July 16, 2018 – Swayambhunath Squared (OOTD #332)

Every single time I reference Swayambhunath in one of these blogs I have to Google to spelling. Can you really blame me though?

Anyway, we wound up back at Swayambhunath again, out of a lack of basically anything else to do. Allie hadn’t been before, on account of falling ill the day we went as a group, and I was happy to go again, since I felt a little rushed the first time I was there. The activity we had been planning on doing — a sky lift up to the highest mountain in the Kathmandu area — didn’t pan out due to some poor weather, and we just couldn’t think of anything else to do.

Look, Kathmandu is a really fascinating city, and there’s a lot of fun and interesting things to do — for a few days. After a few days, I feel like I kind of exhausted the tourist things to do. Boudhanath, Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, Patan Durbar Square, the Garden of Dreams, and Thamel are fun for a few hours/a whole day, but once you’ve seen those, I feel like there wasn’t a whole lot else, especially for such a large city. There’s no shortage of restaurants and shops, but you can only eat and shop so much.

I’ve enjoyed these last few days in Kathmandu with Allie, but I think we both agreed that we wished we had chosen to stay somewhere outside of Kathmandu instead. Pokhara would have been neat. Expensive to travel to, sure, but perhaps worth the cost.

Forgive me if I sound too negative about my last full day in Nepal — it was nonetheless a fun experience seeing Swayambhunath again. I got to take my time and explore a little more, which I didn’t really get to do the first time when I was with a larger group. There was a monastery that I hadn’t seen before, as well as a few overlooks and shops. And afterwards, we decided to walk back to our BnB instead of taking a cab, which was about a three mile trek — so great exercise, and a more intimate view of the city than I had gotten to see before from a bus window.

In the evening, we went to a yoga class. Now I get what you must be thinking — yoga in Nepal, that must be a fascinating cultural experience, right? A predominantly Hindu country with a deep, ancient history, a place where namaste is actually said instead of just printed on t-shirts at fast fashion stores like Forever21?

It was like, the whitest thing ever.

The studio looked like it was straight out of Southern California, and the instructor was wearing Lululemon leggings. I was one of I think two non-white individuals in the room — which I haven’t been able to say since I was in Chicago three weeks ago getting ready to depart.

Still, it was an enjoyable enough yoga class, even if it wasn’t particularly cultural. I don’t know if I would bothered to do it in Nepal if Allie hadn’t wanted to, as I feel like I could have had the exact same experience in 9/10 yoga studios in the United States, but whatever. It was a nice sampler of western culture before I’m thrust right back into it in a day.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Some boutique in Kathmandu

Pants: Also a boutique in Kathmandu

July 15, 2018 – Dans le jardin des rêves (OOTD #331)

I sure hope that French is correct.

Welp, the conference is now over, and I’m on my own in Kathmandu. Or rather, not entirely on my own — I’m with another Notre Dame student who had attended the conference — but we’re relatively alone.

I did London by myself last summer, which was no problem at all. It’s London, it’s not terribly different from the US, and in some ways, it’s even easier to navigate. The Underground is truly a marvel. Kathmandu, on the other hand, is nothing like the US, and quite impossible to navigate.

There are practically no street names. There are no addresses. There are no signs, or traffic lights, or subway systems. You can go on TripAdvisor and look up the biggest tourist attractions, and then ask a taxi to take you there, but it’s not a very good city for independent exploration — you may never be able to make it make back to your hotel!

Anyway, after a long, stiflingly hot taxi ride from Dhulikhel to Kathmandu, dropping off people at the airport and at their various hotels on the way, Allie (the other ND student with me) and I went to our BnB.

Allow me, really quickly, to say, that if you’re in Kathmandu and looking for a relatively inexpensive BnB within walking distance of the tourist district Thamel, Cocina Mitho Chha is an excellent choice. As a social enterprise, it uses its funds to maximize improvements in the social sphere — in this case, by educating underprivileged young people in hospitality skills that will allow them to get jobs in the hotel industry. The food was great, the service was great, its mission is admirable — overall, a lovely experience.

After getting settled in, we decided to go check out something called the Garden of Dreams, which was about a twenty minute walk away from our BnB. That’s where these photos are from. It was a really beautiful, and quiet spot, a nice respite from the chaos of Kathmandu.

