By Megan Titley
[विदेशी आँखा- bideshi ankha- Foreigner's Eye]
One of the most common conversations that I have with Nepalis goes something along the lines of, “Thank you, no, the only reason I can speak a little bit of Nepali is because I grew up here”…”I was here with my family for 11 years”…”Yes, I was born in Patan Hospital”… “My family are all living in the UK”…“I’ll be here for about a year, maybe more, I’m a volunteer so it depends”… “No, I’m not married yet”… “No sorry, I don’t think you do love me, you don’t know me”.
Birth and rebirth
My biggest impression on returning to Nepal is how much it has altered in such a short space of time. Being a very young, 200ish year old country and only being open to the rest of the world for the short space of about 60 years it has had to take giant hiccuping leaps to catch up with the globalised world. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the older generation of the country who remember the country 60 years ago. It’s system of thought, it’s political leanings, it’s religious beliefs and values to the present state of mind. Leaving the blessed childhood which I savoured in Nepal and moving back to school in the UK I, myself went through quite the awakening. Trying to establish who I was; Nepali Vs British, what I believed; Christianity Vs Post Christianity, who I was becoming; girl Vs woman, to name but a few dominating and conflicting philosophies and cultures. Nepal has had such a turbulent awakening that it makes me wonder, what it sees as truth and reality. I do think that we can all take hope though as as we shed skins and in surviving the painful shedding process, we grow new, more confident, comfortable skins.
East meets West
What I find really strange about Nepal is that it offers it’s people very little in terms of a future or opportunity, while at the same time, offers foreigners so much opportunity. Although I am sad that so many Nepalis leave Nepal for work, I cannot judge them for it. I despise the demand and supply of Nepali girls for sex slavery. What would I do in a state of poverty, with no awareness or knowledge of what a ‘lucrative job’ involves in a situation like that? Although I can’t agree with child labour, how can I not buy carpets made by children if it is an income for a family? The phrase, ‘East and West collides’ has taken on a whole new and very real meaning for me here. Coming back and relearning the culture as an adult has been engrossing and I have immersed myself in it. Naturally, it has also given me awful headaches and caused me intense frustration.
One of my most amusing moments here so far was going shoe shopping. On entering one shop I heard a girl say in Nepali, ‘Oh no, she’s bideshi, she’ll need really big shoes’. I tried to hide my smile and said after a moment looking around at the shoes, “Yes. I am a bideshi and we have big feet so I will need big shoes!” The poor girl looked mortified. Understanding Nepali is so much fun because of the situations like that which take place. The language is also the key to communication and therefore friendships and community. The thing I love most about Nepal is the community. The thing that western countries lack most is community so please, continue to preserve it, love it, invest in it.
Megan who teaches in a school in Kathmandu recently had her hair cut. And the reaction from her students? “Miss Titley, you look weird …Oh, Miss, you’re hair looks terrible! You look like a clown, all you need now is to draw a red nose on.” Visit her blog.
[विदेशी आँखा- bideshi ankha- Foreigner's Eye] is a column in Kantipur newspaper, Nepal’s top daily in which foreigners who have lived or visited Nepal or are living in the country write about their experience with Nepali society. A translated version of this article appeared in today’s issue of Kantipur (see the pic below).]
Earlier column: Foreigner’s Eye: Kuire Jokes and Nepali Thatta by James Sharrock