My name is Shanti Magar, one of your instructors for this spring course. I was born and raised in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, which celebrates its modernity in the backdrop of ritualism. The place I grew up is a melting pot of many ethnic groups where people come from all over Nepal for many reasons. I live here with my parents and 4 siblings who you all will get to meet eventually on this course.
As I am writing this note to you, the window of my room opens into the view of Shiva temple (One of the main Gods in Hindu religion) with big open square courtyard, which hosts long lines of devotees every morning. Just behind the temple, there are a number of old grocery stores that sit next to new super markets; small, rustic tea shops are alongside new, glamorous cafes. Things seem different, but they are not necessarily in contrast. As people navigate their cultural landscape each day, there is continuity in how they share affections between heritages of the past and ambitions of the future.
I started my journey with Dragons in 2013 as a program assistant for three years. During that time, I had the opportunity to explore my country with Dragons students for the very first time, which now I feel very grateful for. I had never thought that the days I spent on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley would be the best days of my life and would teach me so much. Ever since then, I have fallen in love with my country and I have understood why so many people come to visit our nation and meanwhile how much knowledge and wisdom it offers to the people.
Now I have been working as a full instructor since 2017. This year I took the fall semester off to be with my family and relatives. Now I’m back- feeling energised and excited for the course to begin!
I am very excited to showcase to you how Nepal lives through its vernacular. Most tourists pass through expressions of the Nepali culture that depict monumental achievements – temple plazas, popular festivals, important sites, etc. But, there is more to learn from the vernacular – expressions of art, music, cuisine, and economy that hide in the subtleties of daily lives. You will live among the people, in villages and in cities, and experience their habits. You will endeavor to learn Nepali and break words with people who cannot help but smile at your humble beginnings. You will look wondrously at people who will be just as curious when you walk past them. Some people will come forward and address you; some people will sit back and wait for you to approach. Regardless, you will experience not just the sights and the sounds of Nepal but also the emotions that are so freely expressed in this small country.
I am grateful to get the chance to meet each one of you and assist you on this journey that has the power to change lives and direction. I want to let you know how proud I am of you, that you dared yourself to get out of your comfort zone to embark on this adventure. There is really no way one could prepare for what this trip might bring but I suggest that you be open to whatever comes your way. Keeping in mind that it is only us that creates our own limits. The team of instructors- Me, Anna and Rishi are here to assist you on your journey. Till then take care of yourself and see you soon!
And Happy New Year 2019 !!!