-I finally moved into my very own apartment, with two bedrooms (come visit, people!), a giant kitchen, and a private balcony. Life is good not sharing the bathroom. But sometimes, you know, I’m still afraid of the dark, and being alone in an apartment can be scary, so I spend quite a bit of time at the AirBnb.
- Lunch at the office is dal bhaat or chow chow (Nepali ramen), or variations on the theme. If I eat dinner with friends it’s dal bhaat again, otherwise I throw together eggs and veggies in a lame semblance of stir fry. Most of my cooking skills revolve around an oven, a crock pot, and a microwave, but none of those are available. So I struggle.
-Well, technically I have a microwave, but I’m pretty sure it’s permanently stuck on half power because it takes 10 minutes to pop a bag of popcorn, so it’s basically useless.
-Seasonal produce is awesome: when I arrived it was mangoes and finger bananas, then guava and watermelon, and now oranges, peanuts, and carrots. Buying bags of roasted peanuts on the street brings me immense joy.
-I had to buy a pair of office-appropriate closed-toed shoes the other week. I was looking for a riding boot, but of course stores in Nepal don’t carry women’s shoes above a size 40 (8, for you Americans), so I ended up with men’s boots. They make me look far more hipster than I am, but my feet are warm so I’m not complaining.
-My commute to the office involves a 20 to 45- minute bicycle ride depending on traffic. A bicycle is the most efficient way to get around Kathmandu—cars are too big, and motorcycles are restricted by the availability of petrol. I have a Giant Talon 4, and it’s by far the nicest bike I’ve ever owned.
I’d like to say I’m always cool as a cucumber on my bike, but that’s just not true. Sometimes I almost get run over by a microbus and start sobbing in the middle of rush hour traffic. Sometimes my glasses fog up and I have to pull down my face mask, and I get home with a sore throat and black snot coming out of my nose from the dust and exhaust. And sometimes, at night, I get chased by barking, growling street dogs, which is like a nightmare when you know you can’t outrun the monster. But other times, I am faster than the other vehicles around me and feel powerful and free.
-Some street dogs are nice. There are two super cute puppies who live in the alley near my apartment. But because it’s irresponsible for me to adopt a dog when I’m leaving in July, I have to ignore them every time they follow me. Rips my heart out.
-These days I spend most of my time in a down coat. It gets down to about 40 F at night and is usually colder indoors, which is balmy by Chicago standards but chilly without central heating. The down coat goes on when I wake up in the morning and comes off right before bed, and I eat dinner wrapped in my sleeping bag.
-I watched my first Bollywood movie. Bollywood movies are in Hindi, which I do not speak…but I caught some words (and asked a friend to translate) enough to follow along. It was three hours long, though, so quite the time commitment.
-My group of American girlfriends are, like me, twenty-somethings on fellowship from the US. We are strong, independent women who came to Nepal because we believed in broadening our perspectives before going into the workforce. We are training to become authors, doctors, scientists, journalists, and diplomats. We cycle to work in Kathmandu traffic. We aren’t phased by aggressive stray dogs, nor do we blink an eye at ants, roaches, mice, or bedbugs. We eat street food, get sick, take ourselves to the clinic, and get better.
Walking to the movie theatre with these fine ladies, striding confidently around piles of garbage and giant potholes on a completely dark street in the middle of Kathmandu, I was struck by how much we’ve learned and done in the past few months. We are made of steel. I am proud to call these women my friends.
Meet Jessie Moravek
I am a 2018 Fulbright Scholar at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. Studying for an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation. Click here to learn more about me!