Time in Kathmandu - Lucy Martin-Patrick
As the bus slowly makes its way through the winding roads surrounding the valley of Kathmandu on our way out of the city, I reflect on my time spent here and how it’s helped prepare me for the next 7 months I’ll be working with the Oda foundation.
When I pictured how Kathmandu would be, I didn’t really know what to expect. But what I found was that anytime I went to the terrace of the building we were staying in, I was never disappointed by the view of the city, with its brightly coloured buildings, towering hills circling the valley and endless miles of prayer flags linking the city together. It truly is its own unique place.
The biggest challenge for me has definitely been taking on the language classes. In a previous placement I did, I really felt like I couldn’t fulfil my potential in community work due to not knowing the local language. I really want to make a bigger impact on the people I’m working with this time, and as a result of this past experience I knew the importance of Learning Nepali, which therefore meant it pretty much consumed my time in Kathmandu. We would spend 4 hours in the morning in language class and in the afternoon, I could easily spend just as many hours revising the things we had learned that day. At first, I felt like I was putting in a lot of work and not improving at all. I could never seem to remember the sentence structures and vocabulary. Being from England, learning languages was never a priority in school and I hadn’t taken a language class since I was 14, and even then, it was just clock-watching in French class an hour a week, I knew that I was taking on a huge challenge and I wasn’t wrong. I won’t deny that it’s been really tough, but it’s also given me a lot of confidence for when I reach Oda. I’m genuinely very excited to start trying to communicate with people and develop this new skill.
One achievement for Radha and myself was learning how to catch a public bus. You’d think it would be a pretty easy process, how hard can it be to get a bus a few miles away? After a couple of days we’d worked out how to get to our Nepali class and Radha had also figured out she could use her Johns Hopkins University student card to get the bus for just 10 rupees a ride, something I think she will always be happy about. We felt like we had finally got the hang of it, but then we would try and get the bus back to the area we were staying and that’s a different story in itself. On one of the days we ended up on a bus heading to the wrong side of Kathmandu and eventually onto the ring road surrounding the city, or on another occasion we got the bus to a completely different part of Kathmandu and ended up taking three other buses to get back. The best journey of all though was going from Nagarkot, an area in the hills surrounding Kathmandu, back to Bhaktapur. There were around 50 people on this small bus, which ended up getting stuck in the mud. Radha also ended up holding someone’s baby for half of the way. As he sat on her lap eating some cheese flavoured crisps, we just started laughing to ourselves about how we get ourselves into these situations. That’s what we would always do. Anytime we got confused or messed up, we would just laugh about it because at least we were trying and we always got to see more of the city.
Two weeks into staying in Kathmandu, and I was starting to feel like it was getting very repetitive. I realized I had to start finding some other ways to fill my time than just learning Nepali. This is when Radha and I took a cooking class. We spent a few hours leaning to make momos, a food I had started to love since being in Kathmandu. This was also a great test of our Nepali as the other people in the class were also learning the language, we got to start learning the names of vegetables and spices. It also meant that I could blame my poorly folded momo on my lack of Nepali language rather than my lack of cooking skills. It was a really refreshing way to break up the routine we had formed during our stay in Kathmandu. I know when we’re in the village that things may get repetitive at times but I now know that just finding one thing new to do can really help lift your mood and keep your work on track.
I feel like all the challenges we faced in Kathmandu, whether it was confusing two different Nepali words every class, taking the wrong bus, or living and spending the day with someone I had never met before, helped me to gain more confidence and prepare for the rest of my time in Nepal. There were times when I just saw my stay in Kathmandu as something I needed to do in order to start my journey to Oda, but really it was the start of my journey. I quickly realized I had to enjoy this ride and not just think about getting to the destination, because now that time is over and the next stage can begin.