Finally some photos…

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Uploading just one photo in Nepal was a painful process that usually ended in failure due to routine power outages. Now that I’m back in the land of high speed internet all my photos are up! You can go to the Photos tab above or click here to look through the albums. Happy browsing!

Nepal: A Peaceful Last Stop in Pokhara

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Nepali boy sleeping in Durbar Square in Kathmandu.

During the last month my posts have slowed and I’ve gotten many questions about where I am and what I’m doing. So, for those
of you wondering, I’ve been living in Pokhara, Nepal.

Nepal represents an eclectic mixture of ethnic, religious, and political tendencies. It’s landlocked by Tibet and India, both of which heavily influence Nepali culture. The country’s spiritual basis blends Hindu, Buddhist, animist and shamanic practices. And although Nepali people are renowned for their peaceful nature, a decade-long Maoist insurgency just ended in 2006. Even today, political disputes and confusion plague the nation but most locals in Pokhara ignore it.

Nepali people are so genuine and outgoing that it’s hard to walk down the street without making a new friend. I’m constantly surprised by their hospitality considering how difficult life is for them. Nepal is the poorest country in South Asia with a GDP per capita of US$470.  In 2008 the UN ranked Nepal 145th out of 153 countries on its Human Development Index. Government power cuts can last up to 10 hours a day which severely hinders growth. And the gender disparities are the worst I’ve seen – for example, the literacy rate is only 26% for females but 62% for males. Continue reading

Indonesia: Boys will be boys, but where are all the girls?

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I recently volunteered as an English teacher with a program called 4th World Love for a week in Sembalun, Indonesia. Sembalun is a remote village on the island of Lombok. To give you an idea of the poverty here, I lived with the wealthiest family and still used a squat toilet and didn’t have a shower.

This post was difficult for me to write. I left the village with conflicting memories. On one hand, the hospitality of the locals was unexpected and exactly what I needed during a period of homesickness. Many of my students made an effort to show me their beautiful country and way of life – and this is something I will never forget. Yet, my time here was tainted by my personal experience as a woman in the village. And while it
gave me insight into the lives and struggles women face in Indonesia, I’m sad to say I felt uncomfortable the majority of my stay and I left unimpressed with the education program provided by 4th World Love’s Cultural Development Center (CDC).

I was raised to approach every situation with a positive outlook and to search for beauty in the most trying situations. You’ll notice in my photos I’m smiling and happy, and I was! I had an eye-opening (although challenging) experience, and I’m so grateful my journey brought me to the people of Sembalun. However, due to the nature of my blog I won’t be discussing the amazing people I met and the fun things I did. Instead, I’ll focus on my experience as a female here and explain my dissatisfaction with the organization. So here’s how it starts… Continue reading

Indonesia: Seeking Balance in Bali

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Before I left the States my best friend’s mom, Carmen, and I talked about balance. She told me the key to being happy is to lead a balanced life. You have to balance your family, friends, love interests, work, pleasure, and personal growth. Since then, balance has become a personal mantra and daily focus.

When I planned my trip to Bali I was unaware that Balinese culture thrives on the concept of balance. They believe in Tri Hita Karana, the philosophy that one achieves happiness through three harmonious relationships: human interaction with the divine, other humans, and the environment. Because of this, Bali is a haven for balance seekers. And, really, what better way to practice it than yoga? In Ubud, it’s hard to walk down the street without seeing a yoga studio. I signed up for classes at the Yoga Barn, and I’ve gone every day.

One morning I decided to venture from the traditional classes. I chose Jungle Yoga. I was a bit apprehensive at the name, but if not in Bali, then where? I, of course, am late to class. Already sweating, I grab a mat. I plop in the back of the room and scurry into meditation pose.

Now, in a typical yoga class the mats are situated so everyone has an equal amount of practice space. The room is balanced. And, ideally, you should be able to see the instructor from wherever you sit. In this class, I know the instructor is male because of his voice but I only see blond curls. A wall of middle-aged women (which I will call the Divorce Field of Desperation, DFD for short) blocks the rest of him.

I had read that single women were flocking to Ubud after reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. Apparently, most are recently divorced and hoping to find a Brazilian love interest (Who can blame them when Javier Bardem is playing the part?). Continue reading

Cambodia: Photos of Angkor, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh

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I’ve been in Bangkok, Thailand for 36 hours. As my best friend Colin says, “It’s kind of funny when Thailand becomes your benchmark for modernity and you’ve grown up outside New York City.” But for the first time in 7 weeks I have hot water, air conditioning, and a washer and dryer. There are cars, highways, and skyscrapers. And I would be lying if I said my time in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia depleted my American, consumer-driven ways.

Today I wandered around Siam Square’s luxurious malls. I went into Jimmy Choo’s and held a pair of shoes that cost more than my budget for the last 2 months. I think it was obvious because the girl at the counter looked me up and down with snooty disapproval. I guess my grungy sweats weren’t up to par? But I shrugged it off, found an equally snooty French cafe and ate my weight in birthday cake. Then, I went back to my hostel, got in the shower, turned the knob to scalding lava hot, and stood there for 30 minutes until my skin was bright red. (To all you eco-conscious folk: Trust me, I’ve conserved enough water by not showering in the last 2 months to merit a frivolous 30 minute shower. And, it’s my birthday, so deal.) Continue reading