From the balcony of the small guest house, I watch cars and motorbikes edge along dusty streets. It’s not yet eight in the morning but hammering, drilling, shouting, birds, and drum beats compete for space in the heavy air. And spitting. Thick, jelly loogies shoot from mouths and nostrils, a seemingly common Nepali habit that even to this day makes my stomach churn.
A knock interrupts this cacophony of sound. The voice is heavy and rough, an early morning after a night of heavy drinking.
“This is Michelle,” I answer, emphasizing the “shh” sound.
“Pravat. Volunteer director. We go?” His words are both command and question. Though the man is short and portly, he walks quickly to the place I am to exchange money. The attendant forgets to give me three rupees, and Pravat stands by quietly as I point to the calculator on the counter. The exchanger sees I am relentless and reluctantly passes coins beneath the plexiglass partition. …
Aging seems to get a bad rap in some circles, but I’d like to think I’m becoming a stronger, wiser, more patient, more grounded, and overall more confident person.
Leading up to my birthday, my goal is to complete 35 acts of kindness. I will make them public in hopes of inspiring a few of my friends to look for ways to spread kindness and love in their own communities and friend circles.
I think we can all do our part to make neighborhoods around the world more accepting, more tolerant, and more loving. …
You think that if you change things outside, you’ll be okay. But nobody has ever truly become okay by changing things outside. -Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul
“Taxi! Taxi! You need taxi?”
As soon as I exit Tribhuvan International Airport, a swarm of men shout. Discombobulated and tired after two consecutive and very long flights, I gratefully spot my misspelled name on the other side of the dusty parking lot. The man holding the sign is half asleep.
I throw my hands into the air, hoping for rescue, and the man’s eyes flutter open. He helps heave my bags to his white minivan and without fanfare, we set off into the night. The dark road narrows into a one-lane alley punctured by potholes. I watch the faint outline of bricks piled on the side of the road zoom by, and candles cast shadows inside glassless, door-less storefronts. …
People in my home country, America, know of Nepal’s rubble. Following the 2015 earthquake, photos of toppled buildings and battered streets flooded newswires.
Visitors to Nepal often arrive unaware of the costs of daily living (a tourist balking over the price of a guesthouse tea — and the subsequent arguments that ensued — went viral in 2017). They are shocked when I tell them how much it costs to buy a house or car here.
Thousands of Nepalis — over 1,750 each day — leave the country to work, taking jobs in factories and sales departments and restaurants , hoping to save and send money to their families at home. …
I thought I knew what love was. I had been disappointed by it, enthralled by it, willing to risk and change and give my life for it.
I arrived in Nepal as a heartbroken twenty-nine year old. I was convinced love had slipped through my hands, that if I had behaved better or dressed better or spoke better, my heart wouldn’t have splintered and I could have salvaged whatever connection remained. I lost myself to that relationship. I lost myself to men before him and lost myself to men after him.
I was so, so wrong.
Love isn’t an all-consuming fire. It is a slow burn, a match that can be lit and lit again. …
5 considerations for those wanting to pack up and move — to a new country
I live in a community where, on a good day, I can understand 45% of what is being said. If I happen to see another white person, they look lost. “Michelle” confuses most people, so I’m known as “Misha” by the kids on the street.
My friends in the United States have formed two groups: those who think I’m a saint and send me really really really nice emails, and those who think I’m on an extended vacation and ask when I’m coming home. …
I first came to Nepal for Mount Everest. The mountains lured me, but after learning about the state of Nepal’s education system, I signed up to be a volunteer.
The government teacher at the school I found myself in told me with complete sincerity, “I want to be a security guard. In Qatar.”
“Where?” I asked.
The teacher-turned-security guard joke used to be common among the teachers I worked alongside in the South Bronx. With metal detectors sounding alarms and irate parents barging into classrooms, instructors often pointed out similarities between their educational facility and a jail block.
But this Nepali school was nothing like an inner city detention center. Sure, books were old and walls needed painting, but students were compliant, well-behaved and attentive. …
I was embarrassed at first, but I took the rose and muttered, “Thank you.” In my mind, I was already anticipating the stares I’d get walking down the street. This made me hesitate before accepting the simple gift. Stares aren’t a new occurrence since I moved to Nepal; I’ve gotten used to eyes watching my every move, from my exercise routine to the groceries I carry from the market. But this was different.
As expected, people are staring. A curious woman asks me where the flower is from. “Is your friend Nepali or ‘Bireshi’ (out of country)?” she presses, but I don’t feel invaded. In fact, I can’t help but smile. Children’s eyes light up as I pass them. Men sheepishly wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I’m surprised at how good I feel. …
I remember summers of chilled beer and air-conditioned bars, the crisp skirts of waitresses rattling off the day’s happy hour specials. My friends and I would sit in the heart of Manhattan to discuss our floundering efforts as young entrepreneurs, the best and worst networking conferences, social problems we wanted to change, and the lack of funding we had in order to do so.
Crowdfunding became a common solution, a mighty key to unlock dreams from book launches to product distribution and Ironman entry fees. Easy: click, build, and share! …
I sliced my thumb this morning with a meat cleaver.
I woke up a little after 5A.M. to peel potatoes and roll momos. A conch shell is my daily alarm, the horn echoing over homes and rice fields below. Sleepy monks file into the main hall of the monastery to begin their first ceremony shortly after.
As they recite Tibetan text, I sweep the cement floor with a hand broom of sticks and pour myself instant coffee.