Settling into Shangri-la

19 08 2010
Scooby & Kathmandu House

Scooby guards the house where I live in Kathmandu.

It’s been a busy last few days! I went for my security briefing the day before yesterday. With family here and having been to Nepal I was familiar with much of it, but not from the perspective of a security expert so I was able to hear background info that contextualized the bits and pieces of my prior knowledge. One of the big topics was the impending earthquake that is expected to hit Nepal anytime (geologically speaking). Nepal ranks alongside Haiti as one of the world’s poorest countries and according to AFP News, will suffer greater losses than Haiti. I’ve experienced earthquakes before because we have them in Seattle where I’m originally from, but nothing of the scale that Nepal could experience.

I’ve pretty much settled in my new place, and I’ve posted some pics for the curious. It’s a 2-bedroom apartment with a third room for storage, plus kitchen, bathroom and living room. The apartment came furnished, but I still needed to buy many smaller items like garbage cans, towels and bug spray to defeat the giant cockroach that lived in the kitchen when I first arrived. The cockroach was easily 4 times larger than the largest one I saw while living in New York City. But I managed a direct hit with the bug spray, which was hard because cockroaches are very fast, and I haven’t seen the thing (or its offspring) since. It’s a silly American trait to expect a bug-free home, but in this I am very American!

Scooby the dog lives out front and I can hear him whining as I write this. He’s very cute, but my landlord’s son warned me not to pet Scooby since he bites. Good to know. I bought a box of doggy biscuits for him and the dozens of homeless dogs I see here everyday, so Scooby doesn’t bark at me as much anymore.

Apartment rooms

My Kathmandu living room and kitchen

Many of the Nepalese people I am in contact with are surprised that I don’t have servants yet. The Fulbright Office will find servants for me if I want them and many Fulbright scholars do hire housekeepers and cooks. To have a housekeeper come several days each week would cost anywhere from $60-65 and a daily cook would cost a little more. I also have the option of sharing a car and driver with the other scholars, if I wish. My in-laws have servants and it’s pretty typical for wealthier Nepalese in higher castes to have servants, but as a Westerner it seems so pre-Civil Rights movement to me. I don’t like the way I see people treating their servants, even if they tell me their servants are “like family”.  When I ask these same people how often their servants visit family, the answer is usually “several times each year”. This means they work everyday, waking early to prepare breakfast and going to bed after everyone else is asleep and has no more needs for the night. I’ve decided to wait until I see how busy I am with my teaching and projects. The argument for hiring servants is that I’d be employing local people as well as creating additional cultural connections. But I can also fully experience the culture by doing my own grocery shopping instead of having someone else do it for me. We’ll see…

Roof view

Looking southwest from my rooftop

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One response

19 08 2010
Jim Hagy

What is wrong with having servants – your mother has one. He is called “Dad”

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