Otherwise, we allowed ourselves to have a pretty relaxing day, not rushing around and not pushing ourselves. We did some shopping, had dinner at a bar where they showed the World Cup, and basically just tried to recover, mentally and physically, from the intensity of the conference we’d just spent the last two weeks devoting ourselves to. Or rather, we tried to relax, as much as we could, in an insane and hectic city like Kathmandu.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Forever21

Pants: American Eagle

July 13, 2018 – Big Day in the Big City (OOTD #330)

Namaste!

It’s hard to believe, but this was almost my last day with the Madrasa Discourses summer intensive.

The official last day is July 14, but that’s going to be devoted to discussion and reflection (so basically, classroom stuff), and I don’t really expect that there will be much in the way of blog-worthy material. July 13, on the other hand, was very much blog worthy.

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made some nePALS in nepal

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The day began early with what else but filming for an NBC documentary short about what we’ve been doing these last two weeks in Nepal, and the mission of the Madrasa Discourses founder, Professor Moosa. Filming mostly just involved sitting there and pretending to be attentive while Professor Moosa pretended to lecture us, as well as a few shots of us sitting around and pretending to talk to each other.

Hopefully though, some of the footage of me — even if it’s only an elbow —  will be used for the actual television spot, which will be aired during the commercial break of one of ND’s upcoming football games this September. It’ll be my elbow/shoulder/half an eyebrow’s fifteen minutes of fame!

For the filming, we went up to the rooftop of the lodge, which, for whatever reason, I’d never actually been to before. And what a shame too, because it was quite a spectacular sight from above. I know I’ve talked extensively about the beautiful mountain views in Nepal — so much so that I’m probably beginning to sound like a broken record — but it’s honestly one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen.

With such beautiful views, and with the end of the program drawing so near, everyone decided it was a great opportunity for group photos.

It’s something of a sad thought, but I guess I’ll probably never see some of these people again. They live in Pakistan, or India, or South Africa, and being realistic, when am I ever going to be able to visit those countries? Or if I ever can, would we even remember each other enough to get together? I made some really fantastic friends over these last two weeks though. If ever there was a group with whom I would want to share two weeks in a foreign country with, it was these guys — even if we’re likely to never meet again.

After filming, it was time for a final group field trip into Kathmandu. This time, we went into Pashupati, a Hindu spiritual site, and Boudhanath, another Buddhist stupa.

Pashupatinath was cool, even if it did suffer a little from “Just Another Ancient Temple” Syndrome, which I’ve mentioned a little before on this blog to describe the rapid exhaustion of the novelty surrounding the old religious buildings in Nepal. It’s fabulous and fascinating and completely different from anything in the US — but it’s pretty similar to a lot of what’s in Nepal. At some point, an ancient temple is just another ancient temple.

Pashupatinath had cremations though, so that was very different. And some naked little boys swimming in the river next to the cremation site. No photos, don’t worry.

While we were at Pashupatinath, one of the Indian guys saw me eyeing one of the marigold flower chains, and he offered to buy me one. I was a little hesitant, since I thought the marigold chains were meant for the Hindus visiting the temple, but he seemed to think it was okay. Maybe I acted a little inappropriately but…they were flower necklaces. I love plants. How was I supposed to refuse wearable plants?

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🏵🏵🏵

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mari! golds!

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After Pashupatinath, we went to Boudhanath, which, next to Swayambhunath (lots of        -aths, huh?), is probably the most recognizable tourist site in Kathmandu. It was also, to my untrained eye, really similar to Swayambhunath (Seriously though — it was another big round structure with a pointy golden Buddha at the top).

Boudhanath was probably the most spectacular of the manmade features I saw in Nepal, simply because it was so massive. Like I said, it was pretty similar to Swayambhunath in terms of architecture, but it felt so much bigger. You could probably jog circles around Boudhanath and get a pretty good workout.

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almost done posting nepal pics, i promise

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I didn’t do that though — instead, I went into a coffee shop and chilled for a while. It had been a long day, and I was anxious to get off my feet. And I think most people in my group were too, because the coffee shop was a very popular place to go.

Normally, I hate tour groups, but this one hasn’t been so bad. I guess for one, it’s not really a tour group — not in the sense my senior year New York trip was — but also, since literally everyone here is an adult, we’ve been given a lot of freedom to kind of just do whatever we want. Still, that doesn’t mean the schedule didn’t get absolutely overwhelming at times, and even if there was an opportunity to rest, it was usually at the expense of doing something fun. I can’t imagine trying to travel to Kathmandu alone though, without anyone from the area and without being able to speak the language.  Honestly, I feel like going with the group of adult male and female South Asians, who were at least slightly familiar with the language and culture of the area, was the best way to go short of actually having a local Nepali friend to show me around.

