Here are a few of my photos!

Click here to see the highlights of my trip!

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Goodbye Nepal

When will you be back? That’s the question that I’ve been asked over and over in the last week. I said, maybe after college, about four years? I got the feeling a lot of people took my answer very seriously. They talked about it like a fact. I’m coming back in four years. Maybe they’re right. I never considered coming back until recently. Once you’ve been one place, try a new one right? There are a lot of things I don’t like about Kathmandu. The smell of burning trash when you walk outside. The exaust from the overcrowded streets filled with taxis and motorbikes. Being nagged and hassled by salespeople. Being poked and followed by children with hungry eyes, saying things like, “Miss, you have money, I don’t. I’m hungry.” Walking passed naked children, not even a year old whose ankles are tied to trees so they don’t go anywhere. No mother in site. Just a bowl with a few ruppees in front of the baby. The feeling of not being able to do a thing about any of it was the worst. Sometimes it would make me sick to my stomache. But every place has it’s negatives and positives.

I’ll miss the sense that everyone is family, no matter what. The shopkeepers are your aunties and your upstairs neighbor is your uncle. The people you work and go to school with are your brothers and sisters. Instead of competing for a higher position in your job, you are content with what you have. I’m not saying everyone gets along and there aren’t conflicts and clashing personalities. There is just a greater sense of respect towards one another than most places. Dispite the poverty in Nepal, stats actually show that Nepal has a very low depression rate. Compared to America it’s a humungous difference. What does that say about what money does to us?

Sometimes I found myself walking down the streets of Thamel, annoyed at all the tourists with their either grungy look or trekker attire. I would criticize them in my mind. ‘I bet they are staying in the nicest hotels, ordering fimiliar foods, and thinking they are so enlightened by coming here.’ But then I remembered that although I’m being emmersed in the culture differently than most tourists; not staying in 5 star hotels or able to have all the American comforts I’m used to back home, I’m still just as guilty of being a tourist as them. I admit I enjoyed plenty of food that wasn’t dal baht, I sat in a few internet cafe’s, and would endulge in the sweet comfort of a latte and pancakes for breakfast. And my living situation was by no means rustic. Yes, there was often no hot water, sometimes no water at all, and there were the daily power cuts, but my home was comfortable and truly not what I expected before arriving.

What I’ll miss most are the amazing people I was lucky enough to meet. The children of OCCED, all 40 of them, have such great potential and glowing personalities. I could always count on a laugh with the staff of OCCED, Social Tours was the best support group I could ask for, my host family as well as Hanna’s host family was caring and always welcoming. I couldn’t ask for better people to become friends with than Arravind, Vatissa, Sophie, and Hanna. These people have all changed my life. For this I’m very grateful. Somehow I’ve turned this into a thank you letter so in that case the people I owe thanks to the most are my parents, who believed in me even when I seemed to have lost all hope.

Thank you everyone for your love and support through reading my blogs!

Namaste

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Time Travel

Happy 2068! Today is Nepali New Year and I’m far in the future! Nepali’s generally celebrate four different New Years. Tibetan New Year, Newari New Year, Nepali New Year, and the New Year you and I celebrate. Most people here will tell you that it’s just an excuse to drink!

Besides these New Year celebrations, Nepal acknowledges over 365 different holidays or festivals. Within these about 32 are government holidays that many people are off work for.

I went to Bhaktapur for the New Year Festival called Bisket Jatra. It was crowded with people in bright reds and oranges worshiping the several temples spread around the squares. I witnessed far too many chickens being sacrificed. Their blood and feathers are smeared and stuck on trees, temples, and a great chariot in the middle of the square that’s built just for this festival. Groups of women and men in traditional clothing played drums, flutes, and tamborines throughout the medieval city.

After touring around the very overwhelming scene, I sat in a terrace cafe overlooking the main Durbar Square and my friends and I watched the world go by while we ate Bhaktapur’s famous King Curd. What better way to spend New Year in Nepal than to attend one of their many festivals?

Subha Kamana!

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Mother and Daughter Meet

Now that exams are over, the older children, ages 6 to 16, are on holiday. Since there are only nine little children and they already have four teachers supervising them, the staff of OCCED asked if we wouldn’t mind spending our time with the older ones- especially the boys. This week we have spent our days chalking up the concrete playground, watching the boys show off while they play basketball, and letting the girls braid our hair. It’s been quite a change from communicating with mostly body language to speaking english. We miss spending time with the little kids so we’ve been sneaking up to their building to see them for at least a couple minutes a day.  We don’t want them to think we’ve disappeared!

Yesterday we set out colored pencils and paper on the patio tables outside. Hanna and I love art time because it means that everyone is focused on their work and for the most part well behaved. We’ve actually discovered some really great artists among the boys. I looked up from my drawing to see a nervous looking non-nepali woman walking toward our table. Behind her was a nepali man with a video camera. I immediatly knew that this must be a new mother about to meet her child.

