Tea and conversation usually go hand-in-hand, but in Nepal, they really go hand-in-hand. I had a meeting with my boss concerning my want to participate more in the field in addition to the office. Prior to our conversation, she had thought I was unhappy with the work, which I had to explain was not true and that I simply wanted something more. She seemed shocked at first as she told met that usually with volunteers, she is told that she has given too much work and was surprised to know that I wanted to do more. Perhaps it was the American way kicking in, but I’d like to think it was just me, trying to fill my plate, maybe a little too much…but still, that’s the way I like to be. I felt the happiest I’ve felt at work when talking to my boss after this. We talked quite a bit about life, particularly discussing the fact that, for the most part, Americans move out of the house when we are 18. Although she has heard this before, it really seemed to blow her mind. I was glad to have communicated with her. And for my last two weeks I now know that I will be working on two environmental issue proposals, finishing my victim profile, and working in the field, at the side of teachers of child domestic labor victims.
At the end of my work day, I left with my 3 Nepali friends from work to go to Patan. My friends are of the Newari caste, so what’s interesting about this is that Patan is filled with traditional Newari architecture, culture, and food. Nothing, though, beats my journey there. I had anticipated that Id be riding on back of a motorbike but it didn’t quite click. I turned to my one friend and said, “Am I getting on this?” She, of course, looked at me as if I was an idiot, so I knew to just get on. I desperately asked, “where do I put my feet?” before we started to move, the response was, “the foot petals in front of you.” Of course, the foot petals, who wouldn’t have known that. Anyways, with giant poncho on, covering me and my heavy backpack, I felt us take off, and simultaneously, I felt the monsoon begin. I mentioned this in a carefully-crafter Facebook status, but I really do remember thinking to myself how much greater my chances of death were than when i bungee jumped. In was fun, but still, pretty horrifying. Additionally, Nepali roads are of a difference nature than those of Abington, Pennsylvania. So as I braced myself in the final minutes, we began to turn into a beautiful, traditionally crafter square that I knew immediately was Patan. Like I said, it was monsooning, so we walking, as much as we could, under rooftops and overhangs, until we arrived at a little tea house I wouldn’t have know existed had it not been for my Nepali friends. We sat outside on little stools in a square where I believe was a mini temple. It was quiet there and the rains were blocked a big by the rooftops. We sat happily drinking our tea on little stools under an overhang, while wringing out our clothing an hair.
The mission, then, was to get me some kurtas, while are traditional Nepali-style tunic-like tops that are worn with leggings and a scarf to match. I was skeptical as we entered into an incredibly narrow alcove and walked up a few sets of stairs into a little loft fabric shop, where there were piles of beautifully colored, soft as can be, cotton tops. I sorted through with the shop owner and my friends, who were attempting to get me to wear things of magenta and white colors. For those who know me, i prevented this from happening, although I did humor them by trying some on. I remember thinking what a great experience this was and how much my friends must have loved that I was participating in their culture by wearing the traditional dress. I hope to go back to buy one for my mother, as they were so beautiful. To me, the two that I bought will be two of my most treasured souvenirs because of the circumstances of my purchasing. Also, because my friends were there, I receive the best price possible, the “Nepali price.” I’m sure I could have paid 500-700 rupees more had I been alone. After that, we wondered a bit more through the now settling rain to grab a quick bit to eat. We went to this tiny shack-like place for some traditional Newari food. I honestly couldn’t tell you what on earth i ate, only that when I asked my friends what it was made of after I was happy to hear the little fluffy round cake was made of grains, but tried to ignore the next ingredient that they had uttered: lard. Anyways, we talked about cooking and making pizza and I told them my pizza recipe, but I just nodded agreeable when they said they put egg in their pizza dough. Just let it be, Leah, Nepalis love egg in everything.
The day trip closed with a nice, safe motorcycle ride back to my neighborhood. I hopped off the bike, wiped the massive amounts of rain water off of my face, and walked home, gracious and absolutely blissful that I was experiencing Nepal in this way, with Nepalis, learning, understanding, and even eating their culturally significant lard and grain snacks.