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60 Things An American Learned From Living In Nepal

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The cultural wonderland, oceanless nation of Nepal has completely captivated me like no other country has before.

I express it quite a few times in several posts. It’s really got a hold on me–even with its faults. A beautiful country, but also dirty in some aspects. The citizens are friendly, although they like to save face and don’t always tell the whole truth. They may have zany superstitions that some locals will admit, holds them back from progressing, but I still love them for it. It’s gotta be the people, above all else that continues to compel me.

I’ve lived in Nepal (Sarangkot, Pokhara mostly) long enough, on and off over the span of three years. I now feel that I can give solid, personal opinions and facts about what I learned from living there.

60 of them to be exact, off the top of my head:

1. I noticed most Nepali will make a long ‘e’ sound in front of several nouns that begin with the letter ’s’. So instead of simply saying words such as star, spray, or school—many would instead pronounce it as “e-star”. “e-spray”, and “e-school”. Not sure why they do this but I told the students and teachers there to knock it off.

2. On the notion of spelling, Nepalese are HORRIBLE spellers when it comes to English. Take a walk around Kathmandu or Pokhara and I bet you will find a hundred misspellings across their signs, posters, menus, advertisements, etc. But…

3. They have the neatest, cleanest, most satisfying penmanship I have ever seen. They legit could be a new font family.

4. They literally have dal bhat (lentils, vegetables, and rice) for breakfast (or in their case lunch) and dinner, every day of their lives. Thankfully, it tastes amazing!

5. Arranged marriage is still a thing, but it’s not entirely enforced. Speaking of…

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6. It’s common to never have a girlfriend or boyfriend throughout their lives. Many just simply wait to get arranged to someone and then boom–three weeks later, they’re married…

7. …And then it’s custom for newlyweds to dip their feet in a bowl of water, which then immediate family members must come and take a sip from it. Ew! I went to a wedding once, worried I would have to do this. Amish informed me that only immediate family has to do it. Thank the Lord!

8. It’s typical for Nepalese to drink a tiny spoonful of cow urine when they are ill. They don’t do it often, but most of the locals have done it at least once or twice.

9. If you ever visit a village in Nepal, be prepared to have the most tea you’ve ever had in your lives. Usually either black or milk tea. Sometimes ginger tea as well.

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10. Snickers, Oreos, and Kit-Kats are all the rage to Nepalese children.

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11. Nepalese are super friendly, BUT they don’t always tell you the whole truth and I found much left important information out when I needed it.

12. They eat their dal bhat with their hands. It weirded me out at first, but then eventually I preferred using my hands. Weird. Strictly right hands only though. Their left hands are for poopy purposes…catch my drift?

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13. I’ve had many cakes over many different birthdays in Nepal and they all taste the same–damp, spongy, and bland as heck. I always tell them how much their cakes taste like shit compared to most Western countries, but they just have no idea. Most will never know. They look like they taste great, but they never do.

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14. The men (and some women) in Nepal are OBSESSED with Clash of Clans, an app for touchscreen phones. They also got me hooked on it, unfortunately.

15. Everyone has crappy Samsung phones that are always cracked and beaten up.

16. The electricity ALWAYS goes out unexpectedly and at the most inconvenient times.

17. Soon after puberty, boys have a special Bratabandha ceremony where they must completely shave their head, except for a small patch on the back, and essentially become men. This means they are now able to get married. I’ve attended three while I was there amongst all of their friends and families. It’s a huge deal.

18. Nepalese constantly wash their feet.

19. Transportation is always a nightmare. Traffic is congested. There’s always construction. There’s always dust. Many roads are unpaved. Since Nepal is a mountainous country, vehicles are constantly twisting and turning, sometimes just inches away from a cliff.

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20. Speaking of construction, constructing anything usually takes freaking FOREVER.

21. It is common for people to pass out sweets to all of their family and friends on their birthday. When my birthday rolled around, I had to pass out sweets to the entire school!

