Student - April 10, 2014

‘I lost eleven kilos’

Who? Thomas Hassing, MSc Applied Communication Science
What? Three months internship with Nepal Foresters’ Association
Where? Kathmandu and Charikot, Nepal

‘I did an internship for Nepal Foresters’ Association, which supports foresters and forests. My internship involved holding interviews about the implementation of the FSC hallmark. In Kathmandu I had supervision, but in Charikot I was left to make the best of it. For example, a female interpreter had been arranged for me, but her English was very poor and she was restricted in doing her job because women aren’t allowed to be alone with any man they don’t know. That was problematic because we were supposed to travel to a number of villages to interview people. For a moment there I’ll admit I felt pretty desperate. Luckily, I happened to meet a Nepalese student who was prepared to translate for me.
Charikot was spectacular, set amongst hills with snow-topped peaks in the background, but also very cold. My bathroom had a hole in the wall for a window and there was hot water only twice every three weeks. I tried to take a shower but was so frozen afterwards that I never did it again. It was also freezing at night, so I slept in all my clothes. I lost 11 kilos, due to diarrhoea, the active lifestyle, the cold and eating rice day in, day out instead of fats and sugars.
In Nepal I met a guy who came from exactly the same Frisian village as me. A bizarre coincidence. We spent two weeks hiking together through the fabulous mountainous landscape of the Himalayas. The last part of the route we travelled by bus. We crossed a narrow mountain ridge and with every bump in the road, the overcrowded bus tilted towards the ravine. I was terrified, but thankfully we survived. 

When we drove into Kathmandu it seemed like there had been a nuclear war. Everything was dirty and bins full of rubbish were burning everywhere. Children were playing on huge mountains of refuse. After the beautiful nature we’d seen, the contrast in the suburbs was really challenging. Despite all their poverty and unemployment, the Nepalese accept their lot in life. You can get wound up about all sorts of things, but some things are beyond your control. I have adopted something of that attitude, and it’s made me a lot more relaxed.’