Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Phase two: Nepal

After an amazing 5-day interlude with Sneetches in Spain, I arrived in Kathmandu last week in one piece. Before arriving in Nepal, I was a little nervous to start in a new place again, and felt anxious for the impending language and cultural barriers. But, since arriving, I've had an amazing time, and every day has been filled with exploration, beauty and adventure.

First of all, Kathmandu is crazy. And by crazy I mean specifically the traffic and amount of people and noise and pollution. Where I'm staying is tourist ground zero, and the streets are filled with vendors selling anything from trekking gear to maps to turquoise jewelry to scarves and tapestries. Often times, the things for sale are more "what foreigners think Nepali things are like" than what Nepali things are actually like. Getting out of this neighborhood, clothing for sale becomes more Western, for example, and blue-jeans replace the outlandish hemp pants.

In my first few days, I did some exploring and got repeatedly lost on the confusing and unmarked winding streets. But, in the process, I saw some beautiful things and hints of Nepali life.

I arrived in Kathmandu at the end of Dasain, the largest festival in Nepal. Over the course of 15 days, people celebrate by visiting family, making animal sacrifices, eating a lot, putting tika (red paint made from rice and dye) on the forehead, and swinging on giant bamboo swings all over the country. At least, these are the things I witnessed and took part in.

viewing a Dasain parade from my hotel rooftop
Dasain swing! SO FUN, but absolutely devoid of any Western safety regulation.
Although there's much to explore and enjoy in Kathmandu, I decided to get out of the city for a few days, since I'll be in this area for the rest of my time here. Through Couch Surfing, I found Eric from Bowie, MD who is now working with an orphan home out in countryside town of Panauti. Staying with Eric, the kids and the other grown-ups in Panauti was like a dream (the swing picture above was actually taken there and not in Kathmandu). The scenery was so gorgeous, the kids were so fantastic, and my time there was so relaxing.
Panauti hillside 
View from the house's top floor
The kids! (And Uncle Himal in the back)
Looking through my telescope at the moon. The kids seemed to like it, although the Galilieoscope is really no VLT or even Strawbridge 12"....
Tomorrow is the start of my program orientation for my volunteer program. I'll be living for a month in a Buddhist monastery, teaching child-monks, ages 5-15 English and astronomy. I'm excited to be with the same kids every day and get to a deeper level with them than I could with the kids I met in Chile. However, I'm also feeling conflicted about taking part in the "Volun-Tourism" that's so trendy (and in my personal opinion, highly problematic) here in Nepal. I hope to approach the situation not from a charity or even volunteering approach, but instead more as a cultural exchange.

Today is also the last day of my first quarter of my Watson year! I need to submit my quarterly report to Watson HQ over the next few days, as one of my only requirements of this year. So much has happened in the past 3 months, and I can't imagine putting it all into words in a concise and personal way. I do feel that a lot of my outlook has changed already. In Chile, there were times that felt a little stagnant, where I was waiting for project-related things to fall into place, or for good adventuring to happen. But here, I feel like I've hit the ground running. After my time in Chile (especially the last my last few weeks there), I feel armed with a lot more confidence and initiative than I had before, which has allowed me to make the most out of my time so far. 

When my report is finalized, I'll be sure to post a copy of it here, so stay tuned!


  1. Hey Maya! I'm so impressed and happy you are having this awesome experience! I love your blog!!

    Lauren Hammer (Kozmer)

  2. It's great to keep reading these! So glad you're having a blast out there. Your sense of adventure is inspiring---on my vacation I just traveled the US East Coast :p.