Week One in Kathmandu

In Kathmandu, only the cows have got it made.

Today is Monday, which means that I have been in Kathmandu for exactly one week.  The past week as been a whirlwind: many highs and a few lows.  I spent the first three nights at an excellent guesthouse in Thamel (Hotel Florid Nepal), which is located on Z-Street. It is a bit off the main drag so is quiet at night and has a great backyard garden with grass and, best of all, peace and quiet from that crazy neighborhood.

After about four days I found my own apartment.  A great deal of thanks should be given to my Nepali friends who have helped me SO much in getting set up in my new flat.  Traveling in a foreign country is one thing, but actually relocating to that country for any extended period of time brings out a number of issues that are quite difficult to deal with.

To begin with, I’ll explain my apartment: it is exactly what I want (minus the lack of furniture).  It is small, cozy and only about a ten minute walk to my magazine office.  I live on the third floor so have some views of the Kathmandu city-scape and above me is a simple roof top, which will be wonderful for reading and writing once the monsoon season subsides.  I have one room, a kitchen space and a bathroom that is shared with the family living across from me. My neighbors on my floor are a family of four: Gita, her husband and their two children (one son, 10 years old, and one daughter, 12 years old).  Gita is extraordinarily friendly and matronly.  She is very concerned that I feel safe and secure in the apartment and has helped me get settled in as well.  Gita ordered me a cylinder of propane gas (which was promptly delivered by a bandy-legged old man on a bicycle), brought me a bag full of tea leaves, coffee and sugar, and has been helping me out with food since I do not yet have my stove connected.  I think she is enjoying having me around as her “third” child to keep an eye out for.  I think Gita and I will have quite a lot of fun together and some great experiences: she has invited me to come along with her family for Dasain festival and has also invited me to the Nepali “beauty parlor” as I mentioned that I needed a hair cut.  Gita’s husband is rarely around, but the two children are here every morning and night, before and after school.  Both the children call me “Aunty.”

Besides getting adjusted to living in Kathmandu (which I assume will take quite a few more weeks) I have also begun my job.  I am working full-time (6 days a week!!!!) at a Nepali-owned, English-language magazine that focuses on Nepali culture, history, tradition, stories, peoples, foods and more.  I am working as the Assistant Editor for the magazine.  Before arrival, I honestly did not know what to expect.  After my second day, my duties and the expectations are slowly becoming more clear to me.  I think I am in for quite an interesting year, to say the least. There are an interesting mix of personalities that I am beginning to know through my job.  I’m also beginning to realize that I think I’ll be working quite a bit harder than I thought.  I have been put in a senior managerial position (and I’ll also be doing writing) and the brand owner and managing editors expect a lot from me.  The magazine is great and I hope can only go up from here.

I’m also beginning to see that this trip will be quite a bit different than my last trip to Nepal.  Although I was working before (actually, volunteering), I had a lot of free time to explore the city and the country.  This trip will be different because a great deal of my time will be devoted to my work and furthering my career. This is not really a “vacation” job… This is a “job” job.  I’m taking the position very seriously because I think I have a lot to learn.  So far, the challenge is exciting, but frustrating.  A new job anywhere can be frustrating at the beginning, but a new job in a different country, with a different culture and language is especially frustrating.  I think I am up for the challenge, though.

As the week progresses I will attempt to furnish my apartment.  In the U.S., when you think: “I need things for my apartment,” it seems like a simple task.  Hop in the car, go to Target, pick out the things you need, charge it, and then go back home.  Here in Kathmandu, things are much different.  First, you must go to 3 to 5 different stores to see what price everyone says for, say, a chair. Then you go back to the best one and must bargain down from there.  Then, if you are buying anything that is large, you must hire a taxi to take the large item to your home.  Then you must bargain with the taxi driver.  Then you must remember how to get to your home and direct the said taxi driver with charades gestures to the said location.  Whew.  And this is why I still have no furniture in my apartment.  Go figure.

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