A many Namaste

I am a Staten Island sorority girl who just finished the best four years of my life, am still in awe at the profundity of the "tassle turn" and am looking forward to more adventure. For the next 8 months I will be teaching English in Nepal. For the next 8 months you will be there with me as I ride elephants, bungee jump, watch the sun rise and set on a Himalayan backdrop, teach, learn, feel homesick and become inspired. For the next 8 months you will witness my life become transformed forever. Hold on tight...with me, it's always a bumpy ride.
*Olivia is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Nepal from 2011-2012. Although what's written here is based upon true experiences, the content presented, in no way, reflects the viewpoints of the United States or Nepalese Fulbright Commissions.*
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Just wanted to give a quick HEY THERE to anyone wondering where I have been all of this time in between posts. My apologies for the time lapse. The combination of me being on vacation for a month and there being 14 hours of no electricity a day has really done a number on my blogging career. Although this isn’t actually a post it is something better. It is a promise of one to come soon. It is hope my friends…hope for laughter and cheer in the near future, not so neatly packaged and delivered by yours truly, O to the Drabczyk. See ya then :)

Today some women had the audacity to try and be taken seriously by me while wearing hello kitty socks with thong sandals. Despite my urge to throw up on her feet, I managed to maintain a straight face as she tried to act as if she was anything but a raging lunatic. Then again, maybe she wasn’t so crazy. I mean in terms of the sock thing, she sadly isn’t alone. In fact, I seem to be the minority here with my sockless sandaled feet. Although many have been eyeing me up and down everywhere I go, estimating in their minds just how long it will take for me to come down with a cold or a fever, I have not waivered in my belief that socks and sandals should never meet. I’d even go as far to say that if I can see your socks, then you are doing something terribly wrong. This goes for high heels and loafers too. I’m not sure where the Nepali people got the memo that somehow putting outrageously designed socks makes you all of sudden fashionable, but they were sadly mistaken. I felt like enlightening some woman on the bus today of her mistake; I felt like saying that her ugly on their own purple heels were not at all enhanced by her blue striped socks but that she actually looked like an elmira gulch/scary spice hybrid. I’m not sure if I have just adopted a high tolerance for the cold or if my body is pulling out all the stops for this special occasion where they want to avoid socks at all costs. I’ll admit that I’m being a bit overdramatic. I’ll also admit that I am so adamant about this point that I even take my socks off before I slip my sandals on to go the bathroom in the middle of the night. Now that could either be completely ridiculous (which wouldn’t be a surprise in my case) or it could be completely justified (which is my choice because I’m the one whose eyes have been seared off by endless tackiness and horror so I get the pity vote) Regardless of your opinion, I am the one who has been left to deal with the nightmares that have ensued and to deal with the constant desire to deliver my morning’s meal directly to the feet of nearly every women I see.

     In an effort to remain as unproductive as possible, I have thus added my sock grievances to my newest list. A list: Of topics that if I weren’t completely unmotivated, underqualified, or a waste of life, I would most definitely pursue as potential paper or book proposals.

1. “Socks, Sandals and Sorrow:The Psycho-social link between looking like a fool and actually being one.”

2. “Rocky Roads-The Utter Senselessness employed in engineering Nepal’s road system (A Lubhoo Case Study)”

3. “Teaching English, except not really: The illusion of teaching english without actually knowing any.”

4. “ Fat-bad. Skinny-bad. An auto-ethnographic study of the Nepali phenomenon of never being the right size.”

5. “Throwing stones from paper mache’ houses: A collection of criticisms offered to me by gremlins.”

6. “Oh you mean this is school?” My experience as the only teacher who figured teaching was a part of the job description.

7. “From Aqua to Zumba: An Enyclopedia of things that have somehow made their way to this twilight zone of a land.” (including my favorites: sketchers, bryan adams, and christian figurines)

8. “Diary of a Thick-skinned (in more ways than one) girl: Being called fat in every language”

9. “Nice Googs Miss: Lost in Translation and Loving It”

10. “Dying to be white: A study of the fair, lovely and mentally unstable.”

11. “Native Speaker Coming Through-All the things I got to do in Nepal because I’m white and speak english.”

12. “With a Selena Gomez face and Wrestler’s body- The Olivia Drabczyk Story: A Modern Minotaur”

13. “Shambu, Chaunkey, and other things I’d surely include in my suicide note.”

14. “Oh I didn’t know that was English: V1, V2, E.T.C., inverted commas, and other lies Nepali teachers made up.”

       Although I probably have enough ideas to sell the shit out of myself on Amazon’s kindle site or barnesandnoble.com, I figured that I’d leave it at this much for now. And even though I am fully aware that, although originally intended to chronicle my time in Nepal, I have done nothing but turned this blog into a ruthless roasting, I can assure you that it’s better this way. Take my word for it.

My didi has demon powers…hands down. This is some straight out of the crucible shit.

