Good Bye Nepal

20120726-092349.jpgWe’ve had an amazing time here in Nepal these past two years!

Good-bye, Nepal. Good-bye political strife and bandhs. Good-bye crazy pot-holes and roads. Good-bye Kathmandu traffic. Good-bye friends we’ve come to know, see you again the next time we meet. Good-bye Dal Bhat. Good-bye Momos. Good-bye cheap eats with so many restaurants I can’t even blog about all of them. Good-bye Didi’s and Dai’s. Good-bye load-shedding. Good-bye Monsoons. Good-bye pollution. Good-bye Himalayas. Good-bye to the best mountain biking. Good-bye Suzuki Maruti Gypsy. Good-bye stray dogs of all shapes and sizes, pigeon toed and mangy. Good-bye trekking. Good-bye dudh chia. Good-bye tasty nuts. Good-bye Gurkha Ball. Good-bye hand-painted license plates. Good-bye open sewers. Good-bye Nina & Hager. Good-bye 1905 Farmer’s Market. Good-bye Phora Durbar. Good-bye tangles of wires on poles falling down. Good-bye tuk-tuks. Good-bye sparkle vests. Good-bye rhinos, tigers, snow leopards, sloth bears, peacocks, mongooses. Good-bye leeches. Good-bye head wobble. Good-bye motorcycle madness. Good-bye tripped out trekker hippies. Good-bye Patan. Good-bye vomit-streaked buses and loogie-hocking locals. Good-bye massive generators. Good-bye ganesh stickers on motorcycles. Good-bye Nepali Tourism year 2011. Good-bye Lazimpat construction/destruction. Good-bye “mutton”(goat). Good-bye Manakamana Cable Car and goat sacrifices. Good-bye vegetarian tea and kidney tea. Good-bye singing bowls. Good-bye knock-off trekking gear. Good-bye excellent paper products. Good-bye crazy Kathmandu parties. Good-bye police breaking up those parties. Good-bye facemask wearing populace. Good-bye bike ride tea stops. Good-bye frozen meats flown in from other countries. Good-bye land-locked Nepal. Good-bye to small aircraft accidents. Good-bye yaks. Good-bye monkeys. Good-bye micro chipmunk-like squirrels.

Nepal: The Final Countdown

The air is amazingly crisp this morning. I’m on the front porch. A Buddha Air flight has just crossed over our house, headed for Bharatphur (Chitwan) or Pokhara. Load shedding is down to just four hours a day or so (unofficially; the schedule still has it at 12+) so there are no generator noises, just yapping dogs and screeching crows, the low din of traffic from Ring Road, some 1 km south. The sun is cresting, obscured by a partly cloudy sky, over the neighbor’s house, just hitting my solar panels. Time to swap from city power to the panels to power the network equipment.

Time to start the final countdown.

In two days, a shipping agent will come by our house and assess our household effects (HHE) for their weight. We have an allotted amount we can ship. These things will be separated into Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB) of a smaller amount and the main HHE shipment, the former will follow us to the ‘States for the majority of our stay, while we convalesce on home leave and while Jean is in training. Just seven weeks that. The latter will get packed up into well-packed cardboard boxes, which then in turn get packed into large wooden crates, which are packed off to the airport to be flown to Belgium, a major shipping hub, to sit until sometime after we arrive in Zimbabwe, after which they too will be sent to Africa.

Next week I’ll show our maid the house where she’ll be working next. We’ve found her a job with an incoming family. I’ll take Jhili-Mili, our Nepali grey tabby, to the vet for a health certificate.

In just over a week, we’ll ship our micro-safari vehicle, our Maruti Gypsy, to Zimbabwe. Zim doesn’t have any import restrictions at present, save that the vehicle is Right-Hand Drive, which it is. It will get loaded into a sea container, get shipped on the mind-bendingly dangerous road, the H04, west out of town and cross into India, where in Calcutta the crate will get loaded on a ship and sail for South Africa, where it will then get shipped up to Harare.

In 10 days we’ll get our “welcome kit” for departure; the two large trunks that have enough cooking and eating implements to manage in the kitchen, some linens for beds, etc. We’ll have our final going away party (one can’t do these things in one fell swoop can one now?).

All the food in the freezer is accounted for and I’ve planned meals (which will inevitably get shiffted around by social dinners) for the next 2 1/2 weeks.

In 11 days, we’ll pack our suitcases. Anything we don’t want accidentally finding its way into our major shipment, anything we’ll need for the next two and a half months really, will get packed into our bags and stowed in our bedroom. That includes shower curtains too!

In 13 days we’ll “pack out.” A shipping company will dispatch trucks and men to begin, like leaf-cutter ants, disassembling our household goods and packing them in boxes. Two days after that, our house will be bare save the welcome kit contents and our luggage, and the Embassy-issued furniture.

