In July I made the journey of a lifetime. I decided that I wanted to do a medical volunteering project in Nepal for three weeks. Now this was a big decision considering at the time I was only 16 (I’m still only 17 lol). I’ve grown insanely lucky because I have had the opportunity to travel a lot growing up, however this would be the first time by myself and my first time going to Asia. I wasn’t afraid when I decided to do it because I considered myself a “seasoned” traveler. However I soon realized that was not the case. I remember standing in the airport before security with my dad and thinking,”why am I doing this? I am NOT prepared. I can’t do this. What if I get a horrible disease? what if I get kidnapped? what if I die? Guess it’s too late to back out now.” I have never been more alert on a flight. I sat up in my seat wide awake for all of the 13 hours of the flight, I just couldn’t relax. My layover in China was amazing! I mean it was just an airport and I was only there for three hours, but the fact that I was standing in Asia blew my mind. The first thing I did was call my grandmother and tell her how I couldn’t believe that I was actually in China. I was on the verge of tears because even my mind couldn’t comprehend how amazing it was. It also could have been the exhaustion I felt.
When my second flight landed and I met up with the group, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My first impressions were how chaotic the streets were. The whole system seemed a free for all. I mean seriously, nobody stopped for pedestrians and no matter how hard I looked I couldn’t see a street sign or traffic light. I marveled at families of 5 piled onto a Vespa dodging giant trucks left and right. The women were able to perch themselves on the side and stay perfectly balanced without even holding on! I also noticed how many stay dogs there were. They were nice and very cute but that made it sadder to see them in the street. I remember holding on to the sea in front of my for dear life. I’ve never been on a more bumpy road before. I’m pretty sure my head hit the roof at least 5 times. I was lucky enough to have the best roommate ever! However with myself being American we had a language barrier even though we both spoke english! The photo above is the view from our hotel balcony. I knew immediately I was gonna love Nepal.
An American, a Dane, a Norwegian, a Pole, and an Australian walk into a Nepalese hospital… Sounds like the start of bad joke doesn’t it? Well none of us were laughing at that time. We went to visit a children’s hospital in Kathmandu and for the first time since arriving in Nepal I felt sad. It didn’t so much look like a hospital as it did a block of old apartments. In the hallways you could only walk singe file and if you were taller than 5’7″ then you had to duck down. Every room was poorly lit and experienced power cuts often. They packed so many people into one room and there is no curtains, no private rooms, no room meal service and absolutely no privacy. The rooms are packed because the families stay at the bedside of the patient because there is only one nurse for 50 patients and without the families the patients become neglected. The medical equipment seems outdated and not state of the art at all. The main surgeon we talked to said his salary is NRS 34000 a year which equals roughly USD 340, which is what I make in two weeks at my part time minimum wage jobs at McDonald’s. This really put into perspective the level of poverty that happens in Nepal. The doctor told us how cancer and lung damage are common because people buy cigarettes to cover up their hunger and cigarettes are cheaper than food. Many people die because of diseases that could have been cured if they had a simple test. However awareness and education on these sort of matters is lacking in Nepal. This whole experience made me feel blessed to have been raised in a well off place because no matter how much I think my life could be better, I’ve met people who have it way worse. Now I know that sounds like something parents say to get kids eat their vegetables, but it’s the horrible truth of this world. However These people are some of the nicest and happiest I’ve ever met. Everyone is eager to talk to you and interact with you, even if they don’t speak English. Shoutout to the little girl who followed me around the museum in countryside in Chitwan and now is the owner of my scrunchie bracelet!
Overall Nepal was a life changing experience and completely changed my outlook on life. If you are thinking of doing something like this all I can say is go for it! Just do it even if it scares because it will be the best decision you’ll ever make!
2 thoughts on “Experiencing Nepal as a Teenager, and How it Changed My Life”
Awesome kiddo. Keep on keeping on.
That’s the stuff, Ali! Just like you are doing it! Love. Glad.