhad Azad. “You have to remember we are but drops in the ocean.” He was right, India’s incomprehensibility had put me back in my place. Somewhere along the line I came across this song, it’s pretty funny. By Kimya Dawson:


I like it. “I am a speck of dust inside a giant’s eye”

As you can see, over a few rounds of  longneck Himalaya (Nepali beer) on two brief occasions, I learned a lot from Farhad. It’s amazing how when you are open to the universe, you meet the right people at the right time in the most random ways. Similarly, I find it amazing how sometimes I come across little you-tube clips like this one, or words or ideas, that stick with you for life. Coincidence? Synchronicity??

As a drop of water in a vast infinite ocean, I am starting to consceitize (as Lederach, a famous conflict specialist would say,) that is, I am becoming more and more aware of myself-in-context.

As I see it I am a microcosms of microcosms, inside macrocosms of macrocosms.

I am a seemingly insignificant yet an utmost essential piece of an infinitely expandable fractal pattern.

If that’s not a paradox, I don’t know what is.


Just a photo of a cactus plant a friend gave me for Christmas… it’s still alive!!! (I don’t have a very good reputation when it comes to plants…) But in terms of fractal patterns it’s probably not the most appropriate shot. If I had a photo of a fern, I would have put that up… you’ll just have to use your imagination 🙂

Human rights or a collective future? The problem with definitions.

If the pursuit of peace is an attempt to rid the world of violence, we must ask ourselves – “violence” through the eyes of who? Defining violence from the perception of a collective-humanity, is very different form defining it from the perception of each individual:

– If we define violence from the perception of all-humans-together, then are we not opening the doors for evil dictator, idealistic warfare and other devastating forms of violence to be committed on individuals?

– But, if we define violence as purely from an individual perspective, eg broaching on a woman’s right to have as many children as she pleases, then are we not lending ourselves to neglect the big-picture?

If we prioritise individual human rights over the rights of all life collectively, might we not cause the greatest violence of all – the destruction of our planet – a violence against all humans and life of today and the future???

Oh woe woe: what confusion, what a predicament, what a trade off…

Does this mean peace is a vain pursuit? An idealist impossibility? An unattainable objective? Maybe.

But is, like the quest for Truth and Balance, the process of pursuing peace still a valuable one?

The last couple of years I have studied “Peace And Conflict Studies”, and while this has influenced many of my entries, I think it might be useful to outline some of the key terms and concepts. I guess where the idea of peace gets airy fairy is in it’s definition… what exactly are we talking about when we talk of “peace”?

First I wish to clarify that peace is NOT the absence of conflict.

Life is defined by dualisms, by the dynamic relationships between opposing forces, by conflict. Conflict leads to evolution, to growth, innovation and improvement. Conflict is good. Violence, however, is not. And violence need not be a part or a result of conflict.

Professor Galtung defines two categories of peace:

Negative Peace the elimination of war; and

Positive Peace the elimination of poverty and other forms of violence including Direct Violence (eg stop me from hitting you) and Indirect Violence (eg stop me from constraining your freedoms) and Structural Violence (a form of indirect violence that is concealed by a system structure).

Peace involves the resolution of conflict through non-violent means – something I think our schools could do better providing us the skills to put into practice. For example, the learning conflict resolution skills such as how to map out a conflict :

  • how to define the central issue (in a blame-free language)
  • identify the manifest and un-manifest pressures
  • distinguish transitory interests from cultural values and unchanging needs
  • as well as identifying the fears and concerns of the parties involved,

This framework allows common visions and strategies to be designed in a far more efficient and effective way. (See Burton (1990) and Tillet (1999) if you are interested in learning more.

Positive Peace is about JUSTICE

Which brings me back to the problem with words and definition.

Whose justice are we talking about?

My idea of justice, or yours? What kind of justice? Economic? Social? Intellectual? All of the above? The problem with a definition like this is that my idea of justice might very well be your idea of oppression. Our means of evaluating is relative to our culture, education, and experience.

And I start to wonder: is the predicament between human rights and planetary rights, anything like the difference between capitalist mentalities and communist ones? How is can it be I feel I empathise with both?


What do YOU think?

Should we prioritise human rights at the expense of planetary ones?

What is more important, our individual present or our collective future?

Give me a shorter more fulfilling life over a long drawn out crappy one – in my mind quality trumps quantity, and planetary rights trump human ones – but maybe that’s just me.


Barash, D.P. (1991) “The Meaning of Peace” & “The Debate Over Peace Studies” in Introduction to Peace Studies. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing.

