Earthquake in Nepal – my story

Huh, how do I even begin this? It would be an understatement to say that the past week was turbulent. It was frightening, surreal and shaky. It was full of insecurity and sadness for all who lost everything. It was also full of relief, gratitude and community connection. It was a truly life-changing week.

My earthquake story begins on the first floor of our house where I was clearing up the table after lunch. Just as I was collecting the plates, the electricity went out. Scared that the washing machine that was on will drain the back up battery I started yelling “no no no” and running towards the bathroom. My mother in law had the same thought and as both of us reached the bathroom we heard a very loud thunder and realized the house is shaking. I don’t remember what happened next but she claims I was pulling her towards the stairs. We both ended up sitting on top of the stairs holding on to whatever we could. My husband, who was outside, was trying to get to us, but he couldn’t climb up. In retrospect neither of our decisions at that moment was a smart or safe one, but my mind was blinded with panic and couldn’t think straight. When the shaking subsided a bit, we managed to run outside. We were all unscathed and the house was standing. The rest of the afternoon aftershocks were coming and going. And it was a very scary time.

Later on, when I got a chance to think about everything that happened that, and the next several days, I realized I am lucky beyond measure. I am grateful we were all at home and together when it happened. I am grateful it was Saturday and we decided to stay in for lunch instead of going out. I am grateful our house is well built and sustained no damage. I am grateful that the biggest injury was a bruise on my leg. I am grateful that we have a large garden where we could spend several coming days and offer shelter to our neighbors who do not have that kind of space. I am grateful for the for community that got together and made this scary time a bearable (and sometimes) fun one.

I was amazed at the speed with which the neighbors put our camp together. The tent was up within 15 minutes. Tea and biscuits were passed around and jokes were shared. It was fascinating, encouraging and reassuring to have all these wonderful people around and feel like nothing bad can happen now – we are all together and we will take care of each other. Nepalis are amazing! I had an amazing support from the Croatian embassy and never felt like I was left to my own devices. Trust me, that’s such a good feeling when you are not in your own country.

Even though life goes on as usual for us in my house, I feel saddened by the loss of lives and infrastructure in other parts of Kathmandu and Nepal. The best way to help long term is to support an organization that will stick around even after the initial relief is distributed. I encourage you, my readers, to donate to a reputable organization that you trust and help people in Nepal who were not as fortunate as I was. Thank you!

Nepali roads, mountains, elephants and mice

When winter hits Kathmandu, the last thing you want to do is stick around in the freezing cold. So this winter Mr.B and I decided to do a road trip around Nepal with friends. We thought it would be fun (and it was). We thought driving through Nepal would be awesome (and it wasn’t).

We started off in Kathmandu, obviously, that’s where we live, and then made our way to Pokhara. Road to Pokhara can be a bit scary if you’re on it for the first time, and if you’re coming from a country where roads are wide, straight and divided into lanes. You see, this road is called “the highway”, but don’t be fooled – the only reason for that is that it’s really high up. It’s literally a high way. Other than that, there’s nothing highway-like about it. It’s narrow, filled with potholes and very winding. However, it is sadly one of the best roads in Nepal, outside of Kathmandu. The drive to Pokhara is about 210 kilometers, and in a private vehicle, it usually takes 5-6 hours. I’ve heard that on a bus it can take up to 12 hours. Gasp! The views are nice so I suppose you can enjoy that, and there are plenty of rest stops where you can utilize the squatty potty and buy some water and snacks. Arriving to Pokhara is bumpy, to say the least. The road is wavy and by the time you reach your hotel you are frantically checking whether your kidneys are in place. Although, the view that was waiting for us in Pokhara made up for the whole excruciating drive. I mean, the mountains were spectacular. There is no photo in this world that could describe how close and majestic mountains are. Yes, photos always looks nice, this and that, but seriously, seeing it up close, with peaks higher than the clouds is an indescribable feeling.

Just speechless.

Just speechless.

Pokhara is a fun place if you like to party and hang out in bars and restaurants. There are about a million of those. Well, not exactly a million, but you get my drift.

