Getting homesick is tough

It’s been two years since I’ve been home to Croatia, and the nostalgia is kicking in. Sure, I’ve traveled a lot outside of Nepal, but nothing really beats home when it comes to the petty cravings, right? French Evian might be super fancy, but Croatian tap water still tastes sweeter in my mouth. I don’t even want to think about what Nepali tap water would taste like (going in and coming out – oh that’s gross, sorry).

So in celebration of my (potential) trip home this summer, here are some things I am looking forward to:

  1. Water. I am really excited for that feeling when you just stand in the shower and let the water run over you. And you can even open your mouth and drink some! Or that feeling when you open the tap, fill a glass of water and down it, without thinking twice about purification methods. Also that feeling when you know there is no tank that you could potentially empty and then suffer without water for hours, or sometimes days. Or that feeling when you can run a washing machine, or dishwasher as many times a day as you want.
  2. Electricity. I am looking forward to this. I mean, does this really need any further explanation? Living without electricity is not easy. It’s like this: Oh I would love to have home-made lasagna for dinner tonight. Ok, let me see – I got all the ingredients, but the electricity only comes back at 7 pm, which means that the lasagna can only be done at 8 pm in best case scenario, which is kind of late for dinner. Oh well, maybe tomorrow. Or like this: My hair looks awful, and I really need to wash it. But wait, if I wash it tonight, I need to do it very late because the electricity only comes back at 11pm and I don’t want to be drying my hair that late. And tomorrow morning the electricity goes out at 6am, and I don’t want to be washing my hair at 5am. Oh well, maybe some other day.
  3. Bakery. As much as bakeries here try, they just cannot compare to bakeries in Europe. I don’t know what it is: the flour, the yeast, the altitude, the skill? No clue. But I do know that I eat it because I cannot live without bread, and not necessarily because I like it. I am so excited to meet my friends in Croatia, get a greasy, chocolaty something from the bakery and then sit down in a coffee shop for a cup of coffee. Oh what the heck, I will probably even get two or three greasy chocolaty things.
  4. Clean air. Kathmandu has been horrendous lately. I mean, the air quality has been so bad recently that I am just craving a piece of blue sky and clean air that I can breath deeply into my lungs to clear up all this gunk that has accumulated over the past few months.
  5. Physical exercise. Because of the aforementioned air pollution,  I hardly leave the house in Kathmandu. Yes, working out in the house is always an option, but sometimes it’s just so enjoyable to get out and admire the scenery while exercising. I am really looking forward to riding my bicycle when I go home. Here I always have a debate with myself: is it more unhealthy to not workout at all, or to work out and rapidly breath in a lot of polluted air!?
  6. And last but not least: Mom’s cooking. Who could resist that? Who could not miss that? My mom is an incredible cook. Her lunch spreads are just fantastic. It’s not that I don’t like daal-bhaat, it’s just that I get tired of it. It’s always the same thing. Different vegetables cooked in the same way. No matter what it is, it tastes the same. I like diversity in my food, and it’s something that’s always been heavily promoted in my house. So I cannot wait to forget about the rice for a bit and gorge on potatoes, meat, pies, soups and fresh salad! Oh, and the fish. How I miss the fish.

It’s time to go home. I think this post explains it all. Kathmandu, you’re great, but nothing beats home.

Time flies when you’re having fun

Today is a special day. An auspicious day, really. Today marks one year from the date I landed in Nepal with my one-way ticket. Is it possible that it’s ALREADY been one year? No, wait. Is it possible that it’s ONLY been one year? It feels much longer than a year, yet much shorter than a year at the same time. It’s completely confusing, I know. So many things happened in this one year, so many new people came into my life, so many new experiences challenged and enriched me. I faced emotional hurdles that I never even knew were possible. I leaped into the unknown with the confidence I never knew I had. I think I grew emotionally (waist-wise also) over the last year.

But, enough of the dramatic speech. What stuck with me mostly, you wonder? Here’s the breakdown.

