1.10.13 Sometimes, You Just Gotta Do You

I am writing this blog with much sadness, but also with quite a bit of joy just over the horizon.

I have made the decision to no longer serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer and will return home on Monday, January 14th.

My reasons are many, but what it comes down to is both my happiness and effectiveness. I haven’t gone a day without crying since moving to permanent site 6 weeks ago. I miss home, but that isn’t the only reason I bawl my eyes out at least once a day. Peace Corps uses a very independent, volunteer-driven model. I knew coming out of PST that I would have to work hard to integrate myself in my community and to get projects up and going.

But knowing and doing are very different. I tried to get involved in my community, to start my PC village situational analysis report, but to no avail. I went to the town office one day to get info and almost threw up I was so anxious about it. I just don’t think that over the course of the next two years, I would be able to be the most effective person I can be, here in Nepal.

I joined PC for (probably) the wrong reasons. I wasn’t quite ready to get a real, big girl job and I wanted an adventure. Those are not exactly earth-shattering reasons that would keep me here through thick or thin. And here I am now, 7,000 miles away from home, looking forward to getting a 9 to 5 and cooking my own dinner.

And so, in three days, I will leave Nepal. I am sad to leave my friends and sad to leave my host family (truly, my didi is the kindest, most amazing Nepali I’ve ever met), but not so sad to leave Nepal. It is an amazing country and I have enjoyed most of my time here, but (for now, at least) I belong in the U.S.

I’m sorry to everyone who was rooting for me and I’m sorry to those that are disappointed. But I gave it my best shot. Most of all, I’m sorry for all the people who sent me mail that I won’t ever get. Don’t worry, my PCV friends will get it and enjoy it even more than I would.

Here I come, America.

1.1.13 New Year Nepali Style

Happy New Year! (The pictures are missing from this blog and will be added 1/5/13 when I have free internet)

Nepal uses a different calendar, so there was no big celebration here. Though it is amazing how so many of Nepalis know about American holidays. Several people wished me a happy new year this morning, and I was most appreciative.

I didn’t do much to celebrate the actual New Year, though the Newari community, the ethnic group that my family belongs to, does have a holiday right around now. On Sunday, we celebrated Pus 16. The name is like the 4th of July; it’s just the date that it happens to be on.

Here’s the sign that greeted us!

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And let me tell you, the Newaris know how to party. We walked twenty minutes up the (paved) road to a nearby town where quite a bit of my extended family lives. At 9am when we arrived, food was already cooking. They had butchered a buffalo the day before and had started to cook the meat over open flames in these HUGE pots. See the picture below:

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We obviously had to eat other things besides meat, though. So we started the laborious task of peeling and cutting vegetables for about 30 people. I was put on garlic duty; I must have peeled a dozen bulbs of garlic. Not just cloves, but the whole bulbs. Even with the three other people helping me, it took us a good hour to finish.

Onions were sliced, radishes minced, cauliflower cut. And there was no question about how much or how or when. Everyone knew exactly what they were doing. As my American dad would say, they had it down to a science.

Besides the veggies and meat, there was a massive amount of cel roti being cooked. Cel roti is made out of a different flour than the usual roti and is cooked a little bit like a funnel cake. Actually, it’s cooked exactly like a funnel cake, using a little-bitty funnel and everything. Batter is put into the little funnel and dropped into hot oil to fry for a minute, flipped, and taken out. There were three 3-stone fire pits made to cook all of the batter that had been made. Here’s the fires being made:

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And here’s the massive amount of batter that they started with:

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It took six woman to cook it all and even then it was several hours before it was all said and cooked. They let me try it once. I had watched for a while and I felt like I understood the technique and would certainly be able to do it. I was wrong. I went to fast and the batter came out in globs instead of a nice circle. But my didi was super nice about it, though I wasn’t allowed to try again…

We ate food, which was pretty tasty aside from the meat that was composed of all different questionable parts. We listened to music that was far too loud and the old men that were drinking danced in front of everyone. They tried really hard to get me to dance as well, but I learned in PST that dancing in front of Nepalis only invites more dancing requests, not to mention that when I start to dance, everyone stops their own dancing and stares at me. So at first I politely declined, and as the drunk old men became more insistent, so did I.

