Saturday, October 02, 2004

Introduced to the flat I'll be staying in

Today I biked with my one of my bosses, Haydi, to the flat I'll be at for the next eight months with Ewan and Nini. Biking will be my daily means of transport, and that was one terrifying bike ride. About a mile from the office, the commute goes right down Patan's major road. There are no stop signs, there are no traffic lights, and you need to get to the other side of the road. You're not just contending with cars, but also busses, three-wheeled group taxis called Tuk-tuks, a lot of motorcycles, and other bicyclists. There is no bike lane, you ride in traffic - and not on the shoulder - in traffic. That's not as odd as it may sound, the traffic is not extremely fast - but there's a lot of bobbing and weaving. And there's always that "personal space" you consider implicit when driving in America. You give people at least three feet of room. When I was in Russia, I saw the ~1' personal space applied in traffic. That seemed fine since it was car-on-car. Here, it's about four inches - and that's the car-to-bicycle allowable clearance. You know what - that clearance may shrink as a bus makes a weave twenty feet ahead. Very exciting.

But about the flat, I was shocked how large it is. When I lived with a friend in Russia briefly, we shared a one-room (meaning a kitchen, a bath, and that one room) apartment in a Khruschev-era apartment building. It was stark, it was small, and we liked it. That, as I understood it, was very standard living in Moscow - above par in fact. There are many Muscovite families living in dormitory-style buildings. That was what I had in mind before going to see the flat here. When I got there, it was a whole different story. There are three bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms, and a kitchen. It has a porch and a landlord who speaks English. Three days a week our flat's dede, Mailee, comes. She cleans, does laundry, boils water for drinking, buys groceries, and cooks basic meals - i.e. lentils, rice, and curry - the Nepali staple. I'm not at all used to having a servant like that, and have only been around a place that has servants for the few days I've been at my bosses'. We'll see how the flat goes.



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