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Trek View on Nepal: Himalayan Studies Gap Year Semester with Where There Be Dragons

My experience living in Patan for a week

I breathe in and fresh air fills my lungs. It’s cold and windy. Everything is silent around me except for the sound of the wind or a few words whispered here and there by my Dragons family. There are trees all around me, the sky is a beautiful clear blue and I see Kathmandu Valley far down bellow. I can see Patan, the city in Nepal me and my Dragons group have been living in for the past week. As I’m sitting there, I see everything with a little more perspective and start to reflect on what my experience in Patan has been like, for the past week.

What has it really consisted of? As I think about my days and the many things I’ve seen, the many stimuli I’ve had and the many things I’ve experienced, I realize that I can divide my experience in Patan in three parts, just to make sense of it all. My days revolve around and take place in three main areas: my Nepali homestay family, my life at the Program house with my Dragons family and my life in the actual city of Patan (with its many sights and places it has to explore).

Living with a family that’s not my own has definitely been challenging. I have a brother that’s 27, a sister that’s 22, a mother that’s a school principal, a father that has a hand-sewn goods business and a grandmother that speaks no English. I also have two dogs. The cultural differences between Nepali culture and Colombian/Canadian culture are noticeable. However,  there are similarities. I think both their culture and my culture revolve a lot around family. Families are important here, just as they are in Colombia. Religion here is also very important, although it’s very different from the religion most people practice in Colombia (which is a predominantly Catholic country). My family here is Buddhist and I have Buddhist monasteries on either side of my house. Additionally, we all eat on the ground, around a low table,  on the first floor of the house. The rooms are upstairs and mine is on the fifth floor (aka the roof). The house is very tall and very narrow. Everytime I go up to my room, because it’s on the roof, I see the neighbors’ roofs and I see their clothes hanging there and, many times, I even see them, there, doing things. Everyone in Patan has a roof and some of the daily activities take place there (like doing laundry or hanging out).

Going to the Program House every morning is always fun. It has a garden with trees and grass next to it and is a little bit removed from the very center of the city, so it has nicer air than a lot of Patan (in my opinion). It feels like a sanctuary of sorts, to me. We do all sorts of activities there. In the morning, we have breakfast, then Nepali class, then a guest speaker usually comes to talk to us about a relevant topic, then we have a delicious lunch (prepared by our Nepali cooks: Krishna and Mayla), then we leave to go to our ISPs (mine is yoga). The Program House is usually pretty peaceful and quieter than other places in the city. It’s also the moment of the day when I get to be with my whole Dragons group, so I love that time of the day.

Then, there’s Patan, the city. It’s hectic, it’s wild and it’s full of movement and life. The air is pretty dusty and polluted, there are many bikes riding along the very narrow streets, along with cars and passersby, so getting from place to place requires a lot of alertness and agility. The roads and houses are mostly brownish (or beige). However, the city has a lot of color because of the colorful prayer flags that can often be seen around and the colorful kurtas and saris women wear. As for sounds, there are a lot of honking noises and construction sounds everywhere.

These are some descriptions of the things I’ve seen and experiences I’ve had while living here in Patan. I’m continually learning new things while I’m here, which I think is great. One thing’s for sure and that’s that there is a lot to learn, explore and experience here in Kathmandu Valley. The days here are pretty eventful, busy and even hectic sometimes. One thing that this experience has not been is boring. I’m very much looking forward to my next two weeks in Patan!

Pheri bhetaula!

See you again, soon (I think that’s what it means)!

Maria