Knock, knock

There are some funny things to say about differences in culture. You know, all those small gestures and things people do that get a completely different meaning as soon as you step your foot on a soil of another country. Nepalis, as well as Indians I guess, do that side-to-side head gesture to confirm their agreement with whatever you’re saying or to answer positively to your question. Even though I know what it means, I get confused every time wondering whether this is a true “yes”, or they are confused, or is this maybe a “no”… It’s tough, man.

In the roads of Croatia flashing your high beam at someone would mean “sir, please do go in front of me after which I shall wait for you to park sideways on your fifth attempt”. Here, in Kathmandu it means something to the extent of “I am coming your way and not moving an inch for you even if it means I will die in this ridiculous quest – I am the king of the road”.

Some of these, often confusing differences, I experienced even before coming to Nepal. On one occasion Mr.B. and I visited Washington, DC with some of our friends. We got a rental car to drive over there, and I being a designated driver, was in charge of  parking. It was a tight parking spot so Mr.B. got out of the car to assist me. Suddenly I hear this knocking sound on the car and panic. Did I hit something? I look at my mirrors and see Mr.B. standing carelessly so I assumed all was ok. I continue with my parking quest when again he starts knocking on my car. I decide to ignore it since I have no idea what that means and I instead rely on the mirrors. Then the knocking gets faster, and then suddenly changes into two long knocks. So it was something like knock knock knock knock, knock……knock. That meant nothing to me so I kept backing up until I saw Mr.B.’s furious face next to my window yelling something about almost crushing him to death, and have I not heard him knocking. Oh yes, I heard you knocking alright, but I had no idea what the heck that meant! We had a long and exhausting argument about the knocking issue where he simply refused to believe I was not trying to kill him in the parking lot.

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Should I open the door?

Only when I came to Nepal did I realize that this knocking on the car deal is common. Everyone here does it, and I suppose it is helpful, once you know what those signals mean. People knock on your car fast when there’s still room to go, and then a long knock or two when you’ve reach the perfect parking position.

A Croatian parking a car in the middle of DC with a Nepali giving knocking signals was not a good combination. Luckily car was intact and Mr.B. successfully evaded getting crushed. Look out for those cultural differences people; they can be deadly.

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Cheap is the name of the game…

People often ask me about prices in Nepal. I guess everyone assumes that, because Nepal is a third world country, prices would be unbelievably low and everything would be dirt cheap. But it’s not exactly like that. Food here is expensive, and especially if you’re on a western diet you need to be prepared to spend a lot of money in the grocery store. The standard of living here is very low, but the prices are the same as in Croatia or USA. Sometimes even higher! I was excited to have found whipping cream in the store and was reaching for it happily when I realized the price of it is 550 NPR. That’s almost USD 6, or 35 HRK!!! No whipping for me here. However, if you buy local products or go into the local market, you’ll get stuff in a very cheap price (especially if you can somehow mask the white skin).

I have been saying every day that I need to learn Nepali because it is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to get around, communicate with family and sometimes even friends. I have one book that I bought before coming here but it proved to be too much of an undertaking to study from it, so it’s just sitting in my drawer. Yesterday my husband showed up at home with a teach-yourself-Nepali book that is full of useful and simply explained phrases so that I can start practicing my Nepali. This morning I took a closer look at the book and realized the price of the book is 240NPR (USD 2.5 or 14 HRK). Can you believe that? Where in the world can you get a book for 14 HRK??? I’m actually convinced you can hardly get a notebook for that price, let alone a whole book!

Does it get any cheaper than this?

Does it get any cheaper than this?

If the prices of all books here are as low as that one, I might just build myself a library here. Finally I’ll be able to afford to attend to my book addiction.

Wedding madness

Before Mr.B and I decided on our wedding date in Nepal, I was told it needs to be within the “wedding season”. The wedding season?, I asked in disbelief. Apparently, there is such thing. Couple of times a year there are certain dates on which people get married. I had no problem with that, leaving the decision up to Mr.B.’s mom. The date was set and I kind of knew that there would be other weddings going on at the same time, but I had no clue that there would be so many other weddings going on at the same time. Trying to get a good wedding venue for those dates was as hard as trying to squeeze your freshly-lotioned legs in skinny jeans.

When the auspicious dates came music was blasting all over. I was sitting innocently in the kitchen, reading my book when I heard a horn, and when I say a horn I mean like a brass instrument type of horn, and then suddenly I could tell it was the whole orchestra out there. I thought: oh my, there must be some kind of festival going on! so I went to the window to check it out. I saw all my neighbors up on their roofs with gleeful expressions on their faces, so I ran up to our roof to get a better view of what was going on. To my great surprise and delight what I spotted was no festival. It was a wedding procession! It looked so lovely and so much fun, I was beaming down from the roof.

