Mediating the Global: Expatria's Forms and Consequences in Kathmandu

By Heather Hindman | Go to book overview

Introduction
Expatria in Nepal

SITTING AROUND THE HOTEL GARDEN, Iris and I were among the few remaining at the table by mid-afternoon from the group of expatriate women who met for lunch at least one Thursday a month. Much of the day’s conversation had centered on recent fluctuations in the value of the Nepali rupee against Western currencies and how this might affect the costs of goods and services. Concerns about this economic event had touched off a wider conversation about other financial worries shared by foreigners working abroad, including changes in home leave policies of employers and the distinct likelihood that several families soon to depart Kathmandu would not be replaced by new expatriate arrivals. After lunch, women began to drift away to run errands, pick up children or fill volunteer shifts until only the two of us remained. Iris had a rare free afternoon and seemed eager to talk about anything, from her daughter’s academic problems to her anxiety about her husband’s contract not being renewed. After an hour of conversation, she worried that she was keeping me from important tasks, preventing me from doing my research. When I said that talking to people was a big part of what anthropologists did, she tried to clarify, asking why I was wasting time talking to her “when there is so much culture all around us.”

She gave herself little credit for a fascinating life. Iris had lived in nearly a dozen different countries. She had grown up betwixt and between, her German father having married an Irish woman, and the family shuttled between the two countries when she was a kid. She had married an Irish mechanic when she was young, just out of high school. Her life took an unexpected twist when he was offered a job in Indonesia for a substantial amount more than his starting salary, just a few years into the couple’s marriage. Although in her own

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