We did not realise that we may not always earn the promised Rs200,000 a month because overtime may not always be available to top up our basic salary. Or we may not be physically able to do physically demanding overtime work. Besides being difficult, routine and repetitive tasks day in and day out can also be mentally taxing. Since the time I was there, things have improved for foreign workers in Korea and perhaps lessons from the experiences of EPS predecessors like us help make adjustments to the program.
The journey of my life was full of challenges. But I met the kindest Koreans. One taught me how to repair mobile phones, a skill that has come in very handy. Another hired me back even though I had quit after he found out I was struggling with the court case. I was offered shelter and legal support by strangers who just wanted to help migrants in distress like myself. Before I left Korea, my colleagues even raised money to spend on anything I wanted. There were moments and people who touched me deeply.
It turns out that my connection with Korea only grew stronger after I returned to Nepal in 2015. While I was still trying to decide what was next for me, a friend recommended me to his Korean client who wanted to go trekking in Nepal. At that time, I did not even know that many Koreans came to Nepal for trekking — and a majority of them hiked to Annapurna Base Camp. The client also ran a trekking outfit company in Korea and started recommending me to people.
I started organising treks for more and more Korean guests, and soon my Seoul Pokhara Travel and Tours became known in Korea as one of the best Nepali travel companies. I have employed four Nepali Korea returnees and two who have passed the Korean exam and are waiting to go to Korea for work.
My clients are entirely Korean, and the business was going quite well until the Covid-19 pandemic struck. But tourism has revived and on 12 September alone, for example, I was looking after 12 Korean trekking teams simultaneously. There are some other trekking agencies in Pokhara also catering to Korean clients. Soon, I plan to also start a Korean restaurant in Pokhara.
I may have learnt Korean out of desperation to tell my story in Korea, but it is serving me well today back home in Nepal.
Translated from a conversation with the author. Diaspora Diaries is a regular column in Nepali Times providing a platform for Nepalis to share their experiences of living, working, studying abroad.
Authentic and original entries can be sent to [email protected] with Diaspora Diaries in the subject line.
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