Studies in Nepal Change Student’s Views

Jenna Guergah and her cousin Idir participate in the Holi festival, where people throw colored powder and water at each other to celebrate the last days of the winter season.

Jenna Guergah and her cousin Idir participate in the Holi festival, where people throw colored powder and water at each other to celebrate the last days of the winter season.

Megan Freeman, Editor-in-Chief

Mirador: How did you end up going to Nepal in the first place?

Jenna Guergah:  My aunt Deborah Merola was over for dinner. She just came back from Mexico and received her second Fulbright scholarship to direct and teach theater in Nepal. I was probably complaining about Campolindo, and she invited me. Within two days the plane ticket was bought and in a week I was gone.

M:  Describe your trajectory in high school.

JG:  It went something like: Campo, Independent Study, Campo, Katmandu, and Miramonte.

M:  What was the main purpose of going to Nepal?

JG:  I needed to get away. My parents love and understand me.

M:  Where did you live?

JG:  With my cousin Idir who is my age. We shared a tiny bedroom and everyone shared a bathroom. We lived in a mutual apartment building with two other Nepali families with chubby babies. Chubby babies are rare in Nepal.

M:  How did you do school there?

JG:  I went to the most expensive international school in the country, Lincoln. It was still only half of the average price for private schools here because the average Nepali lives on less than a dollar a day. The school was tiny and most of the teachers and students had been all over the world. It was a trip.

M:  What did you do besides school there?

JG:  I volunteered at an orphanage of sorts. We recruited street children addicted to huffing glue and tried to help them.

M:  Describe a typical day.

JG:  Honestly? Wake up to dogs fighting or barking at about 5:30 a.m. Go on the roof to meditate, and watch the sun rise. Aunt Deborah would make a lovely warm breakfast, and then I would go to school. Our water was solar heated, so we couldn’t shower in the morning. There was electricity rationing, so we only had electricity for six to eight hours per day. I went to school and had a block schedule: four two-hour classes. I made tons of art and was in AP at school. My Burmese friend, Sabei Aung, and I were pretty much inseparable.

M:  What is the weirdest thing that happened to you?

JG:  There is no drinking age in Nepal, so once a legit police officer bought me a beer. I denied it, of course.

M:  What are some things you learned about the culture?

JG:  The way marijuana is viewed tripped me out. Since it grows on the side of the road, it’s not as exciting to everyone. Neither is alcohol.

M:  What was difficult about leaving home for so long?  What was easy?

JG:  I missed the Bay Area air, water, and sunshine. And of course, my mother. But I am always ready to leave Lamorinda, and it was so epic I had no chance to get sick over home when I could be healthy in Nepal. Then again, Nepal is still healing from a decade long war between Nepali Maoists and the Royal Nepal army, so there is no constitution. That means no traffic laws and no human rights.

M:  How has the transition back to life in Orinda been?

JG:  I haven’t properly transitioned yet because I don’t know if I want to.

M:  How have you changed as a person since you went?  What things will stay with you forever?

JG:  I studied Buddhism, experienced the third world and trekked the Himalayan foothills. I feel more enlightened than ever before.