11/11/12 – And Away We Go

As I prepare to embark on a 6-week volunteer effort into an unknown land halfway across the world, my imagination runs wild. The questions seem endless. In no particular order, they go something like this:

What is Nepal all about?

Into the great unknown.

Will the children of the orphanage accept me?

Will I be spiritually moved by the unique religious history associated with this land?

Where can I find good beer?

Where can I find any beer?

What will the other volunteers be like?

In the vast land of the Himalayas, is my curious nature something to be embraced, feared, or somewhere in between?

Will I have anything in common with my host family?

Will there be someone at the airport to pick me up?

How long until I make my first cultural gaffe and think “whoops”?

What kind of impact will this journey ultimately have on my life?

The list goes on and on. This much I do know: I’ll be working at an orphanage Monday-Friday, spending time with kids and helping out with general upkeep. During that time I’ll be staying with a host family, which should provide for a true Nepali experience. On weekends I hope to do some exploring and see more of what Nepal has to offer. Other than that, I don’t know too much, which is kind of overwhelming. In the end though, I find the excitement trumps the nerves. I think the most appealing element of this journey is that these next six weeks will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience, and really, that’s what life is all about. I hope to post plenty of pictures and stories along the way, and keep up with my travels as best I can.

A final fun fact: many restroom facilities in Nepal are doorless and instead referred to as “singing toilets.” Essentially you have to belt out a tune in order to alert nearby passengers you’re doing your business. When you combine that with some eclectic cuisine and a questionable water supply…well, I think it’s time to go warm up the vocal chords.

11/25/12 – A New Land

I think she’s done this before.

The first leg of my journey is complete. I’m currently en route from Kathmandu to Pokhara – a woefully slow 120-mile, 7-hour bus ride on a stuffy, cramped vehicle that feels like it could break down at any moment. And it’s wonderful. I see small villages, where an elderly woman sits with her donkey, watching the world go by. I see young children swinging wildly on makeshift bamboo swings, without a care in the world. I see the unspeakably beautiful Himalayan Mountain range in the distance, inspiring in every way imaginable. And I also now see that this bus ride is a microcosm for the Nepali way of life. Slow, primitive, and inefficient – all existing realities to be sure – quickly take a backseat to the surrounding beauty and sheer joy of life.

Wow, I think I just went pretty deep. Let’s get to some story telling. I arrived in Kathmandu Wednesday the 14th, roughly 30 hours after departing Boston. You’re welcomed with various messages in the airport, most notably “Things take longer in Nepal, so chill out and relax.” Good deal. I tracked down my lift to the hotel and buckled up for one helluva ride.

There may be other cities where the madness of driving rivals Kathmandu, but certainly none I’ve come across. Lanes don’t exist, the streets are tight, and traffic lights are nowhere to be seen. I dodged death many times on that ride, most notably as a van passed on one side, a motorcycle on the other, with a biker in between and various pedestrians mixed in. Meanwhile an ox lay there on the sidewalk, seemingly amused. Welcome to Kathmandu.

Off to a good start.

I felt relieved to reach my hotel and downright giddy to find fellow volunteers up on the rooftop. After a nice round of intros, I realized this was a diverse group. Our small crew alone was represented by the US, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and England. Any cultural differences we might have had were quickly negated by our mutual curiosity to experience and understand Nepal. Interesting how that works – in one setting we might all find ourselves to be very different and yet in this setting, we were all very much the same. And like that, friendships were born.

Upon heading back to my room from dinner, I was cornered by a group of 10 year olds, eager to perform a song and dance. These little rug rats were damn good. They had every move in the book, most notably chanting, singing, clapping, with even some breakdancing and headstands thrown in. I also realized I wasn’t getting away without forking over a few rupees. So I settled up with the young tykes and coincidentally, the seas parted and I was able to get by. Thanks for the show boys.

Looks like a good day.

