Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pausing for Reflection (and Missing Home)

We’re hanging out in Kathmandu for the next few days, and today we’re taking it slow, being lazy in cafes.  Reading books, researching our upcoming destinations, returning emails, doing laundry.  We’ve been away from home for almost three months now and I’ll admit- I’m feeling homesick today.  I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything- we feel so lucky and grateful to have the opportunity to see and do so much!  Yet, I did expect to miss home while being away for this long.  There are things I have been missing most:

- Clean laundry.  Our washer and dryer and clear, colorless water coming out of the faucet.  Clothes that smell like Tide detergent.

- Smoke-free bars and restaurants.  We really took these for granted back home.

- The warm yellow walls and sun-splashed hardwood floors of our condo.  Our cushy hand-me-down couch on a lazy Sunday morning, a big cup of French-press coffee in the hand-painted mug.   The treetop view out of the bay windows in our bedroom.

- Tory Row, this little bar in Harvard Square.  They serve the most delicious apricot-cheese spread with slices of hot toasty French bread and a little dish of spicy-sweet pickled cherry peppers.  Sitting near the window watching the world pass by on the sidewalk outside.

- Fresh produce.  Salads.  Strawberries and peaches and crunchy yellow peppers.  Goat cheese.  Greek yogurt.  All things uncooked and unpasteurized that we haven’t been able to eat while traveling.

- Our families.  Laughing over dinner with our friends.

- Consistent electricity.  Consistent hot water.  Clean floors. Clean feet.

- Silence.  No crowing roosters at sunrise, no barking dogs at night.  Walking down the street without someone desperately trying to sell me something.

Taking it slow today allows me the time to think about home, and to miss it.  The time also allows me to reflect on what we’re seeing.  Nepal is a very poor country, probably the poorest one that either of us has ever been to.  I’m reading “Three Cups of Tea” right now, and after hiking through the tiny mountain villages in western Nepal, I can easily imagine the not-so-far-from-here Pakistani mountain village that the book is about.  Many children here in Nepal have lives similar to the children in Pakistan, no roads, no bridges, no schools, unstable government.  Even in Kathmandu, if you ignore the isolated enclave of internet cafes in Thamel, sprung up out of the wealth of international tourist money, the rest of the city is easily hundreds of years behind our standard of life in America.  It’s sobering.  I feel guilty.  And lost.  I should be doing something to help, something to make a difference in the world.  But what?  How best to have a positive impact?

It’s precisely for moments like this, realizations like this, that I wanted to do this.  To see how the rest of the world lives.  To understand.  To learn.  To feel thankful.  To figure out how to give back.

1 comment:

  1. Kate,

    What an adventure you and Mohit are having! I tend to read a bunch of your posts at once to stave off my inevitable wanderlust.

    I am compelled to respond to this post because I struggle with the same questions, especially when traveling through developing countries. While I’m an avid supporter of Habitat and their mission to provide affordable housing to those in need, I’m also learning more about how to get involved in education-based efforts in developing countries, and trying to find more information about micro-loan programs in developing countries.

    Once you finish "Three Cups of Tea,” I recommend you follow that up with Greg Mortenson's next book, "Stones into Schools." His two books helped me learn about the importance of educating children, especially educating girls in developing countries. I'm about to follow that up with "Half the Sky" (more about empowering and educating women). I'd also recommend Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save," which focuses on extreme poverty and how much affluent countries (and their affluent citizens) should give to fight poverty. Though completely idealistic, Singer makes a compelling case of how the world's affluent can eradicate global poverty.

    Can’t wait to see where this journey takes you next…