My first few days in Kathmandu have been a challenge. When I arrived at the hostel (compound) I was surprised to see that the walls were topped with razor wire and there were huge metal gates. I innocently thought these were to keep the volunteers safe, but soon realized they were to stop us escaping. I had paid extra for a private room as I did not want to spend every morning surrounded by nubile 20 year olds in thongs, making me feel even more depressed about the toll age and gravity have taken on my body. My quarters are separate from the rest of the house and it appears that the last thing to live here had 4 legs. I think they shooed it out and threw a mattress on the floor hours before I arrived. The only other thing in the room is a bookcase off a skip. Why the hell do I need a bookcase? A wardrobe would have been good. A large padlock secures the door and I was advised to padlock myself in at night. I do this but then lie awake worrying that my iPhone, which is attached essentially to 2 live wires sticking out of the wall, might burst into flames and I would be totally buggered as the window only opens 6 inches ‘for my security’. These are my thoughts as I lie in bed trying to drift off, when I am bored of squashing giant beetles by torch light.
The rest of the group, as one would expect, are mainly gap year students, full of youthful optimism, and wanting to see the world. I am the only English person, but fortunately English is the spoken language in the hostel. At the introductory meeting I jokingly introduced myself as the ‘Gappy Granny’. Big mistake. I have nothing against Chinese people per se, apart from the giant mobile phones, excessive use of selfie sticks and appalling dress sense, but one particularly annoying Chinese girl, Xo Siang Ho, really hacks me off. Every time she sees me she says ‘Hilo Garpee Grawnee.’ I swear if she says it again I will poke her in the eye with a chopstick and strangle her with her Huawei headphones,
The other person of note (or not) is an extremely dull German called Jorg. I know that a nation that prides itself on ‘precision engineering’ is not going to be full of people you want to go down the pub with on a Friday night, but this guy is a particularly fine specimen. He is 46, single (I wonder why)? And a software engineer (exactly). He drones on incessantly in a thick Germanic accent about how he comes to Nepal every year ‘to find himself.’ If he hasn’t found himself by now perhaps he should consider going back home and jumping under an Audi on the Autobahn, to put us all out of our misery.
This week has been a Cultural Immersion Week (initiation by fire) on the way of life here, before I am let loose on my class on Monday. As well as trying to learn some Nepali (impossible), I have witnessed abject poverty, but also the immense pride and contentment of the Nepalese people. One wise old man said to me ‘we expect little, so are happy with little, whereas you Westerners expect so much and are never happy with what you have.’ So true…