The next few days in Kathmandu offered a variety of activities. We had Nepali language and culture class, where we learned interesting tidbits like, “Watch out for the cows and buffalo…they’re mostly friendly, but everyone has grumpy days.” The rest of the time was spent doing some sightseeing and simply enjoying ourselves. The rooftop was put to good use and a couple nights on the town proved more costly for some than others. We were treated to an authentic Nepali dinner, complete with dancers and rice wine. Sightseeing stops included Swayambhunath, a temple where the monks and monkeys run wild. Another day was spent at a cremation temple – which over the years has become quite the tourist hotspot – and left me feeling a wide range of emotions. There was also a trip to an ancient Tibetan village where the passage of time is measured only by a calendar. Hardly a dull moment along the way, and I soaked it up best I could.

The four days in Kathmandu were great, but now it was time to get to work. We were volunteers afterall. I was rather pleased to hear my placement was in Pokhara, long considered the playground of Nepal. Being in Pokhara would allow me to do all kinds of cool things, stuff like paragliding, ziplining, and trekking. I’d also be placed at an orphanage with 18 girls, mostly aged 7-12. Having no experience with this type of work left me feeling both eager and anxious. So there was a lot to think about as I settled into that stuffy, cramped bus early Sunday morning. Truth is I had no idea just how much I’d enjoy the ride.

12/2/12 – All Things Pokhara

It didn’t take long for the action to heat up in Pokhara. Upon reaching the bus terminal, our group of four could only fit three in the taxi thanks to some excess luggage. As the lucky winner of the group, I was granted a backseat ride on a nearby motorcycle. Guess I just never imagined my first motorcycle experience would take place in a foreign land, with someone I didn’t know, while not wearing a helmet, and dodging wild animals. Maybe that ride in Kathmandu wasn’t so bad after all.

Hello Pokhara!

Pokhara certainly had a different feel to it than Kathmandu and I could tell I’d like this place. The streets weren’t nearly as crowded, the air was less polluted (though still not fresh), and the views were stunning. There was Fewa Lake, Nepal’s second largest, situated right downtown. Flanking Fewa was the strip known as Lakeside, which blended an authentic Nepali feel with a vibrant tourist mix. The surrounding mountains offered nearby attractions, most notably the World Peace Pagoda (paying homage to Buddha) and Sarankgot (a paraglider’s delight). And in the distance were the elusive Himalayas, towering over all.

After spending the night in a Guest House with Cleaven (another volunteer), we shuttled over to the orphanage early afternoon. There we’d meet up with Anne and Harveen (the other two volunteers) along with the children. As we entered the home, I was overcome with a slew of “Namaste!” greetings from every which direction. Not knowing what to expect, this generous welcome courtesy of the youngsters certainly eased my nerves. We met with our house leader, Milan, who laid out his expectations – essentially mornings and nights with the kids and some free time or the occasional project in between. Within an hour he had us working on a Nepali farm, painting a run-down chicken coop. Somehow the sweet smell of chicken shit seemed just right.

My new home.

The following afternoon yielded some free time and we decided to take advantage of it with an afternoon hike. It was here that we got our first taste of mountain folk. Hiking in Nepal (at least what I’ve seen) is unique for many reasons, one being the number of footpaths along the way. These nifty little trails make it very hard to get lost and often they wind right through someone’s yard. At first I was a bit apprehensive about aimlessly wandering on someone’s else property (when I think of how this would go over in The States…well, it’s not a pretty sight). Come to find out, the locals are happy to chat, and often they welcome you in, fire up some tea, then make sure you got a bed to sleep on. Definitely some hospitable folks. They’re also really short. The higher you go, the smaller they get. And they’re inquisitive, especially the kids. They skip right over the pleasantries and get to the good stuff. “What country are you from?” “Where are you going?” “Do you have a biscuit?” Or any number of questions. At first it seemed a little forward to me – I certainly would never start a conversation this way. But now I just get the sense these isolated individuals, tucked away on a mountain-side, are only looking for a little camaraderie in their lives. Anyways, we got turned around many times, never did make the summit, and yet it was one of the more enjoyable hikes I’ve had in quite some time.

