Nine hours and 45 mins ahead of EST. A place with a time zone of its very own, here I am in Kathmandu, Nepal for the next two months. Following a week of orientation and a few days of experiencing some of the real workings of the Children’s Art Museum of Nepal (CAM) a lot has been seen, explored, and experienced. From being mistaken for Nepali, to our jeep breaking down on our way to a school, to going on a 4-5 hour hike up a really, really tall hill. All these experiences and those in between have been very enlightening and gave more perspective to how I see the world, and possibly ways others do as well. For instance, in Nepal Hinduism is the predominant religion and it coexists with Buddhism, maybe since Buddha was born in Nepal. There are religious symbols ingrained in all aspects of life here from deities on cab dashboards to specific flowers hung above entry ways. Even as a Buddhist American who is an International Affairs and Religion Studies double major, the predominance of Christianity in American society and culture provides a frame of normalcy to my world. In Nepal it has a very different set of norms, with some elements that are similar-ish, but this makes it even more bizarre for myself. There are definitely more differences and culture shock bound to come and I’m excited to see what’s next.
From our arrival on the very first day, there was a public transportation strike, which I learned along with Jeff and Emiline that protests and strikes here can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. We visited several historical religious sites and saw many temples that were completely toppled by the earthquake last year. We visited different types of schools with access to vastly different types of resources, for the quality of education available for your child is based on one’s own financial means. While on the other hand money cannot buy you water if there is none in the pipes, if the government does not send it, and there is not enough electricity to keep the lights on 24 hours a day. Our orientation week to Kathmandu and broadly Nepal as a whole is that there are problems like anywhere else, but there is life and energy here. The people are protesting for rights and organizations like CAM are out here trying to make some social changes by inspiring kids to be creative and learn through art. One week down, seven more to go and so far, so good.
May Chou ’18