To bee honest…
In one of those ironies of life, me, a self-avowed early hater of qualitative research has now become an “expert” in qualitative research. Well expert is stretching it, but after four years of mostly qualitative research, I have gotten a bit good at it. So in mid-September I had the opportunity to work with Dutch NGO as a qualitative research consultant and conduct four days of qualitative training in Nepal.
Sound very cool right? Well, I actually was not enthused with the idea of this trip. Mainly because it would have been my third trip in less than a month and I was itching to stay at home and just be able to buy groceries.September is also the month when new college and master students make their appearance on university campuses around the world. And in the spirit of honesty some of my reluctance was fear based because this was, as my boss liked to put it, my first “global consultancy” and I truthfully wasn’t sure what to expect of the trip. I can tell you that my general reluctance was not helped by being informed that I could not get my visa in Amsterdam. Why? Well citizens of Nigeria, Iran, Afghanistan, Ghana and a couple of countries I don’t remember needed to present themselves at the embassy in Brussels. Although, I must say that the Nepalese embassy is to date my most pleasant embassy interactions, and I have actually never had anyone be nasty to me (knock on wood). It still resulted in a wasted day during a very busy period.
The result of all this was I was 100% stressed before my trip. Being the weird human I am, I sort of enjoyed the resulting need to work on my laptop while on a flight. I just felt so grownup and consultant like. That feeling faded during my 5 hour layover in New Delhi between 1:00am and 5:00 am. I was prepared to catch up with friends and instagram, so imagine my dismay when I was informed that the internet was only available for 45 minutes! I was grateful for any internet of course but 45 minutes was just not going to cut it. Luckily I could and did pay 100 rupees (€1.19 OR $1,38 or 500 Naira) for 5 GB of internet
All the pre-travel and travel drama over, the plane was descending over Kathmandu and the highlights begin
The views: Nepal is basically synonymous with mountains, hiking and Sherpas. Unfortunately this was a complete work trip and I did not get to leave the Kathmandu valley. However, I did get to see some fantastic views of the mountains from the plane and throughout my time in the Kathmandu valley.
The people: The people are always the best part of every country. That said I have never found airport arrivals to be the best representation of any country and it was no different in Kathmandu. We (my colleague and I) had the following conversation with the taxi guy who met us at the airport
Him: Here is the taxi, he take you to the hotel
Us: Great! Thanks!
Him: I don’t go with you, so you give me money now
Us: Oh! Erhmmmm! Okay!
Him: Dollar okay
Her: Here you go (money handed over, door slammed, welcome to Nepal)
Considering that I am Nigerian and have had experiences in low and middle-income countries, I must say this was one of the most brazen requests for funds I have ever received.
But the airport aside every other individual I met in Nepal was amazing. From the hotel staff, to street vendors and my colleagues at work. My amazing colleagues made it their mission to feed me and ensure I explored Kathmandu despite my protests about needing to work. I have also rarely felt as safe as I did walking around Thamel district at all times of the day and night as a single black female.
The food: I am a fan of Indian food and for some inexplicable reason I had made so many correlations between India and Nepal. Of course they are neighbours and there are definitely similarities but also many differences. However, the food I got to eat , Newari food ,was completely distinct from India fare. Full of distinct complex flavours and spices which I sometimes miss in Indian food. I have to say that Momos are the bomb, but Momos for 7 days was a just a teeny bit much.
Joy: It is really hard to explain but sometimes you find yourself in a place, a context and you feel an inexplicable amount of Joy. That was Nepal for me. Looking back on every picture from my trip I am struck by just how happy I was. Despite the work schedule, traffic, dealing with jet lag, living in a hotel and the obvious social issues around me I was still happy. If I have to examine it closer, I would be tempted to say I felt oddly at home in a country so different yet so similar to Nigeria.