Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just Like That

Remember when I promised to blog again? And I didn't. I knew I wouldn't. But I like to think if I found time I could...

Here I am with one moment to take a breath. Life got busy, back here in the real world and now that I've been home for two weeks I'm starting to really miss that place I called home all summer long. My roommate and I burned incense last night and I just sat sniffing the box it came out of because, well because it was just so Nepal. I'm holding on to the little things that remind me of that great place and all those adventures.

People keep asking "How were your travels?" I think because no one can remember Nepal. It makes me sad, and then I answer "It was good." I don't know what else to say in such a short hand conversation. It sucked, I cried, It was beautiful, I laughed, I got blisters, I breathed the pollution in, I held the zippers closed on my back pack everywhere I went, I learned how to appropriately and not so appropriately use the phrase "chaidayna," I took a zillion pictures, I ate delicious food, and the worst food of my life, I got bitten by spiders, I drank tea, it was amazing, it was awful,- that's the truth. It sucked. It was the best time of my life. It was both. It sucked while being the best time of my life. It's possible to be both. That's the truth. It was no butterflies and rainbows, but I saw butterflies and rainbows. Am I making sense here?

The hard part is people want you to cry over being back, they want to hear you're counting down the days to go back. But I'm not. I'd go back, I would. But I need some time. I need time to think and process and let the frustration cleanse out of my system. I know everyone wants to think travel is glamorous and nothing more than a great time, but that isn't reality. Travel is nearly the opposite of glamour, or at least what I experienced of Nepal and India this summer were. But- what I think makes a person who loves travel is someone who loves traveling even though it comes with all the dirty crap, the puddles, the taxis whose doors swing open while you're in them, the spider bites that you think might be cause for full limb amputation, the allergies, the experience of eating nothing but dhal bhat, the lies, the manipulation, the constantly being ripped off, the publicly being touched, and the running to jump on a moving bus, the really really crappy stuff, and I still can't wait to travel the world.

So even though you all want to hear how magnificent Monkey Temple was, here is what I, someone who lived just a few miles from it all summer have to say: Monkey Temple is also known as Swayambunath Stupa. Buddhist Monks live and pray there. There happen to be lots of entertaining monkeys. The view is beautiful. People who look like tourists get charged to go in. If you are white, latino, arab, or chinese looking- you're out of luck. All of the shop owners are trying to play mind games with you and swindle you out of money. The monks themselves aren't always true to what you might think core Buddhist values may be, but let's not get into that. Taxi drivers wait at the bottom of the steps to drive tourists at prices sometimes even five or six times the actual cost. Those taxi drivers can't read english, nor really speak it. Women, except tourists, aren't really seen there all that often, if they are Nepali they are most likely found in a corner on a date making out and this holy site. Women once married around the common ages of 19 or 20 are expected to not leave the home. Homeless children run out the hills of the stupa all day long looking for tourists to beg from. --So while you want to see my touristy photos and talk about the monkeys, I want to remind you all that my heart is heavy for Nepal because I didn't just visit, I lived there, and I know just how broken that beautiful place is.

It was great. It was awful. The best time of my life, and the really not so greatest time of my life. All rolled into one. So, don't think of me poorly for being an aware world traveller. I'm not in desperate desire to see the fake parts of the world. I stood at Boudhannath Stupa and watched naked babies run around on burning hot bricks in the middle of the day. I stood at Boudhannath yes, and well let's all admit that is pretty stinking awesome, but please remember I stood at Boudhannath watching naked babies who clearly hadn't had baths run around on burning hot bricks in the middle of the day. I don't have the Eiffel Tower and The Great Wall of China on my bucket list. I have the people of the world, and the languages, and the food, and the struggles, and the laughter, and the joy, and the tears, the brokenness and the beauty on my bucket list. That's the truth.

Now that I've managed to devote way too much time to this- I'm on the run again! Back to life here in the US of A. Until next time my lovely blog readers!

Keep an eye out for a Morocco blog possibly coming in the next few months!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Today I leave Nepal. And, as I did last summer I will leave a part of my heart here. I leave it with the little girls who live in Bungamati on a rice plantation. I leave it with the street dogs who have been burned by acid. I leave it with the security guard at Bhat Bhateni who smiles and nods when he sees me nearly everyday. I leave it with the bus yeller who always recognized me and made sure I got off at the right stop. I leave it with Tommy and I leave it with Ram's motorbike. I leave my heart with all of the interns still in the house and I leave it with the men that bike the neighborhood at six o'clock in the morning every morning screaming for cardboard. I leave it with all the cans of lychee juice I won't be able to drink. I leave it with the kids who live near White Gumba Monastery who swing on prayer flags everyday. I leave it with the monkeys, even the one who lunged at me and scratched me that one time. I leave a part of my heart with yak cheese momos and the men that follow you around thamel playing wooden violins and the men saying "rickshaw" time and time again. I leave my heart with the elephants that carried me and splashed water in my face. I leave my heart with all the organizations I've visited and learned from, I leave it with the orphans, and the street children I've met. I leave the largest part of my heart with Shila, my host mother and Jenica the home's "helper" more than anything else in this entire country. There isn't doubt in my mind that I will think back to them every day for a while to come and even years from now I will hope that they are doing well. 

