Holy hell, what a week.
When I said before that I could barely even conceptualize what my life was going to be like once I left the States, I didn’t realize just how accurate that statement was.
Let me start by thanking Ian, Isaac, Taylor and Toby for housing me/showing me a great time during my brief stay in Singapore. For many of you, it’s been a long time since we saw each other last, and it was great to spend time with each of you, even if it was for just a few hours.
Kathmandu…what a place. It’s so difficult to describe how I’ve felt since arriving because it’s been such a whirlwind of emotions, but I’ll try and lay it out chronologically.
The first few days were rough. If I haven’t mentioned, this is the first time I’ve spent a decent amount of time living in a developing country (China occupies an weird space in that spectrum, and having spent most of my time in China in major cities, I don’t really count the experience). The internet at my homestay is pretty garbage (it doesn’t go longer than a few minutes without disconnecting), I kept discovering cockroaches in my room (which terrify me each time – I hate bugs), and I felt constantly lost because there are no such things as road signs here. As someone that likes feeling in control of situations, I couldn’t help but feel like I was utterly out of my depth.
But having these experiences is precisely why I chose to come here in the first place. Aside from the work that I wanted to do at Aythos, the NGO that I’m interning with, I chose to come to Nepal in order to get out of my comfort zone. It had been 6 years since I last left the United States, and I wanted to reacquaint myself with the feeling of being away from the familiar and comfortable. After six days of being here, I can definitely say my plan is working.
It’s taken a while, but I finally think I’m beginning to get my bearings. Aside from just being able to get around with less trepidation (not being stingy with my mobile data definitely helps), this place is finally starting to click for me. I’m finding a couple of go-to spots to relax, enjoy strong WiFi where I can actually get work done, and have a great cup of coffee (there’s good food everywhere, so that part is easy).
Work is also starting to make more sense to me. I’ve found what I can really bring to Aythos that will make my time here worthwhile. I’m thoroughly impressed and inspired by the small, but mighty team that I’m working with here. Most of them are young, local Nepalis with an incredible amount of passion and motivation for supporting the economic development of rural farmers. How I can help is supporting their organizational management, and teaching them skills so that they can run the NGO more effectively. Being able to support them in this fashion is fulfilling, along the lines of the type of leadership development work that I love so much (not to mention that they all are interested in getting photography lessons from me).
And I’ve done a fair amount of sightseeing for just one week. There is so much beauty here in this country, but the beauty is inextricably intertwined with the country’s state of development. For every temple or palace that I visit, I take taxis and buses on dilapidated roads to reach them. I walk past half-constructed buildings on dust and pollution-filled streets to get to my office. In the most extreme case, just today prior to publishing this post, I spent a good five hours standing on a bus hanging on for dear life as the bus went up and down the mountainside through slick mud in monsoon rains. These factors live in conjunction with each other, and is a helpful reminder that there is so much work in the world that needs to be done. And ultimately, that’s why I’m here.
Here’s just a few photos from my adventures of the last few days.