1. I discovered I have a love-hate relationship with dogs. It’s only getting worse with time.

2. Driving on the right side does not necessarily get you into an accident.

3. Modern amenities, infrastructure and technology only hinder romance.

4. Think before you speak is not a common courtesy here, and I should learn to live with it.

5. Resourcefulness of people knows no boundaries.

My life in Nepal is interesting and different and exciting, yet crazy and stressful and annoying at the same time. I do think, though, that everyone should at some point experience life in a third-world country. It really puts things in perspective and values in order. It’s an eye-opening, nerve clenching experience.

I wonder what’s next for Mr.B and me – how the next year will go and where we will end up in terms of our careers, our relationship, our life together. Hopefully we walk together happily into the sunset.

That's us - walking into the sunset, I guess.

That’s us – walking into the sunset.

 

Short stories from Istanbul

Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time there was a married couple living in Nepal. She was from Croatia and he was from Nepal. One sunny summer day they were leisurely surfing the Internet when they came across cheap plane tickets to Croatia. Her eyes lit up at the prospect of going to Croatia for Christmas and he nodded his head in approval. Tickets were purchased.

Come December, the suitcases were packed and a happy couple made their way to the airport. Everything seemed merry. After all, ’twas the season. One thing they neglected to consider was the fact they were flying …[ insert horror movie music]… Turkish Airlines. Oh, what a nightmare it was! Their flight out of Kathmandu to Istanbul was delayed for more than 5 hours, but they were still waiting patiently, excited they are on the way to Croatia, hoping they would not miss their connecting flight. When finally boarded, both were surprised to find out there are no announcements being made, and no apology given for delay. Entertainment system was not working and there was no food for vegetarians and others who do not eat meat.  When they reached Istanbul, their flight to Croatia has already departed. And that is when their ordeal truly began. For some immigration reasons they were not allowed to leave the airport and sleep in the hotel provided by the airline. Instead, they had to spend 15:30 hours in Istanbul airport. They wasted hours and hours walking from one desk to the other trying to find some accommodation or at least some sympathy from the airline and airport staff. To no vain. All they got was angry and disgusted glances. They’ve been ignored, yelled at, lied to, made fools out of. They got a food voucher for a hamburger. And finally, exhausted, frustrated and angry, they found a quiet room and two chairs to spend the night. Even for that, they got mistreated and yelled at.

Finally, the next morning arrived and they boarded their flight to Croatia. Luckily, this time everything was in order. They reached Croatia tired but happy to see the beaming faces of the family members in the airport. Next three weeks were spent in a haze of food and sleep. When the day of departure for Nepal came, the couple again feared the worse – delays and mistreatment in Istanbul airport. Their trip began on a positive note, by being upgraded to business class for their first flight. But that was all they got. Just an upgrade, but not the service. Seat was in a business class area, though the food was economy class. Couple dismissed it with a laugh, happy that someone was appreciative enough of the trouble they went through earlier. However, upon reaching Istanbul, finding out they are no longer in business class and realizing their flight is seven hours delayed, despair, once again, set in. This time around, they decided they will not allow airline and airport staff to abuse and mistreat them, so they found a quiet seat in the waiting area where they would spend the next 12 hours. Faith had something else in plan.

Patience is a virtue

Patience is a virtue

The husband suddenly developed a strong headache. It must’ve been stress-induced. His eyes turned red and his mood went sour. The wife went in search of a medication. She located the information desk where she found out that she needs to call the pharmacy which will then deliver the medicine. She did as told. The pharmacy said to call back in an hour. She obliged. After second call she was told to hold on for 10 minutes and medicine will be brought to her. She waited for more than an hour. No one showed up. Upon her third call to the pharmacy, she was told to call back in ten minutes. The wife then gave up and cried in frustration. The husband was getting worse and worse. They walked around the airport looking for someone to help them. None of the airport staff was responsive. As if though they were not human. Finally, they managed to get medicine from a nice fellow traveller.

