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Archive for March 2010

LUKE PERKINS, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

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LUKE PERKINS, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

MOMENTS IN NEPAL

Homestay: One of the things I was most nervous about for this trip was the home-stay experience. I’ve had friends who have had great experiences with their home-stay families when they did trips abroad, but I’ve also heard some horror stories, so I really did not know what to expect. But after all my worrying, the moment I met the family I realized I had had nothing to fear. My host family, the mother especially, were extremely caring and loving (not to mention incredible cooks!), and went to great lengths to make sure I felt at home and was having a good time. The couple times I got sick, it seemed like my recovery became their number one priority. I also had my own room and bathroom, and was never uncomfortable in any way. The kids, ages 8-14, were a blast. We went to the movies, went to the zoo, played cricket, football, board games, and I got to teach them some of my favorite card games. It was really neat to learn a little about their culture from them, and teach a little of my own. I really realized how much they meant to me after I got back after my 2-week trek and I walked into the house and thought, “I’m home”. I had not expected to feel that way.

Trek: The trek to Annapurna Base Camp was my favorite part of my 11 weeks in Nepal. I had not done very much trekking in the past, but what I had done I had loved, so I knew I was in for an incredible experience. I would like to write about one particular experience I had. It was the first day of the trek, and it was a really beautiful day – sun shining down and a brilliantly blue sky. We had been walking for a couple hours and were up in these hills where these farms were. And I was walking by these houses and I was all of a sudden struck by the beautiful simplicity of these people’s lifestyles. I realized that this beautiful hill was a person’s home. They lived and farmed the land and woke up to the views of the mountains every day. I was both jealous of them and embarrassed of all the things I have that I really do not need. I may not be describing this very well, but it was a really powerful moment for me. Now that I am back home I think about that a lot whenever I get caught up in trivial, superficial things.

The rest of the trek was incredible as well, going high up into the mountains, going through all different kinds of landscape, passing through rural villages. I’ll never forget it and I look forward to going back in the near future to do it again.

Volunteering: The first week I was in Nepal I had the opportunity to be a volunteer at the annual Kathmandu Jazz festival or Jazzmandu. I had a great time. For one thing, my coordinator, Yanik, was also a volunteer, and so this was a great way to get to know him – bonding over a love of music, and working at these shows. All of the other volunteers were local kids about my age, so it was great to talk to and get to know them. And obviously being able to go to all of these shows for free was amazing, especially because, being a volunteer, I got to know some of the people in bands and have some great conversations with a couple of them. My favorite band was Soulmate, from Shillong, India. The lead singer was this unbelievably talented bluesy soul singer, who could command the stage with ease, and she was backed by a, to use some Kathmandu slang I picked up, deadly guitarist.

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March 14, 2010 at 9:23 pm

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LOGAN D. WILLIAMS, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

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LOGAN D. WILLIAMS, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

Kathmandu in a whirlwind

On my first day, Tsering (from Passage) picked me up from Tribhuvan airport, and after stowing luggage at the Bed and Breakfast in Thamel, immediately interested me in a tour of Hanuman Temple, Durbar Marg and the royalty museum. Did you know a lot of the kings were big into hunting, and weaponry? One of them even visited Fort Bragg, North Carolina in the 1990s, the home of the Airborne and the military base where one of my sisters is currently stationed with the US Army in 2009. But my favorite part of the first day was relaxing in the courtyard of Café Mitra with many cups of Nepali milk tea. So good!

My home stay family gently eased me into Nepali food. On my first night with them they treated me to dinner of chicken burger and fries at a local chain restaurant. On my second night with them, I enjoyed daal bhat for the first time. Daal bhat is not just any beans and rice. The beans are so creamy it is almost like sipping soup. The rice is basmati – so it is not sticky unlike what one would eat with Chinese or Japanese food. Tarkari (vegetables) were on the side. They were a little too spicy for me – but I just mixed them with daal bhat, and the flavor was great!

Also courtesy of my homestay family, I have been able to continue participating in Christian worship services. My faith is very important to me, and, attending prayer service at Boudha Baptist Church on Wednesday evenings is a welcome mid-week pick me up. When I was homesick and travel sick the first week, I would go sit with some of the boys in the hostel next door. Sometimes, they would be having Christian fellowship with prayer, and singing. Sometimes they were playing a popular 2 to 4 person game called Carmon of which they deigned to explain the rules even though I interrupted their play. J One of the boys, a 16-year-old who had just finished the SLC (an important exam) and has since left to attend Bible college, told me to not feel lonely, but to think of the boys as my brothers and therefore family.

