I haven’t written in two weeks. Things have changed immensely.

 

Do you ever feel a push from your conscience, something you can’t explain?

IMG_1849.JPG

I’m writing this post on top of my patio of my apartment about 15 minutes outside of Thamel, Kathmandu.

To pursue my own projects, I had to move and leave my program. In my heart, I knew  where I was needed and where I was not. Living 3 hours away from the city and having a 9pm curfew, I felt isolated and trapped. I would wander around the hotel where we worked and lived in, doing a whole load of nothing. I had contacts and dreams of getting things done, without the freedom to do them. As much as I loved their program in Uganda, this felt unorganized and more like a vacation. We did tedious work, like scrape moss off of a roof where it just grew back. We even painted a rich man’s house more pink.

I couldn’t leave the NGO alone. Luckily enough, my friend Jamon shared the same belief as me, and moved staircase away from mine, so we could branch off and get shit done. Also a plus, he speaks almost fluent Nepali.

It feels good to work on my own schedule, to push myself to wake up early in the cold morning to drink green tea (even though it tastes like ass), do yoga, and meditate. I know these things are good for me. In relation, I don’t miss alcohol or drugs as much lately, instead I’ve been craving a hamburger – which is, yes, out of my control. What is in my control? Eggs and dal bhat (rice and lentils), my sleep schedule, and the amount of work I choose to do.

We met our first partner Denish through a mutual friend from Uganda, Akoli. Jamon and I sat down at a coffee shop with Denish a couple days before we moved. Things were quiet before we hit it off. “There’s a group on Saturdays,” he told us, “we started doing volunteer work after the earthquake, and ever since we’ve fallen in love with the job. We tried to join a nonprofit, but we were too young, so we started our own. We’re called Sahayatri Nepal.” He invited us to join the meeting the upcoming Saturday, and we were ecstatic.

IMG_2083.JPG
1 anthropology student, 2 engineers, and a dentist walk into a bar (a restaurant)

Two meetings later, we’re down for three projects over the span of the next month.

 

I realize now that time is passing quickly, as I check my notebook – the pages filling up with information. I wrote a project proposal to teach art at Florescent Secondary School, and just yesterday it was approved. We’re signed up to volunteer at a dental camp on the 4th, and a menstrual outreach on the 20th.

22688740_1460473804000151_5626852880241877089_n.jpgOur relationship with Denish is not the same as it was when we first met him. He invited us to his home for Tihar, where him and his family gave tika on our foreheads. Now I can technically call Denish my brother.  Throughout all of  my travels, I’ve never experienced such a special ceremony. It was an honor to join Denish and his family. Everyone was so welcoming to Jamon and I, they didn’t get mad when I spilled the tika and when I played the flute very badly.

22728707_1460473884000143_4935772095285237947_n.jpg

The food was delicious, the gifts were wonderful and thoughtful, and the love I experienced made it feel like I was amongst my own family.

22555295_1460476730666525_1691471235579667985_n
i thought my flute playing sounded great??

Cheers to recent challenges, to growing experiences, and to a new family.

      It is a well known fact that dogs are universally awesome.

my dogs at home, Ridley & Maisy

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

 

Nepal has an exceptionally large population of dogs. Some are taken as pets; others run wild in packs, eating garbage and sipping water from dirty puddles. Either way, it is my goal to pet them all.

IMG_1271.JPG
this lil dood knew how to shake! GOOD BOYE!

Over 25,000 stray dogs roam the streets of Kathmandu Valley. A large percentage of those pups suffer from disease and malnourishment. During the last outreach, some of my team and I were exploring the small village (about 45 minutes from Chitwan). We came across a group of children, and to our wonderment, puppies. We instantly squealed, scooping them up in our arms. It didn’t take long for us to notice that they were suffering from mange, underbellies rough and infected, as well as their tails stripped of all fur. The puppy in my arms fell asleep within seconds. I melted, rocking the little thing back and forth like a baby. A girl approached us, holding a puppy upside down by it’s leg. Still carefully swaying my puppy, I gasped. There are cultural differences when it comes to animals, I kept telling myself.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 11.22.36 PM.png

To control the population, the government would poison street dogs with strychnine. Over 10,000 dogs would die slow painful deaths a year, having seizures for 9 hours. The poison also affected small children and pets, as it lingered in chunks on the side of the road. A program called KAT has been trying to stop the strychnine chaos, and came to an agreement with the government to not poison near the areas where they work.

IMG_1582.JPG

In my 3 weeks here so far, I haven’t met one mean street dog. Shy, maybe, but never outwardly aggressive. Dogs are globally kind creatures, sharing joy wherever they go. What did we ever do to deserve them?

resources: http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2014/06/street-dog-care-of-kathmandu-nepal/
https://carelikeido.com/2016/04/20/the-right-to-roam-protecting-the-street-dogs-of-kathmandu/

 

 

What I’ve began to notice, is, that time doesn’t exist in your mind abroad. You just experience it. You feel it in the moment. It’s as if I’m always mindful.

We were on an outreach this past week, 8 hours away from our original home. The ride was magnificent – I stuck my head out of the jeep window, closing my eyes and remembering the similar feeling in Uganda when I rode on motorcycles.