The next afternoon there would be no hiking; Milan requested the presence of Anne and I at the rice field for some heavy duty lifting. First we got a taste of our surroundings with a visit to the International Mountain Museum. This stop covered everything from the greatness of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay (the first men to summit Everest) to the likelihood of the Yeti’s existence (curiously described as part bear, part monkey, part human). From here we headed to the nearby rice field, where we were put to work. Although my primary responsibility only required moving the bulky bags from field to truck, I got a real appreciation for all that goes into the production of this crop. I’m not sure I’ll ever look at a plate of rice the same way again.

After wishing my family a Happy Thanksgiving, I looked forward to having some friends in town for the weekend. Seems that word had gotten out – Pokhara was the place to be. As I made the walk down to Lakeside, I witnessed a single-vehicle motorcycle crash. On board were an adult male driver and presumably his young child. Funny thing about Nepali Law: only the driver is forced to wear a helmet. Therefore, you often see families of four crammed on a bike, where the driver has a helmet yet the toddlers do not. Anyways, following the crash there was an immediate reaction from every which direction – dozens of people flocked the scene at once. A woman picked up the child, while others checked on the driver. Fortunately neither appeared seriously hurt. I must say the whole situation kind of fascinated me. A 3 year-old riding helmetless while loosely situated on a parent’s lap just seems very foolish to me (Perhaps a study on the frequency of motorcycle accidents could convince me otherwise). It’s one of those things that I have trouble accepting as merely a cultural difference…and yet you see it everywhere. On the flip side, the immediate genuine concern from those in the vicinity was uplifting. Maybe it’s just the Nepali way – idiotic actions are a little less idiotic when you got so many people looking out for you.

Nothing good can come of this.

Following a fun night with friends, I headed back to the orphanage only to find I had been locked out. Seems there had been a miscommunication about me being back at 11 (either that, or they were trying to tell me something). Not wanting to be the volunteer who comes home late and causes a ruckus, I pulled a U-ey and headed back towards town. In addition to all this nonsense, I had picked up my laundry earlier. So here I am, dressed up for the town, carrying a fresh load of clothes, while cruising through rice fields, right around midnight. Good times. Fortunately I was able to crash in Jono’s hotel (another volunteer). The next night was déjà vu as I was locked out once again. This time I was with Harveen…at which point we contemplated the possibility of sleeping under a tarp on the concrete porch. This would have been a terrible idea. So instead we reluctantly made the trek back to town and it was hotel time once again. Since then I’ve fortunately been granted key access…they’re not getting rid of me that easily.

Looks can be deceiving.

Aside from the constant lockouts, the weekend was all about paragliding. What a thrill! Soaring over Pokhara, overlooking the lake and city, was worth every rupee. There was only one issue: some questionable eggs benedict from earlier in the day. The stomach was feeling rather uneasy and I wasn’t sure what might come of it. As I contemplated the very real possibility of vomiting on someone 5,000 feet below, I somehow managed to find a few smiles for the camera. And despite the nearly traumatic experience, I can’t wait to go again.

Anu turns 8!

The week rounded out with Anu’s birthday party. The majority of the week was spent getting to know the kids and helping with their schoolwork, but now it was time to kick back and have some fun. Anne, Harveen, and Cleaven came through bigtime on the setup…meanwhile I was able to track down a birthday cake at the 11th hour. Seems cake is quite the rare commodity at the orphanage. So as I watched the bday girl’s eyes light up with the “Happy Birthday Anu” inscription, I felt a real sense of pride and joy.

My first week in Pokhara is complete. I’ve flown a mile in the air, been locked out repeatedly, helped with spelling homework, ate some bad eggs, worked the ricefields, rode a motorcycle, thrown a birthday party, painted a chicken coop, witnessed an accident, made friends with the locals, and have even gotten to know this gem of a town. Can’t wait to see what the next week brings.

12/24/12 – Settling In

I’m starting to hit my stride. It took 30 hours of traveling, four days of orientation, and one unforgettable introductory week in Pokhara to get there, but for the first time I finally feel like I’m settled in. And it’s a good thing. I typically rise around 7, hang out with the kids until they head off for school at 9, do a few chores around the house, find a way to entertain myself until about 5, catch a quick power nap, then spend some more time with the kids until 8:30/9. By that point it’s just about bedtime, then I do it all over again. Ah yes, it’s the typical day.

