Originally filed from Kathmandu
iTravelDame.com. It's interesting to re-read this after nearly five years, and see what has changed.
Oh yeah, if you are planning on reading about Nepal, Arresting God in Kathmandu is really mediocre. I recommend Culture Shock: Nepal or its equivalent in the CultureSmart series. And if it's tales you want, the Traveler's Tales: Nepal is a great place to start.
Things you take for granted over here:
Bargaining and haggling for everything
Specifically asking for “English newspaper”
Having neighbors who look like stills from National Geographic
Dishonesty (about prices, availability, life stories, when the work will be finished, etc.) and corner-cutting
Wondering how you will pay the $65.00 rent (Nowadays, it's more like $100)
Channel-flipping from Nepali to Hindi to English to Tibetan within a few minutes’ conversation
Monks with cell phones
Papayas, figs and pomegranates are not a luxury (At that time there was a pomegranate tree growing in my front yard. Upon my return to US, I found that pomegranates have become the trendy fruit-of-the-moment.)
A dozen Tibetan high lamas live within walking distance
Nobody has a license (for anything)
Never being cold
Being called “Didi” (big sister) in Nepal, “Chechi” or “Madama” in Kerala, “Akka” in Tamil Nadu, “Memsahib” in Calcutta, and either “Auntie” or “Madame” everywhere else
Prescription medicine without a prescription, or a doctor’s visit
Prescription medicine that costs $50.00 in the US costing $2.00, over the counter.
Every commercial building has a full time watchman and doorman in uniform
Vegetarian food, everywhere.
Constantly carrying an umbrella (for sun most days, and rain during monsoon) - And, I could have added, to keep the occasional aggressive street dog away.
Sandals, 365 days a year
Routinely meeting people who’ve just returned from, or are headed, to places considered dangerous by most of the world (Afghanistan, Egypt, Jaffna/northern Sri Lanka, Burma, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, trekking in western Nepal, etc.)
No spring, no fall, no changing colours; just hot season, rainy season and dry season (winter)
English teachers: pathethic losers at home, prestigious over here!
Permanently “homeless” people *not* being removed by police or housing authorities
Handmade custom-tailored clothes available on most every corner (now, you just have to be able to communicate what you want!)
Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine in every shop; aspirin is “English medicine”
Child labour (exception: Kerala)
Beggars with stump limbs and grotesque deformities become routine
Every week is a different religious holiday for a different religion
Flowers grow all year round
Keeping a bottle of mineral water in the bathroom just to brush your teeth
Hershey’s is an import; Cadbury is domestic
Hot water is a luxury
Being able to identify someone’s religion or region by their headgear or dress
Buying everything, from underwear to a sweater to popcorn to a mirror, on the street
Goats, cows and packs of dogs on the sidewalk
Your washing machine and bathtub both are a plastic bucket
Instead of tossing your old sandals or broken umbrella, getting them repaired by the shy "lower-caste" guy on the corner
Doctor’s visit: Three dollars (and worth every penny, ha ha)
Being treated like a rich person (ie, ability to stroll into five star lobbies and dawdle around without security being alerted) just by virtue of being a “foreigner”
BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper) - I recommend wet-wipes. At first I thought it was froo-froo, but when I finally gave in they just made life so much easier.
Taking a bus for ten cents, or a taxi across town for a dollar- The buses can still be as little as ten cents' equivalent; taxis have gone up - most radically in Kathmandu.
Automatic VIP status for foreigners- This is changing, but still remains to some extent.
Stores close for afternoon siesta
Stray dogs aren’t rounded up and euthanized, but are alternately kicked, beaten, fed and played with- I did learn that stray dogs are occasionally victims of a poisoning campaign by various municipal governments. This is really inhumane and torturous way to kill the animals, and since all dogs are allowed to wander here, often affects pets as well.
Saving water in a bucket in your bathroom; at least one day a week there is no water supply- Still a very good idea, particularly in Nepal.
Keeping a flashlight, candles and a lighter handy for power cuts -This may never change.
Everyone on your block knows your schedule and your entire life story
The temple down the road is “only” 300 years old
Internet cafes and public phones that work on nearly every corner
Waiting for “the boy” to bring something (towel, bucket, water, napkin, tea)
Goat and other carcasses, eyes still open, for sale on the road
Having conversations with persons of a dozen nationalities in one day (German, Japanese, Israeli, Dutch, Danish, Australian, Filipino, Indian, Italian, British, Brazilian, French, Korean, Swedish, Swiss, Nepali, Bhutanese) and being able to identify them right away by accent- and/or dress. For example, no one but Koreans would wear those silly duck-billed sun hats, and Israelis are prone to wear bright, clashing colours together.
Not having a phone in the house (residential landlines are rare)
Parking anywhere (with a motorbike or moped), usually for free (exception: Pune)
Waking up at 4am to the shattering cymbals and braying horns of Tibetan morning ritual music--(The best place to do this is Boudha, Kathmandu)
Being nearly grazed by passing cars, motorcycles, cycle rickshaws and bicycles a dozen times a day
Every woman has a pierced nose, some more than one piercing
The Bunch of Keys (they are always old-fashioned, long handled keys and your house always has at least 3 different locks), also suitable for use as a weapon
Taking off your shoes before entering most rooms
Wearing sunblock every day, all day and still getting tanned
Tea is a staple
Wearing a face mask against air pollution- More than ever in Kathmandu. Air pollution keeps getting worse.
Couples holding hands now appear shocking- Tourist couples, take note and please heed. We don't like PDA and that includes holding hands.
Seeing headlines like “500 teachers abducted; whereabouts unknown” or “Maoists slay 5 in Birgunj” on a daily basis
Seeing police with riot shields and barbed wire road blocks on every other corner
Compulsively dark shops and restaurants (electricity is very expensive, and people try to conserve to the point of living in darkness)
101 Uses for coconut hair oil (makeup remover, body lotion, moisturizer) and Tiger Balm (congestion relief, headache cure, wakey-uppy)
Stepping over human and other excrement on the road; ability to identiy excrement (human from dog, and cow from horse from elephant) at a distance
Paying $1.00 for a latte is a splurge- This has definitely changed. It's now at least $2.00, which is the average daily wage of many.