FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
The following day I took my first nervous bus ride to teach at the school. I felt lucky that the bus was not particularly crowded but it was probably the sunniest day so far and got rather hot. Soon after I sat down, another man, a university student, sat down next to me. As we got to the ring road, he started talking to me in Nepalese. I replied that I did not understand him and he started asking me questions in English, learning more about me. He seemed interested in getting to know a foreigner but the way he was asking questions and the subjects he asked about seemed to be prying a little more than I was comfortable with.
I realized this could be a little bit of a security issue. I starting being a little vague with some answers that I gave him. He asked me how much my plane tickets were to get to Nepal and at that point I said "more than a little" and implied that a charity funded the travel because I could not afford it on my own. Early on he asked me about why I was here and I accidently let slip that my wife was working at the hospital and that there were a few other Canadian med students at the same hospital. Luckily out of that statement he asked if I was Canadian and I said I was. I have always had it in the back of my head to be cautious about letting people know I am from the US because of the political implications that has, that it could me a target. It felt like just a little too much information that gives strangers an advantage over me. He asked a little more about what I did and I said I teach civics in Canada.
I felt like I was doing a pretty good job protecting myself until he asked me about similarities between traffic in Nepal and "back home" and I mistakenly mentioned "In the US it's less chaotic, but much faster." A little later on he called that out and said "wait I thought you said you were from Canada but you were talking about in the US." I knew I was caught but I told him that we lived very close to the US and that they have crazier drivers. I also had one mention of "visiting" Arizona in reference to the desert. He was friendly but he seemed to be aware that I was not entirely truthful with him.
"No offense, what does this mean..." He asked me this after he seemed to figure out I might not be truthful about myself. I said "what does what mean?" and he responded, "this phrase, what does 'no offense' mean?" I was relieved he wasn't confronting me on my untruthfulness, but I also had a hard time trying to figure out how to explain the turn of phrase. I told him it was a way to try to say touchy things to a person without making them feel uncomfortable but it is often used as a backhanded way to insult someone. After this explanation I had to also try to explain what it means to say something backhandedly as well as the concept of sarcasm.
He had learned the bus stop I was getting off at but didn't seem to have a connection to it. At one point he reached down to his pocket that was next to my pocket and pulled out his phone. Right before this he asked me if I knew any Nepalese. I was not sure if he dialed or if he was picking up the phone because I did not hear it go off, and he started speaking in Nepalese. As odd as his statement before talking on the phone was, his tone was not excited in the slightest so I was not certained he was not up to anything fishy. When he hung up he said it was his mother and she could not understand where he was.
Soon after, he got up to go to the front of the bus to get off at the next stop. When he got up, I noticed it was my stop as well. I hurried and was able to get out before it was too late, quickly passing by him as I exited. I pulled out the 20np bill from my left pocket I had left aside for the ride but noticed a 100np bill (just about $1US) I thought I had in that pocket was missing. I thought I had been pickpocketted. I hurried up the hill, sweating heavily through my shirt in the hot sun, to make sure I got away from this stranger on the bus. Later that day I realized I had moved the 100np bill to my other pocket. This meant that my original story of a pickpocket on the bus trying to learn too much information of me was really just an odd young man on the bus trying to learn more about people from faraway places.
It was a curiosity the students also had in class. It was just a friendly curiosity native to their culture. They just want to practice their english with native speakers and learn a little about the world outside their borders. The students on that first day had the same kind of enthusiasm for information and learning, often interrupting my answers with more questions. The students, however, also could not restrain their enthusiasm, often overflowing with energy jumping on desks or throwing pencil tins at each other. I'm sure the student's unrestrained energy was more dangerous than my paranoid thoughts alone on a bus in a strange country.