Making Sense of Migration

One of my co-workers from Korea told us today that she’s leaving Nepal in mid-November  because her visa is going to expire. Her fiance, who will be leaving with her, is also an immigrant (from Europe), but neither of them want to return to their home countries. They’re not sure where they’ll be headed next. I felt so sad. Although I’ve only known her for a short amount of time, we connected over travel, life in Nepal, and being in international relationships. Hearing of her departure got me thinking about movement and migration.

In the US, I’ve met people from all over the world. What seems to be particular about immigrants to the US is that they often move there and stay, or at least the ones I’ve met have. So once I get to know someone from another country, it’s easy to meet up and stay in touch.

In Nepal, I’ve also met people from all over the world or who have lived in or traveled to other countries. Many of them are Nepali who have lived in the US, Australia, Europe, or other places and are back to visit. Some have lived abroad for years (like Tri) and are back in Nepal for a while. Others are temporary or permanent immigrants from the US, Korea, China, and other places.

What’s different about the people I meet here is the brevity of their time in Nepal. Even though some of the immigrants I meet or the Nepalis returned from abroad are planning to settle here for good, the majority of them will move away again. It makes for a lot of mixed emotions. I love meeting these people who have great stories to tell and different perspectives, but it’s also incredibly sad getting to know them and then coming to terms with the idea that I may never see them again.

The amazing thing about it is it makes me live in the moment, enjoy the likely limited time I have with new friends, but it’s never easy. Those in international relationships have to consider these realities of movement and migration all the time. For me and Tri, at least one of us will always be an immigrant, no matter where we live.

I’m still trying to understand migration and the mixed feelings I have about it. For those of you who have lived abroad, traveled, immigrated, how do you make sense of the realities of migration?


A Postal Miracle

A few weeks ago, my computer’s battery broke. I stupidly left my computer on when I went to Dhampush, the battery ran down too low, and we couldn’t revive it. New Macbook batteries cost close to two hundred dollars here, and I wasn’t ready to spend that much when I could get a “third-party” one for 40 dollars in the US. Before all this happened with my computer, I had been talking to my parents about sending some medicine from home that isn’t available here, so once I realized I needed a battery as well, we decided to the get the package process rolling.

They were going to send everything through Fedex. However, once they started inquiring about the process, they learned that Fedex doesn’t send batteries because of their lithium content. Since I wanted the other stuff they were sending, I told them to forget about the battery and send the rest of it anyway. But my mom was determined to get that battery to me, so she decided to send the package by regular mail. She didn’t realize that the post office in Kathmandu is a black hole for packages.

Once we found out she had sent it through regular mail, I just knew it wouldn’t come through. Still, we went to the post office in Kathmandu last weekend to see if anything had come for me, but alas, nothing. I walked into their storage room, and there was a huge pile of battered, half-opened packages haphazardly thrown into one corner. I lost all hope.

Then, my mom sent me some information about the package that she had gotten from the US Postal Service website. Amazingly, the information from the website showed that the package had reached Nepal. In one last effort, Tri, bua, and I went to the post office this past Sunday, and lo and behold the package was there! And not only that, but everything was intact. This time around, they took us to the slightly more organized room in the post office,

had us sign some papers, and handed over the package,

It was the best early birthday present ever! I spent all afternoon snacking on the treats my mom sent (including dried mango and white chocolate from trader joe’s. So good!)

So I guess the postal service in Nepal isn’t as bad as I thought, or maybe the gods were just looking down on us this time. Anyway, thank you mom and dad! I love you guys.

My Favorite T-shirts

Many older and married women here wear Nepali or Nepali-inspired dress on a daily basis. That might include a kurta (a shirt) with jeans, or more traditionally, a kurta suruwal or a sari for special occasions.

A lot of younger people and men wear Nepali style clothing for special occasions but usually wear Western shirts and pants.

Some of the shirts people wear have all sorts of funny and strange stuff on them.  Sometimes they have English written on them but with unusual spelling or grammar, like this one we found in a shop,

Sometimes the logos are really intense or almost scary. Here is our host in Kavre wearing a shirt with a skull on it,

And sometimes they just make for a good laugh,

More on Pokhara and Chitwan

We just got back to Kathmandu! It felt so quiet and almost deserted where we were staying, so it was a little strange to be hit with the traffic in the valley when we drove in today, but I’m glad to be home. Here’s some more about our trip.

On Wednesday, we stayed on in Pokhara and walked up to Sarangkot, one of the high hills near the city. Here’s the beautiful view from the top:

After getting back to the hotel in the afternoon, we rested and then went to an amazing Nepali restaurant for dinner, called Thakali Kitchen. If you’re looking for great Nepali food in Pokhara, definitely go to this place. Here was a our main dinner:

In the middle is dedo. It’s buckwheat flour that’s been added into boiling water and stirred vigorously. It’s often eaten in villages where rice is not available and really fills the belly,  necessarily for a long day in the fields.

On Thursday morning, we left for Sauraha, home to Chitwan National Forrest. Chitwan was very quiet and full of beautiful fields of grass. The best part is the forest, which we road elephants into this morning. Although we didn’t see any rhinos, we did see a jungali kukhura “Wild chicken” and a ghore “monitor lizard.”