Lakeside if the happening place

Lakeside is the happening place

We had our share of fun for a couple of days and then in the car again it was. We were driving from Pokhara to Lumbini via Tansen. It would be a special experience, we thought. It would be something different, we thought. And it was. And not in a good way. The distance between the two is about 160 kilometers. Not a big deal, you’d think. It took us 7 hours. Yes, 7 full hours. It was probably the most winding road I’ve ever been on, giving you a roller coaster experience. I felt so sorry for the people on buses that we passed on the road because they must’ve been having an awful time. It was fun driving through small villages, through gorges and canyons.

Good place for a nature call

Good place for a nature call

It was just something different. Though, fun ended when bladders went into overdrive and there were no bathrooms in sight. We stopped several time for a bathroom break and it was always at the bushiest part of the road where we could be hidden from traffic and villagers. I was happy it was winter time knowing that snakes are probably asleep. Anyhow, reaching Tarai, lowlands of Nepal where Lumbini is situated is like entering a new realm. Suddenly mountains and hills become flat lands extending as far as you can see. A sight I never thought possible in Nepal. It was quite refreshing. And you know what, everyone rides a bicycle in Tarai. So fun!

Seeing flat land reminded me of home. How can this fertile land house so much poverty???

Seeing flat land reminded me of home. How can this fertile land house so much poverty???

Loved the bicycles!

Loved the bicycles!

One advice I can give you if you ever find yourself in Tarai, heading for Lumbini – don’t trust your GPS. That lady might have a seducing voice, but she will lead you in some pretty shady areas, trust me. We ended up on a terrible dirt road for about 20 kilometers with nothing but flat land in sight and many extremely poor villages. That sight was so shocking for me. Such poverty I never thought I would witness with my own eyes. People living in mud huts, without anything, literally. It’s something I cannot get out of my head since then. Finally, though, after a long bumpy ride we reached our hotel. We were exhausted, and the place was kind of depressing, so we didn’t really care that dinner was pretty miserable and that we had to change our bed sheets ourselves because reception was too busy. We just wanted to sleep. The next day we took a rickshaw ride around Lumbini Development Trust to see different temples and the birthplace of Buddha. Piece of advice, Sri Lankan temple is not really worth seeing. There’s hardly anything there and I found it ridiculous that we had to take off our shoes when the whole temple was terribly dirty. Maybe they do it so we clean it with our socks!?

Anyhow, rickshaw ride was fun, but looking at the skinny guy driving our rickshaw, working really hard, made me sad. All I could think of was whether he lived in one of those mud huts we passed yesterday. I wanted to give him 10 000 Rupees for a two hour tour. My review of Lumbini: not a place I would go back to. Unless you are a devoted buddhist, there’s not much to do there. The place is kind of depressing, and quite boring. We left in less than 20 hours since arrival.

Off to Chitwan we went. I think we were all the most excited about that part of our roadtrip. The road from Lumbini to Chitwan was straightforward and straight. It was a really lovely wide road, and we all enjoyed the road and views.

On the way to Chitwan

On the way to Chitwan

Until we got off the main road to reach our jungle resort. It was back to the dirt and we all wondered whether our car can handle all the terrible roads it’s been on since we started our trip. It did survive and we reached our final destination. Our resort was wonderful. It was right by the river, in a jungle. Nothing and no one in sight. It was absolutely lovely. Until the mouse incident, that is. We were given rooms in straw roof bungalows, and when Mr.B. and I got into our box-sized room, there was a mouse sitting leisurely on the curtain. The outdoorsy and fearless person that I am (NOT), I began hyperventilating as an intro to my panic attack. Somehow I managed to run outside and wait while the resort staff, with lots of giggles, took care of the mouse situation. That night, I did not sleep. It was a night straight from hell as I waited for mice to flock into our room from all possible crevasses. Of course, such grim scenario did not happen, but just to be on the safe side, we switched rooms the next morning. This time, no straw roof for us. The rest of the stay was just awesome. Elephant ride, canoe ride, jungle safari… it was perfect.

We saw rhinos up close

We saw rhinos up close

We made friends with deer

We made friends with deer

We contemplated having this guy for dinner but decided to pass. After all, he was in a National Park.

We contemplated having this guy for dinner but decided to pass. After all, he was in a National Park.

