July 5, 2018 – A French Dress in Nepal (OOTD #322)

As much as I wish I had purchased this dress in France myself, instead, it was purchased for me by a friend.

Actually, I guess it wasn’t purchased for me. She purchased it for herself while on vacation in France, decided she didn’t like the fit, and then gave it to me because I’m smaller and she figured it might look better on me. But indeed, it was in fact purchased in France — if that gives me any classy fashion blogger points in your book.

It was fun though to be able to tell people in Nepal that I got the dress in France. Made me seem more cosmopolitan and worldly I guess, even though I’ve never been to France and I’m pretty sure the dress was purchased on sale for less than twenty euros. I’m not going to stop anyone from thinking of me as wealthy and chic.

Despite my outfit, I didn’t really do anything particularly expensive or chic in it. After a normal day of classes, I went out into town again, though unlike yesterday, I came across no fun street art or oriental architecture or ancient temples. Instead, I trudged through the mud and rain to see…well, not much of anything.

Dhulikhel’s neat and all, and wildly different from anything I’ve seen in the US, but it’s not a huge community, and there’s not a to do. After the first few days of exciting adventures, the novelty of Dhulikhel began to wear off, and we sort of began to ran out of interesting places to go. The rain prevented us from really doing any hiking, so we stuck to the main roads and ended up coming across a university.

This university campus wasn’t much to see though — not like Notre Dame, and not like what I imagine I might see if I went into a bigger city like Kathmandu. It was pretty much just a single building for dorms and a single building for classrooms. I’d show you some pictures, but I didn’t take any, as there really wasn’t anything worth taking a picture of.

Regardless, it was still fun to go for a walk and to chat with some friends, even if that walk was fairly aimless. Sometimes, it’s just nice to get the exercise.

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!

Dress: Some vendor in France

July 4, 2018 – This Isn’t America (OOTD #321)

Once again, I’m out of the country for the 4th of July.

This is the second year in a row that I’ve been away for Independence Day — last year I was in the air flying to London, and this year, I’m in Nepal for a religious studies conference. Will I ever get to just relax at home with some barbecue and enjoy my city’s small fireworks display?

Whether I do or not, I wouldn’t have traded a day in the US for the day I had on July 4 in Nepal. There were no fireworks, no parades, no 4th of July sales, and no Americana-themed outfits (though I guess you could argue that my top is blue with white stars, kinda like the flag), but what I got to do instead was even better.

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plant aunt

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Once again, I spent most of my time sitting in class during the conference session, and only afterwards did I get to go out and explore Nepal. And once again, I decided to head up the mountain and go into town and see what there was to see.

This time, I went out with my two roommates, Elsa and Haya, and Haya’s friend, Sadiq. With no particular vision or plan in mind, we started walking.

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DhulikCall me 🇳🇵

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After climbing through some brush off the main road, the first sight we came across was a nice view of some rice fields at the base of a hill. I guess to anyone who lives in Asia, the sight of rice fields isn’t really anything to write home about, but for me, it was cool. Plus, the lighting was good, so I got some good photos.

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This Is (Not) America 🇳🇵

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[insert lotr quote about wanderlust]

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From there, we went into the old part of town. Or at least, I think it was the old part of town? There were no signs that I could read, or people whom I could ask, but after walking past several more “contemporary” (quotation marks because I don’t really mean it as an architecture style, but more as a description of the age of the buildings) shops and houses, the road grew narrower and the designs seemed to grow more traditional.

In the US, traditional might mean Victorian or colonial style homes. In Nepal, though, traditional seems to mean more ornamental — for lack of a better word, oriental. To me, an American who doesn’t really see much oriental architecture, it was really cool to see.

While in the old section of town, we came across a temple. I’m not sure if it was Buddhist or Hindu — like I said, I had no ability to read signs or ask locals — but at any rate, it was neat. It didn’t seem to be in use as a religious site, at least at the time when we visited, but more of a local hangout. Some kids played football around the courtyard, and friends sat on the steps and chatted.

At the top of the steps leading up to the temple, there was even a nice view of the town of Dhulikhel. It would’ve been the perfect place to set off some 4th of July fireworks — you know, if I had them.

