Filed under: Nepal
Once you’ve been in Asia for awhile, you think you’ve learned it all. You know how to bargain well, how to get from place to place safely as a lone female, how to protect your things, and how to interact with the foreign culture. But there are some things that are still trial and error.
For example, I usually ignore the many Nepali men that follow me down the street going ‘Namaste madam, what is your name? Where are you from? My name is Prandar’ etc. Usually, this means that they want to start a conversation that will ultimately end with ‘…and come visit my shop.’ In my opinion, I never trust random Nepali men that I meet in the most touristy area of Kathmandu (Thamel). So I usually continue to walk down the street as if they don’t exist. Do I come off as a little harsh? Maybe, but I am not harming them, they are not harming me, and if I make any acknowledgment that they are alive then I will have them following me for 20 minutes instead of 2.
Anyway, I am continually frustrated with the Nepali men who come up to me whispering ‘Hash? You want to buy some weed? Drugs?’ Truthfully, it makes me pretty pissed. I am not interested in buying drugs in the slightest, and even if I was interested in buying drugs, you have no idea what kind of deal you’re getting yourself into with a man who is looking to take advantage of foreigners- you could either be ripped off, or the drugs could be fake or not done right, or they could be SO potent that this man could easily take advantage of you when you’re in a drug-induced state- plus the laws in Nepal- it is just not a safe situation to put yourself in on any count. The amount of drug offers I get in the Thamel area is unreal. I would say at least 15 men a day approach me while I’m walking the street asking if I would like some drugs.
So I decided to try an experiment today. When a man came up whispering to me for drugs, I would turn around and say really loudly, ‘NO THANK YOU, I AM NOT INTERESTED IN BUYING YOUR DRUGS,’ alerting everyone in the general vicinity. Then, I imagined the guy would shrink away, embarrassed- and maybe this would give some sort of message to at least one man in the Thamel area that not all foreigners are looking to buy drugs.
Well, it was a perfect set-up. I was walking down the street, and this kid came up to me whispering ‘Hash? Marijuanna? Crack Cocaine?’ and I turned around and said very loudly, ‘EXCUSE ME, BUT ARE YOU OFFERING ME DRUGS?’ A Police officer happened to be right around the corner. Perfect.
However, what ended up happening was this guy’s friend following me down the streets for 20 minutes shouting about how drugs are a gift from God and that God smokes every day. Meanwhile, the police officer cracked up, and I just looked like one of those loud and self-righteous foreigner jerks.
Plan totally backfired. Lesson learned. Back to ignoring.
Filed under: Nepal
I am back in the homeland… Asia. After being in Europe for a month, I had almost forgotten how much I loved this place. But suddenly, when I stepped out of the airplane and had to bargain down a hotel room from $15 to $8, and got into my free taxi cab ride into Thamel, I couldn’t help but grin all the way to Lucky Star Guest House. Garbage and pollution everywhere, colorful saris, dark and dirty men selling trinkets on blankets by the road, motorcycles at every turn, a new smell with every intake… and then meeting my friend and going out to dinner at a Nepali restaurant and eating momo and tasting Asian coke again, fawning over the ‘American’ sour cream and onion chips (they taste SO much better here), the guest house with its shoddy floor and generated electricity… and I can’t help but open my arms wide, stare at the sky and laugh wildly- I AM BACK AGAIN!
This morning I went to the Bangladesh Embassy to get my visa, and my Tibetan friend Rinzin took me there on his bike. I had to go out and get photocopies of my passport and find a place that I could get US dollars from. And here I was, the white American girl walking the streets of Nepal like a professional, in the most untouristy part of the city, sidestepping huge gaping chunks in the sidewalk, narrowly missing towering buses and five men driving by in what looked like to be a buggy and lawnmower, screaming Nepalis trying to usher everyone in sight onto a bus service, whimpering old ladies with their tin pails outstretched in hopes for a rupee- and I couldn’t help thinking, after being in Italy for two weeks with my family: ‘what would they think if they saw me HERE in such a crazy place, calmly walking down the street like I’ve lived here my whole life?’ What would Americans think of me here? I would seriously just like someone who has never been outside of the US before to get even a ten second glimpse of what this ridiculous and chaotic street looked like, and I bet their jaws would drop. It is outside the imagination if you have never been to such a place. But here I am, comfortable and smiling, and happily traversing the streets in a place I feel much more comfortable in than my actual home country- Nepal, India, Asia. I am home again.
Filed under: Nepal
A lot of books I’ve been reading lately about poverty-alleviation likes to lay much of the blame on the everyday person in the West. While I believe that there IS much that we, as people living in the West, can do to help alleviate poverty, I also don’t like to thickly lay on the blame that these books prescribe, and I don’t think it is right to guilt trip people into donating money. I think that a lot of people WANT to help- name one person you know that would WANT others to starve and suffer- but because they are not confronted with it in their everyday lives, they don’t think about it. Or there are those that want to help, but don’t know how.
