Culture shock in reverse?

Well…I’m back in Nepal after almost 3 weeks in the UK. It goes without saying that seeing family & friends has been great. A 25th wedding anniversary celebration and a new grandson to meet for the first time being particularly special. (Bob Dylan should be especially pleased that he shared his 70th birthday with Lesley & my 25th wedding anniversary…)

It’s been 14 months since I was last in the UK and it seems only fair that my first impressions of Nepal, which I posted here, are complemented by a few thoughts about my time back in Portsmouth. Spending so much time in a landlocked country, it was a joy to be flying in over the English Channel during daylight hours, and to see the sea. In Portsmouth, its a pretty constant companion, and waking up every morning to a view across the Solent to the Isle Of Wight has been a reminder of how much I’ve missed the sea. John Masefield says it so much better than I ever could though…

Portsmouth Harbour. John Callaway 2011

Portsmouth Harbour. John Callaway 2011

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over”.

John Masefield. “Sea Fever” (1902)

"If you build it, they will come". Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth. John Callaway 2011

"If you build it, they will come". Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth. John Callaway 2011

Orderly traffic, relative cleanliness, 24 hour power, drinkable water on tap and a reliable internet connection. I’d forgotten how much they are part and parcel of everyday life…and things that we take for granted.

One of the things that has struck me is the nature of time, and how we in the West use it. Many of us are blessed with labour saving devices that ostensibly liberate us us from much of the the monotony of mundane tasks. I valued being able to just throw clothes into the washing machine, and I’m sure that my Zanussi Bucket (TM) was grateful for the rest. It was great to use  a ‘proper’ kettle instead of boiling water in a saucepan…and so on. I didn’t have to plan what and when to eat, and base it all on the vagaries of power and water availability. But….I don’t know where the ‘saved’ time goes, despite the protestations that we in the west are constantly busy…

I’ve been pretty used to buying most things here in Nepal in quantities that I need, and more often than not loose. I’m pretty convinced that the packages of fresh produce in the UK with “25% extra” and the like are designed to promote a degree of wastefulness. Is this any different to the ‘supersize me’ mentality of Mc*****ds? You don’t really need anymore, but if its a good enough method to make goose liver pate, then its good enough for you!!

Choice.... John Callaway 2011

Choice....John Callaway 2011

Where does choice end, and rampant consumerism begin? A whole supermarket aisle dedicated to shampoo, shower gel and the like. Maybe thats where the time goes…

And packaging! Yes there’s obviously a degree of packaging required…but the double and triple wrapping of some products in the UK seems wasteful in the extreme…particularly given the amount that ends up in landfill. Bananas in polythene wrappers! Strikes me that nature did a pretty good job in designing a bright yellow over-jacket. Same goes for cucumbers….

Steve Bell…”Safe Salad”! Worth a look!

…and…I’m back in the room…normal service resumed shortly…

6 responses to “Culture shock in reverse?

  • Lesley Callaway

    You didn’t have to worry about food cos I did it for you!!!And most of the washing!!! Still it was good to have you home take careXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  • johnnyc1959

    Ah…you’re so sweet…..xxxxxxxxxxxx

  • sunnyjuninnepal

    Hi John, I’m experiencing the same thing here. But read some good stuff in the RV package and trying to avoid seeing all the negative side to our wasteful western ways and bite my tongue. I do find myself constantly saying. ‘in Nepal this wouldn’t happen’ etc. For now, am enjoying the luxury and panicking about job hunting.

  • Swappers

    I can’t resist JonnyC1959!
    I love the John Masefield poem and grew up with much of his work but did you know the Spike Milligan version?
    “I must go down to the sea again,
    to the lonely sea and the sky;
    I left my shoes and socks there –
    I wonder if they’re dry?

    Wonderful stuff ….keep it coming.
    Bests from your erstwhile ‘forum’ friend

  • johnnyc1959

    Hi Swappers

    I must confess I had half a mind to go with the Milligan version!

    But, as he also noted, its the little things that count…!!

    Cue drawing of Milligan with him surrounded by microscopically small insects going 1,2,3,4…..!

  • Swappers

    Seriously tho’ I LOVE reading your messages and blog entries. Wonderful spectacular photography & always fascinating to read. What you are doing is truly wonderful. Drop by my music blog sometime when you have a sec…..I gave up on the forums (or did they give up on me?!) but am still posting music like a mad thing
    More power to ya!

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