Nepal Travelogue: GMC Study Abroad – Ethnographic Blog Series pt. 8

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 4.12.14 PMBy: Seraphina Mallon-Breiman

Sarangkot: during our last day of trekking, we finally came to a flat road, presenting Padam with the opportunity to put me on the back of a motorbike to travel to our next location more quickly.  “Relieved, but nervous, my gaze traveled toward Padam’s outstretched hand in the direction of the man on the motorbike. It was at this moment that I realized I would be alone for this ride; my expression must have shown my anxiety. There was no helmet to offer me. I got on the back of the bike and immediately we took off, just the two of us. We rode for a bit in silence, I was still thoughtful and wondering where I was to be left off considering I didn’t know the name of the hotel. Two minutes passed and I began to feel alright, enjoying the expressions of the little children passing us on their way back from school. I began shouting back to them as we drove by, ‘Namaste! Hello! Namaste!’ I began feeling so comfortable that I forgot I was still riding with a strange man. He turned around, then, and asked ‘Your legs were tired?’ I replied, ‘No, I got sick on the trek.’ He nodded. A minute later asked, ‘You’re not scared?’ This made me nervous, but also feel like laughing. I said, ‘Why should I be scared? This bike is less bumpy than the bus we took earlier.’ He laughed, saying ‘I don’t know, scared because we are going fast, we have only just met, you are alone…’ I shook my head. I wasn’t. I wasn’t scared. Maybe I was being an idiot… He told me I was brave, meaning the comment genuinely, without any condescending tone, which feels common here. Tones and expressions in English, from Nepali people and especially men, sometimes sound harsher than I think they intend. We were both intrigued by each other, this bike rider and I.

He asked, ‘Where are you from?’

‘New York.’

‘Are all of those people your friends?’

I said yes, that we were all here together from college, that we study together.

He said, ‘What do you study?’

‘Sociology and anthropology.’ I asked if he studied near where we were, and he claimed he studied in Pokhara.

I asked what form of study.

‘Sociology,’ he smiled.

I smiled too. His English was very good. He asked if I smoked cigarettes and if I wanted to take a rest because the group would take much longer to get where we were already sitting. It seemed this suggestion was more put forth with the intention to continue talking and spending time together for another minute. With this In mind, I said yes that we should stop even if I wouldn’t smoke much. We pulled over by the side of a very pretty pond, he claimed that usually the water was much higher here. We sat.

After more discussion, we found we were both only children, both about the same height, both enjoyed dancing and making music more than sports and the similarities continued. We were becoming friends.

We jumped back on the bike after he finished his cigarette and we drank some water. Driving back, we kept talking, his responsibility of bringing me to a new destination became less significant than our comradery. We were sociologists from two different sides of the universe.

He asked if all I’d be doing when we got to the hotel would be waiting around. I said yes, and he suggested this might be very boring for me. He waited a few more minutes and then asked if I’d like to park the bike and walk to a lookout once we’d gotten there. I did. We parked and continued to the top of the town, walking for about ten minutes. We paid thirty rupees each, the equivalent to about thirty cents, which gave us access to a beautiful lookout tower and panoramic view of Sarangkot. He said he hadn’t been there since he went last with his girlfriend, but that they’d broken up and now she was married. Interesting… Finally, our time came to part, we added each other on Facebook and he said, ‘Who knows if I’ll ever be able to see NYC?’ I told him I’d show him around when he got there.”

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