I’ve just passed the milestone of living in Nepal for one year….so the next couple of posts will be something of an overview of my thoughts on being here. Nothing I haven’t already said before probably, but this seems like as good a point as any to offer a few reflections.
The concept of what is ‘normal’ to me has certainly changed considerably over time. The ‘stranger in a strange town‘ who wrote this entry after his first night in Nepal is no more! Foreigner maybe, but certainly not a stranger. Its not exactly ‘adapt or die’, but if you want to move beyond being an outsider, there are certain things that you simply have to accept as being the way they are, before you can start to think about how things might change for the better for the people of Nepal.
Acceptance that power and water are commodities to be used wisely when they are available; acceptance that traffic & pollution in the towns, and particularly Kathmandu is pretty horrendous at times; acceptance that poverty and food insecurity is a common theme throughout the country…to name but a few.
Acceptance isn’t the same as thinking that its right, but you can waste a lot of time and energy getting aggravated by things that won’t change overnight. And…as I’ve said elsewhere in this blog…I’ll be here for just over two years, and I’m here by choice.
Events in Japan and New Zealand in recent weeks have been a sobering reminder, if one were needed, that the Kathmandu Valley is right in an earthquake zone. Frankly, given the destruction in these two countries, the outlook here is potentially bleak when you look at the buildings and the density of population. The nightmare scenario will undoubtedly happen at some point, but you can’t devote your every waking hour to this. And in truth, in many areas of Nepal, there is the very real annual risk of disaster, which is entirely attributable to geography and topography. Floods and landslides are commonplace in Nepal, sometimes with dreadful consequences. In August 2008, some 50,000 Nepalis lost their lives due to flooding caused by the Koshi River breaching a dam. As is frequently the case, it is the poor and marginalised who suffer most.
The politics of inertia appears to pervade much of Nepali life. UNMIN has now left Nepal, there is still a peace process in place and there is a government of sorts. (At the time of writing certain key ministerial positions remain unfilled). What is clear is that things change pretty rapidly, with brinkmanship often being the order of the day. There is frequently an ambivalence in what emanates from the various political parties. There still appears to be a good deal of posturing and self serving amongst politicians of whatever persuasion and unsurprisingly, many of the Nepalis I talk with are tired of it all. The fatalism which pervades Nepali society is undoubtedly due in no small measure to years of inertia, and Nepal remains a ‘fragile state’ .
To be continued…