Michael Jackson, karaoke, melted candy corn, a jack-o-lantern of Buddha’s eyes, candlelight, and in-depth card games are a bit of what’s happening behind me at this very moment. Students planned this Halloween celebration Nepali style.
Everyone is doing phenomenally. They are in their urban homestays and they can’t help but notice the drastic contrasts between Chokati and Patan, rural subsistence agriculture life, and urban middle class artisan life.
It has been interesting to watch each student decide how they want to engage with Nepal. Should they call their families, or immerse with the people here? Should they spend most time with their peers or hang with their homestay siblings? Each person is beautifully navigating the challenges of being far from home, of wanting to shift and grow and learn.
One of the main areas we have seen them contend with is how to come to consensus as a group, to make decisions in ways where all are heard and valued. They had to step up to leadership positions during the trek to ensure we functioned as a unit, and they are stepping up here in Patan to ensure we have meals cooked and amazing day-trips planned.
As instructors, we look forward to watching each student explore their independent study interest while in this artisan town, developing apprenticeship-style relations with their ISP mentors. From Ayurvedic medicine to silver jewelry-making, from Buddhist philosophy to woodcarving, tailoring to metalwork and Nepali cooking, each student will learn a craft or research a topic of interest over the next few weeks. One of the cool things is that for many, their mentors are their homestay families, because so many of the residents of Patan are working artisans!
We have many seminars planned as well. From child trafficking to ashram visits, museums and historical walking tours, climate justice and Tibetan religious and political history, our time in Patan is packed with inquiry and exploration.
We will encourage students to write yaks as usual, but know that they are loving each other, loving their time here, and when not writing yaks they are finding cool cafes around town, walking through local markets, developing relations with their homestay families, and doing their best to learn Nepali!
Shanti, Michael, and Sarah