Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back to life behind the tiger cage

Mornings are a happening time in my neighborhood. The monkeys and peacocks scream for breakfast (my friend Laura actually heard them when we skpyed this morning!), and the tiger roars for his/hers. While there is a very tall wall between the tiger’s cage and the outside world, if Kathmandu ever experiences another severe earthquake (as it did in the early 20th century), that wall will come tumbling down and that tiger will be on the loose. Perhaps the hostel could petition the government for an exception to their arms law....

Not too much has changed since I last left Nepal. Reg, one of the people I am working with, met me at the airport and said that, in a week’s time, it will feel like I never left. That much I have found true. Apart from the consistency of hungry zoo animals, the city is still just as busy, just as dirty, and just as adherent to its own form of common sense (which, as anthropologist Clifford Geertz reminds us, is cultural sense, not common). For example, when I purchased a SIM card for my cell phone, I had to provide the names of my father and grandfather, as well as my photograph and both my thumbprints (in addition to a copy of my visa). When purchasing items from different floors of a local supermarket, I had to make transactions on each floor; I couldn’t bring all my items to one counter.

I was able to walk into my church today without causing much more of a stir than “you’re back! How long for? Eight months?! That’s wonderful!!” Subtle things have changed. Like, Amit and Anu’s (the pastor’s son and son’s wife, both with whom I grew up) little girl is now MUCH bigger, and Amos and Anita (more friends from church) now have their daughter, Angel, who is going on ten months next week. Ramesh, Niran, Anish, Sunil and Arun are the boys I left them—I got a whispered “jaimashee” from Arun (more words than he gave me last time), Niran asking if Robert (my own younger brother) is as fat as he was last year, Ramesh asking all the obvious and silly questions just to get my Nepali flowing again, and their mom alternating between complaining how lazy they are and how well they’re now doing in school (three have now graduated high school and are studying at local colleges).

It felt good to be back in Nepali church again. Pastor Samuel spoke on 1 Peter 4:1-11 today. My own pastor in the States, Milton Vincent, preached on this passage last week, so it was interesting to hear my Nepali pastor preach on it. He had two big points to make: one on suffering and one on prayer. Pastor Milton’s had been all about prayer. Samuel however said maybe three sentences about prayer to wrap up his sermon; the majority of it focused on suffering. In talking about suffering, he emphasized that this was our lot as Christians, that God’s character remained good and sovereign no matter our circumstances, and that often, our sufferings are ordained by God to prune us make us more fruitful for His kingdom.

Tomorrow: English service at Patan Church. This coming week: Nepali lessons begin, and more steady work with the NGO. Stay tuned!