Thursday, 9 April 2015

Reflection on appreciation

Now this may seem like a pretty deep topic, but as I'm approaching the halfway point of my programme in Nepal, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on what I've learned so far and what I've learned to appreciate.

Things I appreciate from the UK
One definite thing I've learned to appreciate (and I think the rest of the UK team have too) is food. Honestly, we can't stop talking about it!
By all accounts, the food is NOT bad here, its just the very small variety that we are exposed to each day. Around 9am, I have rice, daal and some sort of curry. Around 7pm, I have the exact same dish. This is completely normal in Nepal and people will only eat 2 meals a day. There's a couple of problems with this for me. I get absolutely starving around my normal lunchtime because the white rice I am served is not filling. In fact, it actually makes you more hungry, and this is why I see Nepalese people having mounds of rice on their plates. Secondly, white rice is REALLY not good for your digestion so it plays havoc for us UK volunteers who are used to a lot more fibre. I've been pretty lucky with my Didi as she has cooked me mini omelettes, eggy bread and noodles on occasion. I remember for breakfast a couple of times I had puffed rice (much lighter but still not great), warm buffalo milk and a little bit of sugar. Amazing...
So as a result of this, I've really learned to appreciate the variety of food we're exposed to in the UK. Something that has stuck out for me, and is very pro-Nepal, is how wasteful we can be in the UK. My UK household personally doesn't waste a lot of food as we use our leftovers and buy what's needed, but in Nepal it is very much frowned upon if you take more on your plate and don't eat it. Plus, the Nepalese people consume what they grow and don't end up wasting their produce, which makes me think we should follow in the footsteps of my Uncle Bernard and Uncle Dave and grow more things ourselves. Also, planning your meals ahead of time allows for less waste as you're not tempted to buy things you don't need. Plus it saves the pennies too.

Another thing I'm appreciative of from home is my family and the support system I have from them and friends. It broke my heart when a man from the Dalit village told me of his three sons; two work in the Middle East and one lives away to farm. My family is very close knit and as I've spent more time out here with families who are separated, it really brings to light how I take mine for granted. Not because I'm a selfish person but because it takes being in places like this to make you realise that family are the ones that shape who you are. They help you to grow and they give you all the love and support you could ever need. If I had to experience what the countless number of families in Nepal have to face, I would always feel there was a void where that person was supposed to be. It is usually the male members of the family that go off to work away, so I think without my Dad in my life, where would I get my awful Dad jokes? Or as much as I hated my brothers teasing me (and still do!), it made me into a strong, independent woman. Or I like to think so... (Thanks James & Eddy!)

Also, I've learned to appreciate the female empowerment I have at home. Ok... there's still gender equality issues in the UK, but I have experienced first hand how shunned these women are made to feel. They're told to sit down and basically shut up in community meetings. They all congregate together at the back, looking too scared to raise their voice. Women are made to feel dirty during their menstruation. They are generally treated as second class citizens.
Whereas for me, I feel empowered in my home country to speak my mind, contribute answers, take the lead and not be treated as second to a man. Also, I feel completely normal if it's that time on month. Women should NEVER be made to feel dirty with something so natural. Nepal still has a long way to go to ensuring women get their voices heard, but things are being done about it. I see how confident the female Nepali counterparts are, and I hope that their assurance of themselves passes on to younger generations.

Things I appreciate from Nepal
Now to turn the tables... 

I appreciate the beauty that Nepal has to offer. I went up to the roof the other night to get my washing, and I actually just stopped and looked up at the stars. All I could hear were the crickets, and it was honestly one of the most beautiful settings I've encountered.

Nepal has shown me that it isn't about material goods that make you happy, it's about the basics. The people in this community don't have much, yet they appear to be unbelievably happy. It has made me appreciate the simple things like family, friends, support and love. This really, is all you need, yet I sometimes think we forget that.

Lastly, I appreciate the kindness of my host home. I am so far away from home. So far away from my normality. So far away from my own family. The host home, Didi especially, makes me feel comfortable and appreciates that things are vastly different for me here. Yesterday she made me eggy bread because I just couldn't handle rice that morning. When I was really ill, she always made sure to check up on me in her broken English. Checking my pulse, feeling my temperature and tucking me in. Didi is only 26 (2 years older than me), but I feel she is so wise beyond her years. She really isn't 26 and I guess when the norm is to get married pretty young here, your young adult life is vastly different to what it would be if you grew up in a city or in another country.

There were always going to be tough times out here, but that was going to be counterbalanced by the amazing experiences I would have too. And thankfully, Nepal hasn't disappointed. I'll admit, it's incredibly different to what I expected, but looking back, I'm not really sure what I expected. When people think about Nepal, Mount Everest always springs to mind. Not that Nepal is one of the 12 poorest countries in the world. All I know is that as the weeks are slowly creeping down to my departure date, I hope I can make positive lasting changes in this community. They seem engaged in what we have planned and are keen to implement those changes with us. I won't reveal what programmes Meetum and I have planned, as that will spoil the rest of my blog posts, but let's just say they're beneficial to a developing country.

So... my next blog post will probably come from Mid-Phase Review in Pokhara, and I'll have lots to share with you then! It will most likely start with a conversation about food, and I sincerely apologise for this. But god dammit, I just need a pizza ok? Haha it's been a while...

Namaste for now everyone =)

Alice x

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