Views from the resort were spectacular and calming.

Views from the resort were spectacular and calming.

Our canoe was just like this. It was super fun. Luckily we saw no crocodiles in the water.

Our canoe was just like this. It was super fun. Luckily we saw no crocodiles in the water.

We rode on these elephants and later on got to feed them and pet them.

We rode on these elephants and later on got to feed them and pet them.

Before we could say hippopotamus, it was time to drive back to Kathmandu. That drive was completely uneventful. It rained, on a terribly winding and narrow road filled with buses and trucks. You know, the usual Nepali traffic. But we made it to Kathmandu safely filled with emotions, experiences, and impressions. Good road trip. Would definitely recommend, but make sure you take an SUV if you plan on driving. It will save your kidneys.

What’s new in Kathmandu

In some ways this is unbelievable, simply because I never thought this day would come, but honestly, Kathmandu is looking better than ever. When I say “ever”, I am referring to the last two years I’ve been here, so not exactly “ever”, but you know what I mean. Figure of speech and whatnot. The main road in front of our house that has been dug up and dusty for over a year now, is finally getting paved (to some extent). Cement blocks have been laid down and the dust has settled (again, to some extent). There is still a long way to go before it’s finished, but it’s amazing to see some progress after lots of dust and mud for months. The fact that a newly paved road turns into a vegetable market every night around 6 pm, is not important.

After the SAARC summit ended, I predicted all the cleaning work they’ve done around the city will go to waste, but lo and behold, they’ve been keeping everything clean. I am amazed to see the road cleaning truck cleaning the roads almost every morning! A sight that was hard to come by in Kathmandu before. I wonder if the truck will be there only until it breaks down for the first time!? I am not sure maintenance is in place around here. But regardless, this is happening right now and it makes me excited. Flowers are trees are still in places they were planted, and flourishing. Roads are still being built, fixed and arranged. Traffic police seems to be managing traffic better than ever. Almost all the major roads in Kathmandu are getting solar lamps. It’s just great! Kathmandu is slowly, but surely transforming into a more livable city.

However, and yes there always need to be “however”, small roads, the ones that “don’t matter as much” are still a complete wreck. Take our road for example. It used to be a very nice road. All the neighbors chipped in money to have it paved. It was lovely. Then the government decided to change sewage and water pipes. That’s good right? So they dug up the road, but never paved it back again. Just left piles of mud. That encouraged some of the neighbors to start digging as well. Before we knew it, the road was a mess. Hole upon hole upon hole. Muddy, dusty and horrible. Sometimes when I drive home and make a turn from the main road onto our street, I feel like I enter a different world. Like I just traveled through time and landed in Middle Ages. Muddy road, filled with potholes. People huddled around small fires by the road. Stray dogs and half-naked children running around. And no, I am not exaggerating. Hopefully, some day soon back roads will be taken care of as well, and Kathmandu will become a true capital city.

Until then, mask up!

Work on progress - absolutely necessary

Work on progress – absolutely necessary


What am I?

Sometimes I find myself tangled in my own thoughts trying to decipher what group of people in Nepal I belong to. I am not Nepali, clearly. My ghost-like skin always gives me away, though I do like to think of it as aristocratic. But I’m digressing. I am not a 100% expat either. I live in a Nepali household, with a Nepali family. Does that make me half-Nepali? No clue, but in the past year and a half I did move towards Nepali customs more than I expected I ever would.

Let’s examine the evidence:

Exhibit A
My horoscope sign is a Virgo. For all of you who are not familiar with horoscope, let’s just say Virgos are obsessive-compulsive. I also hold a strong opinion that characteristics of a Virgo were tailored according to me. It’s that precise. I cannot be late, or have anything be out of place, untidy, dirty… everything needs to be perfect. But I move to Nepal and what happens!? I start adjusting to Nepali time. In other words, no matter how hard I try, I seem to be late for everything! And the worst part? I’m not even phased by it. What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

