Working in the 3rd World: Cow Shopping, Power Outages, and Misunderstandings
We’re cow shopping.
Krish, Narayan (the headmaster), and I have been hopping around from farm to farm in search of the perfect cow. We want the most litres produced for the cheapest sale price. Currently, most farms are asking $1,000 per cow and we need six.
The bottoms of my trousers are resting in mud, hay, and water and I’m wearing my $6 pink loafers I bought from Old Navy. My trekking boots unfortunately disintegrated after my Himalayan trek the other week. So this is all I got left; pink polka dotted loafers.
Spray from one cow’s urine is splashing up onto my thigh. I take higher ground on a large pile of dirt.
I’m taller than everyone anyway, and my stuffed backpack from the day’s excursion doesn’t help the situation any. I’m in constant search of a parcel of dry pavement to stay clear as farmers, Krish, and Narayan make their way about the cows; inspecting, gathering information, and taking photos. The dirt pile seems safe.
After a moment though, the pile begins sinking.
Oh wait, it’s manure.
“Katie come,” Krish says quietly.
He pulls me aside foar from the ear of the farmer to discuss price. Some cows are more or less depending on size and milk production. Though since cow is considered Godmother here and thus will never be eaten, size seems irrelevant. I’m still confused on pricing.
Krish also informs me that all the farms in the area have been warned of our intention. Through a clever game of “telephone”, it appears each farmer knows exactly what we want even before our arrival! They know how many cows we want, what prices we’ve already been quoted, and how much money we have to play with! Cheeky farmers!
Price has now inflated $200. Krish suggests we back off for a few days to appear disinterested.
I (and my shoes) have decided to leave the cow shopping to the men.
A Day at the Office
There seems to be an audience gathering as I create an official milk production spreadsheet. There are giggles and pointing, and children asking me questions in Nepali!
Laughing with a large smile, I reply, “I don’t know what you are asking! Me… no Nepali… Tora Tora (meaning little little in their native tongue)!”
They giggle again and run off.
The teacher’s work desk is piled high with papers, notebooks, and textbooks. I wonder how anyone can find anything around here. It reminds me of certain American teachers I worked with back in Colorado and Saigon. Perhaps a future investment of a filing cabinet could be useful.
One smiley female teacher in a pink churidar kurta comes walking into the office. She begins to speak with me in Nepali and again I grin with a I don’t know expression. I hear the word tea mixed into the conversation and reply, “Ma cāhanchu” meaning I want. Now this is something I understand.
She begins making tea on the double gas burner in the far corner of the room. Slowly four more teachers come into the room and sit down besides me as I continue to create my spreadsheets. I have two teachers looking over my left shoulder and one looking over my right. They seem very interested in what I am doing.
I am amused by the situation, knowing very well that I couldn’t work in these conditions back in the States. But for some strange reason, I’m not bothered at all! I giggle at this realization and am happy to show the crowd my project.
I suppose my 5 days of Reiki training this week have allowed me to become much more relaxed.
The power goes out for up to 9 hours a day due to load shedding (meaning Nepal turns off it’s power to sell to India) and internet speed is hugely intermittent. One hour, it can be fast(er) and upload photos and emails with ease, then without a moment’s notice, it will turn into dial-up speed from the 90s.
This is one of those moments.
Power has ceased and my computer battery is at 5%. I’m racing against time to finish these spreadsheets, audience and all.
I decide it’s not worth the headache, and shut down my computer to socialize with the teachers. And by socializing I mean various head nods, hand signals, and confused looks of expression. I take a bowl of lentils provided by the smiley teacher.