Hello all and welcome to the Youth International Asia Spring 2019 Blog! Here, you can follow us on our adventures as we explore and immerse in Nepal, India, and Thailand. Everyone from our team will be contributing to the posts that will be updated roughly every week or so. We hope you enjoy!
Upon arrival in the Denver airport, we greeted the people who we’d soon come to know as our family for the next 3 months. After quick handshakes, hugs, and introductions, we were off to the Rockies National Park for orientation. We settled into the YMCA for the next 3 days and immediately got down to business. We met for group meetings throughout the day and covered topics such as cultural sensitivity, health and safety, and what we want to get out of our experiences in Asia. We planned workshops to help teach classes for local schoolchildren during our home stays and played team building games to begin to know each other a little better.
For the afternoon of our second day in Denver, we got to hike in the renowned Rockies. Fresh snow began to fall on the way up as we crossed over frozen lakes and were surrounded by a gray haze. The hike was a bit slippery, yet overwhelmingly beautiful and surely a pleasant break from the indoors. Not to mention a nice small taste of what lies ahead for our trek in the Himalayas!
The snow continued to fall throughout our stay in Colorado. By the time we were heading out, it seemed 2 feet had fallen. Our flight was delayed an hour or so due to the storm, but took no significant toll on our upcoming travels.
Once we packed our bags a final time and ran a few last errands, we piled into the cars and made our way back to the Denver airport—ready for departure. We left Denver around 1 am and were in New York by early morning. Next we were off for a 12 hour flight to Doha, Qatar. However daunting the air time seemed, our nerves were calmed when the flight attendants informed us that we could move from our assigned seats to any open area. Each one of us had our own row to lie across—we were very lucky to say the least. Our last leg from Doha to Kathmandu was short of 5 hours and soon enough we had landed in the place we’ve been anticipating for weeks—even months—on end. It was a long journey, but we are all arriving with open minds and hearts and are beyond ready for the adventure that lies ahead!
Crazy Arrival in Kathmandu
Our first look into the city of Kathmandu was from the back of taxis, weaving through pedestrians and motorcycles. They took us into the depths of the city and dropped us off where we thought our hostel was, but it turns out there are two squares by the exact same name and we had been taken to the wrong one. After much negotiating by Hayley and Nathan, we were able to find 3 taxis willing to take us to the right place. Our taxis were tiny white Suzukis that felt as though they would fall apart at any moment and with our luck, one did. Half way to our actual location, one taxi sputtered to a stop in the middle of the road with 2 big packs precariously tied to the top. Without stopping a beat, the taxi drivers all ran to help, pushing the car back into motion and up the hill. Slowly but surely, we found our way to our hostel. A perfect start to this wild ride through Asia!
March 4th was the first day we arrived in the bustling streets of Kathmandu. It also happened to be the holiday of Mahashivrati, which is a celebration of the god Shiva, the creator and destroyer of the world. It‘s the largest festival of the year and to soak in our first night in Nepal, we went out to experience it. We visited a local Shiva temple and participated in a Puja, a blessing ceremony where the priest of the temple marked our third eye with sandalwood paste. As we circled the temple, we rang bells and yelled jai Shimbu (praise Shiva). The temple was decorated from top to bottom with lights and flowers as well as ornate sculptures and paintings. Outside the temple was a massive fire fed by tree stumps and limbs. After the festival, we returned to our hostel to receive some much needed sleep and get ready for our next day of adventures. Yay Nepal!
On March 5th, the Youth International crew went on our first journey to Swayambhunath, a Buddhist temple whose name means “self created.” This site is also known informally as the Monkey Temple for its overload of monkeys running every which way. The tale of Swayambhunath is that it all started as a lotus flower in the middle of the lake that was here in the valley. The gods split the mountains to release all the water and leave all the land empty, but the lotus flower stayed and that is how the temple was created and gave life to what is now the holy city of Kathmandu.
Swayambhunath is quite stunning—the view is literally breathtaking because of the 365 steps it takes to get to the top, but it‘s all worth it once you see the valley of Kathmandu behind you. Looking at the civilization that this city holds is amazing. The buildings are so stacked on top of one another and the first word that comes to mind is beautiful.