A lot has happened in the last two months. (I know, that’s such a cliche opener. Haaaa.)
So we’re gonna go rapid fire down a list of cool and maybe not-so-cool things that have happened in the past two months since my last update.
- I celebrated my 26th birthday here.
It was a lovely day, except for the small fact that most places were closed due to the Dashain festival. However, I managed to enjoy pizza with my boss’s family (sans boss), and cupcakes from a bakery. Yay!
- I observed Dashain ceremonies.
Dashain is one of the many festivals observed here in Nepal. It’s one of the bigger/longer ones, resulting in a full week’s holiday this year. It’s a time to return to your family’s home (even if it means traveling for a day or more) and celebrate. It reminded me a little of Chinese New year – the festivities, families getting together, giving blessings and money, and lots of food. I was able to observe Shweta’s family exchanging blessings/money.
- I went to Pokhara with Shweta.
It was quite the journey to get there. We went to the public bus stop super early to catch a bus…however, because it was still Dashain, most of the buses were either super full because so many people were traveling (it was estimated that 1 million people left Kathmandu during the holidays) OR the buses just weren’t running their normal route due to it being the holiday. It got to the point where we almost changed our plans because we couldn’t find a bus. At the last minute, we were able to squeeze onto a micro-van and we zoomed off to Pokhara. I say zoomed because that’s pretty much what we did. We managed to make it in exactly 5 hrs (which included 2 stops), which was quite the feat considering that the roads were congested.
Pokhara was absolutely beautiful, although I was a little annoyed that it was super cloudy the whole time we were there…if it hadn’t been cloudy, we would have been able to see spectacular and up-close views of the Himalayas. But, alas. It wasn’t meant to be.
The day after visiting Devi’s Falls, Mahindra Cave, and boating on Phewa Lake, I got to go on the world’s longest and steepest zipline! (Except, I didn’t realize that until later on…haaaaah.) I LOVE ziplining, so you can imagine I was pretty stoked about it.
We were delayed an hour or so due to the cloudy weather. The top and bottom (left) pictures show how cloudy it was (the bottom one was before we all went down). If it had been a clear day, the Himalayas would have been right in front of me as I was going down the zipline. Sad face. Better luck next time!
- I went to church and work, like I normally do. Hahaha.
These are just a few pictures depicting “normal” life. Chisato and I eating on the floor of our landlord’s flat above us during one of their get-togethers, witnessing the baptism of some youth at the youth rally (if you look closely, you will see that they used a large barrel to do the baptism…in order to enter the barrel, one must climb up on the chair and then onto the ladder…it was quite the feat), conducting the youth choir during said youth rally, and having long work meetings about upcoming grant proposals and existing programs. Our office also had a strategic planning retreat about an hr away from our office. It was super fun collaborating on new ideas and doing team-building exercises. Also, there were 8 UN SUVs at the same hotel as us. O_O
- I celebrated Tihar (AKA The Festival of Lights, Diwali, and/or Deepavali).
Since Tihar is also known as the Festival of Lights, emphasis is put on lighting lamps and candles, especially in a rangoli – sand art. It was pretty magical to see the city lit up with lamps, candles, and other lights (think Christmas lights), especially since almost all doorways had a rangoli in front of it by sundown.
Tihar lasts for a few days, although it’s shorter than Dashain. Yes, we were off for a few days (can you tell they love their festivals? Lol).
There are quite a few rituals/ceremonies that take place depending on what day of the festival it is. One day honors the crow, one day honors dogs, one day honors cow dung (cows are holy, remember?), one day honors the godess, Laxmi, one day honors ourselves, and one day honors siblings. Phew! That’s a lot. I was lucky enough to participate in Mahpusa, on the day we honor ourselves, which was a really interesting ceremony, and also was able to observe the ceremony honoring siblings. So much symbolism!
- I got to see my relatives from Malaysia!
Auntie Mei-Mei had an event going on at a monastery here in Kathmandu so YuBee and Kalani decided to tag along, and I am SO glad they all came! On the last two days we were able to escape the noisy, dusty city and spend some time in nature at one of the most incredible resorts I’ve ever been to. Seriously, it was amazing. Pottery classes, wheatgrass shots, a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor, walking around their organic garden (YuBee was extremely excited to pull a radish from the ground, lol), and just admiring the amazing views were just a few of the highlights. We especially enjoyed watching the sun rise over the Himalayas the day we left.
