Experiencing Nepali Education & Culture

Over the past few years I’ve been really proud to find what things I’m passionate about. I work at Hilary’s Eat Well as a graphic designer, which is perfect because 1) I love design, bright colors and the feel good atmosphere and 2) I have food allergies and am able eat all of our products. I’ve adapted to a Hilary’s healthy lifestyle as far as eating organic, thinking positively and understanding my duties as a citizen of the communities I’m involved in…one of these duties being my role as a global citizen. It is my firm belief that we are all citizens of the earth and have a duty to making it better. Over the past few years I have focused on my global citizenship through Global Education and health efforts. I’ve taught English in Peru, played with children in a Jamaican school and most recently traveled to Nepal to gather educational data and provide clean water filters. My friends at Hilary’s Eat Well sent me off with good tidings and supported me the whole way. Let me tell you more about that trip!

This past June I was given the opportunity to travel to Nepal as a member of an organization called Open World Cause. It was originally founded by two of my close friends, Ben Honeycutt and Connor Janzen, as a way to bring two laptops and Internet access to a school in rural Nepal. Our main contact and Nepali native, Govinda Panthy, is the principal and founder (along with many other roles) and seeks to connect with other educators around the world to bring better education to his students. We’ve been through a lot with Govinda and most recently have helped fundraise money for him to build a brand new school in a different region of Nepal. He has been very inspiring in the realm of global education (and quite frankly makes the rest of us look lazy)! He even offered to host us as we stayed at his house during our month long visit.

The main goal of our trip, as an organization, was to gather data and research on the Nepali schools and students we have been supporting, in addition to providing them with clean water filters. Open World talks at schools, educational conferences and has connected with many educators in the U.S. and around the world. Up until this trip, we’ve loved every part of that, but knew there would come a day when we would finally need to experience the education, school and culture for ourselves. After fundraising and working like crazy these past 6 months we were able to send 5 of us to Nepal!

We went and worked by learning about living situations, health, lifestyle and education. We collected data from the public school systems and identified ways to measure test scores and the impact of governmental education. We did what set out to do, but I can tell you that we got more than we bargained for. Living in a culture for a full month allowed us to feel fully integrated into Govinda’s family and the community. We got to see what a normal schedule was like, how the market worked for buying food, religious ceremonies and temples, traveling by bus (slightly terrifying) and so much more. Different cultural ‘norms’ around the world vary so much. I think that is a very important thing you learn from traveling: just because something might not be done the way you do it or the way you call ‘normal’ doesn’t mean it is wrong.

Learning about and seeing new cultures really opens your mind and allows you to appreciate the beauty in different people and places. Here are some of my favorite cultural observances and things I learned:

    • You greet and say goodbye by bringing your hands together and saying ‘Namaste.’
    • You do not wear shoes in the house.
    • Turning your shoes upside down is bad luck.
    • The most common meal eaten two times a day is called Dal Baht and consists of steamed rice with lentil soup and curried vegetables. It is delicious.
    • You do not share food off each other’s plates because many Nepali people eat with their hands. You also eat primarily with your right hand because the left is considered unclean.
    • Most women have both their ears and nose pierced. Many wear other jewelry such as toe rings, bangles and beaded necklaces. Many of the children have their noses and ears pierced as well.
    • Nepali women do not always wear a wedding ring, but instead wear a red powder, called Tika, on their forehead near their hairline.
    • You drive on the left side of the road and use your horn very frequently (and pass by within inches of each other).
    • You treat guests invited into homes very well. It is customary to offer up delicious hot tea to guests.
    • Nepali milk tea is delicious (I’m officially integrating tea time into my life).
    • Some of the smaller mountains Govinda called ‘hills.’ (Being from Kansas, they were all awesome views. We didn’t care how big or small!)

As the Open World team returns to the states we are excited to be working with a school in Kenya and potentially a couple others in different areas around the world. If you want to learn more you can go to our website at openworldcause.com. But for now, I encourage each and every one of you to get connected with a community abroad, learn more about your role as a global citizen and I guarantee you’ll feel like a whole new world has been opened to you! As for me, now that I’m back at work, I think I’ll work on creating a Hilary’s Eat Well Nepali Burger. (You’ll thank me, I promise).