Getting things started takes little motivation. The basement level screen door is all that stands between me and a friendly “Good Morning” coupled with a hot cup of tea. I then try to help out with homework where I can. Occasionally I’m swarmed with questions from every which direction, other times not so much. And sometimes it’s downright entertaining. Harimaya and Lalita – two of the most talented, considerate, and thoughtful kids I’ve ever come across – recently were selected to be in a spelling contest at their school. In their preparation, they devised a competition where I ask one contestant to spell a word, then the other decides if they have done so properly. Considering English isn’t even their primary language, their performance is nothing short of brilliant. “The speller is incorrect. The correct spelling is L-A-C-K-A-D-A-I-S-I-C-A-L, lackadaisical.” Point for Harimaya.

Who will be next?

Once 8 AM rolls around, homework’s usually a done deal and there’s an opportunity to have some fun. Two of the more attractive options include musical chairs and ping-pong. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a concrete ping-pong table situated on the rooftop level. The kids range from beginners (keep practicing Preete) to scarily good (don’t think there won’t be a rematch someday Parbati). And I had also forgotten what a wonderful game musical chairs is. It’s easy to play, gets everyone involved, includes a healthy dose of competition, and we even keep the integrity in check with a blindfolded drummer. Bragging rights would have been plenty for this group…but chocolate bars don’t hurt either. Jockeying for position becomes ever so important and there’s no shortage of motivation. I can’t pretend to know how prevalent musical chairs still is back home – I fear it’s been deemed too dangerous or too simple or perhaps technology has phased it out – but for my money, it’s still one of the better games around.

As the kids head off to school, I spring into action with my daily chores. A quick sweep and mop job is all that’s required and then I’ve earned my helping of Daal Bhat. Consisting of a lentil stew over rice, combined with curried vegetables and a pickle spice, Daal Bhat is a staple of Nepali cuisine. Many locals eat it twice a day, every day of their lives. That’s a bit much for me, but truth be told, it’s not half bad.

Once free time rolls around from 11-5, I have plenty to choose from. Challenging terrain combined with lakeside views lends itself to any number of attractive day hikes. When I’m not blogging as much as I should be, I try to get my butt in gear and catch up that way. Strolling the streets of Lakeside and sampling the local street fare is another viable option. But it’s the simple mundane errands that I often enjoy most. I feel like I’m starting to have some “people” around town. I have “my cake guy”…he’s come through for me twice when Anu and Santoshi were turning a year older. There’s “my juice lady”, Sharda…she was so friendly the first time I met her that I vowed to get my sugary libations from her whenever possible. I also have “my newspaper guy”…I can count on a warm smile and Kathmandu Post every day. For whatever reason, I’m more entertained by this than I should be. I use the terminology whenever possible. “I’m not sure, let me talk to my juice lady, she probably knows, but if not, I bet my cake guy’s got it figured out”. Truth is, it’s been fun getting to know a few locals and I hope they feel the same about me.

The whole gang.

After a quick power nap, I dive back into the homework scene before wrapping up the night with news class. News class involves the older kids taking turns reading a hand-picked story, then discussing afterwards. Essentially I’m looking for an article that’s both positive and relatively easy to understand, while sending a good message. A perfect example happened on Cleaven’s final night a few weeks back. The kids learned that although a hurricane named Sandy had devastated a place called New Jersey, local rock stars Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi had helped organize a concert that would raise a lot of money for the victims. There was great satisfaction in seeing the kids pick up on each part of the story. But the real highlight came when Cleaven and I sprang to our feet and performed quite possibly the worst rendition of “Living on a Prayer” of all-time. Complete with air guitars, screeching voices, and awkward dance moves, it wasn’t a pretty sight, The kids loved it though, and that’s all that mattered.

