365 days ago, I touched down in Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport with a plan to spend the next two(ish) years in Nepal, having bought my first one way ticket ever. Today, after one year of life here, I can truly say it was the right decision to come. I’m so glad to be here for this season, and have learned much. So, by way of reflection, here are two Top Ten lists – the Good and The Bad. (We’ll leave the Ugly for perhaps another day. ;-)
For both of these lists, let me emphasize the word “things.” I can’t begin to express the challenge of being far away from family and friends — dearly loved ones who have been so gracious in giving me the freedom to be here, when I know how deeply this “missing” is felt on both sides of the world.
THINGS I’VE MISSED: TOP TEN
- Anonymity. Even after a year here, I still get stares and pointed questions-in-English from bands of marauding school children. It never seems to get old. (For them.)
- Road trips in my wonderful little Subaru hatchback, Starbucks mug in hand. This is (by far) the longest time I’ve gone without driving since first learning at age 16.
- The freedom to step outside and go for a run (…or a swim… or a bicycle ride). I’m finally getting back into a regular exercise routine, which necessitates going for jogs at 5:30 am. While that’s strange enough in this culture, it would be outright unthinkable for a girl to go running through the streets in broad daylight without a good reason — like being chased by a water buffalo.
- A few (surprise) foods:
- Salad. I was never one to order a salad on the menu, but, given it’s relative scarcity, THAT’s certainly changed.
- Seafood. Yup, hard to come by in a mountainous, landlocked country.
- Good cheese. And for that matter, wine – of any quality. The latter is verboden, so to speak, while the former comes in only one semi-tasteless varietal: Yak.
- Autumn. We do have seasonal change here. But it essentially varies between two extremes: “Muddy” and “Dusty.” And there’s nothing like my favorite season, with the smell and color of leaves changing!
- Spoken English. Everywhere. Several months ago, when a group of off-the-beaten-trail twenty-somethings from the UK wandered into our emergency room with a case of Delhi-belly, it was strangely unsettling to actually DO MEDICINE in English.
- Thoughtlessly placing an Amazon order. (Enough said.)
- Reliable telephone service. And internet. (And, while we’re on the topic…Being in the same time zone as everyone back home!)
- Church in a familiar language and cultural context, with regular communion around the Lord’s Table. Boy, do I miss that.
- Finally, and perhaps not surprisingly… ICE CREAM!!! This deserves a category of its own. But not to worry, I’ll do my best to make up for lost time this October… =)
THINGS I’VE LOVED: TOP TEN
- I’ve finally learned a new language! And one with an exotic alphabet of characters, to boot! This was a life-goal, bucket-list, previously-thought-to-be-impossible sort of thing. Definitely a HUGE answer to prayer.
- Getting to know and develop some great relationships with Nepali friends. We’ve spent hours sharing life together, seeing the world through different lenses and learning from one another in a way that unites hearts across chasms of culture.
- Constantly learning (and learning to teach) new things in medicine — especially tropical medicine/ infectious diseases — alongside some of the best physicians I’ve ever been privileged to call colleagues. With this practice setting has also come a much greater emphasis on physical exam skills, and needing to really think about a test before I order it.
- Wide-open time in my schedule for resting and chilling out. It’s allowed a lot of time for reading books (32 to date, and counting…)
- The Back-to-Basics lifestyle — like eating vegetables and fruits according to season, making my own yogurt and farmer’s cheese, shopping in an open-air bazaar style marketplace where you get your lightbulbs at the electric shop, your sugar and flour at the dry-goods dealer next door, and your shampoo at a beauty-products stall down the road. (Totally 1960’s, pre-SuperMegaMarketMart!)
- Podcasts. I’ve totally gotten into them, embracing NPR (and all things American) in a way that’s probably pretty typical for ex-pats living abroad. The arrival of a new episode of “This American Life” in my podcast line-up is one of the week’s highlights. (Seriously.)
- Learning to see life with a global perspective, and to understand better what it means to live across cultures. It’s been both healthy and unsettling, this attempt at adapting to ways very different from my heart’s natural inclination and comfort zone. But sometimes it’s good to feel slightly off-balance.
- Writing. What began during my year at Georgetown as an Arts-in-Medicine fellow – namely, developing a self-identity as a “writer” – has found ample room to grow and flourish this year. The accountability of regular blogging has really helped, by the way!
- Growth. While one rarely sees it, least of all in oneself, the uncomfortable changes can still be felt, like muscles after a hard workout. It’s good to remember that enduring the day-to-day struggles that I know are shaping me — as they are each of you — are working slowly but relentlessly for our lasting beauty.
- The intensive, Body-of-Christ community that exists among people with a shared vision who live and work together in close quarters. Supportive, loving, present, THERE. How thankful I am for my friends and neighbors here in Tansen! Having tested God’s faithfulness in this call to follow Him here, this has been one of many ways I have indeed encountered Him anew. It has made all the difference.