I have a few more days in Kathmandu still before it’s time to fly home, but it’s just another girl and me traveling alone. Boudhanath was a nice way to close out my time with the whole group, though. Nothing like a massive Buddhist stupa to serve as a backdrop for parting ways with your new Muslim friends.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Hollister

Skirt: Some market in New York City

July 12, 2018 – Rained Out (OOTD #329)

I guess I should be grateful that it took this long until the rain got in the way of our plans.

It’s monsoon season in Nepal, meaning of course that rain is a constant threat. Up until this point, though, the rain’s been no trouble — it comes while we’re in class, or while we’re still getting up in the morning, and then it goes. It always returns the next day, but that’s not really a problem as long as it doesn’t come in the afternoon when we want to go out.

Today though, it turned out to be a problem. It came at night, and it came hard. Two major roads that connect Dhulikhel to Kathmandu flooded, leaving us stuck at our hotel for the morning.

And part of the afternoon, actually — we ended up lazing around the lodge until quite late in the day. The roads ended up clearing though around mid-afternoon, and we finally made it into the city.

We went to a shopping district which specialized in fair trade stores and…really expensive saris? We went with the intent of checking out the fair trade stuff (some of which was made in the factory we’d toured the day before), but as it turned out, there were a ton of sari shops in the area too. I wish I could have bought something, but it was all way too expensive for my poor wallet.

From there, we wandered around the town  little bit — saw some monkeys, saw a river, choked on pollution — you know, local things. It was probably one of the most relaxed days I had in Kathmandu, or as relaxed as a day in Kathmandu could be. I was almost hit by a car like five separate times, rather than ten.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Skirt: The LOFT

top: some boutique in Kathmandu

July 11, 2018 – Monkeying Around (OOTD #328)

I’m back in Kathmandu again!

Yep, after about two straight weeks of intense classes and discussion, we’re finally off the hook. The last lecturer of the Madrasa Discourses summer intensive will be teaching exclusively in Urdu, which none of us Notre Dame students can understand, so we were allowed to go off on a little field trip on our own for the day.

The first stop for us (well, the second stop — we got pizza at a mall beforehand) was a design house where some other Notre Dame students were interning for the summer. They gave us a tour of the facilities, introduced us to the workers there, and showed us the prototypes they were working for for sale in fair trade shops.

It was neat, but a little slow. I’m totally here for the mission of fair trade — ensuring fair wages for workers, providing jobs for women who need them, etc. — but a tour of a factory is still just a tour of a factory.

Besides, I was pretty excited for what we’d be seeing next — the Swayambhunath Monkey Temple.

And yes, I did just have to Google the spelling of that.

Swayambhunath is arguably the most famous tourist site in Kathmandu, up there with Boudhanath, another Buddhist stupa. It’s 365 steps to the top (though we just drove up most of them), and along the way, as the name suggests, you get to meet some wild monkeys.

Wild monkeys are kind of scary! I guess that should be kind of obvious, based on the “wild” bit. And it’s not that I was expecting them to act like puppies and be all cute and ask for petting, but I figured, you know, since they’re in a tourist area, they’d be pretty used to tourists walking up and taking photos.

I guess not.

There are no terrifying stories of monkeys that attempted to attack me or anything like that, but I did get hissed at a few times from a distance. Key here is “from a distance.” After my first experience getting hissed at, I decided to keep far away from the monkeys.

But what about the stupa at the top of the steps? How did that stack up?

Pretty well! You know how I’d been complaining a bit over the last few days that seeing all of the temples and shrines was beginning to grow old? Not this one. Swayambhunath was decidedly spectacular — a big gold pillar into the sky surrounded by billowing prayer flags and spinning prayer wheels. There’s nothing boring about that.

It also helps that I got some of the best views of Kathmandu that I had seen ever from the top of the Swayambhunath stupa. I know I’ve spoken extensively about all the spectacular mountain views I saw in Nepal, but this cityscape could give all of them a run for their money in the “best Nepal views” competition.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Pitaya

Skirt: vintage (thrifted)

July 10, 2018 – That Was Unexpected (OOTD #327)

Nepal is full of adventures. Sometimes, that adventure sees you getting an expected tour of a water treatment facility.

I’m not sure where even to begin this blog because I don’t really quite remember how I wound up here — I think it was just another one of those days when I went out for a walk with some friends and we saw where fate decided to take us. At times, that has been to a giant golden Buddha, down the side of a mountain, or to the edge of a cliff.