Exhibit B
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m bragging, but I’ve always been very polite. I would let people with less items jump in front of me at the cash register, I would let pedestrians cross the road even if I’m in a hurry and others behind me are honking, I would exercise perfect driving culture politely letting others merge into traffic in front of me and wave thankfully to the ones who do the same for me. But I move to Nepal and what happens!? I start driving like I am the only person on the road, pushing and shoving my way through heavy traffic, honking at others angrily and closing every little bit of space between me and the car in front of me so no one can cut in. I also only sometimes let pedestrian cross in front of me. Preposterous! What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

Exhibit C
I am a huge dessert person. Sweets make me enter a state of consciousness unknown to modern science. When I look at, make or eat wonderful varieties of cakes and cookies, I am in bliss. Nepal disappoints in that area. Most of the cakes here are OK, but not very different from one another. There seems to be no creativity in that department. Maybe that’s the reason the most favorable dessert amongst Nepalis is vanilla ice cream. Yes, vanilla ice cream. The same one I at every summer when I was a child and swore I will never taste it again. Ice cream is even served at weddings! Say, what??? But I move to Nepal and what happens!? After being shocked by this discovery for almost a year, I now find myself ordering vanilla ice cream in all shapes and forms – with a brownie, with an apple pie, and I even eat it at weddings. Even in winter! Gasp. What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

Exhibit D
This last exhibit is most probably the most shocking one, at least for me. When I feel under the weather, as if I’m catching a cold, I usually crave chamomile tea with honey and lemon and some soup. Maybe also porridge or something warm, liquidy and easy to digest. I stuck to that even here in Nepal for the past year and a half. And it usually made me feel better. But you know what happened the other day? I was feeling a bit down, sick-ish at work and all I could think of is how I’m going to rush home, warm up a plate-full of rice and daal and devour it. And so I did. And it felt good. Scary good. What is happening to me? Am I turning Nepali?

Third time is a charm!

I’ll just pretend I have not completely been missing in action for the past three months. I’ll pretend that never happened and I did not forget my blog is in existence. What matters is that I am back now. And back I am – married again. Yes, yes, Mr.B. and I finally had our long-awaited Nepali wedding. It was interesting. And totally confusing, crazy and different. And colourful. And full of stuff I didn’t understand. But it was fun. Loads of fun. I kind of feel glad that we waited this long, as I am more settled in Nepal now, more comfortable, and I actually have friends who could attend. It made a huge difference for me. Before I would’ve probably felt like I am attending someone else’s wedding, whereas now I got to enjoy it. It was helpful (and extremely nice) that my parents could make it as well. Here, for all your curious souls out there, photo is below.

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You must be wondering what it felt like to be a Nepali bride. Or maybe you’re not wondering, but I’m going to tell you anyways. Being a Nepali bride is not easy. It’s not like: I’ll put on my lovely dress, slap on some make up and dance the night away. Oh no no, my friend. Being a Nepali bride is the following: you wake up very early in the morning so people can start working on you – working on your thick and heavy make up and intricate hair design. You get a veil stand attached to your head. It’s essentially a tiara, but a less fancy one. It’s also way more painful than a tiara. I spent the rest of the day trying to move it around as I felt it digging its way deep into my skull. After many layers of makeup you are finally ready for the wedding saree. Wedding sarees are beautiful, but don’t be fooled, they are heavy. I was lucky – mine was only several kgs. I heard of Nepali brides wearing up to 20kgs worth of clothes and jewelry. Walking in it is kind of heavy and difficult. At first I was afraid I was going to be cold in a saree, but boy was I wrong. If I could’ve taken layers off me, I would’ve. Not possible in a saree though.

Once the ceremony begins you are to sit with your future current husband by the priest and do whatever the priest tells you for the next several hours. Most of the time you have no clue what’s going on. I felt the sun burning the back of my neck like I’ve never felt it before. It was a bit annoying, but not unbearable. After all, I was marrying Mr.B., again. The ceremony itself was fun. Games are included – suitable for the whole family. All played. Or at least pretended to be a part of the fun. Just when I thought the ceremony ended, it turned out we only got engaged. We were only half way there. I think I might have dozed off for a bit, I don’t quite remember. I do remember looking at our spectators, guests, and thinking how bored they must be just sitting there. I was somewhat bored at times, and I was the bride! Anyhow, the ceremony ended and then came the food. I do have to admit, it tasted really good after 3 hours of sitting down, getting up, walking around the fire.