So it’s been over a month since my last entry (I almost said last confession there but then I realized that it’s been about 15 years since my last one of those). I think I have put off writing here for many reasons, the main one being that the majority of the things I would have written probably would have gotten me kicked not only out of this country but not even allowed back into my own. Yea, some of my thoughts haven’t been so pure in the past month. It’s not as if I haven’t been having an amazing time, nothing is more exciting than 12 hours a day of teaching in a place where nearly every teacher thinks they are just there to stumble in and out of their little canteen coffee club meetings. Pardon me,  that was a bit of the impurity shining through. Honestly, nothing can take away from the immense impact this experience is having on me. Getting to watch my students make significant progress, getting to see them light up after I hung up their personal art work, getting to go shopping and to the beauty parlor with my new little sister, getting to wake up each morning to a setting of beautiful mountains and endless green-nothing can taint that. Although many of my experiences and many of the people I have had the “privilege” of meeting have put up a pretty solid fight.  Although it isn’t the worst of them, the most pressing at the moment is the horrid haircut some untrained dimwit decided to bestow upon me. Granted this “do” set me back less than $1 in the scheme of things but I am pretty sure it could be setting my reputation back even further. Needless to say, I look like a two year old who decided to run around with the scissors and sit in the corner and cut her own hair. I am pretty much a walking advertisement for jagged edge right now, my bangs almost screaming the name. As if there weren’t enough things for the people here to criticize about me, this little parlor wench had to go and add a whole new item to the list. Just when people were starting to get used to the fact that “oh yea aarati is still just as fat as yesterday” now they get to say “ooo aarati. Ke bhayo? (what happened?) timro kapal naramro bhayo (your hair has become ugly)” Yet again the people of Nepal have caught me in the limbo between wanting to slap every one of them for their unwarranted crudeness and having to just simply agree because I do look a bit like shit. Although one would think that attention from Nepali men would bring me solace after the waves of criticism I have begun to buckle under, that one must not be privy to the psychopath men that have been attempting to bring me solace. And when I say bring me solace, I mean to say that they have desperately tried to obtain a visa to the US via my pants. I’m not sure if it was my zigzagged bangs or endless rolls of fat which gave them this wrong idea, but it is a slow process in convincing them that this route is not acceptable and that given their mental instability that they probably shouldn’t even have citizenship in their own country. With that being said, I would like to thank these gentlemen for helping to provide the following list. Another collection of things that seemingly would only happen to me or someone as unfortunate.

A list of things: that if said to you may indicate that you have the word VISA tattooed across your forehead or you’re incredibly good looking (HINT: I’m the former)

1.       A recent occurrence near to the entrance of Thamel (the most touristy location in the whole city-literally the land of fanny packs, around-the-neck passport holders, socks with sandals, and people almost screaming in English in the hopes that  treating locals like they are deaf will suddenly also make them bi-lingual)

Nepali man in cheesy carsalesmen attire, standing in front of his pashmina shop (one of many in Thamel): Hello Hello…how are you? Wow really beautiful. So perfect for marriage yes?  Please take my card. I don’t want to sell you anything….except my heart. Not everything is about money. Life is about love. When you remember that…remember me.

**Noted.  I want to thank this one man for not wanting to sell me anything; however, I’d like to also say to this clear romantic that selling hearts is probably against the law in most countries; even one like Nepal where there really aren’t any laws to speak of. **

2.       At my school’s anniversary program. After only three minutes of meeting:

Man about my age who was an alumni of the school and thought he was really clever: So after 7 months, do you think you could love someone here? Would you marry? Would you live here forever or bring him to America? What is love in your mind? I really want to know your opinion? I think you could love me. After knowing of course…and then marrying.

Me: Um…are you seriously asking me this? I’m not here to get married, just to teach. Sorry.

Whack-job: Oh I know that is your main purpose, but the other things that come are so beautiful yes? Really learning about the culture when you fall in love.

**Update: This man was given my number haphazardly by one of the teachers in my school and he proceeded to give me 15 “missed calls” each day beginning from 5:30am. When this didn’t seem to work for him, he would proceed to call me from different mobile numbers and even managed to find me on facebook. Much to my delight there was a message awaiting me which read “Could you love me? Because I already love you.” Cool, definitely not jumping the gun at all.**

3.       Also via facebook message…although this event I’ll admit had to do a little with my own silliness. i.e giving a clear gold digging manwhore my facebook id.

Teacher in my bahini’s school who is rumored to be dating a girl in class 8 (aka about 14years old) as well as a number of other little biddies: I miss you. I miss your face. You are too nice. I like you. Please call me. I want to see you.

**Please let it be noted that the missing of my face was occurring for this one poor soul after only seeing my face once and for about .45 seconds IF THAT close up. Basically, I have the urge to call serious bullshit on his claims.**

4.       The not so covert operation of one of the teacher’s in my school during the meal she invited me to her home to have:

The exact opposite of anything I’d want to ever consider an in-law: My son is a great cook. He loves to eat meat but he can also cook wonderful veg things. He loves animals…do you love animals? Oh you must meet him. Now he is at work-so hardworking he is. But he can’t get to America. Your country is so hard you know to go to…very hard for us Nepali people. But he wants to go very badly. You should marry and show him your country.

**This was my first time being proposed to by a woman and I’d have to admit that given the source, I was a bit perturbed and in no way inclined at all to accept.**

Although this list could more or less go on forever, I am beginning to develop hives because this writing process is forcing me to recall the nearly infinite instances in which I have been uncomfortable and more or less feeling slightly violated. This is no way should make you assume that I have not also had my fair share of happy and comfortable moments with the men of Nepal. This topic; however, is better fit for those private facebook threads and skype conversations in which a ton of giggling and aww’ing more or less always ensues. Since I have not written in so long and since I did sort of skimp out of on you with that last list, I will allow you a preview at the upcoming list…to be released soon.

A list of things: That I have begun to ask myself despite knowing that the answer can’t be anything good

1.       Would it actually make me fat if I had a secret stash of my favorite biscuits (Marie Vitae Gold-Holla) in my room and that quickly put them in my pockets when no one was looking?

2.       Isn’t it a little odd that I have been assigned to write and edit a letter of appreciation addressed to myself?

3.       Was it real life that I carried a bloody, seizing, and nearly lifeless man almost three blocks to the hospital because no one found it necessary (even the hospital workers) to help me?

4.       Am I being sent a message when I tell my family that I don’t want to eat meat or watch any festival animal sacrifices and yet am provided with the natural alarm clock of a bleating goat being killed directly outside my window?

5.       Would it be a bad idea for me to have a secret love affair with one of my students?

6.       Would it also be a bad idea (granted for different reasons) to punch my bhaaju in the face?

7.       Should I mostly likely not be having 5 cokes a day if my intention is to ultimately lose weight?

8.       Would you consider me somewhat of a shitty teacher for telling my education students that they will most likely be pretty horrible teachers?

9.       Was it rude of me to tell my family that their favorite and most prized festival was “boring” and that “we do stuff like this every day in America”?

10.   Does it make me a socio-path if I celebrate the death of every spider, bug, and mosquito with a small cackle, and if I smile to myself in the night when I hear a bug fall dead to the ground because of the repellant I’ve sprayed?