Today, it was to some septic tanks and a filtration system.

It was just about as exciting as it sounds — interesting, in that I hadn’t really expected to wind up at a water treatment plant, and boring, in that it was, well, a water treatment plant. There were some locals who were happy (I think?) to offer a tour, but they didn’t speak any English, so it was more of a tour to the Pakistanis I was with. I just sort of nodded my head and pretended to be engaged — much like I do when I’m in class at Notre Dame.

Here’s something cool about my Pakistani friends — they’re not shy at all about photos. They take photos of everything, they want photos taken of themselves all the time, and they’re not at all judgmental when you ask if they’ll take a photo of you. It’s fabulous. When I’m with my American friends, I could be somewhere spectacular like the Taj Mahal, and I’d still be self-conscious about asking them to take my picture. With the Pakistanis, I could literally want a picture with a cool rock, and they’d oblige.

That’s why I wound up with photos of myself at the water plant — I would not have otherwise done pictures here, but they all wanted pictures, so I joined in the photoshoot. I wonder what they’ll do with them. Post them to Facebook? Write a post on their fashion blogs about it?

After that, we stopped by a grocery store to pick up some snacks. Once again, I wasn’t really expecting to take any photos, figuring my high fashion septic tank editorial shoot would be enough, but once again, I was wrong. Turns out, there was another beautiful sunset (ugh, another one!) and we had another perfect view of it.

One of these days, I may get tired of Himalayan sunsets, but, as Aragorn says in Return of the King, “today is not that day.”

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Some boutique in England

Pants: J. Crew (thrifted)

July 6, 2018 – Oh, The Things You Can Do In Kathmandu (OOTD #323)

I have way too many photos to put into this blog.

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oh look, another twirly photo from nepal

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I’d rather not be that annoying coworker who bombards you with all of their vacation photos after they get back from a trip, but it’s hard — thank goodness for the storage limit on the WordPress Personal Plan, or else this page would take even the fastest Internet connection several minutes to load. I’ll try to limit myself to only the best photos for this blog, yeah?

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busy background, busy life

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So this was our big field trip to Kathmandu, or rather the first big field trip — there are a few more coming, don’t worry. It came at just the right time — I was beginning to get tired of Dhulikhel, and beginning to get even more tired of sitting around for six hours a day in classes, and so an outing was warmly welcomed.

Our first stop was a mosque, of which I have no photos. Doesn’t really seem like it’d be appropriate to start taking selfies while people are praying, you know?

After that, we took lunch in a cute little park. It was an unexciting lunch and an unexciting park, but I got some cute photos under a trellis of pink flowers that I’m quite proud of. I’d have to be; I spun around like an idiot repeatedly under that trellis trying to get the perfect Instagram photo. I paid my debt in mild embarrassment trying to ignore the confused onlookers for it.

 

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world’s best skirt to spin in

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Then, it was on to Patan Durbar Square, one of the most famous tourist spots in Kathmandu. That was indeed something rather spectacular. There are temples and idols and palaces all about — not something you ever really see in the West, and definitely not something you see in Lexington, Kentucky or South Bend, Indiana.

I got a lot of good photos there, but after a while, the novelty of palaces and ornate architecture and sparkling gold statues wore off. I mentioned this in a previous blog, but you can only take in so many beautiful buildings before it becomes just another ancient architectural marvel. It’s almost a shame all the buildings of Patan Durbar Square are in the same area; it makes them all feel a little less special because they’re in each others’ midst.

It was still cool though, don’t let my faint tone of disenchantment fool you. It was really cool, and I’m so glad I got to see it with my own eyes. If you’re in Kathmandu, I would 100% recommend you check it out.

We spent the rest of the day in Thamel, the shopping district. Did I get any deals, or was I just taken as another hapless tourist with too much money? I have no idea. I got some cute gifts though, and for less than I would have paid in the US, so that’s what mattered to me.

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not your average house cat

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Kathmandu as a city is, to put it kindly, terrifying. The pollution hangs thick and pungent in the air, swelling in your lungs and nostrils, and the car horns ring like church bells on Easter; it’s sensory overload, even for a person who’s seen their fair share of cities. I’m certain I was almost hit by a car multiple times, and almost hit by a scooter even more than that.

My snot has been black for the last several days, I flinch like one of Pavlov’s dogs whenever I hear a car horn, and the sunburn on my back has yet to fully heal, but that’s part of the experience of Kathmandu. If you’re not thoroughly dazed, potentially carrying an infection from the poor water quality, and culture shocked from here to kingdom come, did you even go?

