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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 April, 2003, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Expat e-mail: Nepal
Emma with Amber and Will, insert
Nepal, where 50 years ago Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mount Everest, has long fascinated outsiders. Emma Cave tells why she loves living there - and why it's time to move on - in our series on expat readers.

I've been living in Kathmandu for more than six years with my British husband, Will, and our adopted Nepali daughter, Amber.

We work at a travel medicine centre which may well be familiar to anyone who has holidayed here - the Ciwec Clinic, where Will is a doctor and I'm a part-time nurse. We mainly see local expats and tourists - for whom diarrhoea is the most common complaint - but also some Nepalis who are sadly often disillusioned with their own medical system.

I first fell in love with this country and its people at the age of 11 on a family holiday in 1975. My father, who has organised expeditions to far flung places since he was a young man, had been asked by an old school chum if he would race the Trisuli River by inflatable raft.

EX-BRITAIN
Emma was born in Aldershot
Kathmandu is about 4,600 miles from Aldershot
What Emma misses most is clothes shops such as Jigsaw and Whistles

It was my first trip to Asia - as an Army family, we moved very often but always in the UK. I enjoyed myself so much in Nepal that my father's friend promised that I could come and work for him at his jungle lodge in Chitwan National Park when I left school - and that I did in autumn 1982 before commencing my nursing training in London.

I returned to India and Nepal many times during the 1980s and 90s. When I met Will, the love of my life, I joined him on his circumnavigation of the world in a 35-foot steel yacht. On completion of this journey, we were married in Dorset in 1995, and we both enrolled to study tropical medicine in Liverpool.

I then urged Will to move to Nepal, the land of my dreams. We packed our rucksacks and headed for Kathmandu to find work and to try to adopt a Nepali child in need of a home. After 10 months we managed to achieve both.

New daughter

We met Amber Sherpa soon after she was born - her mama, who worked in a carpet factory, had left her in the safe hands of Patan Hospital and then fled.

At six weeks old, she was transferred to a government orphanage and after six agonising months, we were allowed to take her home - the adoption process was completed. Now Amber is a vibrant and attentive five-year-old.

Rubbish in Kathmandu
The rubbish is a particular bugbear
So life is Nepal is pretty good. We curse the traffic, the pollution, the chaos, the filth and the apathy, but this will be a difficult place to leave. Nepal is so rich culturally and geographically - it must be one of the most varied and beautiful places in the world. And the expat community here is a wonderful mixed bag of missionaries, mercenaries and misfits, as an Irish colleague once described it.

I sometimes feel rather cooped up in Kathmandu, but when we have time off we can trek in the hills, or enjoy the lowland and its national parks and wildlife. There are many rivers to raft and last year I bought a bullock cart and we and a friend walked for a month along the Tarai [the lowland tropical belt along the Nepal-India border] through the beautiful villages of the Tharu people.

Time to move on

The Maoists are causing havoc and destruction; the country and her people are afraid and morale is horribly low. We as expats are little affected - or perhaps I should say less affected.

Tharu village
The sun sets on a Tharu village
However much we love Nepal and our place of work, it is time to move on and do our own thing. And as much as Will loves Nepal, he's not as potty about it as I am - the sea is his thing and he wants to be near it again.

So in August we move to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to set up our own travel medicine clinic. I shall be the nurse and co-director, which sounds frightfully grand.

We are excited about the move, but we'll be terribly sad to say farewell to this place. On return from a recent recce to Sri Lanka, a long-time friend asked how I felt about the upcoming move. He told me that the trick was to never compare anywhere with Nepal because there is nowhere like it. I fear he is right.


Send us your comments:

As one of the missionary, mercenary and misfit gang here since 1983, not having used Ciwec, but having had my 2 kids born in Patan Hospital in '87 and '90, we have been privileged to see the traumas and tribulations of a struggling nation in coming to terms with a modern world. The daily wage for a labourer in '83 was about $1 a day, it is still that today, but amidst the ever widening poverty gap, the Nepali people are still resilient and struggling to find a way to fill the gap.
Mark Gill, Kathmandu, Nepal

I worked for three years in rural Nepal in what was then one of the areas worst affected by the Maoist rebels yet I didn't feel in any more danger than I would be in the UK. I was told the Maoists knew me and certainly, whenever they came to my school to extort money, I was always excluded - I've never understood why as I was one of the richest people in the area. During my stay I got the chance to see another way of life and to try and help people understand Western points of view. I still live in Nepal and visit the village from time to time. My three years there were probably the hardest but also the most memorable of my life and I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Jancis McGrady, Kathmandu, Nepal

I lived in Kathmandu for three years and visited the Ciwec Clinic for inoculations only and not because of the dreaded "runs". I found Nepal and its people to be fabulous and was very sorry to leave. I agree that in my very many years as an expatriate, in many parts of the world, I experienced nothing to compare with the wonders of Nepal.
Bob Wallis, currently in India

I don't mean to rain on the parade but I think that some people who travel to other parts of the world in search of happiness may be missing the point. Happiness is a state you achieve from within - once you are happy inside yourself then you can be happy almost anywhere. I was close to leaving England a year ago (destination S America). But at the last minute I stayed and decided to try to be happy where I was (London). We'd all rather be on a beach now than at a computer but a beach won't bring you lasting happiness - don't be fooled into thinking that the grass is always greener. Is it really so bad to choose your family, friends and home over nicer weather?
Alex James, England

My wife and I moved here 6 weeks ago. She is a nurse and I'm in IT. When we were in the UK I used to bring the big bucks home while she ran the home. Now the tables have turned - I'm a house husband and my wife brings home big bucks as a nurse. I spend days on the beach with the kids and don't miss the UK weather at all. Never heard of Yorba Linda? The towns most famous son has his library here and is buried here with his wife. A gentlman called Nixon.
Sean McGough, Yorba Linda, Southern California

Two years ago I was working in the City working for a big US Bank. I was living the fast single life, I had the South Kensington flat etc - yet I couldn't comprehend why I was desperately miserable. So one day I quit. I walked away from a guaranteed road to riches, to find out what I really wanted to do with my life. My first stop was Spain, where I walked the 800 km pilgrimage of Santiago. Here, I met the love of my life. When I lived in London, I thought that it was London that was causing my unhappiness. Now I realise it was the lack of having a purpose, and the lack of love. After 18 months I've eagerly returned to London where I'm now very happy. I'm even working in the finance world again, but have a much better lifestyle which gives me time to pursue other interests.
Alex Ven, UK

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