I haven’t posted a yak in quite a while, but it hasn’t been for lack of adventure or excitement to document. We are now in our final week in Kathmandu before heading out to trek and I find myself longing for more time!! More time with my host family, walking the endless chaotic streets, and exploring this culturally rich city! Every day, I experience something that leaves me surprised with myself and the world’s complex beauty. It’s too difficult to pick one moment to describe so I’ll give a snapshot of a few memorable times over the past month here in Kathmandu:
- The group was able to talk with Ranju Darshana, a fiery young female politician who nearly won the latest mayoral election here in Kathmandu. She has so much passion and drive to make a change in the political system, especially in regard to women’s rights/voice/power. Even though she’s only 21, I have definitely found a new idol!
- I have been working with another student, Nick, on an independent ISP project where we’ve interviewed some super interesting NGOs around the city. Two of these have been under Sankalpa-Women’s Alliance for Peace, Justice, and Democracy, which is an alliance of women’s organizations in Nepal. Sankalpa literally means a resolve, a promise, a commitment, and determination in Nepali, and that is certainly what we witnessed when talking to Women For Human Rights, single women group and Feminist Dalit Organization. The first works to create a society where there isn’t discrimination on the basis of marital status and the second to further the rights of women who belong to the lowest Dalit caste, thus experiencing discrimination, exploitation, and oppression. I was deeply honored to talk with some inspiring activists and gain a small understanding of struggles/stigma faced by women with certain identities.
- For Halloween, the group came together, each with a sweet thing to share, and watched What We Do In The Shadows, a hilarious documentary about vampires who share a house in Wellington, New Zealand. It turns out they have everyday human struggles like “who is going to do the dishes?” as well as more evil creature struggles like finding a yummy human meal each day. Highly recommended Halloween movie for those like myself who are terrified of actual horror movies.
- Earlier in the day, Nick and I had decided that we wanted to go to the U.S. Embassy’s library to get some books. He happened to be wearing a flowery dress in taking on Eva’s identity for the day. Those who drove or walked past us had the most priceless expressions, literally stopping in their tracks. The security guards at the embassy were also definitely intrigued. We didn’t end up finding any books for our ISP, but I certainly learned something about gender politics in Nepal while walking alongside Nick. Also he is a boss.
- After getting back from Namo Buddha, I celebrated Tihar, an important Hindu festival, with my host family. I had the best time!!! It is the festival of the lights, so everyone’s home is covered tip to toe in blinking, colorful lights, making the city a shining wonderland for five days. On the fifth day, I was able to give my brother, Prajol, Bhai Tika, which is a Hindu blessing given to brothers all across Nepal. Lots of dancing, music, and meeting extended family!
There are so many more moments worth sharing, but that’s all I have time for now. The group is heading out to buy some last minute things we need for our trek, which we are all getting excited about! I know that the upcoming goodbye to the city will be bittersweet and leave me wanting to return again soon.