June 24, 2013


I'm home with Mom and Dad in California, in my lime green room that hasn't been changed since high school. I had this idea that when I returned to the U.S. I would feel this sense of "home", this excitement of returning after a long day at the factory and feel at ease once I settled in. I thought maybe it would be nice to not always have to be on my game, ready to speak another language, navigate a city, or make friends with new people to get around...

WRONG. Being home is a shift, it's a change that I'm now (I suppose) accustomed to. Yet it hasn't been an easy transition. I had the days of jet lag- falling asleep at 2 in the afternoon because I just couldn't keep my eyes open- and the days of panicing at the mall as the mass amounts of consumerism and consumption was too much for me to handle. I had the newborn-feeling days when I was oh-so happy to go on a run, eat a crunchy salad, take a bite of a juicy fruit, and breathe the air. Those days aren't over.
First food on American Soil (San Francisco International Airport)
Then, I was forced back into reality- I got an internship, took a quick vacation with my loved ones, and got back to the grind- and I've been busy ever since.
Auntie, Mom, Me (San Jose, CA)
Lunch (EAT Club, Palo Alto, CA)
It occurred to me the other day as I spoke with Chris, that I really enjoyed writing my blog. Sitting down and getting my thoughts out, putting pen to paper (er... finger to keyboard), is just such a natural way for me to be able to express my thoughts and my fascination with this place, this world, we call home. So here I am, writing a blog post, in San Jose, California. Sadly, for now I won't have any more stories or pictures from Nepal, the beautiful and wonderful place I called home for 4 months.
Last Day of Rafting (Trisuli River, Nepal)
I realize, though, that those days of travel and exploration are not over. I shouldn't stop writing my blog just because I'm not half-way around the world- I still meet new people every day and see amazing things that I would love to share. I owe it to my Nepali pariwaar (family), I owe it to others who somehow find an interest in the places I go and the photos I take as I learn people's stories, and I owe it to myself to continue to write. Because that's what's interests me and that's what's been on my mind. I want to find ways to travel, to take photos and to make memories.


Dad and I went on a mountain bike ride the other day near Santa Teresa and it was the first time I'd been out exercising with someone else since I'd been back. Yup- it confirmed I'm not in shape. It was WORK. Then again, I went with Dad. He tends to be like a little kid on steroids when he's doing anything exercise-related so I set myself up for that one! However, the ride was great and we had a fun time. 
Hiking (San Luis Obispo, CA)
Mountain Biking (Almaden, CA)
Hiking with Mom (Los Gatos, CA)
What I found myself struck by was how much beauty there is around us. I think we sometimes forget in the bustle of the Silicon Valley to take a minute and appreciate what's around us. We're so focused on our busy schedules, on what we're doing tomorrow, that we forget about today. 

I cranked my pedals around and around and felt the burn as my muscles dusted off cobwebs, felt the sun on my arms and legs warming my skin, and felt the cool bay breeze blow the hairs around my face out from under my helmet. I watched as the dirt trail curved before me, around the golden hill into this wide-open pasture with wild turkeys running and a fawn following its mother. I looked out into the Valley and saw how beautiful all the little houses look among the rolling hills topped with dark fluffy trees. 

As we made our way downhill, I felt a rush of adrenaline as the tires maneuvered around little rocks in the trail and absorbed the roughness below me. I watched my shadow next to me, gliding through the hills and following the trail carved out for me. That peacefulness is something that I constantly felt when I was in Nepal. That ease among the bustle. I miss it. Yet, that feeling of happiness and excitement is something that isn't lost- but it's something I have to remind myself to seek out. It was so natural in Nepal, and it definitely can be here too. 
Ocean (Santa Cruz, CA)

Streets of SF (North Beach, SF)
The Getty Villa (Pacific Palisades, CA)
Our home is really so picturesque. I've been so fortunate to be able to travel half-way around the world and see amazing places that are so unique. But coming home I realized that there is this same beauty around us every day. It just takes a minute to stop and appreciate what we have. In the month I've been home I've traveled up and down the state: San Francisco, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, and Los Angeles and it's made me realize how beautiful my home really is. There's so much diversity, yet you can always count on the ocean breeze, the warm sun, and tree-lined hills. It's such a wonderful place and I want to explore more of it.

