Tomorrow I leave for Gaighat out in the Eastern Terai with Ajaya who is a member of NESPEC. I have finally met Ajaya who I have been in contact with for months now and am now looking forward to understanding NESPEC’s various campaigns. I will be focusing on farmer’s land rights, an issue that I will certainly be learning a lot about. Over 90 percent of Nepal’s population is involved in agriculture, thus rights and advocacy of farmers is extremely important. It is their livehood yet many have no land which means no food for their families.
I arrived almost two weeks ago in Kathmandu with much excitement to learn and work in Nepal. My days have been filled with wandering around the city aimlessly, shopping in Thamel, the backpacking tourist district, visiting beautiful Polkhara and researching the development work here as well. The senses are on constant over load with the chaotic sounds and smells of the street. Kathmandu is a city filled with immense poverty everywhere. The begging child on the street who is hysterically crying asking for water or money, the stray dogs desperate and the families passing time with their hands out are all the faces of great despair that I now have on my mind. The poverty is not only an individual level but also throughout the city. There are power outages daily and I am lucky if I can get a call out on my mobile. The common phrase, “everything is taking for granted back home” is entirely understated.
I am continuously filled with guilt with being a foreigner on my first step outside the guesthouse every morning. I get frustrated and want to help, yet then the controversial questions arise with giving out money. My privilege has never been so apparent with the color of my skin and by the clothes I am wearing. The same question that persists in the back of my mind and has initiated my career in development is, “Why was I born in such a wealthy country, why me?” I hope through this fellowship I will be able to tell stories of those who could never get their voice heard and realize that through understanding and empathy I can be of some sort of help.
I could have been born anywhere, that age-old statement I believe for me is the catalyst alone to propel me to work here. I owe it to oppressed people or anywhere when asked for help. My power and privilege that being an American holds is staggering to think about and I hope that everyone reading this will get a chance to see themselves differently in a developing country.
My trip here has been very tumultuous at times and other moments have been filled with pure joy, especially with meeting people here and getting to know a vastly different culture. Yesterday, Jessica, another AP Peace fellow and I went to Patan, a small town right outside of the city to see the famous Dubar Square there. It was a beautiful site to see with the ancient temples and it was after a Hindu festival that morning. There was an open-air market with all kinds of fruit, shoes, colorful saris and endless bracelets. Friends and families were walking around slowly. The slowness in their walk surprises me since their driving is much faster and very aggressive, one of the countless contradictions in this culture. Saturday is their only day off, as Nepalese work six days a week so it’s a great day to explore the city.
I have decided to go out to the Terai, to Gaighat after some hesitation for many reasons. My life will drastically change from my now comfortable Kathmandu life to an area that rarely sees foreigners. The future ahead is unknown of what my work will entail and filled with many emotions. My new family awaits me with much less pollution in a green land. I will celebrate my 26th birthday on a bumpy roller coaster ride out to my new home for the next few months. Good karma I hope will come tomorrow morning with no bandhas, what they call strikes here. More to come shortly with pictures when a better internet connection hopefully.
Posted By Morgan St. Clair
Posted Jul 12th, 2009