My Identity


confusedOne of my hopes coming to Nepal was to be able to better understand who I am. So when people or when I wonder “Kaja who are you” I know somewhat, what to answer. Am I Norwegian or Nepali was my main question. Coming to Nepal  was suppose to help me. However, by coming here I realized that it is not as easy as am I Norwegian or Nepali. The question now is also am I a “NEWARI”. Now what does that mean?

My birth name was, Rita Shresta. This means that I belong to the Newari group. There are many ethnic groups here in Nepal. They have all a language, which is quite different from each other, and the Nepali language. I have met many people who belong to the Newari group. When I inform them that I also am a Newari or was born in a newari family, they ask me if I know their language. I just look at them and say “no”. Then they tell me how important it is for me to know my own mother tongue. I am so confused. I tell them that “I think I will start learning Nepali first, and then maybe learn some newari”. They don’t really except this answer. They suggest that I learn it simultaneously. I just smile and allow them to teach me some Newari language. Therefore know I know how to say “ Taske balla” (very good).

I live in Kathmandu valley. As mentioned before it is made up of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. I live in Laitpure. Well, in all of these three cities there is a palace square. Many years back there used to be a ruler in each of the palaces that ruled Kathmandu valley. They were all newari people. The Kathmandu valley has a long history with the newari people. So, today most of the newari people are to be found in Bhaktapur were we visited on Wednesday. They have their own language, their own bricks for buildings houses, their own forms for windows, they have their own form for making old people socialize and they are very religious. When we were in Bhaktapur we got to see all of this.

Did I feel more at home there? Well I am not in such contact with my Newari side. However, by being in Nepal I am sort of forced to understand and learn more about the Newari people. I do not really mind this, but it can be too much sometimes. Wherever I go around in the Kathmandu valley, I meet people who are Newari or try to teach me more Newari. Therefore, now I also know “Sikke Balla” which aslo means “very good”.

I still think the biggest issue for me is am I a Norwegian or Nepali woman with Newari genes. Or does there need to be this or in the middle?

When Vilde and I were in Pokhara we went to many tourist places. We went and saw many things. The price for the tourists were sometimes 10x as much as for the Nepali people, and other times 5x more expensive. Well my point is that I could have easily “lied” and said that I was a Nepali. Now would that actually have been a lie? My passport says that I am a Norwegian citizen, but is my passport the one to define who I am? When people say to me that you are laying by saying, you are a Nepali woman. I think to myself really, why?

But then again on the other side, I sometimes prefer calling myself a Norwegian woman. When I am in difficult situations, I just say that I am Norwegian. Am I using it as an excuse to get out of the situation, or am I telling the true here as well?



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