The 2019 UBC Sickle Cell team all arrived in Nepal (via a variety of routes) by the evening of May 5th, and our first full day in Kathmandu was jam-packed! Due to jet lag, we all got up at 4:30am and ran to the Swayambhunath Buddhist temple overlooking the city to see the sunrise. The stairs up to the temple were killer but the view and the experience were well worth it. At that hour, we were the only tourists around, and it was very interesting seeing the locals engaging in group prayer and giving offerings. We saw many locals spinning the prayer wheels and saying a mantra as they walked past them, a custom which was new to many of us. The prayer wheels are used to accumulate good karma and rid oneself of bad karma. We learned that the prayer wheels must be spun in a clockwise direction because the mantras on them are written in the direction of the movement of the sun across the sky. Amar unfortunately learned this too late, as he had spun the prayer wheels in the other direction the day prior, which led to a scolding by a local. Lisa conquered her fear of monkeys and birds that morning at the temple, as many were in attendance.
Later that day, we visited the head office of Creating Possibilities Nepal, one of our partner organizations. CP Nepal supports, educates and empowers at-risk and marginalized youth and women. During our visit, we had the chance to meet the youth who live at the office. We were moved by the loving family environment and how welcoming they were when we arrived. We spent the day getting to know more about our partner organization, as well as talking to the students. These Nepali children were all orphaned or abandoned, however with the help of CP Nepal, they are now able to receive quality education and guidance. Hearing about these children’s hardships and their strength, resilience and passion despite all they’ve endured was inspiring to us all.
We then got a tour around Kathmandu by one of the students at CP Nepal. We rode the local bus to the Kathmandu Dunbar Square, where all of the locals shop. The “bus” was actually a mini-van, which carried more people than any of us thought possible. We were definitely not used to having so little personal space, but it was an extremely interesting and amusing local transport experience. Our CP friend then took us to a tiny local restaurant (the doorways couldn’t have been any taller than 4 feet), and he ordered us typical Nepali dishes including choila with beaten rice, and Nepali pancake (called “baara”) with some local rice wine (“raksi”). We are extremely humbled and grateful to have received such an amazing welcome on our first day in Nepal, and are very excited to work with all of the amazing staff at CP Nepal.
– 2019 Nepal Sickle Cell Team