I worked with a non-for-profit women’s health clinic in a rural area for three weeks. Commuting back and forth from the volunteer house in Thamel puts my current commute here in Italy to shame. I used to take two mini-buses, followed by a fifteen minute walk. Catching the buses was the most exciting part- they are literally those white vans for 8 people with sliding doors but minus the doors and with about three times the people inside. You had to catch them like a taxi in Manhattan, you would hail the correct one down and it would slow down slightly and you were meant to hop on. Of course there were no signs or scrolling text telling you the destination, the driver would yell out the final stop as it was passing. It was chaotic and a sensory overload, similar to the feeling of being an India-virgin when you first step off the plane in New Delhi. There’s no way to understand it unless you’ve been there, the assault to your senses, a thousand smells and sensations and sights coming at you like a freight train. It was nirvana in absolute. I wanted to keep it forever.
In the evenings, the other volunteers and I would drink icy cold beers in the upstairs bar aptly named Tom and Jerry, and stare up at the autographs of those who had been on a successful Everest summit as they usually celebrated at that hole-in-the wall pub. It was a place often frequented by expats, a term I learned while sitting there one night and meeting one in the flesh. I I had to ask him what the word meant. What's an expat? I asked wide-eyed, like a child. I remember he told me it was short for "expatriate". It had never crossed my mind that people would voluntarily leave their country of birth to reside in a foreign one. I loved the concept immediately. I left the bar that night with one new goal at the top of my bucket list: become an expat.