My family and friends have been very curious about what my day-to-day has looked like in a developing world. It is true that electricity, internet, and hot water are not 100% reliable here. In writing this, my electricity has gone out for the city's period of load-shedding and my wi-fi has been flickering on and off throughout the day. These minor inconveniences and the environment around me have not changed the kind of routine I have followed back home. What has changed though is the quality and nature of my experiences. Here's a look at what a typical day in my time abroad looks like!
I am an early bird and this fact has not changed in coming here. My day starts bright and early with a group morning run with my Nepali friends Chandra and Raju. These two set the pace of these daily runs and take me to different Hindu temples within a five kilometer radius of our starting point. These destinations are breathtaking and make waking up in the morning so worth it for the adventures that come. I really enjoy this time of the day because the normally chaotic streets of Boudha are less congested and polluted. There is a liberating feeling that comes with running through narrow alleyways and open fields—and there are plenty of those in this part of the world!
When I finish up my morning run, I return to my Nepali homestay to get ready for my day of classes. My Nepali family is of Hindu Brahmin caste and are very accommodating to my needs. Living here has immersed me in the Nepali way of life through the food, language, and conversations (limited given my basic Nepali). The first taste of Nepali culture I get in my day is at breakfast, where I am served a dish called चिऊरको पुलौ (Chiurako Pulau), which is a plate of beaten rice served with egg, onion, and peppers. It is actually one of my favorite Nepali dishes because the savory flavors of this dish put my taste buds in the right place in the morning. The morning omelets I have everyday at Boston College have the same affect for me, but let's move on because I don't want to get homesick.
After breakfast, I head off to school. It's only a 2-minute walk away and if I have time to spare, I often walk 5-minutes more to the Boudhanath Stupa to get in a few laps around to put myself in the right state of mind for the day. My class schedule starts with Buddhist History and Culture, a 90-minute period that engages in a historical survey of the origins of Buddhism and the various schools that exist in Asia today. I really enjoy the lectures for the way we go through comprehensively the core of Buddhist philosophy and how it has changed over time. It makes for learning about my Burmese heritage of Theravada Buddhism so much more rewarding.
If you remember last week's post about what a Modern Monastic Classroom looks like, you may recall that this 90-minute period is my only class that is taught in Tibetan by a khenpo (monastic teacher). This class meets everyday Monday through Friday and is my most time-intensive class. I encourage you to check out the aforementioned blog post to get a better idea of what this very unique classroom experience is like.
At our school, we eat at the RYI Canteen, the gathering place for students for the wi-fi, clean drinking water, and food. The recurring theme of meals here in Nepal is that there is no meat! Although butchers in town sell chicken and goat meat, the largely prevalent Hindu culture opts opt. I actually have no problem with this after having witnessed first hand the slaughtering of chickens and goats on the street. Also, eating clean makes me feel great!
The lunch at my school is not traditional Nepali food, but rather vegetarian dishes like lasagna, flat-bread pizza, and salad to name a few. The meal costs 200NPR (about $2 USD) and is generally pretty filling. Although the food is not so full of flavor, it gets me through the day with little drag after meals.
Nepali 1 is absolutely my favorite class because it is very high-energy and fun! We go through individual drilling of Nepali vocabulary words, role-playing activities like shopping at a Nepali store near the stupa, and playing fast-paced games that keep us on our heels. Given that Nepali is based on Devanagari script used also in Sanskrit and Hindi, it is a phonetic language that is a lot of fun to learn. I have found that certain words and phrases sound a lot like Spanish and I have been mixing things up in my head sometimes.
Between classes, I often return to the RYI Canteen to study in the garden. This is usually a very relaxing time given how nice it is to hang out in the sun and chat with my classmates.
The final session of the day is an anthropology class that is taught by a Western teacher in a traditional college lecture style. We cover a spread of readings that provide a survey of the different cultures and peoples of Nepal. This is one of my favorite classes given how useful the class content is when I return to the streets and engage with locals all around.
After class, I walk 10 minutes home along the dusty streets of Kathmandu to join my homestay family for a shared dinner. We usually have the traditional Nepali dish of dal bhat, which consists of steamed rice, cooked lentil soup called dal, and various different vegetables like spinach (saag), yogurt (dahi), and spicy relish (achar). Around the table I am joined by the mother, father, my two homestay brothers, and the grandmother.
Following the delicious meal, I return to my bedroom to engage in homework and wind down for the day. Bodhanath is not a city with much night life (unless you go further out to Thamel), so the neighborhood is quiet after dark. Aside from the usual city noise like cars honking and street dogs barking, I find my nights are calm and still. I lay my head on my bed, close my eyes knowing I had myself a full day, and look forward to another adventure tomorrow!
And that's a wrap! Join me again next week with another installment of My Fall in Nepal.