Emily Steele is currently volunteering in Nepal. She shares 5 resonant things she’s learnt so far.
This experience has taught me to value things that I haven’t paid much attention to before.
My passport, my freedom of wardrobe choice and my education options.
It has taught me not to take for granted the life I lead at home.
Today marks the second week of a month long stay in Kathmandu, Nepal, and already I have learnt more than I ever expected.
Sadly, this country is in political disarray, is one of the poorest countries in the world and has limited access to basic needs like water, power and education.
From my short time here I have learnt some things that will resonate much longer than my 29 days in this place.
1. Power isn’t everything.
There is a lack of power in Nepal. There are arguments as to why this is – from grid issues through to a corrupt government selling power to India. But what it means for the people of Nepal is that electricity is an unreliable source. The power here turns off between an average of one to three times a day.
Thinking back to when the power turns off at home, people chuck the biggest sook, complaining that their devices can’t charge, they will miss their favourite TV show and that they can’t use the microwave. Here? Life goes on exactly the way it always has. They don’t complain. They just whip out a torch and continue on their merry way.
2. Europe isn’t the only place for sightseeing.
Nepal is home to some of the most beautiful sights of the world. Boasting the tallest mountain in the world, on a clear and pollution-free day (well, less than average amount of pollution) you can see the mountains from the roof of the share house I am living in. Places like Bhaktapur, an ancient city dating back as early as the 12th Century, will take your breath away.
In only two weeks I’ve seen mountains and rivers, temples and statues, artwork and markets, elephants and rhinos. The options here are endless.
3. People always have the ability to change your perception of the world.
The people of Nepal are kind and giving, despite the hardships they face on a day-to-day basis. People are sacrificing so much in an attempt to gain a job, feed their families or send their children to school. Some people earn in a year, as much as I do in a fortnight.
There is a strong sense of family throughout Nepal. Everyone is your family. Girls and boys your age are your sisters and brothers. Women and men older than you are your aunties and uncles.
Although my attempts at speaking Nepali are somewhat horrific, the people are always willing to help me out and point me in the right direction. People are always asking where I am from, what I’m doing here and wishing me the very best stay in Nepal.
4. Change is good.
I have been showering in the cold and sometimes in the dark. I get on crowded (I’m talking 30 people on a minibus) public buses. I don’t flush toilet paper. I breathe in pollution and dust. I only drink bottled water and food I can peel. I dress and act differently in public.
This experience has taught me to value things that I haven’t paid much attention to before. My passport, my freedom of wardrobe choice and my education options. It has taught me not to take for granted the life I lead at home.
5. There is still good in the world.
The Mountain Fund is a program which aims to help the people of Nepal, from education through to the protection of women. They are aiming to better Nepal, looking for long term goals to fix issues that are crippling the country. The founders are working tirelessly to gain support for their work and I have listened to their passion and goals in absolute amazement, thinking that yes, one person can make a change.
As for the other people in my share house? I am staying with mostly pre-med students from countries ranging from Ecuador, to the United States and through to the United Kingdom. And they are all amazing. Here as volunteers, we have become a small family and we are devastated each time someone has to go home.
Kathmandu is tough and it’s not for everyone. But if you would like your senses assaulted and your eyes opened, it is a fantastic destination full of unexpected surprises and learning curves.