The Amazing Jyväskylä!

The Amazing Jyväskylä!
Me at the harbor of Jyväskylä

05 September, 2014

Finally made it to Nepal for my internship!

It was a long long long trip to get to Nepal from Finland but I made it! I am finally here in Kathmandu – the capital of Nepal.

I arrived in Kathmandu on 3rd September and my friend G (I don’t know if she’s okay with me mentioning her name so I’ll use the initial) picked me up at the airport with a car sent by the organization of my internship. Needless to say how happy I was when I saw her since we haven’t seen each other for more than a year now and the last time we said goodbye, we did not know when we would see each other again. But now I am already here, which we both found so surreal. We talked and caught up as if we had been seeing each other every day for the past year.

Arriving at the Tribhuvan International Airport and trying to get a visa upon arrival could already make a good story. After getting out of the plane, even though the gate could be reached with less than 2 minute walking, we were asked to wait for the bus. The first batch of passengers had already departed when I was outside the plane. So, together with lots of other passengers, I waited. The bus finally came around for the second pick-up. Everyone was trying to push themselves through to get inside the bus with no particular order or priority. I’m no stranger with this custom, to be honest. So, I went with the flow otherwise I would have to wait under the sun for additional 10 minutes for the next bus ride.

Finally, I reached the gate, due to a recent outburst of a particular disease in some African countries, there was a sign advising those who had been to these disease-affected areas in Africa to have their health checked with the doctors located right there at the international arrival gate. Well, I had never been to Africa or in contact with anyone from those areas so it didn't concern me, of course.

I kept walking to the visa application stands. They had 4 or 5 machines there for the visa application. What I did was to scan my passport and the basic information (such as name, nationality, date of birth) was then recorded on the screen. I was stupid enough to keep my passport cover on, so I had a hard time scanning the passport. An airport staff saw that and came over to help me. I then filled in other required information, posed a silly pale face in front of the webcam for an ID photo and a slip was printed out for me. I was told to present the slip when asked. I received a copy of the slip later on in my email confirming that Department of Immigration had received my online visa application. I was very impressed with the availability of technology they had in the airport. That might be due to the giant number of tourists who come here to climb and trek Mt. Everest every year.

I went on to pay my visa fee and it was 100 USD for a 90-day visa. I got a receipt and was told to proceed to the next table to get the official stamp. They had 4 tables for 15-day, 30-day, 60-day and 90-day visa. To my surprise, many people actually applied for 90-day visa and they all said it was their first time in Nepal. This is the stage where I spent the most time waiting because the computers kept shutting down while the officer was asking me questions and typed up my answers on his computer. Well, I found it hilarious rather than annoying because every time it shut down, the custom officer acted so irritated and frustrated, then with the typical Nepali head motion (can be seen often with Indians as well) he complained in a few sentences and got back to work. I remembered the electricity went out once (all the lights and computers immediately shut down) and after that his computer just shut down by itself for no reason for another 2 times before he could finish filling in the form. I later on told my friend about this while apologizing to her about the long wait, she said to me: “That’s Nepal, you know. You’ll see.” And we burst out laughing.

After obtaining the visa, I was headed to the baggage claim area and my bag had not been sent out yet. I waited for a little longer and felt so relieved when I saw my giant backpack slowly make its way out on the luggage carousel (yes, I actually had to google this word!) because I was supposed to claim my bag in Delhi but I wasn't able to do so without a visa to India so I had to ask the airlines to do it for me and I was not so sure if they got it right. Bottom line, I was just glad that my bag did not end up in another flight to somewhere else.

My friend took me to the apartment which would be my home for the next three and a half months. It’s a two-story red-brick house at the dead-end of an alley. I was happy at first since this location often meant peace and silence. I found out the bitter truth early enough the next morning that I would be woken up every morning in several different stages: the rooster at 4 or 5, the water pump a short while after that, the construction nearby of course since I am totally under the curse of being followed by constructions wherever I live.

However, the landlords are very kind people. The husband is a retired geologist; the wife is chemistry professor at a renowned university in Kathmandu; their daughter somewhat shares the same background with me: bachelor’s degree in development studies and master’s degree in International Relations in Germany, now working for a local NGO. She’s a friend of my friend G. I actually was able to rent the apartment downstairs of her family’s house through this channel. They all live on the first floor and I now live on the ground floor.

I had a short greeting conversation with the landlords, which was pretty much about the power shortage and using the electricity in as much moderation as possible; I finally came to understand why the organization of my internship was working on energy-related issues. I learned later on that Nepal has never had enough resources to provide electricity for its citizens even in the capital city. Only wealthy households can afford the generators to have back-up electricity for 24 hours. 

Depending on the weather, the power cut schedule is changed monthly. Here, they call it the load-shedding schedule. The city is divided into 5 groups with different hours of power cut. For example, I am now living in group 5 area, on every Friday of September, the electricity is cut from 12 pm to 4 pm and then from 8 pm to 10 pm. So, that means every day, electricity is cut for about 7 or 8 hours. In dry season, the number of hours without electricity certainly increases. That’s why most of the traffic lights do not work and the traffic police here have to work very hard during the day to keep the traffic flow. Traffic in Kathmandu is completely reckless, one has to admit that; but then again, I am no stranger with chaotically crazy traffic. It actually makes me feel right at home. It’s the beauty of chaos, you’ll always somehow find order in it. It keeps people awake and alerted. Everything is alive the second you step out of the house. I had thought that I would have some difficulties adjusting back to this lifestyle after a year in Finland, but that was easy! I've been on the back of my friend’s scooter after such a long time not riding one and it really made me homesick.

Later on, my friend took me to a super market near the apartment by to get some food since I was starving. I ended up buying only instant noodles because we couldn't exchange any money at the time and she was lending me the money for the food. Well, I guess at least it was better than the croissant I had on my first day in Jyvaskyla.

In the evening, after Skype session with my parents, I was just happy to finally be able to rest on a proper bed after 2 days of constant movement. Isn't it the magic of traveling? When you are derived from certain undermined essentials such as a simple bed, you grow to appreciate more and more what you used to take for granted. Well, it’s just an example. I have never taken my bed for granted. Together with a soft pillow, they are my dearest friends in the world! ;)) Haha, don’t take me too serious though! But I do love my bed! Always!

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