Whilst in Pokhara (Nepal), I hired a wooden boat for an hour on the stunning Phewa Tal lake. I went for the peace and the mountain views. What I got was a very chatty boatsman in a pink spray painted trucker hat. His English was remedial at best but that certainly didn’t stop him. “The lake, it is very big?” he queried me as soon as soon as we hit the water. “Yes, it certainly is,” I acquiesced.
After asking where I was from, he then proceeded to launch in a litany of geographic stereotypes. He informed me that the Chinese were “scowl-ish and angry,” that he didn’t care for the Indians but that the Japanese were to his liking and of course “USA is a very, most great, most excellent country.” (he was no idiot and knew that we come from a tipping culture). Every few minutes he would also stop to check in: “the lake, it is very big?” Each time I would assure him that yes, the lake continued to be very big. Placated, he would return to his running commentary which had expanded from stereotypes to “jungle music,” which involved asking me to listen to the loud buzzing from the adjacent jungle- a sound he augmented with his own, slightly off-key, melody. Halfway through the ride, I announced that perhaps now was the time for some silence to “better enjoy the jungle music”. 5 minutes later he loudly asked if I were sleeping (I sort of was) which I answered with a non-committal grunt. He lapsed into silence….for 2 more minutes. And then… “the lake, it is very big, yes?”