Jessica Tirado

Jessica Tirado (Jagaran Media Center – JMC): Jessica earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Political Science at the State University of New York at New Paltz. After university, Jessica volunteered in Rwanda with survivors of the 1994 genocide. After returning from Rwanda, she volunteered with the Darfur People’s Association of New York, assisting refugee families. Jessica then worked in northern Thailand with a Thai NGO that worked on human rights in Burma, and was part of the disaster relief response to Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. At the time of her AP fellowship, Jessica was studying for a Masters degree at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs. In the summer of 2007, she participated in NYU’s overseas study program at the United Nations Offices in Geneva. She also served as the Coordinator for Rock to Save Darfur’s major fundraising concert in 2008. After her fellowship, Jessica wrote: “I now view discrimination as a much more urgent problem than I'd previously perceived it to be. I've also gained an enhanced awareness of the importance of marginalized communities in leading their own NGOs and movements, rather than relying on others to advocate on their behalf. This experience has been very humbling.”

A new day dawns. At dawn.

14 Jun

3:00 a.m., and I was finally drifting toward sleep. I was psyched at the thought of being able to sleep in, considering that I’d gotten around two hours of sleep per night over the past three or four days. What a risible idea that turned out to be. I’d heard before that the Nepali people as a whole begin the day essentially when the roosters crow, but I was certainly not expecting what would follow.

5:00 a.m. rolls around and I hear what sounds like some combination of a huge marching band and a lynch mob making its way down the street. Men and women are fervidly belting out verses with the cheery enthusiasm of holiday church carolers, and as the crowd inches closer to our guesthouse, I hear various “instruments” that sound like large metal culinary tools clanging against even larger pots and pans. The crowd stops moving and the clanging grows louder and faster, as the rhythmic chants ripen into spirited shrieks. At this point I’m getting rather excited myself – I’m dying to go outside and see what all the commotion is about. Equal parts curious and confused, I climb out of bed and fumble for my glasses – and realize that the ear-shattering racket is…fading!

Nooooooooo, don’t leave yet! I silently plead with the singers (chanters?). By the time I find my shoes, it’s already too late – the music, shrieking, and banging are out of earshot. I very reluctantly restrain myself from running down the street in my pajamas like a madwoman to chase this band-of-sorts (though the thought continues to creep up).

I sigh, defeated, and ease back into bed. Though I’m mad at myself for being too slow to find out whether the ceremonious marching/racket was as much fun to see as it was to hear, I welcome the opportunity to fall back asleep for a little while longer. Just as I’m getting comfortable again, the noise vacuum is filled by dogs – lots and LOTS of dogs – howling, barking, and yelping excitedly, all the while rivaling the marching band (I’m using the term loosely at this point) in loudness and pitch. My heart sinks; I know they’re all strays, and probably all starving. I feel yet another urge to run out of the guesthouse in my pajamas to tend to these guys. It’s a good thing there were no doggie biscuits anywhere, because I probably wouldn’t have been able to stop myself otherwise.

Stray dogs in Kathmandu.

Twenty minutes pass, and the vendors come out. The dogs have been bellowing their turgid, redundant song this entire time, and are loathe to give up the spotlight for the a.m. merchants. The street has now morphed into a stage for a yelling competition between the humans and the canines – and it’s a damn close match. The dogs eventually admit defeat, though, as more and more human voices fill the air. I wonder what they are shouting about so intently and trying to sell at six in the morning; the metal gate separating the guesthouse from the street has rendered all of these sounds a mystery (and as such, all the more interesting).

It’s a lively and musical morning in Kathmandu, and it’s far too sunny and intriguing outside to stay in bed any longer. My first day in Nepal awaits me, and I can’t wait to take it all in. Delirious from a week of sleep deprivation, I rise with a big smile on my face.

Posted By Jessica Tirado

Posted Jun 14th, 2009

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