Here’s a picture of my didi, her friend and daughter, and my brothers. O, and me in my new kurta my didi bought me!

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So that party is what I consider my New Year celebration, even though it was two full days before January 1st, 2013. On actual New Year’s Eve, my didi let me watch a Hindi movie with English subtitles and wouldn’t let my brothers change the channel. She made a delicious dinner too, all without knowing she was helping me celebrate my own persona American holiday. And then I went to bed at 9:30pm 😀

I have made a New Year’s resolution, though. I treated myself to a long run this morning on the first day of the year, and while I did, I thought about what my resolution might be. I came up with what I consider the perfect one: Be happy.

Being happy can be a whole lot of different things right now, for me. It might mean watching a movie every night before I go to bed. Or asking for milk for my coffee more often. Or calling my mom whenever I feel  like. It might mean taking more day trips to the district center or taking more time to pray. Maybe it’ll mean I read more books or shower even less frequently in the winter. Who knows, happiness might even be back in the States. I don’t know right now, but I plan to keep my resolution, no matter what. I’m going to make myself happy, and that’s a promise.

12.25.12 How I Spent My 1st Christms in Nepal

I didn’t really celebrate Christmas on Christmas. Instead, we did our big event on Christmas Eve; that’s just how it happened to work out.
On Christmas Eve, I went for a run, went out to breakfast, and showered all before we really got going as a group. The breakfasts in Pokhara are legit. There are so many trekkers and tourist in Pokhara that they have true American style food. I had scrambled eggs, hash browns, and delicious multigrain toast one morning. I also had muesli with hot milk another morning. OK, so that’s not that American but still, it was delicious and really hit the spot. Besides corn flakes, it’s as close to cereal as you can get here.
Have I told you about the shower situation here? I know I mentioned how cold it is in Nepal right now and how there’s no heat. And without heat, there’s also no hot water. Which is a total bummer and leads me to only showering about every four days (think what you want, but you trying showering in freezing water when the weather is also freezing). So, it was quite disappointing when the hotel we stayed in claimed to have hot water, but didn’t. I took two very cold, very unsatisfying showers while I was in Pokhara and that was about one too many.
After I showered and everyone asked me several times if the water was at least warm, which it wasn’t, we were about ready to go. Two of my friends, Alex and Tia, took the morning to go horseback riding. For $15, they got to go for three hours along a mountain ridge that had excellent views. Check out Tia or Alex’s blog for more details and pictures!
When the two of them got back, all eight of us walked down to Lake Fewa (you can spell it a few different ways). On the lake, we rented two boats to row across to, what else, the other side. There were no oar locks, so the rowing was interesting. It was more canoe style, but none of us are really canoe enthusiast so it was quite a sight. We did eventually get to the other side after going around in some circles and getting good views of the mountains.
Once we “docked,” we headed up a hiking train to the Peace Pagoda, otherwise known as some stupa whose real name I can’t remember. What a great tourist I am. Some of our friends had done the hike the day before and told us it wasn’t that bad, not too steep. Well, that was a lie. That train was super steep and seemed to go on forever. It took us about 45 minutes to get all the way up, with a few rest breaks thrown in there.
Along the way, I managed to whack, and I mean whack, my head on a bell that was totally at eye level and that I should have seen. It made a very loud bong when I did, so it sounded like I might have cracked my head open. I didn’t, but man it hurt. Then I thought about how funny it would be if I had to call the PC Medical Officer and try to explain just how I had concussed myself… by hitting my head on a bell.
Once we got to the top and reached the stupa, we pretty much just had a photo shoot of both ourselves and of the mountains. As you can tell from my facebook photo album, I took a lot of pictures of the mountains. I would take one, and when it didn’t do what I could see with my eyes justice, I would try again. But the camera just can’t capture what you can see in real life.
I was scolded at the stupa, in English, by a woman I presume was German. Apparently, I was talking too loud and disturbing the peace of the Peace Pagoda. To be fair, there was a sign saying to please use quiet voices, but still. I felt like I was in elementary school again and getting yelled at for not using my indoor voice.
We descended the mountain and made our way back across the lake in our boats. While we had been hiking up, we came across a few more of our friends and offered to take them back with us in our boats. When we got back to the other side, though, with four more people than we had stated with, the men who owned the boats were not too happy. They demanded 300 extra rupees, which our additional friends were reluctant to pay. But the Nepali men were pretty angry, so they all decided to just pay up. We got out of there after that.
Christmas Eve dinner was held at an Italian restaurant (how fitting!). They had a fake Christmas tree up in the corner and played a few Christmas tunes over their sound system. They had happy hour which many of the volunteers took advantage of. Instead of drinking, though, I indulged in dessert. I had pasta carbonara made with spinach pasta. It was delicious! Then I went for the apple crisp with ice cream. It was more like apple sauce with some crunchies on top, but I won’t complain; it was good too.
I spent the rest of the evening using the internet, writing e-mails and blogs and then downloading Gmail Offline (which is the best invention ever). I also wrote over a dozen postcards. I was very productive, but despite staying up past midnight, I woke up at 5am on Christmas.
I called home quick in the morning my time, just to check in and see how Christmas eve was going. Then I went for a walk with one of the other volunteers, Kerry. She is also an early riser. We walked and took photos and I enjoyed a delicious hot pastry on the way back to the hotel.
During the day, we didn’t do much of anything. I did, however, manage to purchase an internet USB and load it with money. I’m able to check my e-mail and blog and facebook from my room at home now!! I can’t do much else because the internet is slow and a little on the expensive side for things like photos and skype, but still, I’m so excited to just be able to e-mail.
We walked around the touristy part of Pokhara during the afternoon and I bought myself a Christmas present of two new headbands. I had a mocha frappuccino that was way overpriced, but so worth it.
For dinner, we went to Mike’s Breakfast, the same restaurant we went to in Kathmandu for swearing-in, but in Pokhara. I had chicken parm and apple pie to round it all out. Not too shabby, if you ask me.
On the walk home, though, we found a bakery that had real, legitimate Christmas cookies. Honest-to-God Christmas cookies!! I bought two to start, but went back and got three more. There were sugar cookies with the holes cut out in the middle and filled with jam. And then star shaped cookies with chocolate icing. They even had mini, personal sized cheesecakes, which I obviously had to try as well. I was in dessert heaven!!
I skyped with my family back in the States for a little while. They were all still in the PJs, it was so early there. But it was good to see them and to talk to them, if not a little sad. But now, I have one Christmas under my belt and only one more to go. And next year, I probably won’t be in Nepal—I’ll be off in some exotic locale in Southeast Asia with some PCV friends, celebrating our very last Christmas away from home.

