Friday, July 20, 2012

On corruption, frustration, life in general

In this post, I mainly just want to vent about how agitating this week has been. Some of the frustrations have revealed important and interesting cultural lessons, but mostly, they just made me want to rip my hair out and/or hop on a plane back to the comforts of America.

It started on Wednesday. I had a detailed plan of what my morning would entail: I’d take the kids to school, then go to an American-style café (the name – Belly Busters – gives it away) that has Wi-Fi and good coffee (a rarity in this country) and finally I’d go to my internship. But like I said before, plans have a way of going awry in Nepal, and instead of going to The Post I ended up at the post office.

David, the orphanage owner, told me that morning that the packages from my mother arrived. The only problem was that the boxes weren’t addressed to his name – only his address – so I had to come with him to prove it was legitimate.

I was not thrilled about the sound of that, but I grudgingly agreed to go. Surely something as simple as picking up two packages couldn’t take more than 15 minutes, right?

I should have known better. Silly me. Nothing is that easy here. Apparently the postal service, like everything else in Nepal, is completely corrupt.

I was there for an hour. We were directed from one postal official to the next, back and forth. Bribes were paid. Taxes were paid. My passport was photo copied, and I had to sign a handful of forms. The postal workers rifled through the packages to see if there was anything of value they could keep, according to David. They must have been disappointed by the plastic dolls and puzzles. The workers looked at me like I was some common criminal, rather than a naïve foreign girl who just wanted her damn packages.  

It’s so mind-blowing that in order to get anything done in this country, you have to pay bribes, even for simple tasks. Any Nepali who has a bit of pocket change can get out of minor violations by bribing the police. Nepalis know it’s corrupt, but they accept it as a way of life.

Other annoyances: Hardly any running water. I haven’t showered since Sunday. No Wi-Fi for days at a time. My mother messaged me on Facebook asking if I was still alive. So did my boyfriend. When Facebook is the only way to communicate with everyone you know, it becomes really frustrating when the internet doesn’t work.

My internship is also starting to feel a bit routine, at least this week. I wish the government would reach a consensus already because I’m growing tired of reading about “how to break the deadlock.” I’m sure it’s an interesting topic to Nepalis, but to an outsider who is learning about politics a little late in the game, it can be quite daunting. Basically, the government couldn’t agree on a new constitution, so the Constituent Assembly (parliament) dissolved in May. So to make a long story short, there is now a caretaker government, people are calling for the Prime Minister to step down, the ex-king is regaining popularity, the Maoist party recently split in two, ethnic minority parties are being formed, everyone is talking about federalism and it’s a gigantic mess. If you think Americans are disillusioned by the government, you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve read up on Nepali politics.

All of these frustrations were just minor issues, though. The rock bottom of this week was getting felt up by some creep sitting next to me on the bus. I got out of work an hour later than usual, and it was getting dark by the time I caught the bus. Mistake #1. There were no seats in the front, so I sat in the back. Mistake #2. So now I can add being sexually assaulted to my list of first-time experiences in Nepal. I don’t know how women travel around the world alone, because there are so many things I have to be careful about. I still think Nepal is a pretty safe country, but it was foolish of me to think that all the men here are harmless. Lesson learned.

This week hasn’t been all bad, though. Mariya did my mehandi (henna tattoo) because it’s a tradition for women to get them throughout the month. It has religious roots, but now it’s done more out of fashion than anything else. I also got a new puli (nose ring) that I’m pretty excited about, but it was an unpleasant experience. The first nose ring I tried was too big, but the jewelry salesman insisted on “helping” me. And in doing so, he shoved the ring through my nose, essentially gauging the hole bigger and making it bleed. Ouch. Beauty is pain, so they say.

You can tell it's not professionally done, but I still like it.

I also made deviled eggs and applesauce for everyone on Wednesday, because those foods totally go together. Luckily I had Andrew and Karuna helping me because, as it turns out, it takes a really long time to peel and chop 25 apples. I couldn’t tell by the kids’ reactions if they liked the eggs, but then one of them said mitho, which means delicious, and everyone had second and third helpings. The applesauce had way too much cinnamon, but Nepalis are used to spicy foods, so they appeared to like it, as well.

And last but not least, the British girls left!!  They actually got a little more tolerable over the past couple weeks, and we had a nice conversation about Indian weddings because they both come from Indian families. But still, I’m not sad to see them go, and I definitely don’t mind having the room to myself again.

1 comment:

  1. Namaste,

    So sad! Seems like your week full of so damn experiences! But gives some new lessons to be cautious about people and how to survive without food and water, It‘s a common things to pay bribes for a single task so don’t be worried about such things. Wi-Fi SSID networking connection drop are also frustrating.

    Mehndi design and Nose Ring (नथुनी -Nathuni) is looking pretty good but I do better than this in my Mom's hand Haha …

    Take care and Good Night!