After being on the road (trekking in the Himalaya, and working our way back east to Kathmandu) for almost a month, I am finally resettled. It is almost difficult to remember the first anxieties of coming to Nepal, but being in the same place, smelling the same smells as we walk from our guest house to program center, brings back the first emotions of my arrival.
There are a million different things I could say pre-departure. It all feels the same. Suddenly, time is catching up to me, and this time on Thursday I will be on a plane headed further east. The ‘goodbye’ phone calls have begun, giving details to those who need it. The phone calls to the credit card companies have been placed. I have a sandwich bag full of antidiarrheal medicine and a packing list that has been folded fifty times. I also have a bottle of moss green Essie nail polish and a bar of dark chocolate for that desperate moment I need to feel like an American girl.
What is Nepal, anyway? Nepal is a landlocked country, situated between India and Tibet. Is it a third world country? Walker and I pondered this over our lunchtime Mac N’ Cheese (getting in every last bite of comfort food). First, third world country is an outdated term, but we found some interesting websites classifying areas of development and read list upon list of where Nepal falls. Third world country in terms of human development? Yes. Least developed countries? Yes. Third world country in terms of press freedom? Yes. 24% of the population lives below $1 a day, and 69% lives below $2 a day. A reported 17% is considered undernourished. My heart sinks a little when I see Nepal sandwiched between countries we hear dramatically in and out of the news, bringing “what is Nepal” in to terms that are actually tangible. Statistics may be statistics, and of course the truth is in the validity of countries reporting but all of a sudden I think I may be catching on to why people are calling me ‘brave’ for going there. I’m not part of a military operation; I am merely studying abroad, choosing to kiss my loved one goodbye at the airport and cross my fingers for safe flights and political stability. This notion came back to me several hours later. I was re-packing, and re-folding, as one of the tags from my favorite flannel caught my eye: “Made in Bangladesh”. Hm. Bangladesh comes much closer into view when you realize its practically a neighboring country to the place you will be settling for seven weeks. Makes you feel eerily closer to your fancy bag chalk-full of hand selected garments mass produced by the citizens in the countries around you. These are the kinds of things I know I’m not ready for, but these are the kinds of things I know I need.
How does one pack for seven weeks? I’ve never been anywhere for seven weeks in my life, unless you count Massachusetts, living in the comfort of hardwood floors and a vegan dining hall. How many pairs of underwear? This is real life. What can I actually purchase there? Seven weeks is a long time. I can’t pack enough Luna bars for this occasion. What is the exchange rate? What does 94 rupees to my 1 American dollar even mean? Ready or not, here it comes.