Burton, J. (1990a). Human Needs Theory. Conflict: Resolution and Prevention. Macmillan. London, UK.

Galtung, J. (2000). TRANSCEND: 40 Years, 40 Conflicts. Searching for Peace: The Road to TRANSCEND. J. J. Galtung, C G. London, Pluto Press.

Tillett, G. and B. French (2006). Conflict and its Resolution. Resolving Conflict: A Practical Approach Melbourne, Oxford University Press. 3rd edn.


A pile of rubbish in Kathmandu, Nepal. While the west buries their rubbish in the ground or out at sea, to me this site (and even more so the wretched smell) was a stark reminder of humanity’s impact. It was seriously grotesque, and if it’s avoidable I think it should be avoided.

Envisioning the future of humanity-on-earth

While in a recent entry I concluded that I simply need to accept the world as it is, today I wonder, does this mean accepting the projectory of the world’s future? If we have the foresight to see that the present path we are on has the potential to destroy humanity-on-earth, do we have a responsibility to pave a new path?

I think yes, we do.

I think that what Deepak is saying is that the uncovering of a new path begins with an acceptance of the past – an acceptance of the inequalities exist today – and an awareness of our culturally conditions definitions of good and bad. That’s where it starts. Accept the world as it is, for now.

Then, and only then, can we begin to predict possible futures and work toward the most desirable one. And so I ponder: what does a desirable future look like? And what kind of path might take us there?

Before I went to India I wrote an entry that talked about the “Changing the Dream” initiative, that looked at how we can to redefine our values and the place of money in our life ambitions. (Click here to revisit entry: “Where are we, where are we going, and how.“). This entry and this initiative still stand strong. It’s the motivation behind this, for me, which has changed.

While I have returned with a far less idealistic perspective, I have not lost my optimism altogether. I have lost my altruism. I have a more realistic optimism and and more self-centred motivation julietnow.

Capitalism has many points that can be improved upon. The perception of people as resources, commodities to be profited from, and earth as here for our exploitation and destruction, are two components that not good for any body’s conscience, or any body’s future.

Physical, sexual and mental slavery (of people at all economic levels), war, poverty, over-population, unhappiness, loneliness, and lives run by an obsessions with money, are also elements of capitalism that I believe can and need to be to be addressed.

How? How can such things be addressed? Are they embedded in the capitalistic model? Do we need a new model or can we adjust our current one?

My favourite professor Johan Galtung, who I met and chatted with at the International Peace Research Association conference last week, takes what I believe to be the best approach to conflict resolution I’ve ever heard of. It’s called the TRANSCEND model, and it can be applied to anything. It involves deeply exploring the roots of the problems,separating the conflicting people from the conflicting goals, and then thinking creatively about a solution that neither parties have thought about, but which transcends the conflict in it’s entirety.

It all starts with a vision.

Solutions to the world’s problems requires us to imagine what we WANT the world to look like:

What long-term vision to we have for humanity on this planet? How many people live in each country? Do we still have “countries” and “passports” or are we free to be citizens of the planet? What kind of diversity still exists between our races? What do we do for fun? Do we still work? Have a career? What place does technology have in our lives? Do we still use money? Still many currencies or just a few? Do we care about owning houses and shares? Does the share market still exist? How do we express our creativity? How many rainforests have survived? Do we have enough water? How clean is our air? What do we eat? How do we interact with each other?

The post-India me is still interested in the future. A realistic future. An amazing future. And to get there we need that vision. The new paradigm I see the word through is dreaming of a better world, one that lies in our own personal interests, and one that doesn’t seem completely impossible.


A possible future that is “Beyond Poverty, Politics & War” might be The Venus Project – – Designs by Jacque Fresco – Models and photos by Jacque Fresco & Roxanne Meadows.

Capitalistic karma: reinterpreting reincarnation

Walking up in the mountains outside Kathmandu I contemplated the connection between the world’s inequalities today, the actions of one’s ancestors, and the idea of karma and reincarnation that I had been reading about in some books on the Eastern Religions.

Be they the ancestors who split from the group to discover new worlds fifty thousand years ago, or be they the innovators of new technologies that won them last century’s battles, the connection is pretty clear… and I wondered, is this what the yogis are talking about when they talk about karma? Are the people of today the reincarnations of ancestors, manifested through the processes of material, genetic and education inheritance? The closer we get to a person, the more the other embodies our ideas. If we, say, write a book and disperse our ideas, are we, on some level, reincarnating ourselves through the people that these ideas influence? Are our children simply more direct reincarnations of ourselves as they gain more of our energy through our genes and through the time we spend with them?