It has hit, about 12 hours left in this incredibly complicated country. It is beautiful and it terrible, tragic and amazing; Nepal is too many things rolled into one tiny place. 

To be honest I can't believe I did it. I lived here for 10 weeks and I survived. No other place has ever taught me so much, and definitely not in such a short period of time.  

It is over and it is going to take time to readjust back to normal life at home.

I know I'll never forget this place I just hope all the little pieces to the story stay with me forever as well. My biggest fear is forgetting. 

Now- if you are feeling inspired to go on an adventure and get lost and just to experience life and the world, or- if you are looking to feel inspired in such a way, I highly suggest the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which I believe truly inspired me to come on this unbelievable journey to Nepal. It's not always easy- no- it's never easy, but it is always worth it. I leave you with my current life motto:

"To see the world, things dangerous to come, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel.  That is the purpose of life." -The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Friday, August 8, 2014


It is time for good byes.

My last trip to Bhat Bhateni.
My last time in Thamel.
My last giggle at the monkeys.
My last dhal bhat.
My last Saturday morning Shila's pancake.
My last time petting Tommy.
My last time getting a taxi.
My last time riding a bus.
My last time on a motorcycle.
My last night sleeping in these god for saken beds.
My last shower.
My last outfit.
My last hug and laugh and time saying "Namaste."

It is my last of a lot more things too, like my last time at the office and my last photo published in The Kathmandu Post. My last Hindu festival, and my last time walking out of that front blue gate.

I'm sad.
I'm sad to leave another home of mine behind.
I'll miss it for always. The feelings and memories and experiences here, I'll miss them for always.

All of that being said- if someone turned around tomorrow and offered me a chance to stay another day, week, or month, I would without a doubt in my mind turn it down. I want to go. It is time to go home.

So I will board a plane and wave good bye. Then board another plane, and then another, and finally in approximately 61 hours, I will be in Detroit, my birthplace and homeland, hugging my mom and eating McDonalds. Sounds gosh darn fabulous to me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I'm expecting to arrive back in the states and experience some serious reverse culture shock. Here is what I'm expecting:

-Everything to be clean
-Everything to be quiet
-Everything to smell nice
-Everything will be big
-The ground to be very... flat
-Being overwhelmed by the air quality
-Being overwhelmed by flushing drinkable water
-Bottles of water seeming very small
-Stores to seem massive, yes Kroger, I'm referring to you
-Everything to be way too expensive
-Crying at the comfort of a mattress
-Confusion about how a couch could be so comfortable
-Joy over the speed of the internet
-Everything to be very bright with a million lights on everywhere
-Traffic to be extremely slow and calm
-Confusion at the lack of motorbikes
-Confusion when I can't find any cows roaming the streets
-My dogs to seem very, very, very, small
-Being cold
-Pop to fizz
-Food portion sizes to be huge
-Confusion about what side of the road to drive on and what side of the car the steering wheel is on
-Mass amounts of grass...
-Mass amounts of trees...
-Shock at seeing meat served on plates, and watching people eat it...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Namaste Mero Sathi

Today I was walking home and a little old lady who looked to be 112-years-old, though I'm sure she was a lot closer to 76 was just squatting in the road. Nepalis squat a lot, they have that agility in them. Anyway, she saw me looked up, and said something in Nepali then put her palms together and slightly lowered her head to say Namaste.

She- who was likely born in 1938, years before Nepal's independence, saw this white foreigner (wearing my OHIO t-shirt), and still had it in her to be so kind to me, for no reason other than recognizing I too am a human, living in this life also.

It is little happy moments, of sincere kindness I will miss from Nepal and Nepali people. I will miss the rare local giving up their seat to me on the bus because clearly I'm a foreigner and overly concerned about my back pack zippers staying shut. I'll miss the little girls in school uniforms excitedly saying hello to me. I will miss the dogs at the KAT centre, my favorites, who recognize me now, running up to me thrilled that I'm back. All those little moments, I hope I'll remember all of those, that made me feel like maybe, just maybe I could actually fit in, that I could belong.

Before I came to Nepal my roommates and I would practice Nepali phrases and write them on our room's white board. One of the first things we learned was Namaste Mero Sathi, which means Hello My Good Friend. Obviously you don't hear it much, because it is sort of an odd phrase, but it is a phrase I know. Today, that little lady for the first time in weeks reminded me of it. Little moments like that.

Namaste is also the Nepali word for goodbye, so for now, Namaste Mero Sathi.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Life Lessons from Dinner in Nepal

When you are 20-years-old and a photojournalism intern living in Nepal for the summer you meet all sorts of crazy people. No really, I have stories; next time we're together don't forget to ask. The other night I had an amazing dinner with some friends at a place in Thamel called OR2K. It was by far the best meal I've ever had in Nepal.

