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! 

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