Mahabir Pun didn’t start his college career at the University of Nebraska at Kearney as you would expect. First, he arrived January 4, 1989 during winter break when most of the university was shut down. Second, his English speaking skills were challenged. He could
Thomas House, UNK, Nebraska. Photograph compliments of WikiMedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_House_(Kearney,_Nebraska)_from_NE.JPG
read and write English well but his conversational English didn’t allow for easy banter with staff or students. No, Mahabir didn’t spend those first weeks buried in books, chatting with other students and finishing his assignments…he spent it figuring out how to shower and in front of the dormitory lounge television.
“The college was closed because of the Christmas vacation. Only the Resident Director was there at the dormitory. There was cable TV in the lounge and we spent most of our time watching TV. That was the first time in my life I used the remote control of TV and I enjoyed watching different channels for many hours. However, we had problem in taking shower. For the first two days we could not take shower. We tried to take shower in the bathroom but there was no water. We turned the knob of the shower left and right many times and there was no water coming from the shower. We thought maybe there was no water just in the shower. After two days, I asked the Resident Director as when there would be water in the shower. She told that there should be water in the shower. When I told that there was no water coming, she came to the shower room and turned it on and there was water. She showed us how to turn the shower on. What we were doing was that we were just turning the knob left and right only. What we had not done was pull the shower knob. We had never used that kind of knob in Nepal.”
Have you ever traveled and been stymied by a simple task? Share your story with my readers. I recall a fellow traveler in Nepal who had never seen a pit toilet and instead of squatting over the pit he sat down with legs sticking out the door. Join me next week for more about Mahabir Pun’s early college days in Kearney.
Mahabir Pun and Dhananjaya’s journey to the USA was not without adventure. Imagine two young men who had never been out of their country traveling thousands of miles to a country they only knew from reading and talking to others. They traveled by way of Bangkok and Seattle, finally arriving in Denver where they were to make a connection to Kearney, Nebraska. Mahabir admitted his lack of practice with conversational English had gotten him into some precarious situations. Mahabir described some of his mis-adventures along the way and one in particular made me smile because it underscores how the differences in cultural norms between countries can cause the worst and the best of outcomes:
I wonder if Mahabir missed his Himalayan mountains while in the flatlands of the midwest?
“In Denver airport, we could not find our luggage and tried to find it everywhere. However, we could not find it. Finally we found the airline counter and told them that we were late because we were trying to find our baggage. The airline people told that the plane had already left for Kearney and our baggage was already sent. It happened because we did not know that the airline transfers the baggage to connecting flight by themselves to the last destination and that we are not required to collect our baggage to put on the connecting flight. It was 11 pm at Denver airport and we had no idea what to do. We asked the airline people what we could do. They were so kind for us. They provided us a hotel that day and put us on next day’s flight to Kearney.”
Have you ever been in a jam and had a total stranger help you? Share your story with my readers. I recall one time when my husband and I were stranded at the Miami airport with broken ribs and an angelic American Airlines staffer secured a flight to NYC on Super Bowl weekend during a blizzard. Join me next week and read about Mahabir’s first few weeks in Kearney.
Up in the far right corner is the declaration “100% vegetarian”. And is it my imagination or do those tea leaves on the cup resemble marijuana?
When I am traveling in rural Nepal the various food choices still stun me. The variety offered on the trekking trails by local restaurants and lodges is geared to appeal to the western palate. Despite tasty temptations such as “real pizza” and Scandinavian pancakes I eat mostly dal bhat…lentils and rice. It’s the national basic food source, always freshly made, well cooked and nourishing…and I rarely get sick from those notorious intestinal hitchhikers found in developing countries.
Cheerful families always “guarantee freshness”.
I am often amused by the packaging…especially since many declare their product as guaranteed fresh.
Speaking of fresh…eggs come no fresher in the village.
But my all time favorite food is happy cookies! Have a cheerful day and I’ll be back next week with more about Mahabir Pun’s early days in Nebraska.
Someone asked me, “How did Mahabir actually get to Kearney?”. So I asked Mahabir for more details and the story he told me comes as no surprise. It made me draw in my breath, laugh and sigh at the sheer incredulousness of a man driven by faith in his universe, path and fellow man.
After receiving confirmation from the college Mahabir and Dhananjaya applied for and were granted visas without difficulty. Dhananjaya received money for his trip from his family but Mahabir’s travel plans became more complicated. This story is best told in Mahabir Pun’s own words, so read on…
“but I had no money with me to get air ticket and for some other expenses. Therefore I visited many people, who I thought would help. In the mean time one of my friends had helped to book air ticket through a travel agent but I did not have money to pay for that. The cost for the air ticket was seven hundred dollar.
Typical white Kathmandu taxi. These are 20+ year old Toyota or Suzuki brand vehicles. Sitting in the back seat over rusted floor boards…you may have to extract a spring from your derrière.
“Since the college had provided partial scholarship, we had to have some money to pay for the school expenses. However, I could not get any support from the people I asked for help. Then I went to one of my cousin’s husband and asked if he could help. He was working in Nepal Army and his designation was Major. He had just arrived from the peace keeping mission of UN in Lebanon. He told that he had brought two VCRs and I could sell one and use the money. It was a time in Nepal that TV and VCR were very expensive and were new. I took the VCR and sold it in the market at around $900 (USD). Then another friends, whom I had helped in the past and was working with a British Project, provided about $500 (USD). One of my student at high school, who was running a shop in Kathmandu provided about $200 (USD). The money were received just about a week before our departure date to the US. Thus I got the money in Nepalese Rupee.
“However, the big problem was to exchange the money in dollar. We had to get approval from the Ministry of Education to get permission for exchange. Dhananjay and I went to the Ministry of Education, filled up the request form and submitted five day before our departure date. The process was so slow that we did not have permission to exchange dollar just a day prior to the departure date…We had not paid for the air ticket also because they required the payment in dollar. The Education Ministry people gave the dollar exchange permission letter just before 4 pm and our airport reporting time was 11 AM the following day. The bank was closed by then. We showed the dollar exchange permission letter to the airline and they issued the ticket around 5 PM. The only baank that could issue dollar that time was Nepal Rashtra Bank of the government.
“The following morning, we went straight to the bank at 10 AM with our baggage and the bank was not even opened. Around 10:20 the manager showed up. We requested to the manager in the bank to help us get the dollar as soon as possible and we showed him our air ticket. Still it took some time to do the processing and we got dollar at 11 AM. We took a taxi and headed straight to the airport and arrived there at 11:30 AM, which was not too late. After we checked in we took a deep breath of relieve. Thus we left Nepal for the long trip to the US.”
Have you ever had a a frantic rush to meet a deadline? Did you ever ask yourself if circumstances were truly out of your control? or do you secretly enjoy the drama and suspense? Join me next week as I take a break in the story and give you a pictorial armchair experience of Kathmandu.