As I’ve mentioned before, Kathmandu Valley is a pretty small place. There are millions of people who live here, but I swear, sometimes I feel like I know at least half of them. Part of it is because people here often have large families and are highly connected. These types of connections carry over to Nepali communities in other countries as well. I’ve had many experiences in the US where I’ll be surprised to find that a new Nepali I meet is somehow related to or closely connected with another of my Nepali friends. I’ve met a number of people through Nepali connections and coincidences (like americanepali 🙂 ). Every. single. time. it gets me when I find out that someone I know is somehow connected with someone else I’ve just met. And what happened today really brought home those Nepali connections.
I’ve been wanting to post more this week but have been busy at work and too tired to write anything afterwards because my school has been preparing for a mela (“fair”) put on to celebrate the school’s 20th anniversary. There were a ton of people there today, not only students, teachers, and staff but alums, parents, and others as well.
The first coincidence happened about midday. I was walking around with my friend who teaches fifth grade with me, and we stopped at one of the stalls to check it out. She started to talking to a woman whose daughter was apparently in my friend’s class last year. The woman looked vaguely familiar, and she said, “Namaste, Zoe.” I was really trying to place her face, and then she reminded me that she was the wife of one of coordinators of my study abroad program. I haven’t seen any of the coordinators since I came here for study abroad, and I was so surprised to hear that her daughter attends the school I teach at.
Then a while later, I walked over to the food area with my friends and saw both of the coordinators of my study abroad program! I’ve been meaning to meet up with them for months but it just never worked out. It was so good to see them 🙂
Then we sat down to rest for a while with some of the other teachers. Another of the fifth grade teachers (call her “N”) had invited her parents to the mela, and we started talking to them. I got to talking with “N”s dad (call him “R”) about how I’m married to a Nepali and was telling them Tri’s name and his dad’s name. And then R said that he knows my father-in-law and is a cousin of Buwa’s business partner (who is also a very close family friend). It wasn’t a huge shock to me that he knows my father-in-law. Buwa seems to know everybody! But meeting “R” started the ball rolling for another chance meeting.
There were a few Nepalis besides Tri who attended the college I went to, and there was one in my year (call her “S”). She also went to the school I teach at now. The fifth grade teacher, “N” (who is the daughter of “R”) had told me before that she is a cousin of “S”s. I was talking to “R” about how I know “S,” and he turned around, pointed to another part of the outdoor area where we were sitting and said, “She’s right over there!”
I followed his gaze and lo and behold! There was “S.” I had forgotten that Tri had told me she’s in Nepal for her brother’s wedding. I ran over to hug and say hi. And then, finally, the last coincidence of the day came when one of my students’ parents walked up and started talking to “S.” Apparently they’re first cousins!
All of the coincidences really do make Kathmandu feel small. Nepalis are used to it, but that’s not how things work where I’m from. So I’m always surprised. The highly connected nature of Nepali life is surprising to a foreginer like me but reassuring too; it makes me feel like I’m part of one big family.