If it wasn’t clear already- I am in no way a mentally stable human being. Please stay tuned for the rest of this list…believe me it gets better. Don’t be scared off by my mental instability or because you’re so jealous of how many marriage proposals I’ve gotten. Just refer back to the multitude of fat/ugly comments I outlined in a previous post and feel better about not being on par with my wedding arrangements. For now I think this should serve as enough musings from little old white me, and should help to ease the pain you’ve been feeling from missing me and my grand humor so terribly. Have no fear…I have not forgotten the responsibility I have to make myself seem as undeserving of a Fulbright as you can get.  In 6 months, you are going to be begging the US government to send me a bill and demanding they make adjustments to the selection process. Just wait a little while please…I just booked a trip to Thailand for a Human Trafficking Conference and am looking forward to visiting Sri Lanka in December. After that…have a field day. J

                Yesterday I fell, a lot. Like when I say that I fell-I mean that I was literally pulling a whole tree out of a mountainside in a desperate attempt not to go crashing to my death. Needless to say- I ruined my pants. Besides having to pee myself from fear, I also managed to slip into the mud at every inopportune moment and thus successfully stained a large portion of the clothes I was wearing. Not to mention that I was barefoot. Yup, I had no shoes on while climbing a mountain. In Wales I climbed a mountain in a peasant skirt. In Nepal I climbed a mountain barefoot. Clearly, I have no future in mountaineering; and possibly no future in general normalcy. The hike began well. I took to the road heading towards Lamatur with my bahini, new Nepali friend and Elizabeth (another Fulbrighter) We talked and laughed on our way towards the temple we had planned to visit. Elizabeth and I were pretty much as sacrilegious as you can get as we performed a puja (worship) to the gods of the temple. We were taking pictures of our “submersion in the culture” (very artsy) and I may or may not have been scolded because I was putting a tika on my forehead with my middle finger. I laughed at the monkey god and almost burned the flowers surrounding Shiva. No wonder I fell down the subsequent mountain we decided to climb-they were pissed. And/or I was an idiot and decided to moisturize my feet right before climbing a mountain in CVS sandals. Yea, that is probably the more accurate reasoning. All I know is that I couldn’t stand for longer than a minute and it seemed more appropriate to slide down the mountain like an incredibly uncoordinated surfer than actually stand like a normal human. I was hoping someone would have gotten everything on video, because Nivea would have some serious material for their next advertising campaign. Aka me screaming “NIVEA, WHY ARE YOU SO EFFECTIVE?” as I made my own absurd and inevitably grotesque version of a landslide. On second thought-perhaps it’s best no one did video that. I mean- I am fat and all, and the camera adds ten pounds.

      I am going to digress for a bit, more so because I’m over the mountain story. It doesn’t really have much more substance to add. Basically I fell a lot. Screamed about Nivea’s effectiveness and may have also screamed out to the gods I had just disgraced in their place of rest and worship for help (although I could have been screaming out to the goddess of learning for help in climbing a mountain which is obviously irrational) Anyway-that happened and my bahini and new Nepali friend said that this trek will be remembered by them forever. Heh, at least I made ‘em laugh I guess. Alls well that ends well. Okay- so now that that’s done, let’s talk about the subsequent explanation for why I kept falling on the mountain. If given the time, this may be repeated in an upcoming UPDATE blog to be titled “You called me fat AGAIN..I Google translated it,” so excuse my redundancy in advance. While we were eating our morning rice, my bhaaju thought it was a good time to point out, through broken Nepali/English and incredibly descriptive hand and body gestures, that I most likely fell down a lot because I was a “molti manche” or “fat person” and thus couldn’t hold myself up properly. Yea..even now it’s really difficult for me to hold myself up so as not to apply too much pressure to my bed and bring it crushing to the floor under my ton of fat toxins. This comment was followed up by my Nepali Aunt offering that I probably didn’t like to wear jeans because there was no way they made them in a size big enough for me. In this moment I was happy for the ability to have sarcasm get lost into translation because I am sure she would have been pissed had she known I had bitterly replied “yea..no didi, they have my size. One day someone had this earth shattering idea to make gargantuan pants fit for a beast.” I think it is safe to say that I was relieved to be able to get out of the critics’ arena and go out to an American style birthday dinner with the 5 other Fulbright English Teachers. If you are wondering why I had to emphasis the fact that it was American style, it is not because I enjoy being pretentious and thus added that to denote an expensive meal. Get real- I have more class than that; I use a frog lamp when the lights go out-get with it. No, I actually added it because there are a good deal of differences between the way Nepali people celebrate a birthday and the way we are used to celebrating in America. Of course there are differences- as I added in my previous post, the only real similarity that LUCKILY exists for me is that everyone knows the word “fat” in English. In terms of birthdays, the main difference is applied to who cuts the bill. Like most people, I am used to being treated on my birthday; not having to pay, getting gifts, having a cake bought for me. In Nepal, it is the person whose birthday it is who has the responsibility of providing the food, the goodies, and the cake on their day of birth. A birthday dinner means the birthday girl or guy will be taking care of the entire bill. In my case this meant that my family found it appropriate to select a cake in town for 1000Rupees, which is basically embarrassingly expensive in Nepal (but works out to be about 15USD) and then informed me that “oh wait…you have to pay. It’s our culture.” And sadly, it is. This would be have been a funnier post if they were just duping me and it wasn’t the culture at all-then I would just be an idiot and no one would be surprised. Now I am just pissed. I don’t even like black forest cake but I am about to devour every piece of this 3lb creation they found necessary to purchase. Except, I have a feeling from their small hints that I probably won’t even get to eat any either. Mostly my role is just in the cutting and distributing, but no one said anything about actually having me eat it-let alone TASTE it. I am unsure if this has a correlation between the fact that I probably won’t be able to eat it or that they are just afraid to get into the topic of eating, because they can’t resist calling me fat then and they know I have started to grow testy every time they bring that up. Either way- I’m bitter.  Now I am glad that I lied to them the other day and told them I was fasting when in reality I had decided to go to pizza hut and eat an entire stuffed crust pie alone. Oh yeah…I was alone when I ate that. No yeah…I have definitely hit rock bottom. Luckily I still have that jeans joke under my belt-golden. Oh yeah…I also told some guy that I would tell Obama he said hi, after he decided it was appropriate to say “I love America. Obama country. Obama is good. Not like Bush. Bush is a monkey. Obama is a black man but I like his policy.” I’m so funny sometimes. And yeah…he really said that.  And I also really said “Malaai khallo lognemanche manparchha, khallo lognemanche ekdam ramro chha” today to my bhaaju and didi (who had just gotten through telling me how Elizabeth was more beautiful than me because she was whiter), which roughly means “I like black men, black men are really good looking.” Something tells me that our government did not intend that to be one of things to fall under the auspices of cultural exchanges when they gave me this grant. Then again, I am relatively certain that they also had no intention of sending a crazed person like me anywhere to represent the American dream, vision, or way of life. Basically right now, if Facebook didn’t change every 5 seconds and we still had those old school updates mine would be “Olivia Drabczyk is riding this free trip wave for as long as possible and hoping no one finds out that she is under qualified, sacrilegious, absolutely crazy, more or less politically incorrect at all times, teaching 50 something year old Nepali school teachers to use “GET IT GIRL” in their daily speech, desperately attempting to spread love of the BBC to this side of the world, basically always shitting on the country’s biggest festivals and telling her host family she is going to sleep through them, and probably slowly killing everyone in the near vicinity with the amount of bug repellant she sprays on a daily basis without any intention of stopping.”  Or something like that…:) Check back soon to see if I get deported.

