If I was ever so unfortunate as to be forced to describe Kathmandu in one word, it would have to be “still”. In the midst of the chaos of daily life, the gaping beggars that decorate the streets, the rickshaws domineering Thamel, the market district, the gemstones kiosks lined along tourist terrain and our old house nestled smack in the midst of the mixture of city life-meets-would-be-suburb, a little oasis that appears from utter blues on a half acre plot, complete with pomegranate trees heavily pregnant with fruit begging to be picked, “still” is what comes to mind.
I think back to my first Nepali encounter. As the plane finally touched down on the dusty airport, I managed my way out onto an awaiting bus on the runway. On one arm was two carry-on bags. On the other was a toddler, 18 months old to be exact. She had impressively endured 17 straight hours from Dulles to Doha, and another 6 from Doha to Kathmandu. My belly rumbled with butterflies, anxious about this new unknown world that was to become my home for two solid years. When my husband confirmed that we would definitely be moving there, the most I had heard of Nepal was with the remote reference to Mt. Everest. Even then, I was unsure of the exact proximity of the world’s highest peak to this magical place. Google informed me that they were one and the same thing. I made a mental note to peak Everest but I never did. But I did trek up thousands of steps along the Anuparnas, circling the Himalayas with a 5 month baby in a baby Bjorn, taking nursing breaks with breathtaking views of the most magnificent mountains one can ever be as fortunate to see in a lifetime. Then waking up to the imposing sight of the mystical Machapuchre.
The butterflies filled my empty belly. An empty uterus, to be exact, for I had just lost our second baby to a miscarriage. I was still dealing with the after effects of the procedure that I had endured two days prior to boarding the plane with my toddler. My husband was waiting for us on the other side.
Nepal provided the stillness that I needed to get past that dark cloud of having lost a baby.
“Are you coming to visit?” Asked a kind, young, carefree backpacker.
“I’m here to stay.” Was my simple reply.
While I couldn’t say for certain what that meant- here to stay- it offered some strange sense of comfort, knowing that I was going “home”. This would be our first official expat posting as a family of three. Prior to this we had lived in Nairobi, Ohio and Maryland, but never in a country foreign to both my husband and I. Nepal provided an urgent new beginning.
With our few belongings and young marriage packed up in an air freight that would arrive just three short days after our touch down, I was excited to start a new life in a house that came fully furnished in someone else’s taste. A built-in tv cabinet on the wrong side of the living room meant modifying our set-up. A fireplace that let out more smoke than fire meant relying on gas heaters and hot water bottles as our main source of warmth during those harsh winter months, with the fireplace lit for pure aesthetics. It gave the illusion of a warm house, which, when my mother visited, she would ever dangerously close to the source of the smoke, keeping one side of her body warm while the other faced the cold living room.
Yet in spite of the hardship posting that it was, Kathmandu was the best place that we have ever lived in.