At the end of the day we are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions, be they consequences experienced our own lifetime, or in that of our children and childrens’ childrens’ childrens’ lifetimes. If we do bad to another person, animal, or to our environment, be it in our lifetime or in sometime in the distant future, the universe eventually balances itself out… Is this, in a wider sense, our “karma”? Could the cycle of birth-death-rebirth that the yogis talk about be less about a separate soul reincarnating (for example, that if you kill a bee in this life you will come back as an bee in your next life), and actually be describing the process of evolution (for example, if many people kill many bees, humanity will have to adapt to a world with less flowers and foods)?

When the caste system tells people that they have been born into their caste as a consequence of their actions in a past life I typically respond (in my head) with “what a load of bullocks!” But, when viewed from this understanding of karma and reincarnation, this idea starts to make sense… Could poverty actually be the karmic result of the decisions of one’s ancestors?

When I compare the capitalist system to the caste system I can’t help but appreciate the open opportunities capitalism provides. Sure it’s not a perfect system with the opportunities it provides not exactly equal (for example, children in wealthy families are sure to have more opportunities than less wealthy families) but on the other side I also think that if a person dedicates their life to provide such opportunities for their children, isn’t it fair that this child benefits from their parent’s hard work? Is such their good fortune, their parent or grandparent’s karma?


Or is maybe this just my wishful thinking, in hope of justifying the unjustifiable, I’m not quite sure. Karma and reincarnation aside, as I consider the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and I wonder: if you take away the ability to transfer wealth to your children, will people still be motivated to innovate and work hard? At least in this system, children in the less wealthy family still get a decent education and decent amount of opportunity. While life may not be as easy as it is for the child born in the wealthy family, the challenges this presents can actually an opportunity for even more growth for that individual, and at least no one is completely left out of the system and being condemned to be an untouchable for all their future generations.

It is starting to seem to me that as we reincarnate ourselves, from generation to generation of cell to plant to animal to self-aware human, our creativity is growing, our sense of morality and ethics is deepening, and our capability to consider the future of the whole planet is expanding. And so I wonder, if we continue collective learn from each other and from the past, what incredible species will the reincarnates of humanity be like in the future?

Picture notes

Photographer: Edwina Hughes.

Taken at my sister’s wedding at Craigiburn in Bowral on the weekend, this photo doesn’t really have anything to do with this blog entry although I guess in a way it represents the passing on of traditions and possibly the beginning of a new generation of Bennetts. And it’s nice to share considering it was such an incredible wedding, very fun, my sister looked GORGEOUS, and my new brother-in-law spunky… Congratulations guys!

Overnight Change: One day you’re here, the next…

One day a prime minister, the next you’re not. A captain thrown overboard by his crew. Why? Was he really so bad? Was he leading the ship in a direction they didn’t want to go? Was a pirate about to overtake his ship? Was he working his crew too hard? Or is there some other reason they’re not telling us??? Who knows… What I really want to know is if Rudd is out, does that mean we’re saved from the China-inspired Internet censorship proposal? God I hope so.

What is going on at the moment? Why is EVERYTHING changing so fast???

Never have so many changes happened in the span of five weeks. Less changes occurred when I was in Japan for two years. My time in India and Nepal felt like much longer than five weeks. And this sense of time isn’t just in my head, the time dynamic seems to have changed for other people too.

I’ve returned back to Australia to more than just a new prime minister. We have new types of petrol on offer and the standard “unleaded” seems to have disappeared from the tank hoses. Some of my best friends have decided to leave the country or live in the middle of my country, and are in the midst of packing their apartments and bags and jumping a plane within the next couple of weeks. Other friends who have been overseas seem to be coming home within days of those leaving. And amongst this havoc my sister is getting married, I’m speaking at another conference, and I will find out if I have been granted a scholarship that will determine what I do for the next three years. Change. Change. Change.

It’s exciting. It’s scary and weird. There’s definitely a little adrenaline running through my veins… Mr Universe – what next???

While my brain struggles to comprehend the above, I’m very much struggling to process my experiences in India and Nepal, and the readjustment to life in what I now perceive to be a paradise. So… if the upcoming blog entries appear a little haphazard, reflecting a confused state of being, then you know why.

I wonder, are things changing in your world too?