It’s a pretty good life I’m leading. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by good kids, in a good house, in a good city, in a good country. I have free time. The kids seem to like me. I feel like I may be contributing. The town is beautiful. I’m never bored. And perhaps most importantly, people seem happy. Are there drawbacks? Definitely. The place isn’t perfect. The showers are cold. There’s litter everywhere. Laundry’s a pain. Are these things important? I’d say so, to some degree. Then I think again about my typical day. Yeah, it’s a pretty good life I’m leading.

1/2/13 – Trekking Time

Why did I choose Nepal anyway? Well, one of the primary reasons I came here to begin with was the opportunity to hike the Himalayas. The Himalayas soar like no other mountain range, as Nepal lays claim to 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world. Prior to arriving overseas, I read up on the Annapurna Circuit. Worldly renowned as one of the great treks in the world, it strings together a long line of villages, each with its own distinct flair, all in pursuit of the top prize, 17,768 foot Thorong La Pass. I was sold.

Now, months later, having experienced it first hand, I realize my research doesn’t do it justice. I just spent a week on the Circuit, and that week will undoubtedly be one of the great weeks of my life. I find myself left with a wide range of emotions – exhausted, thankful, proud, lucky, jovial, satisfied, and depressed come to mind. To tell the story properly, I’ll need to explore each of these a little more.

I feel exhausted from covering a lot of ground. I just completed a week-long, 85 mile, 14,000 foot climb. That was hard work!

Hanging with Amrit.

I feel thankful for being part of a great team. A journey like this definitely requires individuals with similar physical abilities…otherwise it just won’t work. But it also requires a healthy level of compatibility…things won’t always run perfect and you can count on some difficult moments along the way. I had been planning the trek with some other volunteers – Kirsten from California, Sam from Australia, and Jono from Tasmania. We also needed some assistance in the form of a porter – someone who could communicate with the locals and help shoulder the load. Amrit was the perfect candidate. A young local from the village of Metslang, I had met him initially in my hikes around Pokhara. He was always willing to show me around and his sense of adventure was evident. Not only that, but damn could he move. Wearing nothing but flip-flops, jeans, and a winter coat, he cruised up near-vertical pitches as if he were strolling on level ground. So when Kirsten and I approached Amrit on a Tuesday – two days prior to embarking on a week-long Himalayan odyssey – and inquired whether there was any way he could consider joining, he casually responded “Ok, why not?” The team was in place. I’m sure everyone did have those difficult moments at times and we were each outvoted on occasion. But we also tried our very best to make things work. And we did. Just as importantly, we had a lot of fun along the way.

We did it!

I feel proud for making it to the top and proving others wrong. There were some logistical challenges in the hike. Namely, due to only having a week between the end of volunteering and returning home, our group was forced to attempt the shorter, but steeping and more challenging end of the circuit. This poses a couple of problems. One, the body has less time to adjust to the altitude change. Additionally, base camp is much lower on this side, making for a very difficult summit day. Anyway the point is, we had a lot of doubters when we explained we were attempting the Pass from that side. I never quite understood why, but the naysayers included trekking officials, other hikers, and local police. It felt like we had a good plan in place only to be told by some it wasn’t even possible. And then we did it. Damn that felt good.

I feel lucky my bus didn’t crash. I thought driving in rush-hour Boston traffic was scary…until I took a cab in Kathmandu. I thought that was scary…until I hopped aboard a stranger’s motorcycle in Pokhara. I thought that was scary…until I got on the Annapurna Circuit Bus. Built only within the last few years, the road could, ah, use some improvements. But as long as you’re cool with hugging a 200-foot cliff, with no guardrail to speak of, and literally 6 inches to spare, while potholes send both the tires and passengers airborne, and the locals look on in horror, it shouldn’t be a problem. It got to the point where I had had enough. As the bus pulled over for a half hour stop in Rupsechhahara, I declared my intention to leave. With still 19 miles to go, I was going to run as far as I could until the bus caught me, and if I never saw the bus or any of my backpack possessions again, that was ok too. Jono shared a similar sentiment and off we went, sprinting from one Himalayan village to the next. It wasn’t until 8 miles later the bus caught up, let us hop back on, and fortunately the worst of it was behind us.