12.25.12 Merry Christmas to the 2 Most Wonderful Women

Merry Christmas from Nepal! I’ll update you all in a different post about what I did to celebrate Christmas with all of my PCV friends, but I’d like to take this opportunity to let everyone know what I’m most thankful for these days. I know it’s Christmas and not Thanksgiving, but I’m in a foreign country and I get to celebrate any way I want, thank you very much.

Today, I am thankful for two very special women in my life: my American mom and my new Nepali mom. These two women have made my past month possible in Nepal and I feel indebted to them for their support.

I’m sitting with some of the other volunteers right now, and we were talking about our parents and the holidays. I was labeled a mama’s girl, through and through. I can’t even explain to you how much my mom means to me. And what’s sad about it is that before I left the U.S., I had no idea how much I depended on her or what a huge part of my world she is.

I’ve called my mom so many times in the past two weeks, bawling my eyes out, and she has been so supportive each and every time. Even when I woke her up one morning at 6am, she was still my best cheerleader, helping me through the emotional labyrinth that is Peace Corps (I still seem to be negotiating through that labyrinth).

And she hasn’t shed a single tear on the phone with me! She is my rock. I’m so thankful she is strong enough for both of us, that I can lean on her from 7,000 miles away and feel so well supported.

I am also thankful for my Nepali mom. She is amazing and she  has no idea how much she’s helped me. She treats me like a grown-up, unlike so many of the other Nepalis. She asks me what I want and listens to me when I speak in my broken Nepali. She even told one of the other volunteers last week that I speak a lot of Nepali! She’s the first one to ever give me even a little bit of credit for the Nepali I do speak.

