With a week behind me in VaxTrac and four weeks in DC, it is interesting to reflect back on the seemingly long and intense past couple of months before I started my journey with VaxTrac as an Atlas Corps fellow from Nepal.

Before I left Nepal, my country was recently hit by a very strong earthquake. I live in the capital Kathmandu which was near to the epicenter of the earthquake and the quake was strongly felt. The earthquake killed thousands and displaced few millions of people in Nepal. Several days leading up to the day I left for DC, I had been leaving out of my home, like thousands and probably millions of many other unfortunate Nepalese who did not feel safe inside their homes of years.

The whole country was on a pause to gather itself from this unexpected incident. As the country joined hands in relief efforts in the aftermath of the unfortunate disaster, however, what I saw before I left Kathmandu was ironically one of the most heartfelt things to see. People had come together in solid purpose to help out. Many people I knew, friends, relatives and colleagues, most in individual undertaking, took upon themselves to help in the relief effort. They took basic relief materials for food and hygiene to affected villages, many that were remote and requires hours of walking. I will always carry the legacy of living during such a time.

Women Power. A group of us leaving with relief materials to Lele village in Lalitpur, Nepal.

Women Power. Our group leaving with a truck with relief materials to Lele village in Lalitpur, Nepal.

So when I took the flight to DC from Kathmandu, I had gone through a time that was emotionally and physically very draining and difficult for most in Nepal. I had even packed my suitcases the previous evening of the flight at a relative’s house that was comparatively safer, for my next day early morning flight. So when I first landed in DC after almost a day, the realization that I am in DC was at first very surreal.

But I had come with a solid purpose and a positive mindset, an open heart and an open mind to a completely new place and to a new experience.

Back in February when I had learnt of my selection as an Atlas Corps fellow to serve with VaxTrac, I was particularly happy because VaxTrac was also working in Nepal to implement their innovative vaccination data management system.

Meeting Lauren and Jessica from VaxTrac at the Atlas Corps Welcome Event for Class 18.

Meeting Lauren and Jessica from VaxTrac at the Atlas Corps Welcome Event for Class 18.

A year of fellowship in DC would be great opportunity for me to learn about working in the US capital in the nonprofit sector. I hoped to return back home with new experiences that will help to channelize my efforts and employ my ideas in an effective way.

Landing in DC, it was the second continent I would be touching foot on, (not counting the brief transit in Turkey!) The first noticeable thing that struck me about DC, coming from a city bustling with people in the streets, is how there were so very few people on the streets and how confusing the streets are for a newbie. And I have gotten lost here, more than a few times than I would like to admit, of going round and round (I am looking at you Google maps!). But, fortunately the few times I did get lost, there were always people and they were amazingly helpful. The typical tourist syndrome seems to be well known and sympathized.

The second thing that struck me the most was that sun sets really late. Back home, in Nepal, the day gets over around 6pm. It almost shocked me to see bright day light till 8.30 pm.

One of the most interesting things that I love about my office is that it is pet-friendly. The shared office space is full of cute dogs in every corner. I had a pet cat back in India when I was a student and I just love dogs. Right now we share our office space with Mani, a Nicaraguan dog (Lauren will probably explain the bit about being Nicaraguan.) This was a completely new thing for me. I would have rarely gotten to see something like this in Nepal.

Mani enjoying the afternoon in office.

Mani enjoying the afternoon in office.

Now looking ahead at the empty canvass of the rest of my year, I hope to fill it through the edges with new experiences, adventures and fun people to meet to last a long time to come.

Also, a lot people have expressed their interest to help Nepal in post-earthquake rebuilding. Apart from donating to long term housing solutions for displaced population, if you want to help Nepal to sustainably recover and its economy, consider visiting my beautiful country for your next trip of a lifetime.

Lastly, I want to leave you with the thought about the importance of snacking throughout the day. Coming from a country where we have our lunch as early as 9am, you are sure to find more than a few granola bars and nuts in my bag. So if you pass by me on the street or swing by my work place next time, you will have definitely have these on offer!