23 September, 2014
It’s been 20 days since I arrived in Kathmandu and started going to the office of PEEDA every weekday. It now already feels familiar; thanks to the welcoming and friendly colleagues.
The office of PEEDA is located in the middle of a street called Old Baneshwar and shares the same slot with a minor private TV Network of Nepal. It takes about 45 minutes to walk from my apartment to the office every morning but I do not mind because for me, it’s exercising. Pushing myself though crowds of people along bustling and busy streets of Kathmandu, even though it’s a rough walk, I feel so much alive. I know, it sounds quite cliché but it’s the truth. Seeing people hurry to schools, to work or to catch a bus reminds me that life is a busy train and it’s a blessing to have a seat on it.
On my first day at work, there were only 4 people working because everyone else was in the field. So far, I could only remember one or two days when the office was full of people and there were 11. I brought some chocolate and some salmiakki from Finland and to my surprise, my colleagues here liked salmiakki. Well, I’m glad they did!
We have a didi who is a lunch lady and also helps with errands around the office. She cooks for us every day so most of us have lunch together on the top floor of the office building. I enjoy lunch time a lot. Even though most of the time, I don’t understand what other people talk about, I take pleasure in hearing them talk and observing their gestures. I have to say Nepali are expressive people. When they talk, they have all kinds of expression on their faces to show how they feel about it, lots of time accompanied with hand gestures and head motion, which sometimes cracks me up. They are certainly the liveliest people I’ve met.
I always come in the office to see a bottle full of water and a clean glass already sitting on my table. Didi also brings each of us a cup of hot black tea every morning when everyone has arrived. When she puts the cup of tea on the table, she always turns the handle toward me so I’ll have easier access to it. It’s not like we are too lazy to reach out a few centimeters further to have a proper grasp of the cup’s handle but it’s the thought that counts. That just shows how considerate and thoughtful she is. I feel like being spoiled here.
I share a room with two other colleagues. One of them is the Community Development Officer (CDO) and the other is an intern like me but he’s Nepali. They’re both quiet people. While I can understand the intern perfectly with no problem whatsoever, I have a really hard time figuring out what the CDO talks about most of the time since his accent is sure very heavy. But that's fine, I'll get used to it soon. I have my own little table, which I’m perfectly happy with for my laptop is tiny as well.
You know, only after a week at the office did I realize that we never turn on the light in our room. We have sunlight for most of the day and even if it gets quite dark late in the afternoon, we all work on the computer so that doesn’t seem like a problem at all. And this way, we save electricity which is always lacking in the valley.
As I was reading about Nepal before coming here, I knew that Nepal’s society was a collectivism one. I had sort of figured since it’s an Asian country. However, some expats here complain on their blogs about how they do not have any privacy because of the collectivism character of the society. Well, I certainly see it differently. Even though I also come from a collectivism society, I do insist on having my privacy when I need it. However, I do also understand that when people ask questions, that’s because they care enough to do it. When they don’t bother asking questions anymore, you know that you have become invisible to them.
From the very beginning, the director and the head of administration kept telling me that we were a family here in PEEDA, so if I ever needed any help at all, I just asked and others would be happy to help me out. See, that’s a great thing about collectivism society. People feel the responsibility to help each other out. They are happy to be of any help. Unlike in Finland, you don’t have to hesitate when you feel like helping others. It’s not a crime! It’s encouraged.
Despite the struggle with allergy due to the air pollution here, I find the place heart-warming and it does give me a nice, though vague, sense of home.