-Peace, Liv, and Lomkhutte (mosquitos)

       A month before I left for Nepal, I got the chance to head to Washington, DC for a wonderful week of warnings.  One such warning, given to us by the USEF-Nepal Director, sticks out in my mind. She said that we should be ready to hear “how fat” used often during our time in Nepal. She added that it was not a statement to be taken for malice, but one that was just a matter of stating how good someone looked; in what good health someone was perceived to be. Clarifying this, she summed it up by saying that the Nepali people will not hesitate to comment on how thin you’ve gotten and will do virtually anything to ensure that when you leave their home, you do so with a greater girth and rotundness.

      This warning would have served as a real help for my time here if, oh yeah had it been true at all. What I have since come to realize, nearly three months after I ingested (pun only intended if this means you’ll think I’m funny) these words of wisdom and experience, is that this warning was a load of shit. What does seem to be resoundingly and unarguably true is that I am large; I am fat. Much of this discovery cannot be attributed to my own insightfulness I should admit; however, but to the keen sense of awareness and eye for the truth each Nepali citizen seemingly possesses. Since there have just been too many instances in which this discovery has been highlighted, publicized, and reiterated I will resort to outlining all (that I can remember) in one of my handy lists. Please note that although this blog title is indeed clever and hilarious, it is actually a bit of a stretch of the truth. I wanted to be honest and let you all know that I didn’t really have to google translate any of these. Even though many of the people in Nepal that I have come in contact with have no ability in speaking English, each and every person has an uncanny grasp of the meaning and multiple usages of the word “fat.” Lucky me…luck be a cruel skinny bitch lady tonight.

Listology Nepal Edition #2: All the reasons I’ve been given to hold off on a second helping

1.       During an informal and all around uncomfortable yoga instruction session with the shining light of a person that contributed the recommendation to thread my hairy face that appeared in the previous post:

Me- “Lately, my feet have been falling asleep really easily. Do you have any idea why this might be?”

 Shining Star Man- “Your weight. Yes. You’re fat. We all have toxins in our body. Fat is a toxin too. You have a lot, but you’re attractive. Your eyes have power. But yeah…you’re also fat.”

2.       After meeting my village homestay family, I was introduced mostly to the entirety of the village. Sitting on the floor of a traditional Nepali home, we got into a discussion on my habits in America.

My bahini (Nepali little sister)- “ Do you know what exercise is?”

Me- “Yes. In America I love to swim, and do yoga. Before I came here I even ran a race with my mom.”

My bahini- “Oh..it isn’t working.”

3.       On my first day at school exams were being taken so I got a chance to acquaint myself with the LKG (lower kindergarten) or Nursery class. Their teacher appeared harmless upon first inspection; however, this soon followed:

Apparently horribly cruel and black souled teacher: “Class, Miss is from America. Everyone say Good Morning Miss.”

Class of absolutely adorable three and four year olds” “Good Morning Miss”

Me: “Good Morning”

A.H.C.B.S.T: “Now class. Who is fatter? Me or Miss?”

Class of absolutely adorable three and four year olds: silence and confusion.

One brave student with unkempt hair: “She is Miss” (pointing to another teacher’s aid in the room.)

A.H.C.B.S.T: “Oh…I was thinking they would say you. Thank you. You can go now.”

*Note: I’d like to emphasis that I was not the only victim here. Not only was I invited into this classroom for the sole purpose of boosting the teacher’s confidence about her sloppy self, but in the crossfire an innocent passerby was injured. That poor uninvolved teacher… she wasn’t even a part of the question and somehow she walked away the fat one.*

4.       This being exam week, I was asked to watch over a class as they took their tests. I entered the room with my co-teacher. Noticing that there was only one chair in the front of the room, he continued to insist that I sit down. Thinking this was just his way of being polite, I continued to decline his offer in a rather majestic and poised way (if I do say so myself). After about 20 minutes, another teacher entered from the exam committee to check up on our class. And scene….

A real sweetheart:  “Arati (my new nepali name) Miss, please sit down.”

Me: “ No No, it is fine. I can see the students better if I stand. But thank you.”

A real sweetheart: “You are not tired from standing?”

Me: “No, I am fine. I don’t really like to sit too much.”

A real sweetheart: (uncontrollable laughter and through fits of bursting out laughing) “I am really surprised about this. You are too huge and I think that it must be so hard for you to stand up. Your feet must hold up much fat no?”

Me: “Um yea…don’t worry, I won’t fall over. My feet are feeling extra strong today.”

