Namaste! My name is Irene and I’m writing from Taukhel, a little village in Nepal, near Kathmandu. I have arrived in august, and I will stay here until the end of May. I work with Sara, another Italian volunteer, at the “Moonlight Children’s Home”, an orphanage, or better said, a big family with 22 beautiful girls. I help them during their daily activities: doing homework, going to school, serving lunch and dinner…but in particular I play with them and organize extra activities. Ever since the first day the children call us “sisters” because we are like older sisters for them. I like this job. When our children are at school we work as teachers in two different schools, teaching English and Morals. We are setting up an ecological project to teach them about pollution and how to preserve the environment. And last but not least, our activity is linked to fundraising; we write a monthly newsletter for our followers in which we speak about life in Nepal and send them pictures of the children. We also write posts on the Facebook page. This organization exists thanks to donations and we know that it is important to keep in touch with our supporters!
In short, here in Nepal we never get bored!
Not only because of our activities but also because we have had the opportunity to live in a Country completely different from Italy, and Europe in general. So everyday there is something new to know and discover!
I clearly remember my first impression when arriving here. Each one of my five senses worked a lot in those days! My eyes saw new colors…Here they are different. It is difficult to explain, but the colors are more… colorful! The green of the rice fields, the red of Nepali women’s dresses, the yellow of the statues in the temple…Everything is bright. It is amazing! And also the smells were new: a mix of spices; food, sewers, incense, fried food. The noise is deafening. Walking in Patan or Kathmandu’s streets, you might think that the Nepali national football team has just won the world football championship! Honking from cars and motorcycles, and a crowd of people walking and shouting. It is an experience that I had never had during my previous travels! Also the tastes are really different. I have tasted new typical dishes, some of them I liked so much… while others are really impossible to eat! (as for example some pickles: one of these things is a lemon covered in salt and left under the sun).
Everything is different: the language (Nepali language is written with the Indian alphabet and the structure of the sentence is not like the English or Italian one), the religion (most people are Hindu or Buddhist), the calendar (we are in 2072 now!), the habits (they wake up at 5 in the morning, they have lunch at 8:30 and they go to sleep at 8pm, they eat with hands, they take a shower on Saturday…), the climate (monsoon season till September and now dry and cold season). All the life here is in connection with nature, the cycle of the seasons to cultivate fields… everything follows the rhythm of nature.
Living here, far from the touristic places and from the chaos of the capital, I’m learning to live in the real Nepal, the Nepal without electricity in the houses, the Nepal of children playing in the streets, the Nepal of women washing clothes at the fountain of the village. Sometimes I feel a little bit Nepali. Because now I have learnt a lot of practical things that I would have never thought to do: washing clothes by hand, cooking on an open fire, recognizing and killing lice. Now I’m doing these activities in a natural way, like a real Nepali woman!
In these months I understood that Nepal is a country full of contradictions: beautiful natural landscapes in opposition to the pollution in the cities; the pure white color of the stupa (the pilgrimage monument of Buddhism) and the mud and dust of the streets around; the wealth of the temples, covered in gold, versus the poverty of people that bring offers to the gods..At the beginning I was a little bit scared of these differences and contradictions. I thought I wouldn’t get used to the way of life and also not to comprehend the attitudes, the culture and the tradition. The first full immersion in this life was a little bit of a shock!
Also staying with the children of the orphanage was a new experience: in Italy I had already worked with children of different ages and backgrounds, but here with them it’s special. Because they are special. We are with them all the day, we live with them and we are part of their family. The education that they receive was initially strange for me and at the beginning I couldn’t understand it, I wanted to try to change it, giving my idea of education to them. But this is not possible and not right. This is Nepal, not Italy; I will stay here 10 months not for my whole life. I can give my opinion, but I cannot pretend to change their mind. I must adapt to them, try to comprehend them. It’s not the other way around. I am gradually succeeding in doing this. And in all the situations in which I was, and in which I will be, it must be like this.
Yesterday I was taking a look to my Facebook page and I saw the post suggestions. It suggested I go see a new collection of saari (the traditional Nepali dress).., I laughed. The world I was afraid of, is now part of my daily life.
I would like to tell about a thousand adventures that I lived and that I am living here: the journey to India, the sunrise on the Himalayan mountains, the dashain festival.. and the beautiful smiles of the children! Which for me is the best reward. And it’s only the half way through my experience!