The reception took place the following day. What to say? Reception was, well, reception. Lots of well-wishers, food, drinks and dancing. I had fun. For the most part. Except for the first few hours when my heart was about to jump out of my throat. Oh, all that excitement of being the bride. Maybe it was just too much smiling, or too much photo posing, no clue, but all is well that ends well, right?

To make the long story short, Mr.B. and I now definitely sealed this deal. We could not possibly be more married than we are at this point. Cheers to that – I am a lucky girl!

Stuff you’ll talk about in Nepal

One of the most common questions you get in Nepal is “Have you eaten?”It’s so common, in fact, that some people use it instead of a greeting. People are obsessed with food. Remember when you were a small child and all the grannies would always tell you you are too skinny and need to eat more (even if you were definitely not a skinny child)? Yes, it’s kind of like that in Nepal. Everyone is always concerned with the amount of food you eat and look at you disapprovingly as you only put a handful of rice on your plate, instead of three heaping giant spoonfuls. Mr. B’s family always comments on my eating habits and disappointingly concludes I eat like a butterfly, only a pinch of rice. They are also convinced I lose weight all the time. I can assure you that is not the case. In fact, since moving to Nepal my cheeks have become rounder, and so has my belly. Not something to be really proud of, but definitely a reason to cut down on rice intake. When you visit someone you can count on being forced to eat something, even if you say No repeatedly. They will still bring out snacks, or tea, or both. It’s really lovely actually –  it shows a true Nepali hospitality, but when you’ve just eaten a heavy lunch, fried egg with your tea is the last thing you want. If you’re a foreign woman, Nepalis are generally convinced you are weak. I guess, compared to Nepali women we are weak. Nepali women do everything, including carrying heavy loads, and foreigners just cannot measure up to that. But because they are convinced we are weak, women, more than men, are always forced to eat, and eat more. My suggestion, just go with the flow. It’ll save you a lot of time and convincing. Although, I am rebellious like that, and always refuse the food.

Another question that often follows the one regarding your eating habits is the one concerning your bowel movements. What Westerners find to be a very private information, something to be ashamed of, Nepalis will use as a conversation ice-breaker. Everyone’s bowel movements are discussed with remarkable seriousness and lack of shame. If you have diarrhea, you can count on your whole family and all of your friends knowing about it and wondering about the details. Same goes for constipation. Whenever the topic of my bowel movements comes up, I blush like a red autumn apple, but I also know there’s no escaping it. You just have to let it out (pun so very much intended). I am slowly learning to be comfortable with it – after all, it’s just another bodily function, like coughing or sneezing, but boy, it’s embarrassing.

Don’t be surprised when random people, strangers, start asking you private questions like “Where do you live?”. Umm, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with disclosing that kind of information to a person behind me in the grocery store check out line. But sometimes, you have no choice, you got to say it. And people here don’t ask those kinds of questions with any ill intentions. They are genuinely curious and interested in you. They will want to know where you’re staying, what you’re doing in Nepal, who your family is, what is your age, and sometimes even things like how much you earn. When you get grilled with those kinds of questions by your taxi driver, things get weird, I can tell you that. Sometimes your answers are not satisfactory enough so the grilling ends abruptly. This one one time I was in a taxi and the driver started asking me a bunch of questions; he was being really friendly until the question of my age came up. When I told him I was 30 years old the questioning, and the conversation ended. He did not say another word until my destination. I keep wondering what that was about. Was he looking at me as his potential bride, but then decided I was too old for him and didn’t want to waste words and smiles on me? I did feel a bit hurt, I have to admit.

If you come to Nepal and people start asking you very private questions, don’t be surprised. They are not trying to rob you or steal your identity. It’s just something they do. They are curious and interested in you, and you should embrace it and continue with the conversation until it becomes really weird. Then you should end it. And feel awkward for the rest of the week.

 

Stages of discovering leeches in the shower

1. Shock: happily getting in the hot shower and realizing there are small black wiggly animals in it. Proceeding to inspect them a bit closer and concluding it’s leeches. Stare at them in shock.

