Protests, Paperwork, and Finally, the GRE

I set out for the GRE two days before I actually took it. We just moved into a new house, and at the beginning of this week, the stairs still hadn’t been polished, so we had to get out of the house on Tuesday when that was set to happen. That’s why Tri and I left to stay at Mama’s house on Monday night. The plan was that we would stay there, and I would go with Mama and Maijiu to their office on Tuesday. Then we would stay at Mama’s again on Tuesday night and Tri would take me to my test on Wednesday morning before he went to work. Then we would return home on Wednesday evening.

The plan was a little complicated from the start but it got even more so. On Monday night, after getting to Mama’s, we found out that a number of student unions had scheduled a bandha for Wednesday. Streets would be closed and no cars allowed to travel. At that point, I was freaking out a bit. How was I going to get to my GRE? But then Tri figured that we might be able to stay with someone close to the center where the GRE was being held. In the morning, we could just walk over to the center. We ran through our list of relatives and friends and realized that one of Tri’s close family friends lives 15 minutes from the testing center. So we called her up and asked to stay over there on Tuesday night. She said yes. I went to work with Mama and Maijiu on Tuesday and tried to get some last minute studying done, although I was kind of all-studied-out. In the evening, I returned with Mama and Maijiu to their house and Tri came over from work to pick me up. Then we left right away for J-Auntie and R-Uncle’s house.

When we got there, we ate buff momo (water buffalo dumplings), which are pretty much forbidden at our house because Buwa doesn’t eat water buffalo. Most of the Hindus I know avoid beef, but some of them also don’t like to eat water buffalo. I don’t normally eat buff either, but I didn’t actually realize it was buff when I ate it, and those momo were delicious, so no complaints from me. We went to bed on Tuesday and woke up to the alarm Wednesday morning. After a breakfast of cake and eggs, Tri walked me over to the testing center and waited until they let me in. Then he left for work, which is only a 10-15 minute walk from the center.

My mom asked me to tell her what it was like taking the GRE in Nepal. Honestly, I think it it’s probably very similar to taking it in the US. The whole thing was very regimented. The building in which the test took place was outfitted with cameras and a handheld metal detector, which was all a little bit intense. But the thing that made me uncomfortable was that the test proctor kept walking up and down the middle aisle in the testing room every half hour or so. I guess she was doing it to make sure we were actually taking the test so not a huge deal.

The thing that really tripped me up, though, happened before the test. In the form I had to fill out, there was a section with a statement that we had to copy. The statement affirmed that I was actually who I said I was and had something in it about agreeing to not cheat. That’s all fine, but it required that I write it in cursive! I ended my cursive days long ago in elementary school when I put that arcane script to rest in the third grade. I get all the way through middle school, high school, and college without having anything to do with it and then, unexpectadbly, cursive rears its ugly head. The other two people taking the test with me nonchalantly started copying in perfect little loops, but not me. When I finally started writing out the statement, I first tried to be neat and orderly but ended up with some kind of pseudo-cursive that turned into chicken scratch and slowly morphed into print. When I handed the proctor my paperwork, he scanned it and stopped near the bottom. I thought he had seen my sorry attempts and was going to make me rewrite it, but it turned out I had just forgotten to check a box about my country of citizenship. Phew! I was off the hook.

Despite that little snafu, everything else was pretty smooth sailing and it looks I won’t need to retake it. Thank gods! 🙂

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Having a Rough Time

Everything seems to be going wrong or breaking. The electricity is off for 10 hours a day, which doesn’t seem too bad except that I’m stuck at home at lot of time now that I’m on break, and it always seems to go off right when I need it.

Our inverter was also broken for a few weeks, so once my computer was out of charge and there was no electricity, then that was it. No more computer for quite a while. Thankfully the inverter is back from the repair shop and seems to be running smoothly. But now our internet has decided to stop working most of the time. We’ve been using this one company for the past several months, but they just haven’t been able to get our internet up to speed or to work at all. They say that the fog, which often visits us in the morning, is the reason for our bad connection. But we don’t want to pay for unreliable internet, so we’re thinking of getting rid of that service. We also have a portable modem from one of the big cell phone companies that sticks right into the USB port, but it’s also been unreliable lately (thankfully it’s working today). I don’t know what to do. If it’s the weather that’s causing our problems, then switching companies isn’t going to help.

