Meeting Nepal for the first time
By Amanda Chou
May 25, 2017
नमस्ते (namastē) from Nepal! I am reporting live from the ground this time.
A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of wrapping up my second year at Syracuse University, I booked tickets to Kathmandu along with my fellow team members Ryan, Joshua, and Khalid. After a year of writing about our growing programs, sharing stories about our students, and just talking about Nepal day in and day out, I couldn’t imagine not going and seeing it with my own eyes.
After a long 23 hours of flying across the world, I am finally here!
Stepping into the tiny taxi that was loaded to the brim with our suitcases, I was already sweating through my leggings and khata, a scarf that is ceremonially given to friends when they arrive from faraway places (check our YouTube channel for the video!) I touched the soft silk with my hands and tried not to breathe in too deeply the dusty aroma of the streets as the taxi weaved through the hectic traffic. Cars, bikes, motorcycles, people, cows, monkeys, and dogs all play the game of chicken on these roads. It is easy to get lost in the chaos and construction apart of this daily life.
I found myself repeating in disbelief: “I am in Nepal. This is Nepal.”
And it really is unlike any other city I have ever experienced, even for someone who grew up traveling throughout Asia.
We are staying in Boudha, a very unique neighborhood that combines traditional Buddhism and modern gentrification. Flooded with people from different nationalities, ethnicities, religions and castes, it is a microcosm of the world. Your senses come alive when you learn quickly join in a khora, or spiritual walk engaging the whole community, around Boudhanath Stupa. Stray dogs surround you, but they seem to welcome you to this place. The smells of traditional foods and spices sold on the maze of side streets continues to stick onto my sweaty skin and humidity of the air. Everyone we’ve met greet us with friendly smiles and laugh gently when I pronounce danyabaad, thank you in Nepali, wrong. All types of sounds surround me: prayer, construction, traffic, dog barks, conversation…this place doesn’t ever sit still.
In our first few days, in between meetings, strategic planning, and the random jet lagged naps, we’ve been eating. A lot. Our steady diet is slowly building around cold Fanta in glass bottles, piping hot cinnamon spiced milk tea, dal bhat that you eat with your hands, steamed and fried momos and of course, aluu and roti. I’m a firm believer in experiencing a new culture through the food in my stomach. Nepali food is delicious and captivating, filling but leaves you wanting more.
What an adventure it has been – and this is only the beginning. For the next three weeks this is home, and I cannot wait to share every experience with you guys! You can see it all by following Thrive on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. For now, Namaste!
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