In general, I have been warmed by the friendliness shown to me here in Nepal. It is a far cry from what I imagined would be hostility because I am an American, or unease, because I am Black with African features that are very different from the rest of the population here. But aside from the staring when I first moved to the part of the city where my home stay family resides, I have been accepted as just another city-goer.

Nepalis are (mostly) used to the very different, as with 92 known languages, they entertain a diversity of culture here that is heterogeneously Asian in the way that the United States is heterogeneously Caucasian. Shopkeepers have smiled (without malice) at my halting attempts at Nepali language. Cab drivers have cheerfully engaged me in stilted, but hilarious, conversation. And my officemates at Tilganga Eye Centre were as proud as indulgent parents when I learned to count, read, and write from 1 to 10. J It has come in very handy as I enter data (including patient age, and guardian age) from the satisfaction survey, which I designed for them as part of my work there.

I have a little more than a week left, and I have to say that six weeks has not been long enough. Between working at Tilganga, church, language classes, and the historical city walks, I have engaged in a whirlwind of activity since I came to Kathmandu – yet there is so much of history, art, architecture and culture that I have not yet encountered. I offer my sincerest appreciation to Passage International for making my transition from the USA to Nepal as smooth and painless as possible. (Notice I did not say pain free. Culture shock is a given but manageable, and Passage has taken very good care of me and the other students here this summer). I hope and pray that I will be able to return in a year to continue my work at Tilganga Eye Centre and learning about Nepali culture. But for now, pheri bhetaula (We’ll meet again)!

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March 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm

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YUCHEN ZHAO, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

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YUCHEN ZHAO, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

I’m a student in California originally from China. My internship is working in Orchid Garden Nepal, a day care centre for kids from low-income families.  My experience has been wonderful. The kids are gorgeous. Their smiles will remove all bad moods.  I go there every day on a bike at around 11 am, and return home at around 5:30 pm. My work is not hard. It consists of feeding them, giving baths, and mostly playing with them. To my surprise, the kids there are not difficult at all, even though there are a few kids who want my attention the whole time. However, behind these smiley faces, there are many heartbreaking stories. Many of them can barely survive. In Kathmandu, the minimum food supply for a month of a family consisting of three people would be about Rs. 2000, and some of the families only earn about 2000 to 3000 rupees per month.  Plus, they need to pay rent. Life is not fair to these innocent little kids. But thanks to Orchid Garden Nepal they get more attention. I’m now writing a report on the individual kids, and hopefully I’ll find sponsors from China and the U.S. to help them to go to school or even live in better conditions. You don’t hope to survive, but without hope, life is not worth living. I want to let them know that life is always getting better. So when they are old enough to understand the world, they will not live in depression, but happiness.

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March 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm

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ISABEL GARCIA, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

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ISABEL GARCIA, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2009

Once I arrived Tsering, Passage staff, welcomed me with a beautiful Khata (a Nepali traditional scarf) and took me to the hotel in Thamel (the central part of the city) where I stayed the next two nights during orientation. The hotel was beautiful with a magnificent room overlooking the garden and the staff so welcoming and nice. Shortly after, Yanik, my program coordinator, came to the hotel to greet me and asked me if I wanted to hang out with the boys of Miami Ink since they were in town filming a new show called World Wide Tribe and he was the coordinator for the Ktm tour. I went to buy thangka paintings and rugs with the cast. They were buying the paintings from my host family so it was really nice meeting them as well. Let’s just say the beginning of the trip was surreal. I was so jetlagged and there I was helping professional tattoo artists pick thangka paintings for their house. After shopping we ate dinner at Hotel Yak n Yeti and spent some time chatting and exchanging experiences and taking recommendations of places to see.

The next day I arrived at the monastery and started the meditation course. I never thought I would be in such a magnificent environment. The decor and architecture of the monastery is very intricate and detailed. One can see everything is made with great effort and very well taken care of. The course started and I met my roommate, Marta. She is also from Colombia, which was a coincidence.

After unpacking we went down to the Gompa (monastery) for our first session. The professor and monk, Yeshi, is from Portland and very funny! He is also very wise and easy to understand. I learned a great deal from him and helped me a lot with questions related to psychology and Buddhism.

