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.

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?

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

4-photo 4

2. Or this amazing view

1-photo 1-2

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

2-photo 2-2

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

3-photo 3-1

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.

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.

 

What I’ve learned about people by living in Nepal

First and foremost: this does not refer only to Nepali people, but people in general, including moi. Though, I find it more prominent here, probably because I am unfamiliar still with people, customs, normality. I most likely keep my eyes open for all the funky things going on around me that I wouldn’t even blink to back home. Regardless, let me share my, what I consider, vast knowledge of people. Though I presume it’s nothing but a bunch of obvious observations.

1. People are always in a rush … to get nowhere

I see this a lot around me, especially in traffic. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, wants to be the first one to reach the intersection/traffic light/roundabout. And it’s not because they’re in a hurry. No no. It’s because they want to be the first in line. As soon as they are done overtaking you in an overly treacherous manner, they will slow down to about a turtle speed and bask in their success. Now they are full 10 centimeters in front of you. Win!

Bikes will drive a motocross of a sort to squeeze between you and the bus to your left; will risk their life in the process, and will then pull over right in front of you, block your way, and get off the bike. They will then walk away towards the chia shop so slowly that you would think they recently had a hip replacement surgery. Well, they obviously weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere on time. Just wanted to be in front of you to show they are better (maybe, or something to that extent !?).

People on bicycles want to get in front of you through impossibly small cracks even though you will overtake them again in several seconds. Fellow shoppers will look for an opportunity to cut the line and get to the register before you do even though you have one product and they have hundred and one.

Perhaps people in Nepal do this because the population is so large they are simply forced to push and shove their way everywhere. But who am I to make such conclusions? Not an anthropologist over here (though I took one undergrad class in it, does that count?).

2. People are very extremely adaptable creatures

You give us electricity, central heating, running water, premium infrastructure, we’ll be happy. Makes sense. You take all those things away from us, we’ll complain and grunt for a while, but then we’ll be happy again. I really need to give credit to Nepali people – they seldomly complain about things and they make something out of nothing. No light – no problem: let’s bring on the generators and diesel and make those lights shine again. No running water – no problem: let’s haul huge barrels on top of our roofs, fill them with rain water and let the gravity take care of the rest. No central heating – no problem: let’s wrap ourselves in blankets, light up some candles and drink hot water (may or may not have some whiskey in it). No gas for the car – no problem: let’s just walk everywhere, it’s healthier anyways.

People can adapt to anything, and Nepalis are stealing the show in this category. Good on them.

People, people everywhere

People, people everywhere

3. People are curious nosey wherever you turn

No matter where you live, you must’ve come across curious people. Oh let’s all be very honest. We all are curious, nosey people. Yes, you too. If you live in an apartment building you run to peek through the peephole when you hear commotion in the hallway. If you live in the house, you discretely peep through your curtains when you see your neighbors buzzing about. We’ve all been there. On one or the other side of the door/curtain. We all know the feeling. But Nepalis are taking it to the next level. Just like I explained here, or Nepalilovestory here, there is hardly any privacy in Nepal. The interesting thing is that people actually always want to know things about you – they are genuinely interested in you. Sometimes it feels really nice. Other times people just openly stare at you. Like for example, if you are a white girl driving a car in the middle of Kathmandu, or shopping by herself in a grocery store. There is no escaping curious looks and nosey questions around here. People want to know everything about you, and the more they know, the more questions they have. One good thing is, no matter how shy or introverted you are, Nepalis will make you talk. Good hosts!

On a downside, there is no thing you can hide around here, no matter how hard you try. Somehow all your embarrassing stuff you buried deep inside you, will surface as a result of Nepali questioning strategy. I’m starting to think they would make really good detectives. Maybe CSI should have a new season: Kathmandu. I think I’m onto something here.