Thursday, June 19. Janakpur.
This hotel has TOILET PAPER. And we got COLD water to drink. After spending almost 11 hours in a van today, my body was covered in dirt and sticky from the air and sweat. My legs have been eaten alive. Between my hips and Jordan’s shoulders, the ride was pretty cramped and my legs and rear are sore from sitting there so long. I just took a shower without a towel to dry off- not a particularly enjoyable experience, or something I’d care to do ever again. But on the bright side, we have toilet paper here! What a treasure.
If I had been charged with the “don’t complain for 24 hours” challenge last night, I would have failed embarrassingly. We’ve talked about how Nepalis have a skill to live simply, a skill we don’t have in the west. I packed lightly, excited to think I have that skill and have quickly realized that I don’t. I’d be slightly discomforted but pretty content to live here with Western amenities. But learning to live like most Nepalis/South Asians do every day would stretch me far beyond comfort.
I am reminded of the two “key words” my parents impressed upon Mark and I during our cross-cultural experiences: flexibility and gratitude. There is much to be flexible about and even more we are learning to be grateful for.
Yesterday we spent driving to Janakpur, and visited a safe home for girls they intercept here. Today we visited the physical border (and walked to India!) Our time in Kathmandu (and Turkey before it) was a great ease into the culture and lifestyle. We hadn’t experienced too much shock there- today was more shocking. Getting outside of the city, almost everyone we encounter will stare at us, and yesterday a group of young men crowded around, pulling out phones to take pictures and video of us. The roads are dusty and lined with cows, water buffalo, goats being herded. Children beg for money and candy.
As we walked for long stretches in beating sun today, I thought of the catchphrase from my favorite Bollywood film: all is well. Rancho tells his friends that the heart scares easy, so you must tell yourself that all is well, and then you’ll have the courage to face the hard circumstances. There was much to complain about on the road, but so much to be grateful for. So much good and beauty to see.
All is well. Aal iz well. All is well.
Having been eased into the culture for almost a week here now, it’s cool noticing things I learned about in Cross-Cultural at AU and seeing them play out in front of me. The first thing I noticed was the Eastern orientation to time.
We studied monochromic vs polychromic cultures and how important time was. (Good summary here: http://mgmtblog.com/?p=60) In the West, our lives are run by the clock. We have an agenda, set goals, and do one thing, finish it, and move on to the next. In polychromic cultures however, the focus is not on efficiency or promptness but on relationship. We’ll spend hours at meals just to sit and talk, and there is no stress about how quickly it all gets done or what’s next, because our focus is on the present and the people we are with. I have noticed this simply in the use of cell phones: in the States, everyone will have phones out in the margins of life- in between events, in transit, even at meals- we’re always focused on being on to the next task. But here, we’ll leave phones at home and just stare out a window, talk to a stranger, or go in depth with a teammate. It often makes for inefficiency, but I am loving the ability to enjoy the relational time and let go of my need to check the time.
Another thing we studied is high context vs low context societies. Low context, like America, means you have high content. Explicitly stating what you feel or want. High context societies, like most in the East, rely on context to decipher meaning rather than explicit content. I noticed this in our Nepali lessons when we asked our teacher how to say “I do not like x food” and he told us you don’t really say that… there is a desire to please here that plays into the words they will use or the way they see time, valuing relationships, honor and respect over efficiency.
Unfortunately, this also plays into girls being trafficked in Nepal. Family honor is the ultimate authority so girls will obey if their parents sell them. Standing up for yourself, I have learned, is a Western value that they don’t have here to the same extent. We grow up hearing we can be and do whatever we want and we should stand up for our rights, but girls here might obey a trafficker just because of ingrained respect for authority that they’ve always known. Another sad factor is their view of justice. The pervasive value of karma, the belief that you get what you deserve, creates a subtle but real culture of victim blaming. If a girl is trafficked, she is getting what was coming to her. If a 3 or 4 year old is abused, she is paying for sins of a past life. Of course, Nepalis don’t want girls to be trafficked and are very eager to fight this injustice, but it can be a source of blame and shame for victims and their families that is hard to undo.
In my class, we had so many exaggerated stereotypes and enactment activities of “east vs. west” but it’s been interesting to see a lot of them come true. When entering someone’s home, taking off my shoes, sitting on the ground and eating rice with their family, I can’t help but smile and think of my classmates.
Our journey to Nepal began with a day in Istanbul, beautifully extended layover thanks to a canceled flight. Flying with Turkish air was such a treat- we were served Turkish delight upon boarding and I loved settling into the 11 hour flight. We arrived in Turkey around 5 on Thursday the 12th and had a team dinner, playing the onion game to get to know everyone, and a chill evening at our hotel. The city is beautiful.
