Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Things I have learnt

When I lived in rural Nepal in 2002-2003 I compiled this list of things I had learnt as a result of being there. Since so many of these are valid for China, I thought I would include it here, while I work on a list especially for the things I've learnt in Shanghai.

  1. It is possible to sleep on a bus… standing up.
  2. Starving children begging for money do not go away when you don’t give them anything. They will follow you for an hour.
  3. Fireflies (moon-bugs) do exist.
  4. Children don’t care if you can’t understand them.
  5. A cow won’t move out of the way of an on-coming bicycle… oops!
  6. In this weather, “I’m only happy when it rains”.
  7. Pollution chokes, but it also gives off the best sunsets.
  8. If you say Namaste enough times to a stranger, eventually they will return the greeting, but usually on the one day when you are in a bad mood and don’t want to talk.
  9. It is uncharitable to hope that the rice stays beautifully green and never dries out, when thousands of people are relying on it for survival.
  10. The Himalayas ARE breathtakingly spectacular.
  1. There’s no place like home, but some places are just as good in other ways.
  2. Chiso paani (chilled water) really satisfies.
  3. “five minutes” never, EVER means only five minutes.
  4. I can’t live without cheese.
  5. It is possible for a woman to breast-feed a baby whilst riding sidesaddle in a sari on the back of a motorbike.
  6. Funny (i.e. strange) accents are NOT funny (i.e. side-splittingly, back-slappingly hilarious)
  7. 90% humidity means 100% sweaty.
  8. "Gourmet" is in the taste buds of the beholder.
  9. You never need to use the bathroom at night except when the toilet is outside and you are well and truly locked inside.
  10. Fatalism is the healthiest attitude when traveling Nepali buses: you only waste time when you worry… if it’s gonna crash, it’s gonna crash.
  11. All of my new furniture CAN fit on the back seat of a cycle rickshaw.
  12. The entire neighbourhood will discuss your underwear on washing day.
  13. Red tikka dye does not come off my white forehead easily.
  14. You value your family and friends a hundred times more when you leave them in another country.
  15. When you leave your friends in another country you have the best opportunity to make even more new ones (don’t replace friends: just add them!).
  16. Kids understand the universal language of a smile, but adults may regard it suspiciously.
  17. Beside every rocky dirt road there is a 3-inch strip of smooth sand, just perfect for riding a bicycle on.
  18. Everyone will want to ride on said 3 inches of smooth sand, and you can never win a game of chicken with an on-coming bike (trust me).
  19. It is possible to hold an umbrella in one hand and a torch in the other AND ride a bicycle.
  20. Did I mention I can’t live without cheese?
  21. The amount you paid for any item will always be considered too much by any Nepali you tell (and they will always ask you).
  22. There is life after the squat toilet... and lack of any sort of toilet paper.
  23. It has never been so exciting to find a shop that sells pasta… or soy sauce… or plastic cheese… or Pringles…
  24. I don’t like mice.
  25. I really don’t like mice.
  26. I scream like a girl and jump on furniture when I see mice.
  27. My Nepali family are very good at killing mice while I stand on furniture screaming like a girl with my hands over my eyes.
  28. What I don’t see won’t hurt me.
  29. The communicative power of sign language should never be underestimated.
  30. A Discman or Walkman can get you through anything …but just try to remember the spare batteries.
  31. Buses and trucks should not play chicken at high speed, but they do.
  32. Serious Nepali movies are very, very funny.
  33. Baygon bug spray is my friend.
  34. There is a reason why I’m here. But I can’t always remember it.
  35. There is no such thing as a sleep-in.
  36. Friends from home will remember to email you with news on what they had for dinner last night, but not think to fill you in on world news or national disasters.
  37. Apparently, you can never use too much chilli (but I beg to differ).
  38. Goats can vomit while travelling on public transport.
  39. Water buffalo smell.
  40. Watch where you are walking. Especially if a cow has been walking there before you.
  41. The one time when the phone call actually gets through to you will be when the phone line cuts out.
  42. There is no such thing as a small amount of Daal Bhaat (so don’t even try asking for it).
  43. Camera = Crowd
  44. Vegemite improves in taste when taken out of Australia. As does Kylie Minogue! But sadly not John Howard.
  45. Trashy magazines never looked so good.
  46. The power supply here is reliable… you can rely on it cutting out.
  47. Where there is a will, there is a way. But where there is a way, there are usually several more obstacles.
  48. The man who invented ear plugs deserves to win the Nobel Peace Prize: they’ve stopped war breaking out here several times when I have been woken up at 5am.
  49. Barrels placed in the middle of the highway do not slow down speeding buses: they simply veer around them at suicidal speeds.
  50. I will never complain about the quality of a cup of coffee again (I suspect I will take this one back after a few weeks back in the Sydney café culture, but for now, even instant coffee equals instant bliss).
  51. Many Nepali products are of an inferior quality to the foreign equivalent. However, Nepali Super Glue IS super glue… next time I will remember to move my fingers out of the way before the glue dries, and thus avoid the embarrassment of having to direct my family through my belongings to find my secret stash of nail polish remover while they laugh uncontrollably at me.
  52. If someone offers to pierce your nose for you, they intend to do it with the stud from their very own nostril.
  53. It is exciting to find a shop that sells rice/sugar/flour with "not very many" bugs and stones in it.
  54. Why did the chicken cross the road? Because I was heading towards it on my scooter.
  55. Cockroaches can grow larger than my big toe… and an accumulation of dead cockroaches can completely block the plumbing of my toilet, causing the contents to spontaneously explode into my bathroom.
  56. Never look at the kitchen/cooking surface/the cook’s hands.
  57. The availability of the internet is wider than that of clean drinking water.
  58. You’ve just have to be able to laugh at it all. Full stop.


'er said...

How is the Nepal book coming along???

Anonymous said...

I was JUST about to say...I want to read a book of your life in Nepal. Then watch a movie of it.

I think it'd be a huge hit!


Louise said...

I started writing the book, got half way through (some 250 pages!) and then came to China. Now I never seem to find the time, am trying to concentrate on painting, and I am totally discouraged by the thought of finding publishers etc. If you happen to know a publisher... well then, that's a different story!