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Returning to Nepal, in San Diego.

April 4, 2009


Obviously its been over a year since I have written on this blog. Much has happened; the anguishing return from Nepal and long readjustment to life in San Diego. Several quarters of wonderful, stressful school, the finishing of my honors thesis on (you guessed it) Nepal…and now I feel I have come full circle in a way, and its time to start writing again. I have recently begun working with a Bhutanese Refugee family through the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Although they are considered refugees from Bhutan they lived for the last 17 years in a refugee camp in Nepal and were booted from Bhutan because they were considered “ethnically Nepali” by an anxious Bhutanese government. I cannot stress how wonderful it has been to be a part of their lives even in these few short weeks Ive known them.

When I lived in Nepal it was the Nepali people who made my life so rich and wondrous. It was Nepalis who showed me their beautiful, complicated country and allowed me the space to fall in love with it. The help and inspiration I received from so many Nepali people continues to shape me life and I feel that working with this family in some small way enables me to reciprocate…and to create a better America by helping this family find a place within it. Although my position is at its most basic that of an English tutor, tutoring is a very small part of my interactions with this family. Although the IRC and the Alliance for African Assistance provide them with some ESL classes and financial literacy classes, they have very little resources at their disposal and have been essentially confined to their house and immediate neighborhood blocks for the past six months.  I want to help them gain the skills and confidence to make the most of living in the United States and San Diego. For anyone unused to the American bureaucracy and the difficulty of public transportation in Southern California, it can be overwhelming…but there are so many beautiful parks and beaches and wonderful libraries here that I think this family would love.

The family: a funny and energetic grandmother, Jitendra the father, Tulasha the mom and their four daughters (18yr old in highschool, next is in 7th grade, one in kindergarten and a tiny baby). They live in an apartment in City Heights..about a twenty minute drive south into the city from where I live. After our first introductory visit, I met with them again last Sunday and Jitendra and the three oldest girls and I went on an adventure fo Balboa Park. They were feeling soo cooped up and everyone got incredibly excited at the mere possibility of an outing I didnt have the heart to tell them to wait another week. We settled on Balboa Park since it was too cold for the beach. Everyone was very quiet on the drive over, peering out the windows at the new sights. As we got closer to the park we entered the rather posh 6th Avenue and I could tell this was the nicest place in San Diego they had been to. We drove as far into the park as possible, as Jitendra’s legs are very crippled from mosquito -borne illnesses and it hurts him to walk.  As we drove under the Museum of Man and through the center of the park the littlest girl chattered away in Nepali…but I could tell just from her tone of voice that she was thrilled to bits. Both the older daughters kept asking who’d built the park and if people lived there. Once we finally parked we were able to hear the large outdoor Organ being played, I had some trouble explaining it as I am not exactly sure how a concert organ works to begin with 🙂  We then strolled the promenade and watched the crowds and headed for the botanical building. The large koi ponds were a source of intrigue but the botanical gardens were very familiar with Jitendra proudly telling me he had seen most of the plants before…except the carnivorous ones, which fascinated everyone. Change thrown into fountains as well as fountains themselves were another discussion point, with all of us deciding to bring coins next time so we could make wishes.

Balboa Park Beautiful architecture at the Park

I felt so proud to live in San Diego, to have this beautiful public space available to show my Bhutanese family. I sent out a letter to my friends and family asking for donations for their house: clothes, fabric (Tulasha used to be a tailor), children’s toys and a sewing machine and I have been overwhelmed at the positive response I have gotten from people I know. I feel very blessed to be in a position to help and allow others the opportunity to help. Once we returned to their apartment, Tulasha and Aama sat me down and gave me a tasty bowl of noodles and some dud chiyya!!! The chiyya tasted like Nepal…I breathed it in deeply. Even the chairs, although Im sure they were bought here, started to feel like the chairs in my Aama Radikha’s kitchen in Kathmandu. Maybe its the feeling of a close family that I associate with Nepal and I now have found with my city heights family. Perhaps it is the feeling of openness, of willingness to exchange experiences, desires and skills to create bonds and future that I lived through in Nepal and am now creating here in San Diego. Whatever it is, I feel that my time with this family somehow completes the months that I spent living in Nepal. I believe in cross cultural exchange but I believe even more strongly that this exchange can actually create a new cultural mindset, taking parts of two worlds and crafting global citizenship.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    April 5, 2009 4:39 am

    Oh my goodness! I’m so glad this blog has been resurrected! Sarah, I’m reminded so often what a gifted, compassionate, and incredible woman you are. I’m so happy to know you.

  2. Willow permalink
    April 6, 2009 2:21 am

    So glad you’re writing again. How perfect that you would find Nepal at home in San Diego. I completely agree about finding intercultural experience right at home, especially in a place as diverse as California. That family is lucky to have someone like you in their lives! I look forward to hearing more about the work you do with them!

  3. Michael permalink
    April 26, 2009 2:28 am

    You’re so awesome. You do things that are actually significant/valuable. I salute you.

  4. Ara Cho permalink
    November 8, 2009 7:15 am

    I stumbled across your blog from facebook surfing and your amazing stories helped me feel happy again and resurrect hope and a sense of purpose back into my life. Thank you! 🙂

  5. Himal permalink
    December 24, 2009 5:28 pm

    Being a Nepali guy residing in USA, it feels nice to see your affection and attachment to Nepal.

  6. June 27, 2011 5:56 am

    Good stuff on here, is there a feed?

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