So. It’s been four months since I left Canada, left my home, left my friends and left my family. I feel like there’s so much to talk about and so little at the same time. I’m sure everyone knows by now, I’m currently on an eight month field placement in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. I’m here finishing up my degree by completing the international internship requirement, working for a non-government, non-profit organization.
I know, I should have been updating people, at the very least my family, about what I’ve been up to. (I SnapChat (sharonxmai) and Instagram (sharonxtmai) a lot of what I’m doing, so if you want you can get a small peeks into how things are going, follow me //shameless plug//). But honestly, everyday is an adventure just like it was in Canada and it’s been a whirlwind of a time trying to navigate in a country you knew nothing about other than through other people’s travel blogs.
Now, to be clear, nothing is the same as Canada except for the friendly faces and lovely people. Otherwise, I’d have thought I’d stepped into a whole new world. Luckily enough, Nepal is quite like many Asian countries. Not to say that it’s been easy adjusting, but there are small similarities to the culture that I’ve grown up knowing and have come to know, and that has provided me with some comfort.
BUT, let me tell you about one of the greatest comfort I’ve found. My lovely cohort colleagues that have traveled with me all the way to Nepal. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without these girls. We keep each other safe, happy and a little carefree. I’ve had the most amazing time bonding with them. At first, it was a bit awkward because not many of us had spent a lot of time with each other, but day-by-day, little-by-little, we became comfortable and close.
Unfortunately, we were ripped apart all too soon. We’ve been stationed all over Kathmandu Valley at different organizations with different mandates. Some of us are now farther than others and we’ve been starting to feel the pull of home more. I miss the conveniences of home the most, but I’ve never been more excited to be on an adventure, to be doing meaningful work and to be self-reliant (as much as I can).
I’m currently working for the Association for Craft Producers (ACP). They’re a trade association specializing in handicrafts. They’re this amazing place, I don’t even know where to start.
- The Executive Director of this organization is one of the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. Meera Bhattarai is this incredible lady with the most engaging spirit. She really believes in the spirit of the Nepali people and the strength of women. Her contagious attitude towards the economic empowerment of women even makes me want to believe in the power of economic development. She’s one of the founding members of ACP, Fair Trade Group-Nepal and she’s even the Past President of Fair Trade Group- Nepal. Since it’s inception, for 25 years, she’s been pushing the growth of these organizations that are determined to do better and be better for Nepal and for the world. I’ve never been so intimated and in awe in my life by a single human being.
- ACP isn’t just some small enterprise, it’s a massive operation. ACP has got to be one of the biggest non-profits I’ve seen. I’m currently working in their production and head office facilities, nearly 45,000 sq feet, as a Media and Communications Officer (basically doing marketing). It’s crazy, they’ve got a face recognition system for taking attendance, offices everywhere, and their sample production happening right next to the offices. They make ceramics, textiles, knit goods, felt goods, copper goods, glass ornaments and earrings and so much more. I’m in love with this organization because it reminds me so much of my mom and making crafts back at home. I’m in love with this place because they’re this crazy huge organization that grew from nothing and is helping so many handicraft producers from all over Nepal by providing them materials, a workshop space if they need it, advert services, design services, a place to sell their goods and a place to be social.
- If you’ve been to Ten Thousand Villages, you’ve seen some of ACP’s products. ACP doesn’t just help producers make the goods, they help them distribute to a global market as well. ACP really isn’t just a small group of producers and staff, there’s nearly 120 people on-site every day trying to expand in an ethical business.
There’s a lot going on here and way too much to explain or show, so hopefully you get the gist. ACP is really awesome and I feel very fortunate to be working in an organization such as this one.
I’m really looking forward to the last four months. Things are going to fly by so quickly. I still have so many plans and things I want to do. I feel like I’ve also already done a lot. It’s been a crazy adventure: I’ve walked through Lazimpat and Thamel, taken language classes for two weeks, went to a quiz night at a pizzeria owned by a New Yorker, I’ve moved houses from Baluwatar to Sanepa, I’ve taken a tempo (aka tuktuk) almost everywhere, I’ve gotten lost on a tempo, I visited the Boudhanath stupa, seen monkeys climbing wires, went to a Nepali night club to dance (on several occasions), bought more things than I need at Bhatbhateni (imagine a 5-storey Wal-Mart), I’ve gotten lost just walking the streets, bargained for taxis and clothes, had dhal bhat for the first time (and then an infinite amount of times after that), did my laundry on the roof of a building by hand, got caught in the rain and got sick, went to Chapagaun to visit, bought a laanga, accidentally have eaten peanuts more times than I’d like to admit (still kicking and have yet to use my epipen), made momos for the first time, traveled to Singapore on my own (I’ve never been through an airport on my own before), made some incredible friends at work and at home, and I’ve stood on the rooftop of the Passage House and saw myself surrounded by these massive breathtaking mountains.
I know I’ve barely experienced a fraction of what Nepal has to offer and I can’t wait to “climb those mountains” when they get here.