People here live with so little, tolerate the worst, and are okay with whatever they can get--a stark opposite to where I had lived just a few years ago. Although I'm of Nepali origin and was born here, my parents moved to Tokyo when I was little. I grew up there till my move to Hawaii for college. After graduation, I moved to San Francisco for work and now I'm here.
I didn't know that I had lived such a privilege life until I moved here. It's so many things, many little things. When westerners are complaining about the hike in fuel prices. here we can't even get fuel after waiting in long lines for two days. Many people don't even have gas to cook food. At my friend's house, his family wakes up early in the morning to fill up water buckets because it would not be available until the next day. I'm not talking about poor, rural people here. My friend is from a upper-middle class family. Because of the hike in gas prices, transportation fees have almost doubled making it almost impossible for the average Nepali to afford public transportation. It was worse few months ago when India stopped giving us fuel for lack of fuel payment. People were riding on roofs and sides of buses because there were hardly any transport available. We couldn't go out because we didn't have gas in our car even though we had the money to pay for it. The gas shortage even trickled down to creating a health hazard. The garbage trucks couldn't pick up the trash so streets were filled with rotten garbage for weeks. Many became ill from it. Students couldn't go to school because the school buses didn't have gas. Some parents I talked to are seriously thinking about putting their children in boarding schools to avoid interruption like these.
And, healthcare is very inefficient here. When Barrack Obama is promising Americans for more affordable healthcare, here in Nepal, we don't have efficient or affordable healthcare. There are health centers that provide for the poor but the quality of care is despicable. I was talking to my friend in the US who was complaining about a doctor she saw. She claimed that she was frustrated because the doctor didn't know what she was doing. I told her that at least she had the option of going to another doctor as opposed to here where good doctors are scarce here, very scarce. I was hospitalized for a motorcycle accident almost a year ago so I know from first-hand experience. Hospital care is very bad here compared to the US and if you want to change doctors, you really can't because there aren't many. This is expected from a 3rd world country but even the best hospitals known for its best doctors and care lack basic protocol. Prevention is not a well-known concept here. While hospitalized, I got a urinary track infection, a really bad one, deep-vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. And if I complained, I was immediately stereotyped as being loud-mouthed and ungrateful. Many "foreigners" have this image here because the average Nepali do not complain. You just don't raise your voice or question an authority figure, especially doctors. It got me thinking about people who are worse off than me. People who can't pay or get the best care. Then it occurred to me that perhaps they're not as bad off as it may look because they've accepted their fate and they don't know better.
Things never go as planned here. Well, life never goes as planned but here, it really hits home. Many things make it so. There are the riots that make it mandatory to block roads. We never know when it's going to happen. One time I was stuck inside a car in the middle of a herd of marching rioters who were stampeding towards me. Since the Maoists started rioting a decade ago, there is a trend here to riot against anything and everything. To date, there has been riots against transportation hikes, a murdered taxi driver, lack of hospital care killing a patient, our new V.P. saying his oath in Hindi (don't ask), etc. Then there is loadshedding (lights going out to conserve electricity). Just few months ago, Every day, lights went out for 20 hours a day. Last winter, it was 16 hours a day and it's better now but rumor has it that loadshedding will increase again in the winter. In the states, if we had a blackout, it would be front-page news. It's annoying when lights go off but I've learnt to take it make good use of it. Mom, dad, and I use this time to light candles, talk, and just huddle up together as a family in the family room and do nothing. So, you have to accept the worst here, and just take things as it comes. I don't plan my future as much anymore because I've learnt that it probably won't go as planned because of where I am. So, I take it day by day, live in the moment, and hope for the best.
No one is responsible or anything it seems. My friends here tell me that people can get away with almost everything here, including murder. Unofficial traffic rules say that if a big vehicle hits a small vehicle, the big vehicle is always to blame. So everybody knows that if there was an accident, big vehicles would try to kill the driver/passenger in the small vehicle even after the driver/passenger in the smaller vehicle survived the initial accident. People here say that the driver from the bigger vehicle would run over the driver/passenger to avoid having to pay hospital fees. The problem is in the lukewarm laws that do not punish the driver at fault. The driver at fault would have to pay a much bigger fine and financially take care of the injured if he/she lived opposed to a smaller fine and not even getting a jail sentence if he/she was killed. People are scared to voice out because of the fear of being reprimanded. It's no joke when I say that they can be severely reprimanded for something as small as yelling at the cop. Few months ago, we were pulled over by the police. He asked for the bluebook, which we didn't have because the car company delayed the process. The company gave us a letter showing that we were waiting for the bluebook to show to the police. The police abruptly dismissed the document and said he'd have to fine us anyway. We told him it wasn't our fault. Then he said you either pay the fine here or pay it at the office. In Nepal, everyone knows that you pay at the office. My friend who was with me said that he was asking for a bribe. Feeling upset and cheated, I yelled at him and said, "no way, shame on you." Most Nepalis will not go this far. They'll accept the fine and go pay up. I refused. I stormed into the office and demanded for an explanation and to reprimand the police who tried to bribe me and unfairly gave me a fine. The officers at the reception kept telling me to come back with the blue book. After about half an hour, we were beginning to attract a crowd of spectators. Then one officer stood up from his desk and said just give her what she wants. He said he'll get my friend's driver's license back from the police who took it. So much energy, effort and time explaining, trying to get my voice heard in a system that seem so unfair to the foreign eye.
So people here deal with problems by keeping their mouths shut and trying to forge connections. Things like marrying off their daughter to a connected groom, kissing ass with BIG people, and keeping complaints to themselves. Connections play a much bigger role than in industrialized countries. It's not a matter of want, but more of a need. My cousin tells me that we need a friend or relative in every type of occupation here (eg., doctor, petrol pumper, police, etc.) But I've decided that I'm going to voice out; I mean at least give it a try. Maybe my small effort will have a domino effect and will make people think differently. In a silly way, I feel that I made a difference that day at the police office because I spoke up without being intimated by authority, knowing very well that I'll be tagged as a nuisance. Maybe someone among the spectators or even the police will realize that I made sense and in turn they will speak up if they or others are treated unfairly.
People here are overwhelmed with their own problems. They are okay with having little and expect that they would not get what they want. They let things go. People do what they have to do in the present because the future is not a given here; it's a luxury. All the complaints you here from the west seems like a joke compared to the problems here. It's all perspective I guess. Since living here, I see things in a whole different way. If someone asked me what two words I would use to describe my move to Nepal, it'd be "I'm humbled." I'm humbled in so many ways.