Make every day an adventure. You just have to find something interesting, meet someone new, or challenge yourself in some way. I'm convinced monotony is preventable and my prescription is a positive attitude and an open mind. At least that's what I'm doing. 

Love to Prabin, Pragya, Ama, and Baa. Tapaaiharuko yaad aauchha.

Little Hermit Crab 
Trisha Tide Pooling

Trisha and Me (Avila Beach, CA)
Monkey Bread (home)
Best Bagel Sandwich
Of course, I end a post with food. But it's just so good. ;)

May 06, 2013


Being "poor" is a term we slap on to Third World countries. We label the developing world as just that-"developing"-as though it lacks progress and is not stable enough to survive on its own. When I was in Tanzania, everyone repeated "oh, that's such a poor country, isn't it?" giving this country its seal of fate, signifying that everything I would encounter would be summed up in images of starving children and unsanitary living quarters. While there are various ways in which Nepal may seem “poor”, I just can’t shake the moments that I witness every day from my mind that inherently defy this label. Yes, there is trash on the ground, streetlights cannot be found, dust blows in the air from the polluted street, and in some places there is a child begging at your feet. But the thing is, people are happy. Not everyone, of course. But everywhere I go, I catch glimpses of life in Kathmandu and it fills me with happiness to see how happy others can be.
Market Kid (Thamel, Nepal) 
In the U.S. you may walk along the street and see people heading to work, busily clicking away at their cell phones with sunglasses covering their eyes. Many jump in their air-conditioned cars, listening to the radio as they prepare to punch in for their 9 to 5.
In Nepal, people head to work just the same. Only their eyes are ahead, looking for oncoming traffic while carrying their briefcases under their arms as they navigate the streets. Others hop on a bus, squeezing into tight quarters and handing over 15 rupees as they sputter along to the office.

Biking with Dad (Kathmandu, Nepal)
The Commute (Patan, Nepal) 
In the U.S. kids don’t play in the city streets. They hold their parents’ hands and walk, staring at the ground, picking up bugs or pebbles that strike their fancy.
In Nepal, kids are everywhere. Some play marbles outside a shop. Others help take care of their little siblings, snacking on a bag of raw ChauChau noodles as they walk to school holding hands. Some ride bikes along the sidewalk. And many young boys ride the bus, collecting passengers’ money to earn a living.
On the Street (Jawalakhel, Nepal)
In the U.S. you’ll see a squirrel climb a tree and pigeons swarm around some leftover crumbs from a woman’s sandwich. Maybe someone will run past, dog in tow. Or a small trail of ants will follow the cracks along the sidewalk, busily crawling toward a water source.
In Nepal, there’s no shortage of animals in the streets. It’s normal for a bull or calf to walk along the sidewalk or even cross the street stopping traffic as cars honk for it to move along. Pigeons flock around grains of rice that were given as offerings at temples. Dogs are everywhere- all of them mutts- searching for leftover food or a place to close their eyes and rest.
Calf on the Street (Naxal, Nepal)
My point is, that while these differences distinguish Nepal from the U.S., it does not make one "poor" and the other "developed". It simply means they are different places with different people who, surprisingly, have very similar ideas about life. I would like to argue though, that these two places have very different ideas about happiness. In the U.S. we tend to measure happiness based on wealth, on things, on what we can show we have earned for ourselves. We are so obsessed with happiness that we force it upon ourselves, relying on media or entertainment to fulfill our need for a laugh or smile. While this makes us hard working and future oriented, sometimes we forget to take a moment and appreciate the little things. We are so busy worrying, trying to be what we want to be that we forget to just be.

