Yhtenä iltansa tappelen jälleen taksin hinnasta. Olimme sopineet lähtiessä hinnaksi 300 rupiaa, mutta taksikuski ei aio antaa 500 rupian setelistäni takaisin. Normaalitilanteessa istuisin taksissa, kunnes vaihtoraha on kädessäni — ei tämä ensimmäinen kerta ole. Tuona päivänä kattila vain kiehuu yli. Kerään tavarani ja huudan kuskille: ”Vihaan Nepalia, painu &#%&%#, veli” ja lyön mielenosoituksellisesti oven kiinni niin lujaa kun voin kyynelten kirveltäessä alas poskia. En jaksa edes hävetä, vaikka tiedän olevani maassa, jossa pahaa mieltä ei näytetä, ei näin. Onneksi kulttuurishokki on luonteeltaan aaltoilevaa, se ei ole pysyvä tila.
Illalla höpöttelen hotellihuoneessani Mayan (nimi muutettu) kanssa, jonka olen tavannut vain muutama tunti aiemmin, ja hän kertoo kuin ohimennen elämänhistoriansa minulle. Hän kertoo, kuinka hankalia avioliitot eri kastin edustajien välillä ovat, millaista on olla eronnut nainen Nepalissa, ja kuinka ex-miehen rakastajattaresta ja väkivaltaisuudesta huolimatta hän on se, joka kantaa epäonnistujan ja eronneen stigmaa, joka voi myös olla esteenä avioliitolle tulevaisuudessa.
Maya vaatii saada tietää, miksi näytän alakuloiselle. Sanon, että minulla on hieman koti-ikävä. Hän kaappaa minut halaukseen sanoen: ”Sinun pitää olla rohkea kun olet yksin kaukana kotoa, mutta minä olen sinulle perhe täällä, kaikki on hyvin.” Mietin itsekseni: niin nepalilaista, kolmessa tunnissa me olemme sydänystäviä.
Ja sillä hetkellä tiedän, että vaikka odotan kotiinpaluuta nähden unia mansikoista ja herneistä, tiedän myös, että kesäkuussa kuljen Kathmandun lentokentän turvatarkastuksen läpi silmät siinä samassa sumussa kuin tänne lähtiessänikin.
Everyone who's lived abroad I most likely very familiar with the term culture shock. It develops slowly and manifests itself in a feeling that the others are acting and behaving in a way that is not rational. Small things will become big things, and sometimes your reactions are completely out of proportion. The things that bug me here are for instance that everything happens in its own time, if at all. I cannot understand why the caste system, illegal for decades, is still in place and upheld; or why women become more or less domestic workers when they marry; or how it can be possible that the damn constitution is still not in place, after almost 10 years. A negative answer will not be given even in the most bizarre situations. Like when you are looking for a specific place and ask a local for directions. They will answer with absolute certainty: 200 meters that way, sister!" even if they have absolutely no idea where the place is. And the next person will guide you in the complete opposite direction. Taxi drivers are my pet-peeve and the object of my holy wrath. For a great majority of them I am the equivalent of that talking and walking fat wallet that justifies ripping me off my charging a fee three-times the actual one.
One night I am fighting over the price of the taxi again. We had negotiated the price to be 300 rupees, which is still extra but bearable, but when I give the driver a 500 rupee note, he refuses to give me change for sorry excuses. In a normal situation I would sit in the taxi until he hands me the change - this is not the first time. But that day, it is all just too much. I gather my bags and yell at the driver: "I hate Nepal, you can go #€&(%/ off, brother!" and slam the door as hard as I can as the tears of anger run down my face. I do not feel even shame even as I know that in this country, you do not act this way, I am too angry and too frustrated with the situation that keeps on repeating over and over again. Fortunately, a culture shock waxes and wanes, it is not a state of permanence.
Homesickness is another thing you just have to learn to live with. It's Easter. I am sitting in the evening program of a training we've organized for head teachers and contact teachers. I've just finished a Skype call to Salo, where my parents live. Behind the pixelated screen I've seen my parents, my grandma and my sister with her family - only my brother is missing. My 18-month-old nieces run around in excitement, kiss the tablet and shriek joyously a word that I interpret must be "Pauliina". We manage to talk only for 10 minutes because the internet connection at the hotel is bad and it keeps cutting me off- 10 minutes is not nearly enough time. I know that my family has just had a big festive lunch that has been prepared with love and I am not there. I close my laptop reluctantly and join the others in the hall. The room is full of happy people from the training but at that point, I would love to be anywhere but there.
But just as I am up to my ears with Nepal, music that sounds out-of-tune squealing, bad coffee and rules of behavior that I fail to understand or follow, the district education office representative and a group of head teachers take over the dance floor. Middle-aged men shake their hips like Bollywood movie stars, clap their hands, each one singing in their own key, hug one another and laugh from the bottom of their stomach, fuelled up by a glass or two of Coca Cola. Each take turns at the mic, they sing, dance, tell stories or jokes. My bad mood melts away and even the homesickness seems to sink to a tolerable level.
At night, Maya (name changed to protect identity), that I have met only a few hours ago, tells me her life story in passing. She shares how difficult inter-caste marriages still can be in Nepal, what it is like to be a divorced woman in Nepal, and how, depite the fact that her husband beat her and had lovers, she is the one bearing the stigma of a failure and the divorcee that may even prevent her from ever marrying again. She tells me that I look a little down and insists to know why. I tell her that I am feeling a bit homesick. She stands up and envelops me in a big hug and tells me: "You must be brave when you are so far away from home, but do not worry, I will be your family here." I think to myself: this is such a Nepali way of being. Three hours in and I have made a wonderful friend in a random person I just happened to meet.
This is a modified version of a column published (in Finnish) in Salon Seudun Sanomat 12.4.2015