The wedding procession was led by a an orchestra dressed in white and red outfits, and with brass folk instruments. Imagine an American high school band. That’s what they looked like. They were playing this fun sounding tune, sort of like a march, but happier. Right behind them were ladies all dressed in red, dancing their heads off, right there, in the middle of the street. They were looking up to the roofs waiving to their curious spectators (everyone got a bit confused when they saw me, so no one waived at me). Behind them were men with an obvious urge to succumb to the happy music, but instead acting cool and proud. Then came a decorated car with a groom. Cars here are covered in flowers. Not like one big flower arrangement on the hood, like in Croatia, but totally and completely covered in flowers. Everywhere. I have no idea how people even get in and out of these cars. Car was followed by yet another band! Yes, another band. This one was smaller in number, less loud, and not dressed as nicely. But it had bagpipe! A bagpipe! That made me squeak in delight!

March away, my orchestra

No bagpipe!? What kind of a band is this!? Well this obviously wasn’t the band that I saw in the street, but you get the picture.

I was so happy I got to see that. It was really an amazing procession. So I went back to my book in the kitchen, when again I heard the band with a slightly different tune. But, interestingly enough, pretty soon I heard another one, and another one. And the following day more of them. Wow, people really like to get married here. Our street is pretty small yet so many weddings were going on here in just two days. I can only imagine what the rest of Kathmandu must’ve looked like. I guess that’s what the wedding season is all about.

Our wedding did not have a procession. In fact, our wedding had to be postponed to a later date, maybe in the following wedding season, but even then I doubt we will have a procession. The purpose of it is for the groom and his entourage to go and get the bride in her house. Since I am already staying with the groom, that might be a little hard to arrange. But I’m sure the wedding will be special in it’s own way, even without a Nepali guy bagpiping behind our back.

That was easy!

Great news! I am not getting deported from Nepal. Not that anyone told me that would happen, but I just assumed that happens to people who don’t sort out their residency paperwork in a foreign country. Figuring out how to legally stay in Nepal has been a challenge. There are no real sources of information that you could trust in terms of regulating your stay here. I knew that once I came to Nepal, Mr.B. and I needed to legalize our Croatian marriage certificate and get me a non-tourist visa, but we had no idea how to go about doing that. We asked around and tried to figure out the correct process, but guess what, there is really no correct process. My understanding is that it all comes down to who you know. I might be wrong, but that’s how I see it.

We gathered a bunch of paperwork which Mr.B. filled out because it was all in Nepali; we got many passport-sized photos of ourselves and off we went to a Chief District Administrative Office to submit our case. Fast forward couple of phone calls, and we are now told to wait for 15 days until our certificate was made. We were to come back with three witnesses. 15 days later in we go with some wonderful friends and co-workers (who took time out of their day to do this for us – Thank You!) and, lo and behold, the certificate is not done. Maybe I just had wrong expectations. You see, when they told us to come back in 15 days, I expected to walk in, guy would pull out our certificate, we would all sign in a matrimony registration book and we go home singing. No. That’s definitely not what happened. Here is how it all went down: we walked into a cramped little stuffy office and explained what we needed. After some exchange in Nepali the file was pulled out, dusted off and three separate people took their time going through all the paperwork, only to give it back to the first person who looked at it. Some exchange in Nepali again (be warned: half of the time I had no idea what was going on or what was being said, so all of this is my subjective view of the process). We are given our file and ushered into a room next door. A person sitting there looked at the file, said something, wrote something on a piece of paper, and off we went to a third room. Again more reading and signing. And then a fourth room. No luck in the fourth room – the guy just stepped out for his lunch break. We used the opportunity to get out and get marriage certificate forms. We come back just as the guy came back and in we go. He asks me who found whom, and I, of course, say I was the one who found Mr.B. Apparently that was the correct answer since we got the needed signature and out we went. Back to the first room. We fill our own marriage certificate, but then we are informed we need to go back to room No.3 for some more signatures. Off we go. Signatures are obtained and back to the first room it is. We fill out the matrimony registration book ourselves, sign everything, get some stamps on our marriage certificate and voilà! Done. Just like that. Easy peasy. Not.

Liters of sweat and hours later you are finally in our hands! Yes, sir!

Liters of sweat and hours later you are finally in our hands! Yes, sir!

Next day is the auspicious day for going into the Immigration Office. Again, we are met with lots of desk to desk, door to door shuffling. For me it seems even more obnoxious and useless since I have no idea what they are all saying and I don’t know the reasons for being sent from one door to the other. All of the bureaucrats there looked at our file with utter disinterest, not to say disgust discarding it in a pile of others unfortunate foreigners hoping for a fair process. It all felt like a court trial of the worst kind. Apparently, luckily, the immigration officer took a liking to us and was very accommodating promising that he will speed up the process if we come back tomorrow. Mr.B. went in the following day and I don’t know what he did and how many doors he had to knock on, but I am sitting here on the couch right now looking at my non-tourist marriage visa stamped in my passport. I am a temporary resident of Nepal for the next year.

