For those who’ve been following my blog, you know i’m currently in Bangladesh, and there’s a “security situation”. You also may have heard that other countries are pulling out their foreign staff, or not sending them here in the first place. For a series of reasons, this means that in 3 weeks I’m moving to Nepal!
What!? OMG? That’s totally crazy…! Like you got a new job? Like you’re going to be working for TARANGO in Nepal? Like you’re going on a vacation? I’m confused!
It’s okay to be confused, it’s all very surprising. I’m surprised too. This week has been a roller coaster for me, full of extreme highs and lows as I navigate through the decisions that have been made on my behalf, and the decisions I still have to make about the reminder of my internship. I don’t have the answers to all of your questions just yet, but I took the liberty of answering some likely questions you might have below, with the information I have thus far.
Note: For the purposes of this blog (since I’m currently still in Bangladesh), I’ve taken the liberty of including pictures from Wikipedia – Nepal, Earthquake, and Buddhism (because, uh, that’s all I got, and the internet is a great resource for travellers just learning about a new country!)
Okay, what happened this week (the longer version)?
There are 5 other IYIP interns from Humber currently in Dhaka (though we rarely see them, due to restriction of movement), and they work for Caritas, a Christian organization. Over the last few weeks, the girls have been talking a lot to their organization. since there has recently been a series of priests targeted by terrorist groups in the region. Since only priests were being threatened, life for Sharna and I has remained the same since mid-October. Since we can’t really go anywhere without approval and the company car, how much more locked-down can we really be? Therefore, the news from them that the security situation was, and would continue to, get worse was surprising to us.
Later on we got an email from Jennifer (our contact at Humber). We first saw the email preview on our phones, with the title “PLAN B”, and the first line of the preview saying something along the lines of “Due to the escalating security concerns….” We knew it was going to be serious. The rest of the email went on to tell us that the top-level people from the Humber program had been made aware of the situation. It was up to them to decide whether or not we’d be able to stay. However, we’d have a choice… the choice to go to Nepal.
Our first reaction was surprise, and then our second reaction was “no we’re staying”. We both had feelings of obligation and comradery to our NGO and we wanted to do as much good work for them as possible. Plus, we were already settled, and we wanted to prove we could “stick it out” and “not give up”. We still felt safe, and we were determined to stay. After a few days of thinking we weren’t so sure. We still had those same feelings but new feelings were being added. The idea of going somewhere new was exciting. The idea of waiting for something major to happen and them to send us back to Canada was daunting. We were still unsure.
On Monday night we had our answer. Jennifer sent me a message on Skype to ask if we were awake (it was around 10pm). Although we were both half asleep, I wanted to know the answer as soon as possible. The uncertainty of not knowing was stressing me out. We got on Skype and she told us that everyone would have to leave Bangladesh by December 31st. So the new choice was – Nepal or home? The answer was obvious, we were not ready to go home yet, and wanted to continue our experience. Yesterday our bosses were informed, and we set up a meeting to figure out our plans for the next few weeks. We had to tell the whole staff, who were confused, but also sad… they’ll miss us, just like we’ll miss them. I’m sure the situation is magnified for Sharna, who speaks Bangla and became close with many of the women and girls at TARANGO. It’s still a bit unreal…
So, what’s it liken in Nepal? But the quick version… I only have 5 minutes for this blog!
Nepal is a small, mountainous country in Asia (above India and below China). There’s about 27 million people living there, though a lot of Nepalese also work in other countries (in jobs such as labourers or domestic servants), since there’s not always the same economic opportunities in Nepal. The population is mostly Hindu (as opposed to Bangladesh, which is mostly Muslim) with a lot of influence from Buddhism as well (the two have intermingled over many years), which can lead to different cultural norms from Bangladesh (for instance regarding what you can eat – not cows, but yes pigs, what you can drink – alcohol is legal and available, what to wear, which holidays to celebrate, etc.) and probably lots of other stuff I haven’t considered. Mount Everest is in Nepal, as are 7 of the other highest 10 peaks in the whole world! Kathmandu is the capital city, with about a million inhabitants. They actually get winter there, for instance in Kathmandu it is currently about 16 degrees during the day (seems pretty reasonable) but drops to about 4 degrees at night. Now I know my Canadian peeps are like “uh that’s fall, definitely not winter”, but the difference is that most houses have no heat or insulation, so it’s a lot harder to stay warm, or to warm up once you’re cold. Nepal is also currently experiencing a fuel shortage, which I’m told can lead to long lines at the gas pump (making transport more difficult), increased food costs, and frequent power outages. Although there are some challenges I’m going to have to face, I’m also really excited to see a new place, learn about a new culture, and finally be able to socialize!
