Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Kathmandu

It's Christmas in Kathmandu. It's been hard to feel the holiday spirit in a country that doesn't celebrate Christmas. Here and there I might see a hotel or a store that put up some lights in the window, and the effort is actually quite touching. But it doesn't feel like Christmas without holiday songs on the radio or decorated houses and storefronts.

Christmas Eve I went to Mass at a church in Patan. No, it wasn't like Mass at home, but there was music, a nativity scene, and the familiar rituals. There were Nepali touches as well - shoes left outside, floor seating, and power outages.

The gifts I sent home 3 weeks ago didn't make it in time for Christmas (stupid pouch trolls!), but the gifts from my parents arrived here a few days ago. Thanks to Skype, I spent Christmas morning (Christmas Eve back home) opening gifts with my family.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Searching for Silence

With each overseas assignment the honeymoon period gets shorter and shorter. The honeymoon period is the time frame after moving to a foreign country where the excitement of being somewhere new overshadows certain harsh realities of living in a foreign country. People burning piles of trash in the street give the place "character" and bargaining with a taxi driver is part of the "adventure."

Kathmandu is my third assignment, and the honeymoon period was short. What gets to me the most is the noise. Always. Everywhere. Dogs barking (in my neighborhood, the stray dogs are well-behaved, it's my neighbor who has the high-pitched yapping dog that drives me bonkers). Men walking down the street calling out what they're selling. And the honking. As far as I can tell, people honk for 4 reasons:

1) On narrow winding alleys to alert oncoming traffic that he's coming around the bend.
2) To warn the vehicle in front that he is about to pass.
3) To warn the oncoming vehicle that he better not pass.
4) Just for the heck of it.

Even at night I have to turn on the air filter as white noise to mask the nighttime ambient noise. And if there is a rare quiet moment, chances are that the power will go out and my generator will kick in, which emits a constant rumbling grumble.

I miss silence.