Beyond little electricity and unreliable internet, there are also shortages of fuel. This week, all of the sudden, everything got much worse. The lines at the petrol pumps probably reach up to 30 or 40 cars/motorbikes at a time. Maybe more. The fuel dial on our car is getting dangerously close to empty, so we’re going to have to figure out something. Tri went over to the petrol pump this morning; however, they turned him away because they didn’t have any left. I heard that the reason for the fuel shortage is that the Indian suppliers have stopped shipping petrol into Nepal because the Nepal Oil Corporation isn’t paying its debts. I don’t know what we’re going to do when our fuel runs out (which will be by the end of the day). I think that Buwa knows somebody who own a petrol pump, so maybe we can contact him and see if he has extra gas that he’s willing to sell us.

The other thing is that I need to go to the doctor but can’t make it over there. Yesterday I had scheduled an appointment for 10am. This morning Tri and I walked downstairs and were ready to head out the door, but Tri’s brother informed us that there was a bhanda. I don’t know the exact details, but I heard that some of the Maoists who had not been given benefits had organized the bandha. We called the office where my appointment was to take place, and they confirmed that they were closed for the day, so we rescheduled for tomorrow. Luckily for the commuters, the bandha seemed to dissolve by midmorning. Cars, taxis, and motorbikes were back on the road. However, now I have no way to get to the doctor. I’m supposed to head over there tomorrow, but we won’t have any fuel left! And we live too far from the office to make it by bus. Maybe the taxis will have fuel and be running? But then they’re so expensive. I’m not sure what to do.

And on top of everything else, I’m freezing!! I miss my heated house. All of you Nepalis out there are probably like, “Yeah, yeah, get over it. We deal with this every year.” But it’s been difficult for me to adjust. I’m praying that this is just a bad period and hoping that everything will get easier soon…

Shutting Down Kathmandu

On Saturday, while Tri and I were at home, we heard news that there was a bandha in Kathmandu. Bandha literally means “closed.” The streets had been shut down so that no cars, motorcycles, buses, or vehicles of any kind could drive on them. Thankfully the bandha didn’t affect us much because we had planned to stay at home most of the day anyway.

But it did affect our neighbors’ family. Their daughter lives in another part of the city with her husband and daughter, and they decided that despite the bandha, they were going to come over and visit. They took their car out and drove down the streets. When they reached one of the major junctions on the way to their parents’ house, people started coming at their car, hitting it with rocks. The woman’s husband is some kind of reporter, so he had a press pass. Once he showed it, they stopped hitting the car and let them go by. Their daughter was telling me that there were even police there, but they didn’t lift a finger to stop the attack.

Bandhas are not enforced by the government as a whole but are usually started by a group of people or a political party that wants to take a stand on something. Last week, there was a bandha in the district in which I work because someone had been tied up and murdered in a jewelry shop. I’m not sure who organized that bandha, but it was held to protest the murder of this innocent man. And in that example, you can see where calling for a bandha doesn’t really solve any problems. Obviously people were angered and frustrated by this murder, but making everyone suffer by shutting down schools, offices, and shops isn’t going to help.

On Saturday my family explained to me exactly why they had shut down the city. Apparently a politician in Chitwan (a city in Southern Nepal) affiliated with the Nepali Congress political party was thrown in jail on charges of murder. Some people involved with the Unified Marxist-Leninist Party beat him up while he was in jail. The politician was in critical condition and although he was brought to a hospital, he died shortly after being transferred. The Nepali Congress party called the bandha on Saturday as a way of protesting his death.

Only Monday, they called another one, and this one did affect me and Tri because we had to stay home from work. The leaders in the Nepal Congress say that they want the charges against that politician to be dropped, and they want the man to be declared a martyr.

The protesters calling for the bandha on Monday were really serious about it. One guy from Tri’s office tried to come into work by car early in the morning, around 6am. Protesters smashed his car and beat him up. He had to get three stitches.

Bandhas seem to come in waves. For a few months, they’ll happen pretty frequently and then stop for a while. Before I came to Nepal in July, I heard that people were starting to disobey the bandhas because they were so sick of them, and I hope the people of Kathmandu who don’t want to put up with this kind of thing can continue to feel empowered to fight against them.