What Nepal taught me so far

Staying in Nepal has brushed up on some of my personality traits. More specifically, patience and ability to compromise. Yes, yes, both of those are required in a marriage, but living in Nepal really puts extra burden on a person. Compromise is a big one. No oven – OK, I’ll make mug cakes in the microwave. (Post continued after microwave mug cake devoured). Sugar is too coarse – OK use mortar and pestle to grind it down. Bird flu threatening to wipe out the chicken population in the Valley – OK, become vegetarian. Or eat pork. You get the deal. It’s impossible to survive here without being willing to compromise. Most of the time things will not go the way you want them to. Weather will screw you over, traffic will make you late, people will let you down. Plans will change so fast you won’t even be able to keep track of it. Kathmandu is definitely not a place for a notebook calendar. You might as well check yourself in the mental institution right away. Kathmandu is a place of improvisation and on-the-spot decision. The sooner one accepts that, the easier it gets.

I have always been a very determined person and when I wrapped my head around something, it needed to be done right away. Like if I wanted to paint my room, I would get up that same second and run to the store, buy paint and by nightfall, room would be painted. Here, it’s a bit different. I cannot just run out to the store and buy the paint. There are so many other things to consider and most of the time things I want to do need to be postponed for later or indefintiely. At first, it annoyed the heck out of me. But I realized that me getting annoyed won’t change anything – I will only end up having gastritis. So I let things go. I go with the flow. And it’s working well for me.

Another important trait to have, kids, is patience. As mentioned earlier in my blog, Nepali people live on their own time, Nepali time. It’s usually give-n-take 45 minutes behind real time. There are two ways to deal with it: accept it and patiently wait for your friends/acquaintances/business partners to arrive; OR, go with it and be late for 50 minutes and let them wait. I seem to be siding with the latter. Despite their casual lateness, Nepalis seem to be rather impatient people. Especially when it comes to forming lines (you know, like in the store, in the bank…). If you’re not claiming your space confidently, they will cut in front of you like you’re not even there*.

On my first independent trip to the store, that’s exactly what happened. I skipped happily around the store glowing in the aftermath of crossing the road without getting myself squished like a fly on someone’s windshield. Oh, I was so proud. I picked up all the stuff I needed and strolled to the cash register. I stood patiently in line with my basket waiting to unload (the groceries, of course), when a guy bearing a single can of shaving cream walks right past me and stands in line in front of me. “Surely he must be just asking for the price”, I thought to myself, looking for excuses for the guy cutting the line. But no, he was there with his shaving cream as if though I do not exist. OK, I am white, maybe a tiny bit transparent, but come on. There was clearly a line. And I was clearly in it. I have no idea what made him think I wouldn’t mind this utter rudeness. I wanted to argue. I wanted to yell at him and tell him he’s an ass.  And then shove the shaving cream up his nose. But then I remembered I am in someone else’s country. I don’t even speak the language, and I didn’t want to get myself in an awkward situation without anyone I know around me. So I just gave him a glare. A hard cold glare. I thought he winced, but I’m not sure, maybe he laughed. I decided it’s best to let it go and practice my patience skills. It seems like I might need them more than I thought.

*although it might seem like I am generalizing here, I really am not. Most of Nepali people are actually really nice and polite and I have made some great friends here. So don’t take this as a trait of the whole nation, but rather individuals.

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16 thoughts on “What Nepal taught me so far

  1. What a brilliant and well written blog. I live in Kathmandu too. Cutting in or sometimes pushing in is normal and widespread in Nepal. It is incredible rudeness so I have an answer which has always worked. I say so politely and with a smile ‘Would you like to push in front of me ?’ In every case I have received an alopogy and the person has invited me to go first. We also have an answer for all the workmen who don’t turn up and keep us waiting. The next day when they do turn up for work, we tell them that we won’t be there today so they cannot work. They cannot say a thing because they have just done it to us. It really works.

      • hehehe I am glad that I made you laugh. I’m just having a few minutes relaxation online after painting walls all day. I love the cooler weather this evening. We’re up in Satungal, 8 km from Kathmandu centre so it’s always cooler up here. Have a nice evening ! Dai

  2. I know what you mean. There are some people who just do not care or do not know how rude it is while cutting in infront of someone else. In your mentioned particular case, I think the guy just assumed that he has lesser number stuff so, he should go first. I really do not like that kind of attitude here.

    I do make a point to say something to those kind of people. Someone has to or else the behaviour just gets encouraged. I usually tell them, “There is a line here. Just wanted to let you know in case you didn’t notice.” (As politely as I can muster 😉 ). They apologize and let me forward most of the time.

    Most people will understand English here. So, go ahead try it the next time someone does that. 🙂

  3. It always amazes me or makes me sad (for negative aspects) how similar Nepal is to Rwanda. After living for many years in a country where people are much more considerate, I have to gather all my patience when I visit my home country! I know how you feel. Hang in there and good luck.

  4. I want to copy paste this and change the words Nepal to “Sri Lanka” .. I think its a widely known Asian thing even though this time round I noticed many better practices that I used to notice.

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