22. Red tikka on your forehead is a sign of a blessing and good luck. Red tikka and rice on your forehead is usually something extra special. Yellow tikka on your forehead means you are mourning the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Women may have a red mark at the top of their forehead which means they are married.

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23. Many children in Pokhara sway back and forth when they are studying. I asked them why they do this but none of them gave me an understandable reason. Some weren’t even aware that they do it. They just do.

24. Most of my sarcasm flew right over their heads. Only the ones that knew me best eventually learned the art of sarcasm.

25. From personal experience, I never worried about any locals mugging me or stealing any of my possessions. As a matter of fact, whenever I lost something, they returned it to me promptly. I didn’t realize I lost my wallet one day until a student ran to my home after school and told me he found it on the road. And there was so much money in there. Very trustworthy people when it comes to personal belongings.

26. Nepalese are generally peaceful people. They usually do their best to avoid any confrontation.

27. I’m friends with a shit ton of Nepalese on Facebook and 80% of them don’t use their real names or their own profile picture. I’m always confused as to who messages me. Also, they always tag me in photos that I’m not even in. My friends at home let me know that they are constantly seeing photos of Nepalese people on their newsfeed because they are always tagging me in them.

28. Flies are an issue during the warmer months, but it didn’t bother anyone as much as it bothered me. So pesky! There were spiders everywhere too, but they were harmless.

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29. Nepalese are ridiculously superstitious. I was once told I couldn’t bring a group of students back home from a trip on a certain day because it was bad luck. I was informed this AS I was already bringing them back home. I brought them back anyway.

30. I’ve noticed that the education isn’t as engaging as many developed countries. A good amount of it is simply just copying and memorizing everything word-for-word.

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31. The Nepalese-English alphabet song is almost identical to the American one, except they repeat the letters “l-m-n-o-p” and “x-y-z” twice throughout the song. I’m still baffled as to why.

32. Everyone always refers to the uncles on their father’s side of the family as “paternal uncle” and the uncles on their mother’s side as just “uncle”. Whereas we in the US refer to both sides as simply “uncle”.

33. They have sooo many holidays/festivals, with Dashain being one of the most auspicious ones. Around 40 of them, with some lasting for several days! They celebrate evvverrrything.

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34. It is super common for Nepali to find “deep” random quotes pertaining to life, in English somewhere from the internet, and then post a photo of themselves on Facebook with that quote as their caption. They all do it. Some prime examples:

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35. Nepal CANNOT do desserts properly. On a side note, there is NOTHING German about their so-called “German Bakeries”. Actual Germans would consider them a true disgrace to their own famous bread bakeries.

36. Teaching a Nepali kid from the mountains how to swim is like teaching a rock how to fly. This requires tons of patience. They are mountaineers, not swimmers.

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37. If a Nepalese considers you a brother or sister in their country, then they usually mean it for life and will make an effort to keep in touch, no matter the distance.

38. Many of the students have long hikes up and down the mountain to get to school six days a week, yet you won’t ever hear them complain about it.

39. Eating off of someone else’s plate is not a thing here and is considered unclean. I once accidentally flicked a single grain of rice from my plate onto little Aakash’s plate and he was completely disgusted and pushed his plate aside.

40. Although many taxi drivers have meters in their cars, most of them will say, “it’s broken” and then you must negotiate a more expensive price than what it should be.

41. It’s fairly common to see babies and toddlers in Nepal with a black dot on their forehead. A black dot on their “third eye” is for protection against evil spirits.

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42. Everyone has really amazing teeth.

43. Normally when I want to show a single photo on my phone to a local, they always proceed to casually take the phone from me and then start going through ALL my photos. Always.

44. Unless you go to a western style accommodation, the shower is never separate from the rest of the bathroom. Thus, when you take a shower, the whole bathroom gets completely soaked.

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45. Nepalese never end a phone conversation properly. They just hang up. No “bye” or “Talk to ya soon”. Just “click”. At least with all of the phone calls I’ve had with them.

46. Many of the students don’t know their birth dates. That’s because they only know it according to their own Hindu calendar that they share with India and not the Gregorian calendar that is widely used internationally. As of this post, it is the year 2074 in Nepal.