She’s not as confused as she looks.

I feel jovial thinking about some of the exchanges I had. There were some interesting characters out there, just as I had hoped. You had the local midget in Beni…he oversaw the restroom operation, and demanded my juice box when I explained I didn’t have the 5 rupees necessary to relieve myself. There was a cranky but likeable German senior…he cheerfully told us he wouldn’t be home for the holidays because “I hate Christmas”. And then there was the husband-wife act, proud owners of the Sunil Lodge in Tukuche. I swear they must have practiced this bit. Whether the old man was hopping around kangaroo-style to prove he knew of Australia, or the lady of the house sold us on a look of confusion, only to follow it up with a jubilant “Good Idea!” or “No Problem!”, they were a delightful duo. I hope to cross paths with them again one day.

I feel satisfied from getting a true Himalayan Trekking Experience. By day, we were covering 10-15 miles, flanked by the awesome beauty of our surroundings, under deep blue skies. By night, we were settled in at a lodge, indulging in the likes of yak chow mein and local apple brandy. All the while, we met some interesting people and shared some great moments. If there’s anything we missed, I’m not sure what it was.

I feel depressed that the trek is over and I don’t know when I’ll get to do something like that again. But I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Sometimes things just fall into place. When I read up on the Circuit a few months back, I knew it sounded incredible. But at the same time, a lot of things would have to happen to make it become a reality. Could I find my way there? Who would I go with? Would they be good hiking partners? What about the porter situation? Would the weather hold up? Could I handle the altitude? Looking back, it’s remarkable it came together the way it did. And that makes it all the more better.

1/7/13 – Looking Back

Before I departed for Nepal, I posed a series of questions. Knowing very little about what I was getting myself into, these were the types of thoughts I had. They were not designed to be rhetorical in nature, setting a certain mood, only to never be revisited. Instead, they represented actual questions that I was looking to eventually answer. So here we go.

What is Nepal all about?

Nepal is a place where people value other people. It focuses less on materialistic possessions and more on interpersonal relationships. It’s a land where nothing happens too fast…if you’re expecting someone to act quickly on your behalf, you’re in the wrong place. Things will get done, but they might take longer, and that’s ok. There’s also a good balance of work and play. They work hard for sure, but it doesn’t consume them, and they find plenty of time to have fun. Finally, Nepal is a land of immense filth. There’s trash everywhere, and the air pollution is terrible. I hope one day they’re able to clean it up.

Will the children of the orphanage accept me?

Yes!!! This was one of my biggest fears going in, seeing as how I had very limited experience with children. But the kids were all great, and I miss them already. Special thanks to Preete, Anu, Harimaya, and Lalita for making the transition such an easy one.

Will I be spiritually moved by the unique religious history associated with this land?

No. I found the religious history to be interesting but I can’t say I was moved by it. This might have to do with my own faith, and how it may be changing. But if you read the “About” page, we won’t be discussing that here.

Where can I find good beer?

Good beer? Good luck. I found one supermarket that carried a Singapore Stout. I overpaid for it bigtime, but damn it was delicious.

Where can I find any beer?

Just about anywhere. There’s a handful of local breweries that produce a tasteless yellow ale. I did my best not to be a beer snob and sit back and enjoy a few.

What will the other volunteers be like?

They were fantastic. I think by nature, this sort of experience attracts a certain type of individual. I feel very fortunate to now have friends with similar interests and personalities all over the world.

In the vast land of the Himalayas, is my curious nature something to be embraced, feared, or somewhere in between?

Curiosity strikes again.

Like most things in life, it’s somewhere in between. Fortunately my curious nature provided nothing but incredible experiences this time. I’d also like to think I exercised some rationale when necessary (getting the hell off that bus comes to mind). But next time, perhaps my curious nature won’t serve me so well. And I’m ok with that.

Will I have anything in common with my host family?

Unlike the majority of other volunteers, I didn’t stay with a host family and instead was placed directly at the orphanage. I’m still not sure why, but it worked out pretty well.

Will there be someone at the airport to pick me up?

Yup. Thanks Raj.