In Nepal, some might argue there is the opposite problem: people are too focused on the present so that short-term fixes are not sufficient enough and cannot be sustained. While this argument may be valid, there are also so many ways that this approach works to keep people happy. Sometimes you have to make the most of what you’ve got, and at times that can be short-lived. But I’ve found that most people here really know how to love their families, to care for one another, and to smile and laugh whenever they can.
Best Friends (Larjung, Nepal)
So when I return to the U.S. I’ll miss walking past the grandpas on the street laughing over chiyaa while their wives sit across the courtyard gossiping about their children. I’ll miss seeing a store shop didi help a customer as her chorri sits patiently next to her, entertaining herself with makeshift toys. I’ll miss the big sisters helping her little siblings with homework as their parents continue to skillfully sew kurtas, saris, and cholos for waiting customers. I’ll miss the two friends on a motorcycle, trying to balance all their things while navigating busy traffic and carrying on a conversation through their helmets and masks. I’ll miss walking past a young mother with a baby on her back as she carries groceries home, the nani smiling happily as she bounces up and down, staring at the world around her. And lastly, I’ll miss the feeling that I get when I catch a glimpse of these moments of happiness that are all around me. Because those are the moments that make you feel full and that inspire you to take a moment for yourself to just smile and be happy. 

May 01, 2013

Seeing Nepal

For the past three weeks I've been in the midst of my ISP (Independent Study Project) and it's given me a chance to see so much more of Nepal. I'm not talking about the heights of Sagarmatha (Everest) or the jungles of the West. I've come to know the quiet neighborhoods, the shortcuts to the bus stop, daai's little shop on the corner, and the local street food hot spots. It has been so exciting traveling and exploring these last few weeks that I've neglected to update everyone- and for that I'm sorry. But good news is, I've got a lot of cool pictures to show you. As always, some are of food!!!

Street art has been so amazing. Everywhere you go it's inevitable to stumble upon. Some might consider it graffiti in the U.S. but I get the sense here that while it's often political, street art is accepted and encouraged. There's so much trash along the streets and the art is a way to bring a little bit of color to people's lives. When I get the chance, I take a picture of some new art I see and it makes me wonder if the negative perceptions of graffiti in the states are really all that valid. Yes, in many cases, people are defacing public buildings, but there are so many instances there are creative artists that just want to make art free and viewable to all. These are a few of my favorites:
ke nepal baachchha. (kantipath road, kathmandu, nepal)
ma bhinna chhu. i am different.  (kathmandu, nepal)
street art (patan, nepal)
stop. learn. go. (patan, nepal)
Being on my own has it's perks. For example, I direct you to exhibit A below. That there is a fine bowl of delicious, fresh, and sasto (cheap) fruit and yogurt. Mike's Breakfast has not only delicious Western-style food but also has wifi. aka is the most convenient place to go when in Naxal. During ISP we've been finding plenty of good food- that's for sure.
fresh fruit with yogurt (mike's breakfast, kathmandu, nepal)
Oh hey! This is me riding the chhabis (26) public bus with a semester's worth of clothing, books, and little treasures I picked up along the way on the seat next to me. My aamaa gave me tikka and a white scarf for good luck as I left for research on my own. Naturally, everyone on the bus stared at me as I hopped on with a 40 lb backpacking bag and a backpack full of books, shoving my way to the back where I hoped to disturb the least amount of passengers as possible. I realized during that bus ride from my homestay to the guest house that I was sad to leave my family, yet excited to be able to return with stories and research to share. I'm planning on heading over to cook with them tomorrow =)
leaving homestay (bus, kathmandu, nepal)
Prabin, Aamaa, me, and Pragya (Handigaun, Nepal)
For my month of research I'm focusing on international volunteer development organizations. I'm talking with Peace Corps, VSO, JICA, and ActionAidDenmark officials to learn about their approach to development and how they place their volunteers. I decided to head out to the villages and find out just what the volunteers are doing in their service.

