Living in Nepal - Part II
Looking back at the past year-and-a-half’s journey, it seems as if ages have passed since I sat on O.R. Tambo, ready to start a journey unlike any previous trips. My other and I had literally slaughtered the oxen and burnt the plough like in the story of Elisha in the Bible. We were past the point of just picking up our old life and continuing with it. Eight months in South Africa sorting out, selling and giving away took care of that.
Back in Kathmandu, we started off at our old place of safety, the guest house. We had stayed here for 5 months in 2016 while we contemplated the possibility of moving here permanently. However, we quickly realised that the time had come to move out of the safety net and start living in our new country. The move from there to our first apartment was very challenging. We were moving into the centre of chaos, the heart of the old city of Patan. You might accuse me of exaggerating the whole thing, but I am quite sure that statement would stand if tested in court by some severe cross examination. Our new home was between Lagankhel bus park and Patan Durbar Square. We had a new alarm clock, which woke us around 04:30 every morning, when somebody would ring the very large and equally loud bell in the square where we lived. This would be followed by some old men singing the same song every morning as they walked around the stupa. One of my friends told me that there would be a time that I would actually miss these peculiarities. I laughed then, just as you probably will when I tell you that I do actually miss it some days.
There was another sound that took even more getting used to. That is the Nepali marching bands that are hired at weddings. They flood the narrow alleyways of Patan with their boisterous sounds when a bride is collected from her house. One could easily assume that this would happen at decent hours, but you would be wrong. So it was a tremendous shock to be awoken at 2 o’clock one morning with what I thought was the end of the world's announcement from inside our room. I later realised – when sanity was restored – that the noise was coming from outside.
In all the madness we had two things, no really three, that truly helped. We knew that we had a Father that really looks after his children. We also had the support of friends from South Africa living here, and Fridays and Saturdays became our time together. Then we could unpack and also recognise that we are not going mad and that every foreigner was enduring and struggling with the same culture shock. This was a special time and this group of friends-turned-family will always have a special place in our hearts. We also had the most amazing landlord, who totally went out of his way to serve us. Sabin, we honour you and highly recommend your apartments to anybody coming to stay here for a while. How very quickly this had become home. When we left our little nest for a new apartment (in which a friend gifted us all her furniture), it was with great sadness that we said goodbye, not only to our home but also to our new friends.
You see, we had the most amazing neighbours. One was the friendly hardware shop owner. We could only communicate by pointing and using his one or two English words or my one or two Nepali words. But every time he would great me very friendly and I knew that I had reached safety, having just survived the chaos of our street. He would also eagerly open the door for me whenever I left my keys at home. We had another friend, who would supply us with croissants whenever we needed a pick-me-up. This was ready every morning at 06:00. On days when it really was tough we had a supplier of cheese buns around the corner, which were ready at about 11:00. (It’s clear that we find solace in food, hey?)
This old part of Patan is a maze of small little street and cul de sacs. My other half would navigate us through the many alleyways of this old part of Patan when we escaped here to get away from the rush hour traffic of the main streets or when we would just come to lose ourselves – she with her camera and me just to wander aimlessly next to her, enjoying the different pictures, sometimes through her eyes and sometimes only through the photos that she would later show me. Sometimes I was even fortunate to show her a canvas, because for a photographer there probably is few places like Nepal. So this became our escape early in the morning, when the light was soft and sometimes late at night when most people had moved inside for the night. The Kathmandu clock starts early in the morning but also stops just after nine o'clock at night. This makes for pleasant and really safe walks with open streets and a time when you can actually stroll and have a discussion with your fellow pedestrian.
The strangest thing happens after a while: the chaos becomes familiar and even comfortable. As we moved to a new flat in a very familiar part of town, I realised that we had gone full circle in finding our roots in this adopted country of ours. You see, we had faced some of our fears and have made it safely to the other side.
When we started a new season in our new apartment this past summer, I realised that we were starting to put roots into the Nepali soil. Our four suitcases of stuff had increased to four rooms of stuff. From now on moving will not be that easy again.
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