The point is, sitting around this round dinner table at OR2K, was a 17-year-old from Spain, a 19-year-old from China, a 19-year-old from Nepal, a 23-year-old from Rhode Island, a 26-year-old from Germany, a 27-year-old from Brazil, and a 20-year-old from Michigan. One volunteering in an orphanage, one researching waste management, one studying photography, one volunteering in a different orphanage, one teaching english at a monastery, one a Buddhist Monk, and one an intern for a newspaper. We kept joking that if only we had an Australian or an Africa we'd really reach full circle.

We sat and ate and laughed and told stories and just enjoyed dinner together.

Traveling and throwing yourself into the deep end, (I consider a ten week trip to Nepal alone a form of a deep end), is the only way to meet these people, and to experience the world. It isn't about week long trips to resorts or even to visit national monuments, but trust me those can be fun too, but that is just different. Travel is to sit and listen and learn and understand and to laugh, to laugh and to breathe in a totally new place, a new culture, a new way of life, a new you.

The thing is when I got here, I felt very "under-travelled" with everyone around me seeming like experts. But, I've been here longer than most interns and not only do I think that says something, but, I'm also 20. I'm 20 and I wasn't born to parents who are foreign diplomats, or to rich european parents where world travel is just a part of life.

I'm a simple American girl with a very American family. We take pride in our roots and where our family lineage is from before the journey to The States, but I like to pick apples in an apple orchard, and carve pumpkins; I grew up on Applebees and Coney Island, I had a swing set in my back yard and played with Barbies past what I now realize was a "normal" age. I'm an American. Family vacations were to Up North, in Oscoda, and Mackinac, Petosky, and Traverse City. We would fly down to Florida for a week at the beach and stay with my grandparents. I went to Disney World and waited in lines for Princesses to sign my autograph book all day long, Ariel twice. My family, considered decently adventurous where we are from, took trips to Arizona, three times, and California, twice, and Oregon, and Washington, and New Mexico, and South Dakota, and Wyoming, and Maine, and Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, and so many other places. I honestly feel like I've seen more of the States than most Americans. And I haven't even started on all of the Caribbean Islands I've been to, because that is just a whole lot.

I've travelled. I've been places. I've picked up and left home enough times that my first two "real" jaunts out of the States have just inspired me to keep going. Because those short distance trips that people here might scoff at, have taught me to love plopping myself in some unknown location and just figuring it out. Because finding ostrich farms and rose gardens, and Wal-Drug, and the Kimberly-Clark house prepared me to take a six hour bus ride to Royal Chitwan National Park and get on an elephant in the middle of a river. Because I've sat in enough air ports to think nothing of a weekend trip to India and a day train ride trip to see the Taj Mahal. While I haven't come close to touching every continent I've been to Pow Wows in the woods of northern Michigan and taken a duck boat in Boston, I've stared at the Grand Canyon from every (god forsaken) angle, I've been whale watching in Maine, and eaten an entire freshly cooked lobster on the shore. I've been horseback riding in more states than I can remember, and one time my family stumbled in on a dress rehearsal of a local performance of the Sound of Music. While my family never took me to Asia or Africa or Europe or South America, they taught me how to travel, how to have adventures, to be brave and daring and risk it all for that little memory that you will cherish forever.

Between Mexico last summer and Nepal this summer, I'm reigning in with Morocco this winter, and most likely Spain next summer. I'm only 20 and I've just learned what it really means to travel and I'm coming, hold the plane, order me a second passport, because I'm coming.

If after reading this post you feel like you still don't know me that well, well, you're wrong. This is me and my life's dreams all wrapped up in a tiny little nut shell. I had a really great dinner with a bunch of amazing people and I'm so beyond thrilled to always have that stupid little memory. I'm freshly 20-years-old and I think this next decade of my life is off to the perfect start. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Nepali Facts

Did you know:

  • By the Nepali calendar it is currently 2071. There are signs in the local grocery store that say "Happy New Year 2071!" It isn't exactly the direction I thought I went when I arrived and felt like I had time travelled.
  • Men with short hair grow tiny little pony-tail-like bits of hair on the crowns of their heads.
  • Men grow out their pinky finger nails, as far as I can tell as a sign of wealth to advertise that they don't work in manual labor.
  • Most all Hindu women have their noses pierced, getting them pierced as young girls is quite common. Nose piercings are always on the woman's left side.
  • Tibetan women do not pierce their noses, making it easy to identify them from Hindu Nepalis. They do sometimes, usually older women, have their septums pierced however.
  • When in Nepal you will hear the word "hajur?" 72 billion times a day, it means loosely "what?" or  "yes?"
  • Solar panels are extremely cheap and popular in Nepal, and are often used for heating water for bathing.
  • The caste system is still very much in place, despite how much some try to deny it.
  • Power outages happen on a national schedule, called "load shedding."
  • Nepal wakes up with the sun, and sleeps with it as well. The night life only exists for tourists, and it is impossible to sleep in here between the birds the dogs and the screaming men on bikes collecting cardboard.
  • The weekend is one day. One day. Just Saturdays.