0

Did Someone Ask For A Cultural Experience?

Well friends…I sure got a cultural experience last week. And not just one. Several. The bus ride there was not even that bad. Of course it took longer than expected, but that’s expected…wait. That doesn’t make sense. But in Nepal it does.

bus

After many hours of travel, hence the crazy eyes. Remember: we got up at 1am, left at 2:30 am, and listened to loud Nepal music for most of the trip.

bus2

Here you can see our comfortable seats. My seat was relatively in the front, and I had a tiny view of the road ahead which probably prevented me from motion sickness. Not everyone was that lucky, but that’s why every bus has a stack of plastic bags. And that’s why you can see long distance buses decorated with vomit lines outside the windows.

We arrived late, and there was only a few beds left. This one was for me:

my bed

Doesn’t look too bad, right?
See that door on the left? There is another one, and behind them are bathrooms. And when there is not enough water to flush, those tend to get a bit…smelly.
And did you think this bed was just for me? Oh no. I shared it with a friend. They told us someone else had to sleep there too, but even I have limits and said I’d rather sleep on the floor than in that bed with 3 people, because then I would have at least have a chance of getting some sleep.

room1

This is our room. I think there was a total of 12 beds, which means 24-28 girls, including 2 small children. Praise God for ear plugs! :)

The conference was great. Thanks to ear plugs, and many prayers, I slept really well at night. We had great teachings, and in the afternoons we got a few hours off, so we could sit in the sun and hang out with friends.

Despite the request to ‘only wash underwear’ (who doesn’t bring enough clean underwear anyway?) we ran out of water the first day. And the second. I didn’t get my shower, but I did get to wash my hair on day 2, which was awesome.
At 6 am I woke up and heard the tap outside running. Old instincts kicked in and in 2 minutes I had jumped out of bed, put on some clothes and grabbed a bucket from the bathroom. I filled it halfway up and managed to wash my hair in that. Soon after I got my share, the water ran out again.

Then we started the trip back. We left at 5:30 am and hoped to be back in Pokhara around 6pm. We were wrong.

After about 5 hours, we saw this:

bandh1

This is a long line of vehicles that are not moving. As soon as we got of the bus to check out what happened, we heard that there was a protest because someone had been killed in an accident. From someone else we heard it was because someone had been kidnapped.
Anyhow, when people feel they don’t get support from the government for their problems, or compensation for the loss of a relative, they block the streets for a while, which affects hundreds, maybe thousands of people, especially if it’s on a main road like the one we were traveling on.

Right before we joined the line, a bus from the same company on their way to Dharan had told our driver that he had taken a short cut through the forest, to avoid the bandha. Clearly he had succeeded, and so our driver decided to go for it.

We took a turn and drove on a dusty narrow road in the jungle. I remember thinking ‘If I had organized this bandha, I would check these roads.’
We had to take a sharp turn which took some time with the long bus, and right as we were ready to take it, I saw a motor bike coming at us from the left. There was 2 guys on the back, carrying big sticks. This is not good, I thought. And it wasn’t.
Without wasting anytime discussing the issue, they smashed the front windows and then some on the side, too.

bandhbus

This is what it looked like afterwards. There was people sitting right behind the wind shields, and next to the side windows too, but no one got hurt. While they were smashing the windows we all got out of the bus, not sure what else they would do, as sometimes they set vehicles on fire.

They were kind enough to tell us what was going on: the driver of a bus that had killed someone in an accident had been kidnapped, and they suspected the government to be involved in that. And they were very mad that we, a bus full of people from Pokhara, on our way home, dared to not be obedient and wait for hours until their demands were met by the government.

We joined the line again, which is a bit embarrassing, to come out of the jungle again with no windows…
About 2 hours later the police had come and had ended the bandha. We drove to the next town, where they solved the no-window problem:

bandhbus2

That’s right. Plastic and tape. But not on the driver’s side, because he still had to be able to see the road.

 

bandhbus3

This is Ram. He wanted me to take his picture at his seat without a window.

The rest of the trip back was quite miserable. It was cold, freezing cold, and it took us another 12 hours because we got stuck in a traffic jam. I was home at 12:30 am, which made it a trip of 19 hours.

Hurray for Nepal!

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3

To Bandh Or Not To Bandh

Ik dacht, laat ik jullie eens vermaken met een verslag vanuit het pittoreske Nepal, helaas geplaagd door bandhs en whistle rallies.

Ik kan jullie namelijk best vertellen dat een bandh betekent dat alle winkels dichtgaan en je de straat niet meer op mag, maar hier zijn wat illustratie zodat jullie je een beeld kunnen vormen van hoe dat nou eruit ziet, in de praktijk.

– De winkels gaan dicht, maar als je de achterdeur weet te vinden kom je ook heus wel aan eieren.

