Well here I am, in Kathmandu, Nepal! I arrived at night so I couldn’t see much as the drivers drove me to my hotel in the city. On first glance, Kathmandu reminded me of Nairobi, Kenya; crowded, grimy, and concrete. The Nepali drivers took me to the Kathmandu Peace Guest House, a small scale hotel locked within a maze of randomly placed, rundown brick buildings. There were no other volunteers around when I arrived. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I haven’t been picked up with another volunteer. I haven’t eaten since breakfast in Vietnam, so I was pretty hungry. One of the hotel staff members showed me to the restaurant downstairs where I had my first Nepali meal: rice with…well…I just got here so I don’t know any of the language or foods yet, but it was mighty tasty! I’ll explain in greater detail when my Nepali knowledge grows.
After dinner, I walked around the hotel for a bit and bumped into two other volunteers. Two Canadian sisters, Lizzie and Mel, both from Ontario which is very close to where I’m from in Michigan. We mingled for a bit on the rooftop and called it a night. The next day, the three of us met three more volunteers, Marinka (Slovakia), Therese (Australia), and Tiff (Australia). We had a full day to do whatever we wanted to so walked about 30 minutes down the streets of Kathmandu to a place called Durber Square. If you google “Kathmandu” and search the images, this is the place you’ll see on most of the pictures.
There was even an area of the square covered with hundreds and hundreds of greedy pigeons. These pigeons weren’t afraid of humans and when I walked through them, they parted a path as if I was Moses parting the Red Sea. A woman nearby gave me a bucket of kernels for 100 rupees. 100 rupees is nearly equal to one American dollar. I couldn’t resist.
The city of Kathmandu is sprawling with life, complimented by signature flags of red, white, green, blue, and yellow hanging across the buildings everywhere you go. I’m not sure exactly what the meanings of those flags are, but they cast doses of colorful energy to the surrounding areas.
Kathmandu is a crowded place, with tight streets and alleyways not fit for a bus, yet a bus will find a way to plow through puffing its fumes of smog into everyone’s faces. The air pollution in Kathmandu is heavy and obvious. You’ll see most of the locals wearing face masks everywhere they go. Occasionally when big exhausts of fumes come my way, I hold my breath for several seconds until it passes. So far it’s been working. So far…
When we arrived back at the hotel, the rest of the volunteers were already there; 36 of them! That’s a whole lot of people and a whole lot of names to remember. They come from all parts of the world including France, America, Canada, New Zealand, China, Turkey, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and many from Australia. We’re all staying here at the Peace Hotel for a few days before we’re all separated into different parts of Nepal into our different placements. I am teaching English but other options involve orphanages, hospital work, monastery work, and remote healthcare. I mingled for a bit before a few of us decided to pig out on some Nepali cuisine out in the busy part of town. Gillian (Canada), Lizzie, Mel, and I made the trip and had a great lunch in a rooftop lounge.
We went back to the hotel where we met some more volunteers. I’ve never volunteered with so many people at once before! It was really tough to remember any names and I’m pretty sure I asked some of them the same questions a couple of times already. “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “How long are you here?” “What placement are you doing?” All the volunteers were very pleasant though, save for a few oddballs, but there is always an oddball or two every single time I volunteer somewhere.
The first part of orientation involved a crash course in the Nepali culture, including everything that’s Juhto (which I will explain in greater detail on the next post.) Then we all boarded a tour bus across town to Monkey Temple. It’s pretty much self explanatory; a temple with resident monkeys that have taken over. It was one of the coolest and most unique temples I’ve ever been to, mainly because of the fact that I really love monkeys. 🙂
We were a large group of volunteers but somehow none of us got separated by accident or lost. After the temple we had a traditional Nepali dinner where we took off our shoes and shared a long large table with a four-course meal. Traditional Nepali folk dancers would perform for us as we chowed down on everything that wasn’t made out of cow. I won’t be eating any cow beef in Nepal because the cow is a sacred animal here (I’ll get more into that on the next post too.) Regardless, the dinner was still fantastic! Still, once I figure out the names of the things I ate, I’ll tell you all about it!
Later that night, a few of us went back into the city center to a local bar that served up your typical drinks. I had a beer called Everest which is similar to Bud Light back in the States. It was a great night! So far everything has been going swell here in Kathmandu and I’ve been getting to know my fellow volunteers a bit better. I love how every time I do this, each group is always different from the last. And just when I’ve thought I met every type of personality possible, there’s always a new batch of them in another country for me to meet!
Namaste! (It means Hello)