We spent some time in Tansen, the place where we will move in January and live for the next 2 years. Our agency has a vehicle that makes weekly trips back and forth between Kathmandu and Tansen. It is half bus, half truck (much to our son’s delight) nicknamed ‘The Buck’. The Buck leaves from Kathmandu on a Thursday and lives in Tansen until the following Wednesday when it returns to Kathmandu. Hence a ‘Buck Week’ in Kathmandu is longer than one in Tansen. You can put your calendar away and trust us on this one. Sooo, we spent a Buck Week, + some, in Tansen and here is a quick little play by play.
Day 1 – Disoriented getting off the Buck, 10 hour drive, rowdy kids, nausous Hannah, stressed out Dave. We settled into a temporary abode, the home of an ex-pat family on home leave. The toilets are just bowls, and you have to flush with collected shower or sink water. Never quite smells like it was properly flushed. Hmmm, gonna have to get used to that. Dinner at the Tansen guest house with Dutch or maybe Swedish nursing students. Still kind of disoriented, back to the flat to hit the sack.
Day 2 – One of the other Docs takes Dave on a early morning run. Up, up, up. Dave realizes the whole place is a hill and the only way to go is up or down and then up again eventually. It will take Hannah several more days to have this realization. Hospital tour and a hike around Tansen. Hospital is kind of empty and silent. Remembered it is the Hindu holiday, Tihar. People try not to be sick on holidays and Nepali hospital staff gets vacation. Hospital is empty except for Maternity Ward, since the government hospital in town is actually closed, the Tansen hospital is the only place to have a baby. Dinner with a Norwegian family with kids! Children amuse each other, adults chat. Put the kids to bed, avoid the bathroom, brush teeth in the kitchen.
Day 3 – Dave hit the hospital for early morning rounds, following one of the other doctors around to get the lay of the land. Typical developing country stuff Dave has seen before : Tuberculosis, meningitis, pneumonia, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, and typhoid (this was a first)! The nurses are totally with it! No time wasted running around looking for charts. An old man dies while we are rounding, but then we are called for delivery of a healthy boy, so the census and gender count break even. Lunch with the family moving out of the house we will move into. Gorgeous new (to us) house!! A friend commented that it looks as if we are moving into Downton Abbey. Nepali style house, so tiny door ways and narrow steep stair cases. Dave thumps head a couple of times and may just have to wear a helmet around and we might have to relegate children to one floor. House does not come with oven and washing machine. Hannah has decided those are necessities and will be added. We will purchase most of the leaving family’s furniture and house stuff. Thumbs up to their taste and style.
Day 4 – Another morning rounds for Dave. Hannah takes a trip into the actual town of Tansen, where it finally dawns on her the place is on a hill. The market is sleepy and quite unlike Kathmandu and is just getting started for the day at 10 a.m. Also unlike Kathmandu it is impossible to get away with English. Must speak Nepali to shopkeepers. All goes fine till they say the price, Nepali recognition breaks down and is followed by fumbling for cash getting it wrong and most shop keepers finally just take pity and simply write it down. Our son stalks the playground outside of the ex-pat school waiting for class to let out and the playground to fill with English speaking kids! The first he has found since coming to Nepal.
Day 5– A Saturday – the Nepal equivalent of Sunday. Shops are closed. Nepali Christians go to church, Hindu ones go to temple. Another American family makes a pancake breakfast! This family comes with a one year old. Our 18 month old is finally bigger than someone and loves it. She beats up their baby. We apologize and go to church. It is entirely in Nepali. Men sit on one side, women on the other, and “progressive thinkers” sit in the middle. We try to sing along. 10 minutes of singing and it dawns on Dave they will make him stand up and introduce our family, a slightly embarassing tradition in Nepali church. Dave quits trying to sing and in his head, frantically starts practicing introductions in Nepali. Dave notices our new language teaches 2 rows ahead, panic worsens. The introduction is accomplished, people nodd politely. Church ends, pats on the back and compliments on ‘efforts in learning Nepali’ to Dave. Lunch, naps, English church service with the other bedeshis, dinner at the guest house, bed.
Day 6– Language lessons in the morning. We review our past lessons and are embarrassed at how much we have already forgotten, and also embarrassed about how much we have to learn. A quiet day of studying and getting out for some hikes. Our son is in his element hiking around and has earned a new title of “mountain man.” Can’t believe the mountains in this place! Children are playing with the massive Annapurna’s directly on the horizon. Don’t they realize where they are? It is amazing!
Day 7– More language. More naps. More hikes. Head up to the Ex-pat school and meet our son’s new teacher, Miss Sophia. Teacher is Australian, students are Canadian, Norwegian, Swedish, Indian, Korean and American. Looks like a great place! Our son is excited. Packing to head back to Kathmandu. Pizza night (Nepali style) with the American couple.
Day 8– Board the Buck for the trip back. 3 car accidents on the winding roads. Hannah pukes. Our son revolts. Our daughter doesn’t nap. Ahhh back to Kathmandu.
All in all a good trip. Seems like a great place to set up shop for a few years. But then on the other hand It will be another move but this time with out the ‘I’m in a new country!’ excitement and more water and electric shortages.
When we first arrived in Tansen, I got a little bit of the ‘us and them’ vibe while staying on the hospital compound. I’m wary of the whole ex-pats keep to themselves thing in mission and development projects because I think it kinda defeats the whole purpose. If you are going to another country to minister to and help the people you should, you know hang out with the people. As the week went on the negative vibe wore off when I noticed that almost all the bedeshis spoke Nepali, 80% of the hospital, clinics, nursing school staff and those wandering around the compound were Nepali, and there was even a bedeshi or two in the clinic waiting rooms. The situation in Tansen rang true to what I’ve noticed about Nepal in general, the Nepalis are working toward their own country’s development, with a little help from their bedeshi friends. The Nepali church is ministering to the Nepali people with the ‘got your back’ support of bedeshi Christians. I’m proud of Nepal in that way. Development has been done according to the Nepali community needs and driven and facilitated by Nepalis. The Christian church in Nepal has always been and remains totally run by Nepali Christians. Nepal has come a long way since it became an open country in 1951. It is a poor country and like any country it has its issues, but Nepal is going to be just fine and I’m glad we can be a little part of it.
To see some more pictures of our trip to Tansen, Click Here.
What an awesome account!! You even have me wanting to move there! How wonderful you want to mingle with the Nepali people. We pray you have many opportunities to be a friend and learn the language quickly.
Are those marigolds blooming in the picture of the house with the back porch? Is it summer there?
Not summer. Winter, just at a different latitude. There are marigolds, poinsettia, and mums all blooming right now.
I just read this post (for the first time) — definitely weird to think of how all this was written before your family had really even set up shop here in Tansen… And how THAT was a full year before I’d ever even set eyes on the town! Time is SUCH a strange thing. But this kind of reflection is also a really cool benchmarker to show how far we’ve all come since then. (PS, Day 5 had me positively LOL’ing.)