My didi is also an awesome cook. She makes great daal bhatt, but she also makes the tastiest roti I’ve had since getting here. The roti is pretty much the Nepali equivalent to pancakes and it is delicious. She makes me about 6 cups of tea a day and lets me choose which snacks I eat. She doesn’t try to give me too much food and she makes special meat for me without any bones or skin and even cooks it separately sometimes. She just really cares about me, is what it is.

Mostly, my didi talks to me. She talks and talks to me in Nepali, and even though we both know that I don’t understand all of it, she keeps trying. She sounds like she could be so frustrating to talk with, but when I don’t understand, we both just laugh. She doesn’t put any pressure on me to understand right away. The other day,  she even took a piece of paper out and tried to write down in Nepali what she wanted to say so that I might be able to understand a little better.

I hugged my didi the other day. I attempted to ask her in Nepali if I could, but I was crying and I don’t think I was using the right verb, so she didn’t understand at all. I just went in for it. I just wrapped my arms around her. She definitely didn’t like it, but she let it happen. She then dried the tears on my face and helped me catch a bus to meet up with my friends because she knew it would make me feel better. She’s just literally the best.

So, this Christmas, I thank my lucky stars for all the support I have on my journey through the Peace Corps. I know that my mom and my didi are not the only ones that have helped me through these past few weeks, though. I’ve sent so many e-mails to people and received so many encouraging responses. So thank you to everyone who’s listened or read or written back. It means a lot to me!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

My New Address!!

Update!

I have a new address! I put it in the Contact Me! Page, so check it out. I also updated the list of things to send to me, so look at that too.

I have to start paying for my own customs on packages now, so please be mindful of the things you send! Large packages will put me in debt, I’m sure of it. So, keep packages small with things that you can’t get in Nepal, they’re cheaper. This way, you spend less money in the U.S. and I spend less money over here.

But please send letters and cards! I would still love to receive mail, maybe just not as many packages. And truthfully, I don’t want for pretty much anything here.

