Every night, I set my alarm for 7:10 AM, but it never wakes me up. Instead, I am woken up around 6:30 AM by the various sounds of Patan: dogs barking, birds chirping, bells ringing, motorcycles honking, or my homestay brother blowing his nose. Then I roll out of bed, brush my teeth with purified water, change my clothes, brush my hair, pack my things, and, at 7:30 AM, walk out the door.
My commute to the program house takes roughly 30 minutes. I start by walking down a dirt alleyway, past a water shop and a group of wild dogs to the main road. I turn right, and immediately walk by the line of taxis parked along the main road, their drivers smoking cigarettes in a circle. The road is quite wide, and was paved very recently. I continue quickly, ducking under low power lines as I pass fellow walking commuters. I reach the traffic circle, and now I have to cross the road and turn left, a feat which was rather nerve-wracking until I got used to it. I have learned that motorcycles will stop for you, buses will not, and cars are hit or miss (ha).
Once I have finished my real-life game of frogger, I make my left turn, and walk straight down a busy road for about a mile. I pass monkeys on telephone wires, lots of dogs, and clothing stores with names that make me laugh (“FACEBOOK Men Ware”). Sometimes I get lost in thought, but the pungent smell of rotting meat fills my nostrils and pulls me back to reality. I am now passing the butcher shops. I can’t help but feel bad for the small cages stocked with chickens and ducks awaiting their fate, but now is not the time. I need to hurry. I don’t want to be late for breakfast. I lean forward and start walking as fast as I can.
I rush past the intersection with the single tree on my route, and leap to my left to avoid the boy on his over-sized bicycle who is headed straight for me. I reach the next intersection easily, and see a shop owner who is selling the handmade postcards I want. But, I’m hungry by this point, and it’s almost breakfast time. I keep going. I know I am close. I finally reach the pink wall with blue Sanskrit writing on it, and turn right onto a dirt road. I jog past the school with the ping pong table, and slow down to catch my breath. I laugh at myself for being out of shape as I pass Hotel Goodwill, which is actually not a place to buy second-hand clothes, but a very nice hotel.
Moments later, I approach my final turn. A left down a path made of hexagonal tiles. I walk down the path, through the metal gate, and up to the program house door. I have reached my destination. All I can do is smile as I take my shoes off and walk up the stairs to join my friends.