Today is two things: the day after Tihar, the end of the holiday season, and my two-month anniversary with Kathmandu.
Two months. A long time, but at the same time it feels like no time has passed. It is that weird paradox where I feel like I left home a lifetime ago, and yet the time here has gone so quickly.
It took me probably the first month of living here to really get myself adjusted. Jet lag alone counted for two of those weeks: even after I had gotten my sleeping on a mildly correct schedule, it was still the little stresses of every day life that kept enhanced my jet lag. I also lost my appetite for the first week or two, also, which made the adjustment a bit scarier. Not only did I not know where I was, but I was having a hard time just feeding myself.
It takes so long to get used to waking up on a hard bed in a new country with dogs barking outside. To get used to the streets not being paved, the electricity going out every day, and hot water only when my upstairs neighbors’ hot water overflows. Little things like not being able to get the same foods as I am used to: for the first month at least there was still the scare of bird flu, and buying eggs was taboo at best. I lived off of instant noodles for weeks at a time. Or momos bought for takeaway and handed to me in little blue plastic bags instead of plastic containers like in the “real” world.
And learning how to navigate a new city where things weren’t even in a familiar alphabet. And doing so alone, too, made just that much harder. I had the girls at my NGO to help me, but it was still hard to figure out how I could manage and get around on my own, without someone guiding me. And even though I have used different cities’ public transportation countless times in the past, this was still something so completely new and different.
I finally am confident about taking buses and micros: they are a lot less scary than they look, but it took the first time or two for me to realize this. And to realize that there is a lot more to the city than where I live and where I work. There are towns and areas beyond where I had ever ventured. And there are still pieces of the city that I have yet to go to, but know that I will get to.
It is my two-month anniversary of my first night in Kathmandu. That night that I got off the plane into the balmy Asian air, and got help from a friendly cab driver to help me find my ride. That night that I spent so long just putting my things away, try ing to make my flat feel home-y.
And then that same night I laid in bed for hours, wide awake, listening to dogs bark and voices shouting outside. Voices speaking a foreign language. Shouting in foreign tones. And all I knew was that I had been dropped at the end of a dark alley, many dark streets from any semblance of a paved road. And it was terrifying. And I (I will admit it now) cursed myself a bit for deciding to come here, started counting down days in my head till it was time to go home.
And the first day was dizzying. I had barely slept the night before; I had been on planes or in airports for the three days previous. And I had no idea of what was going on, where I was, who these people were, or what I was supposed to do next. It felt like I had been dropped into a big black hole. It was scary, I was confused and consoled myself by making plans for when I would leave Kathmandu, and counting down the days until that would happen.
It is amazing how much time can pass in two months. And how much those two months can change things. I am SO much happier than I was that first night. I am no longer scared. I am no longer frightened of something so new and so different.
It is a lot easier to admit you are scared after you have finished with being scared. It is a lot easier for me to admit that I had a rough time now that I enjoy where I am so much. It was hard for me to admit that I was worried that I had made the wrong move, but is easier to say that now that I know that I really didn’t.
It is amazing how much more at home I feel now. And how much I really do love what I am doing, traveling and living somewhere new, gaining new skills and experiences. It is so incredible to be living in a different city, a city so opposite of anywhere else I have ever lived. And it is so incredible to really feel at home here, in this foreign city. I know my way around. I have my favorite cafes. I love the apartment I am now living in, and the freedom it affords me through living far from work. This distance means that I get to spend a half hour each morning walking to work through a new city and am able to call it my city.
So today is the day after Tihar, and the city feels like it is still getting over the sugar rush of a holiday season. Everything is slow: the cars and the motorbikes, the item pushers on the streets. The shop owners are too busy cleaning to make sure you are seriously eyeing an item they can sell you, and the festival lights are slowly coming down off of the shop fronts.
And work? Work is quiet, empty. The kids aren’t at school, and the bosses are at home, and I am sitting in a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant at a low down table with cushions lining the wall for seats, writing and drinking chai.
Today is slow, but the city will speed up as the week goes on, and as the weeks get further and further away from the holiday. Kathmandu will resume its normal rhythm, the trekkers coming in and out, the shops pushing for business, haggling prices to one that’s acceptable to everyone involved, and the buses and micros will be bursting with people hanging off the sides, out the windows, going here or there, to or from work or family or their home. And I will continue to walk to and from work on the dusty street, passing cows and goats and chickens on my way. And it is wonderful and perfect: because it is home.