Friday, August 26, 2016

Growing up in Nepal

We have been participating in a reading challenge this summer put together by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival, connected to the launch of Jamie's book Give Your Child the World:  Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time.  To wrap up the series, people are sharing a bit about what it is like to live in their various places, and we are always glad for the chance to share about this place that has become our home!  The questions she provided are a good guide to share a bit about our lives and this place, so here is a bit about our wonderful home here in Nepal!
Tell us about your family.
My husband John and I have two boys, Isaiah (8) and Ezekiel (5).  John works for a tech business called CloudFactory, and I homeschool the boys.
Tell us about where you live and how long you’ve lived there.
We live in an area just on the south edge of the capital city of Kathmandu in Nepal.  We have lived here for 4 years, though we also did spend four months here before moving hee.

  – What do you think is unique and special about living where you do?
Flag of Nepal.svgOne fun fact is that Nepal has the only non-rectangular flag of any nation in the world!
It is also the home of (or shared home of) EIGHT of the ten highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest!  On a good clear day (we don't get as many of those anymore), we can see the Himalayas from our home.

Nepal has some of the most stunning landscapes and natural scenery in all of the world, and with two little guys in tow when we moved here, we have barely scratched the surface of exploring that!


What languages are spoken there? If it’s different from English, can you help us learn a few common phrases?
The primary language is Nepali, and Newari is also used or spoken by some, particularly in the Kathmandu Valley.  There are also many other dialects and regional languages.  Because of the popularity of yoga and other Eastern meditation practices, it is not an entirely foreign phrase for Westerners, but "Namaste" is the common greeting.  Its literal meaning is "I bow to the divine in you," and it is used both in greeting and in parting.  
Alternatively, Christians here in Nepal will often use the phrase "Jai Masi" (shown below in the Devangari script in which Nepali is written) to greet one another.  Basically, it means "Messiah is victorious."

What are some traditional foods there?
Every meal of every day, Nepalis eat "dal bhat" (which is lentils and rice).  There are other foods as well for special occasions and many snacks, but it would be a very rare occasion to have a day without dal bhat!  When we first arrived and would have people over to our home for dinner, they would graciously eat the more Western food we served...and then go home and have dal bhat!
There is usually a vegetable ("tarkari") served with it, and often there is something akin to a condiment (usually a very spicy sauce or something pickled) served with it, generally called "achar."
A typical plate for a meal at home--lentils over rice, vegetables, and this one also includes some chickpea curry.

At a restaurant or for special meals, you can have "thali set," which is a nice (usually brass) plate with a variety of dishes served on parts of that plate and other small bowls to match the plate.  It is one of the things my younger son and I absolutely love to order!  It always includes rice, lentils, and then a variety of vegetables (sometimes meat) and pickles.  Commonly, they will refill any of the dishes that you would like to have more of.
The most popular snack or light meal is momos.  They are a kind of dumpling, similar to something like gyoza/potstickers but seasoned differently for the filling.  The most common fillings are either ground "buff" (water buffalo--beef is never eaten by Hindus!) or ground chicken.
 Image result for momos

