Some of the more interesting/entertaining/insulting moments of my day occur when I have conversations with various villagers. Between the little Nepali I speak and the broken english they speak, you never know what’s gonna happen. What really makes things interesting is their brutal honestly and lack of social appropriateness. A few excerpts from recent days-
Today was Bunda (Bundai?) in Nepal. I found this out while brushing my teeth in the community shower. “Bunda Nepal! Bunda Nepal! No school, no health post!” my young neighbors yelled up to me. “huh?” I had no idea what they were talking about. “Bunda!” Aneel yells again, now while making a gun with his hands and shooting at various things, his little brother his shooting what I can only guess to be a bow and arrow. I am so confused. At the moment I am thinking Bunda is either- a) a serial killer on the loose in our village or b) a hunter or hunters (maybe the crying tiger was finally spotted?) Either way I am apparently supposed to stay home. I return to my house, to find auma and see if she can shed any light for me. Her definition of Bunda is “no taxi, no bus, no school…. Bunda!”. Again, what? I called Krishna (her very helpful son) and he tells me there is a strike. OH, now I get it. Kind of. How did everyone find this out? Is there like a special smoke signal or something that tells the whole country to stay home from work? Who woke up and decided this? It’s not like anyone knew about this yesterday. One villager tells me “the students decided”. Sorry, but I highly doubt the students collectively got together has a country and said we’re not going to school today. Anyway, we did open the health post, but only had about 3 patients in 2 hours… so we locked the doors and went home. Bunda!
A few days ago I decided to hike from my mountain top village down to the city of Pokhara to visit with friends. The path descends from the touristy part of my village ( a 30 minute walk from my home) down to the valley, along the lake, and to the town. It starts right next to a little shop who’s owner I have befriended. I stop for some water and to say hi. I ask him “About how long to Pokhara by walking?” He says “For us, 30-40 minutes. But you… you a little, fat.” Chuckles, “So maybe one hour”
A similar experience at the health post. The “waiting” area of the health post is actually more akin to a town pub, without the booze. The villagers come here daily, to see what everyone else is up to, catch up on the latest gossip, and complain about their problems. Granted, I don’t speak Nepali- so this is all speculation, but it seems likely. A few days ago, There were three middle aged guys sitting on the bench across from me, a few of the other health post workers sitting to my left. They were deep in conversation for about 30 minutes, I was completely tuned out because I haven’t any idea what they are saying. All of sudden, Rishi (my coworker), turns to me and says “How much do you weigh? They want to know” Um, what. “Why?” I asked, a little defensively, glaring at these weird 40 year old men. “They just do, they wonder” “They think I’m fat? In western culture it is very rude to ask someone their weight, especially a stranger” Rishi laughs, “Not in Nepal, we all know each other’s weight. It’s not rude. Please tell.” Rishi then proceeds to guess a few kilos more than I actually weigh, adding insult to injury. Also- everyone back home who is thinking WOW she must have gotten really fat. I have not, and have actually lost weight, just not enough by Nepali standards apparently. A few days later, Rishi is genuinely offended when I have only half a piece of pound cake that is offered to me. He can’t figure it out. I say “You think I’m fat, I don’t need a whole piece” He says “No if you’re heavy, you need more… eat!” UGH.
Yesterday, I went to the village center to use wifi. I look at the menu and order veggie momos (my favorite! a little steamed, veggie stuffed dumpling). “No momos today” says the waitress/chef/owner. Apparently there are no momos on sundays, good to know. I look through the menu and decide on french onion soup, don’t ask me why. “Uh okay, I try!” She says. Interesting response. 20 minutes later, I am served a steaming hot bowl of veggie broth with extra extra onions. French onion soup. It costs 75 rupees more than the veggie soup.
Every Nepali ever, when I walk in the village in any direction other than towards the touristy spot “Where are you going?” “Where are you going American???” “HEY!! Where are you going??!” It kind of ruins the peace of the mountains when I have to answer this question at least 20 times per walk (NOT exaggerating!). Doesn’t matter if their 5 years old or 90, if a Nepali knows any english phrase- that is it. And they all insist on knowing where I am going and more importantly, why.