Monday, December 29, 2014

Palpa: Midhills region of Nepal

After two weeks in KTM we were whisked away to the midhills for an excursion. The drive there included 8 hours through windy nepali roads up and down giant hills, but the views were beyond worth it. Getting to palpa took a load off of everyone’s shoulders. The pace of life was easier there. A smaller rural town with less traffic, less people, fresh air, incredible views, and sunsets to kill for. A week was not long enough.

Our schooling brought us to many rural villages around the area so that we could see development in action. Getting to these villages entailed riding up someone created roads in decked out jeeps where more times than not they got stuck and we had to get out and walk anyway. This was our first time going really rural. We stay community radio stations, had lunch with a mother’s group, learning about soil conservation, visited a coffee farm, and watched locals make the very traditional nepali Dhaka cloth.

Exploring the city of Palpa brought it’s own excitement. We woke up early to walk to the top and the hill and see the Himalayas at sunrise. We discovered our favorite restaurant and watched is amazement as Jessie took on a bet to eat 50 momos (nepali dumplings) and didn’t even vomit. We chatted as a group for hours in hotel rooms as night, shared stories, and even celebrated a birthday. While this was a field work experience for us, it was a bonding experience for our fabulous group and every day we grew happier to be together.

One evening we were up on the hill playing freesbee when a group of Nepali ammas came to us and basically kidnapped up. They were completely confused how there were a group of white people standing in their village who spoke Nepali. They took a minimum of 20 photos with us and then insisted we come to their house for tea. At first we were a little hesitant, since it was late and we were supposed to go home for dinner, they all but dragged us to their house and force-fed us chhiyyaa. It turned out to be one of my favorite nepali memories so far. We all got to practice our speaking, and they asked us a million questions. It reminded me of how incredible it is to remember that they can learn from us to. Not to mention how hilarious and strange it was that we were sitting in some random nepali women’s’ house drinking tea. That evening was just full of laughter, and is a prime example of what it means when they say Nepal is a caring and sharing culture. It truly is.

Another example of this is the idea of how to address a women. Any women a little older than me, or equal to my age would be addressed not as sir, ma’m or miss, but as didi (sister). At a restaurant if you want to call over the water you say Daai (which means brother). Any grandmother or older women you come in contact with you call (aamaa) and those mothers who took us in on that afternoon were calling us chorri (which means daughter). In Nepal no one is a stranger and everyone is part of the family. It is a beautiful country.


8 months later and I'm back.

I didn't post much at all in Nepal. Slow internet, or no internet, in addition to much more important things on my mind. There were too many conversations to have, to much daal bhaat to eat, children to play with, family to enjoy, and life to be lived.

Now back in the states, I will begin to unravel the complexity of my life in Nepal.

And as if anyone had any doubts but I will be traveling again in a mere 4 months- after I build up the funds again!

Lexie (Juhi)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arriving in Kathmandu: Meeting my family

When we left duhlikel we were headed for the big city: Kathmandu. There we would meet our incredible host families and start our true nepali adventure.

To say the group of us were nervous was an understatement. We huddled inside the program center in Kathmandu waiting for each of us to be picked off and sent to our families. I know we had nothing to fear but the concept of going home with a group of people from a culture so drastically different was nothing but terrifying. If there is one thing I have learned from traveling though, if something scares you and is filled with fear, then that thing is going to change you in incredible ways. I was right- living with a family is a terrifying and life changing experience over here.

I was swooped up by my family and whisked off to our home. From there is was a slur of introductions. My amma, my BaaBaa, my Hajuraamaa (grandma) my kaka (uncle), my two bhaai (little brothers 9 and 18) my bahini (little sister 19) and my didi (older sister 24). We all live under the same roof and I can say with certainty that it is wonderful, chaotic, entertainment all of them time. All of my siblings speak fluent English so that immediately erased some of my fears, but as the days went on, more nepali was spoken and less English. The hand gestures were reduced, and a bond between us all was formed.

The first few evenings were spent playing Uno, which is how I learned nepali colors and numbers, as well as another card game called skipboo. It was a strange style of family bonding that I wouldn’t have traded for anything else.

