On October 25, 2013 I left for Nepal. Over the next month I will share a daily blog post from the journal I kept while I was away. This is day 9.
This morning, at the start of class Prakash walked into the room, seeming a little exasperated, and told us that Leila’s father had just been in a fatal car crash back home. Leila was now upstairs crying while Erika desperately tried to book her a flight back to Alaska as soon as possible.
After our initial exclamations of “oh my god” (“hey vagbaan” in Nepali) and “that’s so sad,” a silence came over the room. It’s as if a black hole had appeared and sucked the air right out of the room, making sound an impossibility. As if the walls themselves took a sharp breath in at the news and were too afraid to exhale again. Leila was only a week or so away from meeting up with her dad to continue her travels with him.
I wanted to say something meaningful–I’m sure we all did–but only the meaningless jargon we’ve all heard a hundred times came to mind: “I’m so sorry,” “that’s terrible,” “he’s in a better place now.” As Emilia, Marina and I sat there in silence, I focused in on the only sounds audible: the cars on the streets outside, shrieks from children playing, and the clock in the room ticking at what felt like a disrespectfully loud volume. I almost felt angry at the rest of the world for not being respectfully silent like we were being. Read more
On October 25, 2013 I left for Nepal. Over the next month I will share a daily blog post from the journal I kept while I was away. This is day 8.
Language class is getting tough. We are learning lots of new verbs across a number of verb tenses. Though it’s generally going well, I must admit I am a bit anxious about the test on Saturday. On a different note, Prakash gave us a simple puzzle to solve during our tea time today. Let’s see how long it takes you to get it (solution can be foun at the en of this post). Feel free to sound off in the comments about how you approached it:
Arrange the numbers 1 through 9 into a 3×3 grid so that the sum of every row, column, and diagonal is 15.
Wandering the Streets
After lunch, Emilia went on the sightseeing tour, and after getting some passport photos taken (only Rp150 or $1.50 for 4!) Marina and I went exploring East from Kalanki Chowk. Marina observed that the city felt more lively today and full of energy, and I completely agreed. With Tihar (a five-day festival of light) starting tomorrow, there was definitely a tangible buzz in the air. The streets were filled with people, and the air was filled with the sound of chatter. Just being in the middle of all of it made me excited about the next few days.
We passed by a gas station and with the memory of how cheap a taxi ride cost in Kathmandu, I had to check the prices. Though I couldn’t read the Nepali Sanskrit identifying each fuel type, I assume the more expensive of the two was diesel. The price of gas here is 25% cheaper cheaper than back home. No wonder the taxis can continue operating on such low fares.
Nepali Gas Prices
Unfortunately, other than lots convenience stores and a few hole-in-the-wall food shops, the only other thing we really saw on our walk was garbage everywhere. It was scattered by the side of the road, piled in heaps at the edge of the river, and it broke my heart to once again see a cow foraging through the trash for any remaining bits of food. I had seen dogs and monkeys do the same when I first arrived in Kathmandu and I couldn’t bear to think what kind of bacteria and toxins they might be ingesting.
On October 25, 2013 I left for Nepal. Over the next month I will share a daily blog post from the journal I kept while I was away. This is day 7.
Last night right before I went to bed, the little girl who lives at RCDP, Nani, grabbed my flashlight from my hand, ran into her parents room, and glanced over her shoulder at me with a look of utter delight on her face before slamming the door shut in my face and locking it. I stood there, dumbfounded, before letting out a laugh. It was comical, but after a few minutes I saw the genius of her plan. I would never invade the little girl’s lair out of respect to her and her parents, and I barely spoke any Nepali, so the flashlight was as a good as hers.
Bens, meanwhile, continued to grow on me. He is such a cute kid and always so happy. At breakfast he arm wrestled all the volunteers at our table, and of course none of us were any match for the strength of his puny little 7-year-old arms. I felt touched when he even let me wear his green “power watch,” though after a rematch with me wearing it I still could not defeat him. Later in the afternoon, he invited me out to the courtyard to play a little one-on-one basketball. I gladly obliged, and Mr. Sujan, his father, came and played with us for a bit.
In class this morning, I learned a bit of Nepali Sanskrit:
I think, however, that the way my name is written above is pronounced closer to “Elex” than “Alex.” I also found out that we all drank buffalo milk with breakfast two days ago. That’s a first for me. Cow milk is reserved for festivals and worship ceremonies. Read more
On October 25, 2013 I left for Nepal. Over the next month I will share a daily blog post from the journal I kept while I was away. This is day 6.
In the morning, the fog in the Kathmandu valley obstructs the mountains towering behind the house-covered hills of the capital. In the evening, as the darkness sets in, the lights from the houses in the distance are the furthest thing you can see before the wall of black darkness engulfs everything. It is only during the middle part of the day that the grandeur of the Kathmandu valley presents itself, and even then it’s often times a tease.
Nepali people seem to closely mind their appearance. Men are almost always wearing Western-style button-up shirts and pants, often with sneakers or leather loafers. Women, however, often wear a traditional colourful sari, while the younger ones wear Western-style clothing. I also noticed that Prakash’s hair is very neatly groomed every day and it looks like he had it cut somewhat recently.
Nepali men reading newspapers
The locals are very proud of their culture. I believe this is one of the main reasons they prefer watching Kollywood films to American or Bollywood ones. It also would explain why their festivals are so important to them, and why, despite living on such low incomes, they go “all out” for these big celebrations. Read more
On October 25, 2013 I left for Nepal. Over the next month I will share a daily blog post from the journal I kept while I was away. This is day 5.
Windowframed view from RCDP
Meals here are very simple and dominated by carbs: rice, potatoes or noodles. Meat seems to be a rare treat, saved for festivals and other special occasions. I have found most the food to be salty compared to what I’m used to, though Marina doesn’t agree. There aren’t any of the exotic, in-your-face flavours of Thai food, but some of the dishes have a lot of spice to them, which I like. The most common meal in Nepal is Daal Bhat: rice with lentil soup.
At breakfast this morning I spoke with the 7-year-old boy who lives at RCDP headquarters, Bens. The children here seem so much more creative and imaginative, and I can’t help but think this is in part because of the lack of distractions from smartphones, tablets, or computers. They are so curious!