“Your leg, you will lose it,” said the Frenchman. We were on the side of the road, halfway through a twisting, fourteen-hour bus ride from Delhi, India, to the hillside outpost of Manali. This was our one rest stop, at a roadside café in the middle of the bus’ winding trek north. I sat in a small plastic chair, left leg propped up, twice the size of the other. Angry lines of infection made their way up from my ankle and calf. “It will reach the bone. You will lose your leg,” he repeated, and walked away. The absence of qualifiers and inflection common to second language speakers gave him an air of authority. As I ate my masala potatoes, I thought, he’s probably right. I’m going to lose my leg. Time to get back on the bus.
The red brick schoolhouse that is Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport is a study in inefficiency: visa applications scattered everywhere, a few bored officers napping, a broken metal detector and luggage scanner (you have to push your luggage through; the belt doesn’t work) and a faded banner welcoming you to Mt. Everest. There are no queues. Neither Nepalese nor Indian currency is accepted to pay for the tourist visa. But step past the chain link fence and taxi drivers surround you, grabbing at your bag, offering to take you into town for inflated prices.