March 10, 2006

A story for the ages (Part II)

I apologize for the lapse in the storyline...I've had good intentions to post, just poor follow-through...

As the group spent more and more time together, inside the classroom and at the local hangouts (i.e. the bars at Fewa Tal) we began to segregate ourselves into smaller groups within the whole. Many of the students on the trip acted as if they had something to prove--as if they were going to save Nepal and all of its inhabitants in the 12 weeks we threw trash into their poorly designed waste management system and consumed more gallons of hot water than typical Nepalese people do in a year. I'm sure that I was quick to judge everyone and file them into neat little categories, but it seemed as though a fair number in the group had similar labels. To sum it up they were spoiled, environmentalist, vegetarian/vegan hippies on a mission to save a third world country. (Not that I have anything against any of the preceding lifestyle choices. It just seemed that all of those choices wrapped up together made for some very interesting folk.)

And don't let me forget opinionated. As I mentioned before, this was a multidisciplinary trip. We learned about the political system, education, family structure, religion, geography, etc. I was fascinated, and at times appalled, by this country that was so different from the US. I knew however that I had to accept the way things were done, that I couldn't change it myself. Some of these people argued about every subject we studied, tried to explain to the professors about how wrong the "system" was and the best ways to improve it. I knew that 31 students from the US wasn't going to make any impact on Nepal, that Nepal would have to find its own way, on its own terms.

Don't get me wrong, I made some amazing friends on this trip. People who I will never forget, the memories I share with them I will always hold close to my heart. Unfortunately just many whom my views are quite different from. Different enough that a day to day friendship might be hard to establish.

It seemed as though the group pretty much divided itself based upon our eating habits. Of the 31 students we had three vegans. Two of which were very staunch and caused numerous conflicts throughout the trip. Many of the meals we ate while on the road would be served family style. We'd all gather around long tables and dishes of food would be passed around to everyone. It was hard to request that dishes be prepared containing absolutely no animal products. Ghee (clarified butter) is typically used to prepare most dishes and there weren't many other alternatives available. The third vegan was understanding and although believed 100% in his choices, he made exceptions where necessary. He understood that there were times that it just wasn't feasible to request the meal be dictated towards him. Unfortunately, because of the attitudes of the two participants, the trip coordinators decided it would be necessary for future program participants to indicate their preferences. At one time I had even heard them say that they wouldn't allow vegans on the trip unless they were willing to be open minded.

Of the other 28 students, I think there were only 5 or so who ate meat regularly. Which caused for some interesting discussions during those communal meals. There were some students who would eat meat occasionally, others who were strict vegetarians. The "meat eaters" of the group were students who came from middle-class, rural, hard working families. So it wasn't any surprise that we started spending time with one another as we had similar upbringings, similar opinions. When everyone finally found their place within our own little caste system, there were seven of us who tended to congregate together: Carrie, Meghan, Dana, myself, Jon, Jeff & C.

Ever since I left Detroit, I had this nagging feeling that I wasn't missing Kyle enough. That I was a horrible girlfriend because my thoughts were not constantly on him. I kept telling myself as time went on my feelings would intensify, that I would begin to miss him more. When he'd call to talk to me I had little interest in what was going on in his life. It all seemed so mundane to me compared to the things I was doing and seeing. He just wanted to talk about how much he missed me, how much he wanted me to come home, how much he regretted "letting" me go on this trip. I found myself finding excuses to get off the phone quickly. My letters home filled up pages with descriptions of the people I'd met, the places I'd seen, the culture I was immersed in. Very little was mentioned about our relationship, about how I wanted things to be when I got back to Michigan State.

On February 3, 1999 two phone calls threw my world into upheaval...


5 comments:

Kristen said...

You now have me on the edge of my seat...

KrisAndRod said...

When do you get to the part about playing with the baby elephants??? ;)

Mandy said...

The elephants are coming...

Sami said...

I think I've only heard part of this story... so since I know the ending you need to keep writing... because while I love to know the ending of a novel the beginning and middle are also important!

stinky said...

come on... tell us the rest!