Lessons Learned

20 Jul

We arrived back in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, but our time in Nepal has stuck with us more than we could have imagined.  When I set out on this journey, I was hoping to add a few details to my Master’s thesis, but what I found was that as much as I tried, I could not escape the hold that the country had on me.  Though it is difficult to express all the things I have learned from my journey, I have had some time to reflect, and have compiled a list of things I learned.

 

  1. Learn to squat.  While most restaurants in the big cities have “Western toilets,” asking for one promises to get you strange looks.
  2. There is always room.  There is a great movie in theaters right now, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” which takes place in India.  However, almost everything about it can be applied to my experiences in Nepal.  As one character says while trying to squeeze into a bus full of people, “There is always room.”  This can be said about most things in Nepal—the busses, extra guests at a local’s home, even your belly when your host fills your plate with daal bhat for the third time.
  3. Don’t eat that—but don’t be afraid to try the local food either.  Every single person we met (tourists, trekkers, aid workers) spent at least an entire day sick.  Somehow, none of us did.  We were very careful about we ate, making sure that everything was cooked before we tried it.  Thankfully, most Nepali food is cooked, and the tea is boiled.  But after a week of filling ourselves with rice and lentils, we had to force ourselves not to order salads.  With that in mind, is would be an injustice to travel to Nepal and deprive yourself of the Nepali cuisine.  Even after we came home I still craved momos, a Nepali-style dumpling, and Chicken Sekuwa, grilled spicy meat.
  4. Look up!  Yes, you will step on spit and cow dung, that part is almost inescapable.  But fussing over and side-stepping an on-coming luggie will only make you miss the beautiful scenery.  Even in the streets of Kathmandu where the mountains aren’t visible above the colorful handing garlands, the bright marigold wreaths and beads around brown necks are only the surface of the onslaught of the attack on your senses.  At every turn, a new sight, smell, feeling awaits.
  5. Don’t refuse an invitation.  If someone offers you tea, accept.  We must have insulted many people trying to rush off to make the bus get to a meeting on time.
  6. On that note- don’t expect the locals to follow the same timetable as you.  The local busses are rarely on time, and it is best not to let yourself get too frustrated.  I cant count how many times we were told, “Don’t worry about it! There’s nothing you can do.”
  7. Bring an umbrella.  I finally understand why people carry umbrellas when its not raining.  The temperatures got up to 100 degrees with little shade or wind for relief.  Almost every day we wished had brought an umbrella with us.
  8. Watch out for others’ umbrellas.  It seems that on the crowded streets of Kathmandu, you are more likely to be poked in the eye by an umbrella than mugged like most tourists in other cities.
  9. Old dogs can learn new tricks.  (Thank you Marigold Hotel, again)  Three weeks in Nepal taught me that most of the Western comforts I took for granted weren’t actually a necessity and our habits were born out of complacency and were ready to be shaken.  We got used to brushing our teeth using our sterilized water.  When we first arrived in Kathmandu, just crossing the street without crossing signals seemed a sure death wish.  We followed closely behind the locals, as my mom screamed at my dad for almost getting us run over.  After just a few days though, we learned to navigate the busy streets on our own with just a few Nepali words shouted at us that we were probably better off not understanding.
  10. The world is big, the world is small.  When I was little, there were two places in the world that I considered to be the most different, exotic and unlike anything in my own world: Kathmandu and Timbuktu.  The names just oozed adventure.  Never did I expect to actually visit one of these places.  And being there exceeded every expectation that I had accumulated in preparation.  It is a world different from my own in every way imaginable.  And yet, at its root, it is exactly the same.

 

A monkey stealing some food

Young monks

Prayer Wheels

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Lessons Learned”

  1. CharlyRed July 21, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Loved reading this!!
    Echos so much of what I’ve been thinking/discovering since I’ve been in Nepal.

    • down the road a bit July 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      Thank you so much! Hope you’re enjoying all of the wonderful things the country has to offer!

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