For the first time since arriving in Nepal, I feel refreshed. I am sitting on a vibrant gold and red couch in the Care Women Nepal office in Dhankuta. I have internet connection, a fully charged laptop, and I have finally managed to connect my iPhone to wifi. A half full cup of warm green tea is carefully placed on the wooden arm of the couch next to me. Each sip is both sweet and bitter, leaving my mouth a bit confused. My hair is still damp from my shower this morning, my first since leaving the US three days ago, and I finally feel clean. I’m wearing one of my favorite outfits: black jeans and a loose fitting white t-shirt.
I’m toggling back and forth between writing this post and messaging my friends back home, most of which have gone to bed. A Care Women Nepal staff member comes in and out of the office occasionally, and she makes an effort to speak English with me. Birds chirp in the background, busses honk, and people talk in the street outside of the house. I rejoice for all of these things.
The Care Women Nepal office in Dhankuta
Green tea like this is served quite frequently throughout the day
I had been openly afraid of the prospect of the loneliness of a ten week journey, but I had forgotten to emotionally account for the initial transitional imbalance. I left DC at 11:05 PM on the 30th of May with a four hour layover in Istanbul, and arrived in Kathmandu around 7:00 AM on the 1st of June. My total travel time was just around twenty two hours. I spent the remainder of that day in Kathmandu, and we left for Dhankuta early the morning of the 2nd.
The view from my window seat as we descended into Kathmandu
I was able to connect with my family upon arriving in Kathmandu, but it left me with a deep ache in my ribcage. My body fully protested the first meal I ate, and I have not been hungry since. My face is breaking out so bad that I could easily be mistaken for a 13 year old girl, but I can’t hide it because I left all my make up at home.
Less than 12 hours before leaving for Dhankuta, I learned that Yunesh, the son of the President of Care Women Nepal,* and his fluent English would not be accompanying us because of his schooling. I can’t quite seem to figure out how to get the toilet to flush toilet paper and I’m a little afraid to ask someone if I should be flushing the toilet paper at all. An overwhelming homesickness pulls at my chest constantly as I seek comfort and some sort of familiarity.
The bathroom in Dhankuta – still unsure about the toilet paper
Nepal is quite literally foreign to me. The language barrier is interesting, for it is a chance to view language as an outsider. I’m trying to pick up on tone and volume to figure out their meaning. The words always sound fast, hushed, and pointed even though I know that is not the case. In Kathmandu, there are stray dogs roaming the muddy streets. I know I can’t touch them, but they look absolutely delightful although slightly mangy. I even saw a young cow on the side of the street in the city and gasped. Yunesh and Indira found this gasp amusing because, apparently, there are a fair amount of cows wandering around Kathmandu. I would’ve snapped a picture had I not been in the back of a moving taxi.
The driving is also wild to me. The drivers honk to let others know of their presence instead of out of frustration. It’s a nice little “Toot toot! I’m right here!” Also, the meat is not processed, so it tastes very fresh. The taste is not bad, in fact it’s how meat was meant to taste, but will take a while to adjust. It’s strange because everything is the same as it is at home; people talk and laugh, there are dogs and cows, cars honk, and chicken is served. But nothing is the way I know it to be.
A quiet Kathmandu morning. Although not pictured, I promise there are at least two dogs outside of the frame.
In addition to the language, dogs, the driving, and the meat, I’m also still trying to get a grip on the cultural opinion of women. On my first day in Nepal, I was talking American politics with a strong supporter of Care Women Nepal, a doctor who spoke excellent English. During the course of the conversation, he mentioned that Hillary Clinton’s biggest flaw was that she was a woman. I couldn’t tell whether or not he was making a joke, but I smiled and replied, “She has done quite well for herself.” The conversation then lightly turned to how aggressive she is, to which I smiled and replied, “Yes, she is aggressive, but you have to be as a woman in American politics.” Could this have been a joke, put across the table to tease me as a young, strong American woman? Were his comments dipped in sarcasm that was lost in cultural translation? I’m still unsure.
The transition hasn’t been smooth, but I was warned that these ten weeks wouldn’t be easy. Right now, I am allowing myself the time to feel and adjust. I am allowing myself space to listen, observe, and formulate questions. I am allowing myself patience. Today is the first day of many beautiful, refreshing days to come.
A taste of a beautiful day in Dhankuta as seen from my front door
*Indira Thapa is the founder and President of Care Women Nepal. She will be a key player in all of my stories! She is incredibly sweet and I’m really looking forward to working (and living!) with her while in Dhankuta.
Posted By Morgan Moses
Posted Jun 4th, 2016