Remember the concept of a bandh in Nepal?
A group of people (a political party, or a people group, etc.) can call a bandh, which literally means ‘closed’ and results in a shut down of shops and transportation. Cycling and walking is still allowed.
The month of May is bandh-month, as it has been the month for the constitution to be done – for the past 4 years. Yeah. Four. Years.
Anyway, I won’t go into the details of the political situation here, as it is a bit complicated, and overall not very interesting if you don’t live here.
It’s definitely interesting when you DO live here.
As I had to extend my visa (always in May, so always fun), I tried to plan it around the bandhs. The problem is that they don’t always announce them until the day before. And sometimes they announce one but call them off the night before.
I decided to fly to Kathmandu on Sunday. I usually take the tourist bus (a tenth of the price of a plane ticket, but also ten times as slow) but since I’ve been going back and forth many times in the past 2 months, I thought I deserved a flight this one time. I had to be at the airport at 11:30, and I had to get a bank statement and several photo copies before that. The bank opens at 10, so plenty of time…or so I thought. When I called taxi driver #1, he was repairing his engine. When I called driver #2, I understood why – it was a 3 hour ‘taxi strike’, until 12. No buses or taxis allowed on the streets.
Fortunately I have friends who live next to the airport, who had loaned their bicycle to my neighbor when he had to get home from the airport. I called him and offered to ride it back to the owners.
I stopped at the bank on my way, made photo copies, dropped off the bicycle, and went to the airport.
Getting my visa was surprisingly easy. I think my new motto for living in Nepal is ‘less stress, more persuasion’. Having the phone numbers of the right people is key.
Sunday 3 pm: “Your letter will be done by Tuesday 1 pm. No, it can’t be done by tomorrow. It takes a lot of time to process.”
Monday 11am I call the office. “Yes, the letter is finished, please come and pick it up.”
This was great news, as there were rumors of bandhs starting on Friday. I had to get my stuff done fast, because I had bought bus tickets for Thursday to be home before the bandhs.
Even immigration was being helpful. It would take 2 days, they said. But when I told them I live in Pokhara, and there’s gonna be bandh, and really can it not be done tomorrow? they quickly changed their minds. Tomorrow it is.
The visa was in the passport by Tuesday and all was well.
But then Wednesday 10 am my phone rang. My friend had received an email saying there would be an indefinite nationwide bandh, starting on Thursday.
There’s only one thing worse than a bandh, and that’s an indefinite bandh.
She told me to come back that day, or I would be stuck in Kathmandu till who knows when.
Two hours later the taxi dropped us off at the bus stand where you can get a mini van to Pokhara. And 5 hours later I was home, but not before a 10 minute stop at the grocery store where I bought fruit, veggies, pasta, sauce, fl0ur, juice and chocolate.
It’s a necessity.
So that is life.
It’s a life where you plan what you want, but you never know if it will turn out like you planned and you have to be ok with that.
(but here’s a word of thanks to Beena, Binod, and some other people at different offices whose names I do not know, but thanks to all of you I got my visa before the bandh craziness and I can plan/change plans/cancel plans in the comfort of my own house in my own Pokhara. THANKYOU :) )