29 August 2015

Arriving in Khandbari

Today I learned that the “a,” “f,” “g,” “j,” “l,” “2,” and “/” keys on my laptop’s keyboard no longer function, so when I type without correctin ny mistkes it ooks ike this. This wi be diicut...

This is the start of a journal about my work and adventures living in Nepal. If you know me personally then you’ve probably already had to listen to me blabber on and on about this country, and if not then this is your opportunity to join in the fun. I’ve come here to improve my Nepali language fluency, gain personal- and work-experience, further my spiritual and educational growth as a student and practitioner of Buddhism, and because I love this country and had a really good time living here in the past. I hope that I can be of some benefit here through my work as well, but we shall see in time. The journal will start with my coming to Khandbari, in the Eastern Region, to work at Surya Secondary Boarding School. My job is to teach upper-level English, topics in Western history and culture, and some emergency medicine, according to my limited ability.

So it begins. I arrived at Tumlingtar Airport on Sunday afternoon and was met there by my host Shankar, a friend of his, and the principal of Surya School. After going through the necessary airport formalities (taking my bag from the pile of luggage [I can only type two of the letters in “luggage,” ha!] on the tarmac and writing my information in a logbook for foreign visitors after a policeman happened to notice me walking away), we drove in a small motorcycle convoy for about half an hour uphill to Khandbari. This was my first ever motorcycle ride, but I played it cool and only thought I was going to die a little bit at the beginning. This main road was actually pretty solid, better than most roads at home, and there was a big national strike that day (the day before that nasty incident with the protests in Kailali, for those who follow Nepali news) so we were the only ones out driving.

We arrived in Khandbari and I spent the afternoon making a fool of myself trying to speak Nepali with my new host family and neighbors. It’s good to be back, and I get the impression that people have a positive opinion about me once they know why I’m here, as this school has had American teachers come in the past. I have to get used to being stared at by everyone, since I’m probably the only Westerner living in this town (the population is 25,000-50,000 people, depending on who you ask), I’m blond-haired, an extreme rarity in these parts, and I am, even by American standards, somewhat of a giant. Anyway, the town seems quite safe, peaceful, prosperous, and even clean! This area is far from the epicenters of the earthquakes that plagued the country several months ago, and Khandbari only lost a few dozen buildings out of, I would guess, several thousand (though many more sustained minor damage). I suspect the destruction is much greater in the surrounding countryside where fewer buildings are of modern architecture, but I haven’t yet ventured out of the town’s central area to see for myself.

My accommodations here include a good-sized room on the top floor of a three-story house with windows overlooking a portion of the main drag in town, and meals provided by Shankar’s wonderful wife Sajana.

A bit spartan, but nice 
I share my hallway with two renters, Nabin and Dichandra, who work at different banks in town. Half of this top floor is outdoors, directly facing the Makalu range of the Himalayas, and will have an inconceivably righteous view once the monsoon clouds pass in October. Right now the mountains are mostly hidden, revealing themselves only enough to remind of their presence. On the first floor lives Shankar’s family - Sajana, Shankar, his two sons Saugat and Sanis, and his parents, who are currently visiting from their usual home in London. On the ground floor is the kitchen, a small courtyard, a chicken coop, and a textile store, run by Sajana, facing the street.

Right outside - Gai Jatra dancers blocking the road
The morning after my arrival, in perfect form, I puked out my meal from the previous night, thereby losing some serious street-cred that I had tried to earn by eating tons of daal bhat (lentil soup, rice, and miscellaneous side-dishes, the staple Nepali meal) with my hands, in the Nepali way. I felt pretty bad, but the strike was still happening so schools were closed for one more day, and I resolved to drown my sickness in sleep and water. About ten minutes later, a teacher from the school came to tell me that they were opening in spite of the strike and that I should come with him. I was feeling a little better, so I went, thinking that I’d probably just observe classes on my first day anyway. About ten minutes later, I was taken to the 9th grade English class, introduced, and informed that I would be teaching their class, by myself, starting right then. This day was just full of surprises! I fumbled my way through the class, and given my illness and complete lack of preparation, I think it went well enough. The next day I felt much better (I think I just had some bad food in Kathmandu), and I’m starting to settle into this new rhythm. More to come shortly….

No horizon here
Only the place where mountains
Dissolve into clouds

No comments:

Post a Comment