The first month…

*pictures below

Oh, how time flies. Today, exactly one month has passed since I first arrived in Nepal, and what a month it has been! My time here has been packed with great experiences, great challenges and great lessons. Too much to squeeze into a few paragraphs, but I will do my best to paint a picture of what my life “down here” looks like. After a prolonged break from doing any school related work, my writing skills might be a little rusty, but so be it. I will try to write my posts in English, but as I expect my grandmother to be my most avid (though hopefully not my only) reader, I will most likely write a few posts in Norwegian as well. And who knows, after a while maybe even a post or two will be in Nepali…

Since arrival we have had a pretty tight schedule. There has been things happening left and right and that’s why I simply haven’t brought myself to sit down and write my first update until now. Better late than never is a saying I swear by, but I will try and do better…

Ok, enough rambling. Let’s get down to business. So let’s start at the beginning. My-team mate, Mathilde and I arrived at Tribhuvan International airport in Kathmandu and was welcomed by our local contact person. Just upon arrival, it was obvious to me that Nepal was a country, vastly different from anything I had experienced before. Instantly the place screamed of chaos. There were people everywhere, animals everywhere, loud noises and new smells. It was both fascinating and at times frightening.

However, as the days passed the chaos became less chaotic, as I realized there was in fact a system to it all. I just had to restructure my Norwegian line-of thinking to see it. Don’t get me wrong, Kathmandu remains chaotic, but there is however a great charm to it all. We learned to navigate our way in this both literally, and figuratively, foreign place. I’m not suggesting that we overcame the culture shock in just a few days, but on a surface level we seem to have adjusted pretty well. For instance, we have learned the art of crossing the street (yes, in Nepali traffic it truly is an art), and we can no longer imagine falling asleep without the sound of street dogs barking outside of our gate.

Though we have in many ways adapted, I daily have realizations of how much of the dynamics, structure, history and culture I am unaware of. Every time I learn something new, I simultaneously realize that there are more things to know, that I previously didn’t even know to consider. Nepal is an incredibly complex country as it is among the most diverse places in the world. There are more than a hundred of different ethnic groups, each with their own culture, cuisine and often with their own distinctive language. The fact that Nepal remains a unified country, despite its great diversity, is in itself an accomplishment. The complexity of the Nepali society and its population could, and should be discussed more profoundly, but a deep understanding of it is still beyond me.

The diversity of Nepal is not only a reality in its population, but in its geography also. The country is divided into three regions; Terrai (the plain area, bordering India), the hills (where Kathmandu is located) and perhaps what the Nepal is most famous for, the mountains. The Himalayas constitute the border between Nepal and Tibet (China). The nature is truly jawdroppingly beautiful. The natural beauty combined with the cultural landscape makes for some incredible sights. On our bus trip from Kathmandu to Siraha, I could not bring myself to read, sleep or do anything except for looking out of the window. Sleeping was also difficult due to the fact that the bus driver drove as if he was part of a video game. To cope with the traffic here the only solution is to channel your inner adrenaline junkie. And after a month I finally am able to take the bus without thinking of what my last words ought to be…

Kathmandu is where we have spent most of our time, and we are happy that this is where we will be based for most of these six months. However, the capital is not representative of how most people in Nepal live. Just a fraction of the total population lives here, and many, if not most of the people have migrated to Kathmandu from the countryside. We are therefore grateful that we got to travel to Siraha and Itahari, two villages in the south-east, to observe what “the real Nepal” looks like. In Itahari we stayed with a family, who demonstrated exactly why the Nepalese are famous for their hospitality. Overall, I have been absolutely amazed at people’s incredible generosity, kindness and openness. It doesn’t take more than a brief conversation before people offer to open their homes for us. Though Nepal remains one of the poorest nations in the world, its people are certainly rich in humanity.

I am excited for what the next five months will bring, and hope that you will continue to follow my journey!

Until next time,

– Maria

A picture says more than a thousand words…

Great experiences with great people

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