2. Petrification: continuing to stare at the shower unable to move with fear of them jumping on you.

3. Escape: wrapping yourself in a towel and standing outside the bathroom door.

4. Denial: convincing yourself you must’ve seen it wrong and those could not possibly be leeches in your shower. Where would they even come from!?

5. False bravery: going back in the bathroom for closer inspection. Realizing those, indeed, are leeches, and running out again.

6. Desperation: curling yourself in a ball on the bed unable to process this new development.

7. Cry for help: calling your husband and terrifying him by saying: I have a huge problem.

8. Panic: since your husband can’t help you with this over the phone, running out of the house calling for didi then leading her in the bathroom wide-eyed and terrified.

9. Admiration: lying on the bed admiring didi for her bravery as she swiftly kills and washes away little pests.

10. Fear: being unable to get your feet off the bed imagining how these little creatures crawled out of the bathroom and went straight for your bedroom. Deciding never to shower again – it’s not good for the skin anyways to shower this often.

11. Caution: realizing you stink and definitely need a shower, proceeding to the bathroom with caution inspecting each and every nook and cranny. Giving a shower an additional clean-up even though didi most definitely got rid of everything that was in there.

12. Determination: telling yourself you can do this; you are not a crybaby and stepping in the shower. Wearing your flip flops just in case. You never know.

13. Express shower: showering as fast as you possibly can. Probably breaking a world record in fast showering (if such thing exists).

14. Victory dance: feeling proud of yourself and doing a small victory dance, which is really just twisting and turning to inspect all parts of your body for possible unwanted guests.

True story.

The tales of the illness

I actually cannot believe I lasted this long. Most of the people get really sick in their first month of their stay in Nepal; some even in their first week. For me, it took a year. I was proud of myself for avoiding it for so long, but when it finally happened, it hit hard and dirty. Like, below the waist. And so to the hospital I went. As I was going through the grueling torture of a hospital stay, people were telling me: there’s something you can write about on your blog. I would reply saying I most definitely will not, as this is the experience I do not want to remember. But in retrospective, it was quite comical at times, and so I figured I’d share a laugh with my readers anyways.

I’ll spare you the details of the sickness, but let me talk to you a bit about the hospital. I was staying in a government hospital, which meant no luxury at all. No private room. I was sharing mine with a post-op male patient. No western-style toilet in the bathroom. I am going to go ahead and say that was probably the biggest challenge in this whole sickness thing. Nurses don’t do much for you – they change your IV and measure your blood pressure, but other than that, you need to have a helper with you who will do everything: run and get the medicine (including IV fluids), bring you water and food, take you to the toilet, and whatever else the sick person might need. Luckily, Mr.B was a male nurse of first class, and helped me with everything. Without him, I have no clue how the whole thing would’ve gone down.

One interesting thing about Nepal is the sense of community people have here. Whenever something happens people come together to help each other, offer support and encouragement. It’s not different when someone ends up in the hospital. Apart from my family members who came to see me, I had friends come over too. And neighbors. Neighbors even sent the soup, and I was in the hospital for one day only! Definitely the strangest thing for me was the visit time. People just show up, sit on a chair and look at you lie in the bed. I am sure it’s not that awkward when you speak Nepali, because you can actually make conversation. I couldn’t, so I was just lying there feeling very much on display, fighting the urge to jump out of bed, offer snacks and start entertaining. Speaking of snacks, here’s a tip for you: if you ever end up in a hospital, make sure that you buy some snacks on the way in, as it’s customary to offer them to people who come and visit you. That blew my mind. However, having visitors was really nice – seeing that people care about me and that I have someone to rely on, really made the whole experience easier.

As I was in the government hospital, a  bit far from the touristy/expat areas, I was, most likely, the only white person in the hospital. And I was the main attraction. By now, after a year in Nepal, I learned not to pay attention to people staring at me out in the street. And I continued with that in the hospital. Everyone was looking at me curiously, with some concern, and lots of sympathy. Some even asked what was wrong, whereas others tried to find out out what’s going on without asking. I was lying on the bed and the doctor was talking to me when suddenly a random guy appears next to him, starts peering in the paperwork and listening in on the conversation. I was a bit perplexed, but when the doctor didn’t react, I just assumed he was another doctor, or an expert of some kind. Not even close. He was just a random guy, on his way to the toilet, who noticed me and the doctor, and was wondering what was going on. When he heard enough and was satisfied with the newly-gained knowledge of my health issue, he leisurely walked over to use the bathroom. Not matter how sick you are, it’s kind of hard not to laugh at something like that, don’t you think?

