The day I arrived in Nepal was a bit of a blur.
We touched down at Kathmandu airport and Rabindra and I went into separate immigration lines. Surprisingly, my line, the tourist line, was so much longer than the Nepali line.
My first funny memory was going through a body security scanner.
Everything seemed normal until I realised that this one and only run-down security scanner at the country’s only international airport was actually turned OFF.
After my little laugh I headed over to the luggage carousel with Rabindra behind me. Rabindra was distracted talking with his friend who had come over on the same flight as us and as I started to get my suitcase from the carousel, a man pushed in and helped me lift it onto a trolley.
Me being completely naive I didn’t think anything of it (I thought he was an airport security man helping out a lost-looking foreigner) and so when I nodded that Rabindra’s suitcase was next, he pulled it up over his shoulder and onto the same trolley.
Rabindra interrupted and essentially told him to get away (this guy wanted some rupees for pushing our trolley and taking our bags to the car. I felt sorry for the poor guy).
The last stage before exiting out of the airport is a luggage scanner.
It was absolute mayhem as hundreds queued whilst two guards threw on every suitcase they could on this little machine.
As I approached, the guard passed me and Rabindra around the machine with our suitcases. After all the security presence at the airport we didn’t have a body check or bag check.
As we headed out amongst the crowd, Rabindra searching for his brother and cousin, we found them waving us down.
I can’t even remember what I did when I met them because I was so nervous. I think I just said “Namaste” and then followed them to the car.
It was a balmy day, not cold, not hot.
Now, if you have ever been to Nepal and other countries abroad, you will notice that cars in Nepal are seriously like the smallest cars ever.
There only seems to be two kind of cars- these miniature hatchbacks or a van/jeep- nothing in between.
I don’t know how we fit but we managed to squeeze in with one suitcase in the boot and one over our laps.
As we drove to Thamel, I was literally speechless. I stared out the window in awe at what I was seeing.
This was the first time it really hit me. I was finally in Nepal. The day was finally here. After years of waiting, it was finally happening.
Then another feeling hit me. Shock.
It was chaotic, dusty, busy, noisy, unfamiliar.
What I perceived as dire ruins of buildings that had been blown up from a war were actually normal buildings.
And what perceived as severe poverty around me was actually not.
It felt like millions of people were milling around on the side of the roads. Whenever we stopped in a traffic jam, pedestrians would brush past our car, their clothes touching my arm, because there was not enough space on the side of the road for them to walk on.
It was seriously like nothing I had ever seen before.
Nepal was everything like, and nothing like, what I expected it to be.
I’d been warned before I left about culture shock, poverty, pollution, crowds and chaos in Nepal.
And so, here I was, actually experiencing it. I was having culture shock.
I was left with a general sense of unease.
I have no idea what the conversation was about in the car because I was still in shock.
This sense of unease and feeling lost lasted several hours. I wouldn’t say I was scared; I was simply so shocked that I couldn’t speak.
That night we enjoyed a great Nepali dinner of sekuwa and chicken sandeko.
My restful, anxious behaviour was passing.
Then, the next day I was to encouter my first bandh and an unpleasant family meeting that would leave me going to bed crying, so little did I know but I was about to be feeling anxious and nervous all over again.