I am closest to my little sister and my little brother. Anmol, the 9 year old, is absolutely hilarious to be around and always wants to play with me. Schristy is very sweet and we spend hours chatting and practicing Nepali. Being able to understand what it is like to be a 19 year old college student in Nepal has been amazing since it is comparable to my life in the U.S.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Life in Kathmandu

We started school the first Monday and spend all week in class. The mornings are 3 hours of Nepali language, followed by a lecture, lunch, and another lecture. Our lectures cover everything from nepali customs, religion and castes, to development theories, how to conduct an interview, and community forestry.  Our weekends have basically been free. We have mostly been exploring the surrounding area. The first Saturday we went up to the monkey temple which is on a hill overlooking Kathmandu. It is adorned with prayer flags and filled with wild monkeys running around. Another weekend day was spent at the farmers market in the touristy part of town which is wonderful, even if it is filled with Badeshi (white people).

Life in Nepal is a strange mix of modern and past. In some respects I feel just like normal. I have wifi in my home, we watch TV as a family, I go to school during the day, chat with my friends, go to the grocery store, go out to eat, and talk on my cell phone. But at the same time, the lights go out for 9 hours a day for a lovely thing called load shedding, I wash my clothes by hand in the bathroom (and that never gets all the smell out) we eat the same thing for lunch and dinner, and people spend many hours by the candlelight at night just chatting. What a strange world Nepal is.

Kathmandu is also an interesting place. It is the dirtiest city I have never encountered. There is dust everywhere and living here comes with a certain minimum noise level that sometimes I can hardly bear. Traffic doesn’t drive on any particular side of the road here but instead drives any way they want. Street lights don’t exist, and crossing the street is a free for all that usually involves standing between the two “lanes” of moving traffic waiting for a break to finish crossing the street. Accidents are the norm. The streets are filled with shops selling American and foreign products, and every three blocks there is a public temple.

And yet this strange style of life has become natural to me. I cross the streets with ease, utter Namaste as strangers, haggle with fruit vendors, do pugya to the gods every morning, sit and do my homework by flashlight, attempt to scrub my clothes on the bathroom floor, and eat endless amounts of daal bhaat with my hands.  I also have this hilarious habit now of freaking out and making a big fuss if I see a white person. Sometimes I forget that I am a foreigner here and when a white person walks by I exclaim to all of my friends- oh my gosh look a white person! I guess they are not that common around here and I really am starting to fit in.

Our schooling has included more than just sitting in the classroom all day long. We have taken in our first two weeks a few excursions as a class. One was to one of the biggest temples in KTM and as per usual the temple was filled with religious rituals of Hindus and Buddhists alike. Our guide gave us endless information on being Hindu and the Hindu lifestyle. They have some amazing teachings and their communal style of prayer is beautiful to watch.  Another excursion included a trip to Patan, one of the original towns in the valley and an intense and incredible lesson on Buddhism. More information on both of those adventures to come! 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

First Impressions of Nepal: Dhulikel

Where to begin. I have been in Nepal for basically 4 weeks now and I haven’t even properly written about the experience thus far. Well, there is a lot to be said, that is for sure, and a lot that it is near impossible to convey at this point in time.

Arriving in Nepal was unlike anything I dreamed, and yet exactly what I was hoping here. Europe is no longer exotic to me. I don’t even consider it traveling anymore as I am now so accustomed to life over there. But Nepal is exactly where it needs to be, outside of my comfort zone.

When I arrived I was put on a bus with my 13 new peers. We all went to different colleges, had diverse backgrounds, and 13 of the 14 of us were female.

We spent our first 4 days having orientation in duhlikel which is a small mountain village about an hour from Kathmandu. This was extremely well planned out on there part. From there you could see hills, green space, and even the Himalayas on a nice day. We were in our own private paradise. The mornings were spent in language class while the afternoons included lectures, and safety briefs, and syllabus review. Things were quickly falling into place. We learned about the importance of Chhiyaa in Nepal (tea) which they drink a startling about of times a day. And we also got acquainted with eating with our hands. That never stops being fun. Additionally, we learned that the Nepalese do not do breakfast and so their attempts to serve it to foreigners is very bleak. But they do eat a lot of really really good daal bhaat. That is lentils and rice and it is the meal you eat everyday, twice a day, always. No exceptions. Actually…

We went to the temple one morning to observe traditional nepali prayer called puyja and we were all given tikka which is the red mark on the forehead. This was not our only encounter with religion though. A few days later they had a massive women’s festival and the streets were jam packed with women and children dancing in red saris to traditional nepali music. This went on for hours and was an absolute pleasure to watch. We were invited to join numerous times.

When we left duhlikel we were headed for the big city: Kathmandu. There we would meet our incredible host families and start our true nepali adventure.

More details to come