Now, about that work permit…

Recognition, anyone?

When I started this blog, the general idea was to keep in touch with friends and family back home and post photos and updates on my life in Nepal. Somehow, only three months later, I have had many people visit the blog from all over the globe. It’s pretty fascinating, and I find myself spending many hours looking at the visitor stats for my blog. Pretty pathetic, I know, but in my defense, I am unemployed.

I was pretty astonished to find out two of the bloggers (Anne Squared and Dreaming in Arabic) have nominated me for blogging awards! Wow! I am honored, and humbled. Thank you so much! They, themselves, have wonderful blogs that I enjoy reading, so do check them out. I hope no one minds if I sum up both awards in one post. I am aware that’s not how it’s usually done, but what the heck… nothing in my life is usual anymore.

So here it goes, my 15 great-to-read-deserving-of-an-award blogs (in no particular order):

1. onlylivingboyintitirangi

2. Lakshmi Loves To Shop

3. nepaliaustralian

4. meromusings

5. cakes, tea and dreams

6. sophiebowns

7. I’m not lost, I’m just exploring 

8. love, laugh, be light

9. JenSop: The Singing Travel Agent! 

10. Cheeni Thoughts 

11. Join me in my solace!

12. white girl in a sari

13. A soothing voice

14. Choosing His Joy 

15. How to catch a goat by its tail 

I am also to mention seven things about myself. Let’s see…hmmm… I drink coffee in the morning, but milk tea in the afternoon; I love toast and butter and dream of breakfast before I go to bed; I LOVE driving and cannot wait to get behind the wheel in Kathmandu; I am an introverted extrovert (figure this one out yourself); I always sleep on my right side; I absolutely cannot type on iPhone – I am a Blackberry person; dogs were my biggest enemy when I was a child, but now I love them!

And here’s the humbling award.

shine-on-award

I would like to thank my family and friends, my parents who ensured of my existence, my husband for the support, my neighbors for all the odd noises early in the morning, neighbor’s dog for scratching sounds in the middle of the night that remind me of rats… you get the gist (this is the part where I accept the award teary-eyed and with shaky hands).

*if you’re nominated for the award and would like to accept it, forward it onto 15 blogs you enjoy reading, list seven things about yourself, and place the image on your blog. happy days.*

What am I doing?

It seems like I haven’t written on this blog in ages. I know I’ve posted several days ago, though I have not really written anything. Inspiration has been eluding me lately, but in all honesty, I think I am simply plagued by a serious case of laziness. So what have I been up to in Kathmandu? Well, for example, today I got up early and then sat down on the couch at around 9am. I have not gotten up until 3pm when delivery guys brought in some new furniture. I was so surprised it was already 3 pm, and in panic realized I have not even brushed my hair today! Laziness I say.

Previous days have gone by in preparations for the wedding. Yesterday Mr.B. and I spent the whole day out and about shopping for all the little wedding necessities. Had it not been for our awesome sister-in-law, nothing would have been bought. She knows all the nooks and crannies of Kathmandu shopping district, and is also amazingly good in bargaining. I totally relied on her to help us out with everything: the bangles, tika, shoes, saree, blouses… everything. Have I mentioned she is awesome? We got it all done, and without food too! I cannot believe we starved our helper almost to the point of collapsing. But she was a trooper and took it all without too much complaining.

Lovely wedding bangles

Which ones to get??? Tough choice...

Which ones to get??? Tough choice…

Other days have gone by in hanging out with cousins and relatives who have travelled from afar for our wedding. I cannot believe the wedding is happening in just couple of weeks! I am so excited, and yet somehow, so terrified. I feel really happy though that the whole family will be there, and I am equally excited about having friends over and celebrate with us. Mr.B.’s friends are a blast. It’s never boring around them. Jokes are being thrown around, puns are being purposefully used and laughs are gladly shared. They have welcomed me into their small clique with open arms and I feel like one lucky lady. Except for when we go to the theater to watch zombie movies. Then I feel like one scared lady. (We went to see World War Z, and the next morning Mr.B. freaked me out pretending to be a zombie and making that god-awful sound with his teeth – from now on, romantic comedies ONLY for Ms.Z.).

Life in Kathmandu is slow and easy, and I am enjoying it. I sleep, I eat, I watch tv, and then I repeat the whole thing again tomorrow. I love it for now because I know that, before soon, I will be back amongst the working crowd, wishing for some time off.