Winter Holiday or Escape?

by Annalise on January 9, 2010

It is the start of the winter holiday for many schools in Nepal. The length of most varying from between 2 to 3 weeks; not all school calendars coinciding. So as I was conducting my Conversational English lessons this week, we got on to the topic of holidays and travel plans.

About 1/2 of the staff were planning a trip to their ‘Mother Land’ referring to their home region of Nepal. These trips are usually for several days, always staying with family and the bus travel times ranging from between 5 to 12 hours, one way. Of those not travelling, some had children in schools whose winter holiday had just past or hadn’t yet begun.

I was a bit surprised to learn how many had never traveled beyond the Kathmandu Valley although I shouldn’t have been. I’m not certain of the annual income of a teacher here but know that the economy and earning power of even the professionals is a fraction of what we see in North America. It isn’t lost on me that when they ask about our travels, they are awed by our ability to afford such luxuries as a family. I do add that this comes after years of planning and saving and, in large part, thanks to my employer that offers a deferred leave plan. None the less, the gap in earning capacity on the international scale is enormous. For many Nepalese, return airfare to North America alone would consume much of their annual income.

It is no wonder so many Nepalese, including established professionals, consider and make the move to emigrate going to developed nations including Canada, the US, Australia, the UK and others. Many families start with one parent working in another country and sending remittances back to their families looking for the right time to move them all out to share in this ‘better life’. And while it is not an easy move for many families we certainly don’t hear of many returning once they’ve gone. The political instability and governmental inability to provide consistent, reliable services such as drinking water and power add to the motive to leave their homes however rich their culture and history and however warm the people. For the young Nepalese it is often also their escape from the caste, culture, gender and parental expectations. All are seeking a better quality of life even if the initial years or even decades in that new land can be a real challenge. As one friend said, considering such a move and knowing it would most likely place him in jobs outside his professional field, “I believe in the dignity of labour”. I hope this perspective and income are sufficient to buoy he and his family through such a transition. I know they’re remarkably resilient and are familiar with a challenging environment. Such escape planning is the focus of many winter holidays.

As for ours, we’ll remain in Kathmandu, saving the remainder of our travels for the end of our stay here, late in February. Dave’s not on holiday and Robin is busy with school work and preparing for several piping gigs related to Robbie Burns day later in the month. I’ll be offering some optional English courses to those teachers who remain in the city, meeting at various locations including the Central Zoo and the beautiful Patan museum. And finally, we’ll be enjoying two festival holidays and an unknown number of bandh days.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Shirley Robertson January 10, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Very interesting and astute qbservations Annalise.

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