Overall, it was a less than conventional Fourth of July — but not less than fun. In fact, I think it beats my average Fourth of July activities (i.e. shopping the sales at the mall.)

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: The LOFT

Skirt: The LOFT

July 3, 2018 – Dichotomous (OOTD #320)

There are two distinct outfits in this blog post, so allow me to tackle them one by one.

Outfit #1, the main outfit for today, was actually not one I had intended to pack. I was afraid the leather pants would be too warm for monsoon season Nepal — and I was kind of right. Even sitting around in an air conditioned resort, I found it to be a little uncomfortable.

Why did I pack it, then? Well, it’s a really cute outfit. It was so cute I even got a living, breathing male who was not my father to compliment it — not like, the way I looked in it, or anything of that nature, but the outfit itself. How often does that happen? I don’t think many guys outside of the fashion industry ever notice the composition of outfits.

The second reason why I brought it was because I needed to bring more clean clothes. I didn’t really have the ability to do much laundry while at the resort, so I decided to simply bring enough clothes to do me for the 21 days I’d be away. In other words, there will be a lot of laundry to do when I finally do get home.

It was just another normal day of sitting around and chatting about Islamic theology and modernity, so there’s not a lot to report on that front. What there is to report about is what I did after the session was over for the day, and that is where outfit #2 comes in.

Outfit #2 is basically just a rehash of an outfit from a few days back. In fact, it literally is just the same outfit, but minus the jacket. I knew I’d be going out and possibly getting sweaty and/or dirty, so rather than go out in the cute outfit I’d been wearing the majority of the day, I went digging in my dirty clothes pile and threw these together. If it’s already dirty, there’s no harm in getting it dirtier, right?

Anyway, after finishing up classes, a group of us decided to go out for a walk into town. Town? Is that the right word? We’re in Dhulikhel, which is about an hour outside of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Dhulikhel could perhaps best be described in American terms as a suburb of Kathmandu, as it’s a primarily residential area outside of a major city with some of its own shops and businesses, and yet, it’s so far from what I typically imagine a suburb to be like. Village seems to be best word to describe the collection homes that dot the side of the mountain (which I saw yesterday), town seems to be the best word to describe the feeling of the ‘’downtown’’ shopping district, and suburb seems to be the best word to describe the location of Dhulikhel in relation to Kathmandu. The point is, I don’t really know what Dhulikhel is, other than a relatively small place where I’ll be staying for the next to weeks.

There were six of us who decided to go out for this adventure: three Notre Dame students (including myself), and three Pakistani students. And thank goodness those three Pakistani guys were there, otherwise we probably would not have made it very far away from the hotel. None of the six of us could speak any Nepali, but the Pakistani guys could speak Urdu, which I guess is similar to Nepali, or otherwise the Nepali people could understand Urdu. Anyway, they were able to walk into shops and ask for directions around town, which was fabulous, because I doubt Citymapper would do me much good in Dhulikhel.

The instructions we were given by the locals was to head to the ‘’1000 steps temple,’’ which was about a 30 minute stroll away from the hotel. As the name suggests, it involved walking a lot of steps up to the top.

Was it actually 1000 steps? I’m not sure. We only made it up a couple hundred of them before we reached the giant golden Buddha. Giant gold Buddha was not the temple we had in mind to go to, but when you reach a giant gold Buddha in the forest, you’ve got to stop and see him. 

Only problem was, the gate was locked.

Apparently, the gates to gold Buddha closed at 5:30, and we arrived at 6. At this point, we split into two camps: those of us who wanted to try to get in, and those who wanted to go home. As the photos suggest, the first camp — the one I was a part of — won.

One of the guys with us managed to climb over the gate and unlock it from the inside, allowing us all to get in. And I’m sure glad he did, because when else am I going to get to see a giant gold Buddha statue in my life?

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!

Outfit #1

Top: H&M

Outfit #2

Top: Vintage (thrifted)

Pants: Thrifted

July 2, 2018 – A Foggy Memory (OOTD #319)

I swear, there were mountains here yesterday.

I’ve seen a lot of fog in my life, but never like this. It’s so dense that you literally cannot see the giant green mountains all around but only the thick white curtain of mist — it’s a little disorienting. I feel like I’m in a video game with a bad draw distance.

