This will probably be the longest time I will go without a hamburger. The cow is a sacred animal here and it’s against the law to eat one. Thankfully, chicken is still fair game. Of all the animals in the world, why did they have to pick the most delicious one as their sacred animal? Couldn’t it have just been a goat? No one eats those. I’m probably going to dedicate a whole blog post to my first hamburger once my time in Nepal is up. Maybe. Probably.
Accordance with the sacred animals, there’s also something called juhto here and it’s not really a good thing. Juhto is the term used in Nepali society to describe something that is impure or has been contaminated. There are several ways in which an object or person can become juhto. If something touches your mouth, it is instantly juhto and can no longer be consumed by others. Therefore, after your hand has touched your mouth while eating, that hand and your food are now contaminated. Following the birth of a child, the whole house is juhto for 11 days. After 11 days, a priest will come and purify the house using cow urine. Same applies for the death of a family member and while a woman is menstruating…it’s all juhto! Touching a person’s head is juhto. The bottom of my shoes and feet are juhto. Stepping over food or a person is juhto. I’m automatically juhto because I’m a foreigner which means I’m impure (I’ve eaten too many sacred cows!). Maybe if I bathed in cow urine then I would be free of juhto. Maybe.
So we have the sacred cow and the term “juhto”. Anything else you should know about Nepal? Yes. There are a few other little nuggets I learned here. Whistling attracts ghosts so don’t whistle. I had to refrain from casually whistling a few times to avoid looks. If you are at a buddhist temple, never walk counter-clockwise around the temple, only clockwise. Also, the Nepali people are nice people but will say anything to please you. Meaning if you asked for directions and the local you asked had no idea, they will make up something to please you. So many rules! I accidentally broke a few of them during the next day of orientation.
We took a tourist bus to a Buddhist Stupa, which was basically a circular Buddhist temple which had everyone walking in a clockwise circle.
I walked around and around noticing that no one was on the upper level of the temple. Another volunteer I was with named Emre (Turkey) also noticed and we both wanted to get up there. We walked backwards (counter-clockwise) towards a monk we saw to ask him if it was okay to go to the upper level. As we were walking, other volunteers were telling us not to walk counter-clockwise! It’s juhto! It was already too late so we kept on, counter-clockwise, to the monk who was sitting nearby.
“Is it okay to go upstairs to the next level?” I asked him.
He shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said.
That’s a yes to me so Emre and I took turns going up the steps.
Afterwards we made our way to the base of the temple and behaved like mischievous little kids which was probably pretty juhto of us. Most likely. We were already automatically juhto so it was okay. I think by the time I leave Nepal, I will have become a super juhto.
Just like yesterday, we ended today’s orientation with a nice Nepali buffet at a restaurant nearby. So far all the food in this country deserves an “A” for how stellar and how filling it is! It has not disappointed.
We had one more day of orientation before we were all split up around the country to our separate placements. Raj, one of the coordinators with Hope and Peace, took us on a very small hike in a nearby village where we could see the entire cityscape of Kathmandu.
Later, we returned to Durbar Square, where we had yet another amazing dinner on the rooftop of another cool restaurant. This was our last night together as a whole group and it was bittersweet because we were all just getting to know each other pretty well. I was just starting to know everyone’s names too!
I had a choice of either teaching English in Chitwan or Pokhara. Chitwan has the jungles and rice terrains. You can hear tigers roar at night and can spot a rhinoceros occasionally. In Chitwan they have the jungle safari, elephant treks, and it’s a bit more secluded than Pokhara. Pokhara has the lakes and Himalayas. It’s there where can paraglide and raft in the rivers. Pokhara is a bit more touristy and a little colder than Chitwan. There are also all sorts of treks laid out there. In all my seasons of volunteering, I never had a choice of where I wanted to stay; usually I just let them place me where they needed me. I baited back and forth between Chitwan and Pokhara but I eventually chose Pokhara, simply because most of the activities I wanted to do were there and it would be cool to live in the Himalayas. I received a notice from one of the coordinators that I would be living in Pokhara village, right on top of a mountain with a great view of Pokhara from the top. We’d be living with a family of five along with another volunteer who has already been there. It all sounded great and I was anxious to get started! I was also glad that Emre, one of the volunteers I got along best with, would be living in the same home stay too. The other volunteers who chose to stay in Pokhara would be staying in the city part, about 25 minutes drive from where we were. Here’s a map…
I think I made a great choice in Pokhara and being put in the village part was an even better idea. The morning of, those of us who were going to Pokhara took a seven-hour bus journey across the mountains to Pokhara city. From there, Emre and I split up from them and took a designated taxi up a rocky road to the village where I’d call home for the next several weeks.
Based off past home stays, I kind of had some idea as to what my home stay here was going to be like.
And it’s not quite what I was expecting…