Life in Nepal

Story by Leah Olson

In early 2007, I was overcome with an urgent sense of wanderlust for the first time. I just had to go somewhere far, far away. The question, which at first was: “Should I stay or should I go?”, soon morphed into: “Where shall my destination be?”

After some deliberation, I decided on Nepal. I didn’t have a specific reason for choosing Nepal, I simply chose it because it seemed to me to be the most mysteriously foreign place I could imagine. Upon my decision, I promptly booked a one-way ticket to Asia where I spent the next nine months, five of which were in Nepal.

I explored, wrote, worked, and generally basked in the freedom to do absolutely whatever I wanted. If I felt like wandering through spice markets, I did. If I felt like going to a new town simply because the guidebook said there was good chai there, I went. If I felt like walking around the city for ten hours, I walked.

Half my time in Nepal was spent in Kathmandu, sleeping in backpacker hostels, eating street food, discovering hidden Hindu temples and interning at Manmohan Memorial Hospital. The streets of Kathmandu are endlessly interesting but the traffic, pollution and general chaos can be jarring at the same time. After a few months, I found a job teaching English at a Buddhist monastery away from the urban madness.

I’ve reviewed my photos from Nepal many times and I feel that they don’t give a completely accurate picture of the country. Although Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country, surely any photographer’s dream, there is so much left out of a picture.

The smells of sweet milk tea and frying samosas cannot be captured in a photograph. The sounds of the endless river of traffic and cows in the street cannot be captured, either. Along with the actual image, these other sensory experiences help make a description of a place more real. While I cannot yet capture smells, I can use sounds to help convey the feeling of a place. I made this audio slideshow about my time in Nepal using music, narration and sounds to recreate the what it feels like to visit such an incredible country.

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