Here we are is sharing: Opportunities, Experiences, Growth
The first time I got a severe cultural shock was when my family and I moved to Nepal in 2003. We had planned our move for more than four months and we were well prepared. At that time the country experienced a ceasefire between the Nepalese government and the Maoists. The armed civil conflict had influenced life in the country badly but everything looked a lot more optimistic because of the ceasefire and peace negotiations than it had done the years before.
This ceasefire broke down within the 30 hours it took us to get to Nepal from Europe. When the plane landed, we were in the middle of a war zone. To me this was a chock and very scary. I remember the trip from the airport hugging my two little ones. They were 6 months and 3 years old. I had to hide how scared I was. There were friendly people picking us up, behaving like everything was normal. They would take us to our home – a lovely house was waiting for us. We were located outside Kathmandu in a smaller village. It all sounded very promising.
The first evening the rain was pouring down. I felt so lonely and scared. I just wanted to turn around and go all the way back home. The house was beautiful and there were also very friendly people there to greet us. But it was like in a dream, and the situation we were suddenly left in had a very serious impact on my well-being. I just couldn’t appreciate any of the welcoming people we were surrounded by.
My husband reacted opposite, he was in Nepal to work, and the current situation in the country needed his attention 100 %. He left the next morning. Early.
There I was in an enormous house, with two small kids and a very sick dog we had inherited from the previous tenants. What to do, where to go, how to spend the next 10 hours before my husband would be back? To be honest; it was awful. Even now writing this 13 years later I can feel how lonely I felt.
After a few days I decided to take the older one to school. She was already signed up for a preschool. It was a terrible experience as well. The chock was all over me. I was seriously in crisis. On the way to school we took a taxi. The taxi driver had to take another direction, and friendly as he was, he turned around and looked at me: “There might be a bomb, the road is closed”. I was close to panicking now. I had left the baby at home with a nanny I had only just met. I had no cell-phone. Didn’t know where I was in the city. Didn’t speak the language. And I felt completely unprepared.
And there I was..
..the days went by. Small steps to start to make a life. More and more friendly amazing people. But no one except for one – who was in a similar state – really understood how much I was suffering. I was crying for 45 minutes every evening when my husband got home. If I did not allow myself to cry, I would for sure be making arguments instead. I felt also so bad about not really being able to support him. He had also made a major move.
In the middle of all that I was thinking; why didn’t anyone explain to me what moving out to start a new life – which people look at with admiration and excitement – was really like? Why had no one prepared me or us to how difficult this life sometimes is.
When I had a chance to talk to some of the people who had been in Nepal for maybe 6 months, one year, two years or more, they all loved it. They talked about their amazing jobs, all the trekking. And the civil conflict was a minor thing.
Then after another difficult evening, after a dinner party at one of my husband’s colleagues, a woman called me. It was morning, I was in the house trying to get something out of the day. She asked the question: How are you? Emphasizing me. I already was crying again. She gave me ideas to start my own growth. Exercise, language training, preparing my CV. She was confident that there would be opportunities for me in Kathmandu.
That telephone conversation was a turning point. I signed up at the gym and started going every day. I started my Nepali classes. And somehow found myself while studying the flash-cards with the Nepali alphabet. It was so difficult and needed my full attention. My 3 year old daughter had less tantrums. The atmosphere in the house lifted.
Then one day in the café at the gym, a man came over to my table. He had heard about me. He wanted a copy of my CV. A woman in his circles was in desperate need to see a Western trained physiotherapist.
So there I was. I was suddenly somebody. I was myself. With a full name, a profession and last and not least: an identity.
I ended up living the transition day by day. I ended up remembering the long rainy days with books and jig-saws as a happy memory of my oldest daughter’s childhood. I made friendships I still have. I strengthened my CV. I had a business card. I got busy and successful. I got several jobs. I saw the Himalayas. I stayed four years. And we all ended up loving Nepal.
Nepal will always be in my heart.
Anne-Marie Schönemann is a physiotherapist, currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark. Anne-Marie is Focal point Life and Health, here we are global.