things I’ll miss next week

a sabbatical rest, day 173

kathmandu lockdown, day 52

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

—Jeremiah 29:7 ESV

We should be on a plane back to the USA next Monday, and are already packing. I’m looking forward to being with family and friends.

Nepal has had more than a few challenges, although not enough to keep me from wanting to return, soon and often. But there are some things I will miss immediately. Here’s a list, not arranged in order of importance.

Green garlic.

They pull it like we would green onions (they have those too), then fry it up and serve it on the side of dal bhat (rice and lentils) or other curries. It is so good. But it is only a metaphor for the whole market culture, which is like having a farmer’s market on every corner, all year round. I’m going to miss being able to walk a few minutes for whatever the day requires. And even for those things the day does not require, like sel roti at the bakery. (They also sell freshly made potato chips.)

We will miss fresh papaya, bananas, oranges, mangoes, other tropical fruit we don’t often find, and never find fresh where we now live. We’ve probably eaten some kind of tropical fruit every day for months. Going to miss that. And this morning we tried fresh lychee for the first time and wished we had not waited so long. This probably sounds sacrilegious to a midwesterner from the USA, but It’s better than a fresh, ripe strawberry.

All of this produce is cheaper than what we would pay at home, even when it’s available. But you have to love a culture where their everyday greeting, like we would say “how are you,” is “khana bhayo?” Have you eaten?

Birdsong.

Our apartment is on the 7th floor (6th here, since they don’t count the ground floor), and there is a tree outside our window as tall as the building. About 4:30 every morning, we are awakened by probably a dozen different bird sounds, cooing, chirping, crowing, singing, welcoming the day. We live in a rural area in the US, and we also have birdsong in the morning, sitting out on our porch, or even lying abed.

But it doesn’t include parrots. Here we have a unique symphony, different from the sounds we know. And here it goes on pretty much all day. What I will really miss is the 7th floor, our bedroom and living room both opening out onto a balcony where the birds come and go, on the treetops around us, the rooftops below us, the sky above us. It is a place we may never be again, a very pleasant one.

Birdsong is also a metaphor, for balcony life. The lockdown here would have been much less pleasant here without it, and it includes more than the birds. From here we can see a young mother on a nearby rooftop teaching her daughter to offer morning prayers, another mother who dances with her children while she hangs out the laundry to dry, and a young woman who appears to come once a week to do the laundry for her parents.

New friends.

All this feels welcoming, especially in view of many new relationships: with colleagues at the university, at a church in Bhaktapur, and with staff in the building where we live. We’ll miss the guards, who take shifts and bring bottled water and newspapers to our door. We’ll miss Sabata, the housekeeper, who was shy at first but has warmed up and brought us fresh produce from her home an hour away.

We will miss our friends Richen and Baileyna, their daughter Sameka, his parents Keshav and Pancha, as well as all the kind young couples at their church who think of us as grandparents. We’ll miss shopkeepers and vendors who we have gone back to over and over again. Just yesterday, as the lockdown continues to loosen, we had tea with Alku, who, with her husband, make the best crêpes I’ve ever had. Or that you have had, either.

Keshav and Pancha

On the elevator, one of the guards, Padam, counts the number of each floor, like the entire staff who have consistently taught us new Nepali words. We have found Nepalis to be patient and kind, eager to help, generous and hospitable, like the goat farmers who opened their meager home and offered us tea, or my colleague Chiranjivi who invited us to his home to meet his family and share an unforgettable meal. We have felt welcomed, honored and loved. It is humbling, really.

Padam is counting the days until we leave, and he does so with sadness. I’m counting the days, too, and will be glad to get on the plane. But not without a touch of sadness myself. We have a life here.

And I’m going to miss the garlic.

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