 

The help

DIDI दीदी (n., f.) = an older sister, commonly used term to address women in one’s generation

Adding “didi” to someone’s name is very common in Nepal. For instance, someone younger to me, or of my age, might call me Zeljka didi. Sometimes people even do. However, what’s more common, especially among foreigners, is to address their house helper as “didi”. You see, it’s a completely normal thing to have a house helper in Nepal. No, let me rephrase that. It’s totally necessary for most of the people to have a house helper.

Our house helper is called Shanti and she is awesome. Seriously, she makes our lives so much easier. Shanti takes care of the house for us. She cleans (which in Kathmandu is a daily necessity because of all the dust), she does the laundry, goes to the market, preps fruit and veggies for us, and makes sure we always have water in the tank, cooking gas and drinking water in the house. Without her, we would be lost and miserable.

Shanti and I do not communicate much simply because she does not speak English and I do not speak Nepali. We have developed this half sign, half smile language, and we move around each other predicting what the other one’s move will be. I like to believe we are comfortable enough with each other. When there is no way to avoid the conversation, it makes for quite a comical sight. It usually ends in total confusion on both sides. Like that one time I was trying to replant a flower in a larger pot. I needed her to find me a bigger pot, so I brought her to another plant that was in the pot of the size that I needed. I was pointing at it trying to explain what I need. She was smiling, nodding her head, seemingly understanding what I need, confirming it by saying “Hajur, maisab, hajur” (yes, madam, yes). I was proud of myself, I have to admit, until I came back and realized that, instead of bringing me a larger pot, she simply switched the places of the plants. Or, like the other day when I wanted to make yogurt so I asked her to go to the shop and bring me one liter of milk in a green package. She came back with half a liter of milk in a blue package. And a huge smile on her face. I couldn’t break her heart by telling her that’s not what I wanted so instead I said “Perfect, thank you!” and used the milk she brought. Joys of miscommunication.

On days Shanti and I stay at home alone, I am convinced she becomes a ninja. I assume, in an effort not to disturb me, she moves around the house without any noise. Like none. I do not hear when she walks, I do not hear when she does the dishes or folds the laundry. I would walk into a room just to find her there doing something. It usually gives me a heart attack. I have no clue how she can move around so quietly. I would be ironing in the room and suddenly, she would pop her head in the room saying “Maisab, tea, chyaa?”. I try to look calm and totally not surprised, but in reality, I am completely flustered and my heart is beating fast. Ah, my ninja didi. I love her.

I often think about the future and a life back in the West where a house helper is a luxury only selected few can afford. It will be interesting to see how I will go back to cleaning my own bathroom, dishes, and doing the laundry. I predict a challenge ahead of me…

It can’t always be rainbows and butterflies

The inevitable has happened. I started neglecting my blog and writing less and less. And it’s not because I don’t like blogging or writing. And it’s definitely not because I got nothing to say. Believe me, I got plenty of things that I want to share. It’s because most of the things I want to say or write about are negative. You see, I entered somewhat of a “frustration” phase in my life in Nepal. I am annoyed and frustrated by almost everything surrounding me. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not because Nepal is not a good place, or because Nepalis are not nice people. There are plenty awesome things in Nepal and my life in Nepal, like:

1. The super tasty Japanese food I get to have often

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2. Or this amazing view

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3. And the Samosas I raved about on my social media

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4. And especially this spectacular pool I got to enjoy recently.

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But living abroad is a tricky thing. You experience a range of emotions you never even knew existed. And my emotions right now happen to be more negative than positive. I believe it wouldn’t be fair of me to write only negative stuff about Nepal just because of my state of mind. So until my attitude and my feelings change, my blog might be seeing a dry spell. But don’t worry Nepal, it’s me, it’s not you.