Category Archives: Foreigner’s Eye

Foreigner’s Eye: An African Experience in Nepal

The experience in Nepal has not always been always good. When walking in the streets we hear people calling us Kale/Kali all the time. नेपालमा सबै अनुभव राम्रा छैनन् । बाटोमा हिँड्दा सधैंजस्तो मानिसहरूले हामीलाई ‘कालो, काली’ भनेर चिच्याएको सुन्छौं ।

Yvonne Otieno for Kantipur

Yvonne Otieno

By Yvonne Otieno
[विदेशी आँखा- bideshi ankha- Foreigner’s Eye]

“Namaste! Welcome to Nepal.” These were the first words I heard from my host upon arrival.

They have stayed with me every day. Every time I leave the house or when I start comparing Nepal to Kenya, I remind myself that I’m in Nepal and Nepal will never be Kenya or vice versa. We are both be developing countries facing different challenges. A country is more than the technology. A country is about people, people and their cultures, people and the struggles, people and their victories, their values and principle.

On my first day, I had dinner with my host organizations father. He is a professor and a prolific writer and artist. He had been told that my father is also an artist and he was interested in learning about Kenyan Art. His story is quite fascinating. He used to be a university lecturer but he resigned. He is well read about ancient history, philosophy and just about any subject you can think of. However, he hasn’t left his compound for the last 20 years in protest to the multiparty system in Nepal. When I ask him why he doesn’t support this system? His says -You can’t have too many people preparing one cup of tea. He spends most of his day reading in his garden. But he is always willing to share some nuggets of wisdom. Continue reading

Foreigner’s Eye: I Married a Nepali Mountain Biker!

dan wright and nirjala
Dan and Nirjala: “Sriman ani Srimati – Hamro maya is Happy!”

By Dan (Bahadur) Wright
[विदेशी आँखा- bideshi ankha- Foreigner’s Eye]

I’m a recently married man…twice, all in the space of just 7 months and to the same girl!

I first came to Nepal in 1997 at the age of 18 as a volunteer English teacher for a little school in Koteshwor. I arranged the position through a friend of a friend and eventually received a letter, several months old by the time it reached me in January 1997 saying, “We will meet you at the airport in September and you will need a yellow suit and some teaching materials”, so duly warned I arrived in the brightest yellow suit I could find at Tribhuvan airport carrying a bag of posters and childrens books and cassettes of fun songs! I was met by about 50 children in school Uniform at the airport all with flower mallas and Tikka and I think my reception there was better than the Foreign Diplomats arriving on the same plane! Continue reading

Foreigner’s Eye: Viewing the East Through Western Lens

[पूर्व हेर्ने पश्चिमी नजर- नेपालीमा तल छ]

neil horning

Neil Horning

By Neil Horning
[विदेशी आँखा- bideshi ankha- Foreigner’s Eye]

A few days ago a some friends and I were on a bike ride in Bardiya. As we waited alone on the river bank for the ferry to take us across, over 20 other riders arrived, and it was clear that we all couldn’t fit on at once. So, as the raft approached, ready with a plank for us to role our bikes up, what happened? Did a line form? Did the new arrivals recognize it might be better for everyone if a few people waited for the next crossing? Of course not! We all had to race 10 meters into the water, until we were up to our knees, then fight each other while lifting our bikes over the side. After a lot of jostling and a few stubbed toes, it became clear that this loading process would take longer than two trips across would have. So, we had plenty of time, and nothing to do but stand sweating in the Terrai heat and talk about why this happened. Continue reading

Foreigner’s Eye: Re-learning Nepal

megan titley

Megan Titley

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.

Language

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).] 

megan titley article nepali

Click to enlarge and read (ठूलो पारेर पढ्न क्लिके हुन्छ)

 

Earlier column: Foreigner’s Eye: Kuire Jokes and Nepali Thatta by James Sharrock

Foreigner’s Eye: Kuire Jokes and Nepali Thatta

James Sharrock

James Sharrock

By James Sharrock

[विदेशी आँखा- bideshi ankha- Foreigner’s Eye]

I have come to Nepal many times since 2004. I have worked, volunteered and been a tourist here. I came here last week as a tourist and will stay around two weeks more. Nepalis ask me all the time about ‘how do you like Nepal?’, which is a natural question but does eat my head sometimes! It is usually followed by the question of whether I have married or not and then when I answer ‘no’, why don’t I marry a Nepali girl?! My usual answer to the question “how do you like Nepal?’ has been to say that Nepalis are generally very friendly, the country is beautiful but politics seems to be a bit of a problem.

That is the short form answer of a much longer, in-depth reply. I keep coming here because I now have many good Nepali friends, I enjoy travelling to new areas of the country and I find Nepal interesting as the society is always changing in new and unexpected ways. I am originally from the UK which, to my native eyes, doesn’t seem to change. Like lots of the West, the UK is also facing an uncertain economic future and its citizens do not seem to have the ability to cope with this. Many Nepalis, on the other hand, seem to have much better coping strategies in dealing with fast changing social, political and economic situations and can fit themselves into new realities much more easily.

So my perspective on the ‘how do you like Nepal?’ question is different because I keep coming here. However my perspective has also been different recently as in the last two years as I have been working in Sudan with the UN, in a disputed area on the north-south border called Abyei. The two countries can’t really be compared. However a simplistic comparison would say that Nepal’s political problems appear like an internal family dispute which is resolvable through talking while Sudan’s problems appear like completely different families who have fought – with brief pauses – since 1956. The current answer to their difficulties has seen the creation of the world’s newest country – South Sudan – but many of the problems inside both Sudan and South Sudan remain.