We see ads and commercials all of the time to ‘feed the children,’ or to donate to a particular NGO or fundraiser. The problem is, if this is one of the only ways that Westerners can reach out and help make a difference, they are unfortunately being manipulated a lot of the time. Most of the money they send to these agencies will not help alleviate poverty- usually over half of this is going to ‘fundraising’ activities, or office supplies, or salaries. A lot of NGOs/non-profit organizations don’t even deliver, especially to the areas where it’s needed most. It is very frustrating to be a Westerner who wants to help the developing world, but who also doesn’t want to be manipulated or have their money and resources go to waste.
Well, fortunately, there are a few organizations in the world that are making huge differences in people’s lives. One of these organizations is Blink Now.
Maggie Doyne (who I would like to have the honor of calling a friend, or at least acquaintance- and who also inspired me to start traveling in the first place), created this amazing organization to help the children of Nepal. She has built an orphanage and has helped hundreds of Nepali orphans. She was featured in Cosmo Girl magazine for her leadership qualities, and just recently she won $100,000 from the Do Something! Awards. If there is anyone that I believe can make a difference in this world, it is her. So basically I am saying, if you are one of those people who are looking for ways to make a difference, or for a good organization to donate to- I give Maggie Doyne my highest recommendation. Every penny you donate will go to helping children in Nepal. Check out her blog for more details.
I am pimping her out because, quite frankly, she has been a huge source of inspiration in my life. I decided to travel to India with Carpe Diem because of her amazing experience with LeapNow, Carpe Diem’s sister program- which has been the jumpstart to all of my traveling. When I volunteered in Thailand and was looking for inspiration on poverty alleviation, I scoured her web site and found a recommendation of a book by Muhammed Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank. In a few weeks I will start interning there. I have tried to volunteer at her orphanage twice (both unsuccessful attempts), but I dearly hope to make it there someday. I also hope to have the strength, courage, and compassion she does to someday make a difference in other’s lives like she is doing.
Thank you Maggie, for being a constant source of inspiration to me. We are all so proud of what you are doing. And the only thing I can do right now to help is to spread the good news.
Much love friends,
P.S. Some good books I’ve been reading on poverty-alleviation, if you’re interested:
Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty- Muhammad Yunus
Africa Doesn’t Matter: How the West Has Failed the Poorest Continent and What We Can Do About It- Giles Bolton
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities For Our Time- Jeffrey Sachs
The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good- William Easterly
In the River They Swim: Essays From Around the World on Enterprise Solutions to Poverty- Michael Fairbanks
This is originally from my previous facebook group ‘Brittany Goes Global,’ (wanna know how I got the blog name? ;)) in which I sent messages to friends about my travels with Global College’s CRC Program through Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Turkey. This post was not originally associated with this blog, but I have put it up here in the correct date. As you can see, my writing is not quite up to par with what it is now But I thought you readers would still find it informative and entertaining.
Hello Friends! I am sitting on an internet cafe in the notorious pahar ganj in Delhi, fresh off of sitting on an airplane on the ground for three hours from Nepal. I think Nepal was trying to tell me a message: DON’T LEAVE: Which I wish I could gladly obey, because I had one of the most fun weeks of my life.
First off, Nepal is the most gorgeous place I’ve ever seen. And I’m definitely going on a huge limb here by saying this, but I love it even more than India. India is like Nepal on steroids. Nepal is essentially a chilled out India, with amazing mountains and clean(er) air. If you ever go to Nepal, make sure that you fly in when it’s light outside, because the views of the mountains from the airplane are breathtaking. As soon as I touched ground in Nepal, I knew I was going to love it.
I met up with a really awesome guy in Nepal named Rinzin, who I had first accidentally met through Facebook last July. I basically spent the past week in Kathmandu zipping around the city on the back of his motorcycle, checking out Tibetan settlements, Tibetan stupas, Tibetan monasteries, and basically everything you can find that’s Tibetan in Nepal. It was such a good experience for me- reintegrating my life back into the language, the music, the dancing, the religion- has been a majorly wonderful thing this week. And the top it off, the last two days we drove around the countryside- Life doesn’t get better than that.
But friends, this is the most heartbreaking thing about traveling; all good things WILL come to an end, because you are constantly moving on. I’ve had to say goodbye to one of my best friends Mira, I’ve had to leave my Tibetan family in Dharamsala, and while I had the most amazing time in Nepal it has become bittersweet, because what was a wonderful beginning to a new country was abruptly cut off with the impending doom of the end of spring break. It seems like I leave little pieces of my heart around the world wherever I go; one small part of it remains in a coffee shop in Taiwan, one at Chai’s bar in Thailand, a big chunk hovers in Dharamsala, and now a piece has broken off and resides on the back of a hero honda motorcycle in Nepal.
Nepal, I promise I will be back someday. Probably to live. And buy a motorcycle, and ride around Kathmandu all day, every day.
So as previously stated, I am back with my ex-lover, India, and we embraced a bit roughly but we’re getting along okay. Tomorrow is my last day in India until I don’t know when the next time will be, and while that makes me incredibly sad, I am also ending it with the bang- I’m going to the Taj Mahal tomorrow, one of the seven wonders of the world. And then friends-I leave for Turkey. And I get to see one of my best friends, Max. And we will travel to Harput, the town my great grandmother was born in. And that will be amazing in itself.