On January 3, 2017 I moved to the District of Columbia for an internship with United States Representative David Scott from Georgia. I say this because I have now supplanted myself at the political center of America and the pertinence of understanding my feelings of this regarding the greatest country in the world speaks to me now more than ever.
For an African-American male who has always felt like I am in a constant battle with an institution that is not built for me, working towards success comes with enough setbacks and disappointment of itself, requiring a hint of inspiration or hope to keep going in the midst of it all. President Barack H. Obama was that hope. To amount to the highest office in the world in the field that I take interest in was all of the hope and inspiration that I needed. But as that beacon of possibility is set to retreat from the spotlight I search for the thing that will now keep me going in the future.
In that very search I begin to reevaluate my status in this country and whether or not my ability to amount to the success I dream for is even possible. The drive is there. The passion is there. The fight is there.
Countless times those that look like me are wrapped up in an unjust justice system that treats them unequally to counterparts. Too many times those who could be my family members are on the receiving end of unwarranted force often leading to their beautiful souls settling in a better place. Too often is the balance of the financial market tilted toward the few leaving the struggling of the many. These are just a few things to mention. These are all things too close to home.
I believe my purpose in this world is when all is said and done to eliminate these unfortunate beliefs from the young minds that will find themselves in my same position somewhere down the road. But the road is brutally tough.
Setting aside partisanship and political bias, this country lives at a time where bigotry and marginalization has become a social norm—again. Just as this country had begun to move forward and I felt as if inclusiveness had pieced together a broken country, it all fell down. In a boomerang effect it had reverted right back to where it all began. This country is definitely not where it once was, but it is also not where it should be. It is demoralizing and dampens the spirit of hope.
Finding my place in the field of politics my calling is to help people. I truly want to make a change; a difference in as many lives as possible by the time my body releases its last breath. I desire to be that change I wish to see. But even I need help and sometimes when I look up the ladder for someone to help pull me up, it feels as if they are removing the rungs as I try to climb. Each and every day I wake up and work to ensure that I can move past all of the trials and tribulations and find hope in God, because often times He is all there is.
So although it may not be the most inspiring time to be alive, the greatest thing about problems is that there is a solution to be found. I hope my story will be drastically different weeks, months, or hopefully not too many years from now. But faith as small as a mustard seed can lead to possibilities unimaginable. I intend to put my head down and pledge to move this country forward, and through all of the darkness, I will find the light.
2016 was as crazy as 2015. Though earthquakes didn’t shake up my world like it did in 2015 (25 April, 2015 – Nepal Earthquake), there were other emotional earthquakes that shook up my world.
The first was my move to the USA. Leaving my home country, Nepal, has to be one of the most difficult things I have had to do. I landed in America on July 23, 2016. The air was humid and the weather hot that I felt like peeling my clothes off right there and then at JFK. (But that would turn heads and cause unnecessary commotion so I didn’t.) I had known that America was a land of hot and cold-snowy weather but the humidity was getting to me. Coming from a place where the climate is neither too hot nor too cold, I felt like I was being fried in the sun. I felt disorientated for a while carrying my 120-pound luggage and a backpack. They say “He took my breath away”, but for me “My suitcases took my breath away”. Huffing and puffing I walked towards the final door that would lead me outside the airport. I felt like I was opening a door towards another dimension. As soon as I walked out, my friend Krishma ran towards me with her arms wide open. We hugged in the middle of the way blocking everyone behind us. Her dad shooed us over to the side and took one of my suitcases. Her granddad took the other, and her sister took my backpack. I felt loved right away.
I spent two weeks in Connecticut. We went to Boston to visit my granddad for two days and went to a beach in Rhode Island which has a pretty complicated name: Misquamicut beach. Our days were spent mostly going to the park, parking the car and listening to songs or sleeping for hours. I hadn’t thought about what would happen once I left this place and go to college in a totally different state – Alabama. I know now that I had not experienced true home sickness until I was left alone in my dorm in college with my suitcases sprawled on the floor and the bleak light flickering above my head. The white brick walls screamed “mental asylum” to me and I panicked for a while when I realized that the key to my suitcases were with Krishma who had just left. I had to wait while I waited for a maintenance guy to come up and break my locks. It was lonely for three days because the WiFi did not work yet.
It’s not as easy as in your country, where you have grown up with and become friends with the same people for a decade. Here, we must form connections and put trust in each other and help each other out too. It’s a complicated relationship. Sometimes friends come first and sometimes acquaintances. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and ego in order to help someone from your own country. And sometimes you got to let go of your anger and forgive for the sake of maintaining peace and professionalism.
