My bags are packed (again), and I’m ready to move into the orphanage where I will be volunteering. The orphanage, run through the Himalayan Foundation, is in a village called Dhapasi on the northern outskirts of the Kathmandu district. Although I’ll be further away from city life and the other volunteers, I think I will have a more valuable, authentic Nepalese experience in Dhapasi. I’ll be living with a family that speaks little English, so learning the language will be essential. I know a few words already, and so far my favorite is rangichangi, meaning colorful.
Now that it is the morning of day 3 in Nepal, I am relieved to say that I’m beginning to adjust to the culture. I’m getting used to being unshowered and barefoot (it is considered rude to wear shoes indoors), eating rice every day, and living out of a suitcase (no furniture here).
One thing that will be difficult to adjust to is seeing poverty everywhere. At any tourist destination, there are children walking around rubbing their bellies and asking for money. It is hard to say no, but it is advised to give money to an orphanage or foundation rather than children on the street. The average Nepalese family survives on about 100 U.S. dollars per month, and most make a living by farming.
Everything in Nepal is a test of patience. Filling up one’s gas tank can take three hours at the fuel station. I passed a gas station yesterday, where 50 people were crowded around and placed on a waiting list.
It’s also hard to ignore the pollution and filth in the city. Garbage is strewn throughout the streets, and there is a constant smell of sewage. On my first day here, I thought that hacking/spitting was just a gross habit of the Nepalese, but now I realize it’s the result of some serious lung issues. A lot of people wear face masks around, and I just bought one yesterday to avoid getting cancer by the end of my trip.
All of this sounds terrible, but it is all part of the learning experience of being in a third world country. A lot of people say it makes you thankful for what you have, but I don’t really feel that way. I’m a little ashamed to be so privileged, and I can only hope that maybe someday in the distant future, things like poverty and inequality won’t exist.
But despite everything, the Nepalese people are wonderful and hospitable. Yesterday, I went to Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple) and had a blast watching the monkeys run around and jump into a swimming pool. As far as future trips, I’ll have many opportunities to travel around Kathmandu and to other parts of Nepal on the weekends. I’m excited that the other volunteers are also adventurous, and I’m hoping to go paragliding and ziplining, and maybe even bungee jumping if I can muster up the courage.
Here are some photos from yesterday: