“You’re WHERE?” has been the most common question I’ve received over the past few days when communicating back home.
The last time most of my friends and family heard from me, I was preparing to leave for Bamakao, Mali for the summer to work for a small non-governmental organization (NGO) called Sini Sanuman, a partner of the Advocacy Project.
So how did I find myself sitting on a hotel rooftop in Kathmandu, Nepal?
Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of tea, and let me bring you up to speed, my friends.
Right now, my clock reads 6:30am, an early hour that will be more surprising than my radical change in location to those who know me. I am looking out at a cityscape from my hotel rooftop in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu. My plane landed in the city six days ago, and I have mostly shaken the jet leg, but my internal clock continues to wake me before sunrise. The view from the table where I type includes an array of buildings with people tending their rooftop gardens as the city wakes up against a backdrop of the Himalayas. Prayer flags flutter in the breeze, linking the buildings. The moment is peaceful, even as I reflect on the more frazzled few weeks leading up to it.
To see a video of this view, take a look: Himalayan Views over Kathmandu, Nepal
“The Best Laid Plans…”
As part of my studies as a M.S. in Foreign Service (MSFS) student at Georgetown University, students complete an internship over the summer between their first and second years. I spent the last few months researching opportunities, and thanks to several great referrals (Thanks Walter and Rose!), located the Advocacy Project fellowship, which matches grassroots organizations working on peace-building initiatives with graduate students who can provide technical support. I was thrilled to be accepted into the program in Mali. Unfortunately, due to security challenges in the country, this required jumping through a few extra hoops.
There is an ongoing insurgency in northern Mali and it has been designated with a State Department warning for travelers. Because of this, Georgetown requires special approvals before students travel there. During my final exams weeks, concerns were raised about the security situation of my internship and I had to rapidly reroute. Just yesterday, there was an attack on a Bamako resort frequented by foreigners on the weekend. It is a stark reminder of the importance of the work being done by Sini Sanuman, as its citizens continue to grapple with such tragic attacks.
I am grateful for the support of many advisors, including Iain Guest, the Director of the Advocacy Project (AP) and much of the MSFS administration for helping me to find an alternative internship in Kathmandu. As I hurried through my final exams, and jumped into the Advocacy Project Fellowship training week, we mapped out a new plan. AP partnered me with another Advocacy Project Peace Fellow, Vicky Mogeni, to work on transitional justice issues in Kathmandu. Together, Vicky and I will be working to support the National Network for the Families of the Disappeared (NEFAD), which I will be writing about soon.
Before I knew it, I was packing my bags, rapidly exchanging my sandals for trekking boots and monsoon rain gear. Then came the long journey. As the plane descended into Abu Dhabi, I watched the sun set from my window over sand dunes before hopping the next flight to Delhi where I saw the sun rise.
While I didn’t expect to be in Nepal, I think life has a way of landing you in the place you need to be. I have been deeply moved and inspired by the people I have met, and humbled by their warm welcome. After my first steps off the plane, Prabal Thapa, a local Nepali graduate student studying development who works with NEFAD, greeted me and helped me navigate to my hotel. He has continued to teach Vicky and I about NEFAD’s work, and we look forward to doing great work together this summer.
Posted By Kirstin Yanisch (Nepal)
Posted Jun 21st, 2017