Also, apparently these giant green mounds of earth that I’ve been referring to as “mountains” are not, to the Nepali locals, mountains, but rather, big hills. Apparently, it’s only a mountain if it’s capped with snow. I guess I can’t really argue with the locals, but to my sore knees that regret the hike I did down the “big hill,” it certainly feels more like a mountain.

After classes, a group of us decided to venture further down (what I’m going to call) the mountain and see what there was to see. Despite still struggling with jet lag and low-key wanting a nap (though I did get four hours the previous night instead of two! Yay!), the FOMO got the best of me and I decided to go. If the other Notre Dame students were going to go out and do some bonding, then I was too.

Unfortunately, the only shoes I brought for walking in were my running shoes, which are just fine for the relatively simple hiking I do in Kentucky, but apparently not fine for the Kathmandu Valley. While a lot of the trail is pretty easy, in parts where it’s rocky or particularly steep, I found myself having to grasp hold of whatever trees or plants were around in order to keep my balance. While there weren’t really any places where feared careening off the side of a cliff, I did fear falling in the wrong way and twisting my ankle.

While I suspect the views down the way would be even more spectacular on a clearer day, they were still pretty beautiful to my eyes, which have really only ever seen mountains in the form of Appalachia. Along the trail, there was not a whole lot to see — some houses, with local people doing housework like hanging up clothes to dry or weeding their garden, and some stray dogs. I mean, it was still leagues away from the suburban American neighborhoods I am used to seeing, but after the initial shock wears off, a hut is still just a hut, even if it is very different from the kind of homes I am familiar with.

Once again, though, we did not make it far down the side of the mountain before the sky started getting dark and it was time to go home. Despite the increased physical strain of the climb, I still found it easier going up. I’d much rather strain my leg muscles trying to maintain my stamina going up a hill than strain my brain trying to maintain my balance going down.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get to make it down to the village that’s supposedly at the bottom of this mountain; I just don’t think there’s enough time or enough daylight given the scheduling of the conference. I guess tomorrow, I’ll go up the mountain and into the city and see what there is to see there.

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!

Pants: The LOFT

Top: The tiny clothing section of my local Kroger

July 1, 2018 – Jet Lagged (OOTD #318)

Oh dear, it looks like the jet lag has hit me like a…well, a jet.

My first night in Nepal, I had no trouble sleeping. After the long, stressful journey of 30 hours, I was ready to crash. The second night though, apparently, not so much.

It’s interesting because I remember having no trouble justing to the time difference in London — perhaps that was because I stayed up the entire plane ride, so that by the time I made it to Heathrow in the morning, and I was forced to stay up for another 8 hours, I was more than ready to sleep at night.

Here, though, I slept pretty easily throughout the plane ride, making it more difficult trying to adjust to the 9 hours and 45 minutes difference. Why 9 hours and 45 minutes? Apparently Nepal wanted to distinguish itself from India, so their clocks are 15 minutes off from India’s time. There’s your fun fact for the day.

Anyway, after a night of barely sleeping at all, I decided to get up at about 5 AM and just start my day. No point in just laying there in bed and feeling badly for myself for not being able to sleep, right?

That’s when these photos were taken, actually — in the wee hours of the morning before anyone else was up. Since I had nothing to do, I figured I’d prop up my phone and take some simple photos in the lounge area of the hotel. No one but a few housekeepers was around to judge me, so it made it pretty easy.

The rest of the day was spent in the conference. The first half was a lecture by a professor from Duke on feminism in Islamic texts and law, and the second half was  a guided discussion amongst the students on our thoughts about the lecture.

Not being a scholar of Islam or even a Muslim, it was a little difficult to think of things to stay during the discussion. The people at my table seemed interested to hear my perspective as a Christian American woman, but I’m not positive that what I ended up saying was really all that helpful. My purpose here is not to say anything wildly controversial or profound though, but just to add more dimension to the conversation, to provide another facet of the human experience. I hope I did that.

But even if I didn’t, there’s plenty more time to do so! I have 13 more days before the conference ends, so even if I was useless today, maybe tomorrow, I won’t be.

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!