For a few days I went out to remote villages, shadowing Peace Corps volunteers and learning about their experience in Nepal. That required what I'd like to call, some extreme bus riding. Buses here are not at all like they are in the U.S. Sure, they've got 4 wheels, a driver, and passengers. But when you walk up the narrow stairs to find a seat, it's shocking how many people are packed in there. The bus is rangichangi (colorful) with knitted neon decorations and hand painted Hindu gods along the flashy metal walls of the bus. If you're lucky, you get a seat. If you're like me, you're standing for 2.5 hours while driving along unpaved single lane roads. In my case, that requires a slightly hunched neck and a firm grip on the ceiling bar as I tower over a small aamaa with a baby in the seat beside me.
I love riding buses and watching the "bus boys" do their thing. "Bus boys" are so young (usually under 18 by the looks of it) and have such a relaxed attitude. Their job is to stand at the door, whip it open, shout the bus' many destinations to pedestrians, and collect money from passengers. Fortunately for me, I always try to make friends with the kid, speaking Nepali to figure out where I'm trying to go, and sometimes getting a free piece of gum in return. Watermelon Centerfruit is my fave cause it's swee, lasts forever, and you can make some pretty good bubbles with it. Buses are my friend because they bring me from A to B for about 15 cents. They are, however, hot, uncomfortable, and bumpy. Good thing I can make small talk.

riding buses (somewhere near kusma, nepal)
on the bus (tripura sundari temple, tripureshwor, nepal)
While doing research, I traveled with a few classmates to Pokhara, a lakeside town west of Kathmandu by a 6 hour dive. It's extremely touristy with trekking shops galore, but it also has a calmness and less polluted atmosphere that's nice. It gave me an opportunity to run along the lakeside and get some fresh air. While this initial idea of getting some exercise seemed ingenious, of course, was followed by my realization that I'm completely out of shape. I only managed to run about 3 miles before I had to return and shower and pass out from exhaustion. Summer, you will be both an enemy and a friend, cause this body needs to get back in shape. I can't wait to get back into swimming and biking. Running, not so much.

idol by the lake (lakeside, nepal)
After Pokhara, we returned to Kathmandu but were feeling like a change of pace from the busyness of Naxal where our school is located. We found a Norwegian guest house in Jawalakhel, about a half hour drive south of Kathmandu and I'm loving it. It's like living in the dorms and our rooms feel cozy. We have a yard, a place to hang our laundry away from the dusty streets, and most importantly, a kitchen so we have the freedom to make all of our meals. Of course, we have to stop at the katti roll joint. These rolls are 130 Nrs (about a dollar fifty) for a delicious burrito-like snack filled with tandoori chicken, sauteed veggies, and egg. The kid who makes it has to be about 15, and he has so much attitude and confidence flipping the rolls in the air from the grill top to a plate. It's entertaining, cheap, and delicious.
our yard (norwegian guest house, jawalakhel, nepal)
homemade veg sandwich (norwegian guest house, jawalakhel, nepal)
homemade breakfast (norwegian guest house, jawalakhel, nepal)
katti roll kid (syanko, jawalakhel, nepal)
It's been so fun exploring the neighborhood here. Where Kathmandu has narrow streets packed with cars, barking dogs, and people commuting, this area seems to be a little more spread out. There's quite a large foreign community here, likely due to the presence of so many INGOs and the UN. Coffee shops are filled with bidheshis (foreigners) on their laptops and the streets are calmer and lined with large houses. There is also the occasional monkey run-in.
coffee shop friend (patan, nepal)
abandoned 3rd floor (durbar marg, kathmandu, nepal)
street flags (jhamsikhel, nepal)
I've got a week left of ISP research. During this time I'm going to be finishing up my last interviews and bringing my work together in a 20-40 page paper and presentation. It's so hard to believe that this semester has flown by. Words cannot express the emotions that I have felt since being in this country. It's not only it's diversity that is so attractive, but it's people that make me want to return to Nepal. Everyone I meet here asks if I'll come back- while my future is so uncertain, I know that I will make a point to return to this place that I've called home for 4 months. It's incredible the connections you make and the people that mark your life when you have an open mind and a positive attitude. I've learned how to be more flexible, try more things, and be confident in ways I never was before. More than anything, this has been an amazing growing experience for myself and I can only hope that I managed to make a mark on half the people I've met. 