12.23.12 What I Do All Day

If you’re wondering what I do all day, so am I. Some of the other PCVs have asked these of one another and no one is quite sure how they manage to fill all of their time.
First, let me explain what my job is supposed to be within my community. I was paired with a government employee as my counterpart. He works at the health post in my town, which I can see from my house. (Pictures to come) The health post is pretty much like a free clinic in the states. Anyone can come and describe their symptoms of ask for what they need and they’re given medicine accordingly. The difference from the States, however, is that no one at the health post is a doctor. I think only my counterpart has a college degree of any kind, in fact.
The kind of medicine they practice is what I like to refer to as “mom medicine.” Moms are rather astute to the symptoms and complaints of their children and can usually figure out what is wrong with their child and what kind of care they need. That’s what’s done at the health posts: general needs are assessed and medicine is given. Prescription medicine is given. That’s another big difference.
But regardless, you can see pretty fast that my role as a nutrition volunteer doesn’t quite fit in with what my office does. I’m supposed to be focusing on the betterment of pregnancy and childhood nutrition and ways to help people become more food secure. Which is why it’s ridiculous that I spend three hours a day at the health post doing nothing of the sort. I just stare off into space or stare at people.
Which brings us to what I do all day. Here’s the run down: I wake up around 6am usually. Sometimes 6am is a struggle to get to because I go to bed so early, though. My family doesn’t start moving around the house until around 6:30am, so I stay in bed and read until then.
Then I get up and make my bed and get dressed to go running. Usually, my didi has tea for me before I leave. So I drink that and head out to go for my run. My host dad has stopped trying to go with me, though many of the people in town ask me if I’m scared to go by myself. They say I should be scared of the jungle, which is the Nepali words for forest. The thing is, I don’t run in the forest. I stay on the road where there are houses on either side and people that I’ve met before. So, no, I’m not scared. I run for about 40 minutes and then make my way back to my house.
My didi then has another cup of tea for me with my morning kaaja, usually two hard boiled eggs that are already peeled for me. I eat and then sometimes wander around my house a little, or else I go to my room to do a little CrossFit style WOD.
After, I change to clothes for the day and really wander around the house. I follow my didi around a lot because I don’t like to be alone. Sometimes I sit in the early morning sun because it’s freezing here. People ask me all the time if Nepal or American is colder. Where I live in America is certainly colder than here, except my house has heat, you see. The cold feels a lot different when you know you have a nice warm house to go into and a nice hot shower waiting for you. Here, there’s neither. The only reason the house is slightly warmer than outside in the evening and morning is because it blocks the wind. Otherwise, inside is the same as outside. I wear usually three or four layers on top and then leggings under whatever pants I have on. The Nepalis, in contrast, just put an extra sweater on and socks with their flip flops. I don’t know how they do it! I would be frozen in minutes if that’s what I wore.
I somehow fill a two hour gap before we having morning daal bhatt. Sometimes I read, sometimes I sit downstairs in front of our shops with my brothers. Sometimes I sit in the sun and play solitaire or Sudoku on my phone. There are just so many options!
We eat around 10am, though my three brothers all eat earlier because they have to go to school around 9:30am. I eat and then head off to the health post. Sometimes I bring my Nepali book with me, sometimes not. If I don’t I have not a whole lot to do. There’s a woman that works there, Bahwani, who is right around my age and super nice. We’ve had some nice conversations and she’s helpful with my Nepali. It’s not quite as boring and useless when I talk with her. But on the days that she’s not there or that we can’t talk, I’m always just starring off with nothing to do.
I pass the three hours pretty fast, though. I can already feel myself becoming more patient since being here. I leave around 2pm and head home. My didi always asks me what I want for afternoon kaaja, which is a change because no one in my first homestay ever asked what I wanted. We’ve had sorts of different things since I’ve gotten here: churra and badmaas, which is beaten rice and soy beans, toasted, chow mein, delicious roti, pokada, which is like a fried vegtable dumpling of sorts, chutput, which is puffed rice with onions and peppers and other things all thrown together. We have quite the variety, as you can see.
This is when I really don’t know what I do with my time. Somehow, I get to dinner time every day, but I don’t know how I fill all that time. Sometimes I take a walk, but I’ve kind of stopped doing that because it makes me sad to be by myself and think about home and my family. So I try to hang around my house. I’ve sat in the shop with my didi, before. Or with my brothers. Sometimes I read in the sun. Sometimes, I take a walk to buy things for dinner with my didi. I really just try to do what she’s doing.
We eat dinner at 6pm or a little after and we usually eat all together. If the power is on, we watch TV. Sometimes, they put the English news on for me, but they usually get bored of that pretty quick and change it to something else.
By 7:30pm, I’m ready to retire to my room. I brush my teeth and excuse myself. I don’t go straight to bed, but I’ll read or journal or on the rare occasion watch a movie (most often, just part of the movie, I can’t stay up that late!) And so, by 8:30pm, I’ve got my light off and the blankets tucked in under every part of me to stay warm. Somehow I get through about 14 hours every day, and really I don’t know how I do it.

12.19.12 Sandy Hook Tragedy

Friday and Saturday here in Nepal were not my best days. In fact, to date, they’ve been my worst days. Just ask my mom; I called her three times in just over 24 hours, bawling my eyes out every time. At first, I was just homesick. I miss my mom, essentially. She’s a great woman, who wouldn’t miss her?? But once I processed all of that and stopped thinking about going home, an overwhelming sense of anxiety swooped in and made me just as weepy.
Which is why Saturday morning when I heard about the Sandy Hook tragedy, I was more distraught than I could have imagined was possible.
While I was lying in bed in my counterpart’s house (don’t ask.. it’s never happening again) crying my eyes out because I missed home, children in Newtown, CT were also crying their eyes out, but for a reason that was worlds away from mine.
The story has been all over the English news here, both CNN and BBC news. Nepalis have asked questions about what happened and why. How do I explain something in a foreign language when I don’t even have the words in English? No one knows why and we probably never will. The only words I can lend to those that ask are malai taha chiana, I don’t know. That just isn’t good enough.
Even though I’m 7,000 miles away, I have been deeply affected by the tragedy. It touched my life on multiple levels: it happened in Connecticut, it happened in a school eerily similar to the school my mom used to be the principal of, it happened in a town where my sorority big sister is from, and one of the woman who graduated from my sorority chapter was killed. And so, I’ve thought a lot about it in the past few days.
I am so sad for the families who lost a child. I am even sadder for the babies that were killed, because that is exactly what they were, babies. My condolences to anyone who has felt pain because of this heartbreak.
I just wanted to let everyone know that though I am so far away, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I can’t possibly say anything to make it better, but I know I will always remember what happened; I will not let those children be forgotten.

