Reflections in Transition

Two weeks ago we left our village in the Himalayas, for the big smoke of Kathmandu. One week ago, we flew to the even bigger smoke of London via an unexpected night stopover in Dubai and now we are in the sometimes snowy suburbs of Minneapolis.

All four of these places are familiar, and yet so different. We are at home in them all, and yet never fully.

I always say it takes a week to adjust to each place. But before everything normalises again, I wanted to quickly record some of the things that stand out as contrasting. Please don’t take any of them as a disrespect to whichever of these lives you may inhabit, they are simply the things that caught my attention.

 

  1. Dads or Grandads?

In the village, most people my age have teenage children. In the previous generation it was very common to marry before the age of eighteen and reproduce shortly after. Most of our neighbours over 40 already have grandchildren. So, when I see bald tubby guys walking around with kids in the UK, I can only guess if they are their children, or grandchildren.

 

  1. Removed from source

Another thing that stands out is how far removed we are from the original source of something in the West.

For example. When we eat a chicken in Nepal, it is slaughtered that day, often before our eyes. I still remember sitting in a little restaurant with the Action Team and watching their faces contort as a live chicken was carried through to the back, and the knife fell with a thud and a squeal before the chicken returned in a curry sauce.  The polythene wrapped chicken drumsticks of the industrial supermarket seem like a strange and very commercial solution compared to this.

It’s the same with clothes. When many of your clothes are made at the local tailor, and you know the person that puts them together. It can seem strange to consider clothes in the West as sorted by brand, not sorted by who actually made them and where.

 

Wendy shelling coffee beans with the neighbours. I wonder which brand this might be sold as in the West?

 

  1. Inside and outside space

Barring some dusty parts of Kathmandu, Nepal is beautiful. Achingly beautiful. People live outside mostly. If we walk along a road, the old ladies will be sitting outside in their chairs, the children are bathed by their parents in the sun and the young men call out from the benches and resting places that are found on most street corners. Inside is only dark and cold, cave-like in a sense and decor is often functional above favourable.

Here back in the USA/UK, interior design is massive. Life is lived mostly inside and the outside is something more to look at from a distance than be at one with.

 

  1. Rich in one world and less rich in another

We spend most of the year, rich beyond our neighbours’ dreams. It is no overestimate to suggest that I earn 10x that of some of my neighbours. It gives me an awful lot of power and options within the village we live in. It compels us to be generous with what we have and this burden of relative wealth is a responsibility not to take lightly.

Yet, when I come back to the West, I hang out with people that earn 10x what I do. Admittedly, that would require someone to have a very good job, and would make them somewhat wealthy, but no more so than I am in the village. It’s a strange adjustment to be on the poorer end of life and an absurd world where one of my friends will earn 100x more than another for an hour’s work. But, that is the truth of things, and it can be hard to hold both realities together.

 

Anyway, the transition window is drawing to a close, and this world is becoming normal again, so I better sign off here.