My gorgeous friend Lauren, who is heading over to Canada for an undetermined amount of time. Miss you chica!

Hippies and happiness (Pokhara)

We arrived to eat dinner and sip cocktails with a perfect view of this beautiful lake. I had no idea what I was expecting when I left for Pokhara, but I wasn’t expecting the quiet little Queenstown-like town it is.


Before long, with more new friends, we ventured to the other side of the lake where the Brits had randomlly found a cute little guesthouse with a family, home grown foods and an even greater view of the lake. (Header picture). Had it been any other time of year, this view would have been a panorama of the Himilayas… damn it! Oh well, can’t really complain when it’s still this beautiful.


The family had five dogs! Soooo cute!!!


Lake and mountains, what a combination.


Time stood still after a big glass of a “special” banana lassi.


Good food, good friends, good music, books and movies, friendly dogs and lovely bush and lake walks. I left a day later feeling as if I had been doing absolutely nothing for months.


On occassion, very early in the morning, the sky is clear enough to catch the Himalayas peaking through and tease you with what you’re missing. It’s as close as I’ll get to them on this trip – it’s off season and walking all day in the fifty degree heat is not so appealing…



Watching people meditate is almost a meditation in and of itself.


I found myself a new yoga guru, Rishi from Rishikesh, to teach complex asanas (poses) and pranayama techniques (breathing) and the theory behind why you do what and the long term health you can create for yourself with yoga.

Yoga combined with a book Gil loaned me containing essays of scholars from the world’s major religions has spurred me to do a lot of thinking about life, happiness, purpose, and the future. I guess that’s nothing new… it’s just now it’s coming from a less optomistic more realistic post-India perspective… I’m sure I’ll soon be sharing – once I make at least a little sense of it.


Instead of hiking I’ve been spending my days in a hotel pool at the top of a mountain with my yoga buddies. I get a 15 minute hike up the hill – in the heat that’s sufficing my hiking desires for now.

Judit, my new Spanish friend, has plans to go back to India and stay for up to five years… I’m impressed. I guess India is one of those places you either LOVE or HATE. Apparently “The rest of India is great” – I saw India’s worst side – the worst cities in the worst season. Maybe I’ll go back… one day… in the very very distant future…


Cute restaurants abound this place: good food, and VERY CHEAP – like $1-5 a meal!

The best meal was “Buff”, a juicy, tender, sizzling buffalo steak… if only I didn’t have to eat it in shame. Surrounded by vegetarian hippies and Hindis I feel the pain of the animals through the pain they try but fail to conceal in their eyes.

To eat meat, or not to eat meat – that is the question. Usually a debate follows.

I justify my actions by explaining that if our ancestors hadn’t have learned to extract meat and bone marrow from other animals, we may not have survived and our brains certainly would not have evolved to the complexity they are today. Meat is brain food. Then they point out that when it was a question of survival it was one thing, but now we have a choice – there is plenty of other proteins we can eat that do not involve harming other forms of life. They make a good point. Why does meat have to taste so good, smell so good, and make my body feel so good? I usually go on to tell them that beans and vegetables don’t have have the protein or iron of meat. I explain that of course I do not like the idea of animals dying on my behalf but that is the way of nature. We have our pick because we are presently at the top of the food chain, and one day we’ll probably be at the bottom again. I am personally not afraid of death – death is part and parcel with the cycle of life. When I die I hope that other animals eat my body and that the cycle may continue. If you are going to care about animals dying, then what about plants? Are they not lifeforms with some form of consciousness too? Where do you draw the line between different forms of life? More of an issue to me is not the death of these animals for my food… what I care about is the crappy life they have to endure before this death. It’s more difficult when travelling but when I’m home I purchase free range chickens and eggs, and meat that comes from organic farms where the animal has lead a good life and avoiding as much as possible the large scale production facilities. They tend to agree with me on this point. And out of this dialogue I agree it’s a good idea to cut down on my intake. I suppose I don’t need meat/poultry/fish/eggs every day.


By and large my time here has been spent sipping banana lassis and masala tea, reading and writing and dreaming.

I understand how some of the hippies we hang out with at Shiva Bar have been travelling for 15 years!!! One of them uses paragliding as a mode of transport – now that’s a green way to fly…  taking literally the idea of letting the wind guide you to your next destination… 


Life has never been so simple.

From Bangkok to Bikes, Bollywood and Bongs (Kathmandu)

On the plane from Sydney to Bangkok, a some three weeks ago now, I met Bipeen – a Nepali who has been living in Australia the last couple of years who was on route to visit his family in Kathmandu.

