While most students from Green Mountain were at home, counting down the days to the start of the Spring Term, I found myself halfway around the world, in Nepal for an Anthropology class. The J-term (January Term) class was led by Anthropology Professor Mark Dailey and VP of Student Life, Joe Petrick. Eighteen students from GMC, along with Joe and Mark and Joe’s son from UConn and a Board of Trustees member boarded the plane to Nepal early on December 26th for 18 days exploring different parts of Nepal. The next two and a half weeks were filled with tours of temples, stupas (Temples are Hindu, Stupas are Buddhist), elephant rides through Chitwan National Forest and a seven day trek through the Annapurna Region of the Himilayas.
When we arrived in Kathmandu, jetlagged and experiencing culture shock, we went to Bhaktapur, an extremely old city outside Kathmandu. The city is filled with temples, shrines and cobblestone streets. On every corner you can find artisans crafting pots, weaving baskets and carving detailed trinkets. Being extremely noticeable as a 22 person group, street-sellers followed us, offering us wooden flutes and eccentric looking knives. After escaping the persistant sellers, we headed to Paashupati. Pashupati is one of the most sacred temples in the Hindu world. Right outside, along the Bhamati River, Hindu cremations take place. Unless you are under the age of 5, Hindu people are required to be cremated a few hours after passing away. When we arrived, cameras at the ready, there were mulitple cremations taking place. We ended up watching for a good solid hour. When the body is done burning, all the ashes are pushed into the river, because it’s regardes as one of the most sacred rivers in Nepal. To my surprise though, it’s littered with trash and holds the resemblance of the Ganges, with the amount of the trash but meaning.
After leaving Kathmandu and the smog, we headed down to Chitwan National Park where we spent 3 days exploring. We went on an elephant ride through the jungle and then a jeep safari, hoping to see tigers and rhinos. The only thing my group saw was wild hogs and tiger poop, which was almost as exciting as seeing the actual tiger. We spent New Years dancing on the beach in Nepal and meeting very interesting people from all over the world.
Once New Years was over, we boarded our trusty bus once more and headed northwest to Pokhara where we met our guides and porters that would come on our seven day trek with us. The people that carried our bags for us and led us through the foothills of the highest mountains of the world, were some of the best people I have ever met. They were so nice and helpful. We spent our days trekking 5 to 6 hours and then arriving at tea houses and hanging out for the rest of the day. We had class once or twice through our trek, but just by spending time with the porters and guides, I learned much of the language and about the culture. I learned Nepali folk songs, dances and stories. We ate Daal Bhat, which is the Nepalese traditional meal, containing rice and lentils. It is now one of my favorite meals. We hiked up hills of snow and ice, using all four extremities at times, and ran down slopes into valleys. Nights were filled with singing and dancing and laughing, both cultures united. When the morning came to say goodbye, our hearts were filled with love, compassion for these people are sadness to go. But we exchanged emails, and plans to come back.
At the end of our trek, we headed back to Kathmandu for a few days to hangout and explore the city. A few students went to homes to visit, to hospitals to do some research and to just explore the city. I headed down south again to visit people I had met on my first trip to Nepal and then went climbing outside of Kathmandu. Sitting on the plane, heading back to JFK, fighting a high fever, I reflected on the trip. I had been to Nepal once before but by myself. To go to a country as special and unique as Nepal for a class from Green Mountain was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. Green Mountain is a wonderful school because they offer trips like this every few years. Nepal was wonderful and I am so glad I took the class. I can’t wait to go back.