When I first came to Nepal to volunteer in a school in Danda, Nawalaparasi I was confused by many things. On my first day here I thought that all the red paan marks on the street were blood and thought to myself that Nepalis must enjoy fighting! During my time in Nepal I have made lots of jokes about things kuires find funny about Nepal and my Nepali friends have of course made a lot of jokes about kuires too. I have joked a lot about the sound some Nepalis make in the early morning when coughing half of their lungs out very, very loudly (which is also a great alarm clock). I love the way that some Nepalis skillfully point with their lips, which is much more efficient and less rude than our finger pointing. All kinds of social habits seemed strange at first but now I’m used to most basic things, although surprises still happen.

I think we kuires are seen by Nepali eyes as being skilled diplomats, a bit selfish, less family orientated than Nepalis, rich and quick to divorce every year! Stereotypes exist on both sides (that is if you think that kuires and Nepalis are on two different sides, which I do not). I don’t see the culture or society in England or Nepal is better, they are only different. However, that doesn’t mean everything is relative and equal. The way that many Nepalis care for their elderly parents – for example – seems, for whatever reason, objectively better than the treatment many older people get in my country. On the other hand the way that some of my former colleagues from Africa were treated by Nepalis was not always positive.

Most Nepalis have at least seen kuires now although some people still look at me like I’m an alien from Mars! When I was working in some remote areas of Panchthar or Taplejung young children went wild when they saw me, shouting ‘gora aiyo gora aiyo’ while jumping up and down! Braver children often grab my red cheeks and say ‘syau jastai’. I feel like I do have a duty to explain what is theUK really like to Nepalis who ask me. My job to convince some people that it is not a ‘sapana desh’ was made a bit easier by the recent riots in London and other cities, including my home town of Manchester. The UK, is obviously more developed than Nepal, but obviously has many problems too. To survive there is difficult. Anyway, I hope to come back again and again to Nepal and enjoy the confusions, contradictions and jokes that arise between bideshi and sodeshis.

jpsharrock (at) gmail.com

(28-year-old unmarried James is looking for a right life partner who, he thinks, could be from Nepal or the UK. But this email is not provided for that purpose!)

[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).]

James Sharrock Kantipur article in Nepali

Click to enlarge (ठूलो पार्न क्लिके हुन्छ)

Foreigner’s Eye: Encountered Nepal in the United States

Denise A. Freeman

Denise A. Freeman

By Denise A. Freeman

[विदेशी आँखा- bideshi ankha- Foreigner’s Eye]

Nepal is a country with its heart splayed-open. The massive deforestation, human and sex trafficking horrors, glue-sniffing street children and poverty are all hard to ignore. And with each problem or issue, there are hundreds of well-intentioned NGOs. Each with a mission to tabulate data, document, and or help decrease, resolve or eradicate ‘a problem’. But while many are engrossed with these various projects, others are hiking, climbing, rafting, gliding, flying or just shopping in the streets of Thamel, Jamel or New Road. But behind some of the highest peaks in the world, Nepal has without question, some of the most down to earth people in the world. In fact, for what Nepal fundamentally lacks in, such as a consistent supply of electricity and clean-water, it tries to make up for in hosting and hospitality.

My very first encounter with Nepal began when I went to Salem College in North Carolina. A group of about twenty young, bright Nepalese scholarship students took the college by storm, along with all the top academic excellence awards. They were smart, hard working, ambitious and before long, introduced Momos and Daal Bhaat into the school’s menus. More importantly, each wanted to return to Nepal, to do their humanitarian bit for the country. Over the years, as I came to know more about Nepal through the lives of my fellow classmates, it became evident that the Nepalese also have a great affinity to help and to heal.

A model and pride to the nation for displaying such charitable works and my sole reason for coming to Nepal in February 2010 is Ms. Anuradha Koirala-a formidable woman who has tirelessly helped, housed and offered hope to hundreds of needy children, women and families. My admiration and interest in her and in her good cause, led me to embark on the writing of Mrs. Koirala’s biography. As such, I returned to Kathmandu in December of the same year and found myself in the predicament that many and perhaps most visitors and researchers encounter when they visit Nepal. That is, how does one extend their visa?

How my three weeks in Nepal evolved to four months is of interest to everyone in my life-including my beloved dog that waited for me to return to London before taking her last breath. By the third time I had extended my stay, I had organized Thongba Mondays with my Nepalese mates, Jazz Upstairs on Wednesdays with the expatriates and weekends away via motorbike at Nagarkot, Pharphing, Daman, Kakani, Shivapuri or wherever else my new friends wanted to take me. In fact, at least two Nepalese families had ‘adopted’ me, and one family was ready to have me move into their guest bedroom for an indefinite time. Then there were meals with the parents of friends and their friends and a steady stream of kind and sincere offers for anything I needed, anytime. And there was nothing that was impossible or ‘out-of-the-question’ for a friend, or a friend of a friend to assist me with. Through pure Nepalese hospitality and the sheer desire to help, I was able to interview every single person on my list from former Prime Ministers to the heads of police to various persons in prison. Making my entire trip to Nepal personally and professionally, fulfilling.

In place of the darkness that blankets the streets of Nepal, there is a loving kindness that glows and shines brightly from within many Nepalese. And where there is no heat in the heart of winter, there is enough warmth and open heartedness to go around. Which is why I so easily stayed on for seconds and thirds.

[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).]

Denise A. Freeman Kantipur article

Click to enlarge (ठूलो पार्न क्लिके हुन्छ)