What a difference a year makes!
From working in Qatar–the world’s wealthiest country in terms of per capita income–with some of the most spoilt and difficult students and some of the most arrogant and racist people I had ever met in my life–both as a student and as a teacher–and hitting bottom….
- to being incarcerated following an adult pressing felony charges against me based on the words of one such student–his twelve-year old son–and having even the bottom pulled from under me, and then
- to friends around the world running a massive international campaign and getting me freed within just twelve days, instead of remaining in limbo as some of the other Nepalese appeared to be or serving out a seven-year jail term, and then
- to returning to Nepal to work in the small and remote village of Thangpalkot, just 80 km from the capital, with some of the poorest people and children in the country, finally doing something I had wanted to do for most of my forty-plus years of life, and then
- to being back in the US, for the first time in over a decade, to speak about everything that’s happened over the past year and to receive an honorary degree for what I have done so far.
I left Kathmandu the afternoon of April 15 for the US. Though it took a mere forty hours — door-to-door — arriving in the US, I found myself in a world that might as well have been on a different planet…especially after the last eleven months in Nepal.
I found myself back in a world where, for instance, time is fixed. In a world where appointments or events take place at the appointed time. In a world where when you show up on time, you are not made to wait…for as long as two and a half hours some times, for instance.
In a world where everyone values their time equally, everyone from a janitor to a CEO. Where the importance and value of time does not change with your professional position or social status or perceived self-importance…with some exceptions, of course!
In a world that is considerably more egalitarian than most other countries I lived, worked and traveled in (and loving it).
(Returning to Nepal less than a year ago after being educated in four other countries and spending pretty much all my adult life–most of the last 26 years–abroad, I have discovered i have developed a handicap! I don’t know how to kiss ass, which I am discovering, is an essential skill in Nepal. I wish that the rules of the game in Nepal were the same as those of Golf. Then my handicap would have really come handy!)
In a world where, even in the small community of Montezuma, New Mexico, some of the most basic utilities — such as water, electricity, internet service, mobile phone service — are reliable, making life just that much more comfortable, and easier.
In a world where everything pretty much works and runs well.
I found myself also in the world that introduced me to subway sandwiches and lemonade and Mexican…American Mexican food! New Mexico in particular introduced me to proper American Mexican food…the fajitas, the huevo rancheros, the burritos etc.
I have had Mexican foods in between, in a number of places as diverse as the UK, Nepal, Vietnam, Zanzibar, and Qatar, and always with different degrees of disappointments! The most disappointing one being on the beautiful island of Zanzibar — I didn’t even get salsa with my fajita; they didn’t even know what it was! Some American had helped the restaurant prepare the menu…but obviously not the food!
This is also the world where everything is BIG! Big cars, big houses, big flags, big events, big hearts, big people — not just physically — and…big servings (is it any wonder the people are so big?!)!
Most of my life I had had no difficulties finding anything big or anyone “bigger” than me in one way or another! But in the world of the United States, pretty much everything was super big! Why, when I was last here — more than ten years ago — they even had a serving called “Supersize.” More often than not a “small” serving of anything, I remember, being big enough for me!
While I did meet a number of challenges when I first arrived in this country almost 25 years ago, the biggest challenge this time has been finishing a meal when eating out, whether it be a Fajita or Chinese or a breakfast of scrambled eggs with sausage or T-bone steak or whatever! They appear to have really done away with “Supersize” however!
Just yesterday evening, stopping by Subway for a sandwich, when the cashier handed me the cup for a small drink of lemonade that I had ordered, I had to comment,”You don’t have a smaller cup than this small cup?!” just because.
The upside to all that however has been getting two meals out of pretty much every single meal I order…unless it’s a sandwich — the Subway, or similar, variety — which I found I can stuff myself with…still…including the big small drink of lemonade!