One of the truths of working in anthropology is that you never know what is going to be useful. Really. So in most cases, ethnographic fieldworkers often find themselves documenting everything they can (including the most inconsequential minutia) with the somewhat agnostic hope that God will sort it out later.
My first day in Kathmandu has already proven a fine example of this dilemma. Though the airline lost my baggage somewhere between New York and Abu Dhabi, and therefore left me without my field notebook, I’ve been able to jot notes here and there on my guesthouse receipts and a couple of business cards I picked up from a trekking agency office. So far this has included thoughts about the still obvious earthquake damage I’ve already encountered, the generally warm welcome of everyone I have met, and the reactions I have gotten from shop-keepers and service people when I converse with them in Hindi rather than English (confused then excited). Without meaning to, I think I may also have partially terrified the woman sweeping the guesthouse stairs this morning when I asked her how she was today (Aj aap kaisi hain?). But since then, every time she sees me walking past she is keen to talk to me right away, mostly for the novelty of it I think. The other good news is that, as it turns out, I am able to communicate more and understand much more than I thought I would initially. Though Hindi and Nepali have a great deal in common, they are not the same language, and I was concerned my previous language learning wouldn’t be as beneficial as I hoped. Clearly, I am quite pleased to be proven wrong in this case.
Even better I also had the foresight to pack my camera in my carry-on, so I haven’t been without the joys of looking like a true tourist as well. Other than that, I am left until tomorrow with my computer, a bottle of Tylenol, and a bag of Skittles I bought at the airport. At least I thought to wear comfortable clothes. Thankfully, a few hours wandering through the narrow streets of Thamel District (not far from my guesthouse) I was able to find the bare essentials necessary to see me through: a power converter to charge my computer and a bottle of shampoo. Seeing as I haven’t bathed in three days, I’m really looking forward to the latter.
So, speaking of which, I think I might just get to it while we’re all taking a mid-day heat rest.