12.8.12 I’m the Only One Now

I’ve been running. And journaling and taking long walks and closing my door for a few minutes every once in a while to have a good cry. Because this week has been hard. It’s been six days and I’ve had no interaction with Americans. The longest I’d gone before this was, what, an afternoon? There’s no one to play cards with when I’m bored and no one to go complain to when my family insists I eat this or sit there. It’s lonely.

Which, I knew would happen. The PC shows you this nice graph of highs and lows of a typical PCV service, and the first 6 months at site ate supposed to be the lowest part. So, they warned me, but maybe I didn’t take it seriously enough. Because I’ve shed more tears in the past week than I have in total in the past three months. My new didi caught me on day two with watery eyes. I think I almost made her cry, actually. She just kept telling me not to cry it was going to be OK.

And I know it will be. I’ve had a few solid afternoons or evenings, and I’d say yesterday was just generally a good day. And that’s what I’m going for, just generally good days.

I’m having a hard time with a few things apart from being away from all of my friends. Language is kicking my butt. This part of Nepal has a slightly different dialect than I was taught and I’m not able to understand a lot of what’s being said to me. Either people aren’t listening to me or they really don’t understand me, but my communication gap feels even bigger than during PST. I’ve been studying from my Complete Nepali book (Thank you, Tracy!!) and trying to remember more verbs and conjugations, but still, that can only get me so far. I need to find a tutor that my analytical brain can ask grammar questions to, but I’m not sure where to start. There is a very nice woman who works at the health post with me that speaks some English, so she may be able to help me. We’ll see—it’s only been a week.

I’m also missing home a lot. I feel like being with all of the Americans during PST kept my homesickness at bay, but as of now, everything reminds me of home and my family and I miss it all!! It doesn’t help that Christmas is around the corner and I keep having to try to explain to Nepalis what Christmas is. Well, my family eats cinnamon rolls and an egg casserole in the morning and we open gifts and watch A Christmas Story. We play games on Christmas eve and eat delicious food and dessert. That makes me sad because I want to be home for it all. But, as I try to find the bright side of most things now a days, I will only be missing two Christmases. This one, and then next year. So, if I can make it through this one, I’m already over half way there.

My host family has been pretty great for the most part. My counterpart doesn’t seem to come to town very often, or at least as often as I thought he would, so my host dad has sort of taken the role of introducing me to the community. Which is all well and good, except he won’t let me go anywhere by myself. I went for a run on Tuesday morning and Wednesday, he insisted on going with me. He can’t run very well, so he made us walk for part and we didn’t go as far as I would have if I was alone. He came with me on Thursday too.

I’ve been trying to find ways to fill my time, since at the moment I don’t have a whole lot to do. Walking seems like a good option, but my dai (host dad, it literally mean older brother, just like didi means older sister) won’t let me go alone. So I guess it’s a good thing he’s been gone at a wedding and then had business in town because I’ve been walking waripari (aimlessly, around in circles) all over the place.

My two twin brothers are so freaking cute I can’t stand it. I just stare at them sometimes because they’re so cute. I usually can’t understand them, but it doesn’t matter. They let me sit with them while they play games or watch TV and no one cares that we’re not talking. Yesterday, they even included me in a game of ball throwing, so I think they’re warming up to me. I gave them glow in the dark vampire teeth (Thank you, Kelly!!) and they loved them. Here’s a picture:

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So, to sum up the above, it’s been hard and will be hard, but I’m tough and willing to make it work. After all, as my great grandfather said and as my mom says now, you’re time is what you make it. And I plan to make it worthwhile.

12.2.12 I Have Arrived

Well, what a journey. And what an upgrade!

The seven other volunteers living in my district and I left Kathmandu Saturday morning, bright and early, on a chartered bus with our counterparts and supervisors. Our bags and assorted things the PC has given us (mattresses, water filters, quilts etc) were strapped to the top of the bus with a lovely orange tarp draped over the top of it all. Us volunteers naturally sat next to each other, with the Nepali speakers as far away as possible.