– Vrijdag was er onduidelijkheid of er al dan niet een bandh was. Dat kan je niemand kwalijk nemen, want in deze roerige tijden worden er om de haverklap bands uitgeroepen danwel teruggenomen, soms zelfs uitgesteld, en een dubbele of driedubbele bandh is ook geen uitzondering. Vandaar dat er vrijdag elke 10 minuten een aarzelende motor voorbij kwam. De bussen en taxis bleven wel veilig binnen – je weet het maar nooit.
Om half 3 reed ik naar de base, en ik moet zeggen dat ik me wel superstoer voelde dat ik de bandh negeerde, al was ik bij lange na niet de enige.
Prem zei later tegen me dat ik, mocht ik worden gestopt onderweg, gewoon moest zeggen dat ik tijdelijk aanhanger van de Raprapa was. (Pas later hoorde ik dat de reden van de Raprapa’s bandh was dat ze Nepal weer als Hindu-staat willen zien)

– Vandaag, zaterdag was de eerste officiele bandh-loze dag in de week, en ook voorlopig de laatste. Normaal gaat alles dicht op zaterdag zodat iedereen naar de tempel kan of kan gaan picknicken, maar gelukkig was ik niet de enige die de koelkast wilde vullen. Alle winkels waren open.

– Terwijl ik naan en chicken curry aan het eten was in een restaurant op een van de drukste straathoeken van de stad, kwam er een ‘julus’ langs, oftewel: een protestoptocht/demonstratie/rel. Het was een whistle rally, waarbij iedereen gewapend met een fluitje door de straten loopt dan wel rijdt. Alle verkeer moet dan stoppen, tot ze voorbij zijn. Bijzonder effectieve manier van demonstreren – als het je doel is om heel vervelend te zijn.
Helaas was het een half uur daarvoor begonnen met regenen, wat resulteerde in een vrij treurig groepje motoren, gevolgd door een stuk of 20 doorweekte wandelaars, met fakkels die niet meer wilden brandden.
Twee jongens op een motor deden nog een halfslachtige poging om een jeep tot stoppen te brengen, want dat doe je nou eenmaal als je met een julus meedoet, maar daar slaagden ze ook niet echt in.

Tot zover.

0

Just Normal Life In Nepal

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.

Yes 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 :) )

4

Things I (Don’t) Like Very Much

DISLIKE

bandhs
A region, or the whole country, shuts down for a day. Or two. Shops and restaurants are closed, and no one can be on the roads, except pedestrians and cyclists. Who organizes this? Any political party, ethnic group or other club with their own interests.
The goal? Pressure the government to get what they want. These are things like ‘the killing of cows in Nepal should end’ and ‘we want our own nationality’. At the moment ‘the constitution has to be finished before the deadline’ is a popular one. The deadline was May 28th and it’s by far not done.
What if you don’t obey the bandh and you go on the road anyway? Many people do this. But you’ll have to make sure no one notices. This is what I read in the newspapers last week: a press vehicle set on fire, several cars vandalized, petrol poured out over someone and set on fire, including his motor bike.

weirdo’s
This is a hard category, cause weirdo’s can be found everywhere. Unfortunately, in Nepal they often drive taxis. But maybe that’s just because if you’re stuck in a tinu Suzuki Maruti for 20 minutes, some small talk is inevitable. And here’s where the fun starts. Cause first I use my Nepali to show I’m not a tourist, and I’m not gonna pay twice the normal price. But a Nepali speaking foreigner is the jackpot, obviously. (?)
Too often I have had questions if I’m married, and if I’m gonna marry a Nepali, and many more. And many other questions. Clearly, in Nepal 24 is way too old.

LIKE

freshly washed bed sheets
I know, I know, it’s a cliche. But I’m convinced part of the secret of happiness in life is in laundry detergent.

– conversations with God, on the back porch, while looking at the hills and the birds flying past
Fresh watermelon with that is not bad, either.

translated recipes
Sorry, English speaking friends. The only way to find out why this is funny is to do this: go to a page in another language than English, and throw the whole text in a translator like this one.
Read the translation.

(Yes, these kind of things make me happy. Life can be so simple ;-) )

IN OTHER NEWS

Did you know finding the right journal is not easy? At all?
Lined or blanco, is the first question. Lined paper will make sure it’s not gonna be an illegible mess, but can also limit your artistic expressions.
The cover has to be pretty, and something you’re not bored with after 2 weeks. I’ve had my current journal for about 3 years now, but only because I still like it. If I don’t like it, I won’t use it anymore after the first 4 pages.
The paper shouldn’t fall out right away and it has to be easy to write in it.
There’s plenty of paper in Nepal, but usually the pretty handmade elephant poo paper with leaves and flowers. Nice to look at, not nice to write on.
A journal should also be inspiring. A ‘practical notebook’ won’t do for me to write my deep thoughts and philosophical ideas in. That’s why those Moleskines are so popular. That already has the image of serious philosophical writer slash thinker. You can write a grocery list in there and it’s art.