5.       Given the amount of oil and carbs that I found myself having almost three times a day, every day, I decided that it’d be helpful to choose one day for fasting. Upon arrival to school on this chosen day, I was asked by a fellow teacher why I wasn’t eating. When I explained that today was my day for fasting…I received this reaction:

Same sweetheart from the previous: “You are fasting? Not eating anything?”

Me: “Yes. Every Tuesday I eat only fruit.”

Same sweetheart: (uncontrollable laughter…he does that a lot. I may punch him soon –stay tuned) “You want me to really believe that? If you fast one day…I fast five days!”

Me: “Is this a competition? A bet? I don’t get what you mean. Are you going to fast also?”

Sweetheart AKA asshole: “Not. But look at my face. You are too big and fat. You want me to think someone as huge as you can not eat for one day? If you do not eat, then someone thin like me means I never eat.”

Me: (an internal revelation) Oh….I get what you mean. You’re a tool bag. Awesome. Roger that…over and out.

6.       After returning home from a day full of fat comments at school, I decided to ask my Bro (old enough to be my father, but insists I call him Bro because he says it’s cool) about the culture in Nepal of commenting on someone’s appearance so frequently. The resulting conversation has landed itself in the position of my favorite fat comment thus far. Do not let it fool you that it is appearing last…I have pulled a Vanessa Williams and saved the best for last.

Me: “ All people in Nepal like to talk about fat and thin so much. Everyone thinks it is okay to tell me that I am fat almost every day. Why is this?”

Bro: “Oh…haha…this is culture. Just talking. It is not meaning a bad thing, just a true thing.”

*Clarification for those who are lost in translation. True thing=Me being fat.*

I have no doubt that if given the chance to rack my brain and memory that I would be able to recall nearly 10 times this amount of instances of degradation and humiliation. If given the time, I would go on and on with this hilarious list of almost too ridiculous to believe comments that have truthfully been posed towards me. The audacity of some of the main talking points I have become the center of continues to amaze and stun me. When I think they can’t get worse, cleverer or almost dehumanizing, I am reminded to never make assumptions or sell others short. The damage the Nepali people are capable of doing to my psyche’ is absolutely remarkable. If there was a biggest critic version of “Little Champs” (an Indian reality talent show featuring young child singers that is all the rage in Nepal) then some of the people I get the privilege of talking to everyday would surely give others a run for their money. That being said, I just want to unsure all of my thousands of readers that I am in no way actually damaged mentally. Further damaged than I already was of course. Although many of these comments and the others that have come through have truly tested my mental state, I have found myself coming out the victor in the situation. In other words…don’t feel sorry for me. This entry was meant to get to laughing about the absurdity that always, without fail, finds its way into my life experiences. The “only me chronicles” continue to expand. Sweet.

   P.S. Although I make every effort to truthfully remain candid when writing these entries, I know it is often nearly impossible not to add a little flare to my writing to ensure that my readers are satisfied. Although the sentiment behind stretching the truth a bit is not a bad one…it is often hurtful to feel deceived. It is because of this that I have decided to post a small entry from my journal. The following except hasn’t been tainted or revised, and was written shortly following my first day or so in my new village home. Enjoy the real me if you dare:

Naturally every word I try to say in Nepali is met with laughter but the family is excited to have me here and has done everything they seemingly can to prepare for my arrival. They even bought me a toothbrush. I didn’t have the heart to say that it would have really made me happy to have had a new shower…one free of tarantulas and cockroaches. Yea..it’s that bad. I think I may try that supposedly exfoliating mud bath technique..because even rolling around in the mud beats having to actually attempt to become cleaner in a place of rotting dirt and horrific creatures. If I hadn’t been squatting and constricting my stomach..I would have vomited all over the marching band of beetles buzzing past my head. Cool. I love falling ill with chronic nausea. If you are wondering why I had to write this on my computer (I am currently speaking to the near/far future me) then just remember when you were completely thorough and had no pen or pencil at all to use. Of course there is no internet. That was to be expected.

Since this entry, I have thus purchased an ungodly amount of bug repellent for my room and bathroom. It has served rather well as a deterrent and while before I wasn’t sure whether I had entered the bathroom to vomit or pee, now I am just wondering whether or not I really had to pee THAT badly. Nevertheless it’s an improvement.  I must wake up in 3 hours…insomnia still hasn’t improved. Drats.

   -Optimistically, yet still chronically cynically yours….

Socks are too bad birthday gift. If I wanted socks for my birthday, I would have been born in the winter.

P, in response to someone with the audacity to suggest that her sister buy her a pair of socks for her 9th birthday (tomorrow)

*Disclaimer:  I, in no way, fabricated or exxagerated or any of the other -ated’s this quote. This is just some more pure P gold. No one could make this up..not even me.*

A list of the things I have been given in Nepal

                    (A work in progress)

1.       A ride from the airport; but not before having been given quite a hefty amount of evidence to hold up what would have been a pretty solid physical assault case (if we were in America) against nearly every man in the airport parking lot who thought I was cool with being violated and manhandled.

2.       A fun inner personal reminder that…Yea, no I am totally not cool with being manhandled-noted.

3.       General health, personal safety, security, and earthquake preparedness briefings that I hope beyond all hopes will serve me no greater purpose than for an occasional absentminded chuckle.

4.       An endless amount of chyyea (Nepali Tea)- both black and with milk.

5.       My own room with a magnificent view of the mountains.

6.       Delicious almond cookies on the daily.

7.       A rather specific and in no way remorseful recommendation to get my face threaded.

8.       A decreased lung capacity- a direct correlation with the simple fact that “fresh air” appears nowhere on this list.

9.       An obviously greater amount of dahl baht than the “ali kati” I suggested.

10.   A tika blessed by Saraswoti, the God of learning.

11.   The middle finger, although I am relatively certain that this is generally considered a big “F you” on this side of the world as well.

12.   A rather forced, but nonetheless meaningful appreciation for a cold shower in the morning; serving the dual purpose of waking one up, and temporarily stopping one’s heart to ensure proper functioning and to promote resilience.