Flight was boarded with seven-hour delay. Once again, no entertainment system on a seven-hour flight. Mid-way to Kathmandu eggs and sausages were slapped in front of them to eat. No vegetarian option. Again, no apology.

No Turkish Airlines for this couple again. They only have one thing to say to you, readers:  for heaven’s sake, avoid Turkish Airlines and Istanbul airport like plague.

Reflections

What a better time to reflect on one’s life than the New Year’s Day? Hence, here I am reflecting. The past year was exciting, to say the least. What with quitting the job, moving to Nepal and starting my newly married life with Mr.B. It was definitely not easy. It was emotional, and hard, and happy, and exciting, and crazy, and confusing, and scary, and amazing! The past year has brought so many changes to my life and left me breathless at times. I now look back at how my life changed in just several months and I can hardly believe it. But I am happy and satisfied. I live with my husband after so many years of distance. It might not be perfect. It might be difficult at times. It might be confusing and all sorts of crazy. But I get to go to bed with him every night and I’d say that’s pretty much what life is about – being with the one person who makes you complete. So here’s to even more love and happiness in 2014! Cheers my friends!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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.

070812-knock-knock-whos-there

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.

No talking on the plane, please

Fly, fly away...

Fly, fly away…

The countdown is on – I am leaving for Nepal in couple of days and I have started thinking of my flights, checking on the weather, and wondering about who will be my fellow seat-sharer on the plane. With many international (and domestic) flights under my belt, I’ve had an opportunity to share a row with many different, and sometimes quite interesting, characters. Obviously, small children top the list of the most unwanted persons on a plane seat next to you. I’ve had some experience with that, but luckily it has not been too traumatic. Next on the list would probably be people with motion sickness. To all the motion-sickenss sufferers out there: please, do not get a middle seat, and for god sakes, take a pill. I beg of you! On my last trip to Nepal I sat next to a teenager who spent 3 hours (on a 4 hour flight) throwing up. I was in the window seat; he was in the middle. Take this moment to sympathize with me.

Third place on my worst traveling companion list goes to the talkers. I’m one of those people who does not like to spend my whole trip trying to lead senseless conversations with people I will never see again. Polite exchange of information or a compassionate smile in moments of misery are fine, but looking to resolve crises in the Middle East while flying over it is simply not my cup of tea. I’m a solo player. I roll on my own. I have my book, my phone, my water and my pretzels. On one of my flights to Boston, while Mr.B. lived there, I ended up sitting next to a guy who resolved to make me take a roadtrip to California. Before I even managed to say anything he pulled out a map of US and went on to show me the route I should take explaining in detail each and every sight I should visit on this trip. I lived in New York. It was one long route, and one very long flight. Once, while traveling back to Croatia from US, I ended up sitting next to a Romanian lady who decided I absolutely need to know everything about her life. As soon as she sat down she proceeded to talk about her son, in detail. I found out he played a guitar, went to college and had a girlfriend. Seeing that was not enough information shared, she then pulled out a family photo album to show me photos of her late husband and all of her relatives and family in Romania. I’ve never before met anyone with such a huge family. A totally separate group of talkers are the ones who only talk about themselves in superlatives: “I’m the best, I did this, I did that, I traveled here, I traveled there, I know this, I know the best, you better be grateful you’re sitting next to me”. That’s definitely a person you don’t want to be stuck with on a long flight.

However, nice people can be met on the plane. Once I met a lovely girl who travelled from California to Italy and we had an amazing conversation on relationships and traveling after which she fell asleep curled up on her seat. I’ve then decided I need to lose some weight (and possibly some height, though I don’t know how!?) since I couldn’t curl up on my seat, and she looked so comfortable.

I wonder who I’ll get to meet and talk to this time. Will it be someone normal? Will the person be so wacky I’ll have to come up with a new worst-traveller-companion category? Only time will tell.

What’s with you? Have you ever had an annoying traveling companion?