Wednesday, 22 March 2017

#12 Namaste Nepal

Delhi was crowded, dirty and loud after the serenity that had been Pushkar.

I managed to catch the metro to the airport from my bus stop with the help of yet another kind gentleman and arrived with plenty of time to rearrange my bag, check in and eat something. I was feeling very disorganised for an international flight but in a good way. I hadn't had time to worry about all the little things like normal.

As I waited at the gate the excitement began to grow.

On the plane I was seated next to a Nepali soldier and his lovely wife. He told me he had been injured recently and had lost the use of his right arm. Half of his face didn't function properly either but despite this he was in good spirits as he was returning home to Pokhara after spending three months recovering in Delhi hospital. And he was alive.

It made me so angry to see him injured for the sake of someones ego (because that's what all wars are essentially about). His future had been dictated by men and probably some women moving soldiers around like pawns in a game of chess with no real understanding of the consequences of their actions.

As we flew into Nepal we were welcomed by a spectacular view of the Himalayas. I couldn't stop looking at the enormous snow-capped mountain peaks poking out of the clouds - trying to burn the image into my brain so I could carry it with me always.

The soldier from Pokhara was so happy to be returning home.

"Beautiful," he murmered to me.

I had to agree.

Deven, the volunteer placement officer picked me up, and as we drove I attempted to make polite conversation but he wasn't into it at all. I realised it is a typical Nepali thing to be shy to start with so after a while I gave up and we sat in awkward silence the rest of the journey home.

Home turned out to be a big cold building with many rooms and several floors. When I arrived no one was in sight and my heart sank. Was I going to be the only volunteer? Was this organisation so obscure I was the only one who had come across it? If so this was going to be a very isolating experience. Deven assured me that the others were just away at their placements and some were sight seeing in Pokhara and would be back tomorrow.

Salve, the lovely woman I had been emailing, came to meet me. She told me to sleep for a while and then come for dinner. I ended up falling asleep in the afternoon and sleeping right through until the next morning. I was so tired.

The next day I met one of the other volunteers at breakfast. There were other people here! Her name was Rosie and she was American Chinese, volunteering in Nepal for her spring break. She was still at high school and had come all this way on her own. She talked at 100 miles an hour and when she left it felt like a frieght train had just powered through the room. I was left out of breath but glad there were other volunteers with me.

Then it was time for my orientation and Nepali lesson. It was like going back to school after a holiday and my brain took a while to adjust.

Deven took me to a Monkey temple that afternoon and I met some more of the volunteers when we returned.

After a while they all disappeared and I found myself alone with nothing to do and nowhere to go for once. It was a nice feeling but I was still craving company. Thankfully not long after the volunteers returned and we decided to get momos from a resturant down the road.

During the course of the evening one of the girls asked if I had got sick when I was in India.
"Not yet. Touch wood," I added pessimistically. Then I deliberately touched the wooden chopping board out of some kind of superstitious habit. Well turns out superstitions are bullshit.

Almost immediately after eating the chicken momos I had decided on, my stomach started playing tricks on me. I crawled into bed and tried to read but after a while I gave up and lay there wishing the horrible, angry feeling would go away. Finally at some ungodly hour in the morning I managed to throw up the nasty momos and the relief was instant. Thank goodness it was all over fairly quickly so I didn't miss out on anything exciting.

I dragged my aching body out of bed the next morning and rather subduedly admitted to everyone I had finally been sick. On my first day in Nepal too. How pathetic.

The rest of the day was taken up with a Nepali lesson and a class about the Nepali caste system. I had no idea it was still such a prominent part of their culture.

Later Deven took me and two American sisters to the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. It was pretty spectacular and the smells and sounds and colours were exactly how I had hoped Nepal would be.

That evening we were free to roam as we pleased so the two American sisters, an Australian girl, a guy from Chile and I went into Thamel - backpacker heaven. It was St Patricks Day and I spotted an Irish pub advertising a live music event. It struck me as a funny thing to do in Nepal so in we went. After a couple of ciders and a big basket of hot chips my stomach had finally forgiven me for the momos catastrophe last night.

Later we found a place that sold donuts and I bought one without the slightest bit of guilt. It was time to revert back to the old western ways just for one night and it felt wonderful. Back at the HQ we found the HBO channel and feasted our ears on the American twang whilst gorging on chocolate.

Sometimes it's nice to forget you are very far from home and just enjoy the simple things that are certain make you happy. Like donuts!

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