13.   Two identical Birthday cards from a pair of adorable Grade 3 girls at 5:45 in the morning on the day of my birthday (if we had been in some alternate universe where my birthday wasn’t a month and a half away)ßapply the “thought that counts” mentality here.

14.   Unerring patience and an infinite number of opportunities to completely butcher the otherwise beautiful Nepali language during language lessons.

15.   Hours of dedication, unpaid I should add, from the children in my host family who have served as additional language tutors at night.

16.   A rather dilapidated but always appreciated stationary fan for when the heat keeps me awake at night.

17.   A free cell phone and my very own Nepali mobile number, although my very own number could possibly have also been and/or very well might actually still be a said “Kenneth’s” number as well.

18.   A precise date and time for reference if ever answering the question of “When did you most want to gouge your own eyes out?” ßRefer to blog entry entitled “A dance with the devil…” for clarity.

19.   A handmade winter hat in my favorite color.

20.   A handmade crocheted half-glove-esque hand decoration, complete with bow.

21.   Two in-home pedicures- free of verbal judgment (although my feet were overly qualified for and deserving of it).

22.   Enough verbal abuse concerned with the “fat toxins” taking over my body, the zits all over my hairy face, and the flab on my neck resembling that of a rooster’s  to make up for the aforementioned tactfulness…and then some.

23.   Bizarr-o Instruction on the Nepali version of Sun Salutation-“Surya Namaskar”  

24.   A roll of toilet paper because I definitely need it more than they do.

25.   Chiso pani whenever I need it and tato pani when my throat was closing up from the pollution, and yea, I couldn’t breathe.

26.   A heart attack..daily. Refer to #24’s reference to my inability to breathe (NBD) to better understand what may be provoking such attacks.

27.   A hand crafted anklet from the Boudha Stupa that I wear daily, and with pride.

28.   Approximately 1000+ reasons NOT to keep the nails on one hand longer the other, all of which more or less have EVERYTHING to do with the fact that I am perfectly content with not becoming a bitter gremlin beast.

29.   Food that didn’t agree with me somewhere along the way, thus resulting in the expulsion of all of my bodily fluids, organs, and other essential components through what has been cleverly referred to as “wak wak laagyo” in Nepali.

30.   A reason to scream for 5 minutes straight when I opened my eyes in the middle of the night and saw my baje staring back at me in the pitch black through my window screen. ßstay tuned for an entry featuring “The list of things I HAVEN’T been given in Nepal” on which “any type of explanation for why a nearly 80 year old man was standing outside my window in the middle of the night, watching me sleep” will be making a cameo.

31.   100 or so mosquito bites to date.

32.   An amazing dance performance by my two bahinis…featuring Beyonce’s “Halo”, Katy Perry’s “Firework” and of course “Livya…blast THAT PARTY ROCK ANTHEM

33.   A small night table mirror to serve as a daily reminder that nearly every part of me is pretty much as jhuto as you can get.

34.   Six invitations so far to share in the festivities and traditions of Dasai, Nepali’s biggest and most important festival, with six different families.

35.   Countless recognition for the divinity within me-having to do more with the fact that “Namaste” is THE greeting of the Nepali people than it does with any true existence of divinity within my fat-toxic body.

36.   A few too many wildly hilarious little reminders of why I love going to the movies so much… all of which were named after previous Hogwarts’ Headmasters.

37.   About 37 dirty looks, daily, as I attempt to fit my American giantess self into a space on the bus not even big enough for one of my $5 CVS men’s flip flops.

38.   About 49 more dirty looks, daily, as I try my best not to completely squish the life out of every person I push past in my haphazard attempt to exit the bus.

39.   An amazing group of caring people I can now call family.

40.   A tremendous group of fellow ETA’s to witness my slow demise and more importantly, to learn from and consider a new group of great friends.

41.   More than 1000 reasons to miss home and about 1001 more to make me proud to say that this is my new one.

42.   Electricity and Internet access, for the time being, ensuring that you haven’t seen the last of these lists.

43.   Enough bags under my eyes to open my own little satchel shop in Thamel and to remind me that I should probably give my pointless and almost pitiful attempts at being clever a rest…at least for now.

   The overly critical and heartless side of me (and/or more so like three/fourths of me) has the urge to ramble on and on about some of the caricatures of real human beings I have already met here in Nepal. To be frank, I could engage in an endless rampage about one such caricature whose “soul is like a smoker’s lung-black and rotten.”  And when I added quotes just there I meant that I originally said that. It was hilarious at the time and I wanted to ensure my joke to be considered with the importance it deserves. Okay, I’m kidding-but not really. However, when I say that I could speak endlessly about this one rotten souled individual, I am truly not kidding. And had I written this entry just three hours earlier you all very well may have been reading through that harsh critique instead of just beginning to read about the experience that trumped it.

