I’ve been in Nepal for almost a week and wanted to take some time to share my initial thoughts on being in this country and serving the people who live here. I did not know what to expect before I made the 31 hour trip that took me literally halfway around the world.
Immediately upon landing, I was struck by the lack of development. The drive to Corban and Katrina’s home was like nothing I’ve ever seen. There is one traffic light in Kathmandu. Driving is so chaotic, as motorcycles pass you on all sides, people walk in the traffic lanes beside the cars, buses and motorcycles, vehicles pull into the road without warning, and most roads are unpaved and so narrow that getting around oncoming cars is accomplished with no more than an inch or two to spare.
I was amazed to learn that there is no home-delivered mail service because there are no addresses. Nepal and Afghanistan are the two poorest countries in Asia—the income per capita in Nepal is $1300. Roughly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment rises above 40%.
Given this landscape, I found myself thinking… if I was born into this environment, would I know that a different way of living even existed? Would this way of life be normal to me? One of the first and most salient lessons I have learned from Nepal is to be thankful for what I have. I have even found myself appreciating Interstate-25 during my visit here!
I think it is important to recognize and value differences between cultures, and with that comes an appreciation for how resilient the Nepali people are. The children are happy and many smile and say ‘hi’ in my language when I pass them on the street. In response to an email I sent to family discussing cultural differences I’ve observed during my stay here, my wise younger sister reminded me that we are often burdened by all of our possessions and technology and gadgets. I appreciate the reminder and the invitation to witness new and different ways of living life here in Nepal.
Captain Jessica Schroeder is a PURNAA 2013 Summer Volunteer, helping our leadership team create HR processes and brainstorm about ethical principles in organizational behavior and motivation theory. Jess teaches in the Department of Management at the US Air Force Academy. She holds a BS in Systems Engineering Management from the US Air Force Academy and a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard JFK School of Government.