Saturday, September 8, 2012

Visa secured

We have been out of touch, but all for a good cause.  We are happy to report that we have obtained a visa for a year.  That process occupied 18 days of the last four weeks.  Six of those days were spent traveling to and from Kathmandu – a day-long trip on crowded and cramped public buses.  Who would ever have thought that a middle seat on USAIR out of Philadelphia could be made to seem posh?

The other twelve days were spent following our visa application within and between ministries and departments, with much of that time spent waiting for letters, waiting for signatures, waiting for official stamps, and waiting because we were told to wait.  We have some amazing stories to tell, few of which are fit for print. We will say here only that it was a remarkable process, the memory of which needs to fade before we are ready to do it all over again next year.

We would not have made it past step one had it not been for the tremendous help we received.  Hari Ram Devkota, the principal of the Shree Dumre Lower Secondary School, advocated for us in Kathmandu and Gorkha Bazaar despite being sick….  Ramji Giri was with us every step of the way.  The consummate schmoozer, he never took ‘no’ for an answer and moved the process forward even when there wasn’t a clear path….  The Giri family in Kathmandu offered a refuge every evening after long days and reminded us why we are in Nepal.  Their willingness to activate networks and mobilize resources on our behalf was awesome and humbling….  As we went through a series of fire drills, Ted Rowland and son Jonah provided critical logistical support from the States….  A heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all.

So we are good to stay until the end of August, 2013.  And now we can focus our efforts on teaching, which if we recall correctly was the reason we came to Nepal in the first place.

In other news….  Our solar hot water system has been installed.  Buckets of cold water over the head are fine in the hot, sticky monsoon but a hot shower will be appreciated as the weather changes….  One indication of the changing seasons: the clouds to the north lifted long enough this morning to discover that we can see Manaslu Himal from our second-story porch….  Nepal has an ongoing electricity shortage and Dharapaani often goes two, three, or four days without power.  It is inconvenient, but it is what it is.  But it has also meant that the carpenter is unable to work on our furniture.  We have a cabinet upstairs for our clothes, but downstairs we feel like we are still camping out….  Of all the adjustments we have had to make, one of the most difficult (not yet made) has been learning to share a very hard, 40”-wide bed, a sleeping arrangement that Malinda refers to as “two bodies on a morgue slab.”  We may do something about it at some point, but it is not a priority right now.  (Note to Jonah and Elijah:  do not marry a sprawler.)….  We are getting more proficient at cooking with local materials and tools.  Daughter-in-law Biraspati has taken on the task of teaching us and that has been fun.  Our latest efforts have earned from her only a Thikai ('okay') rating, but with practice we hope to earn a more enthusiastic response.... Malinda’s Nepali is coming along fine.  She understands more of what is said to her, and her responses are climbing on the understanding-to-quizzical-looks ratio.  She is getting the hang of putting verbs at the end of sentences where they belong.  Most impressively, she bravely plunges into speaking even when she has not clear idea of where the sentence is going....  Apologies for the lack of photos in this post.  For some reason our data service lately has been operating at sub-kbps speeds.

With the visas secured, we feel like we can reboot our lives here and get on with why we came.  On Friday, we made the long, awful trip from Kathmandu and arrived in Dharapaani in the early evening.  As we were greeted by our family and unlocked our door, we had that delicious feeling of being home, followed by a marathon session of killing spiders that had taken over in our absence.

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