   Today was more or less just like all of the past few days. We started the day with morning Nepali classes that have thus been notorious for severely disillusioning me and tricking me into thinking that I may actually have some type of functional fluency in this language. Jokes on me-I have the vocabulary of a 2 year old who has only been exposed to notebooks, pens, and other miscellaneous items with convenient Nepali names that are nearly identical to their English counterpart. After class we ate a quick lunch, and then piled into the USEF van to meet up with our respective counterpart teachers in Patan. Our orientation there was as “interesting” as ever; however, as I’ve already noted, this isn’t that type of entry so I’ll only say that. After discussing curriculums, textbooks, and teaching techniques, we were led through the muddy side streets of Lalitpur to the N.E.L.T.A (Nepal English Language Teacher’s Association) Headquarters- Lalitpur chapter. The headquarters looked like a typical Nepali city home, and when we entered we immediately took off our shoes as usual. Barefoot, we made our way into a room full of unfamiliar faces arranged in a semicircle around a table. These faces met us with smiles and a round of applause.  I became embarrassed and felt incredibly undeserving of such a warm welcome. Why were we being applauded? What have I done here beyond butchering every name I am given and beyond fitting endless criticism into every day’s itinerary? Unsuspecting of how little I’ve done for the betterment of their country, yet somehow still confident that the other ETA’s and I were here for a great purpose-the crowd cheered on. This crowd was made up of members of the NELTA Lalitpur chapter, our school headmasters, and a few members of the host families we will be staying with for the next seven months. The warmth they offered to us, a group of complete strangers, for the hour that followed was refreshing and truly an honor to receive. Now, more than ever, I am ecstatic over the thought of beginning my time in Lubhu village as an English Teacher. My host family is completing repair work on their (and I guess now our) home and are offering me the entire ground floor as my own. I will be sharing the house with a baa (father) amaa (mother) and their son, daughter-in-law, and one year old granddaughter (the one year old may or may not be smuggled back to the US with me in April-it’s still up in the air) It’s rumored that I will be offered the beauty of open plains and lush fields, and now I can’t help but think about how lucky in life I am. How lucky am I to be welcomed into a home and without even having to prove myself worthy it, receiving love? How lucky I am to have hopped onto a bus heading for home after the meeting and to have subsequently met and talked with an endearing English teacher of 17 years who offered his email address, advice, and a genuine offer of help whenever it was needed? Life is truly remarkable. And this is no more evident than in the home I have been staying for these past (nearly) 3 weeks. Having been brought together by the illness of a senior family member, the entirety of my host family (including all aunts, uncles, cousins, cousin sisters, brother uncles, etc..etc..etc) have all been staying in my house for the past few days. Today, my arrival home was met with a cold glass of apple juice from grandpa who offered it to me as something he was giving to “mero natini” (my granddaughter) he said. And then for two hours I sat cross-legged on the living room floor with a very pregnant aunt, a compassionate uncle with an impressive career in filmmaking, a quiet uncle whose sole vice in cigarette smoking does little to overshadow the tremendous strides he has made in his social activism work, a typical teenage cousin brother with outstanding cooking talents and a knack for teaching me Nepali past tense, a tender mother openly overflowing with pride and unerring love for her family,  two little sisters who never cease to amaze me with their warm hearts and tremendous intelligence, and a witty baje (grandfather) who despite loss, hardship, separation,  and evolving societal norms, continues to serve as the solid base his family and their treasured traditions can seek refuge on. A stack of old photo albums passed the time quickly as I was given a view into this family’s exclusive and precious world. We laughed together over pictures from the filmmaking uncle’s short career in Nepali performance wrestling. No one could believe how big P had gotten and no one could help from laughing at the pictures of her looking a bit more like a little boy than a little girl at her 4th birthday party. Passing over a picture of a beautiful woman they had known as aamaa and grandmother, I was told of her outrageously hilarious humor and exquisite heart. I felt myself missing this person I had never met and felt certain that the overwhelming love for her had ensured that heart disease hadn’t truly taken her and that in fact she would never truly ever be gone at all. Despite grandpa’s genuine efforts to help me understand Nepali, I had a hard time keeping up with the conversation and appreciated the opportunity to just witness life in front of me. Although grandpa spoke loudly enough to me for everyone within a 5km radius to hear and although he dedicated a minute for each syllable he spoke I still couldn’t make out everything he offered to me as an official welcome into the family. I did catch; however, his few words on the pain he was feeling over having to see his brother hooked up to an endless amount of IV tubes and respiratory contraptions in a hospital bed. I did understand; however, his wish for me to accept my new family with a great level of love and to always feel at home when I was in Nepal with them. And again, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am in life. How did this happen to me? In this world there are millions of children who are neglected, abandoned and abused by their families-the very people in this world whose love is supposed to be inherent. How did I, in the midst of such horrific truths, become deserving of a family whose love for me is not only inherent but inspiring, of friends who do nothing but support me and accept me whole-heartedly despite my flaws, and of the unreserved love of now a second family who I have had to prove nothing to in order to receive an endless onslaught of tenderness and nurturing? No run on sentence (quite like the preceding shiny example) would suffice in describing the people in this world who have made an everlasting impact on my life. In some other life I must have done something outstanding to have been afforded the opportunities of this one.  I have no clue what this act could have been; however, I am certain that the benefits it has awarded me will never be forgotten. I will never forget how it feels to greet the sun each morning to the soundtrack of a rousing city preparing for its day. I will never forget the excitement of a little girl explaining the birthday chocolates we’ll get to enjoy together at breakfast in just a few days in celebration of her turning a whole year older. I will never forget the feeling of being tossed around like a rag doll on a Kathmandu bus, the feeling of a handmade blanket under bare feet, or the feeling of not being sure if I could ever possibly stop laughing. Above all, I will never forget the feeling of inner peace associated with the knowledge that there are people in this world that love you.  Somehow I got lucky enough to find that inner peace. Somehow I got the luxury of being able to just sit here and mull over it all on a silly blog; offering my readers a sloppy partnering of words which, due to their lack of competence, have immediately implemented limitations on what is a truly boundless stupor. There is a Buddhist song we spoke about and sang together in class today, which, roughly translated goes “In the flower’s eye, the whole world is a flower. In the eyes of a thorn, the world is full of thorns.” True to traditional Buddhist ideals this song simply tells us that our world is a direct reflection of ourselves.  Every part of me wants this to be true of my world. I want the world to reflect this happiness and this endless love surrounding me.  I want this world to reflect the feeling of genuine contentment in the certainty that life is being realized fully and in the certainty that nothing is certain but that with the unpredictable comes the ability to exceed even our wildest expectations.

