Friday, 6 June 2014

Friends, Pokhara, Nepal, June 2014

 Making friends in a developing nation can be a rewarding experience but could also be an expensive one. Make friends by all means but have an open mind, a thick skin and an escape route!

Tourist naivety when travelling in a developing country is often a hard hitting and expensive experience. Locals are ingenious when it comes to finding ways of extracting money from a white skinned visitor. Everything from business offers to buying property or exporting jewellery, a scruffy individual sidles up and engages in conversation - pleasantries to start with then the financial impact hits and it's time to make excuses and leave. The conversation will always begin along the same lines, usually it's a relative living or studying in London, how expensive it is and blah, blah, blah, yes I know where this conversation is heading! So, make this kind of friend with a completely open mind and make sure there is a good escape route - exercise caution!

Making friends as a long term tourist though is different, at least at the start. The dynamic is completely different but the end game may very well be the same in the eyes of the recipients. So, let's take my experience in getting to know a Nepali family and the tribulations as well as the negative issues.

I came across the Pandeys back in January during my first visit to Nepal. Having escaped the madness, mayhem and dirt of Kathmandu, Pokhara looked a nice place to settle in for a while. The Pandeys own a cafe to which I became a regular fixture and hence became good friends with the family getting involved with some aspects of their lives. The school run, trips to the cinema, walks around the lake and of course shopping. A few handfuls of candy around here barley breaks the 10p barrier! Having a white tourist hang around was a novelty for them,

Take two, my second visit to Pokhara in April with a view to staying several weeks. All smiles as I rolled up at the Pandeys place. A few days settling in and the relationship dynamic indicates subtle changes. The boy has obviously been primed to explore how far I might be willing to part with my cash. First, can I pay the school fee because business is bad. Next, a few days later "will I pay for father to go to London", seems he wants out! Next, Mr. P suggests I buy his building for $6000 and employ him to run the cafe. Unfortunately his persuasive arguments against the evidence of a low tourist turnout don't in the long term stack up. And then there is Amrit's dentists account, a result of his insatiable appetite for all things sugar.

 All this not totally unexpected but has changed the relationship slightly. I won't be paying Mr. Pandeys air fare to London nor will I be forking out for medical bills. Equally I won't be buying any property but I will pay the school fee. £21 for 1 month which is a respectable gesture. So there you have it - life continues as a daily struggle for the Pandeys while I shall continue to spend money with them as a tourist. Embarking upon a financial bailout now will just lead to more expectations in the future, expectations I might not be able to fulfil.

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