Anyhow. This is just to illustrate Ruth’s life really is not east! The quest continues!

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This is a photo of me, writing something very deep and serious. Like a grocery list.

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DISLIKE

bandhs
Een regio, of heel Nepal, stopt voor een dag. Of twee. Winkels en restaurants zijn dicht, niemand mag de weg op, behalve wandelaars en fietsers.
Wie organiseert dit? Elke politieke partij, ethnische groep of ander clubje met eigen belangen.
Het doel? De overheid onder druk zetten om hun zin te krijgen. Denk hierbij aan doelen als ‘het slachten van koeien in Nepal moet stoppen’ en ‘wij willen onze eigen nationaliteit’. Op het moment is ‘de grondwet moet op tijd af’ het meest populair. De deadline is morgen, en hij is nog lang niet af.
En wat als je je niet aan de bandh houdt en toch de weg op gaat? Veel mensen doen dat. Maar je moet ervoor zorgen dat niemand dat door heeft. In de krant gelezen afgelopen week: een persvoertuig in de brand gestoken, verschillende auto’s vernield, benzine over iemand heengegooid en in de brand gestoken, met zijn motor erbij.

weirdo’s
Dit is een moeilijke categorie, want weirdo’s zijn overal. Helaas rijden ze in Nepal vaak in taxi’s. Maar misschien is dat gewoon omdat je, als je 20 minuten in een Suzuki Maruti’tje zit, niet onder een gesprek uitkomt. En daar begint het. Want gebruik ik eerst mijn Nepali om te laten zien dat ik niet een toerist ben, en daarom niet twee keer de normale prijs betaal, het keert zich snel tegen me.
Want een Nepali sprekende buitenlander, dat is natuurlijk de hoofdprijs. Ik heb te vaak vragen gehad of ik getrouwd ben, en of ik met een Nepali ga trouwen. In Nepal is 24 duidelijk overjarig.

LIKE

net gewassen lakens
Ik weet het, het is cliché. Maar ik denk dat een deel van het geheim van levensgeluk in wasmiddel zit.

– gesprekken met God, in de achtertuin, met uitzicht op de heuvels en de vogels die langsvliegen
Verse watermeloen daarbij is ook niet verkeerd.

– vertaalde recepten
Een paar voorbeelden.

“Muffins van de banaan met het witte recept van de chocolade”

“De gerijpte bananen zijn bananen die van heldere geel zonder bruine, aan bananen hebben gedraaid die met gele vlekken meestal bruin zijn.”

“De witte chocolade kan niet officieel “chocolade” worden genoemd omdat het chocolade geen alcoholische drank bevat.”

(Ja, dit soort dingen maken mij blij. Wat kan het makkelijk zijn, he ;-) )

EN VERDER.

Weten jullie dat het vinden van een geschikte ‘journal’ geen sinecure is? Weten jullie wat sinecure betekent? Ik weet niet of dit woord nog in gebruik is, behalve door mij en mijn moeder. Dit is de betekenis volgens meneer Van Dale:

si·ne·cu·re de; v(m) -s lichte taak: dat is geen ~

Terug naar de journal. Dit steekt heel nauw.
Lijntjes of blanco, dat is de eerste vraag. Lijntjes zorgen ervoor dat het geen onleesbaar gekrabbel wordt, maar limiteren je artistieke uitspattingen.
De kaft moet mooi zijn, en iets waar je niet in 2 weken op uitgekeken bent. Mijn huidige heb ik al 3 jaar, en dat heeft hij alleen zo lang volgehouden omdat ik ‘m mooi vind. Als ik ‘m lelijk vind gebruik ik ‘m na de eerste 4 bladzijden niet meer.
Het papier moet niet te snel uitvallen, en je moet er makkelijk in kunnen schrijven.
Genoeg papier in Nepal, maar meestal van dat mooie handgeschepte olifantenpoep papier waar blaadjes en bloemetjes in zitten. Mooi om naar te kijken, niet handig om op te schrijven.
Een journal moet ook inspirerend zijn. Een ‘handig opschrijfboekje’ van de Hema volstaat niet om mijn diepe overdenkingen en filosofische gedachtegangen in vast te leggen. Daarom zijn die Moleskines natuurlijk zo populair. Dat heeft vanzelf al het imago van serieuze filosofische schrijver slash denker. Daar kun je boodschappenlijstjes in opschrijven en dan lijkt het al kunst.

Anyhow. Dit om te illustreren dat het leven van Ruth ook heus niet over rozen gaat! The quest continues!