Monday, January 19, 2009

Arrived in Nepal!

After traveling from Israel to Turkey to Qatar to Bahrain, I eventually arrived in Nepal late Wednesday night on the 14th. If you live in Chicago, Nepal is 11 hours and 45 minutes ahead of your time, so just change the AM to PM and subtract 15 minutes.
The couple of days were quite a culture shock. Below are a couple of the many reasons.
Power- for the past 6 months, the Nepali government has not been able to provide their citizens with 24 hour power because either a) it has been a dry winter and most of the power is generated by hydroelectric dams or b) they don't want to pay India to power for power. No one is sure of the real reasons. So the whole country operates on 8 hours of power for every 24, and it is based on a complicated rotating time schedule. For example, today we have power from 4-8AM and 4-8PM. Tomorrow it will be different. No power means that you cannot turn on lights in your room, street lights do not work, and you can't heat hot water or rooms. The internet cafes, restaurants, and some stores have generators for when the power is off, but lighting is minimal. Most of my reading has been done by candle light or headlamp.
Trash Collection- The Nepali government does not provide a consistent trash collection service, so trash accumulates in piles in the street and is burned at night. The burning trash adds to the already heavy polluted city, and the piles cause traffic jams. After being here for 5 days, my throat is sore from all of the pollution.
Driving- from what I can tell, there are no driving laws in Nepal. When you come to an intersection, the bigger and faster car has right of way unless there is a policeman directing traffic. Traffic lights and stop signs do not exist, and there is no center line. Cars can pass other cars as long as they avoid a head on collision. There are usually no sidewalks, so you will have people, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars all trying to move on the same road. Cars and motorcycles are honking all of the time for one of the following reasons:
1. To tell a pedestrian to move out of the way because he is a couple seconds away from getting hit
2. To alert an oncoming car that you are a couple of seconds away from a head on collision
3. To alert everyone that you are driving fast and don't plan on stopping for anything in the way.
The roads are a constant symphony of horns. I was advised to bring earplugs, and now I understand why.

Poverty- As I was walking back to my hotel tonight, I saw a little girl about 6 years old proudly running to her mother. After digging through the garbage, she had found a couple of card board boxes to light on fire to keep the family warm through the night. I usually see people huddled around burning trash, but seeing the look on this girls face gave me a much deeper understanding.
14th Century Temples- There are beautiful temples and stupas all over the place. Some of them are still used for religious purposes, while others are treated with the same respect as trash cans. Check out the pictures.

I was placed in Pokhara, which is a small village at the foot of the Himalayas. The orphanage that I will be working in has 65 kids, and it is one of the largest in Nepal. I will not be staying with a host family. I was given the choice to either stay in Kathmandu or Chitawan, teach English, and live with a host family, or go to Pokhara. I chose Pokhara and am looking forward to being out of the city pollution and close to the mountains. I leave tomorrow morning at 6:00AM!

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