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Coal Walking

Kathmandu in the mid-90s appeared to be a city every modern convenience had skipped over. Nowhere was this clearest than the airport. Chaos reigned with crowds of people nagging, hectoring, and gesticulating wildly at each other. Watching it all with calm detachment were the photographs of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya of Nepal hanging above the customs station. There was no placid TV screen telling which baggage carousel had the luggage from arriving flights; there was no luggage carousel.  I stood frozen, mouth agape, as my mother darted between the jostling crowds to secure our suitcases. Then I heard the sweetest sound. "Rosie!" It was my older sister, Kirsty. She had come to meet us at the airport, striding through the crowd of men in their socks and sandals and their wives draped in saris. She was taller than nearly all of them and noticeably paler. Her brown corkscrew curls had matted together since I’d seen her last, but I clung to her wide, illuminating smile lik…

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