I never thought I’d leave Nepal like this. Even though after being in a lockdown for almost half a year, still, when the time of departure comes, it still feels like something unexpected and out of one’s own control.
As a counter measure to Covid-19 pandemics, Nepal suspended all international flights since March 22 and started a strict national lockdown since March 28. During that initial lockdown, all non-essential services and manufacturing were closed. People can only leave their homes for seeking medical attention or purchasing food.
I actually enjoy that strict lockdown period. Yes, there is a bit of inconvenience for grocery shopping, but you end up more focusing on the studies as external distraction dramatically decreases. Social life is limited to birds feeding. At the same time, some Chinese people, probably out of boredom and lack of regular source of income, gradually develop food delivery services ranging from yummy pastries to savory dishes so life in Boudha actually becomes more convenient than before.
However, as the Covid-19 cases in Nepal kept increasing, inevitably I had to consider leaving or not, especially when more and more schoolmates were leaving. It was such a difficult decision: Yes, leaving Nepal is a safe bet—given my existing medical conditions, I better be in a place with good hospitals if I get Covid; on the other hand, I know that I would not be as focused in studies if I were in other countries as other obligations and distractions would certainly overthrow my barely existing self-discipline.
During that period of dilemma, a lama friend did two divinations for me and both times helped me to decisively skip several repatriation flights arranged by various embassies to fly their citizens back. Another two times I could have taken the Japanese repatriation flights to Tokyo thanks to the assistance of the representative office of Taiwan in India, but the notices were so sudden—something like, “Pack your bag and leave this afternoon!”—and I got cold feet. I guess emotionally I was simply not ready to leave my comfy life in Nepal.
Eventually in end August my teacher advised me to leave, probably after a divination or something, and then it happened that Nepalese government decided to resume commercial flights in September. I took the first flight of Malaysia Airline out of Nepal which was fully packed—so much so that they were actually having two jets flying one after another. Because of that, there was a time when I thought I missed THE flight as a friend saw a MH plane took off from the runway while I was still sipping tea in the business lounge!
The overnight transit in Kuala Lumpur is also a whole new experience. More than 90% of the shops are close. You hardly see any other people in the terminal. Occasionally you see a couple of people walking in distance, but people do not engage with each other as if other people do not exist at all. I can’t help but thinking part of the bardo experience may be similar to this: you are wondering by yourself all the time; you see others, but they don’t really see you.
Anyway, now I am back to Taiwan where people are carrying out their daily life mostly as the pre-pandemic days. I am thankful of being here, but I am also looking forward to returning to Boudha to continue my simple student life there. Sarva Magalam.
~ Bella Chao