Beep-beep! Honk-honk! Ching-ching! This I have decided is the song of Kathmandu. It is a constant melody consisting of motorcycles, cars, trucks and busses. They whir and weave past, around and through one another with what seems like no regard to oncoming traffic. As a pedestrian or a passenger, the skill of these drivers and the confidence it must take to perform such a symphony of movement and sound is remarkable to behold. Contrary to what you may think, the horn is not used here to express anger or concern (well mostly). Its more to let everyone around know I’m changing lanes, entering traffic, about to pass, or simply get out of the way. When attempting to cross this cloud of uncertainty I am reminded of time spent in Vietnam. Just walk steady and slow and they will avoid you, not the other way around. This is never something that comes natural.
It’s Thursday morning (four days since arrival) and we are on our way to Dhulikhel (Doo-leak-hel). A mountain town located about 30km east of Kathmandu, but with traffic can take up to 2 hours. Dhulikhel is where “home base” will be and I am anxious to meet my new team. As we drive I make an intriguing observation; there are very few (working) stoplights in Nepal. Even if there were I wonder if they would be of any use. At most large intersections and roundabouts the city government has dispensed entirely with this pleasantry and now employs traffic police to direct as necessary. A precarious impromptu dance coordinated completely at random dependent on current traffic flow and the mood of the maestro. We arrive in good time, just an hour and a half. Our progress hindered only once from major traffic due to a flooding issue that damaged part of the highway. June, July and August is monsoon season and apparently this inconvenience is a fairly common occurrence. It has rained at least once per day since I have arrived, usually in the morning; however flooding is the least of Nepal’s worries. Where I am located they mostly worry about landslides which are much more dangerous or even worse, earthquakes, though those can (and do) happen any time of the year.
Upon arrival at the local CARE office I am greeted by smiling faces and “Namaste”. I immediately place my hands in Añjali Mudrā and repeat “Namaste”. I like this greeting, so much more personal than “hello” or “hey”. After a brief tour of the small office we all sit down and while sipping Dudh Chiya (milk tea), chat. I quickly realize we are all transplants. All from different parts of Nepal brought together by the SAMMAN project. With backgrounds and advanced degrees ranging from public health, nursing, accounting, communications and business I am certain CARE has developed a strong team. Their kind gestures and positive attitudes are infectious and within minutes I find myself immersed in effortless conversation.
Apparently I had arrived right on time; my 1st full week in Dhulikhel would be an exciting one. A bimonthly administrator’s team meeting and emergency procedure training were scheduled and would suit perfectly as an introduction to the whole team. By the end of the week I would have a chance to get to know everyone on a more personal level and even make plans to cook some authentic Italian food for the whole office.
Friday afternoon I set out with Ashim and Chet to procure the necessary ingredients. Shopping in the small town was interesting to say the least and I was happy to learn the preferred places without trial and error. Sanitation was not top priority in any store (especially the butcher shop) we visited, but they directed me to the cleanest places and we were eventually able to find most everything needed to make a decent meal.
Upon reflection later that evening, I recognize a common theme. This whole journey will be just like crossing that “cloud of uncertainty” back in Kathmandu, just move forward, trust the system and you will reach the other side.