My Blue Sweater

(Sorry, wrote this in April from Nepal, but forgot to post it ...)

I wasn’t sure, how I would feel about coming back to Besi Sahar. The previous few months getting settled in the village had been a challenging time of trying to build a new life, and form a new community in a new place. So it was with some hesitation that I returned alone to complete my research in some of the local schools in the area.

After getting of the bus back in Lamjung, I paused at the bottom of the path to our house. The road, was dug up, and the prospect of lugging my 30kg suitcase up the 150 steps seemed daunting. In my moment of consideration, the neighbour’s 8 year old son came past, offered to carry my backpack for me, and scampered up the hill ahead of me. I followed behind with the suitcase, slowly, stopping regularly, much to the amusement of the faces peering from windows, rooves and balconies. After, greeting the landlords, I headed inside for a shower and to get changed, and that’s when I found it… my old sweater.

It’s blue, 100% polyester, worn in the armpits, a little stretched and has an interesting smell. In the same way that Clark Kent puts his underpants over his leggings to become superman, I put on my ill-fitting sweater to become, well Simon in an ill-fitting sweater that reminded him of what it means to work in Nepal.

I put on my sweater, and my old Twins baseball hat and walked down the street. Head held just high enough to indicate self-respect, and low enough to prevent the ubiquitous calls of “Hello Tourist” that greet any white people whose heads bob up for a fraction too long.

Sweating dutifully in my sweater, and alongside my trusty translator, I trekked up the foothills of the Himalayas to the village schools.  With sleeves rolled up, we ate rice with our hands and together we interviewed thirteen teachers, and listened to their fascinating stories.

Back in town, my sweater and I watched Nepali Dance Idol with one of the principals, cheering on a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. We drunk sweet tea on the balcony with the neighbours, and watered the pomegranate tree. While wearing my sweater I remembered, that I like this life, and I felt more connected than before.

And at the end of my trip, I hung my sweater back in the wardrobe, and closed the door to my flat. I said goodbye to my neighbours who had become my regular UNO playing companions, and farewell to my landlords who packed me off with Nepali donuts for both mine and Wendy’s families.

After six busy, and fulfilling weeks wearing my sweater back in the village, I became convinced of my desire to return here with my small family in the future. And, for that confirmation, and to everyone who helped me on my trip I am extremely grateful.