Halfway is a Lot Longer than You Think

Today I am nearly halfway done with my fellowship in Nepal, and it is only today that I have even come close to finishing my preparations. Two months might seem like an eternity when you divide it up into days or hours, but it is far too short when you count by lessons learned and tasks completed.

This morning I woke to an alarm, and dragged myself out of bed with a familiarity that comes with many mornings of the same, but this morning, after I sleepily struggled into my clothes and shouldered my pack, I took one new step in my education and immersion in Nepal. I began hour one of my ten hours of Nepali classes in a neighborhood that I have wandered many times, and I learned to ask, in halting heavily accented Nepali “what is that?” and “what’s your name?”. I then came home to eat breakfast and found myself having the first actual semblance of true conversation with — who I see everyday.

In the afternoon I sat on a cushioned floor and attempted to choose an outfit in a style that I had never worn that was appropriate for an event that I had never been to: a dress for a wedding.  It has to be fancy, but not too fancy. It can’t be red, that’s for the bride. Don’t be tricked into paying too much, but don’t expect it to be cheap. It’s just a wedding, but its a Nepali, Newari, wedding.  I found myself grasping at the few things I knew: no, orange definitely doesn’t go with my skin tone and if sleeves are optional I’ll definitely go without. The dazzling bright fabrics and smart folds were familiar, I see women every day in the street wearing something similar, but the affair was unnervingly new and unknown. 

I’ve prepped for my workshops, and met with volunteers. I’ve taken my first language class, and made it to the gym without getting lost, but can I claim that I am ready? It is an odd feeling to be in a place that has become so familiar while remaining so strikingly foreign. Tomorrow I will run my first workshop, with the help of an experienced volunteer, and while I’m not sure of smooth sailing, I think I can keep my head above water.

It’s been a month. I’m halfway done, and I have done nothing and everything. I’m not always sure what is happening, but I am sure that I’m happy to be here.

Emiline Jacobs ’18
Kathmandu, Nepal