How long until I make my first cultural gaffe and think “whoops”?

I’d like to think I held things in check. Aside from some basic miscommunications, I did my best to avoid any international incidents.

What kind of impact will this journey ultimately have on my life?

Ah, the big one. Going in I knew this would be an unforgettable experience – I’d always remember what I did from November 14th, 2012 through December 22nd, 2012 – and that was a big draw for me. What I couldn’t be sure of was why it would be an unforgettable experience. And now I have an answer. I’ve made mention of it before but it bears repeating; I feel so fortunate to have been placed at a caring home, with great kids, in a cool town, while working with a quality organization, alongside awesome volunteers…in the freaking Himalayas no less! Part of it was my own initiative and part of it was luck. I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out and the memories I’ve gained will certainly impact my life.

But it’s more than that. I view things a little differently now. The biggest thing I discovered is that there’s more than one way for a society to function successfully. I think there’s a general misconception that 3rd world countries are somehow less fortunate and lead a difficult life. It would be unfair of me to argue that’s never true, but it certainly wasn’t my own personal experience. Instead what I saw were people who are genuinely happy. They might be poor but they can still feed themselves, they might need to work hard but they still have time for fun, and they lead a peaceful and chill existence because they just don’t give a rat’s ass about inconsequential things. To me that’s a pretty good way of life. A country like Nepal does need assistance in some ways. So while I think it’s important we continue to help, perhaps it’s just as important we try to learn a thing or two along the way.

That was some trip.

In the end, this adventure leaves me craving more. I hope I get another opportunity like it. I’m not exactly sure what that timetable might be, how I might go about it, or even where I could be headed. But this much I can say with certainty…good luck topping Nepal.




11 thoughts on “Nepal

  1. Sounds like a tremendous experience so far, J.R. I can’t wait to hear more stories about the children and the beer. Though not together.

    - Vikas

  2. From now on, when I look at rice I will think of you, JR. I eat a lot of rice. Not just because I’m brown, but because of a place called Chipotle.

  3. Loved reading this, J.R. You are an excellent writer, by the way, and did a great job capturing how meaningful this experience has been for you. What’s next? If you need a travel buddy for the next go-around, give me a call!

    p.s. My mother’s name is “Lalita.” Coincidence? I think not.

  4. Great account of a very exciting adventure! Few people will have the opportunity for an experience like this. Thanks for sharing.
    Timing is an important part of life. I don’t know how you managed to cap it all off by actually arriving on time at Logan airport Christmas Eve to meet Mom and I. I guess it’s all in the planning. Do you use a color coded spread sheet? By the way, where did you get your love for beer?

  5. Wow – what an adventure… and captured so well in words and photos – very nicely done. I’m so glad the experience was everything you hoped for and more!

    What’s next?

  6. J.R.,
    What a terrific trip. The way you wrote about it made me feel like I was there. You’ve got a great gift for communicating. Most of us dream of trips like that but never go. I envy you. Am so glad you had such a great time. Cool pictures.

    • John,
      Thanks for the nice comment. This trip was a great experience and I’m glad you enjoyed reading about it. Hope all is well in AZ!

  7. What a fascinating, meaningful cultural and personal experience. I had a similar one in Romania, where I also lived in an orphanage, although it was no longer operating. Cold showers, though. I was amazed when I asked some of the young people there who had travelled to the US if they would move to the states from the rural village of Romania they lived in and they said no way. The simplicity of life, green hills, forests, and beauty that surrounded them couldn’t be traded in for skyscrapers and a fast pace of life, focus on money…things they weren’t used to and never wanted to be. But ya, traveling is cool. It’s important to see different ways of life, perspectives, views. I’m glad you had the opportunity to do it. And props for sharing it so well. I wrote my Harvard application essay about Romania and I got in so maybe that essay is better than your blog, but I wasn’t able to share that with as many people as you’ve shared this with. I think your marathon completion, mountains climbed, and nepal adventures trump my college “accomplishments” so you’ve definitely inspired me to think about traveling again, running more, and maybe even writing a blog. Thanks!

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