47. Nepal and India share a love/hate sibling rivalry type of relationship, very similar to the USA and Canada.

48. It is common for the youngest male child to never leave home, in which they take over once the parents have passed. The daughters traditionally always move into the homes of their new husbands to help tend to the daily housework and taking care of their husbands’ parents. It’s kind of a crappy deal for the women, but its been tradition in Nepal for a long time now. Slowly, that tradition is becoming less of a thing as younger generations continue to break the mold.

49. I am considered a god in Nepal. Guests and visitors to Nepali homes are treated as such.

50. Get used to local prices vs tourist prices, just like many other countries. However, the differences aren’t as ridiculous as they are in India.

51. Nepali “like” EVERYTHING on Facebook. You can post a blurry photo of your armpit and they’ll “like” it.

52. The major touristy parts of Kathmandu and Pokhara are full of cover bands. You’re likely to hear a multitude of bands play the same freaking songs, night after night after night. I don’t ever want to hear “Hotel California” or another Red Hot Chili Peppers song again! Bob Marley gets a pass.

53. Fast wi-fi is not a thing in Nepal.

54. Nepali bob their head sideways when they mean to convey ‘yes’. This confused me for the longest, as I interpreted it as an “Eh…”. Kind of like a shrug. Their side to side head tilt signifies more of an ‘okay’  than a sure-fire ‘yes’. I found myself tilting my head whenever I said yes even after leaving Nepal.

55. I found that Nepali women are generally uncomfortable with shaking the hands of men and to an extent, hugs. Whenever I go for a hug to one of my host mothers, it really is the most awkward thing ever. So now I don’t hug anyone anymore.

56. Nepali kids love Charlie Chaplin and Mr. Bean.

57. Nepali dancing is similar to India’s Bollywood dancing, except a lot more twirling and arm-flailing. My buddy Caesar and his sister Bindu below!

58. If a local Nepali calls a tourist “fat”, it usually is a good thing. It means you eat well. They don’t mean any disrespect.

59. Cows are their holy God, but the many cows roaming (and sitting) in the streets of Nepal are malnourished and always eating out of the trash on the side of the road. You would think if they were so holy, they would be taken care of a little better… Plus, it’s difficult, for me at least, to tell the difference between their buffalo from their cows.

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60. Apparently, many different songs are played on the local buses, but they all sound exactly the same with what sounds like the same lady or dude singing in each of them. I challenge any foreigner to try to spot the difference.

If anyone, especially anyone from Nepal, would like to add some insight or combat me on any of these, feel free to let me know.

Nepal is far from being the perfect country…

…but it’s perfect to me.

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How I Grew to Truly Love The Heck Out of Nepal

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I wasn’t ready to leave Nepal. Nor did I want to.

I’ve been here for the past three months–much longer than I originally anticipated.  I must continue my quest for the seven continentsI had to leave soon though, mainly because my 90-day visa was going to expire.

While in Nepal, I never once felt like I was a traveler. Instead, I felt as if I lived here, minus the fact that I didn’t know the language. I was picking up words and phrases to get me around. Still, I felt so at home, that I forgot at times that I was in the midst of a worldwide adventure. The people here were so accommodating, so caring, and so interested in me and my stories; it felt like I was part of a giant family. I already mentioned that I gained a few Nepalese brothers recently. It’s a great thing!

I spent my last couple of weeks absorbing the culture in my village to the max! While doing so, I was able to share the rich experience with a new friend by the name of Miek (Belgium). She was referred to me by a mutual friend who lived in Australia. Basically, I was recruited to show her some authentic culture outside of the bigger cities, and I was more than happy to do so.

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Samir and I went to retrieve Miek down in Lakeside to meet and introduce ourselves. One of my student’s father, Hom, joined and escorted all of us back to the mountain and to his home with his family. Hom’s home was initially ruptured by aftershocks from the earthquake that shook Nepal two years ago. Overtime, gracious travelers he’s met has helped him build a brand new home for him and his family–his gracious wife Bishnu, and his two sons, Sudip and Susan. They made a dal bhat supper for us and then invited to stay the night with his family.

