There was a time in my life when I shared a house with 9 other people who had become good friends of mine. One of those people were a mysterious Italian guy called Andrea Pregel. It took some time for us to get to know each other, but later the things we shared and experiences we had together will not beforgotten. I hadn´t heard from him for a while, so I decided to get some news and updates from him. At that time he was in Nepal, thus I asked him to share about his experience in there.
Last time when I saw you, it was in Iceland during my preparation for the trip to India. Half of a year later, you ended up in Nepal. Who brought you there?
I brought myself! I wanted to live a new experience far away from Europe, so I applied for a project with an Italian NGO (Non-govermental organisation), I flew to Sicily for the interview and they selected me.
CESIE was founded in 2001, inspired by the ideas and work of Danilo Dolci, an Italian sociologist who played a vital role in the struggle against the mafia-patronage system. The organization has now several projects in Italy and around the globe.
What is your job? What do you do at your job?
I teach English and Social Sciences in a school in Kathmandu, the capital city, and I work as educator in a centre for kids with mental disabilities in Patan.
The education system here is quite different from the European one and teaching in the school is not always easy. Nonetheless is a great experience and every day I have the opportunity to share something with the students, learning a lot from them as well.
The disabled kids, on the other side, are awesome: they’re spontaneous, fun and energetic. Some of them have Down syndrome while others manifest different degrees of mental retardation. We always play together, manipulating objects, listening to music, and trying to learn basic stuff in English and Nepali.
How are the Nepali people?
Nepalis are very kind and humble people. Even though a large number of them live below the poverty line, most of them often wear a smile and carry on with their life. A decade-long conflict between the monarchists and the Maoists ended in 2006 and the political situation is still quite unstable: long strikes paralyze the city very often, and there is riot police at every corner, but the country is generally extremely safe. I never had any trouble and I never felt in danger.
Where do you live in Nepal?
I spent two months in Buddhanagar, a 100% Nepali neighbourhood in New Baneshwor, then I moved to Sanepa, in Lalitpur District, south of Kathmandu. It’s a relatively new area which hosts the headquarters of UN, USAID, GIZ and many international NGOS. For this reason, lots of Western people live here, but there’s a wide number of Nepalis, too.
Kathmandu can be a real nightmare. The city might actually be very beautiful, with old medieval buildings, pagodas and stupas, but the traffic is awful, the air is unbreathable and there are construction sites every ten metres. Some areas are very picturesque, though, with vivid colours, strong smells and loud noises.
What do you do in your free time?
During the week I’m not quite outgoing. There are some bars and clubs in Thamel, the touristic area of Kathmandu, but I don’t really enjoy it much. I sometimes visit temples, Buddhist stupas, art galleries and museums. And I often eat outside. It’s very easy to find Western restaurants, but I prefer the traditional Nepali ones: the food is ridiculously cheap and incredibly tasty.
During the weekends, or as soon as I have few free days in a row, I usually try to get out of the city, to seek some quiet in the countryside and to enjoy the beauty of the nature.
Did you go for some trekking? What was the destination? Was it Everest?
Yes, I went trekking, and no, it wasn’t Everest. The main trekking season in Nepal goes from the end of September to the end of November, when the weather is still warm and dry, after the monsoon and before the winter. Spring (March-April) is a good period, too. Everest represents a dream for every mountain lover, but the way to the Base Camp is always extremely crowded, therefore I chose another path. I spent 12 days in the Helambu-Langtang region, passing the sacred lakes of Gosaikunda and reaching the top of Surya Peak at 5.145 m. That trekking has been undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life.
What did you bring (back home or to Nepal?) with you?
A dear friend of mine gave me a tiny blue Smurf as a gift before my departure, so I brought it with me. And I’ll bring back to Italy tons of books, Tibetan prayer flags and marvelous memories. I’m not sure about the heart: I’ll probably leave it here forever…
What have you learned from staying in Nepal?
I’m learning a lot, everyday. Interacting with students, teachers, parents, administrators and even simple people in the streets is a huge opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the Nepalese society. This experience is helping me to expand my view of the world, to observe things from a different perspective and to get a first-hand view of a developing country, which still struggles with multiple issues like widespread poverty, lack of infrastructures and political instability.
What’s your next destination and what will you do there?
I’m not still sure, I’m trying to work on it. I’d love to find some interesting project in Sub-Saharan Africa. I’m also considering to head once again for Northern Europe to continue my studies and pursue a master’s degree. Or I might simply fill my backpack and start walking, as well. I plan to come back to Italy in a few years, to live, explore and enjoy my own country; but right now I feel that my quest abroad is not over yet.
Any last words?
Let me know where you will be… See you around the world!
If you want to know more about his journey, please visit: http://kathmandiario.blogspot.com
[Interview by M.Borgarbúi]