a sabbatical rest, day 38
We went out on the porch this morning for tea, and there was a parrot on top of the very tall tree beside our 6th-floor apartment. Things are different here. Especially since the day time temperature is in the mid-60s and sunny, which is not much like home in mid-Michigan (high of 14).
We’ve been in Kathmandu about 72 hours, after arriving on a (best-food, widest-seats) Qatar airlines flight out of Doha. We were off the plane quickly but got behind as a soldier insisted we fill out the form marked Nepali Citizens Returning From Abroad.
We were neither, but we stopped to fill out the form which asked why we were returning, but on the back asked if we had had a Covid-19 test. Yes, but when we got to one of the two harried nurses managing a couple of hundred mostly migrant workers returning from jobs in the mid-east, she glanced at our actual Covid-19 test results and waved us through.
Once inside there was a little confusion, as we expected a visa was waiting. But they said they only manage tourist visas at the airport. We got one for 30 days, with instructions to go to the Ministry of Immigration within that time and convert it to a more permanent one. So, we aren’t finished with that process yet.
Customs was a little mystified by all the vitamins we were bringing for our four and a half month stay but waved us on. Outside Professor Chiranjivi, my contact at the university was waiting with a vehicle, and we loaded up, or rather some fairly insistent porters loaded up, our four heavy bags (65 pounds each) and we got in with our carry-ons, the professor, the driver, and a journalist, a student at the University with press credentials.
As it turns out, there was a general strike (very common) and protestors were demanding shops close and traffic stay off the roads. There were hardly any cars, s few scooters, and a heavy police presence. The press credentials were apparently in case we got stopped by demonstrators (we didn’t see any) or police (we saw a lot).
We drove to our apartment, which the faculty at the journalism department, had arranged while we were on the plane. They had negotiated a good price in a hotel where reduced demand caused them to convert some units into apartments. Ours had not been used in a while, and they were still cleaning when we arrived. It is a little musty, but it’s a work in progress. They got our internet hooked up that day, and the next day brought in a 3-burner gas stovetop and a mini-frig.
That first night our friends, Richen, Baileyna, and their daughter Sameka, came into town from Bhaktapur to welcome us, and we went out to eat. The next day, some faculty members and staff took us to lunch. That was Friday. The protests had died down, but we are near the KIng’s Way, and there was a large rally there to show support for the prime minister, after the demonstrations against him the day before.
Political news here (everyone talks about politics all the time, somewhat like in America lately) includes, in addition to TV, radio and the internet, huge speakers mounted on the trees along the road, blasting the speeches from the rally at a nearby stadium. Imagine a Trump rally two blocks from your house. We walked up to the King’s Way (Durber Marg) to see some of what was going on. And we found a little market where we picked up a few groceries.
Saturday we went to church with Richen and Baileyna and had dal bhat–lentils and rice, the most common Nepali meal. (Christians meet on Saturday in Nepal because Sunday is a work and school day.) And after that, probably our first good long sleep since we arrived.
Now it is Sunday. I don’t have a schedule for work yet, so we can’t quite visualize what a normal week might look like, if there even is a normal week. They are finishing exams at the university, and I’m supposed to go to the department tomorrow and talk about what I will be doing and when.
So, today we are going to walk around and become more familiar with our neighborhood, hoping to find a larger grocery store. Then, probably a nap. I could check on the political unrest, but the power was off for half an hour this morning and 3 hours later the internet is still not back up.
There is much we do not know or understand, including how to use a bidet. There will be more surprises and new relationships.
But did I mention there was a parrot outside our window?