Friday, June 15, 2012

The bardo of Basundhara, beer and bus rides

I’ve been neglecting my blog lately because I’ve been busy and lacking Wi-Fi. So here is my overdue recap of the past few days (mostly for myself to remember and for my mother to read. If you’re not one of those people, you might be bored because I have nothing poignant to say).

P.S. Sorry for the obnoxious titles. I just really love alliteration. 

Wednesday: My original plan was to take the kids to school with Stefano, teach a couple English classes and then walk home by myself. However, my plans went awry, and I had my first Nepalese lesson in patience. At school, I had hoped I could just talk to the kids and maybe play a few educational games. That didn’t quite work out when I was stuck in a classroom with a teacher who was visibly agitated that I was there and had no teaching experience, so I quickly introduced myself to the kids and let him finish his lesson.

After class ended, the teacher asked me if I had any questions about Nepalese culture. I told him I’m looking for a research topic and asked about current issues the country is facing. His answer was not what I was expecting.

He said, “Nowadays, women are going with several men, and before they used to only be with one man. It is very hard to find a nice girl now.”

The feminist side of me was pretty annoyed by this statement, but it also gave me the idea to begin researching gender roles and how traditional relationships might be changing in Nepal. I’ll be posting my findings as soon as I make some connections.

So after the first class I left, which wouldn’t have been a problem if it hadn’t been for my poor sense of orientation. The part of my brain that is tasked with remembering places must be taking a permanent vacation. I thought that maybe I could overcome my directional disability and find my way from the children’s school in Basundhara back to the orphanage in Dhapasi, but I was wrong. I walked up and down several winding streets, all nameless, all which look the same. My cell phone was also dead, and I had no watch (a series of stupid mistakes on my part).

Feeling helpless and a little panicky, I decided to wait in a café until school let out…four hours later. So after a couple vegetable rolls, an iced tea, several glasses of beer and hours of BBC news on the TV, I was rescued from Basundhara when Stefano came back and laughed at my misfortune. I am learning, though. Slowly but surely.

That evening, I took a mini break from Nepalese culture to go to a dinner party at Stefano’s friends’ house. I’ve never been in such a diverse group of people; there was a French guy, two Italians, one Spanish girl, one Dutch girl, one dreadlocked tattoo artist from Panama, and five Nepalese. The Nepalese reluctantly ate the pasta that was served, and they shuddered at the thought of eating it every day when we admitted we hate dal bhat. After eating heaps of pasta, bruschetta and nutella-filled crepes, we moved on to beer and red wine (provided by the French guy, of course). By the end of the night, everyone was dancing in the rain to electronic music, and I woke up the next morning with a partially drawn henna tattoo on my hand. At least it’s only semi-permanent.

Yesterday: School let out early, so I took all the kids to the pool. It was nice, but not exactly relaxing. Four kids hanging on your back at once is a great workout, though.

Today: I went to Thamel, which is the most frustrating place in the world because there is no logic to the way the streets are laid out. To get there we took a “bus,” which is actually a van with 20 people crammed inside and one guy leaning out the car door (while it’s moving) yelling the destination to passersby. It was definitely a Nepalese experience.

On the way back, we passed about 10 buses with Maoists riding on top waving the communist flag. I don't know too much about the political situation here, so hopefully I can learn more during my stay.

This evening we took the kids to play in an empty lot nearby, and they had fun running around for a while. They have started to call me “auntie,” the same name they call Maria, so I’m happy they are beginning to grow fond of me.

Picture time!

Karuna being sassy 


Stefano and Bishal 

People sit on the roof all the time

Not a good picture, but my mother keeps bugging me to see my sari. I was wearing pajamas underneath this, so I'll post a better picture when I get the other garments back from the seamstress.