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I'm Humbled

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.


olutosin's picture

Developing they Call it

Dear friend,

Thanks for this beautiful picture yes it is pictorial because I can see what you are seeing, only that it is better there, you have light four four solid hours in a day, if I have light in four hours a week I will not even complain at all. Developing they call it may we develop by miracle. The solution is kill all corrupt leaders and their supporters and we start the development anew.

He who will not allow us to eat well, we have to add his portion to the pot of food.

Love U Dear

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


sunita.basnet's picture

I agree with you

Dear yuko,
Thank you so much for bringing this among us. As I borned and grew up in Nepal I am very familiar with this situation. Whatever you have mentioned in the post is true but one sentence touches my heart. "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. So people here deal with this problem by keeping their mouths shut and trying to forge connections." Yes, I agree with you.

There are many things we need to do to make the people aware and change their mind. I know its very challenging but we can see a big change in new generation people like us view. We want the change and for that we are ready to take any steps that might be challenging for us. Isn't it Yuko? Thanks so much again for bringing this out. See you in july 11th in our meeting. Anjana will email you about the details of our meeting. I cannot wait to meet you and share our thoughts.Keep in touch please.

With Love and Regards
Sunita Basnet

fatma's picture

non-developing is the word!!

dear yuko:-
i am really touched by the way you portrayed the situation in nepal.....
and feel that somehow you were talking about my country..sudan. it is just amazing how poverty,misery and hardship really have the same face in all 3rd world countries....
and the similartiy between all lies in the rotten political regimes which contribute more to our poverty and miserable conditions.
i think non- developing should be the word to describe our countries......for centuries now this developing process never evolved. and from one dectatorship to another, we coninue to bleed!!

yuko's picture

Thank you.

Yes, we take things for granted. We all think we have the worst but there are many worst off than us. I am so grateful for what I have. I realize how ignorant I was to the plight of others on the other side of the world. I'm living a good life here compared to so many. I think we all are given a chance to make a difference in our own ways, and that's the purpose of life and why we are given certain experiences. I feel so privileged to meet so many women in this platform. Thank you.

Founder/Managing Editor
V.E.N.T! Magazine |
Sattya Media Arts Collective |

smilingheart's picture


Hello Yuko,

Reading your post has changed my life. I always knew I should consider myself blessed to live where I do (Australia), but now I guarantee I will never look at my life the same way again. Thank you for that, you have truly opened my eyes.

I have never really been one to complain & I always have a positive outlook. I am forever grateful for the life that I am able to live here. However, I do know many people who are completely obsessed with things like shopping, losing weight, & everything else that the media says we should be worried about. The mindless consumerism & materialism of this society makes me feel sick to the stomach. I hope to one day see people realise that 'things' don't matter, only love & compassion matters. I hope to be a part of that change.

I don't understand why I & the people here don't know much about what is going on in the world. My friends & I always laugh at what is reported on the news here, mostly about football stars drinking too much alcohol or the romantic affairs of some celebrity. Real news, about what's going on in other countries & how we can help, is very rarely shown to us, & if it is, I am sad to say it is forgotten quickly.

I wonder, would you allow me to re-post your post on my facebook page? I would love to educate more people about this, hopefully it will change them for the better as it has changed me.

Peace & Love.

yuko's picture

Hi Jen!

Hi Jen,

I'm so sorry about the late response to your email. Yes! please do re-post this post on your facebook page. I believe in the power of information and expression to bring awareness about important issues. I'm realizing that it's all about perspective. It's difficult to appreciate what you already have and it's easy to take it for granted. I'm not the exception. I realize now how I took so many things for granted like getting an education, having enough gas for the car, having gas to cook food, having enough water to bathe, drinking tap water, having electricity, predictable DSL connection, having a heated swimming pool!! Gosh, what a luxury. And, I'm still the spoiled brat here. I live a good life. Most people here live with very little. Some have to walk miles to get water. Just making a living is hard enough for most. And, in the west, like you said, we are obsessed about things that don't really matter. It's not really about what is good and bad, I think. It's all perspective. I feel blessed living in a country that is teaching me so much about the human condition and helps me keep my priorities straight. When our basic needs are already being met, the least we can do is give back. That's the only way.

Thanks, Jen, for your response.

Love, Yuko

Founder/Managing Editor
V.E.N.T! Magazine |
Sattya Media Arts Collective |

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