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The next day, I planned on showing Miek more of the village. I took her a little bit up the mountain to my brothers’, UK and DJ, and then over to Aatma’s home, where she would be staying a couple of nights. I was able to show her not only the private school that I taught at, but also the neighboring government school. Although I didn’t teach there, I created a bit of a friendly rivalry with the school, much thanks to the Holi holiday that came and went. I had the free reign to enter the school much to my liking. If you are a native English speaker, then you are a valuable necessity to any school in these parts.

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We went to the nearby shop (where I often frequented to buy water and snacks) to introduce Miek to some of the best samosa’s around. We still had plenty of time in the day, so I took her 40 minutes up to the very top of the mountain, Sarangkot, to explore.

Now, Sarangkot is quite different from the rest of the village. It’s way more touristy and filled with half-completed hotels, dozens of shops, and local restaurants and cafe’s. Some of the students actually live up here with their families running some of the shops and hotels. We visited two families, one who ran a hotel and the other who ran a small shop. Both families were extremely welcoming with teas. We were welcomed with so much tea, that sometimes we had to decline. The people here are so giving and happy to invite.

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The next day, we walked about 30 minutes in the opposite direction to visit several more families. By the way, all of these families that we visit are families of students of mine. Many wished for me to visit their homes and often times, the parents would ask me to stay the night. In the USA, or any other Western country for that matter,  it would be rather weird to stay the night at your students home but here it was completely normal, especially since I wasn’t a “true” teacher, if you will. Also, the generic vibe here is more of a family-feel than anything. My home is your home.

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We visited “my son” Samir and his mother who was hard at work. I helped them out a bit.

Soon after, we went to visit my other brother Bipin and his mother again, just a little down from where Samir lived. There, Bipin’s mother cooked us potatoes and made more tea. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much tea in one day. I never wanted it, but they would always insist.

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I was able to take Amish and two of his closest friends down to Lakeside for the weekend to treat them a bit before I prepared to leave the country. We did a lot of cool things that they’ve never done in their lives before, like bowling, going to the movies (in 3D), and drinking Oreo milkshakes, and playing video arcades. They’ve never done any of that before! I was a little surprised by that.

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I let them pick the movie (Boss Baby) which has become their new favorite movie. It was a hit for them!

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Class 10 who I initially didn’t care for two years ago, won me over by a landslide this time. I felt like I really got to know them individually. I will miss them.

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Not only them, but practically the entire school, including the younger classes.

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Miek came at a perfect time. I was able to say my goodbyes to all of the families and the students to let them know that I must continue on my trip and I promised I would return sometime in the future. I really did mean that. I found a home here.

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A few of the teachers pitched in and surprised me with a cake on my birthday.

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I was dreading leaving. I was finally able to stay in one place for a long time and in doing so, got to know an entire community. They got to know me as well. The multiple families, the neighbors, the students, the teachers, even the dogs and cats that roamed in the same area. All of the students knew me as the teacher who introduced a lot of fun (and English oriented) games. It was a different feeling. I really did feel at ease here…like I would at home. Even more so than at my real home to be honest. I could rock up to this village at anytime point in my life, completely out of the blue, and know that I would be well taken care of and welcomed…with tea!

It got me thinking.

Realistically, it would be a couple of years before I could return. And with that, life gets in the way so there are no guarantees.

BUT.

It’s very possible that I can finish my allowed 150-day visa total in the summer (I initially only applied for a 90-day visa)? Like say possibly in July or August? Wishful thinking.

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Back to Kathmandu

One the way back to Kathmandu, I stocked up on cheap medical supplies (motion pills, cough drops, aspirin, stuff like that) and nabbed a cheap hotel for the night. My flight to the next country on my quest, Tajikistan, would be the next day!

However.

There was one “small” problem I was unaware of that would completely change the course of my next couple months of traveling…

COMPLETELY!

(I shall explain on the following post)