“I’ll pick you up at the airport” he wrote me on facebook.

Sure enough he did, and his kind and generous family invited me to stay a night and experience typical family life in the Tibetan area of the city.


Tibet may be in strife but at least Tibetan culture is everywhere!


The view from Bipeen’s family home.


I spent the next day on the back of Bipeens bike, exploring temples and shops, and coming home with far too much stuff than I know how to get to transport to Sydney (what you can see on the top picture above is the least of it).


We even squeezed in a Bollywood movie named Kites (one thing I forgot to do in India). Set in Las Vegas and Mexico, with English words jumbled throughout the Hindi and an onscreen kiss (oo la la – a big no-no for Indian movies) – this movie was a new breed of half-Hollywood-Bollywood. A very over-the-top love story about the torment over choosing between true love and money. The protagonists chose love, a very lustful love… I loved it!!!

The next day I farewelled his family and set off to find some hiking buddies in Thamel. Instead I met up with Gil, a Brit I’d made on a plane from Coimbatore to Delhi about five days go, and while missing to meet up with Vilas, an American I’d met on the plane from Delhi to Kathmandu (are you noticing a pattern here?), I enjoyed an entertaining night on the town and on shisha (well I gave it a short puff anyway – I’m not very good at inhaling) and laughing at those who were better at it.


While Nepal may be far more relaxed than India, it faces similar issues: horns still beep (albeit not as loud), beggars still beg (while with more limbs attached), and street husslers still hassle you for this and that, with bargaining required for every last rupee. On most occasions I’m too lazy to argue over a dollar or two and then when I see seasoned travellers getting everything from rooms to taxis to souvineers, for half the price I pay. Apparently it goes part and parcel with the nationality: Aussies/Brits/Americans/West-Europeans pay the most, then South American/ Spanish /Eastern Europeans, and with Israelis/Middle Eastern and hippies with dreadlocks getting the best deals without even trying… Slowly slowly I’m starting to haggle, as friends demonstrate the way. They say a price, you say half, then you meet in the middle. That’s the game and while it’s a pain in the arse, I’m starting to realise that playing it actually feels better than knowing you’ve been ripped off.  

My worst experience in Kathmandu was THE BABY NEEDS MILK SCAM.

“Please please come,” a mother with child in one arm grabbed me with the other, leading me to a supermarket. “My baby needs milk,” she said, showing me an empty bottle. I looked into the child’s big brown eyes and I nodded, how can I not buy this poor baby some milk?

As I walked into the supermarket I saw the checkout chicks shake their head. When the mother lopaded me up with two large boxes of powdered milk, each 1000 rupees ($20) and a third smaller box for 800 rupees I wasn’t sure what to do. I was expecting a small carton of milk costing a dollar. “You have to mix them,” she said. I put one of the identical boxes back and handed 1800 rupees at the checkout. As I exited the woman thanked me and invited me over for tea at her house, some 1 hour drive away. I declined politely then looked up to be surrounded by more women with babies in their arms and empty milk bottles in their hands.

“Milk for my baby, please, please,” they said. “I have five babies at home. I need to give them milk. Please.” I look into more little children’s eyes and nearly fall for it again.

“I have no money left,” I told them, “share with this lady.” 

“There is ATM over here,” a mother that couldn’t have been older than twenty told me, pulling me toward the bank. Then it dawned on me: I’d fallen for the oldest scam in the book. The boxes of milk powder had been placed to one side of the road, and the woman with the baby was now looking for more prey to scam into buying more mik powder which I guess she could sell.

“If you can’t afford to feed your babies then stop having them,” I told them, walking away in a huff. I hate so much what poverty does to people. I found out later that babies are rented out for the day, that often they are dropped so they look like they are “crying for milk.” $40 for 10 minutes work. A clever yet deceptively sick way to make one’s living.

Similar and in a better way to India, as you can see from the photos, Nepal offers many good experiences that make up for the few bad ones. One of these good little moments was in a shop where I bought some little chimes and asked the shop keeper what the symbols on it mean. “OM MA HUN,” he read. “It means accept the now. 100%. This is happiness. The sound is the dance of silence in your heart. It represents inner peace. Peace comes when your heart and mind are balanced.” I thought it a lovely little message to take away, and I didn’t bother negotiating on the price.

Gil and his friend Brett were leaving the next morning for Pokhara. “You’re welcome to jump in our cab!” they offered. Porque no?! And so began a new little adventure…