- I celebrated Thanksgiving with some ADRA International colleagues.
Yep, three Asian-Americans managed to celebrate Thanksgiving in Nepal. Who would’ve thunk. So the story goes like this. I wasn’t actually planning on doing anything grand for Thanksgiving. My plans consisted of eating pumpkin pie and maybe grabbing pizza (because: Murika). However, two of our HQ colleagues flew in that week for urgent meetings and on Thanksgiving day (which also happened to be a day FULL of meetings – more so for them than me) I mentioned that we should do something since they were having to miss the holidays (it wasn’t quite a pity invitation…haha). We decided, if they were up for it, we would go to a local restaurant that happened to be serving a Thanksgiving meal, buffet style. They were supposed to done with their marathon of meetings at around 5:30. However, they didn’t get done till almost 7 and were super tired (I mean, wouldn’t you?). I was about to revert back to my original plan when they changed their minds at the last minute. We had an absolutely hilarious time together while sharing a Thanksgiving meal. Thankful for new friends!
- Our office supported the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.
Gender-Based Violence is something that is happening too frequently around the world. Our office decided to come together and say NO to GBV in accordance with the UN festivities around the world.
I also had the chance to go to a rural school with two of my co-workers to educate school kids about GBV. The program, itself, went well, however it was quite a trip to get there and back – especially going back. We got stuck in Friday evening traffic and THEN someone hit the back of the car we were in. Everyone was ok, but we had to wait around for almost an hr for the traffic police to give a report and make the guy pay for the damages done to the car. Whomp whomp.
Anyway, point being – say NO to gender-based violence!!!!
- I went on a monitoring visit with Hindu, my coworker, to the southern region to interview officials, staff, and beneficiaries of the family planning program our organization implemented in that area.
This was probably the most adventurous 3 days I’ve had in a while. Getting there turned out to take a lot longer than we anticipated. Apparently, many of the domestic airports were closed due to foggy weather that morning. When we finally were able to board the little bitty plane, we had been stuck at the airport for 5 hrs…and guess what – the plane ride was only 15 mins long. =.= We arrived at the tiniest airport I’ve been to in my life so far (think: picking up luggage from a large wagon and no xray machines to search your bags). Yeah.
Anyhow! The trip consisted of many long and BUMPY car rides through very rural areas and villages, interviews with lots of people, exploring the area and finding out about Hindu’s shenanigans as a child since her mother’s family is from that area, which led to us climbing up a haystack and then sliding down it…AND I got to visit the border of India. Sadly, my coworkers wouldn’t let me cross the bridge (Nepal and India have an open border policy) probably because they didn’t want to have to bail me out of jail. Hah! On the last day, we had to take a detour on a narrow one lane dirt road b/c they had closed a bridge we needed to cross due to a pipe bomb. Yupp. You heard me. Someone was trying to protest and blow things up. Smh.
All-in-all, it was a really eye-opening trip and I’m glad I had the opportunity to go!
- I attended an inauguration ceremony for one of our health post projects (reconstruction after the earthquake).
The day after we got back from the field proved to be a very long day. A few of us went super early to set things up…which was probably a good idea since whoever designed the banner didn’t proofread it before sending it off to be printed. Hindu and I managed to salvage one of the blunders…although there was another one that wasn’t salvageable. Lots of officials for the government were there to make speeches, plus the secretary from the Japan Embassy and ADRA Japan’s Program Director, since it was funded by a Japanese donor organization. Going back home felt like an eternity since the van we were in had to go slower and then we hit traffic on the way back (of course). However, having a clear view of the Himalayas made up for it…or almost made up for it.
- And other random things happened….
….likeeeeeeeee, I finally got my work visa. Yay…….guess Nepal is stuck with me for a while. Hahahaha.
Also, some of you may have watched the “supermoon” since it was such a big deal. My two housemates and I decided to see what all the hype was about (it didn’t look that big from where we were). So, on the rooftop of our apartment building, a Chinese-American, Burmese, and Japanese ate Indian food in Nepal. Lolol. I love writing that out.
Anyway, that’s all for now, folks. I’ll have more fun updates in about a month or two…stay tuned. =)