Our road journey took us to the Indian – Nepal border where we were granted an entrance visa. Until the moment the immigration officer processed our papers and stamped our passports, we were unsure about whether or not we’d get permission to enter Nepal. We’d always assumed that we were flying from India into Nepal and would get our visas at the airport upon our arrival. Last night, however, our travel agent informed us that the airport for departure was in Nepal, not India. His face fell when he learned we had no visas yet. He told us that if immigration turned us back at the border, our only recourse would be to backtrack to an airport in India, fly to New Delhi, and from there into Kathmandu. If I’m learning anything on this trip, it’s to trust the Lord for the details and move forward in faith. We asked the Lord to go before us and assign officers who would be merciful to these uninformed westerners. He answered, and we had our visas within 10 minutes of entering the building.
Another hour’s drive through rural Nepal delivered us to a small airport tucked between farmers’ fields. Security was comprised of two tiny rooms – one for gents, one for ladies – with dingy curtains for doors. When my turn came, the female officer searched my purse and then asked me to unzip my money pouch. That’s when the fun began. When she saw American $50 bills, she immediately asked for one. Well, well, well….that’s called bribery. Using my best Nepalese, I told her no. She asked why not. I told her that she was receiving a salary for her work and that she wasn’t to ask for bribes. Then she launched into a discourse about her country being poor and ours being rich, and that I should hand over my money. Again I told her no, but she refused to let me leave the room. That’s when I remembered the cheap keychains and souvenir pens I’d purchased for impromptu gift-giving. I dug out one of each and offered them to her. Her face lit up and she opened the door so I could finally enter the waiting area. So much for my cross-cultural negotiation skills!
The flight to Kathmandu was on a small plane, maybe 30 passengers. We flew at 12,000 feet – above the clouds but lower in altitude than our sightseeing trip to the lake on Saturday. Interesting! Enroute we enjoyed a view of the magnificent snow-covered Himalayas. Mt. Everest was easily identifiable above the other peaks.
One of my suitcases went missing from the baggage claim area in Kathmandu. It contained my notes for upcoming speaking engagements, my Bible, my laptop’s spare battery and electrical cord, gifts for my kids, and other important belongings. I’d kept these things in my carry-on suitcase for the whole trip so far just so they couldn’t be lost. This time, however, the plane had no overhead bins and airline rules required me to put the bag in the check-in section.
When one suitcase similar to mine was left unclaimed, we realized that someone had probably picked up mine by mistake. Thankfully there was a phone number in that suitcase and an airline employee quickly made the call requesting its return. I must admit that after sleeping only 1 ½ hours the night before and driving for many hours in the heat, I had precious little reserve to count it all joy while wondering if I’d ever see my belongings again. It was as though the Lord said, “Testing. Testing. Do you hear Me, Grace? Can you trust Me with EVERY detail?”