Jacket: H&M

Top: Vintaged (thrifted)

Pants: Thrifted

June 30, 2018 – Calm Before The Storm (OOTD #317)

Here I am, my first full day in Nepal!

This was the day that most of the students attending the Madrasa Discourses conference were to be arriving, meaning I was finally not completely alone at the lodge! My two roommates arrived, one of whom is a Notre Dame student I was vaguely familiar with before Nepal, and one of whom is a Pakistani woman in a full niqab (who arrived at like, 1 AM in the morning, the poor thing).

In all, there are about 20ish Pakistani students, 20ish Indians, 7 South Africans, and 7 American students from Notre Dame. Since there was no programming today, those of us who arrived in the afternoon (or like me, the previous night), simply hung out, chatted, and took meals together to socialize and kill time.

An American student, a Pakistani-German student, and I were all feeling energetic enough to go for a short hike after lunch, so we decided to venture down the mountain of Dhulikel. We heard there was a village at the bottom, but little did we know, that village was probably a solid two miles away. Two miles isn’t bad when you’re jogging on flat terrain, but walking down a steep mountain is another thing. We didn’t even make it a quarter of the way before giving up and turning around, sweaty and exhausted. Meanwhile, several local Nepali people walked by, steady-footed and swift, to put us all to shame. At least we got a pretty view of the area as we went down.

I wanted to get some sleep after our walk, but I knew it would be best for me if I stayed up all day and didn’t sleep until the night. The jet lag was hitting me like a truck at that point, and even though I desperately wanted to take a nap, I resisted.

That night though, I of course had very little luck actually sleeping. I got about three hours before my Pakistani roommate showed up, and after that, I really wasn’t able to sleep anymore. My body kind of hates itself for the nine hours and forty-five minute time difference, so I guess I can’t blame it.

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: Abercrombie

Pants: Forever21

Scarf: My mother’s closet

June 29, 2018 – Welcome to Nepal (OOTD #316)

Here I am in Nepal, finally!

It took a little under 30 hours of total travel time, but I finally made it here to Dhulikel, Nepal, just outside of Kathmandu.

The majority of my travel story can be found here, in the Saturday Musings post published on that day, but allow me to fill you in on the rest of the journey.

So after running through the disgustingly poorly organized O’Hare airport in order to catch my flight to Abu Dhabi, I had 17 hours sitting in a tiny, cramped aisle seat thousands of feet above the ground. It was quite different from my experience flying first class all the way to London.  

On the way, I attempted to get some reading done for the conference I was to be attending, but I only made it about halfway through before I started nodding off, It’s not that the content wasn’t interesting — the articles were over feminism, theology, philosophy — but there was too much to try to get through in one sitting. 17 hours was definitely enough time to have gotten it done had I had the motivation but…I lacked the motivation.

After watching Moana and Beauty and the Beast (the mediocre live action version) on the entertainment system, slipping in and out of sleep for hours, and eating one of the most disgusting turkey sandwiches I’ve had in my entire life, I made it to Abu Dhabi.

I only had about two hours in Abu Dhabi before I had to fly the remaining five hours to Kathmandu, so sadly, I didn’t have the time to do anything but walk through the airport and wait for my plane. Had I had more time, perhaps I would have tried to see the city a little — it’s not like I expect to be in the UAE again any time soon.

Once I made it to Kathmandu, all that was left was to get my visa, make it through customs, exchange money, go through airport security for the 20th time, claim my baggage, and then find the taxi that was waiting for me to take me to the hotel. Simple, right?

Actually, I guess it was just about as simple as I could have asked for it to have been. The only hitch I really experienced before I made it to Dhulikel was way overtipping the cabbie, but if that’s the worst that happened to me, then I suppose I wasn’t in too bad a shape.

Driving though Kathmandu alone at night was perhaps the scariest thing of the entire trip — I’ve been bad traffic before in China, but it had been a long time and I was not at all prepared for Kathmandu driving. Are there lanes? Are there speed limits? Are there lights or laws or licenses?

When I finally arrived at the hotel, I didn’t have the energy for much more than eating a small meal and then crawling slowly to my room. 30 hours of travel I guess will do that to you.

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: Abercrombie

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!