Reflection by Megan Eisenbeis. Megan is a participant in SALT, an MCC Global exchange program. She is spending her year learning about Nepal and researching nutrition.
As I start to settle into my new routine, I often need to remind myself to sit and enjoy my surroundings. From the first few days when everything was entirely overwhelming, until now, things become more “normal” to me. I fear the vibrant sights, sounds, smells, and feelings becoming unnoticed or mundane.
I don’t want my senses to tune out the sounds of my new host mom, Deepa Didi busy at work in the kitchen shortly after 6 a.m.–just one of the sounds of the day coming alive! Lately, every morning I feel the cool crispness of the fall morning creeping through my window as I pull my heavy blanket in tighter. The soft calling “Megan! Chiyaa aaunus!” of my host mom around 7:15, to which I rush upstairs for my steamy, fragrant cup of dudh chiyaa with biscuits. Slowly I sip to the multitudes if bird songs ringing in the day.
Still, I startle at every pop as the pressure cooker escapes a loud, cranky cloud to remind that daalbhaat will be ready soon (which we eat at roughly 9:30 every morning). This sound is constant throughout the day it seems–every few minutes a pressure cooker goes off somewhere. Maybe one day my ears will be tuned to articulate conversations over it, but for now I remain deafened and dumbfounded as my family smoothly talks despite its aggressive release.
As I walk to work, I don’t want to become accustomed to the surprised stares of the neighbors on me, the bideshi wearing a kurta. Someday I hope they become accustomed to me and accept me as a regular. The chickens and ducks parade around me with their clucks and quacks and squabbles. I don’t imagine getting used to their massive size compared to poultry in the states. Everywhere I look is another dog, settling in for the day-time snooze, some shockingly thin, most incredibly masculine, few clearly mothering a litter, and almost all with mange or some other disease. Though they don’t mind or notice humans usually, I feel such a strong sadness–and fear that they will touch me–as I share their streets.
Along with the dogs are often a few cows. In Hindu culture, the cows are gods and it is illegal to kill them. Therefore, the streets are their kingdom of which they freely roam. It is against Nepal’s criminal code to not have the cows tied to something, but there would be more punishment if the cow is killed (by a car for example), so the pressure to abide the rule is minuscule. At the end of the day, the cows are retrieved and taken home.
Also sharing the streets are wrappers, packaging, bags, and other trash as a result of the lack of an efficient trash disposal system. It serves as a constant reminder of humanity’s impact on the beauty of Earth. As it scatters the streets and rides in the rivers, I become more and more keen on evaluating my own impact on the earth, and aim to be as resourceful as the Nepali people. Almost all families I know collect compost, eat their own grown produce, or at least buy from their neighbor’s stand, reuse water until it finally waters the garden, and reuse packaging from the bags the milk comes in to having a spice rack each in its individual reused peanut butter jar. These are simple ways of life that often are not considered in the states due to lack of convenience and basic laziness. Each day I observe more ways that I can reduce my own personal waste (ie. Not buying the wrapped candy, or bringing my own coffee thermos, or–God-forbid–not getting coffee if I don’t have my thermos with me). Each sacrifice I make lessens the hurt that I cause to the beautiful earth that God calls us to be stewards of. (End of soap box, for now.)
Beyond the trash, I carefully step on the jagged cobble brick or dirt path, distracted by the order and beauty of the gardens and rice fields lining the way. Women in the fields, dhokas full of grain or grass in their backs inspire me deeply as they steadily work until it’s finished.
From our flower-covered rooftop, everyone’s clothes hanging on the rangi changi houses can be seen, along with a few Tibetan flags waving with pride in the history and struggle of the Tibetan people. Chilis drying, waiting to be crushed and mixed into achar. The foothills rolling on the edge of the valley towards the few shy mountains starting to peak through the slowly dissipating clouds, more and more each day.
Evening comes too soon as I see people covered in scarves and parkas with fall settling in, my fingers and toes relative to frozen bricks. As I pull on my thickest wool socks I feel weak again as everyone else remains in their flip flops. It isn’t incredibly cold (15-20 degrees C) but the cold never leaves without centralized heating. The tato daalbhaat is a relief as it warms my right hand and stomach. After eating (usually at 8 p.m.) my host dad David Dai catches my weary eyes and excuses me to my room to sleep. Soon the dogs come alive with their nightly street fights and shenanigans as I somehow find sleep through their ruckus.
It is a beautiful life, full of stimulation. Sometimes I see precious babies, eyeliner accenting their wide, round eyes trying to take everything in. If I didn’t squint so much when I smile, I’m sure my eyes would look the same (minus the eyeliner). Yet, my heart is so full with the beauty around me, so I seem to always be smiling.
I thank God for the beauty of the earth, and for giving us the abilities to fully experience it.