Friday, May 2, 2014

Indeed, I Have Become A Foreigner In My Own Country!

Kamana Khadka, MPH
“People like you, living in America and biting on burgers, what do you know about the struggles of Nepalese living in Nepal?,” said a Nepalese surgeon, referring to me, within the first five minutes of our conversation.  We were complete strangers, meeting for the very first time. 
“Hey, take my photo with this foreigner! I want to upload it on my Facebook,” yelled a Nepalese gentleman in his mid-twenties, handing a digital camera to his friend, upon spotting me hiking up a mountain in Nepal.
“Excuse me Miss, please pay the foreigner’s entry pass here,” said a Nepalese police officer.
         Such were among the many comments that lead me to believe “Yes indeed, I have become a foreigner in my own country of birth.”
         So, how do I feel about this? 
         Having well traveled to several countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe, and having lived away from Nepal, my country of birth, for more than a decade, I feel that being called a foreigner is perfectly normal.  It is no more distinctive than being referred as short, tall, fat, skinny, fair, or dark.  However, I must admit, being treated, as a foreigner in your country of birth, is quite annoying.  It is annoying, for instance, when your relatives and friends ask you to hide while they negotiate Taxi fares or make purchases, as prices instantly go up the moment vendor’s spot you.  It is annoying when your own people either overestimate or underestimate your knowledge on certain topics.  It is annoying when people make all sorts of absurd assumptions about your lifestyles, decisions, and preferences.
         Well, I think that a lot of our perspective about being a foreigner is drawn from outdated philosophical assumptions that humans are social animals and they should belong to a particular society.  Herder, an eighteenth century Prussian Philosopher, argued that man can only flourish among his own people, with who he shares his language and culture.  I’d say, Not in the 21st century Mr. Johann Gottfried Herder.  I think what makes a complete nonsense of this long-established philosophical consensus, are the long standing lines of thousands of Nepalese, at Tribhuvan International Airport, who desire to live in foreign countries.
         While I am not in complete support of nearly 2.2 million Nepalese leaving Nepal (Nepal Institute of Development Studies, 2014), in order to secure employment abroad; I keep an open mind in understanding that often times these are imposed choices due to poverty, persecution, or exile. Of course, it’s a troubling reality for Nepal that more than 1000 citizens leave on a daily basis. However, labeling people’s choice to study, work, or reside abroad, as an act of disloyalty to Nepal, is only going to create more problems. 
         I strongly believe that everyone has the right to live in societies that they think is best for them.  Having said that, I also believe that there needs to be a solution to minimize the increasing number of Nepalese migrating to Gulf countries, Malaysia, and South Korea.  The solution lies in not pointing fingers and throwing harsh comments at each other, but coming to the realization that “Nepalese residing outside of Nepal hold up half the sky of Nepal’s future.”
To the Nepalese surgeon, I love my Dal Bhaat and eat it once everyday in America. 
Show me some love Nepal.

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