 I was right. Donna from New York was here to meet her daughter Hissi for the first time.  Hissi is four years old and is the sweetest, most beautiful child I have ever met. When I talk to my parents on the phone she is the one I’m talking about when I say, “I really want to take this one child home with me…” I was drawn to her the moment I arrived because of her big staring chocolate eyes and her dark glowing skin.

The moment Hissi and Donna met was quite the viewing. The entire orphanage surrounded them, everyone speaking to Hissi in Nepali, no doubt saying things like, “hug your new mommy Hissi! Give her a kiss!” I can’t even imagine how overwhelmed Hissi must have felt with everyone watching as she stood shyly beside this kneeling woman.

 The crowd eventually became distracted with other things and it gave Donna and Hissi some space and bonding time. It didn’t take long for Hissi to become comfortable. With a tip from the elderly volunteer, Marriane, Donna discovered that Hissi’s favorite activity is to be picked up and twirled around in the air. That really got her laughing. Donna was understandably emotional when she talked to Marrianne, Hanna, and me about how incredible it was to finally have this day come. The process had taken her and her husband seven years. I cannot get over the fact that I’ve been able to see two adoptions. I’m so happy for Donna and her husband. But I’m especially happy for Hissi.

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A journal entry from ghandruk

On this trip I have discovered a very important fact one must know before scheduling a trek- I am not built for trekking. I have never been so physically miserable than I was yesterday while climbing to our first camp point. What was supposed to take four hours took us seven, and when I say us I mean me. The guide and Kimberly could have easily made it up in time. The climb was strenuous. It was mostly steep flights of stone steps and after every ten steps or so I would have to flop down to catch my breath. The sun was beating down which didn’t help. I felt dizzy and light-headed. I cannot blame the difficulty of the trek on the heat though, I plainly was just not in the right physical shape for it. My confidence was quickly fading and I dreaded the next few days to come which would be harder and longer. Kimberly practically had to push and drag me up the steps. Finally we reached our mountain top hotel just before dark. I curled up in my bed and wished that I would never have to wake up for the next day of trekking.
What I woke up to however made all the suffering worth it. The Himilayan mountains were in full clear view, the snow on them such a bright white against the blue morning sky. The view was breath taking and kimberly and I spent the early morning taking pictures of ourselves with the Himalayas in the background. We watched as the sun just barely swept across the tips as if it were a candle on a glorious birthday cake. I attempted to continue the journey but after twenty minutes I knew that I wasn’t strong enough for another seven hours of climb. Through frustrated tears I wished I was energetic, fit, and able. We sat on the side of the path and contemplated what to do. Kimberly was supportive of everything- there were a few options. We eventually decided on one that worked for all of us. I would go back to our previous hotel in Ghandruk just twenty minutes away and Kimberly and Nhu No, our guide, would finish the trek and come back for me late the next day. So now I am in my room. I slept all morning and sat and admired the view. There is a storm now so I am stuck inside again. Unfortunately I did not unpack my book or journal from Nho No’s backpack- I’m using a scrap piece of paper I found. I’m not sure how I will pass the time for the next two days. I’m glad everything worked out how it did. Now we have funny story about how Leah couldn’t make it up the mountain.

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Village Tour

I walked through five Newari villages on Saturday. It was fascinating to witness such a minimal lifestyle. There is absolutely nothing in the way of modern technology. In each village there are several courtyards full of women washing their clothes, scrubbing their children’s hair, and then dumping buckets of water over their heads. We passed several tall wooden structures covered in hanging cobs of corn, later to be eaten as popcorn. Along the dusty paths there were women with skin so detailed in wrinkles that they looked like they could be hundreds of years old. They sat in the dirt, spinning yak wool that would later be used to make carpets. A small following of curious children would often form and they were so entertained by our  cameras and eager to be the subject of our photos. Roaming through these villages was really eye opening for me. I was reminded of how many times I’ve used the words, “I need” instead of, “I want”. Material things aren’t necessities. Next time I catch myself longing for that new gadget I’ll remember the simple lives of these villagers.

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Too Early For Holi!

Holi has already started for some youngsters. My host sister Sneha and I were strolling down the alley way leading to our house, eating sausage on a stick when I was suddenly surprised by a cold splash of water aimed directly at my bum. This was immediatly followed by a second blast, hitting the backside of my leg.  Luckily the plastic bags were full of only water, not the colors that Holi is famous for. We laughed all the way home and I immediatly changed out of my wet clothes. Sneha was worried that the water that was splashed on me was dirty water, which many children make a point to use. I am eager to participate in Holi and battle against the neighborhood kids. I know I’ll be the one covered the most in paint and water, but I have a feeling i’ll enjoy playing. Hopefully it doesn’t get too brutal! Kim, watch out. You are coming on the night of this colorful holiday! Beware though, shortly after I was hit, I realized my phone, which was in my pocket, had gotten drenched and wouldn’t start up again. Luckily taking it apart and letting it sit in the sun did the trick. If you want your electronics to survive this day, don’t take them out of the house!

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