I left Nepal at 10 pm Tuesday August 12th and arrived in Syracuse, NY, my hometown, the evening of the 13th (Kathmandu is 9 hours and 45 minutes ahead of EST). I met an eleven-year old girl named Pensang Sherpa in the Kathmandu airport who changed her seats to sit next to me on the flights to Hong Kong and JFK. It was her first time leaving the country; she was traveling to New York City to live with her older sister. Her parents work in Colorado and she hasn’t seen them since she was a small child. She was leaving behind her other sister and grandmother who raised her in Kathmandu. I think we were both glad to have each other for company and as a nexus. I could speak to her in Nepali and she could ask me what New York was like. Pensang was both scared and excited. She was most excited to go to Disney Land. I was humbled by the little girls bravery and I tried my best to qualm her fears. I told her how frightened I was the first time I traveled to Nepal; I had never been so far from my home before and I didn’t know what to expect. I continued to tell her that my time in Nepal turned out to be one of the most wonderful experiences in my life and I now consider it my home away from home. I assured her that her new home in New York would produce the similar experiences and feelings.
I flew from Kathmandu to Hong Kong to JFK to Syracuse with the total in-flight time approximately 22 hours. I slept only thirteen hours my first night in my own bed and refused to let jetlag get the best of me— I’ve slept for eight hours every night since.
My whole family was surprised by my lack of culture shock. When I first returned home in December many things caught me off guard. This time I’ve been able to better appreciate and accept the differences of the two countries. However, the following are things I’ve noticed since returning to the United States.
1. We have extremely organized traffic. The fact we have traffic signs, lights and dividers that dictate when and where we stop, go, slow down, etc. truly amaze me. Nepal traffic, specifically Kathmandu Valley traffic, is a disaster yet everyone goes at such a slow speed that accidents appear to be very rare. I was riding in a taxi with my friend and his mom visiting from the United States and she became extremely anxious over our taxi drivers daring tactics of finding space for movement in the oncoming lane and the number of times the game of “chicken” was too close for comfort. I told her that I realized early on that the best thing to do is to resort to faith.
2. In suburbia America, we rarely walk to our appointments or to the store. Now I try to walk. I enjoy the late summer weather by walking to my dentist appointment, the drugstore and out to dinner.
3. I have terrible table manners. In Nepal, all food is finger food. The traditional way of eating daal bhat (the staple Nepali dish of lentil soup and rice, normally eaten twice daily) is with the right hand. It is a compliment to the cook when you lick your fingers and make a smacking sound upon completion. At first, I found this moderately disgusting. After awhile, I found myself doing the same thing. I constantly have to remind myself that this sort of practice is not kosher in the US.
4. Upstate New York has beautiful sunsets.
5. We are extremely lucky to have safe drinking water right out of the faucet. And ice cubes. I love ice cubes.
6. We really like our desserts. In Nepal, sweets are uncommon. Biscuits (either a cookie or a cracker) are eaten during afternoon khajaa (snack) and milk tea with sugar is common for breakfast but other sweets are rarely consumed on a regular basis.