My typical five day school week was cut two days short in honor of Dashain, a much needed break from the chaos of school work admist cultural adjustment.
The three day school week went by quickly and was quite exciting. Instead of the usual schedule – language class in the mornings followed by a lecture, lunch and another lecture – a “super secret field methods project” was introduced at the beginning of the week and lasted until the end of the day on Wednesday. While we still had language classes every morning after that we were free to work on our project, titled “there are no street adresses in Nepal.”
It’s true. Well, in practical terms at least. There may be actual street adresses, but no one really uses them. Instead you rely on local landmarks, people on the street, and if feeling desperate enough whipping out the Kathmandu map is always an option. The objective of our project was to track down, get in contact with & interview an individual of choice (related to our research projects which the semester is based in preparation for) concerning development in Nepal. While many students felt they needed to get the most relevant person and useful information, the project was more about the process of the task rather than the outcomes.
I tracked my person of interest down by email (which is odd for Nepal – most people aren’t so good at returning these in a timely fashion, if at all) and successfully scheduled an interview. Easy. The process of actually finding the office was another story, however. After establishing a nearby temple as a landmark, I left my house in a hurry (he emailed me 45 minutes before the meeting he had scheduled) and hailed a taxi. After finding a taxi willing to take me for the price I negotiated I was dropped off at the temple. Turns out I was desperate enough to pull out my Kathmandu map since I had never been in this area, a small residential side street. I asked some of the people on the street to help me orient myself on the map as I had marked where the office was located, and after walking up and down the street I had been dropped off in for a good twenty minutes I decided the information I’d be recieving may not have been the most accurate. Frusterated, I called the man whom I’d scheduled the interview with who eventually led me to his office by talking to a nice Nepali man on the street (who didn’t speak a word of English).
This situation is a typical one in Nepal, and I guess that was the point of the project. In the end, it all worked out, as things always seem to do, but it was not without difficulty. In exactly one month I’ll be heading out into Nepal all alone and will have to rely on methods such as these.. the assignment proved to be a lesson in disguise, a very useful lesson indeed.