Once I returned from my final round of trekking, there was one last thing to do with my last bit of time in Kathmandu — sell my scooter. As you might remember from when I bought it, there’s not an easy way to take care of it. Unless you know someone, which apparently, I did.
So let’s go back to the beginning of this process.
Finding a buyer and subsequently losing a buyer
The first order of business was of course finding someone to buy my scooter. Finding a buyer for a scooter in Nepal, however, is a frustrating process. You have two options, and neither of them are good.
The first option is finding a foreigner to buy it. The benefit is that they might be from a culture that emphasizes punctuality (like Americans), so they’ll probably be good about responding to messages and all that. The downside is that foreigners aren’t allowed to own scooters, so you can only sell to someone who has a Nepali friend (with Nepali citizenship — something not every Nepali has, surprisingly) who is willing to take them on as a personal liability as my friend did back in September.
The second option is selling to a local. The benefit is that they can just show up and buy it without help from anyone else. It can get registered in their name and all is well. The downside is a nice little quirk of Nepali culture affectionately dubbed “Nepali Time.” I’ve become very acquainted with this quirk over the last eight months — concerts starting hours after the doors close, friends showing up hours late, students rolling into class 15-20 minutes after we’d begin. But it also means selling a scooter to a Nepali person isn’t always as easy as it seems.
I found a buyer on the Kathmandu Expats Facebook group. He told me he’d buy my scooter, the price was good, and he was set to go. No problem, right? The issue was that we’d have to go to the Yatayat Karyalaya — basically Nepal’s BMV — together so we can transfer the title into his name. It’s the same process I went through with my friend when I bought my scooter.
So I texted him on Thursday to ask where we should meet to go to the office together. He told me that he’d have an answer by the evening. Then several days went by. Saturday night, the night before we agreed to go to the office, I texted him to ask again where to pick him up. Sunday morning, an hour before we were supposed to meet, he responded and told me “the person buying the scooter can’t come.” That was an extra surprise since I had thought he was the buyer. I had been a victim of Nepali Time — culturally-accepted flakiness.
We made arrangements to meet instead on Tuesday, which was my last full day in Nepal before my departure. I told him that he had to tell me right away where and when to meet, and again was told I’d know by the evening — Sunday evening. Ever the optimist, I started making extra arrangements with a friend who expressed interest in case this guy flaked on me again.
Monday evening came and I still had no response, so I told him he had an hour to commit or I’m selling it elsewhere. I didn’t get a response to that until the next morning. So it was decided that I’d sell my scooter to a friend of mine, which I should have done from the beginning. But as is the custom in Nepal, there were a few complications.
“We Can Do It, But We Have to Go Now.”
The goal of the day was to go to the office with my friend who was buying my scooter and meet my friend who technically owned it so the names could be changed. We were all under the impression that the office was open until 4:00 PM. My friend who was buying the scooter had work until 2:00 PM, so it was going to be close.
Then the revelation came out that the office closed at 1:00 PM, as many government offices are wont to do here.
So at this point I had given up. My friend who technically owned the scooter and I had come up with a plan B in case I wasn’t able to get rid of it before I left. I begrudgingly called him and told him it wouldn’t be happening today, then went to ship some stuff back to the US. On the way, I saw a few friends and went for coffee with them. About five minutes after we sat down, I got a call from my friend who was buying it.
“Dude, I talked to my dad who talked to his friend at the office and he said he’d open the office for us again, but we have to be there by 3:00.”
The time was 2:15, I was not home, and the Yatayat office is six miles outside Kathmandu’s ring road, which means bumpy dirt roads and very heavy traffic.
“You think it’s possible?”
“Maybe. Let’s try.”
I looked at my friends and bid them farewell, then ran back to my apartment and rushed to my friend’s office. I called the technical scooter owner along the way to give him the details.
“Ankur, change of plans. We can sell it today as long as we get to the office by 3:00. Nevermind that, we know a guy. Just hurry!”
And so we were off, driving much faster than is safe as we wove through the massive buses and trucks that inhabit the roads beyond the ring road. More often than not, our path was completely obscured by clouds of dust, black exhaust, and smoke from burning tires. Sometimes we’d have to duck as we drove under the side mirrors of two buses that were just far enough apart for a scooter as long as we tucked our knees in. We ended up rolling up to the office at 3:00 PM exactly. My other friend who owned the scooter came about 15 minutes later.
Re-Opening a Government Office
Despite my complaints about Nepali Time, this is the other side of the coin. It comes down to the fact that time is much more malleable in Nepali culture. Yeah, that might mean it’s hard to get firm commitments and concerts start late, but it also means you can just get government offices re-opened. Think you can get the BMV in the US to open again after it closes just for you? Yeah, me neither.
Once off my scooter, we set off to begin the process that I had gone through eight months ago. Meaning my friend began the process and I sat in the corner browsing Instagram while he spoke to the government workers as I was the resident non-Nepali speaker.
First came the insurance, then the bike inspection. I drove up to a shack in a field further up the hill and sat while several guys in motor grease-stained shirts poked around the underside of the scooter. When they were satisfied, we went back down to the office where we were joined by our third friend.
The three of us plus our contact at the office went into the next building to make the changes to the office ledgers. Because the office was crowded the first time I came, I wasn’t able to walk around. But there was no one to stop me this time. And lemme tell ya, the yatayat office is disgusting. Each step brings a puff of dust, and any unused room is decrepit and rotting, the floor covered in pigeon shit.
I had seen my fill pretty quickly and the paperwork was finished soon after. The three of us left the office and exchanged a few high-fives, because there was no way that we should have succeeded in our endeavor. But we did, and I have added the experience to the list of reasons that I might be the luckiest person I know.