September 9th – September 19th
Words cannot explain how challenging yet rewarding the first three weeks abroad have been. Living in the city of Kathmandu has brought so much joy and purpose into my life; the 35-minute walk to class every day, the taste of momos and milk tea, the exploration of new cafes, the establishment of new relationships, the excitement of learning a new language, and the early morning circumambulations around Boudha Stupa with my Pa la (home-stay father). Words simply cannot describe how grateful I am for the experiences thus far.
Photos of the week!!!
What inspires me?
Earlier this week someone asked me, “What inspires you?” And at that very moment my body stopped, my mind went blank, and I caught myself speechless–which does not happen often. Caught off guard by a simple yet complex question, my response was “Many things.”
“What inspires me?” I ask myself today, and finally I have an answer, “A good conversation.” There is nothing that invigorates and inspires me more than having a meaningful conversation with another human;our ability to connect through stories, passions, and experiences is a blessing. My love for meaningful conversations ultimately led me to this study abroad program. For this reason, I want to share with you all a few of the meaningful conversations I have so far. I hope you enjoy the notes I captured with five amazing individuals I have encountered.
Anil Chitrackar – Understanding the Himalaya & placing its issues in the global context
“History and geography can explain the past, present, and future.” Anil Chitrackar
Born and raised in Nepal, Anil Chitrakar is a social entrepreneur. He is the founder of the Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness and the co-founder of the Himalayan Climate Initiative. His work lies at the intersection of conservation, geography, and international affairs.
“Everything is a jigsaw puzzle.” A phrase he repeated time and time again during his time with us. He eagerly wanted us to understand that there is intersectionality in everything. In particular, he impressed upon us the relationship between history, geography, biodiversity, international affairs, and power.
By being geographically located where the Himalayas lie, Nepal and Tibet are the water towers of east and southeast Asia. The Himalayas itself dictates the well-being of ⅓ of the human race.
Earthquakes can be destructive, which is why the people of Nepal make it a priority to pass the knowledge of traditional art, store seeds, and practice rituals, therefore earthquakes in Nepal inevitably preserve religion and culture, as well as create opportunities.
How will the increase in infrastructure [in particular roads] at the Nepal-China border, impact Nepal?
The increase in infrastructure at the Nepal-China border will bring together over 70 economies. Therefore, it will benefit not just Nepal’s economy, but the 70 others as well.
Nadine Plachta – Animals, culture and the environment in the Himalaya
“It is important that we are connected, but how we are connected is the test.” Nadine Plachta
Nadine Plachta is the Resident Representative of the South Asia Institute in Kathmandu. In the course of the past 5 years, she worked heavily on her Ph.D. research dissertation, Himalayan Borderland Communities: Identity, Belonging, and Place among the Tsumpas. In particular, her studies keen on narrating territory, sovereignty, Nepali history, and the Nepal-China border.
Tsum is an indigenous Himalayan province located at the Nepal-Tibet border, it is officially a province of Nepal.
Tsum has a long history of no political affiliation and no political leaders instead it had religious leaders. According to history, Tsum was a peaceful region with small occasions of conflict.
Tsum has a history of shifting its national affiliation between Nepal and Tibet. It is a cultural region always having to decide which sovereign nation to decide with.
Roads are coming to Tsum. Infrastructure will change the region drastically.
In an age where research is often coupled with economic profit, what does ethical research mean to you?
To be quite honest, when it comes to conducting research with a community outside of your own, you will always be an outsider, everyone knows you are going to leave sooner or later. My biggest advice to you is to form relationships with the community you are working with–there are too many scientists who don’t prioritize relationship building. Once relationships are built, it will be hard for you to forget about the community you have worked with, the emotional connection you build with people will inspire you to do many things for them and their community even if you are in a different part of the world. You must also remind yourself to give yourself time. Time forms relationships and it will help you understand what is the best way you can help a community.
Amchi Rinchen – Sowa Rigpa
Amchi Richen is both a monk and a doctor who specializes in Tibetan medicines and practices indigenous Tibetan healing methods. Amchi Rinchen currently serving at a clinic in Boudha, Kathmandu.
Sowa Rigpa is one of the oldest forms of medicine recorded in history, tracing back over 2,500 years.
The body, mind, and spirit are all connected. One’s diet, physical health, and mental health dictate how healthy an individual is.
There are three main techniques when it comes to diagnosis. These are urine analysis, pulse reading, and asking a series of questions about lifestyle.
Medication: lifestyle changes, diet changes, medicine, and therapy.
How do Western doctors view your medical practices? How do you convince doctors outside your field that your knowledge and practices are just as effective?
Amchi Rinchen’s Response
It is difficult to convince Western doctors that our medicine is effective. I have had many patients that come from foreign countries and when my diagnosis and prescription work they usually don’t tell their doctors because they weren’t supposed to come to me. Our medicine is very old and it has been successful for many people outside our community. But still, it is hard to convince different doctors that our medicine is impactful.
Deepti Gurung – Statelessness in Nepal, India, and China
“My only goal is to click that fire in you to do something.” Deepti Gurung
Deepti Gurung, a Nepalese citizen, mother of two daughters, and human rights activist. Nepal is a country that discriminates against women in their ability to pass nationality onto their children. Due to unforeseen obstacles, Gurung was not able to pass citizenship to her daughters, leaving them stateless. Fueled by the unfair citizenship laws, she challenged the government of Nepal and demanded citizenship for her daughters. In time, she won her case at the Nepalese Supreme Court. Now, she is one of the leading voices in Nepal fighting for the voices of stateless folks.
Stateless people’s identities are denied and not recognized by institutions of power, these people are initially voiceless and faceless. Having a voice is a privilege.
Common causes of stateless: conflict of laws, discrimination, state secession, the inheritance of statelessness, deprivation of identity, and administrative barriers.
Borders are imaginary lines. Power, privilege, and identity play a vital role in how borders are created–there are winners and losers.
There are currently 10.6 million people who are stateless, of those 4.6 million reside in Nepal. These are some of the most vulnerable people, simply because they are not seen and not given a voice.
Sarita Pariyar – Caste and Gender/Politics of Dalit Dignity
“What can one learn about the life of Dalit women in a society where the vagina of Dalit women is touchable but the same Dalit women in public space are untouchable?” Sarita Pariyar
Sarita Pariyar is a proud mother, writer, student, human rights advocate, and Dalit woman who fights for justice when it comes to the Dalit identity. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in Sociology and is currently pursuing her law degree in Legal studies. She has written articles for The Kathmandu Times and The Record Nepal, one of her most well-known pieces is titled Untouchable stories of the touchable vaginas.
Growing up Dalit, she would ask herself “What is wrong with me?” This question ultimately led to her finding liberation within her identities.
Dalit women are seen as sub-human, impure, dirty, and untouchable.
The legal system and constitution in Nepal enforce the caste system.
The majority of the rape cases in Nepal involve a Dalit woman.
The more you make someone untouchable, the more you can exploit them.
Only two out of the four-hundred judges in Nepal are Dalit. Even if the stories and voices of Dalit individuals are getting more attention, if the justice system does not change, the Dalit reality will remain the same.
Those who need empowerment are the educated people.
Why do you write?
Write your story or someone else will.
The notes I shared above are my interpretations, I can’t speak for anyone else’s experiences and observations other than myself. The questions were authentically mine and I tried my best to echo the responses that were given. I hope you enjoyed what I have shared.
My next blog will talk about my time in Dharamsala, India! Stay tuned!