Among the teachings were the history of Buddhism and the different themes and practices that have evolved through the years. I enjoyed all the teachings until we encountered the theme of emptiness. It is based on the concept that there is no ego and the ego is just a limitation of our mind. This is difficult to understand/accept given my educational background; let’s just say I went to the bookstore after this teaching and bought several books on the subject. For Buddhists the spirit lies in the mind (not necessarily the head). Because the mind has no limitations–if it is aware and guided through the practice of meditation, one can experience things more fully without attachment. The whole concept of the limitless mind is what supports the idea of reincarnation and karma. The mind keeps on going from life to life, and the karma we have in this life is based on a past life and how able we are to train the mind in the current life. It is a very difficult and abstract concept however I find myself very interested in it. I have to say that after leaving the monastery I’ve been practicing meditation every morning and before going to bed, and I find it a very useful tool towards living a calmer, happier life. It is not to say that I am a changed person, but I’m glad I’m incorporating new useful things into my life.

After coming back from the monastery I moved in with my wonderful host family. Tsering La or Amala as I used to call her, which means mother in Tibetan, Wang La, the father, their two children Diki and Nawang, and Popola, the wonderful and charismatic 79-yr-old grandfather. It is a wonderful Tibetan family in which the father and grandfather are part of 7-generation thangka painters. Popola traveled across Tibet during the Chinese invasion carrying a thangka that has been blessed by several high lamas. The thangka itself is in good condition however we can see the deterioration of the painting by water when Popola was fleeing from Tibet.

My days in the house consist of waking up at 6:30 am and preparing for Nepali language class until 9 am. After that I go to the studio where I sit with Popola, Wang La and other painters to trace the different Thangkas. Popola and I communicate by sign language because he only speaks Tibetan and cannot understand the little Nepali I’ve learned. It is interesting seeing us talk—we are literally lost in translation! It is fun though and I greatly enjoy his company. Sweet, wonderful Amala serves as the mediator between us when he is checking my sketches. Amala is a very funny upbeat woman and makes everything so comfortable. She is constantly joking and cooks deliciously! She says she’s proud to having such a beautiful daughter (referring to me), and I have to say I’m proud and happy to have her in my life right now. I feel extremely blessed in being here and with this family.

My trip to Kathmandu was to pursue my personal interest in learning about Buddhism and Thangka painting. It was not until I met Sangeeta Thapa, owner and curator of Siddhartha Art Gallery during one of my excursions, that the idea to do an Art Therapy presentation came up. While talking about our mutual interest in art, she asked me about art therapy. I gave a brief description of the field, which led to conversations about social issues, physical illness and its emotional and psychological impact among other themes. Due to the relationship of art therapy and its function as a form of psychotherapy she offered me the opportunity to participate in a presentation with Kathmandu University fine art students. This opportunity also helped opened a new door as it allowed me to connect with local students in the Kathmandu art community and have an article published in Republica news daily about something that I truly believe in. Furthermore, it rejuvenated how I personally felt about my career. It gave me a fresh outlook of the different geographical regions and a new hope to utilize this emerging and developing field. I am thankful to the connections that Passage International provided since it allowed the space to explore the application of art therapy in a different context further encouraging the development of art and psychology as a healing tool.

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March 14, 2010 at 9:21 pm

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GREG OGDEN, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2008

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GREG OGDEN, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2008

I went into the whole experience with a bit of hesitation. I had taken two years of French and two years of Spanish classes with mediocre results at best. Outside the U.S. I had only been to France for a week or so and was accompanied by friends and teachers. The hesitation quickly subsided when I met Yanik and Vidhea and immediately knew if I had any problems they would be there to take care of me. My first encounter with my home stay family was another uplifting moment when I realized the next two months would be spent with a warm and happy family who all shared the same wonderful sense of humor. Volunteering at Sewa Kendra’s leprosy clinic and school was yet another one of the many rewarding experiences. I only wish I had more time and energy to spend with the children and wonderful staff there. I became good friends with Phuntsok, my Tibetan language teacher, which made it much easier to go to class. I came to find real joy in learning the language and speaking with new friends. Kutztown University in Pennsylvania is granting me 12 credits in foreign language. This will be the last of my graduation requirements with a BA in philosophy and would like to pursue further studies in Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy. I’ve caught the KTM bug and I’m sure I’ll be back when circumstances allow. I’m forever grateful to Passage Project and everyone that helped make this possible and thoroughly enjoyable. My fondest thoughts and wishes are with them all.”

