The Nepal Chronicles, Chapter 6: Language Barrier
After buying duck eggs at the outdoor market, paint on the street, and paper in the sidewalk store, we headed for Brooke and Paul’s. Jumping in a taxi we ask for Bisipati Choke. We went back and forth 10 times, me talking louder every time as that will make my Irish Nepali accent so much more understandable. The conversation went like so:
Nepali Joe: Bisipati Choke?
Nepali driver: (No words just a look like I was speaking Martian)
Nepali Joe: (louder) Bisipati Choke
Nepali driver: (Still no words)
Nepali Joe: (Roaring now) Bisipati Choke! Bisipati Choke! Bisipati Choke! (As if saying it 3 times in rapid fire succession would make it all the more understandable.
Nepali driver Nods like he understands and says “1400 rupees”
Nepali Joe: Not sure driver understands but figuring we will give it a go anyway I say – 1200 rupees
Nepali Driver nods his approval
All of us pile in, smiles all around and we laugh at our new found communication skills.
So as the driver takes off, driving through the crowed streets of Kathmandu, avoiding tractor-sized potholes, missing families of 10 by the length of a cats whisker, a thought creeps into my head:
What if he didn’t understand me, what if his Bisipati Choke is different than mine? We have no phone, no language, no clue where we are going and we are in a car with a lad who we cannot communicate with. When Brooke was explaining it the night before it seemed like the most natural thing ever. Grab a taxi to Bisipati Choke and just give a call when you get there and we will come down and grab you.
Forgotten were the language barrier and the fact we don’t own a phone.
Ah, well, we are on our way now so I may as well sit back and enjoy the hair raising ride. Up and down some massive hills we arrive a good 20 minutes later in the Choke. Choke is the Nepali word for crossroads, and “meet me at the crossroads” seems so very Irish.
So in my best worst Nepali Irish accent I ask the driver if I could use his phone:
Nepali Joe: Can I use your phone? (I’m a little embarrassed doing this but the fact that I am in the middle of nowhere, not sure if I am in the right or wrong place, in a foreign country that I don’t speak the language, helps me get over my embarrassment)
Nepali driver: hishhd uhiwg howhww hodwoho (bunch of Nepali)
Nepali Joe: Can I use your phone (louder and pointing)
Nepali driver: hishgf ugsgd gaihdadh oahdohd
Nepali Joe: Phone phone phone
So the Nepali driver jumped out of the car and walks away into a store. The three lads take a look at me and the look says “Ah, now what have you done now?”
Not sure what to do, we sit tight in the hope that he returns and that there are no police or army with him to throw us out of the car. Our driver returns 10 minutes later and we realize through sign language that his phone had ran out of credit and he had to go into top it up.
Now amazed and incredibly grateful that he would do this for 4 random strangers I say “Namaste” and hear Aidan laughing in the back. I know two Nepali words: Namaste and dhan’yavāda. One means hello and good bye and the other thank you. However for me they have become interchangeable and Namaste gets used in the wrong context, always. Aidan of course loves seeing his father make a fool of himself and especially loves pointing the fact out.
So I call Brooke and there is no response. Try again and still no response and again and again. Oh no, what do we do now. We can’t keep this lad any longer, he has already spent what feels like two days with us. One more try and we finally get Brooke, “we are here”. Big thank yous, pay our bill with a good tip, which does not go close to expressing our gratitude for all his help.
We get out of the car, still hopeful we are at the right crossroad and find a spot to sit that isn’t too conspicuous for four westerners in a village of all natives. What is nice is that no one seems to care. We get a few looks and smiles and everyone goes on about their business, and although we feel a little out of place, nobody there seems to think there is anything strange in having us hang around.
So as we wait for Brooke and Paul to come grab us, we sit on this stone table. Some young lads come up and gesture to move us. We had turned their table tennis table into a bench.
Happy to move, we watch as six local lads play winner stays on the table. One point and who ever wins stays on the table who ever loses gives up his paddle to the next in line. The ages ranged from 6 to 16 and as we started to watch we realized quickly that first they were having a fantastic time and secondly they had complete and total respect for each other.
No parents in site, the oldest looked out for the youngest. They ribbed each other but it was always good natured, no tension, always loving always caring for each other.
Brooke came and got us and brought us up to their house.