Last week, we traveled nine hours east to Biratnagar, the second largest city in Nepal, then to Itahari and ended in Jhapa. Four days later, after all the events we had to go to, we got back on a bus and headed for nine hours back to Kathmandu. As you can see below, most of the journey took us around mountains, along winding, dangerous turns, and if you get motion sickness should not attempt.
Luckily, I had my mate Ashmita and Bollywood films to keep me company. Once at our destinations, it was back to my love of filming.
While in Biratnagar, I followed Basanta Adhikari, who leads Bikalpa (“The Alternative”), an organization that trains youth in eastern Nepal on civic leadership and advocacy for fundamental rights. With the help of the nonprofit I work for, the Accountability Lab, he leads youth in conducting performance surveys of local government agencies. And he even let me into his life, so I could see his every day, his work, his family life.
After struggling with drug addiction earlier in his life, it wasn't until he was asked the question, “Where do you want to be in five years, Basanta?” that he finally had had enough and from that point on choose to lead a different life.
Basanta said he wants his daughter Liberty to follow in his footsteps and strive for better out of Nepal — that it can be better than it is and to stay here and help make it a great country again. We had a great interview that I’m still combing through on top of lots of moments of filming. I'll be putting together a short film, profiling Basanta as one of the Accountability Lab’s Accountapreneurs.
On top of that, I filmed and photographed three events for Integrity Idol, a reality TV show through which citizens nominate and vote for honest civil servants. The public forums generate a discussion on the need for public officials with integrity, accountability and honesty. I have to say, it’s extremely refreshing to see young people so engaged and active in this process.
On a personal note, I’ve been doing a lot of searching in between work. Yes, I ate a mango the way mangos should be eaten, pealing with your bare hands and biting down. I climbed the highest "hill" I've ever climbed in my life at 7,000 feet, then fainted later on. And drank actual coconut juice from an actual coconut in Jhapa. Truth is, these are experiences, yes, but first and foremost, I am so lucky to have the people around me. It's true when they say people are what make a place. Because if it weren't for my co-workers and friends here showing me around, taking me in for the night, feeding me, introducing me to new foods, places and habits, I don't think my experience would be as amazing as it has been if not for their embrace and support. Thank you again!! You know who you are.
At this point, it's the longest I’ve been away from the states. And it happens to be lonely at times, I have to admit. Getting used to a new place a world away from what you know isn’t easy. It’s an adjustment, one that’s taken me 18 days to finally start getting the hang of. But it's something I feel everyone should do.
People tell me, "Okay, but this is when you find yourself and get more comfortable in your own skin." Yes. Sure, sure, but really until I can feel myself in a place and not just a foreign object, I need people around me. We are social creatures, after all.
So, step outside yourself. Experience something scary. It's worth the fear once you come out from it. You'll look back and ask yourself, "Why was I so afraid? Was I not open enough? Was I too afraid to leap? Was I too shy?" The more days I spend here, the more I realise how much more often I need to put myself out there to do things I would never do. Don't get me started on cleaning my own clothes by hand and cooking for myself. Let's just say I wear things often more than I should and I stocked up on Nepal's version of Ramen noodles.
And yup, I'm still learning Nepali. My friends here think it’s hiiiiilaaaarious how I learn a word a day, ha. I’ll know 90 words by the time I’m finished here!, I tell them. That's more Nepali words than I came with.
In other news, I saw my first couple Bollywood movies on the bus ride last week. Had to pass the time somehow... So, saw these two movies entirely in Hindi and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved them. They were actually shot really beautifully. Though corny at times, (which is intentional) I did like the stories. And though I couldn't understand what they were saying, I could follow the story — a true sign the storytelling was quality. One was called Dilwale (2015), which is a crime, comedic drama about a couple in love who try to overcome a violent conflict between their respective families. It stars “Bollywood king” himself, Shah Rukh Khan, and Kajol. And the other flick was called Baaghi (2016), starring Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor, an action-packed romance about a bounty hunter and an agent with a price on his head, who realize they have a common enemy.
Ok, ok. So this post turned out to be me just throwing out there a bunch of random thoughts, but stay with me. I'll get to my point.
It's officially summer in the states. Monsoon season is in full swing here. As you can see below.. we've been getting some rain.
I do miss normalcy back in the states, my home, dad, friends. Dapper. My bed.
But I do love fresh mangos. Savory Momos. Naan and curry. Hiking. Corny Hindi movies. Milk tea. Our office dog Pedro. Filming and meeting new people. Having a presence again on social media. Being a part of a team who goes after implementing change in Nepal. Exploring. Apple tea lemonade. Learning Nepali. Smiling back at locals when they stare instead of looking away. Feeling like a princess sleeping under a mosquito net. Falling asleep to, walking up to and getting caught in constant, cooling rain. Carrying my 20-pound backpack and tripod 45 minutes to work each morning, and back at night. Okay, that's not so fun, but still a nice workout, ha.
And did I mention I got honored as a guest, camera in hand in the middle of filming the event? Though, I wasn't exactly sure how to respond, I do have that look of "ma, I got an award."
All that and there's even more I could list and more I have yet to list. Stay tuned.