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

By Heather Hindman | Go to book overview

4 The Protean Expatriate:
Flexibility and the Modern Worker

OVER BEER AT AN OUTDOOR CAFÉ IN KATHMANDU, I was being regaled by stories of the horrors of trying to get construction work done in Nepal. The four expatriate men were complaining about the difficulty of getting supplies delivered on time and the poor quality of what eventually arrived. It was the end of a long week, and the waiter kept bringing cold San Miguel beer—although Alan had to insist that he bring the really cold stuff, from the bottom of the ice chest. I regretted teaching him his only word of Nepali, chiso for cold. As the lights turned on in the garden, the group decided that it was time for dinner. This was the routine for most of the expatriate workers on this job: a shuttle to the hotel—their temporary home—from the job site, a quick check of email in their rooms, then beer and dinner in the hotel’s garden café. I met the Antigone Hotel crew by accident, but quickly became a regular. “Without you, it’s a sausage fest,” said one, noting that their embassy liaison was the only other woman (by implication foreign woman) they usually saw in a day.

The stories of how the Happy Hour gang at the Antigone had come to Nepal had commonalities and differences. Most had previous military experience and it was their security clearance gained while in the service that had made them particularly valuable on this job. Their work on this construction job was several levels removed from the initial Turkish contractor, who had successfully bid to build this new complex of buildings; most of them received their paychecks from the U.S. or Canadian-based companies that directly employed them but got daily orders from the Turkish managers. They ranged in age from late twenties to late fifties, but nearly all were well-traveled and had worked together on various jobs across the globe. Most were on short-term contracts varying from three months to twelve, depending on how long their specialization was

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