As soon as I moved into Kalidas’s unhappy house, I realized that I had had it with Nepal. I like Kalidas, in spite of his domineering ways. He looks me straight in the eyes, which Sugandha rarely did. And he shows the pain of their terrible loss. Not five months ago, they lost their 19 year-old daughter to cancer. He told me directly that the reason he wanted me to live with them was to keep his wife company and to teach her English. I feel sorry for them, but I also think they expect too much from me.
I needed a place where I could relax and recover from the long, hot days. Communal dinners with the other volunteers living at Sugandha’s house provided a wonderful respite. There was much laughter, usually because Brendan was entertaining everyone with silly impersonations of redneck, gun-toting Americans trying to speak Nepali or interacting with foreigners of any kind. He has a gift for jokes—they just tumble out of his mouth. The Brits found him hilarious and insisted that he should be on TV. At Kalidas’s house, I was the entertainment and the teacher at once. Dinner was an exhausting ordeal of answering personal questions or dodging obvious traps such as the following:
Kalidas: We Nepalis have such a relaxed way of life, whereas you westerners are rushing around all the time.
Me: Yes, we live to work, while you work to live.
Kalidas: Who has the better life, Nepalis or Westerners?
Me: Um, well, it depends on which Nepalis and which Westerners you’re talking about. Do you mean Kathmandu street children? Do you mean wealthy businessmen such as yourself?
Kalidas, ignoring my efforts to complicate the question entirely: Which lifestyle is healthier? Who has the better life?
Me: I really couldn’t say. I’m sorry, I just can’t seem to decide.
Kalidas: We Nepalis have the better life….
And here would commence another long lecture about the superiority of Nepal. After two days in his house, Kalidas had convinced himself that I would soon see the light, marry a proper Nepali man, and settle here, in Pepsi-Cola.
It was awkward. I had to get out of there, and did. After a week at this house I rode my bike to Boudha. The ride home that night was hilarious and harrowing. I will write about it in a separate post