Nepal is a beautiful place. I am so privileged to be here. And I do not want to leave. That being said, I feel content that I will be back in San Jose in just 15 short days. I'm excited to share stories, pictures, and memories and to be back with my family and friends. I just have to accept that I'll be leaving such a rich community back here in Nepal and know that I will, one day, return.

April 10, 2013


Being an only child for 20 years of my life, I’ve never had the pleasure of having my pigtails pulled, my favorite snack stolen from me, or my side bruised from elbow jabs.
In the last few months, I’ve been living with a younger brother and sister, and I can say emphatically that there is something so special about being a sister. No matter how many times people with siblings complain about all the stuff they have to put up with, there is something about having companions your same age within your home to laugh with, disagree with, entertain yourself with, and most importantly, gang up against your parents with. Just kidding.

Hear No Evil (Pragya), See No Evil (Prabin), Speak No Evil (Me) (Kathmandu, Nepal)
In all seriousness, it’s one of my favorite parts of the day coming home and unlatching the gate to hear Prabin or Pragya from above saying Namaste Didi! (big sister) A smile immediately spreads across my face and I can’t help but be just as excited to see them as well.

In the U.S. we tend to ask how are you? out of politeness, but in Nepal, the two questions: kasto chha? and sanchai chha? always feel genuine. My siblings always want to know how I am, how my day was, and want to know what I learned at school. It makes me eager to ask the same questions back because they’re so honest. Sometimes they reply thik chha! (I’m good), other times it’s thikai chaa (I’m alright), and there’s an occasional malaai alchhi laagyo (I’m feeling lazy). While we haven’t gotten into any fights because we’re all too nice to each other, it’s fun being sarcastic and joking around with them.

Pragya is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and because we’re so close in age (she’s 19) it makes relating to each other so easy. With Pragya we talk about simple things like our walk to school or a test, but other times it’s so fun talking about deep issues in politics, education, or what we want to do in life.

Towering over me at just over 6 feet, Prabin is the sweetest and most sincere little brother (he’s 17). He always asks me little questions like what my favorite movie is, if I like a certain band, or if I’m going to return to Nepal. When he plays soccer with friends in the street, I always try my hardest to not embarrass him. I think that’s what older siblings are supposed to do at least…

Beyond all the horror stories I’ve heard from friends with siblings where their brother went through their diary, their sister told their parents about a secret crush, or their parents had to miss their 3rd grade band performance because they were taking the little one to a doctor’s appointment, I’ve learned that there’s so much more to having siblings.

When I leave Nepal five weeks from now I’m going to miss hearing didi every day.

April 04, 2013

Spring Break

  As per usual, my Spring Break was hardly your typical vacation. While I missed being on an Alternative Breaks trip this year, I’d say that being in Annapurna was a pretty nice trade off. For two weeks, we traveled from Kathmandu to Pokhara (about a 6 hour bus ride away) and intended to fly up to Jomsom (where all the trekkers start the Annapurna Circuit) and then trek to Larjung for a village homestay. Because we are in Nepal, things are pretty unpredictable:
            Our plane got cancelled because it was too windy.
As crushed as we were, I felt alright about avoiding being in a tiny aircraft flying up the deepest river valley in the world with huge gusts potentially blowing us into the nearby mountains. Plus, we got to spend an extra day in Pokhara where we grabbed a delicious lunch (SANDWICHES! Yum) and canoed to the other side of the lake where we hiked up to the World Peace Pagoda. We really enjoyed ourselves and tried to make the most of an unfortunate situation.
Seth, Deb, and Me Canoeing (Pokhara, Nepal)
Windy Days (Pokhara, Nepal)
The next day, however, we were trapped traveling by bus from Pokhara up into the mountains and the roads are…. Let’s just say a little less than enjoyable. Picture a one lane dirt road with falling rock cliff-like mountain to your left and a steep drop off into the rushing cold river below the entire way. That being said, sweaty palms aside, it was a breathtaking bus ride. As we ascended, it became obvious that we definitely were not in Kathmandu anymore where rushing cars, barking dogs, and trash-filled streets are. The snow-capped mountains loomed over our heads and the bright water rushed below. As we made it closer to Larjung the mountains became closer to eye level and I didn’t have to crane my neck against the bus window to see the white mountain tops. We stopped in a nearby village and trekked the rest of the way to our village and this is what we saw. Not to bad, eh?
Crossing the River (Larjung, Nepal)

