When I first mentioned to my family and friends about this Co-op opportunity that I applied to, they looked at me with confusion and wonder, “Nepal? Isn’t that a little much?” they exclaimed as I thought excitedly about the possibility. Some were enthusiastic, stating that “Nepal is another world!” I didn’t have much knowledge about Nepal outside of the fact that it was once a monarchy and it has deep cultural ties to India, and oh, and that Doctor Strange (2016) was filmed in Kathmandu.
When I got the job, I didn’t really know how to react. I was excited to be able to go to a place that is not frequented much as it is very different from Canada. Arriving in Kathmandu really felt like arriving in a different world, with different architecture, food, and cultural norms. Located in South Asia, during the summer, it is rather hot, but not nearly as hot as some other places in India or Bangladesh. Traffic is tedious and often chaotic, which I wouldn’t look forward to if there was a commute to work involved. Luckily, my workplace was in the same place I was living, so the commute was simply going down the stairs!
The work was very interesting. While most of the work consisted of writing reports about the work PSD - Nepal (my organization I worked for) is doing to improve the lives of children in orphanages or its campaigns to clean up plastic in villages, I also visited these particular sites and discussed with the staff what needed improvement and how the funds have helped their facilities or projects. One notable example was the Child Bright Future Orphanage (CBF), where PSD - Nepal helped the orphanage rebuild and repaint the building after the devastation of the 2015 earthquake that hit Nepal and made international headlines. CBF went through a turbulent time attempting to attract funding to rebuild the orphanage, with certain charities and organizations dissipating. PSD - Nepal stepped in and secured funding to complete the project. Another site visit was the plastics project raising awareness of the problem as well as seeking solutions in villages in Langtang, which required a 6-day trek in the Himalayan mountains. Being in those villages 4000 meters in the air in the Himalayas was one of those experiences which still didn’t feel real! I never thought I would do this, let alone do this while I am still in university! The views were incredible and the villagers in each village we came across were very hospitable. There were also many Buddhist stupas, which really made me feel like I was in a different world!
Everyday life in Kathmandu took some getting used to. From learning the informal traffic rules to knowing what food is safe to eat, it can be intimidating initially. Cultural literacy and non-verbal communication are very important when travelling to a country different from your own like Nepal. Everything down to which hand you shake or how you position yourself while sitting is important in how you communicate to another person in personal or business settings and can affect their first impression of you. While food in Nepal is very delicious, with dishes like Momos (the national dish), mutton, yak cheese, and fusions with Chinese and Indian cuisine, you must be careful where and what you’re eating, as someone who is not used to the food preparation in some places in the country can become very sick. Crossing a street also requires getting used to, as traffic stops for no one, and you must find a gap between vehicles to cross. Rather impressive are the skills of all Nepali drivers on mountain roads and the crowded streets of Kathmandu which takes a lot of patience and precision, especially on the bumpy mountain roads!
My journey throughout Nepal was incredibly exotic and eventful, and the opportunity that PSD - Nepal gave to me to be in this incredible country was an honour. I learned how to visit and scout sites as well as writing reports and newsletters to donors and investors of the organization. The many ups and downs and twists and turns in this country have given me many valuable lessons, taught me about the cultural norms of Nepalese society and about the work culture in a foreign setting. Nepal has truly become a huge part of my life and will be an experience I will never forget!