After an 8,000 mile summer rambling up and down the California coast, David and I said goodbye to student living and turned the page to the next chapter of our lives. He recently started his new career-job (or as I call it, “the jobby-job”) after graduate school, and tomorrow, I will embark on a new adventure. A three-month stay in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia with a quarter of its population living beneath the poverty line and an unemployment rate above 40%. Lack of education, economic challenges, and an effort to recover after a ten year civil war has made some Nepalis particularly vulnerable to exploitation, sex trafficking, and slavery. There, I will be interning as a graphic designer for a social enterprise named PURNAA — a garment factory with a mission to empower marginalized people through employment and education.
When people ask me if I am excited, I say “yes,” but the feelings are mixed with a strong sense of nervousness and trepidation. I feel this because I know I do not fully understand what I am getting myself into. What will it be like to navigate through the narrow streets and alleys of the city? How will I feel not being able to communicate fluidly and fully with the community around me? How quickly will I start to miss the less affordable, but fixed pricing of western markets? When will I start to miss the buttonless freedom of wearing leggings and a tank top? Totally silly, but three months is long enough to miss the silly things — not to mention my inspiring, kind, and hilarious adventure companion, David.
It’s not the sexiest thing to say, but I have never had an intense desire to travel. I don’t have a bucket list, and I’ve never heavily invested myself in dreams of seeing the Louvre, backpacking through Europe, or going on an African safari. Don’t get me wrong- I would not “poo-poo” it if the opportunity presented itself; I just tend not to actively seek these types of adventures out. For example, there’s a tree I’d really like to see called the Baobab tree, incidentally, it is in Madagascar…but I’d be just as happy if it were a bit more accessible.
What I do have is an intense fondness for participating in activities. I love having tasks to work on and goals to achieve. I love the sweet waft of progress drifting through my brain as I toil away at various assignments. As I learn more about PURNAA and the sustainable initiatives going on in the apparel industry, I have become inspired by how some of the top brands have stepped up to face long standing issues and taken responsibility for making positive changes in emerging economies. Specifically, Patagonia’s footprint chronicles and cleanest line, and other companies who are taking conscientious steps toward ethical and sustainable practices. This is the aspect of my journey I am excited about. I look forward to becoming familiar with PURNAA; its culture and mission, learning about the production process, and working with designers on developing their products. I look forward to bicycling to work amidst the dramatic backdrop of the Himalayas and to long days of trekking through the Langtang region.
It was this time two years ago that David and I said a sad goodbye to each other as I dropped him off at the Honolulu airport to begin his MBA at Rice University. Although he wasn’t headed to a far away kingdom, he was embarking on a two year, grand adventure to business school in Houston. Three months later, after many video chat’s and text messages, on a cool day in mid-November, we said hello at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Tomorrow, we will say our farewells again, and on a cool day, in mid-November we’ll say hello once more.