Happy New Year Everyone

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I was woken up this New Years Eve at 5 a.m. by my friend telling me it was raining. It was a dreary cold wet winters morning that would be completely normal in the UK, but in Nepal (outside of rainy season), not so.  The weather made me feel nostalgic for Manchester.

We had spent the night before roasting peanuts on the fire and looking up at the stars. I had been in a reflective mood, aware that my time in Nepal would soon be coming to an end, and there would not be many nights like this left.

In the morning I boiled some water for a wash on the stove and braved undressing in the freezing room grateful for a bucket wash with hot water. Afterwards I put on as many clothes as physically possible, while still allowing movement in my arms and legs.

The storm had knocked out the electricity; this time of year there is frequently 10 hours per day scheduled load shedding anyway  but this meant that there may not be any electricity for days on end. (I am writing this being aware of the precious battery time left on my computer).

I think about life in the UK, the marvel of constant electricity,  central heating, and warm water. They are luxuries that are surprisingly easy to live without, but still with only three months left here I find myself getting increasingly excited about being able to indulge in them.

New year is a frequent time for looking back at the past and considering the future. I have to admit that I don’t usually bother with New Years resolutions, but this year seems different; changes are ahead.

On 1st April we will be returning back to the UK after 27 months living in Nepal. I have mixed feelings of sadness at leaving behind a country and people that have had such a big impact on me and my life as well as excitement to be returning to the UK; seeing old friends and family, being in a culture that I didn’t quite realise how much I was part of until I left it, and yes indulging in food and home comforts that I have been without here. But when I leave, I hope to take with me the many things I have learnt from Nepal.  This leads me to my resolutions:

Continue to make space for my own time  

In Dailekh I have been living in a small community, where people are always walking in and out of each others homes, and where being ‘eklai’ (alone) is considered the biggest tragedy ever. While being part of a close community has been really lovely, I have learnt that to stay sane, it is also important to recognise when you need your own space too. Having time to read a book, watch a film, do some knitting, and to reflect on some of the crazy experiences has really helped with my wellbeing. I hope I will continue to find this time in the UK too.

Maintain a good work life balance

In Nepal one of the biggest frustrations for me has been the disorganisation. Plans are often made at the last minute. It is not uncommon to find out that you have to attend a meeting 24 hours travel away with just two days notice.  Any attempt to plan in advance usually ends in cancellation. While in the UK  a calendar seems like a perfectly sound idea, here where the Thulo Manche (most important person) comes first rather than the first to book in, a scheduled calendar seems redundant. Living amongst people who have lived with this all their lives, the disorganisation seems to bother me more than anyone else. Changing plans is the norm here not the exception.

Although I am so excited about the idea of having some organisation, I hope that the fast style super organised pace of work in the UK won’t consume me. Recently I spoke to a friend who has returned home from Nepal. She discussed the high speed living in the UK and how mental it all seems in comparison to Nepal. I hope that in the madness I will be able to maintain a healthy work life balance.

Continue to be involved in advocating for women’s equality

Living in Nepal has really opened my eyes to gender inequality. Through my work at WEAF I have met some truly inspiring women who against the odds have fought and continue to fight for women’s rights. Through my work at the hospital I have understood how important it is to tackle deeply engrained social norms that are at the root of gender inequality before health improvements can be made. Gender inequality is a global issue; women are disproportionately represented in positions of power worldwide. Through WEAF and VSO I have been involved in the campaign to increase the number of women in positions of power. I look forward to continuing to be involved in similar work in the future.

Continue to speak Nepali

Learning Nepali seemed like such a challenge when I first arrived here. Now with the majority of my friends in Dailekh only speaking Nepali, I use it on a daily basis. As one of my volunteer friends who visited me here pointed out, there will come a time when I will forget my Nepali, and I will not be able to stay in touch with the amazing friends I have met. I am determined to continue to practice Nepali.  Although the promise of weekly Skypes that my friends here have asked me to make may not be realistic, I want to be able to find some way of continuing to use Nepali.

Bike more

The mountain bike I bought in Kathmandu last Christmas was among my best buys here. While the cries of ‘Kathmandu cycle’ and ‘Americano Americano’ are not so great, getting out and seeing the amazing mountain views, sunrises and sea of clouds in the valley has been priceless.

I have really enjoyed living without a car for two years; relying on public transport, my bike, and walking everywhere. The pace of life is slower here and walking for 5 hours to reach a community is just the norm. Whereas I recognise that my work in the UK requires me to have a car, I also hope that when I go home I will continue to bike more.

Where possible shop locally

Living in rural Nepal, the last two years  has made shopping locally a necessity rather than a choice. However, the advantages of going local wherever possible are beneficial to everyone’s wellbeing, as well as the environment.  This  is something I would like to continue to do more when back in the UK.

Fresh vegetables taste so much better. I didn’t realise how amazing carrots could taste till I came here. I have really enjoyed eating vegetables in season. This has made me really appreciate the changing seasons and feel closer to nature (However without the amazing mango and orange season’s of Dailekh, I am not sure it will have the same appeal).

Although the options of buying local material and having a made to measure outfit for less than a tenner may not be available at home, I would like to think that I will be more aware of where my clothes come from.

I realise that having this as a resolution is contradictory in many ways to enjoying the ‘luxury items’ that I have gone without for two years. I realise that the pressures of work stress in the western world, and abundant opportunities and options available to us make this style of living challenging.

The key to saving the environment doesn’t lie with the individual; making small changes will not save the world. Big corporate changes are needed.  But on a personal level, I think there is a lot to be said for wellbeing and happiness from going local. I am not saying that this is 100% achievable, but I would like at the very least to be more aware of this and make changes, where possible. I will leave it to next years resolutions after being back in the western world for a while to assess how successful this approach will be.

As a volunteer many people are interested in knowing what skills you have shared with the developing world. For me I have found that the skills that I have gained from Nepal are just as fundamental. Nepal has taught me many things; these are just a few of many experiences I would like to act upon after returning home.

Happy New Year Everyone.


Position: VSO Volunteer/Public Health Nurse



Terrific article

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