Stranger in a Strange Land Called Nepal
It’s a very rare thing as a traveler to have the realization that you are potentially the only western foreigner i.e. white skinned foreigner in a place. I had that thought today in the town of Ghorahi. Ghorahi is a rather large city in the Dang Valley about 500 miles SW of Kathmandu. Ghorahi has about 63,000 souls and no foreign tourism.
Ghorahi was voted the cleanest city in Nepal and even with this moniker, I can’t think of a single reason other than humanitarian efforts that would put this town on any traveler’s itinerary. There are no fancy temples or sidhus calling this place home. There are no national parks to see one-horned rhinos and no one of any significance (to westerners) died here. There is absolutely no reason as an American traveler to come to Ghorahi.
I came as part of The Nepal Project, an American charity that built a couple schools in remote Nepal and funded some solar panels projects for it’s computer labs. I spent 5 days in the region with 2 other people from the Nepal Project and we were hosted by dozens of families, drank suger milk tea (chia) with a dozen other, attended school ceremonies, and received malas (marigold leis) and tikka (a mark made on the forehead with colored powder to celebrate or give thanks to someone) until we were covered head to toe in golden flowers and Nepal war paint.
Once the 2 others of my contingent packed and road out of Ghorahi bound for the United States, I became the last curiosity on the self. It’s kind of surreal to quite possibly be the only fair skinned, blued eyed person for 100+ miles. There is definitely no way to blend, no matter how much Nepalese you know, of which I know hardy any.
But here I was in Ghorahi on the back of a motorbike seeing the town with my new friend Guru (Nepali for driver) while the entire city stares, points, giggles and smiles. I am leaving for Pokhara tomorrow where I will be less of an oddity and more of a meal ticket, but today I will enjoy the great weather and the warm people.