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Nepal. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Forever21

Skirt (actually a dress layered underneath the top): Thrifted

June 28, 2018 – Departures (OOTD #315)

This is it, guys! I’m out of the country!

After months of anticipation, I’m finally headed off to Kathmandu, Nepal in order to attend an Islamic theology and interfaith dialogue conference.

I guess I haven’t ever fully given the story of how or why I’m going to Nepal, so let’s go back a little allow me to explain. I’m a part of the International Peace Studies program at Notre Dame, and a part of that is getting a listserv email every week of announcements that I mostly don’t care about. In fact, very rarely do I actually read the Peace Studies emails because I get so many emails from various departments and clubs at Notre Dame that it’s impossible to read them all.

But for some reason, one day back in late February, I decided to actually read an email, and a particular headline caught my eye — “Spend two weeks in Nepal this summer!” Spend two weeks in a foreign country? Sounds like fun, I thought.

I wasn’t really clear on what on earth I’d actually be doing, to be honest — at first, all I was primarily interested in was the opportunity to travel. I figured if I also had the opportunity to learn something or contribute to a research project that would add to my peace studies experience, that would be great too.

So I submitted my application, got an interview (which, by the way, was low-key the best interview I’ve given in my life — you can check out the OOTD from it there), and was somehow actually accepted to the program.

Then it was time to actually figure out more clearly what I would be doing in Nepal, so I could more clearly explain to people who asked the purpose (beyond being a tourist) of my trip.

I guess that sounds bad — shouldn’t I have been more clear on what I was doing before I accepted the trip to Nepal? The truth was, I tried very hard to understand the project, but  even after reading the application several times, asking questions during my interview, and reading about Madrasa Discourses on their website, I still wasn’t clear.

What I’ve gathered at this point is that I’m to attend workshops alongside madrasa-educated South Asian and African grad students on topics like philosophy, theology, feminism, and peacebuilding. My purpose will be to contribute to these students’ discussions and offer the American perspective — not necessarily to assert that it is necessarily correct, but to offer it for them to mill over. Through these discussions, I believe the head professor, Dr. Ebrahim Moosa (a madrasa-educated man himself) hopes to contribute to these scholars’ understandings about Islam and modernity, helping to strike a balance between their traditional religious beliefs and the contemporary beliefs of 21st century society.

But anyway, that’s for me to see when I get to Nepal. Until then, my focus is getting from airport to airport without missing any flights. More travel updates to come!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame! Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!

Top: Banana Republic

Pants: Target

Saturday Musings + Coffee – Nepal Day One

Greetings from Nepal!FullSizeRender-1.jpeg

It took 27 hours of traveling including layovers, but finally, I’m here!

These photos were taken in the Chicago O’Hare terminal while I waited for my flight to Abu Dhabi — waiting which I probably shouldn’t have done.

See, I had a four hour layover in Chicago after I flew out from Lexington, and so I figured I would be able to sit there with my laptop for at least a little and do a bit of work. That’s actually where this blog was written and published.FullSizeRender.jpeg

So after two hours of sitting there in the domestic terminal, I figured I’d saunter over to the international one, which, judging by the signs I had seen, was just a short ride on the airport rails away. At this point, I had two hours before my flight departed, and I thought I had plenty of time.

Of course, things didn’t happen as planned — the rails were closed for some reason, which I didn’t realize until I had gone to two separate platforms at different locations in the airport and seen that they were closed. After asking around — with one person even telling me that the rails were open, which they clearly weren’t — I found a shuttle to take me to the international terminal.

That all took about 45 minutes, so as I rode the shuttle over to the international terminal, I was slightly worried, but not terribly so. That was, until I arrived at the international terminal and saw the queue to get through security.

I made it through, but not before worriedly calling my mother and questioning whether I’d be able to make it through in time. I’ve had experiences where it’s taken hours to get through a long security line, and I was afraid that that would happen to me again. Thankfully, by channeling my native Chinese pushing-through-lines skills, I was able to get through with about thirty minutes to spare.IMG_1116.jpeg

I was one of the last people to board the flight, and I missed out on any chance I might’ve had otherwise to get bumped up to business or first class, but I made it, and that’s what counts.

There’s more to this travel story, but I think I’ll leave it until I post the blog from that day. Until then, here’s what Google Translate just told me is “goodbye” in Nepali: अलविदा!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame! Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!