The elephants there have lots of personality, and just like humans, they understandably get mad if you don’t treat them well. Our guide told us that a few years ago, a tourist started teasing an elephant, offering him food, and then snatching it away. Soon enough, the elephant ran over and killed the tourist. As long as they’re respected, though, the elephants are fun to be around and very friendly.

Check out the photo page for more pictures from our trip.

Up to Kavre and Back Down Again

So it looks like I do have internet 🙂 Mama brought a mobile internet modem. Unfortunately, it’s expensive to upload photos, so those will have to wait, but here’s a little bit about what we’ve been up to…

On Monday morning, we left Kathmandu for Pokhara and got in around 5pm. On Tuesday morning, Tri’s brother woke us up at about 6:30, and although I was reluctant to get out of bed, I was glad I did because we got to see a bit of the elusive Annapurna range.

After eating breakfast, we drove about an hour outside of Pokhara and then started hiking for another two hours. We started in a deep, flat valley, and ended up high in the hills, in Kavre, a village of about 25 houses. The fields really were amber colored, filled with ripening dhaan (rice) and kodo (millet).

The people who live in Kavre are Gurung and speak Gurung bhasha, “Gurung language.” A small aside: Nepal is incredibly ethnically and linguistically diverse. It’s the one of the merger points for languages from the Indic branch of the Indo-European Family, like Nepali and Maithali and from the Tibeto-Burman Family, like Newar, Gurung, Sherpa, Tamang, etc. Hopefully I can write another post about that sometime, but anyway, the village was primarily Gurung.

We stayed in Khavre for about 3 or 4 hours, enjoying the sun and the company. Our host killed and cooked some local kukhura (free range chicken) for us. The jhol (“gravy”) was so good with rice, and the meat definitely tasted different from the kind we usually get in Kathmandu.

After eating majjale (literally ‘with fun’ but can also mean ‘with pleasure’ or ‘really well’), we sat and talked with the people for a while.

I took out my camera and got a few good shots of our new friends, which I’ll have to post in a few days. My camera has a nice zoom on it, which is great for taking pictures without being noticed.

In the late afternoon, we decided it was time to go home. Because we were tired, we got a special guide to go with us….One of the dogs from the village followed us all the way down from Kavre to our car. We kept expecting it to split off and head back to up the hill, but it never did. Eventually, when we got to the head of the trail, it walked away down another path. Bua asked one of the locals whose dog it was. He said it follows tourists up to Kavre and back down again because they never fail to feed it well. Now that’s a smart dog.


You may have noticed I reorganized a few things. On the menu at the top I put a new page that contains the links to the blogs I follow.

I also made a link to a ‘nepali jiwan photos’ blog where I’ll be sharing single photo posts.  I’ve been interspersing a few photos throughout this blog, but I want this blog to have mostly written posts. To see more photos from our nepali jiwan, you can check out that link. I’ll be posting photos that I haven’t shared on ‘nepali jiwan.’

Please let me know what you think about the organization and how I can make the site easier to navigate. 🙂

Also, Tri, bua, mama (‘maternal uncle’), Tri’s brother, and I are leaving the valley tomorrow. We’re not quite sure where we’ll be going yet, probably to Pokhara or Chitwan, but we’ll be gone for 3-5 days. With no internet access, I won’t be posting, but I hope I’ll have lots to write about when I get back.

The Natural Lawn Mower and The Unusual Passengers

The other day Tri and I were driving home from work, and as we were passing the golf course off of Ring Road, I said, “Look there are some goats on the lawn.” Tri half-jokingly said, “No silly, those are the lawn mowers.” It looks like the long-held tradition in Nepal is being picked up in other parts of the world…

This morning, Tri showed me a 2009 post from Google’s blog. Apparently they use goats to mow their lawn at their Mountain View Headquarters. It’s a pretty awesome alternative. No air pollution and free fertilizer 🙂

In other goat news…

During the Dashain festival, Nepali families often eat goat meat and sometimes slaughter the goats themselves. When I Iived with my host familiy in Kathmandu as a student, they brought a goat home, killed it, cleaned it, and shared the meat with the neighbors.

I felt very mixed about the whole process. My gut instinct was to turn away in disgust, but I forced myself to watch the slaughter. I had never experienced the killing of an animal, but of course I had eaten lots of meat in my life. When the meat comes all nicely cooked and spiced on your plate, it’s hard to remember that that product came from a living thing. It certainly made me think about where the meat was coming from and what the animal gave up for us to eat.

While my host aama (“mother”) was cooking the goat, no part of the animal was wasted. The head was cooked over a fire, the innards were fried, even the blood was boiled down and eaten. I wanted to experience the slaughter as fully as I could, so I told my host aamaa that I would eat anything she put on my plate. I was able to down some of the goat blood, but I just couldn’t stomach the fried stomach. My family members in the US are generally pretty adventurous eaters, and my parents taught me to always try new things, but I got to thinking about that live animal, and I just couldn’t eat it all. The experience didn’t turn me into a vegetarian, but I do try to eat less meat, especially mammal meat.

As Dashain nears this year, the streets of Kathmandu have been filled with all sorts of activity. Hoards of people, streams of cars, puja being performed, and much much more. Last night on the way to a party, I saw a goat standing patiently in the back of a taxi:

The family wasn’t taking it home to raise; they were taking it home to eat. It’s pretty amazing that the taxi driver okayed the unusual passengers, but maybe they’re not so unusual in Nepal 🙂