It didn’t matter though, because most of us were hung over or carsick and slept the whole 8 hours to Syangia district center, myself included. We stopped once to eat, and that was it. We got to the district center at 5pm, whereupon we found that the hotel the PC had reserved for us was full. Which seems ridiculous because why on earth are there that many people overnighting in Syangia?? But, alas, we found another guest house to stay and all was well.

The other volunteers and I went out and ate chow mein and decided to watch a movie after. However, we got about 10 minutes into Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and I asked for the key to my room from my roommate and excused myself to go to bed. I was so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I went back to the room and didn’t even bother changing my clothes (as so often happens now) and laid down. It sounded like the whole town was outside my door having a party, though, so I put in some ear plugs and was asleep by the time they took full effect.

The next morning, we went with our counterparts to meet the district supervisors and a few other officials. The office we met in had free wi-fi, so I was able to use a nanosecond of it before the meeting started. They greeted us, said a lot in Nepali I wasn’t able to understand, and then tikka-ed us. After, there was a lot of standing around because the counterparts weren’t sure of the plan and we couldn’t be sure if they weren’t.

Finally, we mobilized and that’s when everything happened so fast. Before I knew it, we all had our things out of our rooms and in the street, waiting for our jeeps to come get us. Tia left first, and it was so sudden. Her counterpart was just like, it’s time to go! And that was it. She was gone. Alex and Kerry followed soon after, with all of their things and their counterparts in a tiny, tiny taxi.

Tom and I were next. It felt so strange to be parting from everyone. I teared up in the car, not from sadness per se, but from pure emotion overload. What can I say, I got scared!

It only took about 45 minutes to get to my town. When we pulled up to the house, which is right on the main road (which is paved, might I add), there were dozens of people outside waiting for me. They had a table set up with flowers and tikka and chairs to sit in. I greeted everyone with a namaste and was told to sit. Then, about 15 or so people proceeded to give me tikka. My face was a mess by the end of it all. Tom got all sorts of tikka too, but soon it was time for him to leave. That was weird too. Tom and I have lived near each other for the past three months. We always ended up walking back to our village together on hub days and I had just generally spent a lot of time with him. I’m glad he’s close to me now, but it was still strange to say that final goodbye.

But enough about getting here, let me tell you about the actual here. My new house is a huge upgrade. First, it’s not made of clay or mud, it was built out of real concrete and rebar. The ceilings aren’t 5 feet tall, but are instead almost vaulted. There are no trash bags lining my ceiling or any other part of the house. That bathroom is actually within the confines of the house, instead of outside and down a hill. Actually, we have two bathrooms, one downstairs and one upstairs. Wild. We have running water all the time. I have two (that’s right, two) outlets in my room, one of which is a built in converter. My bed is full sized and I have an actual desk.

The kitchen is awesome. It has a real table with 6 chairs and 6 placemats. There are actual shelves to put plates and food on. There is no traditional cookstove option, only a gas stove. And get this, we have a fridge! That was beyond my wildest dreams.

My family owns the shops on the first floor of the house and rents a room to a beautician. I’m stoked about that because I don’t have to travel very far to get my eyebrows threaded (which I did about a month ago, by the way. It was awesome and cost only 20 rupees). The only drawback of the shop is that it’s not a chiya pasal, but instead sells school supplies and clothes. I can drink a lot of tea, but I can’t use that many pens.

We have a dog named Rocky who looks an awful lot like a Pomeranian. He’s white and somehow appears to remain white with little maintenance from humans. We have an actual sitting area, with a TV and two couches. There’s a balcony right outside my window that overlooks the street, which again I have to tell you, is paved.

I’ve really moved up in the world over here in Nepal. To top it all off, my family is super nice. Two of my brothers are twins. So far, I like all three of the boys. I don’t really think they know what to do about me or what to say to me, at least not yet. My host mom speaks really fast and when I ask her to repeat, she comes about four inches from my face. My host dad is retired from the Indian army and speaks a good deal of English. I’m not sure yet if it will be helpful or not.

And so, for the next four days, I’ll sit around doing not much because my counterpart has left the district until Friday. Weird. I have to shower and wash some clothes though, so hopefully that takes up, what, 7 hours?