Tell us about the climate where you live.
There are really five distinct seasons here in Nepal:  spring, summer, monsoon, fall, and winter.  It is currently nearing the end of monsoon season.  It is the rainy season, and we get a LOT of rain!  It is hot and humid.  It is tapering off now, and one great benefit of monsoon is that it really clears the air here, so if the clouds clear, you can get some amazing views of the mountains.  
Fall is my favorite.  It starts to cool off a bit, and the air is still clearer and fresher from the monsoon.  It is also some of the best season for vegetables here. 
Winter seems cold, but it mostly is cold at night and indoors.  Most houses are constructed in a way that they stay a bit cooler in the hot weather, but they stay quite cold during the winter, and very few places have indoor heating.  During the day, it is sunny and usually quite pleasant temperatures (commonly in the 60's F, and sometimes a bit warmer), but at night it drops to the 30's.  We don't get snow, and it isn't often below freezing temperatures, but at night, it is usually only a few degrees warmer INSIDE than it is outside.  During the day, everyone goes outside in the sunshine to get warm.  It is the only place I have ever lived where people go OUT to warm up in the winter!
Spring warms up but with still cool nights, and then it moves quickly into an earlier summer in which it is hot and dry.  Toward the end of summer, we start to get evening thunderstorms, leading us back into monsoon.
What does school look like for the majority of kids where you live?
There is a wide range of schools here.  Most schools do have students wear a uniform.  Some students travel quite far to get to the schools they choose.  Government schools don't have a particularly high reputation here, but they are the affordable option for many.  There are many private schools, and costs vary for those.
There is a 6-day school week (Sunday through Friday), though there are many holidays.  The school year begins after the new year on the Nepali calendar, so it runs from around mid-April through sometime in March.
Students have very large exams multiple times a year, even for the younger grades, and their marks on these exams are very significant.  Many schools will even post photos of the students with their exam results quite large on the side of the school at the end of the year.
What does school look like for your family?
We homeschool.  It is not very common here, though there is an increasing homeschool community among expats.  Still, for most locals, it is quite an odd concept!
Are there any special festivals or traditions you’d like to tell us about related to where you live?
Nepal is the land of festivals!  There are SO many festivals and holidays, and so many of them involve very colorful and interesting traditions, but there are way too many to mention all!  The "high" holiday season is coming up soon.  The Nepali calendar is lunar (and it's actually the year 2073 here!), so the holidays shift on the Gregorian calendar, but generally it falls sometime in October/November for these holidays.  The two biggest festivals are Dashain and Tihar (commonly known as Diwali in India).  The majority religion in Nepal is Hindu with Buddhism being second.  These holidays are very significant religious holidays, primarily for Hindus.  Schools are often off for around a month during these holidays, and there are huge celebrations.  Dashain is a 15-day festival with each day celebrating certain things, and some days are of particular significance.  Even within this holiday, there are so many traditions, but a few of note that we have enjoyed during this time are the kite contests and the huge swings they build each year out of bamboo!

 Tihar is a shorter festival (5 days) but also very significant.  One day is called Laxmi Puja (worship of the goddess Laxmi), in which homes and shops clean thoroughly and decorate with many lights, colors, and marigold or other flower garlands.  Designs of colored powder, called rangoli, are made outside of the doors, and lights and/or footprints make a path to the door of that home/shop, inviting Laxmi to visit the home and bless it with prosperity and wealth.

Perhaps the most significant day of Tihar is the last day, which is "Bhai Tika," and it is a huge family celebration and time of blessing each other.

One holiday that is often enjoyed by kids in the spring is Holi, during which people throw colored powders at each other and have huge water fights.

If you ever had to move away from where you live, what do you think you’d miss most?
People!  Without a doubt, it would be people!  The culture here is incredibly hospitable and very communal, so you are never a "stranger," and life feels very connected and rooted in relationships.
We have met and shared life with so many amazing people who are from here, as well as other expats from all around the world, and it would be a huge loss to leave them.
Another aspect of life that I would miss is the freedom and adventure that my boys have here.  Because we don't live right in the city center, they have a lot of freedom to explore, and I think it is a place that breeds a sense of adventure and exploring.
We would also miss the slower pace of life.  It is funny because, as a Westerner, it can also be one of the biggest challenges at times, and it was hard for me to adjust to it, but now, I am so thankful for it, and it would be hard to re-enter the rushed, packed-full "norm" of American schedules and life.
– Do you have a favorite book that takes place in your region/country?
There aren't a lot of children's books about Nepal.  There is one simple and sweet book called I See the Sun in Nepal, and it is written in both English and Nepali, so last year, we had some friends actually help us record an audio of the book in both languages.  It is not a professional recording, but we have shared it in this post for any who would enjoy hearing it!

There are absolutely SO many things I would love to share about this amazing country that often gets very little international attention.  It has become our home.  Life here has had its challenges, but we absolutely love this place!  If you have any interest in more about it, I have written some little bits on this blog with the label "Nepal," thoughts and reflections ("life in this land") about our experiences here over at my other blog, and early on, I actually wrote a little blog as if it was the boys writing it, called Sherpas in Training, and I was thoroughly enjoying rereading those and laughing recently.


  1. Thanks for sharing all of this, Rachel. What a rich culture! I love the photos and am amazed at how your sons have grown.
    Conie V.

  2. Awesome, what a treat to learn about "real" life in Nepal!

  3. The photos and information were both great. Thanks for sharing. We sponsor some girls in Kathmandu and so it is good to see what life is like over there in Nepal. Quite different to our what life is like here in Australia. Thanks again.