Monday, October 30, 2006

….bringing the toothbrush to work!

Since the great festival month is over there now seems to be time for the many conflict creating activities that this country suffers under.

The new trend in Nepal is to make Banda. The Maoists have been using this method during the entire armed conflict, but now the local population also has developed a taste for it. These days a Banda is normally started because of a road accident where one or several person dies. Banda means closed and that is what happens when a Banda takes places. The people in the area of the accident simply close down the road thereby stopping al traffic. If an accident happens the family of the victims demands compensation from the bus- or transportation company involved. Until this compensation is paid no one are allowed to use the roads.

Neither politicians nor police interfere with these Bandas. Actually it seems like the local police rather enjoys having a change to wander around talking to the many travellers being held hostage on the highways.

At the moment Nepalgunj is paralysed by a huge Banda, which has made life difficult for many people. Lucky for me my colleague Sara lives in the northern part of town, where I can safely park my car and bicycle the rest of the way home – after lifting my bike through the Banda of course. The morning I was expecting to go all the way to work – 20 km. – on bike, since the transportation company involved in the accident that killed a small girl had decided to make a contra-Banda. However, I did manage to get the car on the road and get to work. Now it will be exciting to see whether I will be able to get back home. I have just been told that a new Banda between my work and Nepalgunj is being made… it will be with a bit of nervousness that I will drive the 20 km. home from work this afternoon – I might have to turn the car around and sleep in the office tonight….

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sara - my colleague

I guess I never did introduce my colleague Sara so I better do that now.

Sara is a real Swedish girl better known as one of the many “Wanna-be-Danish”. Like me she is 30 years old. She is a human rights lawyer and in Nepalgunj she works with a human rights organization, HURON.

Sara and I met each other at a MS-seminar in Helsingør in April. We were together on the course in Tanzania and during the introduction period in Kathmandu. We moved to Nepalgunj and started working at the same time.

Though our work and everyday life is quite different it is incredibly nice to have a good friend and colleague to share it all with - and someone to help putting on the sari…..

Tihar - yet another festival

Nepal certainly is the land of festivals and October is the festival month. Tihar is the second big festival in October and is basically about honoring sisters and brothers, who give each other tika and exchange gifts.

However, the festival is also an opportunity for improvised song and dance groups to make extra money. Scores of these groups – especially children – go from door to door and perform singing the same monotone song before plugging in the small stereo to dance to Nepali music.

The children expect a bit of candy and 5-10 rupees for their performance, whilst the adults demands 200-500 rupees to their uninvited appearance. Since this is a great chance to make money these groups work around the clock during Tihar. We lock our gate pretty early, but the neighbour keeps it open all night, so thanks to the loud Nepali music coming from their front yard I haven’t been able to get much sleep during this festival.

Since Tihar is a family festival I have been invited to join my families in the celebration (my family in Nepal is my colleagues). This naturally requires that I show up in Sari and dance Nepali dance in front of the entire village. I do enjoy this part of the festival though. The hard part comes when dinner is served. You are expected to eat ½ kg. of rice and an equal amount of vegetables and meat. If you are not able to finish this and ask for extra rice your host will be extremely disappointed and unhappy. Yes, it is not always easy to be a foreigner in the land of festivals and dal bhat…..

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The honeymooner!

As some of you might have noticed I am extremely happy with my life at the moment – Nepal is an exciting place to be, the job and colleagues are great, my apartment is nice and the weather is hot and humid just as I like it!

According to the literature on expats I am going through the first phase of a long cycle during my stay here. This phase is called “The Honeymoon”. Often when I talk to people how has lived long they shake their head, look at me with a knowing smile and tell me that the honeymoon period will not least…

Well, that might be but for now I am planning on making the most of it. My idea of honeymoon has something to do with nice beaches and cocktails and where better to get that than in Thailand. So during Dashain – the biggest festival in Nepal – I used my 9 day forced holiday to go on my honeymoon in Thailand.

The good thing about Thailand is that I have been there so many times now that I don’t have to worry about sight-seeing, I can just relax and hang out – so that I did!

My first day in Thailand I met up with Hans, one of my oldest friends from Denmark, he and his friend were at the end of their holiday flying home the same evening. But there was time for a lovely lunch drinking beer out of cups (apparently there is a law against serving alcohol between 2 and 5 pm!).

Later that night I met up with another wonderful friend, Akbar. He lives in Bangkok and through him I experienced some of the many great restaurants, bars and clubs in the city.
I also went with Akbar to Koh Samet for some quality time on the beach. Akbar could only stay for a few days though. Being by myself on the beach – with my cocktails and books - just made my honeymoon even more special and it was some of the must relaxing days I have had for years. The last days of my honeymoon was spent in Bangkok; shopping during the day and hanging out with Akbar in the evenings - absolutely lovely!

Now I am back in Nepal with lots of new energy. I am still happy as can be, so I guess the honeymoon will continue for a bit. According to the literature on expats I should be getting close to the so-called half-year crises – maybe this blog will reflect that; time will tell!