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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning the Kathman-dos and don'ts

My goodness. It's the morning of my 2nd full day in Kathmandu and there's already so much to tell! To start, I am having the time of my life. 
I arrived at noon on the 14th and got off the plane with a nervousness created by what I had heard about the Kathmandu airport. Seas of people grabbing at you asking if you need help, and make sure you get your bags quickly because someone might take them first! But after standing in line and easily acquiring a visa I went down the escalator expecting to descend into chaos, and it was actually quite calm. And the feeling of relief and amazement when I saw my bag come around, after it had been 31 hours since I parted ways with it in Philly, is beyond words. I left the airport and saw a man holding a sign with my name on it immediately and climbed into a little bus sort of thing with 2 bench seats in the back facing each other. I was joined by an 18 year old male volunteer from China who saw the look on my face when I tried to pronounce his name, and he said to call him by the English translation, "bridge." We quickly became friends. He is hilarious AND will be starting at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore next fall! It's a small world. Since that ride I have met about 10 other volunteers. Mostly girls my age from Australia (we are having a ridiculous time) and a family of two older parents and their daughter who is in her 30s. Everyone is wonderful. I am in very good company. and it has. Een so fun to not only learn about the culture here. But in China and Australia as well. And the guest house we are staying at is very nice. There is no heat here so the nights are very cold, even with a really good sleeping bag, but it's not unbearable. There are also mass blackouts everyday for about 10 hours. I am grateful for my headlamp! I don't think it is so much to conserve energy as it is not having enough energy to power the whole city all day every day.
My first impressions of Kathmandu have not changed much since that bumpy bus ride to the guest house. It is incredibly dirty and incredibly noisy. There aren't so much sides of the road as there are convenient spaces to weave between cars, buses, and people. Driving is always sheer insanity. And the honking goes long into the night and starts back up early in the morning, as do the roosters. There is trash everywhere. And stray dogs and chickens with the occasional pig and cow roaming around the rubbish. there are beggars as well, some small children holding infants. That is hard to walk past, but once you give them something, many of them will follow you asking for more. We've been told to ignore it, but it is hard. The amount of pollution is also shocking and overwhelming. It looks like a beautiful fog is constantly making the Himalayas look spooky and sort of magical, but then you realize that it is actually a smog cloud, and the magic fades. It's strange how back home we are taught to be ashamed of how much damage we are doing to our planet, when here, the rivers are filled with trash and the air is thick with pollution and it is not even on their radar to do something to change it. It doesn't make me angry as much as it makes me sad. And cough.
My schedule has been busy, but with roaming around this crazy city and hanging out with new friends, learning Nepali and Nepali culture, eating, and sleeping. At the guest house they have been serving us American-esque food. But last night was our welcome dinner. Our program directors took us to a traditional Nepali restaurant with traditional dancing where we took our shoes off and sat on the floor and had the Nepali equivalent of a bindi placed on our forehead, and drank traditional rice wine, which tasted like rubbing alcohol. Things got pretty silly pretty quickly. And the food was amazing. Alot like Indian food with saag and dumplings, called momos sooo yummy , and fried fish and cooked mushrooms. It's all kind of spicy and very good. And the dancing was very cool. Though we didn't get to join them and dance ourselves which I wanted to. And I have managed to not get sick yet, which is wonderful. Knock on wood.
Yesterday we also ventured to the Monkey Temple which had amazing views of the Kathmandu valley, chanting Buddhist monks, and Monkeys! They are such silly tricksters. So much fun to watch and take picture of. I got some great ones on my camera. There is so much to tell and show everyone back home and, I feel, too few words to describe what it's like here. The culture shock is there, but not intense, just different. It helps to have been dropped into it with a group of girls my age to experience it all with. I'm sure anyone reading this has questions for me, and feel free to ask! I got my placement yesterday and will be in an orphanage in the city center of Pokhara (with 1 of my new Aussie friends and 3 others down the road) so I will be able to update my blog often. I'll be living on site which I was a little but bummed about first, but was reminded by an awesome friend back home that it means I will be living where the children are and able to spend more time with them.
Thanks everyone again for all your support. I am truly having the most amazing time. The real work begins on the 18th when I venture to Pokhara, but it's been good to have a few days of fun and food and sight seeing before that begins. Love you all so much. And check out my Facebook or instagram for picture updates- I can't get pictures on here from my iPhone. Love and light <3 Namaste

1 comment:

  1. I am going to share your pics & blog with 3rd grade. We were working on our map of China today and I pointed out Nepal to them. the kids were excited about you volunteering at an orphanage. We'll see what questions they come up with.