The next morning, Friday the 13th, most of us woken at 4:30 by jetlag and the sound of prayer across our hotel.
We ask Sarah, our team leader, if she knows where we're going on the tour. "I do," she responds. We leave the mystery at that and stare out the windows as the driver plays Papaoutai and I'm jamming to my favorite Stromae song- none of the other teammates know him. Perhaps French pop is more of a DC/DPE thing.
Driving through the city, I began seeing English words around Istanbul in the mix of Turkish and realizing they probably weren't even English to begin with. Thinking about the ways languages borrow words and cultures share ideas and traditions makes me think of where they all came from to begin with. I also admired how all the roadways were lined with perfectly landscaped flower displays and fountains. Everything was beautiful.
Our tour took us along the water and to the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Hippodrome. It was so incredible seeing all these buildings and areas with such long and rich cultural and religious history. The art and architecture was stunning. My team all remarked how awesome it would be to have seen the Hagia Sophia as an active place of worship, not only as a museum selling souvenirs.
After the tour, we visited a carpet store and were served delicious apple tea and given the whole pitch. Our salesman was hilarious and all the carpets were incredibly beautiful and soft. So much incredible artwork and craftsmanship. We walked through the grand bazaar before returning to our hotel for orientation and some great time to rest.
Although it was short, I'm so so glad I got to spend the time I did in Turkey. It was a great transition step for all of us before coming to Nepal. We flew out Friday night and arrived at 6AM on Saturday, before a full day here in Kathmandu. I'll keep posting more adventures here soon! Much love.
As I am called to go to Nepal, I cannot go without those who are sending me. I would love for that to include you! By joining me in prayer, you are sending me to have the fullest experience of what God has called me to in Nepal.
I've read different posts online about "how to pray for missionaries" and found them insightful. Of course my trip is different and unique to missionary work, so I want to share specific requests I would love to have covered during my travels.
1. Pray for my team.
I'm so grateful to be joining 8 other college students on this trip- none of whom I have met. We've been in contact and they all seem incredible, and I'm so excited to join them in mission! Please pray for unity in spirit, deep friendships to develop, and for life-giving and peaceful communication among the team and our leader, Sarah.
2. Pray for my spirit.
I've been aware since day one of acceptance to this trip in February that God wants to use this time in Nepal for deep growth and transformation in my faith. I've been learning and will learn more about God's deep heart for injustice globally, how he cares for the poor- and how he cares for me as I learn about these heavy issues. Pray for intimate and transformational devotional times, as well as necessary times of rest and renewal. Pray for remembrance that worship fuels all mission and love for others.
3. Pray for rest.
On that note, please pray that I will allow myself the rest that I need to avoid relational or spiritual burnout. God knows what I need in terms of energy, strength and intimacy with him, so pray that those needs will be provided for.
4. Pray for joy and encouragement.
Our team is going to visit many full-time missionaries or staff of Tiny Hands in Nepal and India, so pray that we will communicate in humility and understanding as to be an encouragement and blessing to the staff.
5. Pray for safety and health.
Between here and Nepal, and within the six weeks, I'll be traveling a lot, and in areas with higher risks for illness. Pray that I will be sustained through any bumps along the way and remain able to serve joyfully.
What does the bible say about prayer? How does your prayer matter to me?
When my team was in Cambodia in 2011, I remember hearing from church members that they were praying for us- and we could feel it. We just knew we were covered and protected, and felt like we were being held safe in God's hands. I firmly believe that prayer matters, and prayer works. I am so happy to have an awesome prayer team supporting me, and will need your intercession.
When Esther was about to go before King Xerxes to plead for her people, she asked her community to fast and pray for her. I would love to ask my team to fast one meal a week and during that time, spend 15-30 minutes in prayer for these things (I would love daily prayer as well, whenever it comes to mind).
Reading 2 Corinthians 1:11, Romans 15:30, and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 shows me how important the prayers of faithful people are to missionaries. I am humbled and grateful by the prayers of my friends.
I'm so excited to have the opportunity to travel to Nepal with Tiny Hands International this summer! THI is a Christian nonprofit whose work includes border interventions for girls being sold into prostitution in India and Bangladesh, rehabilitation centers and aftercare, as well as homes for orphans across Nepal.
8 other U.S. college students and I will have the chance to learn about the work of Tiny Hands and other local NGOs fighting injustice around Kathmandu, as well as working hands-on with some of their programs for the second half of the trip. I am excited to see this wonderful part of the world again, as well as to learn more about the heart God has for his children there.
I'll be posting updates here so stay tuned for all the adventures!
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.