2016 was also a year of meeting a lot of people, getting to know different perspectives, and understanding that nothing was right nor wrong. What mattered was how you lived your life and how you treated the people you loved and is closest to you. No matter how a person is, it doesn’t matter. I met two people in August: Pranisha and Sangé. I consider them my sisters (Pranisha is really a cousin of mine, anyways.) I used to be this naïve girl who always thought that there was a certain way a person should act and go about their life. But meeting them, I saw that it was not how you showed how you were to others, it was the memories you made with each other. Even if we made mistakes, fought a lot while living together, even if I did not agree with a lot of things with them, I learned that the thought matters even if the action was not carried out. I adjusted, I compromised and it was all an experience for all of us.
The final emotional rollercoaster I went through in 2016 was that I fell in love. And I fell hard. There was a lot of good times and a lot of very bad ones. Highs and lows are the norms in life but I felt them more intensely. I always thought that all love stories and all tragedies were too cheesy. There was too much drama but that’s exactly how it is. Sometimes expectations are not met, sometimes you are too selfish, sometimes you are not thinking rationally, whatever it is – love is a ride you have to be ready for and be strong for. You can’t go diving head in without knowing who the person really is. And I think I went too much with my feelings and emotions.
As I lay down on my bed here, feeling the cold-thin air that is seeping in from the cracks of the window, I look at the damages that were done to my heart by circumstances. That aching gap which could only be filled by talking to my parents and brother once a week on Skype. The scars left by what I thought were friends and people who cared, were there as experiences. The bitter weight that pulled me down to my knees because my love was just a bitter tragedy, unfulfilled and lost forever, is all there to make me strong for my next journey ahead in 2017.
I opened my eyes to my dark room in the middle of the night. Feeling groggy, I rolled over on the bed and plopped my hand the neighboring nightstand, moving it around until making contact with the edge of my phone. I squinted with one eye still closed as I tried to make out the time appearing on the backlit screen.
It was barely three in the morning, as the calendar just flipped to Monday. In ten hours, I would be expected to stand in front of a bunch of first graders – part of my job as an expatriate English teacher in South Korea.
I shut my eyes in an attempt to return to my sleep…at least that’s what I would have liked, if not for the sudden sensation of unease developing from my stomach.
My eyes shot wide open, and in a matter of seconds I rushed to the toilet.
The train pulled into Busan Station on Saturday afternoon as I eagerly waited to exit. I survived another hectic week with my overly-energetic students, so I was especially looking forward to enjoying the beautiful coastal city. Being able to explore a different country is certainly a tremendous perk of teaching abroad; but being able to do so with good company multiples the significance of the experience by countless folds.
After meeting up with my friends and checking into the hostel, the weekend – which promised much excitement – was set to begin.
Busan is by far my favourite city in South Korea. Highlighted by two popular beaches, the urban area carries a sense of calmness and relaxation. Life seems to go by a bit slower, and the people seem to be a bit friendlier. Travel deeper into Busan and you’ll surely see plenty of food, shopping, and cultural attractions.
As a seaside city, Busan is often characterized by their fishing industry. And as such, many tourist look to taste the city’s freshly caught fish at the incredibly famous Jagalchi fish market – which just so happened to be our first destination that weekend.
The fish market is literally an alleyway with street vendors; placing their merchandise in public display, ready to disembowel your next meal when given the command. Walk further down the street and you will see a large multistory building with more merchants (and fish) inside.
Our party entered the building and we were immediately ambushed by eager vendors looking to make a quick sale off foreigners. A vendor from the building’s entryway handed us their business card, hoping that we would return to him after our initial walk around the market.
Halfway across the floor, we were approached by another fish vendor who preoccupied our Korean speaking friend with (what I can only assume as) their quality sales pitch. While speaking I noticed the man slowly take the business card of his competitor out of my distracted friend’s hand before replacing it with his own card.
We decided to reward the man’s persistence by purchasing his food. He seated us at a nearby table and proceeded to prepare the multicourse fish meal which included raw fish, shellfish, and other strange sea creatures which I still cannot identify to this day.
The rest of the weekend was equally as eventful. Hitting up tourist locations, chowing down on more delicious food, getting drinks, and sharing laughs. Easily one of the most exciting excursions I have ever been on.
I somehow survived the night which was interrupted with constant trips to the toilet. I can easily say that it was one of the worst nights I have ever experienced. I couldn’t even muster up the appetite to eat breakfast.
My friends from the weekend trip messaged me, saying they had experienced similar symptoms. We quickly deduced that the seafood from the fish market was the most likely culprit.
I ended up calling in sick for work, staying in my bed, and eating nothing but rice porridge for the next week.
At the time, it was easy to regret eating at Jagalchi; but I won’t say the weekend excursion was a disappointment. In hindsight, the fact that we all got the same sickness solidified the experience of that weekend. Throughout my year in South Korea, I was given the opportunity to travel, build friendships, and create positive memories.
I couldn’t let a little food poisoning stop me.