This year I decided quite impulsively to go on another adventure, to close of my years as a student. I always wanted to work as a volunteer and now that I officially graduated, I had the chance to dedicate my time to others. After working the whole summer, I left for Kathmandu, we’re I’ll be living for the two and a half months. I’m volunteering at Shangrila Home, a shelter for street kids.
ARRIVAL 27th of September
First Days Discovering the neighbourhood
What Kathmandu is like Things I noticed about this city
- The rain season is over (sometimes it still pours, but it’s mostly done) and that means that those unpaved sand roads are the worst. The first thing I bought here, on the day of my arrival, was a mouth mask. It’s a necessity.
- Electricity cables. Something that I noticed immediately, were the electricity cables! The picture says it all, right?
- There’s trash everywhere you look. It’s pretty sad – all the rivers are so polluted and the streets aren’t simply dusty, they’re full of trash as well.
- Sometimes you see cows walking around freely in the middle of the road. However, I had expected that there would be more cows!
Some small facts:
- People drive on the left side of the road.
- Everything is really cheap here in comparison with Belgium (which is good because with my student budget!). The more ‘expensive’ and touristy restaurants are around 5 tot 7 euros for a meal. But close to the apartment there are two local restaurants (or should I say kitchens because you can’t compare it to the restaurants we know) where I can eat for 1 or 2 euro.
- People eat a lot of rice. When I work my shifts, I have rice as breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s quite good, but I’m happy to have other options.
- Most people eat vegetarian very often. The Buddhists have to, but most people are Hindu’s and simply don’t eat meat because it’s more expensive. I have been eating vegetarian as well, since it’s easy to do and honestly, I don’t completely trust the meat in all restaurants.
- You can’t drink tap water. I even use bottled water to brush my teeth. The water can’t be trusted in Kathmandu. Even the locals don’t drink tap water. Luckily you can buy 20l of water for 50 eurocents.
- You say namaste to great people. If you greet someone who’s older than you, you greet them with your hands together (and people who are younger than you, do that to you) – otherwise you just say namaste.
- There’s only a 4 hour time difference (here it’s later).
- A full bus here is not at all a full bus at home. We don’t know the definition of full. Honestly I’m always surprised at how many people fit in! I’m finally starting to get used to the non-existance of a personal bubble here! On a side note: something very nice on the buses is, that if you have a seating spot, you take the bags of people who are standing on your lap (if these are big). I think that’s so kind and says a lot about the people here! It’s also a bit of a necessity because you need your hands to stay upright (bumpy roads, remember?)
The Home Shangrila
Shangrila Home really is a nice place. As horrible as some of the background stories of the children are, so wonderful the children are. They’re all smiles and are so kind. My tasks mostly exists in helping the dinner table set up, helping the kids with their studies (the education here sucks a bit, but more on that another time), playing with them and helping with laundry (everything is done by hand – I’m also doing it that way at the apartment, no washing machine around!) and cleaning up a bit after dinner, or in the morning. With the smaller ones, we help them to get ready for school and with showering and making their beds and such.
I’ve only done 4 shifts in the time that I’ve been here (we work 2 days and then we have one day off) and I’m liking it so far. I’m looking forwards to what’s to come. Oh the Nepali English is quite the mess! I (and the other volunteers) have often difficulties understanding the kids. One kid even asked me if I spoke English. I thought it was quite funny. They don’t have any doubts about their English – they’re always looking at me like: “Why don’t you understand? It’s really not that hard.”
Life in the city
As you might have deduced from what I wrote above, life here is quite simple. I’m not online as much, simply because I don’t have internet at ‘home’. I have to wash my clothes by hand, when I have shifts at the home, I walk one hour and a half a day (which is good) and when I’m home, I read a lot. I’m still very tired very often, even though I sleep a lot, but I guess it’s from all the impressions here everyday (there’s so much going on, all the time) and simply because I’m more in sync with my body because of all the simplicity here. I need my sleep. I’m hoping I get less tired soon though!
I’m not at all in a haste to see a lot of things, since I’ll be staying here for quite some time. I went to Thamal already, which is the touristic centre of Kathmandu and it was lovely! It’s not that ‘easy’ going there, since it’s a one hour bus ride (and here, that’s intense). I’m definitely going back because now I mostly wandered around all day (I did go to the garden of dreams and of course some book shops). I have lots of things I want to see, but it’s nice that there’s no rush.
I stop volunteering at the end of November and then I have 10 days to travel around the country. I’m thinking about doing the Annapurna trek. I might be extremely lucky and join some of the kids on a 7 day trek (they almost have holidays and then the home organizes a trek) – that would be around the 20th of October! It’s good that I’m doing all this walking because those kids have the highest level of energy ever. So that are the plans for going outside of Kathmandu so far. There’s so much more to see, but I’m mostly here for the volunteering. And my boyfriend and I are planning on coming back anyway and then we’ll probably visit Chitwan and the plan is to hike to Mnt. Everest base camp then. But those are plans for the future!
So, that’s it so far for week 1. It’s a really long post, but I don’t care because this is what I wanted to share. If you read this until the end – you’ll have realized this post is a bit different from what I usually write. This series about my life here will be different – it will be like the above, a bit more diary like. I’ll definitely share some tips and tricks and a post about my treks as well, but this is how most of my Kathmandu stories will look like!
PS: I’m sorry for the bad picture quality! I don’t have internet access in the appartment, so I’m now updating from the home, where I can sometimes use a computer if the kids are at school – I’ll add better images later on!