Written and photographed by Shuvanga Timilsina
On September 21st, 2023, my parents and I took a trip to our home Country, Nepal, for the first time. We were there for 5 weeks. The flight took two days and I was exhausted since the plane was uncomfortable. We landed in Kathmandu and then landed in Nepal at noon. The airport in Nepal was well-maintained and had aesthetically pleasing architecture, as well as being a fairly big airport. My aunt and uncle came to pick us up at the airport. My aunt was wearing a knee-length teal blue traditional kurta, it had floral patterns, and she looked beautiful in it. She had a very nurturing and loving demeanor. It was an emotional moment for my parents and my aunt as they hadn’t seen one another in 16 years. I was standing there feeling uncomfortable because I didn’t know what to do, however, they were ecstatic to see me as well.
After we were done hugging and greeting each other, we headed out of the airport to a hotel just to shower and get changed. We then made our way to the Pashupatinath Temple, a famous tourist destination. I didn’t quite get to see the temple in its full glory the first time because it was still dark outside when we went. It wasn’t full of people since it was still the middle of the night. The main temple is a building with a bunk roof and a golden spire. It is a cubic construction with four main doors, all covered with silver sheets. There is also a two-story roof that is made from copper and covered with gold. After we all saw the temple, we made our way to where my grandparents live, which is a place called Narayangarh. It is a commercial district with shopping malls and eclectic stores, from fashion boutiques to confectioners. The drive from Kathmandu to Narayangarh by car is twenty-two hours and thirty-three minutes by car. I was exhausted because everything was so fast-paced. During the car ride my aunt and my uncle showed us all the natural beauties of the mountains and valleys that we came across. Nestled between towering peaks, they exuded a calm and awe-inspiring charm. The slopes were covered in lush greenery, which stood out against the harsh terrain. Along the way, we made a pit stop to eat some breakfast. We had eggs, pancakes, and a traditional Nepalese ring-shaped sweet fried dough. This dough was made from rice flour with a type of bean dip. The flavors melted into my mouth as this is not something I had back in the US. It was quite delicious. After that delicious breakfast and a very long drive, we again made our way to my grandparents’ house. I was delighted to finally meet them after so many years. I finally had the chance to meet my two nieces. I heard a lot about them but had only seen them in images so far. Thrilled to see me, my grandparents hugged me tight. When it was decided that we were going to take a vacation to my home country, I was still doing my classes, but thankfully they were all online, so I didn’t have to worry about anything messing up.
I had a midterm exam to do for my Gender studies class, I had to hurry up and get my work done. I honestly did not like that I had classes while I was in a different country that I couldn’t explore that well because of it. Since the time zone difference over there, I had to do my classes at night which only made me tired in the mornings. Later that evening me and my grandpa went to walk around the banks of the Narayani River since my grandparents lived within walking distance from the river. The river area had been turned into a boardwalk situation, with a line of street snacks which by the way I loved their panni puri, which are this popular bite-sized hollowed crispy fried puff balls and you get to make your own filled with potato, chickpeas, onions, different spices, and flavored water usually tamarind or mint.
While staying with my grandparents, we toured around Narayangarh and a reason that I have always wanted to come to Nepal is to see all the historical landmarks and temples. The first temple we made our way to was called the Kalika Temple or the temple of the dark goddess, which I also wanted to go to. The temple was on top of a mountain, so we had to take a cable car up to get there. It was a sight to see, we were so high up it felt amazing. We took some pictures and paid homage to Goddess Kali and, we didn’t stay for that long because it was extremely hot and we were all beaded with sweat. We made our way back home, which thank god wasn’t that far from where we were located. I also wanted to see and visit the ManaKamana temple. The name ManaKamana comes from two words, Mana meaning the heart and Kamana meaning wish or desire. So the temple is a shrine to the Goddess of Fulfillment. The experience at the Manakamana temple was similar, but more enjoyable, except that the temple was located in Kathmandu, and we had to drive back there to reach our destination. Finally, when we got there it was crowded, and we had to wait in a long line. Luckily my uncle came in clutch, and we all cut the line one by one. Once we reached the main temple doors we went inside and paid our respects to the Goddess.
After we were done, we stayed and took pictures and then made our way back home. After a few days, my uncle wanted to take us to restaurants around Narayangarh, and being a huge food lover I couldn’t pass on the offer. The food was really good, and fresh too, it is always interesting to taste foods from around the world. I don’t quite remember the name of the restaurant we went to but, one dish we had was chili dumplings. Which was coated in chili and was spicy. We also had these chicken strips that were very herbal and had lots of different flavors. Time passed, and my parents and I had to take a trip to Kathmandu to do some landwork because we had some land in Nepal that we needed to finish up.
We of course took a plane since we all did not feel like driving all the way there and back again. After we got there, we all stayed at my grandma’s sister’s house for the day while my parents went to finish up their land work. I stayed behind because at that point I was tired of running around. When my parents finally came back in the evening we booked a hotel for the night for us to stay in and in the morning, we had plans to go visit my mom’s sister and her daughter at their house. The hotel we stayed at was nice, they had clean rooms and a beautiful garden restaurant. We left early in the morning to go to my mom’s sister’s house. When we got there my aunt’s daughter cried when she saw me because I was so young when she had seen me, and I spent my childhood with her. We couldn’t stay for long though because we had to get back to Narayangarh since the festival season was almost here and we had promised to come back to celebrate with them as our last days to go back to America were approaching.
We went back sooner than expected and took the plane back to Narayangarh. When we landed, we went straight to my grandparents’ house because everyone was exhausted. Preparations were beginning to take place for the nine nights of Navratri, where we worship the Mother Goddess and all her nine manifestations in all her glory; each day people were coming over to meet us and bring us sweets and just hang out. Each day for each manifestation we did ritualistic prayers and chants to please the Goddess. On the tenth day, we had a big celebration, to which everyone in our family and friends were invited. I am an introverted person and some of the people I didn’t know, and it was awkward, but I still managed to introduce myself and talk with them. I had a good time meeting everyone in Narayangarh, but it was time for us to go back to America. We had to leave for the airport early in the morning to go back to Kathmandu, to go back to my mom’s sister’s house to stay with them for two nights and, from there we would be getting on the plane back to America. Once we were back in my aunt’s house, we did a lot of shopping and ate a lot of food. From there I got a sterling silver bracelet, a bracelet made from copper, iron, gold,
and silver. Along with a bronze bracelet, and a gold chain which I wear today along with some other stuff that my mom bought. It was finally time for us to leave for the airport, my aunt and my cousin came with us to say our final goodbyes.
My first visit to Nepal was enjoyable since it provided me with an opportunity to experience a new environment, including the food, lifestyle, and overall culture. While it took me a while to get used to the customs, it was amazing to see everything in a new perspective. My trip to Nepal was a transformative adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, unique cultural experiences, and the friendliness of the Nepalese people, leaving me with treasured memories that will last for a long time.