Amanda in Nepal: "This little country captured my heart"

Expat interviews
  • Amanda in Nepal
Published on 2014-05-22 at 00:00
Retired American widow, Amanda fell in love with Nepal at the first sight! She settled in an ancient city near Kathmandu and enjoys everyday like a treasure...

Why did you decide to move to Nepal?

I am a retired widow from the US and actually started out trying to get to Africa. Long story short; when I got to Nepal on a visa run for India I took one look at the Himalayas and cried like a baby. I knew I was home. This little country captured my heart.

How was the moving process?

When it was time for my children to move out I gave them anything and everything from our rental home that they needed or wanted. Then I had a garage sale and got rid of most of the rest of it. My husband was in end stage heart failure and died shortly thereafter. The process actually took a couple of years from that point. Everything I did from that point on was to prepare me to make my 'Great Escape'.
I took a box of give-aways full of angels, books, etc. every week to church for at least a month. I gave up everything except my car and a couple boxes of special things I couldn't give away. Then I traveled around the US. I just couldn't break free. Finally I met a woman on the internet in Europe who wanted to go to Africa, where I was planning on going since I was a child. Fortunately for me, the gods must have had other plans for me because I just couldn't get to Africa - no matter what I did. I actually got stuck in Europe for three additional months and finally made it to India on my last Euro. After a few monthly retirement checks I was able to get to Nepal. Well, actually, India was requiring me to leave for visa issues. At that point I only knew where I wasn't going - back to America or onto Africa. When I looked out the bus window and saw the Himalayas I cried. It was at that moment I knew I was home.

What are the formalities you had to go through to be able to stay in Nepal?

I had no clue how I was going to settle down in Nepal. I'm actually just a widow without an inheritance and my small savings was gone by the time I arrived. I had five months to figure it out, so I opted for a student visa and registered to learn Nepalese. Unfortunately for me, the school put me in a class where most of the students spoke Nepalese to some extent and I was learning only words, not phrases. I dropped out, which is a very bad thing if you want to stay in Nepal long term.
The good news was that interest rates are quite good in Nepal compared to the West. It made an excellent investment for an affluent relative to put up the capitol required for me to get a business visa in Nepal.

Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do's and don'ts)?

Other than the language issues, there were many, more subtle nuances in navigating the culture that I was ill prepared for. I'm an American with a vagabond's stipend, but I'm rich in Nepal. If I manage my finances I can have anything I need, but it was difficult during the first two years. I think I'm finally ahead of the learning curve and can handle things better now.

What surprised you the most in Nepal?

I am still appalled as to how deep the beliefs are that tourists are so rich we can never run out of money. This premise allows many Nepali to use and toss tourists away with little remorse. One Nepali friend of two years finally let this belief come out for me to see. I saw from start to finish how tourists can be tricked and cheated out of their money. He didn't even leave the tourist any money at all and not even a 'thank you' after the guy saved the Nepali's failing business. He just figures another tourist will be along shortly. This tourist can just call back home and like magic, money will pour like rain during the monsoon. See, no harm done!
What the Nepali do is find a tourist fresh off the airplane and offer them half of their business in exchange for some expertise and a bit of financial backing. The tourist is usually unaware of the risks of working while on a tourist visa and after they work and invest there is no contract, only the stall. Finally, the contract comes out with every clause costing the tourist more and more while he gets less and less. If the tourist complains he will be deported for working on a tourist visa. It's a lovely arrangement for the Nepali, and another tourist tends to show up right on time. Women are especially susceptible because they get romantic promises, as well. Young women really need to understand that the vagina is only on the way to her pocket, in many cases. They also need to realize the importance of 'protected' sex.

How do you make a living in Nepal?

I live very well on my little retirement stipend. It is very easy to live here on as little as $800-$1,000 a month. I am marketing my eBook to help tourists come here and get along here better. At some point I expect to make a little profit, but in the meantime, being an author provides me with an identity and a reason for living here. Just handing someone my card opens more doors for me than I ever thought possible.
I have a full time helper to work with me to market the book online and take me exploring. I know I probably slightly overpay him for his work, but I just cannot pay someone less than $200 a month for 6 days a week. He speaks perfect English, has an amazing intelligence and is very honest. However, I must add that he is my 11th paid assistant since December 2010 when I arrived. Previous disasters have been numerous and ranged from annoying to devastating.

Is it easy to make friends in Nepal?

Yes, I have never been so popular in my life. I had an informal 60th birthday party a few months ago and about 15 people came, all with lovely little gifts. Although we are more likely to meet the Nepali who 'troll for tourists,' there are many lovely, Nepali who will treat you with respect. I've learned to develop a 'wait and see' attitude, but I have some amazing friends here.

Could you please share with us something you like about Nepal and something you don't like?

What I like most about living in Nepal is how safe I feel. Although there are many dangers due to the lack of infrastructure, there are many excellent hospitals and the people almost never cause physical harm to tourists; it just doesn't happen. The people are either genuinely friendly or they just want your money. Pickpocketing, one-time visitors who pilfer on their first visit to my apartment, Nepali who befriend tourists for personal gain, but you will not get physically harmed at random. Tourists who get into serious problems almost always are involved in drug abuse and the criminal element. Yes, there are gangs here. The obvious downside to living in Nepal is how difficult it is and how long it takes to get things accomplished. Many of my projects have taken so long they just expire, as I just decide I didn't actually need it. When I decided I needed a kitchen timer it took me almost a year to find one; I finally found one at a medical supply store.

A common belief about Nepal which wasn't right:

Many Westerners imagine that the family structure here is happier than ours. We imagine that if our parents picked out our spouse they would have done a better job than perhaps we did. Our families are so spread out it is a major event to have a family reunion. We imagine how nice it must be to have that loving, extended family living in our hometown with us. The truth is that you can hardly pick up the newspaper without reading that a mother-in-law has put her son up to murdering his wife or selling her to the sex trade. Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law are the same all over the planet, I guess. My point here is that life in the village is not much fun and it is complicated.

What do you miss the most from the US, your home country?

Home Depot stores. They have everything from replacement screws to plumbing, building and electrical supplies in one huge store. In Nepal, you will have to look all over Kathmandu for something and you'll probably end up forgetting about the entire project.

Why did you start your blog, Nepal: A tourist's manual?

I started the blog because I saw how everyone just went to the same places, ate at tourist establishments and all of us struggle with the same issues. We all seemed to be ignorant from the time we arrived until we depart and then here would come a whole new, fresh crop of tourists. The Nepali seem to be so happy to see us coming and I started to wonder if this wasn't the reason. Someone had to level the playing field.
I have to say this is the happiest time of my entire life. Every day when I wake up I look out the window to the beautiful farmlands and magnificent Himalayas and know I've made the right choice.

What did your expat experience change in your life?

It's given me a lot of patience and the ability to slow down more to enjoy life. Just because it's the way it's done in America doesn't mean it's the best way to do it. There can be many 'right' ways to do something. Now I can see something without judging it based upon how things are done back home. Yes, if you don't learn to let things go you will remain extremely frustrated until you give up and go back home. I hardly ever catch myself using expressions like, "Somebody ought to . . ," anymore because the Nepali tend to look at me as if I'm the somebody.

Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Nepal?

Just do it. It is an amazing place to retire to or create a new life. There are many inventions and businesses that could be adapted to Nepal. Using your Western business skill will make your business stand out and be very successful. There is a lot more room at the top in Nepal and you can actually get there. The tends to be exceedingly affluent here and very well respected.

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