In 15 days Jean will have her last day at work. My mother will celebrate a birthday.

In 16 days we’ll sleep our last night at our house.

In 17 days an Embassy Motor Pool vehicle will leave the Embassy or come from it’s previous task, the driver will note his destination, will be cut off by motorcycles honking their horns, will bounce up our monsoon torn road, and arrive at our house. The driver will exit the vehicle and ring the bell. We’ll be waiting with our luggage. Our maid will have helped us strip the beds and launder the linens and will have washed her last set of breakfast dishes for us. She will be crying and Jean will hold it in. Jhili-Mili will be in her crate, with water and food enough for the two-day journey, though she won’t eat half of it.
We’ll lock the house for the last time. We’ll hand the house keys to the driver, and head to the airport. We’ll head in with our incredible load of luggage, check in (see you in Seoul, Jhili!), fill out our departure paperwork, and head through the diplomat line. The kids will fidget and jockey for position and will be full of questions. Merrill will need to pee just as we’re needed for processing. We’ll proceed through security and will get felt up and patted down. A few times.
We’ll wait an interminably long time in the lounge, waiting for our aircraft to arrive. The kids will be all nerves and vacillating between elation and confusion. So will I.

In 17 days and five hours, we’ll board our flight to the United States of America (with an overnight in Incheon/Seoul) and will leave Nepal.

Time for the next big adventure! Zimbabwe!

Champagne & Bon-bons (or: the life of a trailing spouse)

20120214-080729.jpgA fellow spouse posed a question to me the other day, perhaps out of curiosity, “What do you do with your time?” Some people ask me that from the point of view of an employee, secure in their routines or duties. Sometimes the question comes from family members, wondering how I can have “left my career.” Sometimes from other newbie trailing spouses wondering if they are “doing the right thing” by staying home, with or without kids. I can just imagine some of them, fresh out of school, or perhaps having worked a few years, sitting in their diplomatic bubble, listening to the din of the generator outside, scanning facebook, and wondering just what the heck they’ve done.

To sum it up, I steer a course between “whatever the heck I want to” and “whatever the heck I have to do” all while keeping a good attitude, a healthy sense of humor and the occasional martini.

I consider this life, relocating every two-three years, wandering exotic locales, not being exposed directly to the American political or socialization process, the best. This is the other side of the escape hatch that so few people see. I’ve had a lot of friends say to me, “That’s so awesome you guys are doing this,” and while some mean it as “I can’t believe you’d do this,” others mean “I wish I could too.” You can…only if you want to live adventurously though.

My day is a myriad of 20-minute projects, all interwoven based on the four quadrants of “important” “Urgent” “unimportant” and “Long term”. Breakfast for the kids is “urgent/important” whereas buying frozen meat is “important/long term.” And so on.

My typical day:
Early Morning

  • get up, drag kids from bed
  • kids’ breakfast, make coffee
  • realize that something needs to be done I should have done last night (kid lunch, find library book, have Lucas finish homework)
  • kick kids to front hall for shoes, coats
  • kids, Jean out the front door to get to school, work.

Morning

  • Make sure I’ve got dinner lined up, either that I’m cooking or having the Didi cook
  • Get shopping list organized, or assign shopping to Didi
  • Check load-shedding schedule. Am I staying home b/c we’ve got power or not?

Mid-morning

  • Stay in and do computer work (photo editing, movie editing, finances, vacation planning, social dinner planning
  • OR

  • Ditch the house with the bike or car (do I need to do shopping? =car)
  • Get stuff done: buy clothes for kids, shopping, etc.

LUNCH! Eat at a new or tried and true establishment. Maybe see Jean at work.
Afternoon.

  • Realize I have scant hours before picking up kids. Panic.
  • Pick up kids…all afternoon
  • get dinner done

Evening

  • dinner
  • kids: homework, baths, stories, bed

Night

  • Where did the day go?
  • Read, watch TV, get ready to do it all again 🙂

Did you see anywhere in there the word “bored?” Me neither. If you’re contemplating a move into this lifestyle, or feel mired in it as an EFM/MOH and are in a rut, get a hobby. Or ten. Explore the city on foot if you can. Stuck in a compound with high security? Write a children’s story about it.

There’s a lot of room for movement in my schedule, and there needs to be. I need to be ready to drop what I’m doing to pick up a sick kid from school, do something urgent for Jean, scrap my entire day due to a bandh(strike), etc. It’s different, exciting, and engaging.

Of course, sprinkled throughout my day is the profound thankful realization that my wife gave up all of this do do what she wants to do. She’s given me these moments with the kids. She’s given me the poolside relaxation and physical fitness opportunities, the mid-week bike rides. The ability to eat lunch at a new restaurant all the time. The time to do this blog. The time to manage our whole existence here.

Thanks, Jean. I will continue to text from poolside “Thank you for the life to which I’ve become accustomed.”