coming home. maybe

a sabbatical rest, day 133

kathmandu lockdown, day 12

In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. (Exodus 12:11, ESV)

We’re on vacation here, although it wasn’t our idea.

Our son Pilgrim says what we are doing is what we would be doing if we were on vacation at home; sitting on a balcony somewhere, sipping tea, reading books, and watching an episode of NCIS before bed. So far, the lockdown has been pleasant, although the coming monsoon season will drive us off the balcony.

But sitting on the balcony is not what we came to do, and there is enough uncertainty to make it less vacation-like. For example, when and how will we get home? Usually, on a vacation, you know when it ends. We have no idea. Although we have return tickets for mid-June, the government in Nepal has grounded international flights as part of a Covid-related lockdown. They have just extended the lockdown another two weeks. And no one we’ve talked to expects it to end then.

India is all over the news with its pandemic woes, but Nepal shares a 1500-mile porous border with them—and the two are bound with historic, cultural, and economic entanglements. The poverty here is worse than in India, and Nepalis who crossed the border to work are streaming home. The government here is building isolation facilities at major crossing points.

There were rumors the US government was organizing a repatriation flight, but the Embassy sent an email this morning saying they are not working on one at this time. They will let us know of any charter flights being organized. No clue about who organizes charter flights. Passive voice is a problem, no matter which government you are working with.

At any rate, we are packing, cleaning out the refrigerator, and checking the Embassy website compulsively, in case we have to leave in haste like the Passover Jews. The website hasn’t changed in a week. We could have to leave with two or three days’ notice. On the other hand, when they suspended flights last year it took a couple of months to organize any charter flights.

Meanwhile, our “vacation” will get more challenging. The hours we can shop for groceries (everything else is closed) have been reduced to 2 each day. No one is allowed to be out at other times—we’ve even been questioned by police going to the market in the shopping window. Packaged goods are available, but the only place to buy fruit or vegetables is from stalls along the street, where inventory (and quality) is declining.

Probably the main difference between this and a vacation for us, besides the frequent sound of sirens in the otherwise deserted streets, is limited opportunity to walk. If Katie and I were on vacation, we would be walking 3 or 4 miles (6.44 km) a day. This morning she walked up and down the stairs in our building, walking down the halls on each floor. (Go, Katie!) My step average is down from 11,000/day last month to 6000 this month.

But these are first-world problems. After all, I still have a salary and an air-conditioned apartment. I even have plane tickets, although their value is undetermined. We found a vendor who will deliver organic produce to our apartment. We have no reason to be anxious, and we are not. Uncertainty and anxiety are not the same things. It is the Lord’s Passover, after all. And it is His plane ticket.

Outside, the government has failed—the prime minister lost a vote of confidence yesterday. (This may account for the delay at the US Embassy, which has to work with a dysfunctional local government.) And most people are out of work, without any expectation of an American-style stimulus check.

The pandemic rages on, with hospitals turning away patients as oxygen supplies are depleted and schools are closed, with 12th-grade exams postponed indefinitely. Over half the people who have a PCR test each day are positive, 9127 out of 17, 638 yesterday. 75% of those who had it had the vaccine-resistant mutant from India.

Hanging out with friends, before the lockdown.

Farmers cannot get produce to the markets in the narrow window. Since our favorite restaurant has closed, the owner has returned to her village in the mountains to be with family like thousands of others. Taxis and buses are banned. The small church we attend on weekends is not meeting, of course, but 80% of its people are unemployed. We are working with the pastor to establish a food bank for the community. (You can donate here.)

Of course, it’s not unusual for a Westerner to sit on a balcony while the world around him is crumbling, even on vacation.

But these are my friends.


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