IMG_1489.JPG

 

I was asleep when we pulled into the facility. When shook awake, I realized I wasn’t wearing the traditional (and modest) kurta, but instead a comedic $1 shirt from goodwill. I frantically pulled a kurta over myself. We were given welcome scarves of bright colors. An older man greeted us (who I presumed owned the land), shaking our hands. “While you are here, you are home. I am your grandfather.” We sat down in the living room, given black tea. It was sugary, warm, and delicious. I was grateful when half my team mentioned that they couldn’t drink it, as I pulled all the teas closer to me in a hugging motion. Bless these sweet mormons. After, they served us some of the best Nepali food you can imagine. The rice and lentils  were perfectly warm and fluffy, and the sides of potatoes and curry were flavorful and tasty.

That day, grandpa showed us around his property. It was a big chunk of land, with cows, gazebos, a clean kitchen, and a new building being constructed. The rooms we were staying in had ceiling fans, but the beds were hard as rocks. It would have to do. I took a couple minutes to rest afterwards, until my coordinator’s knock woke me up. “He’s asking for the artist,” he said through the door, “come on out.”

A large, rocky fountain awaited me. Dusty and not in service, I was curious what he wanted us to do with it. “Paint a mountain.” Grandpa said.

You got it, gramps.

After we coated it in plaster, we started to paint it grey. The paint was thick, and solidified almost instantly. We painted the inside blue, as if there was a waterfall. The walls on the sides were a darker blue, with puffy clouds scattered around. Running on multiple cups of black tea every 5 hours, I felt unstoppable. In a team of 3, we finished most of it by the second day.

Later I learned that grandpa served as a civil engineer in America way back when, earning his wealth with dignity and grace. The old man grew on me, always greeting the team with a smile and asking how the food was (we always replied that it was delicious, of course). He snuck up behind me a couple times, covering my eyes with his hands. “Guess whu!” He’d say. It was so adorable.

At night, the team would gather to learn Nepali together. Luckily, one of the volunteers learned to speak it almost fluently over a mission. After a group lesson, we’d carry plastic chairs outside and engage deep talks. After everyone else would go to bed, I’d climb to the roof and sit cross-legged, pointer finger and thumb touching over my knees. Soon the sound of the crickets and howling street dogs would fade out. I would imagine myself in a pine tree forest, light rays warming over me. Every random thought that would pop into my head, I’d watch as a fox (representing the thought) would run past, leaving me in a state of tranquility again. It wasn’t easy, a lot of the foxes that ran by had to do with food I’d been craving. Oh, there goes hot wings. 

 

What I’ve learned:

  • The illuminati is real
  • Meditation also is real, and I have started to get the hang of it
  • I now have a Nepali grandpa
  • All the paint never comes off

 

IMG_1328.JPG

 

It’s been a week since I arrived in Nepal.

I remember the feeling of joy that spread throughout my face when I looked out the airplane window. Oh, yes. It was worth the middle seat. It was worth the 18-hours. It was worth the rest of my savings. As the latch opened, the humidity pushed it’s way throughout the aircraft.

I had already met most of the team during the hour layover in China, who were just as excited as I was, despite the tiring journey.

After dropping our luggage off at the office, we explored the town. The dust was overwhelming. We covered our faces as vehicles passed, flaring dirt into the air. The locals didn’t seem to notice us – they were used to tourists – who were clearly hippies or trekkers. I purchased a Kurta (a traditional tunic that sits just above the knees), trying to haggle the price down as much as I could. Later that evening I discovered I payed much more than I should have.

When the sun set, the wheels were up. We loaded our things into a taxi bus, attempting to tetris enough room for the team. Then, the staff and the children joined us. There was barely any personal room. A little girl jumped on my lap, not acknowledging me as more than a seat. She flipped the light switch above the window, which didn’t work. I switched it back. She glared at me, switching it again. I waited another ten seconds before switching it again, and she laughed. We played the light switch game for a good minute, before she became bored and opened the large window. As the bus began to drive, the other children became loud, laughing and singing with the volunteers. The girl stuck her head out the window, watching the motorbikes and cars slowly pass. I remembered as a child when I would stick my head out the window with my dog, savoring the feeling of the wind in my face. I gave the girl a headphone, and a couple songs later, when Novo Amor came on, she fell asleep. I didn’t know what to do, there was a tiny human in my arms. I tried to support her every bump and sharp turn the taxi made. My arm fell asleep.

I softly tried to shake her awake as we pulled into our new home. It was dark and difficult to see where we were staying. Colored Christmas-like bulbs greeted us after we passed through reception, brightening the rooms up. There was a big bed, and three little beds. Kline, one of the volunteers, brilliantly chose a small bed with an outlet right above. Rachel snagged the big bed. Lacey had the bed with all of the light switches next to it.  My bed didn’t have any special powers – in fact, my bed was just out of range of the wifi.

I sat on my bed for only a minute, and crashed.

Processed with VSCO with kk1 preset
View from my favorite spot

IMG_6757.JPG

 

IMG_6758.JPG
My bed! (not bad). We have working toilets and a nice looking shower head. Holla.
IMG_6762.JPG
Our home.