Somehow, I’ve already been in Kathmandu for four weeks. My days here are packed and that’s just the way I like it. I’m settling into the fast-paced life of a magazine editor and have even become accustomed to six-day work weeks, which I was bemoaning just two weeks ago. Six-day work weeks make my one day off, Saturday, so much sweeter. I’ve been thinking about what it will be like when I return to the US next year and start working five-day work weeks (here’s for hoping, anyway). It will be luxury! Pure luxury!
My apartment is shaping up quite nicely. I live in an area called “Sanepa” which is on the opposite side of the Bagmati River as Kathmandu. Technically, I do not live in Kathmandu, but I live in Patan. The Bagmati River is the divider between the two cities, but the urban creep quickly blurred the lines between Kathmandu and Patan a long time ago. In my neighborhood there is a large concentration of foreigners living and working. This area is also a central to a number of NGOs and foreign schools, so there are many fellow expatriates living around here on long-term assignments. Kathmandu’s British School is right down the street from my flat, so there are usually school-aged children walking around during the afternoon after gets out. If I’m home in the evening, I usually stand on the rooftop of my building with my land lady and neighbor, Gita. Whenever she sees a foreign woman with a baby walk by, she tells me that she can’t wait for me, too, to “have birth.” “Baby cute!” she says. I quickly change the subject after telling her that, with hope, I won’t be “having birth” for some time. After I change the subject she bemoans her dark skin and I fruitlessly try to explain the concept of tanning beds and tanning lotions. Thus far, I’ve made no headway on the subject.
The other news in regards to my apartment is that I finally got four items of furniture: two comfy chairs and two tables (one for a desk and one for the kitchen). This was a major breakthrough thanks to the local tea shop owner, Basanta. Basanta’s place is the hang-out spot for all my Nepali friends. His shop is a musty, dark place that has the best tea around. We sit there for hours and drink endless cups of Nepali tea and sometimes coffee. Although Basanta doesn’t speak English, he knew through my Nepali friends that I was in need of furniture. Last week I showed up after work at Basanta’s and, lo-and-behold, there was a stack of used furniture for me! It was a miracle (a very reasonably priced miracle). I was so excited for my new furniture that I told him I would immediately hire a taxi to transport the items to my flat. Basanta brushed off that suggestion as nonsense and pointed to a medieval horse cart that he had in his shop. “What?” I thought. “He can’t be serious.” But, he was. Basanta quickly piled all the furniture on the horse cart, lashed it on with frayed rope, and off we went to my place. It took us about 45 minutes to push the furniture-heavy cart through the streets. We were winding through main streets, highways, alleys and everything in between. We caused quite a major traffic jam when trying to cross the main chowk (street). To top off the adventure, it was monsooning out and a complete mud bath in the street. We arrived at my house soaking wet and caked with mud. But, furniture! Glorious furniture! I don’t think I’ve ever been so appreciative of anything.
Work is going quite well. We’re doing some fun work with web development and I’ve been doing some great stories. (I’ll post links to my stories once they are published). A huge part of my job is reading. I read ALL day. I read stories submitted by freelancers, stories already published, stories from other news sources and stories from anywhere else I can find. I feel that I’m learning an incredible amount about Nepal from all these stories. It’s fun to go out exploring and then be able to apply the bits I’ve learned from all the reading.
My running regime is also going well. I’ve perfected the morning run route. Yesterday was a holiday from work, so I had the day to myself to relax. I was excited for my day off, but the constant monsoon rain quickly squelched my excitement. I was stranded in my house, about to go crazy from my forced hermitage. Finally, around 3:30 p.m. there was a break in the rains. I immediately slipped on my running shoes, which were still soggy from the day before, and hit the road. This was my first attempt at afternoon running, and I was actually pleasantly surprised. Afternoon running is quite different than early-morning running just because there are exponentially more people out and about. But, from my morning runs I’ve learned the art of blocking out things going on around me. I don’t block out everything of course, mostly just the awkward stares that I get from people. Not many people run here, and if they do, it’s usually early. Afternoon runners are almost non-existant. So, I got a LOT more stares on my afternoon run and a number of annoying “comments” from men standing around or motorcycling by. Luckily, I couldn’t understand the comments and I’m sure if I could they would either be a) annoying or b) offensive. Well, I guess the language barrier is good for something.
In general, I’m falling into my Kathmandu routine, which is quite fun. Being an expatriate here is never boring, I can say that much.