   Perhaps a short piece about the bitter caricature of a human with a rotted soul would have made for better reading. You may even be sleepy now because of my long winded discussion. Worse yet, you may not have even been able to get through the whole thing and thus are not even reading this sentence right now. I can’t say that I blame you because I am not sure if I even truly got through the whole thing. After reading over this entry, I am not fully convinced that I got my point across. It is in this discovery that I think my point actually lies. No amount of anecdotes, song quotes, or simple words will be enough to build for you what should truly be an individual experience. I am lucky in life because in the process getting to achieve every goal I have ever set for myself, I have been exposed to the realization of dreams I never even knew I always had. But this is me. What would make you feel lucky in life is something I can’t tell you. It is something you need to know or simply just stumble upon yourself. Believe me, when the time comes to realize it comes you’ll know. You’ll look around at life in full swing surrounding you, your eyes will have a hard time fighting back moisture, you’ll shake your head from side to side as if trying to prove that what’s happening isn’t some etch a sketch illusion, and you’ll find yourself having to let out a little bit of a gasp or a giggle or a little bit of an anything as this realization consumes your body and stops your heart for a second. It’ll happen not only to you, but FOR you if you ask it to. When doing so and don’t forget to use the magic words, and don’t forget to stop being so afraid of everything. I have no doubt that if I had been a little scaredy cat, that P would never have invited me to her chocolate filled birthday celebration. She has no time for wussies; she told me so- “Livya, if someone gives me a bad thing for my birthday gift, they can’t come to my cake party. But if someone is a scared and does not want to dance with me and shake our butts, then I will get Pr. Sister didi because she is older and can make them leave. I’m going to be 9, you know? No scared cats at all would be too too nice. Birthday celebrations bring other happy feelings to the people no? But so many too too bad people who are never happy make me too mad. Would you want to be mad on your cake party? Yes..only happy people allowed. Only too nice friends who are ready to be happy with me.” Thinking about it again, I definitely didn’t get through everything I meant to say before. It seems that; however, I never needed to. P had said it all for me. In the end , just think of life as one big cake party and get yourself invited.

   It is past midnight, Kathmandu time, and I am still awake.  Although I have never been one to make sensible choices concerning my sleep, even I can admit that this is wild considering I need to be awake in less than six hours and ready to take on what is known as the “micro-bus” system. Speaking of the micro-bus, I think it is time I shed some light on the between the lines moments I haven’t shared with you yet, which, like most other horrifically humorous (in retrospect) events in my life, would ONLY happen to me.  My last few posts have shown how inspired I have become in my two short weeks in Nepal, and even though no words can express how truly grateful I am for this experience; there are a few words that can describe some of the less glamorous moments I have had the privilege to enjoy here already. The first word that comes to mind is mortified. A being which has been mortified is made obsolete and all of its strength and vitality is destroyed. I’ll confess that being squeezed into a public bus in the hot and humid afternoon with more people than I have ever seen IN TOTAL on public transportation in my life is not totally comfortable or my idea of a completely sanitary or desirable encounter. I’ll reveal that a little bit of each of my lungs slowly dies as I choose, each day, between breathing in the “mystical” smells of dozens of bunched up Nepali armpits and the polluted brown substance flying around otherwise known as Kathmandu’s dismal excuse for fresh air. Despite the hard evidence seemingly convincing otherwise, neither of these has succeeded in causing my being to become obsolete, yet. No- that honor lies solely in the possession of an unnamed Nepali woman who, henceforth, will be referred to as Satan. Yes I recognize this may be a harsh nickname for someone I have never met, but this creature cannot have been from this world or any world I would ever dream to inhabit. What started out like any anxiety inducing trip home after orientation quickly turned into my very own version of doomsday when I met Satan. It all happened so fast. I will never be the same again. Satan was dressed in red (fitting); a red sari decorated with a string of small jewels hugging the neckline of the under petticoat. Her hair was haphazardly wrapped in a red and green cloth, and she wore no shoes. Satan’s leathery skin and deep set wrinkles spoke to her hardships, and although I’d gather that she was actually much younger, a first glance at her would generate guesses of 60-65 for her age. Satan was walking with two others- a man and woman similarly dressed, also barefoot, and equally as leathery. Having just hopped off the bus and paid the bus boy my 15 rupee fare, I was trying my best to negotiate the busy intersection near Gopi Krishna movie hall when I happened to cross through this trio. Just as I passed by the group of grim travellers, Satan began hacking up phlegm and coughing uncontrollably. If this had been occurring anywhere else in the world I would have stopped or at least have slowed down to ensure the safety of said (satanic) being. Alas, this is Kathmandu, and unfortunately, hacking is a way of life. That being said, I kept walking. Not fast enough I’ll add. Before I got the chance to escape, I was afforded a front row seat to Satan hacking up more than she bargained for. Before my eyes, Satan hacked a luge and with it came one of her teeth, along with some extra blood for kicks. She wiped her chin of the blood, and looked down at the floor. I could see her tongue moving around in her mouth inspecting the merchandise and assessing damages. She stared down at the floor, found the tooth, pointed to it for her friends to see and smiled. A woman, before my eyes, spit out her tooth-ON TO THE GROUND IN FRONT OF ME. I was mortified. She was unphased. She is Satan. I am forever changed by this demon creature and have thus added “see a grown woman and/or man spit out a toothy luge” to the things I never want to see again in my life and to the list of things I am creating for all of you- “sights you should never wish upon yourself or any other creature you have even the remotest amount of compassion for to see in their life.”

  Of course looking back, this dance with Satan was wildly hilarious and altogether not too surprising as an event that would happen to me. And honestly, I really am having an amazing time in Nepal. I could go on and on about how I have been inspired by the local and national non-profit organizations here, their missions, and their leaders. I could tell you about orientation today and how I got the chance to meet with one of my counterpart teachers from the village, and how he is incredibly intelligent and eager to teach as well as learn from me in the next 8 months. I could talk about how I met with the president, vice president and focal point leaders of Nepal’s English Language Teacher’s Association (NELTA) and how they told me about opportunities to run teacher trainings, workshops, and present at international conferences. I could talk about how I have learned so much about the people, culture, school system, political history, and current socio-political state of Nepal in just a few short days and how my mind is utterly blown by the view of the world I have from this side of the globe. I could most definitely go on and on about how I am hyper aware of the fact that my life will never be the same again and that this it, this is the big stuff I have been revving up and waiting for, it’s here and there is no turning back. I could talk about all of this, and I guess in a way I just did, but I thought “The Day I met Satan” would serve as a much more amusing narrative for all of you-my MANY (insert standard O.J.D sarcasm here) tumblr fans. If not-whoops. At the very least, take the lessons you have learned here with grave seriousness and spread them to your friends. Third week in Nepal is about to begin…hold on to your teeth.