Crossing Suspension Bridges (near Tatopani, Nepal)
Trekking and its Perks (Tatopani, Nepal)
Living in a village after being in the city had its perks:
-       no loud pujaa bells waking me
-       clean, crisp, and fresh mountain air
-       quiet streets
-       friendly people
-       more freedom to explore (nature)
-       a change of pace
-       adorable babies
Cheeks (Khobang, Nepal)

Sister Love (Larjung, Nepal)
Unikaa (Larjung, Nepal)
Kids on the Block (Larjung, Nepal)
Nani (Larjung, Nepal)
The village also had it’s interesting aspects:
-       dudh chiyaa
practically every household owned at least one cow (my didi and aamaa had 3) so fresh milk was always available. Too bad im mildly allergic.
-       Raksi
 Nepali for “alcohol” (yeah, it’s pronounced like Roxy!!!!! Love ya Rox! =D) raksi is made in the village and is a huge part of the culture. Its appropriate to drink a small cup socially and to share with family over a meal. However, it takes like rubbing alcohol mixed with a heavy dose of lighter fluid. I’m convinced that just like Dad’s coffee, this raksi would make hair grow on your chest it’s so strong.
-       Showering… or lackthereof
In the week we were there, I bathed once. While I wouldn’t say I smelled bad, there was definitely relief when all the girls and I ran to the nearby stream and felt the suds of shampoo on our scalps. It was definitely an interesting experience.
-       Size- we’re talking small
I could walk from one side of the village to the other in 3 minutes. That being said, there were only about 30 households. Basically, everyone knew we were in town. Reeking havoc? No. but certainly causing a few double-takes from being tall and American.
Didi and Aamaa (Larjung, Nepal)
My Kitchen (Larjung, Nepal)
-       Language
Villagers definitely speak differently than city folk. Most verbs that we attempt to conjugate in the city, we threw out the window because everything uses the same structure. Instead of: ma jaanchhu. tapaai jaanuhunchha, wahaa jaanuhunchha. haami jaanchhau, (I, you, he/she, we go) it was simply ma jaane. tapaai jaane. Wahaa jaane. haami janne. It was nice.
Though they speak “simply” they also speak with accents AND no English. So that made everything that much more challenging.
Batti (Larjung, Nepal)
My porch (Larjung, Nepal)
Beauty of Larjung (Larjung, Nepal)
Lakeside in the Rain (Larjung, Nepal)
Full Moon in Mustang (Larjung, Nepal)

Prayer Flags (Poon Hill, Nepal)
360 Mountain View (Poon Hill, Nepal)

We trekked out for 4 days and did an early sunrise hike up Poon Hill. It was breathtaking, though the crowds were ridiculous. I'm talking at least a couple hundred people heading up a steep mountain at 5:30 in the morning. All I could see was a trail of headlamps heading up the slope before me and the orange sun slowly rising behind me. Trekking was a reminder of how beautiful this country is and how diverse it can be. I also saw more "white people" than I had in the city and it was interesting meeting people and learning their stories and reasons for traveling.

Now, I'm about to head off and do my own research. For my ISP (independent study project) I'll be learning about development in Nepal and how, due to the political history and instability, there are a variety of strategies that organizations must take to create successful change. I'm choosing to look at Peace Corps in Nepal and find out just how much they have to adapt to the political landscape and also how they need to create development projects that are custom to Nepal. I'm super excited. Yet it also means that I'm entirely responsible for my work, money, travel, and food. (I'm not too worried about getting fed though, let's be honest).

I'm missing everyone back home terribly, but am excited and anxious for all that I've got ahead of me in my last few weeks in Nepal.