Nicole Farkouh

Nicole Farkouh (Collective Campaign for Peace – COCAP): Nicole graduated from Smith College with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. She also has a Master of Education from the University of New Orleans. Nicole’s professional background is in education. She has worked as a teacher, administrator, and consultant, mainly with middle school students with special needs. She is also a certified community mediator and has studied a complementary model of mediation based on Non-Violent Communication. She has studied abroad in India, lived and taught in Mexico. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master of Public Policy degree at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. After her fellowship, Nicole wrote: "More than anything, this summer I received a new level of understanding /appreciation for the complexity involved in “development” and “human rights” work…. Particularly being a foreign body trying to work in a new culture."



HERE I GO!

23 May

The countdown has begun. I’m leaving for Nepal in a few days. I’ve been doing strange things like having trouble falling asleep and waking up before my alarm goes off. These are not typical behaviors for me, especially considering just a few days ago I finished a grueling semester and my sleep reserves have definitely been depleted. The only logical reason: I’m excited (and honestly, a little nervous too).

The issue weighing on my mind most at the moment is the fact that I’ll be going off to the remote town of Gaighat. I have only been able to locate it on one map and it isn’t mentioned in any travel books. Gaighat is in southeast Nepal, in the Terai region. Though some reports indicate the “southeastern Terai” is the most currently unstable area of the country, that information is not what causes my nerves.

Naively or not, I am more concerned about the particulars of my daily life than my physical safety in the larger picture. I am looking forward to knowing where I will be staying, if there will be consistent & reliable internet access, and how long the trip will be to Kathmandu – essentially, I want to wrap my head around (and emotionally prepare for?) how isolated I’ll be. Luckily, I’ll have a solid few days in Kathmandu to figure much of this out before I head off.

I am also constantly musing about how and if I will be able to integrate into the work being done by COCAP and NESPEC (the two NGOs I will be working with). Will I really be able to make any meaningful contribution during the short time I am there? I understand and whole heartedly agree with the mission and methods of The Advocacy Project; particularly their focus on sustainability and providing local NGOs with tools to use at their discretion to empower civil society. Meanwhile the skeptic in me wonders how this excellent theory will transfer into practice, and if there is anything I can do to facilitate that process.

To balance out the gloom, I also feel enormous excitement revolving around this far-flung placement with so many unknowns. The Terai is reported to be one of the most politically interesting regions of Nepal with great diversity and subsequently, some of the greatest challenges to long term peace. There is no doubt the region itself will add richness and complexity to my experience.

The flip side of the possible isolation is the inconceivable potential to come to know an area largely unexplored by Westerners. I have the chance to learn everything I can about the area and hopefully serve as a resource – both for locals and Westerner travelers or NGOs who do not have much experience there.

And beyond all that, as my Berkeley professor pointed out, I may get to wake up every morning with a direct view of Mt. Everest! Could that magic really come true?

Thus, with my bags almost packed, my vaccinations done, and my first aid kit stocked, I guess there is only one thing left to do…..

Remind myself to stay flexible, trust it will all work out, take a deep breath, close my eyes, and……

JUMP!!

Posted By Nicole Farkouh

Posted May 23rd, 2014

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