Immersion Illness

19 08 2010

After moving into my apartment, there was shopping to do and one of the hallmarks of an international experience is determining in which store to buy things. Students from our Mount Mercy Mexico trip 2 years ago have fond memories of the 2-hour excursion to find bubble wrap. One would find bubble wrap in shipping or office supply stores in the U.S., but where does one find bubble wrap in Mexico if the same stores don’t exist? Each of these shopping trips requires a walk or a taxi ride. If you’ve ever played the video game “Frogger” you’ll understand what it’s like to cross a Kathmandu street. Navigating the streets is an artform. It can be dangerous to react by moving suddenly because most drivers anticipate your direction and move to avoid you. If you stray or stop suddenly (my natural reaction) you’ll get hit. Most streets are very small and congested with cars, trucks, and tons of motorcycles weaving their way through. There are almost no sidewalks anywhere and where there are sidewalks, they end abruptly or contain gaping holes and debris so that most people walk on the road anyway. Running a simple errand can be exhausting because you must be alert at all times.

I had good taxi experiences up until yesterday when a driver quoted me too much for a ride back to my apartment. I knew it was too much so I asked him to use the meter.  He compensated by driving me around to a completely different neighborhood so that the metered price would match the quoted price he wanted. I knew we were in the wrong neighborhood and there was no excuse for it. If there had been a bandh (strike) or something I would understand, but I’m notified by the American Embassy of all bandhs via text message and email and there was nothing happening then. Irritating.

Being married to a Nepali with relatives in Kathmandu makes my Fulbright experience a lot different from most Nepal Fulbright scholars and students. I’ve been here one week now and I realized I haven’t been to any tourist sites yet. I’ve spent most of the week in meetings, running errands or hanging with my in-laws, eating Nepali daal-bhaat-tarkaari (lentils, rice and curried vegetables) at least twice a day, drinking chiya (sweetened milk tea), watching Bollywood soaps and videos on TV, and passively engaging in a favorite Nepali pastime: gossip.

To cap the total immersion, my mother-in-law was in the hospital. After going to two different hospitals to find her, I visited several times and spent the better part of yesterday morning waiting to speak with her doctor. I had to leave for an appointment before he made the rounds to her room, which she shared with three other people and a host of visitors who were very curious about the white woman (that would be me) in their midst. A Nepalese hospital is an awfully strange place to find a foreigner.

After all this, I needed a break so I confined myself to my apartment today and did very banal but comforting things like cleaning the bathroom.

Better than any relaxation CDs or sound machines, the nightly monsoon rains are calling me to sleep.




2 responses

26 08 2010

Enjoying the blog – keep posting and sending us some culture!

24 08 2010
jane gilmor

Kathryn! I finally go to the blog and I love it! I’m learning so much –like I would have been killed by a car by now if I were you. Nice to know they would ship your body back, however! Your nephew -AKA SuperMan –is very cute and sounds very interested in flight of any kind. School started today and we are now a University! I love learning about Nepal on the blog –having been there I only wish I’d known more then!! Can’t wait to have the Intro to Art Students involved!
Your apartment, by the way looks fantastic! In Portugal I was first in an old sheep barn back room that had been quickly converted before being diverted to the convent!
hugs Jane G

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