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March 14, 2010 at 9:21 pm

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KATRINA ORCINO, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2008

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KATRINA ORCINO, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2008

“For the past two-and-a-half weeks, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help restore and preserve one of the last remaining traditional Sherpa homes in the Khumjung village of the Everest region. I cleaned layers and layers of dust off of many of the home’s household goods, tools, and art, such as wall paintings, statues, and woodcarvings. It was interesting to imagine how these items were used hundreds of years ago, and yet still retain their traditional charm. It was an honor and privilege for me to work on this particular home because it belongs to the noted Sherpa mountaineer, Pertemba Sherpa, who summited Mt. Everest three times and has led numerous expeditions in the Himalayas. With continued work on the house, Pertemba proposes to turn it into a center for preservation of Sherpa culture. It will open to visitors as a museum and give locals a medium to gain insight into their own culture. I had a really great time in Khumjung–living with my home stay family, working on the Sherpa Heritage House, going around the village and experiencing local culture–but the trek up and back was an equally great experience. Although the trails were rough on my feet, passing through the most picturesque villages and meeting the friendliest people along the way was all worth it.

Since coming back from the trek, I have resumed my language classes with my teacher Manjul, as well as my architecture internship with my mentor Siddarth that I started a few days after I arrived in Nepal. I’m learning so much from each of them. I’ve been learning Nepali with Manjul one-on-one, which I think has really been beneficial for me as compared to the usual classroom setting I’m used to back in the U.S. Manjul makes learning Nepali a lot of fun because he always has so many stories and life experiences to share and is very charismatic by nature.

With Siddarth, I’m learning about the architecture of Nepal in context with people’s psychology. We go on site visits, I make observations, we have in-depth discussions about why people in Nepal are the way they are and how it has affected local architecture and the urban landscape. One would never think that something like a round-shaped soap or a rug with “low self-esteem” would have anything to do with architecture, but interestingly enough, things like that do. It’s an interesting aspect of environmental psychology that few people have explored, so I’m sure that what I’m learning will have many implications for whatever direction I decide to take with my career in the future.

Along with my language classes and internship, I am living with a home stay family in Kumaripati. I really couldn’t ask for a better family to not only live with, but also experience traditional Nepalese culture at home. Fufu is a fantastic cook and takes such good care of me. The kids Kavita and Krishna are always so much fun to be around, whether they’re helping me with my Nepali or just hanging out with me and playing games. I really do feel as if they are my second family because they have made me feel so at home. So far everyone I’ve met here has been nothing but nice to me and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m really enjoying myself here so I just hope the next five weeks don’t fly by as fast as the first! Either way, I definitely plan to come back.”

Written by passageinternational

March 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

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JENNIFER QUAN, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2008

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JENNIFER QUAN, PERSONAL PASSAGE 2008

At RHEST, I mainly work with Uma Lohani, the health coordinator, and usually she shows me their program reports to go over and edit for grammatical corrections. The computer work can be draining, but I have to say it is very interesting to learn about the work they are doing and about women’s health issues, like the prolapsed uterus, which I had never heard of before coming here. I edit reports for a few hours, and then in the last hour or two I end up conversing with Uma or some of the other women in English about different things, like their religion or family, which is nice for both of us so they can practice their English, and I learn about things in their lives.

On the other hand working at Sewa Kendra is much more active, especially with the school children. Usually when I go, I teach and play with the school children. I’ll teach them English or test them out of their science or general knowledge workbooks with games, where they split up into teams and answer questions. On Fridays, they finish their exams early, so I’ll play games and dance with them while they practice their Nepali dancing. I also talk a lot with Surya, one of the teachers, who has been really friendly and helpful in telling me about Kathmandu and places to visit. Sometimes, Dr. Pradhan shows me some of the patients in the clinic and explains the conditions and treatments they are doing, which is very interesting even without having the medical experience or background.

This last week, I went with them to Khokana on Monday and Dolalghat on Wednesday. Both times were really amazing to me. It was so nice to visit because the areas were so beautiful and green, and the leprosy-affected people are so kind and grateful. I really enjoyed those trips with Dr. Pradhan and the other doctors and nurses that come. I think she’s doing amazing work, and talking with her about it has been so inspiring for me! She’s so compassionate and determined to help people.

Written by passageinternational

March 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

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