Oh, I remember Nepal. There was an earthquake there right? OMG, you’re going to die!
In April 2015, there was a large 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal. Many people were killed or injured, and many people lost their homes or livelihoods. Since the tremors last for weeks, people were scared to go in buildings for fear of another quake. I’m sure it was extremely traumatic to everyone involved. Survivors of the quake who lost their houses are in a tricky spot right now. The world is trying, but since it’s getting colder in Nepal, efforts must be fast to ensure that people are in houses where they can survive the cold temperature (instead of just huts made out of metal sheets or plastic). I don’t like to make decisions based on fear, if everyone did that, well we would all be agoraphobic and stay in our houses all the time. We would never go to concerts for fear of people in the crowd, we would never cross a bridge for fear of it collapsing, and we would never go explore the rain-forest for fear of a snake bite. Fear is an important emotion, but you really have to live your life. It’s important to take appropriate precautions when facing fears, but they can be overcome. Is it possible there will be another earthquake? Yes, just like it’s totally possible in California also, but I’m not afraid to go to LA. Plus, I think that people of Nepal are more in need of NGOs and other support than ever before, and hopefully I can do my part to help one of those NGOs with their activities.
So, where will you live? What will you work on?
That is an excellent question (which is my go-to response when I have no idea what the answer is). Likely we will all like in Kathmandu (the capital). It’s the easiest for us to get there, to find lodging, to have access to different services, and a lot of organizations have a home base there. Right now, Humber is looking for a large house where we can all live, but this might be difficult since there’s up to 7 of us (some people wanted to go home, but they might not get paid if they do, so the number of people coming isn’t finalized yet). For this reason we might end up living separately, but are hoping to get a place that’s already set up with kitchen stuff, furniture, internet, etc. so we don’t have to spend weeks doing that stuff. We’re not sure yet if you flights home will be changed, but at most we’ll be there for a bit less than 3 months (earliest possible arrival – December 28th, latest possible departure – March 25th). Our next goal is to find everyone a job. Some people will be able to work remotely for their current organization in the same position, but it really depends on the job. Personally, I will have to find a new job with a new NGO, and I’m hoping that I (with the help of Humber) will be able to find something that reflects my interests and skills (and ideally uses my background in product design in some way). I will do my best to keep you all informed as soon as I know!
Um, when do you leave?
I’m not sure yet! Flights haven’t been booked. Fortunately (unfortunately), I will be in Thailand for 2 of the remaining 3 weeks before I leave. I get back from Bangkok on December 27th, and have to leave Dhaka by December 31st, so my flight will be sometime in there. I’m super excited for this trip… a chance to explore, relax on the beach, and of course, see my fabulous boyfriend for the first time in 3 months. Fortunately, it also means Steve can bring me the warm clothes I’ll need for Nepal. Unfortunately, it means I only have about a week to 1. finish wrapping up all my work here, 2. empty my apartment, and 3. figure out a new life in Nepal – yikes! Thankfully we have a fabulous team at Humber trying to solve issue 3, Sharna will be a huge help in dealing with number 2 furniture and such (since she’ll be here while I’m away), and number 1…. well I really do have to do that this week. Guess I should get back to work! 😉
P.S. I have a few blogs that I started about my time in Bangladesh, so those will continue for the next while. Likely there will be a mix of blogs about only Nepal, only Bangladesh, or a conversation about my experience in both together. I’ll try to articulate which country I’m talking about in each blog, so I hope you don’t get too confused! 🙂